My favorite podcasts for the thinking life

I recently changed phones and even though technology is amazing and the transfer of data was surprisingly effective (maybe TOO effective… #googleisalwayswatching), my Doggcatcher podcast app and my podcast streams did not survive the switch. I got to spend a delightful few minutes re-subscribing to my favorite podcasts, and thought I would add a list of my faves here because these are podcasts that, imho, everyone should be listening to.

As you will see, I tend a little bit towards the thinking podcasts. (Which is weird because I NEVER spend time obsessing over anything in my head space in normal life.)


  1. The Partially Examined Life — Three men who “considered doing philosophy for a living and then thought better about it” put their advanced degrees to work and dissect different philosophers, philosophies, and books. I learn a lot from them and am even a PEL member! I think I’ve listened to the Heidegger podcast about 7 times now. (And no, I still don’t get it.)
  2. Hidden Brain — An NPR podcast about the biases, drives, motivations, and instincts that drive our behavior and affect our relationships. I love the host, Shankur Vedantam (NPR’s science correspondent), and I especially love his “Unsung Hero of the Week” segment where he appreciatively calls out a hard-working person behind the scenes. The podcast about the Titan II disaster in Arkansas was fascinating and unsettling.
  3. Hardcore History — Oh, Dan Carlin. I’ve never met or heard of anyone more passionate about history. He produces monster podcasts (multiple hours long!!!) and does the most beautiful deep-dive into some of the most fascinating times in human history. He is quick to say that he’s not a historian, and I think that’s what makes it work so well. He’s just a fantastic story teller who prefers real stories. Death Throes of the Republic, Ghosts of the Ostfront, and Wrath of the Khans cannot be missed.
  4. This American Life — I love the format of this podcast, exploring three stories on a single theme. The thrust is in the name: just a bunch of stories about different aspects of American life. Fun and eclectic.
  5. Pod Save America — Sorry, but I had to throw in a political podcast! I love these guys. Former Obama administration speechwriters, communication directors, and spokespeople, they have a great vibe together and pick apart current events from a decidedly liberal perspective. They are pretty funny and very opinionated. I enjoy listening even when I disagree with them — the sign of a good podcast.
  6. Waking Up with Sam Harris — Another controversial recommendation! Harris is a notorious anti-religious neuroscientist and philosopher, so this may seem an odd choice for me. But I love the topics he covers, all of which have a philosophical or neuroscience bent (many times both). I honestly don’t know much about his personal writing and controversies, but I do know he has fantastically interesting and smart people on his show, and the conversations always give me a lot to digest. Harris doesn’t shy away from bringing on people who disagree with him, so it’s a great example of intense but respectful debate that improves the two who participate and improves the inner lives of the people who listen.
  7. Philosophize This! — My new favorite! Recommended by a fellow philosophile. Stephen West brings a great energy and passion to all the ideas and philosophers he discusses. It’s a refreshing podcast, which is especially impressive considering it’s a solo effort. Normally I prefer the back-and-forth of conversation and debate, but West is great on his own.

If you try one of the above for the first time and like it, let me know in the comments! And if there is something I should be listening to and am not, definitely leave a comment. If it gets into my regular rotation, I will send you some Hawaiian goodies in gratitude.

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