A compendium of Recomendo




Philosophical podcast

I’m more audio book than podcast listener, but On Being with Krista Tippett is one of my favorite things ever. Her guests vary from artists, scientists and activists, and the conversation is always centered around the intangible aspects of life. It’s philosophical without being pushy, and I’m quickly working my way through the archives. — CD

Reply All

My favorite podcast these days is Reply All. It’s sort of Wired in audible format. Smart, surprising stories about the culture around digital technology. They are especially good in chasing down internet “mysteries.” Just for example, listen to episode #76 which is about the Google ad scam around lost phones; it goes way deep. Each episode never fails to enlighten and entertain me. — KK

Life changing questions

A really great podcast episode well worth listening to is “17 Great Questions That Can Change Your Life,” by Tim Ferriss. This is an audible extract from his new book Tools of Titans. In this session he lists the 17 questions that he asks himself on a regular basis in order to get the most from his life. They are very effective probes. And this podcast is a good introduction to his book, which is also very useful. — KK

A cappella choir

I’m late to the party, but I’ve been enjoying the sweet sounds of the now popular group Pentatonix. It’s a five-voice A cappella choir. One voice is a great beat-box artist who supplies the instrumentation. Somehow their arrangements get everything right. They do originals and covers and can I listen to them for hours. They found their audience on YouTube. — KK

Russian mystery

A fantastic two-part podcast episode from Reply All (Russian Passenger, Part 1 + Beware All, Part 2) delves very deep into the mystery of how producer Alex Blumberg had his Uber account hacked by Russians. Could it be malware, phishing, man-in-the-middle exploits, or what? To arrive at a solution required the participation of the full technical teams of Google, Uber, and independent security experts over several weeks, and still the final aha was surprising. Along the way, it’s an entertaining detective story, dishing out a serious but still understandable education in global cyber security. The bottom line: You need a password manager right now. My family and I use 1Password, which has been great. — KK

Welcome to Night Vale

I’m a big Welcome to Night Vale fan, a community news podcast about a fictional town plagued by paranormal and spooky events. Besides listening to the podcast, I prioritized my Facebook feed to see their absurd status updates first. They always make me smile. Example: “Scientists discover a new species of spider on the back of your shirt. ‘Oh wow. It’s crazy big. Good luck,’ their press release reads.” — CD

Revisionist History

A new podcast I am enjoying is Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History. You get typical Gladwellian reporting, voiced by Gladwell himself. His theme is the re-telling of things “everyone knows,“ so that these “official” stories are inverted, reversed, undermined, or in some way seen new. It’s contrarian by design. If you like his books, you’ll like his podcast and vice versa. — KK

Increase your consumption of podasts

I found a great way to increase my consumption of podcasts without adding more time — by playing the episodes at 1.5 times speed. Most podcast players will give you this option. My friends who are serious listeners play theirs at 2X. You quickly get used to the speedy talk (there is no change in voice pitch). Twice the content in the same time! Try it. — KK

The Man of the People

An awesome podcast episode that I loved is “The Man of the People” on Reply All. In only 42 minutes it tells the nearly incredible true story about a charlatan who made millions by surgically implanting goat testicals in men, almost became governor of Kansas to escape censure, moved to the Mexico side of the border to broadcast in the US without US oversight, made country and western music a national thing, by his quackery provoked the creation of the AMA (American Medical Association), and invented commercial radio. This podcast has the distinction of being the first podcast to be turned into a Hollywood movie, starring Robert Downey Jr. If you want to know what podcasts are about, try this one. — KK

West Coast Live archives

For 25 years Sedge Thomson has convened a weekly live radio variety show called West Coast Live. It’s a warm mix of unconventional live music, conversations with off-beat authors, and playing around with radio. Imagine Prairie Home Companion meets Fresh Air. I listen to (and have been a guest on) the show to learn about great books that aren’t best sellers, and great music not on the charts. And when he does have celebrity guests, Sedge’s low-key interviews take them off their routines into unexpected territories. Select episodes from two decades of archives are available as podcasts. — KK



I’m totally hooked on S-Town, an amazing 6-hour audio documentary from the folks that brought you the hit podcast Serial. Although it starts out like Serial, S-Town takes off as a deep dive into another America most listeners like me have never experienced. Plenty of plot twists amid a parade of local character and colors: Southern Gothic, redneck, Trump country blues. But at its heart it’s a story of one person’s attempt to make sense of his life. — KK

The Power of Vulnerability

“No one reaches out to you for compassion or empathy so you can teach them how to behave better. They reach out to us because they believe in our capacity to know our darkness well enough to sit in the dark with them.” This quote comes from Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability. Her talk and teachings on authenticity, connection, and courage, based on 12 years of research, inspired me to be a better friend to those in my life — to show up and be present and hold a space of empathy for those in need. Available as a 6-hour audible download or audio CD, listening to her is like listening to your funniest friend, who’s also a doctor. — CD

Learning from death

Frank Ostaseski has accompanied over 1,000 people as they died in a hospice, and in this 60-minute podcast (recorded at a Long Now seminar), he distills what lessons the dying — and death — have taught him. Their wisdom is deep, complex, potent, intimate, unexpected (not cliche) and will shift your relationship to life. Listening (or watching the video) will be one of the best hours in your life. — KK

X-ray into music

You know about Song Exploder, yes? It’s this amazing podcast that takes one well-known song each week and explodes it into its component parts. The musicians who wrote and perform the song take it apart track by track, sometimes beat by beat, explaining what they were thinking as they created the pieces: what challenges and dead-end they met along the way, how the song changed as they worked on it, and why they like the final version. It’s the x-ray into music I always wanted. — KK

Instructional listen

I greatly enjoyed this episode of my long-time favorite BBC podcast, In Our Time: The American Populists. It describes an earlier rise of populism in America around 1880, an era I knew nothing about, but one that has a few parallels with and lessons for the current outbreak of populism in the US. — KK

MediaClaudia Dawson