road trips + podcasts

One very important thing I learned whilst driving an hour down a two-lane highway through the hills to get to campus every other day is that podcasts are like time machines: you get in the car, you put on a podcast, and then suddenly you have arrived, and you're smarter than when you left.

Much is to be said of minding the road and its rules, of course, and of appreciating the landscape as it rolls by (I always enjoyed seeing the tractor graveyard, the little town of Gnaw Bone, and the mysterious, lone camel in the roadside barnyard), but podcasts helped me pass the time and made the drive less tedious. An hour I would've spent singing pop songs to myself on repeat became an occasion for learning something new.

If you have a road trip or a commute coming up, check out one of these podcasts:

1. The inimitable Ira Glass and This American Life: I find something I didn't know that I didn't know every time I listen. Favorites include any episode in which the economy is finally explained.
2. Isaiah Sheffer and Selected Shorts: Good, old-fashioned storytelling for live audiences in NYC's Symphony Space. Some of my favorite episodes feature Alec Baldwin reading a Colson Whitehead essay and Parker Posey reading a Haruki Murakami short story.
3. Rico Gagliano and Brendan Newnam of The Dinner Party: A talk show in dinner party format, complete with icebreakers, cocktails, guests of honor, and etiquette tips from unexpected places.

What's your favorite podcast? I always need another listening fix!


  1. I've recently started getting into podcasts (after making fun of my dad for years for listening to them). My commute is about 4 minutes right now, but on road trips or when walking to dog I like Stuff You Missed in History Class (you'll feel really smart after that one), NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, and the Joy the Baker Podcast. I don't know what it is about Joy the Baker -- it's just two girls chatting -- but for some reason I love it. I have no idea how to start a podcast (or if anyone would want to listen to it) but I've been thinking the podcast world is missing a book club podcast.. just a couple of friends chatting about a different book each month.

  2. I love this american life!

  3. I like the Planet Money podcasts (they're sometimes featured on TAL).
    Lately, I've been wild for audiobooks with my kids (2 and 5). Our car is old, so podcasts do not work in it, unfortunately. We have listened to so many good books that I don't think they'd have had the patience for otherwise. Plus, it's like magic how the time passes.

  4. oh, podcasts... they make my every day at work behind the desk so much more interesting and 'this american life' is definitely one of them. my podcast range is really wide, but i love 'real time with bill maher', travel with rick steves' and 'celebrity playlist podcats', where various celebrities talk about their favorite song, albums, artists, etc. i also listen to a lot of comedians like adam carolla, marc maron, bill burr, doug benson and joe rogan. i pretty much listen to it all.

    thanks for the visit!

  5. Great post! I don't listen to podcasts much but i am addicted to BBC Radio 4, an all talk radio station we have here in the UK, and mostly have that on in the house. It is so interesting and diverse and I feel much more well informed for listening to it.

    How if wish podcasts had existed in 2000, the year I spent two hours a day driving to and from campus for my masters degree, in my old Ford Fiesta, listening to Tori Amos on the cassette player. Man I feel old now! ;-)

  6. When I lived in LA, I loved listening to This American Life when I was stuck in traffic. The hours I spent going 15 mph on the freeway always seemed to fly by :)

    p.s. you take incredible photos!

  7. justin introduced me to the splendid table. surely you must know it!

  8. I'm with DJ! My faves are the Joy the Baker podcast and Stuff You Missed in History Class.