17 Recommended Podcasts To Help You Improve As A Writer and Human Being
Initially I was going to write an article solely focussing on podcasts that can help you improve as a writer. But the more I pondered the subject, the more evident it became that being a well-rounded writer is inseparable from being a well-rounded human being. Rather than read this as a definitive list of podcasts, I want this piece to serve as a starting point in your own podcast journey. A choose-your-own-adventure, if you like. For that reason I’ve sectioned recommendations into categories. You may not agree with my highlighted podcasts or episodes in each category, but I hope you will find value in crafting your own to-listen-to list using the suggested categories (and adding new categories of your own). So, let’s get started.
Improve as a Writer
Given this is LitReactor’s niche, it will come as no surprise that we’ve covered podcasts on writing before (here, here, and here). That said, there are still some excellent podcasts that have been neglected in previous articles that I’d like to bring to your attention.
Now in its twelfth season, Writing Excuses has been around since 2008. Each episode runs from fifteen to twenty-five minutes and focuses on a particular aspect of writing. Check out the syllabus for season 12. Hosted by a variety of writers including Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Mary Robinette Kowal, Writing Excuses delivers practical no-nonsense writing advice with a dash of humour and a lot of fun.
Recommended episode: Given the variety of topics covered I recommend you scan the archives and download based on your own interests and needs (I recommend working on your weaknesses so that with time they become strengths). That said, this season I’ve particularly enjoyed listening to Words as Words, with special guest Linda Addison and Short Stories as Exploration, with special guest Tananarive Due.
Writer 2.0 with A.C. Fuller
What I especially like about Writer 2.0 is the variety of guests and topics. Host A.C. Fuller can prise valuable takeaways and insights from his guests whilst maintaining a conversational style. A.C. not only covers the fundamentals of writing but also dives deep into topics such as marketing, mailing lists, and eBook formatting. Alongside Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn Podcast and Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula Podcast, this is a must-listen for author-entrepreneurs and any writers who wish to learn more about book marketing.
Recommended episode: Episode 22, with Lawrence Block
The Long-Form Conversation
Perhaps what I like most about podcasts is the resurgence of the long form conversation and interview. No longer are we restricted to the parameters and time restrictions of radio, but rather we can eavesdrop on conversations with masters and experts on all manner of disciplines. Many of the podcasts highlighted within this article are interview podcasts, but here I want to focus on podcasts that are less restricted by a specific subject matter, where anything goes and nothing is off the table. Listening to long-form conversations is of great value as it exposes you to the voices of others, both the nuances and cadence of the voices themselves and the breadth of opinions that are inevitably expressed.
The Tim Ferriss Show
The Tim Ferriss Show might just be my favourite podcast. If a gun were raised to my head and I were told I could only listen to one podcast for the rest of my life I would say “The Tim Ferriss Show” and then I would say “Can you please put the gun down, it’s distracting.” But seriously, The Tim Ferriss Show is so varied in its content it could easily fit into any of the categories. Tim’s blurb captures the tone of the show perfectly:
Each episode, I deconstruct world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.
Conversations typically run from one to two hours and previous guests include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Amanda Palmer, Triple H, and Tony Robbins. Tim doesn’t need any more listeners given this was the first business/interview podcast to pass 100,000,000 downloads and frequently appears on ‘best of’ lists, and yet if you only download one new podcast after reading this article I recommend it’s The Tim Ferriss Show.
Recommended episode: With over two hundred episodes and a star-studded cast of guests I’m sure they’ll be plenty of interviews that pique your interest. I really enjoyed Tim’s 2016 retrospective What I’ve Learned and as a life-long pro wrestling fan I loved his conversation with Triple H.
Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces Podcast
Choosing a second podcast to highlight was tough because there are so many great long form interview shows including the likes of Michael Gervais’s Finding Mastery, Bret Easton Ellis Podcast, and J David Osborne’s garage band-punk rock approach to podcasting, The JDO Show. That said, I’m shining the spotlight on Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces Podcast (side-note Pip plays French Bill in television series Taboo). If The Tim Ferriss Show is an intense dissection of tactics and strategies, then Distraction Pieces is like dropping in for a cuppa (or beer, especially those DrunkCasts) and a hang out in the living room. The show’s intimate, the conversation natural and never forced, and Pip not only showcases some of the best artists and performers from around the world but also raises awareness of important issues such as his Homelessness Special, Knowmore.org conversation with B. Dolan, and Dignity In Dying episodes.
Recommended episode: Check out Pip’s recent conversation with James Buckley and yes, as a pro wrestling fan I got one hell of a kick out of his 2015 conversation with Chris Jericho … listen in, maaaaaaaan. (Sorry, not sorry to all the non-pro wrestling fans for that reference.)
