The 15 Best Podcasts for your Summer Commute

by Kathleen Nay

Looking for something new to listen to? Look no further.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a podcast addict. If I’m not in class, doing homework, or socializing, chances are you’ll find me with a podcast in my ears. I’m that one kid who raises her hand in class to say, “Oooh, I just heard a podcast about this!” (Hey, don’t judge. Podcasts about broccoli are totally relevant in Agriculture, Science, and Policy).

Doing chores around home? Podcast. Making dinner? Podcast. In the shower? Podcast. Yep, I’m pretty sure I meet the definition of a junkie…

I am well aware that the place where most normal people listen to podcasts is on their daily commute. The semester may be ending, and many of us soon-to-be second years will be exchanging our ride to school for a ride to our summer internships. So, for the listening pleasure of all my fellow first-years, or anyone with a 20-something minute trip to work, I have curated a list, in no particular order, of the 15 Best Podcasts for Your Summer Commute. Whether you’re walking, riding or driving this summer – you’re welcome.

Radiolab
Perfect for: 20-60 minute commutes
Radiolab is equal parts science, philosophy, storytelling and audio-experimentation. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich explore themes as diverse as medicine, history, microbiology, neurology, technology, genetics, and the human experience. In short, Radiolab is a show about curiosity.

Gastropod
Perfect for: 30-50 minute commutes
It wouldn’t be a Sprout article without mentioning food somewhere. Gastropod peeks at the surprising history and science of different foods. Curious about the secret lives of mushrooms? How calories work in our bodies? The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist? Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley serve up bi-weekly gastronomic investigations on these topics and more.

Flash Forward
Perfect for: 30 minute commutes
If you ever catch yourself daydreaming about impossible or not-so-impossible futures, this podcast is for you. Rose Eveleth takes crazy ideas and runs them through to their logical ends. Each episode imagines a different future scenario. What would a world in which everything we do is tracked and quantified look like? Not just our calorie intake, but our brain waves, menstrual cycles, sleep patterns, emotions, poops, hopes, and dreams. Or, how about a future that includes conscious artificial intelligence? Or a future without pets? Rose has been to that future, and she’s here to tell you about it.

The Intern
Perfect for: 15-40 minute commutes
Allison Behringer is learning to navigate New York City and a new career in media and technology. Her job description: to create a podcast about exactly that. While most Friedman students are likely not interning at media or tech startups, issues like new-job anxiety, self-advocacy, and negotiating salaries are completely relevant. This is a podcast about making yourself. Start with Episode 1.

Surprisingly Awesome
Perfect for: 35-40 minute commutes
Some things are just super boring. Like broccoli. Super. Boring. Until you look a little closer. Did you know that broccoli is actually the exact same plant as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and kohlrabi? Yeah, I didn’t know that either until Episode 6. Adam Davidson and Adam McKay explore stories about things that seem totally lame on the surface, but end up being pretty engrossing by the end of the show.

And Eat it Too!
Perfect for: 15-20 minute commutes
Have you ever thought about how many food phrases the English language uses to describe non-food things? Think: you might be cool as a cucumber even if you’re a bad apple. You can be admonished to use your noodle, or to quit being such a couch potato. And Eat it Too! is a podcast that starts with a food phrase… and ends up somewhere completely different. (That’s my jam).

Millennial
Perfect for: 30 minute commutes
If you read last month’s Sprout, you already know about my fascination (obsession?) with Millennials – with how we’re perceived, and how we perceive ourselves. Millennial is a podcast about the uncomfortable parts of becoming an adult. This is a podcast for those of us who are figuring out our 20s as we go. It’s reassuring listening, even on days when you are convinced that adulting is not for you.

Hidden Brain
Perfect for: 30 minute commutes
This NPR podcast reveals the world as explained by social science research. Host Shankar Vedantam provides insights into the behaviors and thought patterns that shape our lives while linking psychology, neurobiology, music, art, and literature. Favorite episodes explore the power of grit, what our perception of time has to do with racial disparity, and why our brains aren’t made to deal with climate change.

Reply All
Perfect for: 40-60 minute commutes
PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman claim that their podcast is “a show about the internet.” That’s true, but it is also so much more. You just have to listen.

The Sporkful
Perfect for: 20-30 minute commutes
Dan Pashman has a knack for telling stories around food. Essential episodes include the five-part series on “Other People’s Food” which asks why we’re willing to pay more for Japanese food than for Mexican, and what happens when white chefs appropriate other cultures’ cuisines. Whether he’s making Serial parodies that investigate workplace food theft, seriously discussing the definition of a sandwich, or interviewing one of the Greensboro Four, who challenged restaurant segregation in 1960s North Carolina, this is a must-download. It’s not for foodies; it’s for eaters.

The Gist from Slate
Perfect for: 30 minute commutes
The Gist just might be my hands-down favorite. This news-and-culture podcast covers politics, history, sociology, science, and animal husbandry. I think of it as a daily digest that keeps me informed on current events and makes me laugh. If you listen long enough, you’ll quickly figure out all of Mike Pesca’s outrageous inside jokes. (Like: what’s a “Lob Star”?).

Snap Judgment
Perfect for: 60 minute commutes
Fans of The Moth and This American Life will love Glynn Washington’s Snap Judgment. Every episode is packed with compelling true dramas interwoven with killer rhythms. Story time has never been more cinematic or intimate. It’s storytelling, with a beat.

Death, Sex & Money
Perfect for: 30 minute commutes
This podcast gets real. If you mainly listen to podcasts to be entertained, this one may not be your style. In it, Anna Sale expertly broaches topics that are usually left out of polite conversation. Death, Sex & Money is about the messy parts of the human experience. But it’s worth it. Trust me.

2 Dope Queens
Perfect for: 40-60 minute commutes
After Death, Sex & Money, you’re probably going to need some comedy in your life. 2 Dope Queens is the antidote. Let Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson introduce you to their favorite Brooklyn comedians. Fair warning: this podcast is not kid-friendly, but it is funny! Insert NSFW disclaimer here.

NPR Politics
Perfect for: 15-45 minute commutes
Don’t have time to keep up with all the candidates and their antics this election year? Get only what you need to know as NPR’s political reporters talk frankly about the race and the issues.

Bonus! Sigma Nutrition Radio
Perfect for: 30-60 minute commutes
Finally, for those of you nerds who have been missing school all summer, check out Sigma Nutrition Radio with Danny Lennon. Danny interviews experts from all over the world to discuss cutting-edge research in nutrition and exercise. This podcast is great for getting your educational fix while waiting for fall classes to start. (It’s okay. I count myself among the nerds).

Kathleen Nay is a self-described radio junkie, who had a really hard time narrowing this list down to only 15 (well, 16) podcasts. She is an AFE/UEP dual degree student who will be commuting to her Boston-based internship all summer long.

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