Thursday, January 7, 2016


A while back I started having stretches where I couldn't read, but did want to use my brain, so I looked critically at my list of podcasts. I found it unsatisfying, full of economics (Planet Money) and storytelling (This American Life, Radiolab, The Moth), and middlebrow miscellany (To The Best Of Our Knowledge, Science Friday, Living On Earth). Surely there are podcasts with the level of detail I would expect in a book? What do I enjoy reading about?

Ancient history. Archeology. Religion scholarship. I opened Apple's Podcasts app on my phone and updated my list.

  • The Ancient World. This is the best thing ever. It's one guy talking, but his writing is sharp and clearly puts together a vast amount of knowledge in each episode, and his delivery is deadpan. I've listened to the whole thing, and may listen to it again: J loves it, and his usual response would be "people are talking, please make it stop."
  • The Maritime History Podcast. To satisfy my jones after finishing The Ancient World.
  • The History of English. This intersperses the fascinating history of the cultures leading up to English with somnolently repetitive tables of example words illustrating cognates and phoneme shifts.
  • Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean. Scholarly lectures analyzing Biblical texts and themes. Pretty awesome, it's like the "Bible as literature" course I should have taken but never did.
  • Quanta Magazine Science Podcast. It sounds like someone is reading the magazine articles out loud, with a curious lack of narrative skill, but it's cool stuff with a gory amount of detail.
  • The Memory Palace. I don't keep up religiously, but they're little dramatic factoid bites, quite a lot of impact for their 6 or 8 minutes.
  • Welcome to Night Vale. I will not describe this, except to say it's the best radio show ever.
Honorable mention:
  • The History of Rome. The Ancient World guy thinks this is the most awesome history podcast ever; I tried it briefly, and I guess it's fine, but at that point I had twice consumed the history of Rome through the end of the Republic, and Rome just doesn't interest me that much.

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