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  • Ken Ilgunas

The Best Podcasts I Listened to in 2018

I took two road trips across the Northeastern states this year, in which I binge-listened to a whole bunch of stuff. Podcasts have become my primary source of news and edification. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I suggest that I listened to over 500 hours in 2018.


Making Obama – This series — about Obama’s meteoric rise — is riveting. If I have any criticism, it’s that the show should have followed Obama all the way to 2008, when he gets elected. Instead, it ends somewhat anticlimactically when he announces his candidacy for the presidency. (It was so good, I wanted more, so this is hardly a criticism.)

Revisionist History – I binge-listened to seasons two and three, which are remarkable. Gladwell has a knack for finding one interesting story or character and then zooming out to tell a broader story about the country.

The Joe Rogan Experience – I come here to listen to all the cutting-edge thinkers of the day, on matters of diet, science, history, astrophysics, cosmology, etc.

The Rewatchables – I really enjoy listening to Bill Simmons and his smart friends break down popular nineties movies.

Serial Season III – This season is like the nonfiction podcast version of The Wire. This is a premier podcast.

On the MediaA fascinating episode on a live-streaming service called Twitch, in which the real and virtual worlds entangle.

Radio Lab – The three-part In the No series, on consent, was fascinating, if a bit disturbing.

Dave Ramsey – I have no particular episodes to recommend, as most cover the same ground. I generally agree with Dave’s financial philosophy and there’s something fun about listening to him help solve other people’s crises.

Meaning of Life – I only listened to one episode from this show. It was a strange and fascinating podcast on “Occult Politics in the Trump era.”

This American Life

Fresh Air – The best thing about Fresh Air is that I get a nice overview of books (from the authors) that I want to read but probably won’t.

99% Invisible – How can I not list a podcast in which I play a principal role? This is about the 1932 Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout, which was a forbidden mountain in what is now the Peak District of Northern England. The Kinder Scout trespass is the main narrative in Chapter Three of This Land is Our Land, so I know my history pretty well. All in all, it was a fine episode from a podcast I greatly respect. I love how shows like these normalize what is, for us, a radical concept.

Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin? Seasons 1 & 2 – This podcast is full of good, practical relationship advice. (One helpful tip from Perel: When discussing a problem with your partner, put your partner’s complaint into your own words and ask her if you got it right. This way, everyone stays on the same page.) Also, her intimate therapy sessions with couples are extremely entertaining.


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