Podcast Recommendations

Podcasting is like radio for the 21st century, and after initial skepticism, I have become a big fan. Some podcasts I especially enjoy are:

Bible for Normal People

Pete Enns and Jared Byas discuss the Bible with open and inquiring minds. Guests have included Rachel Held Evans, Austen Hartke, Miguel de la Torre, Xavier Ramey, Wil Gafney, and dozens of other Biblical and theological scholars, writers, bloggers, preachers, and speakers. Highly recommended for anyone who is on a faith journey but who also appreciates intellectual rigor.


This is another religion-related podcast. The tagline is “A podcast about faith and being.” Matthias Roberts begins every episode by asking his guest(s) this question: “How would you say you identify, and how has your faith helped shape that identity?” It’s a great way to get the conversation rolling! Matthias and his guests primarily talk about faith and queerness with intelligence and compassion.


For the past twenty or so years, Alan Alda’s focus has been on science communication, and that is the primary theme of his podcast. His guests include an array of scientists, professors, actors, communicators, and of course som appearances by his co-actors from M*A*S*H. Enjoyable, informative, and frequently quite humorous.

Dear Hank & John

This is a collaborative venture between Complexly (makers of educational YouTube content like Crash Course, SciShow, and Healthcare Triage, just to name a few) and WNYC (New York Public Radio). Brothers Hank and John Green “answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the latest news from Mars and AFC Wimbledon.” How many others podcasts bring you all that? Mostly light-hearted and sometimes very silly. Even though entertainment is the main goal, there is a lot of genuinely good information here. Oh, and Hank likes to talk about poop.

The Anthropocene Reviewed

Another Complexly production, this one is considerably more serious than Dear Hank & John. Author John Green reviews “facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale.” In every episode, John brings together two different (and I mean REALLY different) things to review. Examples: Hot Dog Eating Contest and Chemotherapy, Prom and the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, Tetris and the Seed Potatoes of Leningrad. Be forewarned: John can make you cry. The episode “QWERTY Keyboard and the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō” really had me in tears for both its strange beauty and its sadness.

Three Good Instructional Websites

I love learning, but as I mentioned yesterday (College Advice from Someone Who Sucked at College), college and I never gelled. Happily, the internet has some great options for learning. Some of those options are completely free! I’d like to introduce you to three of them.

Sal Khan is an internet hero. His Khan Academy (Khan Academy) began humbly. Sal began tutoring his cousins in math in 2008, making simple YouTube videos to illustrate his lessons. Since then, Khan Academy has added history, art, programming, career advice and more to its very thorough offering of mathematics from elementary to advanced levels. The site is easy to navigate, with clear learning pathways along which you can earn badges to reward your progress.

It was through Khan Academy that I discovered Crash Course (Crash Course). This project from John and Hank Green grew out of their successful VlogBrothers YouTube channel. Crash Course lessons are delivered in fast-paced, often humorous videos, each 10-15 minutes long. Courses include history, engineering, theater, philosophy, chemistry, and more. In addition to Crash Course, the Greens’ company, Complexly (Complexly), also manages several other educational YouTube channels like SciShow (in several flavors), Art Assignment, and Animal Wonders. They have also partnered on educational projects with Mental Floss and PBS Digital Studios. Once you enter their orbit, you’ll find enough brain food to keep you busy for a long time!

Finally, a site that is more specialized: Justin Guitar (Justin Guitar). YouTube has no shortage of music how-to videos, but few people have put as much thought, effort, and love into an instructional music site as Justin Sandercoe. His sit is a must for anyone interested in playing the guitar. In addition to well-ordered video lessons, his site includes interviews with notable players, and resources for sheet music, staff and TAB paper, equipment, and more. Justin’s thoroughness and personable teaching style make this site an example of internet instruction at its finest.

While it’s easy to think of the internet as little more than a collection of cat pictures, extremist propaganda, and endless threads vitriolic argument, if you look past the clutter you can find a wealth of learning opportunities. At its worst, the internet is a time-wasting sinkhole of nastiness. At its best, it really is the information superhighway.