Out of the mountains of stuff I read, a few things rise to the level of: I recommend this to everyone with similar interests.

Sustainability Books

  • Alan Weisman The World Without Us A fantastic non-fiction thought exercise about the impact of humans on the earth and how things might look if we vanished right now.
  • Mike Berners-Lee How Bad Are Bananas One man’s attempt to quantify the carbon impact of various activities and goods. It’s a fun read and helpful for perspective.
  • Hermon Daly and John Cobb. For the Common Good A seminal work in ecological economics, Daly and Cobb lay out issues with measuring progress with the Gross Domestic Product (and similar measures) and offer an initial sketch of an alternative. Lots of work has been built from this framework.

R Books

  • Hadley Wickham. ggplot2: Elegant Graphics for Data Analysis I recommend reading this through when starting with ggplot2, and I consider ggplot2 essential for publication graphics in R. However, the code is now old, so the well-maintained documentation and stack overflow will also be essential to getting off the ground with ggplot2.
  • Nina Zumel & John Mount Practical Data Science with R I’ll admit that I couldn’t read this one straight through, but it is not meant to be used in that way. Work through the problems as you adapt R into your data science routine.
  • Roger Peng Exploratory Data Analysis with R I bought the book still in development, and I know that it will be essential reading for folks who want to do a better job at the front end of data analysis. Folks who have taken courses from Dr. Peng may already be familiar with this content, but the organized delivery makes a fantastic reference book.

My actual reading is kinda all over the place, but you can also follow me on goodreads to read my reviews.


I’m constantly talking up all the cool insights and inspiring stories that I hear on podcasts. For you super busy folks - you can do this - I listen to podcasts on double speed while walking to and from the grocery store, running with my dog, cooking dinner, etc. When I’m moving and listening, I get the most value from the podcasts because I do not try to multi-task. Personally, I get no value from podcasts if I’m doing any other mental task, like reading or typing…even browsing instagram. I’ve listed a bunch of podcasts here, but there are others that I have just started trying out and can’t recommend yet. There really are podcasts for every interest. Happy listening!

  1. My absolute favorite podcasts that I’d recommend to everyone

    • Her Money with Jean Chatzky: This weekly podcast runs about 30-40 minutes. Jean targets this podcasts at professional women, but the stories and lessons are really for everyone. The guests are thoughtful and well-spoken; Jean is knowledgeable and keeps the pace. There is good advice in every show. I discovered this one just a few months ago, but it is already a favorite. Jean Chatzky’s website has tons of information including calculators and guidance on where to get help (see Tools) if you need it.

    • Myths and Legends: This (mostly) weekly podcast runs about 30-40 minutes. Jason Weiser retells myths and legends from folklore in a quick and relatable way. His style is quirky and good humored. The format of the show is consistent - with a fun story and a creature of the week. He often connects the dots between stories, and he sometimes fills in holes in stories. Jason always points out when he has taken creative license with a story or picked one version over another, and he often says why. This is a wonderful diversion. The podcast website includes links to his sources, other places to look up information, and the music used on the show.

    • Side Hustle School: A daily! Short podcast from Chris Guillebeau showcasing what other people are doing for their side hustles. The podcast is usually less than 10 minutes long and describes: what the person is doing, how they are doing it, why they are doing it, and how they are making money. It’s inspiring and well-produced. If you listen on the go, like I do, you will love how organized Chris keeps his show notes - everything is there, nice and connected. Just listen to all of them; if you do fall behind, though, Chris produces a weekly summary show.

    • Radical Candor: This weekly podcast runs about 20 minutes and focuses on helping everyone Care Personally and Challenge Directly. The idea is that we tend to fall into patterns that are not helpful to ourselves, our own bosses, or the people who call us boss because walking the line between being a nice person and being a successful person is challenging. The show was a little bumpy at first but hit its stride after the first few shows. Each show has a theme related to not sucking in the workplace and has little actions that you can do to get better in this area. The hosts use their experiences over years leading teams to bring understanding to how to do something well; sometimes, they bring in external interviewees for another perspective. The show always feels shorter to me than it is.

    • Hidden Brain: This weekly podcast usually runs just under 30 minutes. Shankar Vedantam also appears on short NPR segments in shows like Morning Edition. You can find the podcast on any podcast app, and see both podcast and shorter segments at the Hidden Brain site. This show brings up and discusses one curious human behavior item per episode, and it is almost always something that has broad appeal, like the one about what our Google searches at 2AM mean about us.

