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Listen up! Faculty share their favorite podcasts

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

If you’re looking for the next great podcast, check out what some of your Northeastern colleagues are listening to. Road-tripping through Italy, the backstories of Supreme Court cases, the personalities of U.S. presidents, and plain old Stuff You Should Know—these are just some of the offerings.

So, sit back, relax, and tune in to your next favorite podcast.

Jessica Silbey, law professor and co-director of the Center for Law, Innovation, and Creativity

More Perfect

I love More Perfect, a podcast that is a spinoff of RadioLab that is all about the Supreme Court and its cases. It digs deep into the background of many of the cases, which students do not have access to in law school from simply reading the opinions. More Perfect situates the dispute of the cases in history, local personalities and relationships, and the national politics relative to the time of the case. More Perfect is also unapologetically not adoring of the U.S. Supreme Court. It presents the Constitution as a document to admire and constitutional change as something worthy of deep reflection, but talks about the Court and the justices as humans with jobs to do and only one institution among many in our national political structure.  

Amicus

I also love Amicus, the Slate podcast hosted by Dahlia Lithwick. This is also a Supreme Court podcast, but Dahlia’s approach is less a deep dive and more an interview show about a current case with the relevant people. She helps us understand what the cases are about, what is at stake, and because she is so witty, personable, and herself a keen lawyer, she always gets to the heart of the matter quickly, asking questions that listeners have in their minds and therefore giving us the satisfaction of many of the answers (or at least a discussion).

Presidential

This is a series of podcasts by Lillian Cunningham that takes the U.S. presidents in order and investigates their personalities as a measure of what made them the president they were. What makes a president—electable, good, bad, or forgettable—is the underlying question. And, unsurprisingly but very interestingly, there are many possible answers to that question.

Jacqueline Isaacs, assistant dean for faculty affairs and professor of mechanical and industrial engineering

99% Invisible

This one’s my favorite podcast. It’s about design that shapes our world, and explores all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about.

The Allusionist

I also enjoy The Allusionist, which is a weekly podcast that traces back the history of language through specific words.

The Memory Palace

On the history front, I enjoy The Memory Palace, a storytelling show about the past…

Slow Burn

…as well as a mini-series called Slow Burn that focuses on President Richard Nixon’s impeachment and Watergate in its first season, with the next season to focus on Bill Clinton and his impeachment.

Aleszu Bajak, School of Journalism graduate programs manager and part-time journalism lecturer

In the Dark

If you liked Serial you’ll like both seasons of this podcast from American Public Media. Riveting and transparent journalistic detective work from Madeleine Baran and her team.

The History of Rome

I listened to this while road-tripping through Italy. It’s a complete guide to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire in all its gore and glory, researched and told by guy-next-door Mike Duncan.

On the Media

What are the narratives we tell ourselves through film, literature, news, and TV? Where and how often do they end up hurting people? This expertly crafted interview show from WNYC has been a favorite for years not because it seeks to indict lazy journalism but because it wants to make us practitioners better.

Reveal

With Reveal, Al Letson and his team are probably producing the most important podcast today, pound for pound, episode by episode. It’s a feat of investigative audio journalism taking listeners deep into today’s most important, uncomfortable stories around the nation.

Michelle Borkin, assistant professor of information and scientific visualization

Data Stories

Each podcast discusses through interviews with experts the latest developments and news in data visualization, visual analytics, visual storytelling, and related topics. The podcast is not only informative but incredibly entertaining and engaging!

Borkin and Dietmar Offenhuber, assistant professor of design, were recently featured on an episode of Data Stories.

Carie Little Hersh, assistant teaching professor of sociology and anthropology

Media Indigena

There is usually a mix of journalists, activists, and scholars discussing a range of topics, and anthropologist Kim Tallbear, whose work I really admire, is a frequent guest. What I love most about the podcast is that it provides a rarely-heard set of perspectives from American Indian communities on everything from sexuality and marriage to natural disasters to education. It never fails to broaden my way of thinking about an issue.

This Anthro Life

I also listen to a few anthropology-centered podcasts, including This Anthro Life, hosted by Brandeis anthropology students Ryan Collins, who is also a Northeastern adjunct faculty member, and Adam Gamwell.

The Familiar Strange

A recent addition is an Australian-based podcast The Familiar Strange. Both this and This Anthro Life have a round-table discussion format, and often invite scholars or specialists to join particular conversations. The conversations are usually very engaging and informative , and always enjoyable to listen to.

Anthropologist on the Street

Hersh herself hosts a podcast that explores a range of subjects through the lens of anthropology.

Timothy Hoff, professor of management, healthcare systems, and health policy

30 for 30

As a lifelong, highly competitive athlete, my favorite podcast is sports-focused—the 30 for 30 podcast that addresses aspects of the different ESPN sports stories that air on TV. These stories are unique in covering interesting angles related to popular sports figures and sports teams of our time, as well as famous sporting events from the past that we all remember.  The podcast is cool because it goes behind the scenes with the story reporters, giving you greater insight into how they worked a given story, and their own experiences interacting with the major characters in a story—for example, what it’s really like trying to get Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick to sit down together and talk frankly about their history. 

Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know is a great podcast I often listen to with my family. You have these two co-hosts who spend an hour talking in-depth about some topic (could be anything) that you likely never even thought about before they started talking about it. But by the end of the podcast, you feel like you’re an expert on it, whatever it is.