Monday, 22 June 2015

Podcasts to Make You Smarter

If you're like me and have a long commute to and from work, you may have already discovered the wonderful world of podcasts. If you haven’t, I urge you to keep reading about this underdog form of entertainment that’s just sitting there, waiting.

Not only are podcasts a great change of pace from my usual Spotify playlists, but I personally think they make a good brain exercise, too. I’ve never been an auditory learner, preferring mostly visual techniques to absorb information, but listening to podcasts forces you to pay attention with your ears instead.

Podcasts are a free, vastly underrated form of media. I'm hoping that, with these 5 recommendations, you'll see what you've been missing out on.


Hosted by Sarah Koenig, season one of Serial ended with a total of 12 episodes, each about an hour long. The first season focuses on a botched murder investigation that all began on January 13, 1999 in Baltimore, Maryland, where high school student Hae Min Lee disappeared after class let out, only to be found murdered in the woods a month later. 

Adnan Syed, Hae’s classmate and ex-boyfriend, is still in prison serving a life sentence for this murder that he may not have been responsible for. (I personally believe Adnan had nothing to do with Hae’s death, but I’m just another spectator.)

Over the course of Serial’s 12 episodes, we’re led through all the muddled case details, and witness some truly eye-opening failures in our justice system. This podcast has become a worldwide phenomenon, spawning loads of blogs, media articles, and even other podcasts dedicated to talking about the case. They even won a Peabody Award in 2014.

Serial was the very first podcast I ever listened to, and it was a fascinating place to start, so this is my suggestion for any newbies. All 12 episodes are available on podcast for iPhone, iTunes, or click here. (It’s free, obviously)


Undisclosed is a spin-off of Serial, but bear with me here. Rabia Chaudry, a lawyer who also happens to be a close family friend of Adnan Syed, is the host, along with two other lawyers, Susan Simpson and Colin Miller. This series continues the attempt at untangling the facts from the lies in Syed’s case.

As Chaudry states in the first episode, Undisclosed is not Serial, Part 2, but a deeper look at what happened in 1999. So far, they’ve nailed that goal by scrounging up a multitude of additional unexamined errors and flat-out lies that were presented as facts in court. I love this podcast because it follows the case as it’s unfolding today, while still tying it back to the events that took place in 1999. People are going crazy about this series all over the world. Not to mention, it’s wonderfully produced.

Chaudry, Simpson, and Miller also answer a lot of listener questions from Twitter, which I think is important in podcasting, to keep the audience engaged. And although my own Twitter question has yet to be answered on Undisclosed, they did see my Tweet and Favorite it, so I’m hoping to get a shout-out sometime soon. :)

You can listen to Undisclosed on podcast for iPhone, iTunes, or right here.

Bizarre States

I am fascinated by the paranormal; pretty much anything spooky or scary...I am ALL about it. Bizarre States is from, which, by the way, produces a ton of different podcasts/blogs/etc., for free, of course.

The hosts of Bizarre States, Jessica Chobot and Andrew Bowser, talk about a different paranormal or spooky topic every week. Topics like the infamous Aleister Crowley, UFO sightings, and even some urban legends have been covered so far.

Chobot and Bowser pepper the show with their opinions and slightly off-brand humor, which I think makes the whole topic of paranormal activity a bit less cheesy. Either way, I now follow Chobot, Bowser, and Bizarre States on all social media platforms (I may or may not creepily follow their significant others, too). They’re the coolest nerds I’ve ever listened to, so check out Bizarre States on podcast for iPhone, iTunes, or click here.

We're Alive

Fans of The Walking Dead, this one’s for you. This fictional drama podcast series tells the story of a group of survivors in Los Angeles after the zombies take over.
I was skeptical about We’re Alive at first; I wasn’t sure I could get into a dramatic story like this one without any visuals. As it turns out, I like how it allows your imagination to truly run wild, especially during the action bits. (Warning: the gun-shot sound effects can be really startling at first, and they didn’t add a disclaimer about this until a couple seasons in. You’re welcome.)

I have to give the voice talent in this series a big pile of kudos. It takes a lot to convey the level of emotion that runs through this story’s plot, and they do it beautifully. That could be the reason We’re Alive has been so successful and has even been nominated for numerous podcast awards. 

We’re Alive is currently up to 48 chapters, split into 3 parts each, and they are still producing episodes regularly. This podcast is available on podcast for iPhone, iTunes, or click here.

Nerdist Writer’s Panel

The Nerdist Writer’s Panel, another fabulous production, really appeals to the writer in me. The host of this podcast, Ben Blacker, has some amazing guests come on, including various writers and producers for Better Call Saul, Bates Motel, and Robot Chicken, among others.

Ben Blacker and his guest(s) of the week spend about an hour or so talking all about what goes into producing their shows. From animation techniques to script writing and the casting process, it’s all in there. This one is a lot more educational/informative for anyone involved in the media industry, or just fangirls/fanboys in general.

My favorite episode of the Nerdist Writer’s Panel podcast features the executive producer and co-producer (Matt Thompson and Casey Willis, respectively) of Archer. Archer is one of my absolute favorite shows, so it was fascinating to hear Thompson and Willis talk about their process.

The Nerdist Writer’s Panel is available on podcast for iPhone, iTunes, or you can listen here.

So just pick one and try it out during your next morning/evening commute. Your earballs will be delighted and you might just learn a thing or two! Which one are you going to try out first? Have I forgotten any podcasts that you’re just crazy for? Or do you have any other suggestions? Let me know in the comments below!

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