I am a nerd when it comes to my media and entertainment choices. I prefer documentaries, mystery shows and most recently, podcasts that dive into unique histories. Lucky for me there is a growing number of outlets that meet my quirky interests.
99% Invisible: Describing itself as “a tiny radio show about design, architecture and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world,” 99% Invisible shares the stories you always wanted to hear, but never knew existed. I am a dedicated listener to this podcast and have supported its Kickstarter funding campaigns in the past. The content covered truly makes me look at my world and everyday surroundings differently. Produced extremely well, you can get lost in the interviews, stories and discoveries. Here are just a handful of my favorite episodes:
- Episode 54 — Money is different in every country, but why? And who has the most functional design? The color and aesthetic choices of coins and bills are explored, and you will never look at the American dollar the same after listening.
- Episode 61 — Ever wonder about the rise and fall of pneumatic tubes? Before telegrams, telephones, radio or email, cities had underground tunnels filled with a series of vacuum-powered tubes that sent written messages from one place to another. For me, picturing the underground system of tubes blows my mind.
- Episode 129 — This particular episode has me searching my surroundings for possible “Thomassons,” or architectural vestiges with no purpose that are for some reason maintained. You know… that set of stairs that goes nowhere, that second-story door that opens to nothing… I had no idea there was a name to classify these leftovers and that so many other people were fascinated by them.
- Episode 137 — This was the first episode I every listened to and it’s what hooked me to the podcast. It digs into the history of Wonder Bread, or sliced bread in general. The rationale, catalysts and historical references are extremely eye-opening.
Criminal: Part of the same station (Radiotopia) as 99% Invisible, Criminal is a fabulous podcast that digs into the stories of “people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” Sometimes hilarious, other times somber, I love the range of stories told by host Phoebe Judge. Here are some of my favorites:
- Episode 3 — I find the criminal mind to be fascinating, so I love when criminals get the chance to tell their stories. This episode talks to a woman who printed and used millions of dollars of counterfeit money.
- Episode 5 — Did you know there is a crime ring that revolves around the interesting plant known as the Venus Flytrap? Well, the money and crime associated with it is pretty big…
- Episode 24 — Back in the day, music artists often wrote their songs about happenings in the news. There is even a full genre that sings about unsolved murders. This episode looks into the murder that inspired one of the most popular ballads.
Mystery Show: The newest podcast on my list, this show looks into less “serious” mysteries, and that’s what I love about it. The host Starlee is refreshing and her quests remind me that everything means something to someone and that there are stories and connections literally everywhere. With only six published episodes, I won’t spoil them with my mini recaps, but you can expect to hear fabulous things about items like lunchboxes and belts.
Lore: I actually heard about this podcast while listening to Mystery Show. It dives into the people, places, and things of our “darkest nightmares” and uncovers the truth behind them. There are of course facts and points of origin behind every fable and horror, and Lore teaches you what they are. Also somewhat new, there are only 15 current episodes, so I wont ruin them for you either. Certainly check this show out. Particularly if you enjoy learning about how scientific advancement and human discovery have changed how we perceive the world.
What other podcasts and storytellers do you enjoy listening to?