It’s easy to think of Memorial Day weekend as a chance to get tanner (the pool is calling), fuller (the grill is calling), and happier (the office is, well, not calling). But a three-day weekend on the cusp of summer is also a great time to get smarter.
Enter Vox’s expanding stable of thought-provoking podcasts.
Whether you’re driving to the beach or lying on a towel on the warm sand, here are 11 Vox podcast episodes that are bound to teach you something new. Happy listening.
Podcasts on identity:
The Ezra Klein Show: Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle (with Anne Helen Petersen and Derek Thompson). Ezra Klein reflects with BuzzFeed’s Anne Helen Petersen and the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson on the outsize role that career and productivity play in defining Americans’ sense of self. It’s a conversation so interesting that it justifies musing about work during your time off.
Switched on Pop: Country at the crossroads. Lil Nas X’s surprise hit “Old Town Road” is dripping with country twang but conspicuously absent from country charts, after Billboard chose to remove it. That raises the question: What happens when a black artist ventures into a field dominated by white musicians?
Today, Explained: Track and female. As the track and field world tries to figure out what it means to be female, a South African Olympic champion’s career hangs in the balance. Caster Semenya’s story illustrates the discrimination people face when they seem to defy gender norms.
Podcasts on how technology is changing the world — and us:
Today, Explained: Bovine Intervention. Increasingly common in America: plant-based burgers that contain zero meat but taste like they do. Listen to Today, Explained’s take on the rise of alt-meat, and then consider getting a couple of meatless hamburger patties for your Memorial Day barbecue.
Recode Decode: Tristan Harris says tech is “downgrading” humanity — but we can fix it. As tech giants are making their products smarter, they are indirectly making consumers meaner, less intelligent, and more alienated from one another. Tech ethics advocate Tristan Harris explains what he thinks is the way forward to Kara Swisher.
The Ezra Klein Show: ContraPoints on taking trolls seriously. YouTube is foundational to how many people — especially young people — form their politics. Ezra Klein talks to YouTuber Natalie Wynn about the political divides on the video-sharing platform, and why they matter.
Recode Decode: Silicon Valley’s self-regulating days “probably should be over,” Nancy Pelosi says. When it’s Monday night and you’re upset the long weekend is coming to an end, consider learning about how the era of self-regulation in Silicon Valley might, likewise, also soon be over. That means internet companies could be held responsible for the harmful content posted on their platforms. Take it away, Madam Speaker.
Future Perfect: Gilded Rage. In the Gilded Age, some of the mega-rich started giving away huge amounts of money. Now, philanthropists — including tech billionaires — are spending big fortunes again. Vox’s Dylan Matthews travels back in time to an era of opulence and excess to explain why mega-philanthropy is hardly as benevolent as it might seem.
Podcasts with lessons from abroad:
The Weeds: Learning from Norway’s lesbian mothers. Following the birth of children, women experience big reductions in income while their male partners do not. As data from Norway shows, that so-called “child penalty” is much less pronounced among a specific population: lesbian mothers. Tune in to this episode of The Weeds to find out why. The conversation starts at the 39-minute mark.
The Weeds: How Canada got Medicare-for-all done. Ezra Klein joins Sarah Kliff and Matt Yglesias to discuss the legacy of Tommy Douglas, the leader of Canada’s first socialist government and the father of socialized medicine north of the border.
Worldly: Four songs that help explain the world. From pioneering K-pop artists and a dissident Turkish Marxist band to a Nigerian take on Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” the Worldly crew invites you on a musical trip around the globe. It’s a way to travel far and wide, even if you’re staying home this weekend.
If you’ve listened to all of those already, you can get new episodes by subscribing to Today, Explained, The Ezra Klein Show, Worldly, The Weeds, Primetime, Recode Decode, and Future Perfect on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.