5 Podcasts to Brighten Your Daily Life

Lily Yates, Quintessence Editor-in-Chief

The podcast is not the most popular form of entertainment. It kind of sounds like something your weird aunt would do in her free time- and I get that. But in recent years, the podcast has made a huge surge in popularity through mediums like NPR and Soundcloud- and they provide a perfect, low-commitment way to tune in and learn about everything under the sun, while tuning out mundane commutes or the sound of the dishes clinking in the sink.

This week, I want to share five of my favorite (free!) podcasts, and give some insight as to why I think this art form is quite possibly the best thing since sliced bread.

1. 99% Invisible

“Ever wonder how inflatable men came to be regular fixtures at used car lots? Curious about the origin of the fortune cookie? Want to know why Sigmund Freud opted for a couch over an armchair? 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world,” says the podcast’s website.

This one is an oldie but a goodie- one of the very first podcasts that I got into (at the behest of former Skutt Catholic journalism advisor, Mr. Elliott). One day, as I put on my shoes as slowly as possible to delay having to mow the lawn, I realized it might just be the perfect boost to get me through the task. So I pulled up Soundcloud, popped in my headphones, and learned all about how drinking fountains came to be, where lost mail and packages go, and the existence of a Massachussetts island named “Busta Rhymes,” all in the space of an hour.

If you like trivia, reading the news, or Buzzfeed videos, this one is probably for you.

Most Recent Episode:

2. Welcome to Nightvale, a.k.a. Nightvale Radio

“WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide.” You get an idea of this podcast’s vibe just from the website description.

This one is pretty different- this podcast tells you a story. If you’re a sci-fi fan or enjoy off-kilter humor, this is the experience for you. Ladies, let me tell you- this is the perfect podcast to listen to while you do your hair and makeup; show choir season has taught me that much. As for everyone else, though, it definitely adds a dose of whimsy to late-night homework sessions.

Feel stuck in a rut, or want to be entertained without much effort? Suspend your disbelief, start from the beginning and listen in to the weird and wonderful happenings of Nightvale.

First Episode:

3. Hidden Brain
“The Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships,” declares this podcast’s ‘About’ page.

Science junkies, this podcast has your number. You could even be a Psychology student or just some kid (like me) who’s interested in what makes humans tick. Besides packing a ton of interesting information into a short timespan, Hidden Brain makes you feel super smart– and gives new perspective as to how you treat people in your daily interactions.

Most Recent Episode:

4. Embedded
“Hosted by Kelly McEvers, Embedded takes a story from the news and goes deep. What does it feel like for a father in El Salvador to lie to his daughter about the bodies he saw in the street that day? What does it feel like for a nurse from rural Indiana to shoot up a powerful prescription opioid? Embedded takes you to where they’re happening.” Even the description is intense for this podcast- imagine what the episodes sound like.

If you’ve got a political bumper sticker on your car or watch documentaries in your free time, I can bet you’ll like Embedded. This podcast is so unique in that it tells a rich, engaging story- and uses firsthand interviews and sound bytes from the people and events involved. It’s the closest you can get to watching a gripping action movie without looking at a screen; plus, it’s all real life. This offering takes investigative journalism to another level, telling every side to every story- you make the conclusions yourself.

Most Recent Episode:

5. HumaNature

“HumaNature is the podcast that explores where humans and our habitat meet. The show tells real stories about human experiences in nature. Along the way, we’ll meet people whose encounters help us reflect on our own place in the natural world,” promises this NPR description.

I’ll admit- this one was a bit of a wild card. I accidentally discovered HumaNature, realizing I was actually listening to a recommended podcast autoplaying after my first choice had ended. But this voice had me hooked right away, telling the gripping story of a Wyoming teacher making the very same walk as two escaped teenage slaves had in the pre-Civil War era.

HumaNature uses a compelling tone, alternating between vivid imagery and sound bytes from the experience itself. If you occasionally enjoy a hike in the fresh air, playing sports, or going to museums, give HumaNature a listen and discover the same accidental beauty I did.

Most Recent Episode:

There’s a huge range of options for people who want to try something new- and this is only a sliver of the possibilities out there. Hopefully, one or more of these podcasts sounds like you could spend a cup of coffee or two relaxing to the sound. And maybe- just maybe- you’ll discover an art form that will serve you well through every lawn you mow.

Check out The Flightline’s very own inaugural podcast: This is Mr. Bailey, made by student Tom Hermanek.

Lily Yates - Quintessence Editor-in-Chief

Lily became a member of The Flightline in August of 2015. She is a senior this year and enjoys an array of activities including choir, theatre and slam poetry. She is also on staff as a library aide at the Omaha Public Library. You can email her at [email protected]