Rebecca’s nonfiction podcast picks

Rebecca picked these nonfiction podcasts because “I love learning new things, and each of these podcasts gave me more understanding of a subject I thought I knew or reminded me of information I’d forgotten since learning it during school”. Find each of these podcasts by clicking on the links, or search for them in your favorite podcatcher.

The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos
Listen because: The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos is a podcast about the science of “happy” researched and hosted by the Yale psychology professor who created and taught the most popular class in the history of the university. For the past few weeks, she’s released Coronavirus bonuses, talking to other psychologists who study the sort of stuff we need to know right now.
Start with: “You Can Change” (Season 1, episode 1) or “Beat Your Isolation Loneliness” (Coronavirus special 1)
The Happiness Lab is produced by Pushkin Industries.

Switched On Pop
Listen because: in weekly episodes, hosts Nate Sloan (musicologist) and Charlie Harding (songwriter) talk about “the making and meaning of popular music” (, retrieved 24 March 2020). If you ever wondered how pop music works, the hosts explore one song, artist, or concept in detail every episode and explain the musicology of what’s on the radio in terms non-experts can understand.
Start with: one of the selections under “Start With These Episodes” on their About page, or my favorites #50: How to Listen to Music in 4 Easy Steps or #12: Carly Rae Jepsen- I Really Like You.
Switched On Pop is produced by Vox Media.

Dolly Parton’s America
Listen because: part examination of Dolly Parton’s influence on contemporary culture in general, and part introspection into host Jad Abumrad’s relationship with the work and culture of the major celebrity in the state where he grew up, this complete series weaves musicology, historical research, and interviews with Ms Parton herself.
Start with: Episode 1 if you’re curious about all things Dolly Parton, or Episode 4 if you want to know why making this series was so personal to Jad Abumrad (hint: his father plays a major role).
Dolly Parton’s America is co-produced by WNYC Studios and OSM Audio.

American Election: Wicked Game
American History Tellers
Listen because: In these two podcasts, Lindsay Graham shares US history by taking deep dives into how we got to now. American Election: Wicked Game starts with the assertion that elections in US history have always been as contentious as they are now, and then focuses on every election to show how. American History Tellers dives deep into the history of places and events in US history, from the colonial period to the Cold War.
Start with: “1789, Washington: The Alpha and the Omega” for Wicked Game. For American History Tellers, choose any topic that looks interesting, and start with the first episode of that series. Currently, the earliest event covered is the establishment of Dutch Manhattan, and the most recent is the Cold War.
American Election: Wicked Game and American History Tellers are both produced by Wondery. The Lindsay Graham who hosts both series is not the senator.

Listen because: the people who bring you Lore made a podcast that looks deeply at the history around spooky true events in the United States’ past. Season 1 focused on the witch trials in Salem Village, while Season 2 looked at the Spiritualist movement. The interviews released after each season aren’t necessary to understand the stories Aaron Mahnke and his team told, but if you want to learn more from the experts Mahnke consulted, they’re wonderful.
Start with: the first episode of either season. I started with Season 1, but the seasons each stand alone.
Unobscured was created by Aaron Mahnke and is produced by Matt Fredrick, Alex Williams, and Josh Thane in partnership with iHeart Radio.