My daily commute is about an hour each way and includes all the regular commute classics – a bit of walking, some waiting for the bus, some sitting and then some more walking. Sometimes I’ll use that time to have a chat to my brother so we can discuss what the day holds in store for each of us, but more often than not I’ll have my AirPods in, listening to a podcast episode or two. Unless I’m really, really into whatever book I’m reading at that time, I’ll use this commute to get at least 3 podcast episodes into my brain per day, most weekdays.
What I listen to varies by the week, but some series are ever present through the weeks. Here’s what I’ve been listening to a lot of the time this year on the number 20.
American Scandal, Wondery
BALCO, New York Politics, Iran Contra and Exxon Valdez – topics I was aware of and knew involved some form of terrible behaviour prior to listening to American Scandal but I now realise are explosive stories, involving MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF TERRIBLE BEHAVIOUR. This podcast is expertly narrated with perfect cliff hangers thrown in for good measure.
Without Fail, Gimlet Media
I’ve loved almost everything that Gimlet has produced since the first series of Start Up, the series that launched the media company and which documented the story of Gimlet Media starting up.
Without Fail is a series in which the co-founder of Gimlet Media, Alex Blumberg, interviews people who have started new things, some successfully, some successfully for a bit before failing and all the other variants of that. They are all pretty great and if you’re prone to starting new things you should probably listen to them.
The inner monologue of UsTwo co-founder, Mills, externalised in podcast form. Mills was hugely supportive of our recent book, Spring, and was interviewed for it, and spoke on a couple of episodes about it. But I’d have included him in this anyway because he has a lot to say and he says it in a serious, unserious, honest, uplifting, and motivational way which is brilliant listening. He is a great storyteller.
Business Wars, Wondery
The stories of competing businesses told across a multi-episode series. Pepsi vs Coke, Adidas vs Nike, McDonalds vs Burger King, Red Bull vs Monster and most recently USFL vs NFL – and that’s just the ones I can easily remember. The guy who narrates them is good at voices – Donald Trump makes an appearance in the most recent series and his impression of him is uncanny – and the stories are well told.
People Fixing the World, BBC World Service
Brilliant stories of projects around the world that do important work for communities. Nice feel good stuff. Also, lots of good/worthy/important ideas to be shared or borrowed for your own community. Basically, this series is the opposite of my last recommendation. Bit of balance – good for the brain.