Now that we've exited the Information Age and entered the Conversation Age, podcasts are the hottest medium since talk radio. Case in point: the $7.99 a month Luminary, an ad-free podcast platform that launched earlier today, managed to raise a whopping $100 million in venture capital.

I don't know about you, but one of the chief reasons I listen to podcasts is to relax after I've been putting my proverbial nose to the equally proverbial grindstone. In this situation, I shy away from anything that deals with business issues because, frankly, that's what I need to decompress from.

With that in mind, here are seven of the very best podcasts that will help you balance yourself after a hard day at work:

Probably everyone who's reading this column is already familiar with TED Talks. Regardless of the topic, they always contain some kind of inspirational message or create a role mode that you can emulate. They're always surprising, always insightful, but never (thank God!) get into the nitty-gritty of anything. TED Talks are the perfect remedy for the putrid PowerPoints you've been enduring all day.

With Avengers: End Game queued up to be the most significant pop culture event of the decade, there's never been a better time to get into a spoiler-free commentary from co-hosts Matt Carroll and Jeff Randle. The duo have the gift, rare in broadcasting, of making you feel as if you're hanging out with your best friends, shooting the bull, not just about Marvel, but pretty much everything that's wondrous in the nerd lifestyle. Great stuff.

My beef with most true crime podcasts is that they end up sounding too much like an episode of CSI. Gimlet Media's CrimeTown, on the other hand, picks a city and looks at how crime inflects itself in that city. The first season went deep into Providence and included interviews with convicted mobsters and the cops who caught them. It was true crime, sure, but it also revealed the interlocking cultures of crime, politics, and policing. 

Yeah, I know... politics today is more likely to get you all riled up than relaxed after a rough day. What's different about Slate magazine's The Gist is that host Mike Pesca has a wry perspective that seems calculated to irritate both the Trumpists and the SJWs alike. While Mike often covers the latest news, he always does so from a unique perspective, and he's just as likely to cover something timeless (like whether chiropractic works) as whatever's big in news. 

If you've every enjoyed watching Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, you know that comics can be quirky, articulate, and insightful, as well as self-centered, rude, and obnoxious. That's an excellent combination for great conversations. In Who Charted?, Howard Kremer gathers a group of comics to discuss the top five songs and movies of the week. Technically, it's pop culture but it's so witty and biting that it transcends that categorization. A must-listen.

In this cast, which I named one of the seven best podcasts of 2018, host Malcolm Gladwell delves into the history you learned in high school or on the History Channel, revealing how conventional wisdom is always skewed and often dead wrong. Gladwell, of course, is the author of bestsellers The Tipping Point and Outliers, both highly influential books that should be on everyone's reading list.

What can I say? Sarah Rice and Susie Meister, who host MTV's The Challenge, dish about, well, anything and everything that interests them. They're both whip smart and wryly funny, and they make you feel like you've been invited to sit at the cool kids' table--not the one with the mean girls--but the table with the girls who get straight A's and are nice to everybody. 

Published on: Apr 23, 2019
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