When I was a kid, every summer my mom would order these “learning boxes” for my sisters and me to work on. Each box was designed for whatever grade we were going into, filled with workbooks and activities to keep our minds sharp, and help us retain any information that was lucky enough to survive from the previous school year. It was homework during holiday.
We hated them.
Flash forward to the present, and I now understand that her reason behind these packets wasn’t to ruin our summer vacation, but indeed prevent our brains from dissolving from lack of use.
As a full time graphic designer, my year doesn’t revolve around school anymore. My job is challenging, but I also pride myself at being pretty good at it, so most solutions come fairly easy.
But every once in a while I’ll have these moments where I ask myself “Am I challenging my brain enough? When was the last time I learned something?”
That’s when I switch my music off, and my favorite podcasts on.
Listening to someone tell a story, describe an event, or solve a puzzle leaves me feeling like I’ve actually accomplished something with my time, and maybe got just a tad bit smarter too.
So without further ado, here are my top go-to podcasts as of late – click on the titles to be taken to the podcasts’ websites.
This American Life is like a gateway drug to podcasts. There are SO MANY episodes covering such a vast range of topics, it’s impossible for you to NOT find something you’re interested in. Each episode has a theme, and I suggest beginning on the “favorites” page. That’s a nice introduction.
From the creators of This American Life, Serial is hosted by Sarah Koenig. It tells a story – a true story – over the course of the entire season. There are 10 episodes in season 1, and I think I finished them all within a few days. You can hear it in her voice, how much Sarah wants to solve this case, and that just adds the fuel to the fire that is your new Serial addiction.
Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel host this NPR program and investigate the invisible forces that control human behavior, beliefs, ideas, assumptions, and emotions. Through a mix of storytelling and scientific research, these two ladies bring up such interesting topics, you’ll be sure to look at your own life differently.
Also from NPR comes this hilarious puzzle game show; Ask Me Another. Every episode features puzzles, word games, and trivia played in front of a live audience. There is also a guest star, or Very Important Puzzler, who is featured each show. I usually find myself laughing out loud, and also learning a lot of extremely random facts!
Speaking of hilarity. Each episode of Stephen Colbert’s podcast is a glimpse into his comedic mind. You’ll listen to stories from his past as well as the plans for his new show. And as various members of his team share what they do, you’ll get a great idea of all the work that goes into creating The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Another comedian who hosts a great podcast is Marc Maron. I honestly had never heard of Mr. Maron before catching wind of his interview with the President, but after one listen, I was hooked. Don’t go thinking this is a political program, though: the normal guest list features celebrities, musicians, and actors. His studio is located in his garage, and he has this no nonsense, but still casual and humorous approach to asking questions that I find completely intriguing.
To me, solving puzzles is just too much fun. So upon discovering Starlee Kine’s Mystery Show, I fell hard. And in true new-obsession-fashion, I binge listened, finished every episode in two days, and then moped because it was over. If you have a mystery in your life, send an email to Starlee. She is a woman on a mission to find the answers, and her only rule? It can NOT be found by just Googling.
There you have it! My favorite podcasts to get my cerebral matter moving!
So whether you’re going back to school and need to wake up those brain cells, or simply craving new information, pop in those earbuds and listen to a podcast or two.
Who knows what you’ll learn?
Got any favorite podcasts to share with our readers? Shout ’em out in the comments!