Podcasts are a great option for parents who want a little background noise that isn't nursery rhymes or Daniel Tiger. Many are family-friendly, so you can listen to a news podcast like Rachel Maddow or a parenting podcast like The Longest Shortest Time while you're playing with your kid. But some podcasts are best saved for naptime. The following list assumes that you are one of the many millions who has already listened to Serial, but if you haven't heard it, Season 1 is your first assignment. After that, read on for six more of snackdinner's favorites.
If you're excited to try something new but don't want a huge commitment, start with the mesmerizing Mystery Show. In each episode, host Starlee Kine investigates what initially seems like a humdrum mystery--How did Britney Spears find out about a book? Where did this belt buckle come from?--but Kine's interviews elicit the most fascinating stories, all of which are expertly woven together. There's nothing here you wouldn't want your kids to hear, but it's worth listening to when you can give it your full attention. The show was recently canceled by its parent company, Gimlet, and when you listen to it you'll understand why: the research and time needed to solve these ordinary mysteries must have been cost-prohibitive for this new company. I hope Kine's show finds a new home soon.
The theme music of this fiction podcast invokes Serial, as do the knowing winks about public radio from host Alex Reagan. The subject matter is dark--we're talking demons and a (hopefully?) narrowly-averted apocalypse--but listen to it after bedtime and you'll breeze through the dishes. The voice actors never. break. character, such that at times you'll forget you're listening to fiction. Even the ad placements contribute to the overall narrative.
This excellent podcast brings you long-form interviews with guests from all sorts of professions. What's most exciting about these interviews is that they address both the interviewees' expertise but also topics they are less familiar with. The result is a true conversation between two intellectually curious people. Two especially strong interviews to seek out are with Atul Gawande and Malcolm Gladwell.
Speaking of Malcolm Gladwell, he has a fascinating new podcast on the Panoply network (also home to Ezra Klein). Each episode offers a new look at something we think we already know. The podcast format really works for Gladwell, allowing him to weave together seemingly disparate ideas in each hour. His three-part series on US colleges, especially the installment on the ethics of college cafeterias, is a must-listen.
I'll confess: I'm mad at StartUp because the company addressed in Season 1, Gimlet, just cancelled my favorite podcast. But I'll continue to listen to both StartUp and other Gimlet shows because they are so committed to constant self-critique (although surprisingly, not about the cancellation of Mystery Show). Season 1 of StartUp is a master class in podcasting, and offers a deep look into starting a business.
Even if you don't have HBO Now (but how else do you watch John Oliver's excellent Last Week Tonight?), you can download the full audio of Maher's weekly show, as well as bonus clips that didn't make it to air. This podcast is strictly for naptime or bedtime because Maher and his guests have colorful vocabularies, but it's well worth staying up to listen. Maher is one of few media personalities who books guests from all across political, cultural, and religious spectrums (a recent episode included both Ann Coulter and Bernie Sanders). Debates are nearly always heated, but only rarely do they devolve into name-calling. If your social media accounts leave you in an echo chamber of people who think just like you, Maher's podcast can help let some new voices in.