Many months ago I had this sudden fascination for running and spent 90 minutes running every morning at the lush Pachaiappa College grounds in Chennai. It was ninety minutes I spent away from reading and you know, being at CRI and stuff, one does suffer from a feeling of not being sufficiently read in life. To make up for it I took to podcasts and  have been ‘running into’ some really splendid podcasts in history and philosophy.

The reason I’ve taken to podcasts so much is that I find reading history to be such a bore! It is one of the reasons I took up to reading biographies of historic personalities. Much of the narration in history text-books is linear, does not dwell sufficiently on all the personalities and events that have shaped the past. Very few history books can boast of any humour quotient at all.

The podcasts I listened to in the last few months were either in 60 minute or 20 minute episodes and the producers went to great lengths to help you ‘get into’ the history of the topic. The narration is linear but rarely dry and monotonous in good podcasts. Did I mention you cannot read while driving but a podcast makes for good company on your daily commute?

I have two recommendations in history.

The History of Rome by Mike Duncan

This is the podcast I started with. Its more than 150 episodes long and is narrated by a very engaging and witty Mike Duncan. For a monologue style format this podcast is rarely boring. The episodes begin with the founding of Rome and ends with the fall of the Roman empire in the west. Every major epoch in the history of Rome, every personality who steered its history are explained with warmth and humour. My favorite episodes are the ones on the Punic wars.

The Napoleon Bonaparte Podcast

This show is produced in a conversational format. It is hosted by Cameron Reilly, a Napoleonic history enthusiast, and David Markham an amateur historian with an abiding interest in Napoleon. The show runs into more than fifty episodes. Most episodes last a little more than an hour. The banter between the two and adequate supply of wit make this a very entertaining podcast to listen to.

I have one recommendation in the philosophy podcasts category.

History of Philosophy – without any gaps

I  haven’t managed to get past the first few episodes about pre-Socratic philosophers but that is mostly my fault. I have not been running for the past few weeks. Also, there is the minor issue of this podcast needing slightly more concentrated listening than others. The host, a certain Peter Adamson, has used a monologue style format for most episodes I’ve listened to so far. Almost all serious readers of philosophy have mentioned this podcast to me in good terms so I plan to persevere and see where this goes!

Some of the other podcasts I have listened to occasionally are A New Republic (on India’s constitution) and Radiolab (a very good show on scientific phenomena)

Happy listening!

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Amar Govindarajan is a management professional based out of somewhere in South India. He spends his spare time in bird-watching, dog keeping and reading Popular science. He is also a member of the CRI Editorial team.

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