Short Stories and Audio Drama
Nightmare Magazine Podcast
If you want to be a better writer, be a better reader. Advice that’s often given and for good reason—it works. A great way to consume more stories is to listen to stories on the go. In terms of podcasts that means short stories, serialised fiction, and audio dramas.
Alongside Pseudopod and The New Yorker: Fiction Podcast, Nightmare Magazine is my favourite short story podcast. Nightmare Magazine Podcast takes some of the best stories from Nightmare Magazine and presents them in audio form. Nightmare regularly challenges the definition of horror and demonstrates just how diverse the genre can be. It often includes some of the best horror short stories of the year, which is exactly why you should add Nightmare Magazine Podcast to your weekly listening repertoire.
Recommended episode: I Was A Teenage Werewolf by Dale Bailey
The Black Tapes Podcast
We seem to be in a golden age of audio drama podcasts right now, with The Black Tapes near the top of the pack. The Black Tapes Podcast is a serialised narrative that follows host Alex Reagan’s exploration of paranormal investigator Dr. Richard Strand and his collection of unsolved cases dubbed ‘the black tapes’. What makes this particularly interesting is Strand himself, a sceptic who actively debunks claims of the supernatural. Furthermore, as the story progresses it becomes clear that Dr. Richard Strand and his secrets are perhaps more noteworthy than his collection of black tapes. Think Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder’s Serial Podcast meets V/H/S.
Recommended episode: Episode 101 (You have to listen in chronological order.)
I was going to call this section ‘learning cool shit’ but decided to go for the more restrained ‘educational podcasts.’ This section is perhaps the most customisable of all as the podcasts you choose will depend on your interests. Think of these podcasts as ‘research’ or ‘back to school,’ where you get to decide on the syllabus. There are so many podcasts I love in this category I’ve included several but said less about each. Oh, and there’s a bias towards my own tastes, so apologies if you don’t like grisly true crime and economics. I’ve thrown a couple of Philosophy podcasts in, too, and almost considered ‘philosophy and politics’ as a separate category—it’s important we expose ourselves to a variety of different thinkers, voices, and ideas if we want to write diverse and varied characters.
Stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.
Recommended episode: 695BGK
Created by journalist Stephen J. Dubner and economist Steve Levitt, Freakonomics explores a multitude of topics through interviews, observations, and discussions, and is never less than fascinating.
Recommended episode: How To Win A Nobel Prize
From fairy tales to con artists to folklore to urban legends, if it fits the wide definition of ‘lore’ this podcast covers it.
Recommended episode: Negative Consequences
My favourite Philosophy podcast—moral questions and issues that affect us today.
Recommended episode: The Just Riot?
Like Freakonomics but with a focus on finances and the economy.
Recommended episode: Bad Form, Wells Fargo
Stuff You Should Know
Learn how everything works.
Recommended episode: The Satanic Panic of the 1980s
Sword and Scale
Like Criminal but with everything turned up to eleven and no graphic details spared—oftentimes harrowing.
Recommended episode: 87 (because it just aired and it’s a two-parter and I’m intrigued to hear where it goes next).
TED Radio Hour
If TED Talks and Freakonomics Radio had a baby …
Recommended episode: The Meaning Of Work
Waking Up with Sam Harris
An exploration of important and controversial topics with philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris.
Recommended episode: Why Meditate?
This might be the last category but it’s perhaps the most important of all. Without our health we can’t do much of anything, so I make a point of staying informed. Ever since ditching prescription drugs and reversing an autoimmune condition via a paleo lifestyle, health has been a priority, because I know how bad life can get without it. Here are two of my top picks when it comes to health podcasts.
Revolution Health Radio
Host of the show, Chris Kresser, is one of the most respected leaders within ancestral health, paleo nutrition, and functional and integrative medicine. With a firm emphasis on science, Chris not only explores what works but debunks flawed conventional wisdom and mainstream myths regarding health and nutrition.
Recommended episode: Why We Gain Weight—Beyond Carbs, Fat & Protein with Robb Wolf
Not Just Paleo
Evan Brand isn’t afraid to explore topics that others aren’t talking about in the health community. What I like to think of as ‘health 2.0’ topics worth exploring once you’ve got your diet, sleep, stress management, and fitness dialled in. I was particularly interested in his series of podcasts on EMF exposure.
Recommended episode: Top 10 Healthy Christmas Gift Ideas (great gift ideas for all-year round)
Other health podcasts I regularly listen to include The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast, Katy Says with Katy Bowman, The Paleo View, Phoenix Helix, Primal Blueprint Podcast, The Paleo Solution Podcast, and Sustainable Dish Podcast.
Now over to you, what are your must-listen-to podcasts and favourite episodes?
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