Get listening: six podcasts for the well-rounded student

Make your everyday routines a little more meaningful

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Podcasts transform banal everyday tasks into time well spent.

The multitude of podcasts available can make it intimidating to start listening, so here is a handful of podcasts to help get you started.

Whether you’re looking for a motivational push, you want to get those neurons firing, or just looking for a good story, one of these shows is sure to perk your ears.

1. For when you need some inspiration: The TED Radio Hour

I’m sure many students turn to TED Talks when they’re in need of a little inspiration. TED Radio Hour is a collection of the most innovative, motivational and idea-filled conversations behind everyone’s favourite TED speakers.

Host Guy Raz sits down with TED’s best presenters for a one-on-one journey through industry-shifting inventions, renewed world perspectives and endless creativity.

Start with: “Keeping Secrets.” The episode delves deeper into PostSecret.com founder Frank Warren’s talk about why we keep secrets, what our secrets really say about us and what happens when we keep, share and create them.

2. For when you’re craving a good story: This American Life

With around 2.5 million people downloading each episode, this entry may not be much of a surprise. That doesn’t change the fact that for me, This American Life is the one show that most consistently packs a podcast punch.

By the creators of the spinoff Serial, This American Life is a weekly podcast that shares real-life stories from around the world — emotional, dramatic or hilarious stories that are vividly and intelligently told — to fit with that week’s theme. No two shows are alike.

Start with: “Birds & Bees.” Featuring stories about the difficulties that come with teaching kids about complicated topics, this episode includes high-schoolers talking about consent, five-year-olds learning about racism and children learning to accept death.

3. For a good conversation starter: Pop Culture Happy Hour

Do you ever feel like you’re itching to hear someone else’s thoughts about the latest pop culture happening?

This NPR show is an energetic chat about everything worth talking about in current pop culture, from books, TV shows and films to genre-less pop culture topics. It’s fast-paced and unrehearsed. Listening is like eavesdropping on an intelligent conversation about everything you care about — so much so that I’ve caught myself enthusiastically nodding along while listening in public.

Each episode also includes a segment that I particularly love: each member of the NPR roundtable shares one pop culture item that makes them happy that week.

Start with: “Stranger Things and Onscreen Weddings,” which nearly satisfied my craving for conversation about the recently released Netflix thriller Stranger Things.

4. For the bibliophiles: The New Yorker Fiction Podcast

For those of you looking to get into or back into reading, this one’s for you. As a confessed bookworm, podcasts about books are, in my book, the next best thing to reading books.

Every episode, The New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman invites a writer to choose their favourite story from the publication’s archives. The first half is a reading of the story by the writer and the rest is a candid conversation about the story and why they chose it. 

Start with: September’s episode, which features Nigerian-American author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — writer of the bestselling We Should All Be Feminists and Americanah — reading Jamaica Kincaid’s “Figures in the Distance.”

5. For laughs: Comedy Bang! Bang!

Host Scott Aukerman has marked his place in comedy stardom with his belly-achingly hilarious podcast, which features a medley of unscripted chats, sketches and game segments with the most notable comedians in the industry.

In between interviews with Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, Parks and Recreation’s Amy Poehler and Saturday Night Live’s John Mulaney, this podcast will be the main culprit in making you laugh so hard in public that strangers turn their heads.

Start with: Episode #425, in which Aukerman invites star and producer of the comedy sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Andy Samberg. Hilarity ensues.

6. For those with a penchant for politics: Intersection

Intersection is a podcast that explores the questions that may be difficult to ask in our political and culture climate, but need to be. New Republic editor Jamil Smith tackles political issues through the lens of race, gender and all facets of identity, inviting politicians, pundits and everyday people to explore these questions with him and expand the conversation beyond what he knows.

Start with: The episode entitled “Who’s Afraid of Donald Trump?” is my favourite account of the Trump phenomena to date. Smith, alongside Al Jazeera correspondent Wajahat Ali, deconstructs every American fear to which Trump caters.

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