Podcasts for Beginners | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Podcasts for Beginners

Over the last few years podcasts have exploded into the mainstream

Over the last few years podcasts have exploded into the mainstream. There is now so much variety and accessibility to good content it’s hard to know where to start and what’s worth listening to. I’ve tried to select what I think are interesting, funny and relevant podcasts, to hopefully dispel the assumption that the only people who listen to them are 50-year-old retired Guardian readers. As a self-confessed regular listener (at age 20), I believe there’s a podcast out there for everyone to enjoy, starting with a few of my favourites.

Serial Season 1

For true crime drama

I would be surprised if you haven’t already heard of Serial. It’s the podcast that made podcasts relevant again to anyone under the age of 50, and for good reason – it’s great. In 12 episodes, host Sarah Koenig scrutinises a cold murder case from 1999 that convicted Adnan Syed for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. The podcast is gripping from the first ten minutes, as Koenig explores how the facts and evidence from the case don’t quite clearly accuse Syed of the murder. I become thoroughly absorbed in the story, as I tried to determine who was being honest and who was remembering the facts most accurately as Koenig interviews multiple people who were involved in the case. It’s fascinating listening to Koenig’s conversations with Adnan, to hear his reactions to her findings and attempt to judge whether he really did kill Lee. If you’re a fan of ‘Making a Murderer’ on Netflix, then this podcast won’t disappoint.

The Adam Buxton Podcast

For Comedy

This podcast is a bit like marmite- you’ll either love it or hate it. Actor, writer and comedian Adam Buxton hosts a very casual interview with guests including Johnny Marr, Louis Theroux and Zadie Smith, in which they discuss everything from politics to food poisoning. Buxton is witty and quick, which combined with his probing yet understanding interview style works to create a laid back and funny listen. His homemade jingles, rambling conversations and occasionally childish sense of humour give the podcast its original touch. Although, it is this unpolished style that may also put you off. However, if you’re looking for something funny, relaxed and just a bit different, this podcast is worth a listen. 

It is this mix of thought-stimulating topics, great guests and touch of comedy that makes this podcast a must listen

Under the Skin with Russell Brand 

For philosophy and politics

‘Under the Skin’ is inquisitive and philosophical at its heart. Each week Brand discusses a topic or question that falls under the broad spectrum of politics and philosophy. He features guests, mostly intellectuals, authors or activists, to help dissect issues such as ‘Is There Any Point in God?’, ‘Art and Activism’, and ‘Why Won’t America Put Down It’s Guns?’. The episodes are long (over an hour), and dense. At times, they can make your head spin as you, alongside Brand and his guest, end up contemplating the relevance of Marxism and whether we are truly free, amongst other equally deep questions. However, despite their intensity, Brand unsurprisingly adds his humorous charm. He is often unable to resist the temptation to take the conversation off on a tangent, and find the comedy in some bleak issues. It is this mix of thought-stimulating topics, great guests and touch of comedy that makes this podcast a must listen.

The Heart of It - Estee Lalonde

For feminism, life and style

Estee Lalonde is best known for her beauty and lifestyle Youtube channel and blog. Her new podcast ‘The Heart of It’ attempts to unpick personal interests to her, with a clear focus on women and identity. Discussing topics such as feminist activism, tattoos and makeup, Estee blends humorous anecdotes and opinion, with interviews featuring various successful women. This new podcast is an easy and heart-warming listen, and my favourite episode is ‘Protest’, where Estee openly discusses her own experience with activism; from her first political protest at age 15, to her participation in the recent Women’s March in London. Her soft Canadian accent and infectious laugh, coupled with her thoughtful conversations with empowered women really do manage to strike to the heart of matters. 

A fascinating listen that quickly becomes addictive

Our Man in the Middle East

For politics and history

If you are someone with no prior knowledge of Middle Eastern politics and history, this podcast is a great start and completely accessible. In the podcast Jeremy Bowen, previously the BBC’s Middle East correspondent and now Middle East editor, reflects on 25 years of journalism in the region. Bowen balances personal anecdotes that feature individuals he met during his time in the region, with concise explanations of the historical events that have unfolded over the last 25 years. Bowen clearly explains or at least scratches the surface of, the complex politics that enwrap such a turbulent area of the world. Although it has the potential to be dry and dense, Bowen evokes intrigue, excitement and often pathos towards events and people he experienced and met. The snappy 15 minute episodes also help keep it succinct. Overall, his touching personal stories and informative history lessons make for a fascinating listen that quickly becomes addictive.



13th November 2017 at 10:00 am

Last Updated

13th November 2017 at 9:41 am

Images from

Daniel Friesenecker