2016 Favorite Podcasts (A Few of my Favorites)

I’m compiling a few lists of favorite things as I exit 2016 and look forward to 2017 because I want to share these things with you in hopes that you’ll discover some new things that might make your favorites list for 2017.

These lists are in no particular order, and I’m going to try to keep them short, with some explanation of why they made the list. Hope you find these interesting and useful, and if you have a favorite thing that didn’t make my list, pass it along, because I’m always looking for new things to enjoy as well

My Favorite Podcasts, 2016 edition

Over the last few years, I’ve really fallen in love with the podcast format. I’ll use them while traveling in the car, or in the office. What I can’t do is listen to podcasts and pretend to focus on other things, because it scrambles my brain, so I can’t use them as background material while doing other things, unless it’s really brainless things — so I’ll often be found catching up on few podcasts while using the Playstation to kill fantasy things in some video game or another. See, I’m really working while doing that. Really. quick snickering, okay?

I’ll say up front that 90% of the podcasts I listen to come from two networks: Incomparable and Relay.FM. Jason Snell on the former and Myke Hurley and Stephen Hackett with the latter have built really solid, diverse and interesting suites of podcasts around a diverse set of topics and people with a high level of professionalism and audio quality. so if you aren’t sure what to listen to next, just check out their web sites and try something. You’ll rarely be disappointed.

I also want to point at Overcast as a really good podcast tool for IOS (unfortunately, there’s no Mac version. Hoping Marco fixes that some day). It makes managing and listening to podcasts easy and is a huge step forward from the Apple Podcast app.

Here’s my list of Podcasts that are my favorites for 2016:

  • The Alton Browncast: Alton Brown has recently rebooted his podcast, which makes me happy because I find Brown to be one of the best interviewers in the podcast world today. His ability to create interest with a topic and a positive energy with those he interviews is wonderful. This podcast circles widely around the food world, but isn’t really a food podcast; in fact, it’s often more about things like cocktails in recent episodes. Always enjoyable to listen to.
  • Apple Talk: From the iMore folks, this podcasts features Rene Ritchie, Serenity Caldwell and Michael Gartenberg going deep into topics of the day within the Apple universe. These three are, if you ask me, some of the best analysts watching what’s going on with Mama Fruit, and if you only have time to listen to one podcast about Apple “stuff”, this is the one to listen to.
  • Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Kitchen: I was a fan of Chris Kimball’s podcast when he was at America’s Test Kitchen, and now he’s in a new venture, Milk Street Kitchen, and he’s brought the core of that podcast format with him. Every episode features some commentary by Kimball, a recipe, Q&A with a few listeners shared with Sara Moulton (of PBS Sara’s Weeknight Meals), and an interview with someone who is discussing something food related (usually tied to a book that’s recently been released). Like Alton Brown, I find Kimball to be an exceptional interviewer, expressing interest in a topic and working to get his subject to move beyond the standard answers to standard questions and dive deeper into the topic at hand for that week. (I still also like the America’s Test Kitchen podcast, but I think with the new team running it it’s still finding it’s sea legs a bit).
  • Exponent: Ben Thompson and James Allworth sit down once a week to talk for about an hour on some business or business strategy topic. I find the discussions stimulating and I’ve learned a lot about now to think about the business side of tech companies from them. I don’t always agree with the positions they take, but that’s not the idea: they make me think, and they do so in an entertaining way, and that makes them a must listen podcast every time they release an episode.
  • The Incomparable: Jason Snell’s flagship podcast for his network, this is a weekly panel discussion on Books, Comics, Movies and other media of interest to the geek/nerd fans. By far my favorite podcast, it discusses a wide range of material each year, from current movies like Star Wars to older favorites like The Right Stuff and the Godfather to historical oddities in the Rocket Surgery podcasts that range from Frankenstein Island to (no, seriously) Lion in Winter. One of the better episodes of the year to me was when they tackled the classic work The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which is not an easy work to read or analyze. The chemistry among the guests is fantastic, and the episodes tend to be light and funny — and commonly hit the “laughs in an inappropriate situation” and “tears running down my face funny” frequently. If there was a podcast I’d want to join as a member, it’s this one — and it was a major influence on my decision to start Occam’s Fireaxe.
  • The Incomparable Game Show: A major change of pace from the incomparable, in these podcasts people get together and play various classic board games for your enjoyment. My favorite segments are the Low Definition ones, which usually end up in “laughing so hard my chest hurts” funny at least once an episode. A great change of pace when you want some amusing diversion.
  • Incomparable Radio Theater: I was a huge fan of classic radio theater growing up, and it’s an art form that’s almost dead. Fortunately, we have the Incomparable Radio Theater, which once in a while produces a series of productions in the classic radio theater style. Their last production was (sigh) 2015, but rumor has it they’re working on scripts for a new one for 2017. Worth keeping an eye out for the return of these shows, or to go check out the last set featuring the Adventures of Timmy Preston and the Galaxy Scouts.
  • Still Untitled — The Adam Savage Project: Once a week Adam Savage sits down for about half an hour to talk about various things, from current movies to the projects in his shop to what’s going on with his Tested team. As one of the big names and mentors in the Maker movement, this is a must-listen podcast if you’re at all interested in creating things, how things are created, the behind the scenes workings within the movie industry, or pretty much anything he deal with while hosting Mythbusters.
  • The Talk Show with John Gruber: about once a week, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber sits down with a guest for a deep dive into a few topics, mostly tech oriented. Gruber is an unabashed fan of the old-school style of the talk show, back when hosts like Johnny Carson actually discusses things with guests instead of just throwing pre-agreed-upon questions out for guests to issue rehearsed answers back. Gruber’s got a very deep and nuanced view of the Apple world and is one of the best analysts of the company and its products out there, so while these podcasts can run longer than many (averaging around 2 hours) there’s little to no time in them you’ll consider wasted.
  • Total Party Kill: Another Incomparable podcast, here every two weeks a group of people get together and play Dungeons and Dragons for your amusement. Even if you’re not a huge fan of D&D, these groups make it a fun and enjoyable diversion from more serious material and a great thing to listen to when you want to take a break and kick back.

Those are my favorites. What are yours? Let me know on Facebook, Twitter or via Email, and if I get some really good suggestions, I’ll add them to this post.