    • Dinner Party Download: A weekly podcast (~50 min) that comes out on Friday afternoon (US time) to get you ready for the weekend cocktail parties - if you go to those. The format is perfect: a quick joke, some interesting facts from the week, some history mixed with a new cocktail recipe you could try, a few recommended songs from someone in the music industry, and an interview with someone charming. This one took me a few weeks (years ago) to fall for, but it is a nice bit of audio.

    • Two Guys on your Head: A very short (~7min) weekly podcast from two psychologists/psychiatrists/some kind of head brain doctors (Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke). They discuss one issue of human behavior or a question, kind of like Hidden Brain, but with a different style. It’s interesting and short. I listen to this one on NPR One, so I’m not sure if you can get it on regular podcast apps, but it is available at the Two Guys on Your Head site.

  2. Podcasts that I like that I would recommend individually to some people - grouped broadly by topic area:

    • Academic Life / Research:

      • Not So Standard Deviations: This (usually) weekly podcast runs about 30-60 minutes. There is quite a bit of banter, so do not listen to this unless you do data science for work or fun. Hilary and Roger will crack you up with their stories from the pits, but only if you can relate. Ignore all the laughing. The “free advertisement” is really my favorite part, even thought I enjoy these two personalities - at that point in the show, they bring up something that they really like or enjoy which can be anything from an actual thing to a person or an article.
      • The Effort Report: Elizabeth and Roger are fun to listen to, and they have a natural conversation style. Who wouldn’t want to listen to smart people get real about challenges and joys in their work life? That they are talking about academic life, which is largely shrouded in mystery, is all the more fun for me. Sometimes, they bring in other folks to interview - anywhere from senior faculty to postdocs.

      • Everything Hertz This weekly podcast runs about 50 minutes and covers the thoughts of two academic researchers - one in Europe and another in the US on the business of research. Not the money making side, but the “how do we actually get this done, and well” side of it. It’s interesting and nuanced. It may take a few episodes to get into their heads and understand these guys, but then it’s nice to follow along.
    • Politics / US News:

      • Backstory: This weekly podcast changed format from when I first became hooked. The current rendition is still settling in, but it seems to be weekly between 30 and 45 minutes. The hosts are history professors who take issues from our current times and look back over the previous centuries to tell related stories. It is very informative, usually lighthearted, and there is no loss if you skip an episode or hear them out of order.

      • Politically ReActive: This weekly podcast runs about 50-60 minutes. The hosts, W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu discuss race and politics in America and sometimes have guests come on the show. These guys are both comedians, but this show is usually quite serious. This one is interesting because they bring on people that I don’t hear from in other outlets, usually, and discuss their perspectives on race in a way that I definitely don’t get in real life. I’m not a huge fan of hearing how terrible I am for my whiteness, but the show is worth getting past that part.

      • The Fifth Column: This (usually) weekly podcast runs about 60-75 minutes and features 3 journalists discussing mostly current events. It is a highly opinionated show. I like that the hosts challenge each other and don’t just accept everything said by the colleague/friend as fact or right. They respectfully disagree with each other…perhaps less respectfully disagree with others. I do not always agree with them either, but I appreciate the discussion and different points of view. Sometimes they have guests. NOTE: Of all the podcasts I listen to regularly, this one is the hardest to follow and the one I am most likely to miss key nuance or need to slow down to 1.5 times speed. These guys talk fast and have a base knowledge about current events/people/history that is challenging to me.

      • Katie Couric: This is a weekly show (~40 minutes) where Katie Couric is the host, and she brings in people to interview - interesting people, like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nate Silver, etc. I remember hearing her name a lot before I found this show, and I think she was a TV news anchor, but I am sure I never saw her on TV. I do enjoy this show, and I always learn something.

    • Life/Stories/Self-betterment:

      • Dear Sugar: This weekly show (~35 min) is hosted by Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond with beautiful human empathy. Each show is a response to a particular letter or type of letter (anonymous) about a tough question. They read the letter, discuss generalities, usually bring in an expert to interview, and come up with some solid, and kind, advice. The Sugars, as they call themselves are like your favorite aunt or gramma who you could ask anything, but you really could. It is an interesting show for perspective and reflection.

      • Art of Charm: This show is a 5 day a week deal with varying formats by the day of the week. My favorite is Monday which is “Minisode Monday” and just a quick tip (~5 min) that you can take and implement to make your life a little better. The show includes interesting guests and is basically just about a community of people trying to be more awesome and successful, without being obnoxious. I have not joined the AoC or whatever group of fans that is a community. I do still like the show. I do sometimes skip the middle of the week ones, depending on how much time I have.