Todd Grotenhuis

01 Jan 2021

2020: 🎙 Review

To view other 2020 review posts, visit the main post here.


I enjoy podcasts, particularly when doing chores, driving, or playing games. Since podcasts compete for attention with audiobooks, they really have to be a cut above to earn a spot. In general, I’d rather do the deep reading (incl. listening) with a book than have a superficial conversation about something in a podcast.

Before we go into the recommended podcasts, let me say a little about how I manage my feeds and listening. I am a happy Overcast subscriber and highly recommend it. It syncs well across multiple devices, has a web listening portal, allows me to manage smart lists, and has configurable-but-reasonable settings.

“Overcast is a self-funded app that has sustainably succeeded on its merits and respected your privacy for the last 6 years.”

OK, on to the podcasts that are making the cut:

  • The Ezra Klein Show - This was my favorite “ideas” podcast this year. Ezra brings on a variety of guests, does the homework to understand his guests’ arguments, and pushes at the edges of their arguments. There’s great, deep, respectful back and forth almost every episode. He recently announced he’ll be leaving Vox (and this podcast) to go to the New York Times as a columnist and also host a new podcast.
  • The Peter Attia Drive - This is my favorite science & health podcast, and I am a paid subscriber. I get immense value out of the detailed show notes, which often make their way into my Readwise highlights and Roam Research graph (database).
  • Risky Business - This is my favorite cybersecurity news & analysis podcast. I don’t often listen to the “sponsored content” (on principle), but even those are done pretty well, and they put them at the second half of the show so you can skip them after the news & analysis.
  • Scene On Radio - This is my favorite documentary podcast. Each season goes deep on a topic. Season 4 was “The Land That Never Has Been Yet”, investigating the USA’s history as a democracy.
  • The Long Now - Two podcasts (“Long Now Seminars” and “Conversations at The Interval”) present a variety of topics related to long-term and strategic thinking, something we desperately need in an era of distraction, social media, ambient advertising, and quarterly reporting.
  • The Knowledge Project - This is an interview podcast with “great minds”. Some of the episodes are full of difficult questions and helpful insights, while some of the other episodes are more like fan interviews full of confirmation, hindsight, and success bias. The host does not generally interrogate the objectives of success, so there can be conversations that are about how to be more successful at doing the wrong or harmful thing. Yet, there’s still enough good here that I stick around for the great moments and insights. I recommend you combine this with something that causes you to think about the purpose and impact of strategies, too (Like Ezra Klein or Long Now, mentioned above).
  • Rebel Steps - This is a podcast that helps people understand and get started with political organizing and direct action. I think we all need a source that makes sure we are thinking about the people marginalized in our societies.

What podcasts are you listening to? Are they better than books?