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On-the-go podcasts

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TIME WELL SPENT There’s a podcast out there for everyone, whatever your interests might be. (Illustration:

Used to be, everyone you knew had the paper delivered to their home. We’d take time to open it up and read it, often cover to cover, before starting the day. And we all had our sections, the ones we read first: daily news, finance, lifestyle.

Some of us still subscribe to that daily ritual. But for many, the fast pace of an electronics-driven life along with dwindling pages in the papers have resulted in a need to grab information when and where we can. On the go, in the car, at our desks.

Enter podcasts.

It all kind of started with the crazy-popular podcast Serial, which launched in the fall of 2014 with its first season investigating the murder case of a Baltimore high school student. “Everyone was talking about it,” says Lindy McGee, a pediatrician and podcast fan. “So that was the first [podcast] I listened to. We had remodeled our house and were moving back in, so I just stuck it in and listened while I was unpacking boxes.” 

After she finished Serial, Lindy was hooked. Twice a week, she commutes to her office in Pasadena; time in the car becomes time to listen to podcasts. “I like to listen to something serious on my way there and then something lighthearted on my way home,” she says. 

Many mornings on the way to work, Lindy listens to Pantsuit Politics. “It’s two women, one from the left and one from the right, discussing what is going on in politics. They talk about all sides of the issue in a very nuanced way,” she says. “I have learned a lot from them.” Other morning favorites include Science Vs. – “the host takes different scientific topics that are discussed in popular media and looks at the evidence” – and Revisionist History. “Author Malcolm Gladwell takes on interesting topics.” 

On rides home, Lindy goes with authors she reads and follows. She likes Happier with Gretchen Rubin, where Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, offers “everyday tips and tricks to make your life easier.” And For the Love with Jen Hatmaker showcases the Christian blogger’s interviews with people on topics like “For the love of music” or “For the love of exploring our faith.” 

Lindy’s husband Tom, an executive in oil and gas equipment manufacturing, also enjoys podcasts. “He loves history podcasts,” Lindy says. “One car trip, we had to listen to a whole one about the Punic wars. One child actually loves ancient history, so that was fine. The other just put her earphones in.”

Tom says his favorite history podcasts are Revolutions, which, as the name suggests, recounts important historical revolutions, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History and Philosophize This. “All of them are entertaining to listen to,” he says, “but designed for history buffs.” Tom also enjoys Macrovoices and Hedgeye for financial news and perspectives.

Mary Clark Granberry, a mom of two teenagers, likes listening to podcasts because “it’s a good way to catch up on current events. I’ll catch NPR at odd points,” she says, “but the kids will get in the car or I’ll get out. This way, you can go back and get the replay on the podcast. Also, you don’t have to finish one to still get something out of it. I like the variety and I like all the information.” 

Mary Clark’s favorites:

How to Be Amazing – interviews with celebrities. “I loved Ina Garten on that one. Lin Manuel Miranda was great, and Tim Gunn. They’re all good.”

Armchair Expert – Dax Shephard visits with famous people. “I had [Dax] pegged as a character from his movies,” Mary Clark says. “But he really surprised me. He’s very smart, and I think he’s extremely self-aware. He’s had a lot of therapy and is very open about it, and his takeaway is so authentic. And he’s hysterical.”

Getting Curious – Jonathan Van Ness, from Queer Eye, explores whatever he’s curious about. “He’s such an entertaining person to begin with,” Mary Clark says. “It’s a positive, youthful, entertaining approach to sometimes hard questions.” 

Royally Obsessed – two women who are obsessed with the royals talk. “A friend told me about this when the royal wedding happened, and she said we should have done this! It’s just a light, gossipy but harmless, fun listen.” 

The Dropout – investigating Elizabeth Holmes, once the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, and her fallen company Theranos. “This sucked me in,” Mary Clark says. “Super creepy and fascinating. I knew what I knew from the news, that she went to St. John’s, but I didn’t realize the whole story.” 

Editor's note: For tips on how to listen to podcasts and more recommendations, read last year’s A World of Podcasts.

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