Stumbling upon an enjoyable podcast can feel like striking up a new friendship. There’s a certain thrill to hearing people discuss a niche interest you thought you were alone in possessing. You’re an Art Deco fan? Me too! Forensic science? Just the ticket! It feels good to find common ground and podcasts, more than any other medium, cater for those off-beat interests you’ve always wanted to share with a friend but felt were a little too geeky to air in public. It might take some time to find a suitable match but, if you look in the right places, a budding podcast companionship can transform the morning commute from a chore into a thing of beauty.
We bring you ten podcasts covering everything from current affairs and science to food, philosophy and wildflowers. Happy listening!
Ever wondered if it’s possible to have a baby in space or what would happen if everyone had access to free money? Each Flash Forward podcast takes a possible future scenario and discusses the scientific and social fallouts that would ensue if it were to happen. Subjects range from the plausible (gene editing) to the completely fanciful (what would happen if the magnetic poles of the earth reversed). It’s quirky, good fun and the perfect antidote to a carriage full of sweaty commuters on the Northern Line.
2. The Tip Off
This is a gripping, behind-the-scenes look at how investigative journalists stumble upon their stories. Each episode delves into a different scoop – from the leads, the dead ends to the tip offs. It’s an edge-of-your-seat insight into the detective work that has gone on behind some of the most controversial news stories in recent years. It does for journalism what the true crime genre does for police detectives. After a few listens, you’ll be spotting potential scoops everywhere.
3. Better Known
Each podcast asks a guest to choose six things they think should be better known. These could be people, events, objects or undiscovered places. With past guests including Joanne Harris and Will Eaves, it’s a conversational, off-beat listen where you’re guaranteed to learn something new.
This debating podcast enlists famous political figures and commentators to discuss the issues of the day. Topics range from the threat of Putin to the rise of China to the question of whether liberals are to blame for the rise of populism. If big-picture geopolitics gets you out of bed in the morning and the Today programme doesn’t quite cut it then this is the podcast for you.
Host Gregory Warner looks at how popular topics of conversation in the West are being talked about in other parts of the world. Recent topics include how Pakistani women interpret Jane Austen to the perception of fake news in Ukraine.
6. On Being
On Being’s podcast Becoming Wise is a philosophical inquiry into our thought patterns and how we reach the views that we hold. With the nation divided over Brexit, this podcast could not be more pertinent or indeed needed in these partisan times: New York Times bestselling author Krista Tippett is the host: she talks to everyone from a pro-choice Catholic about how to understand the views of those who disagree with you to former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks about the beauty of difference. As Tippett so aptly summarises, ‘any conviction worth its salt has chosen to cohabit with an element of mystery.’
Linguist Helen Zalkman’s podcast looks at how we use language in popular culture. In her latest episode, she talks to Game of Thrones researcher David Peterson about how he invents fictional languages that sound convincing on screen. Other topics range from the linguistic mistakes that are now an accepted part of our lexicon and the cultural importance of gossip.
8. Table Talk
OK we’re biased but Spectator Life’s newest podcast Table Talk offers a welcome dose of food nostalgia. Headed up by Lara Prendergast and Vintage Chef Olivia Potts, it’s a foodie’s version of desert island discs where guests look back at their life through the lens of food and reveal the memories and associations attached to the meals and flavours of their past. Interviewees include Rachel Johnson and broadcaster Iain Dale.
Introduced by The Spectator’s very own Isabel Hardman, this is the go-to podcast for flower lovers. It is full of endearing levels of floral enthusiasm from well-informed amateur naturalists. The weekly podcast covers different species from Violets to Orchids and also topics such as urban flowers and flowers under threat. Join in the fun on Twitter and Instagram where every week on Sunday evening, fans are encouraged to post pictures of wildflowers they have found with the hashtag #wildflowerhour
It’s not a proper Westminster rumour unless James Forsyth and Katy Balls have got wind of it. Tune in for ahead-of-the-curve analysis on the day’s politics from the Spectator’s finest writers and commentators. Discerning listeners might have spotted a few song lyrics hidden in Fraser Nelson and James Forsyth’s sharp-witted daily commentary. See if you can spot some Bananarama amid all the talk of Brexit.