Oh, this is a fun prompt! I’m not on Spotify anymore so rely on finding podcasts these days.
1. If Books Could Kill
I discovered “if books could kill” via mastodon and have been obsessed with it ever since. It’s the perfect combination of research and fact checking (courtesy of Michael Hobbs, journalist), clear eyed counter points (courtesy of lawyer “Peter”), and searing, hilarious snark.
The show examines books that have been huge in influencing popular culture – an example is the way Malcom Gladwell´s “Ten Thousand Hours” to master something became so ubiquitous that it’s used in comedy with no explanation needed- and they deep dive into it:
- What elements of the book are reasonable?
- Which concepts from this book are harmful, untrue, or fabricated wholesale?
- Does the central argument hold up?
- How has this aged since its release?
And so forth.
I am a person who has loved me some self-help or inspirational books over the years. So many of my faves have been utterly shredded in this podcast, and I’ve learned so much while belly-laughing.
It’s my go-to on long day’s of being a solo mom while hubs is travelling.
Starter Podcast Episode
“Wait!”, I hear you say. “What could be ‘harmful’ about a cute concept like what love languages you or your partner use?“
That’s what I thought, but I never actually read this book, just heard the love languages discussed on platforms like Instagram.
The hosts find the original publication and it’s edited re-release (so we can all examine how paltry the update is) and read aloud the advice for the women. “Yeesh”, is all I can say.
This is a strange show to try and describe. In its essence, it’s about learning to look at things differently, taking universal experiences and stories and seeing how strange and wonderful humans’ way of understanding and relating to each other and ourselves truly is.
Also, the host, Mathew Syed has a voice that’s wonderfully soothing to listen to. Deep and smooth like cinnamon and honey tea.
Most importantly, it’s written in such an engaging and personal way. It’s the kind of show you get when you have an entity like the BBC that can put big resources behind scriptwriting, finding guests, research, sound design and so forth. As much as I love indie podcasts, sound design really does add to a podcast experience.
The show feels personal rather than informational, like the host has taken stories from his life and uses them as a launch to deep dive into the human condition in general, rather than like watching a BBC documentary.
Starter Podcast Episode
From the show notes:
“It turns out that 96% of psychological experiments have been carried out on Western students. Why is this? Because Western students are easy to access for a psychologist working in a university.
This might sound convenient, but there’s a problem – it turns out that westerners think in a particular way. Easily reproducible experimental findings in the west don’t stack up when you use non-western subjects.”
Mathew talks about how “Western culture” developed from something really unexpected and why, and it’s a refreshingly non-eurocentric take. Part of what he brings to the show is his perspective as a mixed race host.
4. Hidden brain
Another podcast on the way much of our behaviour and decision making is done by parts of our brain we are not aware of. The host, Shankar Vedantam, is a journalist and science correspondent so is very comfortable with his subject matter.
The show has great writing that hooks you in the first few seconds and leads you to unexpected conclusions, and some gripping and compelling guests to highlight the phenomena discussed.
From people who refuse to believe the evidence of their eyes when scammed on dating sites or cult followers who still believe aliens are coming soon, this show deeply humanises the interviewees and makes you see how we ourselves are also prone to moments like this on a smaller scale. It’s compassionate and always illuminating.
Starter podcast episode
This is probably the most “immediately applicable” episode, because it’s about the psychology of persuasion. It looks at the unexpected phenomena that too many supporting arguments for something weakens the case, not strengthens it.
I could do more, but I think 4 is enough. what do you listen to?