As Labor Day weekend draws closer, Americans are beginning to think about how to make the most of the last long weekend of summer. And if you’re one of the millions expected to board planes, trains, and automobiles, you’re probably thinking about what to listen to while you get where you’re going.
Here are 11 of the best recent podcast episodes from Vox, covering everything from affordable housing to making great TV. If you let your brain take a break this summer, these episodes will help you feel smarter and up to speed with what’s been happening in the world in no time.
1) Today, Explained: The Stanford Prison Correction: The Stanford Prison Experiment study has been included in countless psychology textbooks, is often cited uncritically, and continues to be the subject of movies, documentaries, books, television shows, and congressional testimony. But recently, scientists discovered it was very, very wrong. Vox’s daily explainer podcast host Sean Rameswaram breaks it down the study and new claims about it with the help of science reporter Brian Resnick.
2) The Weeds: We’re not gonna pay rent: Policy wonks and musical fans alike will appreciate this deep-dive by reporters Matt Yglesias, Dara Lind, and Jane Coaston into the exploding housing costs in America’s coastal cities and what to do about them. Bonus: They take sides on the musical Rent. (Team Benny forever).
3) The Impact: How California saves moms from dying in childbirth: The Impact is Vox’s podcast about how policy affects the lives of real people. In this episode, host Sarah Kliff investigates how California is trying to reduce the United States’ uniquely high maternal death rate compared to the rest of the developed world. It’s fascinating, informative, and will give you hope. The Impact returns for season two this fall.
4) The Ezra Klein Show: Is modern society making us depressed? Author Johann Hari, who has struggled with depression since his youth, went on a journey to try to understand the social causes of mental illness — the ones we prefer not to talk about because changing them is harder than handing out a pill. He joined Vox editor-at-large Ezra Klein for a complex conversation about the circumstances of our lives that you will be thinking about for days.
5) I Think You’re Interesting: How to make great TV, according to the showrunners of Black Lightning, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Vida: How do you stand out from the clutter of TV? What’s the key to telling stories about traditionally underrepresented communities? Are there secrets to making a successful show on a budget? Critic-at-large Todd VanDerWerff gets those answers and more on this episode of I Think You’re Interesting.
6) Today Explained: Delete your account: Lately, there’s been a noticeable pattern of celebrities’ old social media posts getting dug up and put on blast. Web culture reporter Aja Romano joins the show to talk about the bad-faith attacks by internet trolls and what it means for entertainment and society at large.
7) Wordly: It’s gettin’ hot in here, so get real concerned about global stability: Hosts Jennifer Williams, Zack Beauchamp, and Alex Ward are joined by science reporter Umair Irfan to dig into the heat wave wreaking havoc across the Northern Hemisphere and its connection to climate change more generally. Spoiler alert: Everything is getting worse, and it’s a major national security issue.
8) The Weeds: The great white panic: Hosts Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, and Dara Lind are joined by Jane Coaston for a conversation about America’s changing demographics — and the racial panic (from white people) that is driving the country apart.
9) I Think You’re Interesting: The incredible true story behind Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman: The story of a black man going undercover and becoming a trusted confidant of the Ku Klux Klan sounds like a fable. But it isn’t. It’s real-life. And it inspired a book and movie about the ridiculousness and toxicity of racism in America. Listen as the man himself, Ron Stallworth, joins Todd for a must-listen and captivating conversation.
10) Worldly: A war between Israel and Iran could really happen: In a conversation that lays out the relationship between the United States, Israel, and Iran, the hosts explain how Israel’s shadow conflict with Iran is threatening to explode into a new Mideast war. It’s incredibly real and incredibly scary.
11) The Ezra Klein Show: Tyler Cowen on the painful ending of American Democracy: If you want to feel hopeless and desperate about the future of the United States while learning about how a kickstarted economy will build something even better, this is the conversation for you. Economist Tyler Cowen joins Ezra Klein and the nitty-gritty of their exchange is nothing short of enlightening.
If you’ve listened to all of those already, you can get new episodes by subscribing to Today Explained, The Ezra Klein Show, I Think You’re Interesting, Worldly, The Weeds, and The Impact on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.