Monday, January 3, 2011

Best Podcasts of 2010 (PLUS Tutorial for Newbies)

Why am I sharing my favorite podcasts on my food blog?  Because while I am patiently choosing produce, chopping veggies, babysitting beans, or washing dishes, I am usually listening to my MP3 player.  Podcasts make boring chores fun.  They inspire, inform, make me laugh, or just keep me company.  I wanted to inspire you to check out a few podcasts.  If you're already a podcast veteran, please share your favorites!  I imagine my favorite podcast is still hiding out there somewhere.  This is what I'm currently listening to:

1. APM: The Splendid Table
2. WNYC's Radio Lab
3. This American Life (Chicago Public Media)
4. The Moth Podcast
5. Stuff You Missed in History Class (
6. WAMU: The Diane Rehm Show
7. APM: The Story
8. Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
9. Stuff Mom Never Told You (
10. NPR: Fresh Air

 DISCLAIMER: These are just the 10 podcasts I listen to first and most often, relative to how often they are released.

If you don't listen yet or don't know what a podcast is, here's how to get started:

A podcast is like a radio (or TV) show, but instead of being broadcast over the air, it is available to download for your listening (or watching) convenience.  They are released in episodes daily, weekly, or monthly, and can be any length.  All the podcasts I listen to are between about 7 minutes to an hour. Most of them are free.  The best podcasts have sponsors and some, like NPR podcasts, solicit donations.

The easiest way to get started is to download and/or open iTunes on your computer.  When you have iTunes open, click iTunes Store in the left-hand column.  On the upper right there is a search box.  Try searching for you favorite newspaper.  I'm going to type "the economist".  If I click on the first result, the thumbnail with the red background and red globe, I will see more information.

First I am going to click "Subscribe Free" under the image.  Then I'm going to scroll down to the section that says "Listeners also subscribed to."  This is the best place to find podcasts.  On the page for The Economist, suggestions include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC Radio, and Harvard Business Review IdeaCast.  I'm going to click on the last one: NPR: Planet Money.  Then I'll start the cycle again: clicking "Subscribe Free" and looking for other suggestions.  Here I see Freakonomics Radio, a podcast that just missed my top-ten list.  Eventually you will see the same podcasts coming up and you should start over.  Try searching for you favorite radio or news show, like NPR: All Things Considered.  Try searching for your favorite author or comedian.  You may find audio books available for sale, or you may find free podcasts of radio shows on which they appeared.

When you've had enough surfing, click Podcasts in the left-hand column of iTunes.  When you subscribe to a podcast, the most recent episode is automatically downloaded.  You can highlight the podcast and click "Get All" or just "Get" episodes that look most interesting.  Next time you open iTunes...tomorrow or next "Refresh" on the bottom right corner.  The newest episodes will automatically download.  For most podcasts, you can check in as infrequently as you like and download back episodes.  If you are a fan of this American Life, be aware you can only get the most recent episode for free; old episodes cost $1.99.

Many of the podcasts I listen to are sponsored by audible and offer a free trial.  I finally took advantage of it and downloaded an audio book yesterday.  When I lived in the U.S. I used to get many audio books from the library.  I would bring my CD player into the kitchen to listen, or I would listen in the car.  Your local library may also offer a service where you can download audio books at home for free by signing in with your library card number.  Ask your favorite local librarian for help.

Podcasts are also a great way to learn a new language.  For instance, to begin learning Hebrew I borrowed Pimsleur CDs from the library in the U.S. and subscribed to Learn Hebrew Pod after I moved to Israel.  As your comprehension increases, you can find radio shows in other languages.

You do not need an MP3 player to listen to podcasts.  MP3 players are a wonderful convenience, but you can listen strait from your computer or you can burn podcasts onto CDs.  Some car CD players can play MP3 files (much smaller files) and you can burn many podcasts onto one CD.  For regular CD players, you can burn an hour or two of audio on a CD for a long car ride.  In iTunes you can specify that you want to turn the MP3 files into full audio files.  I'd be happy to answer any question left in the comments section.

 Happy listening!


  1. You can listen to podcasts via computer. An MP3 is great because you can be doing other things while you listen but not a must.

  2. I'm a fan of NPR's All Songs Considered.
    APM's The Dinner Party Download is also fun. "In every 15 minute episode you’ll learn a joke…get the week’s major headlines…bone up on some history…drink in a cocktail recipe…meet an artist of note…savor an emerging food trend…and hear your new favorite song. "

    Thanks for the Grammar Girl recommendation. I'm subscribing now.




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