These recommended resources are evergreen.
For additional recommendations be sure to check out our blog where we tag new treasures and finds for your amusement as well.
From PBS Digital Studies, I first caught one of these watching PBS. They are super fun. They take old radio interviews or recordings and animate the stories. You can hear artists, actors, musicians, journalist, politicians.
Some current favorites are ::
Featuring short films, these videos can entertain you for hours. Their stated goal is “creative excellence in storytelling celebrating the extraordinary of every day.” They touch on art, design, fashion, beauty, music, food, and travel. Some current favorites (none longer than 4 minutes) include ::
If you love PBS and British television like I do, then Acorn TV is a streaming service you want to check out. Their library is just terrific and includes classic British mysteries such as Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders, Agatha Christie’s Poirot and class dramas such as I, Claudius and Danger UXB (featuring my high school crush Anthony Andrews). Some recent favorite binges include ::
I learned about this streaming service from the New Yorker. At Filmstruck, you can find many of the classic films no longer available on Netflix as well as many many films you can’t find streaming anywhere else. Their offerings include films from Turner Classic Movies as well as the Criterion Collection. They have a large library – my watchlist has 49 films on it! They call it the “ultimate streaming service for the discerning fan.” You can search by genre or decade. They also offer curated watch lists that feature actors (Vanessa Redgrave, Betty Davis, Rogers & Astaire) or directors (Lars Von Trier, Sidney Lumet) or topic (Brit Noir, Foreign Language Best Pictures).
In February 2018, the New York Times wrote “Cinephiles, rejoice!” to open the announcement that classic films from Warner Brothers had been added to Filmstruck including Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Singin’ in the Rain, Rebel Without a Cause. The films also include often short introductions that provide context and background. Here is a handy guide, also from the New York Times, to help you figure out if Filmstruck is worthwhile for you.
What a treat to dip into to a random page and learn something. None of the entries are long, and I feel I’m traveling virtually from my bed. The book is organized by region – so if you want to “travel” through Russia or Ireland, you can skim through those pages. I’m only sorry that the photographs are not in color!
My alma mater’s Art History survey course was a must take, which I finally got around to my senior year. This book (which is in color) presents one piece of art per page, again making it perfect to dip into and read and learn about one painting. The only weird thing is that it pretty much starts in the 15th century; only the first 64 pages cover anything predating 1400. Still, a wonderful resource.
I’m a big reader. Frankly, I’d guess I’ve read 1001 books so far, but not all the ones here. Most I won’t, so it’s fun to peruse this anthology of books and novels. The annotations are written by critics from all over the world. Going beyond plot summaries, the commentary is often funny by recommending books for certain stages or moods of life.
Created by David McCandless, a London-based writer and self-described independent data journalist and information designer. His puts information into visuals with minimal words, which comes in handy when you’re too sick to read. See especially these posts ::
Gawker called Maria Popova’s website “like Buzzfeed, but boring,” but what does Gawker know? Her site is fascinating, and I like to brag I’ve been an early fan. I don’t even know how long I’ve been checking out her blog, but long before she started asking (rightly) for donations. She calls what she does “human-powered discovery engine for interestingness,” and I agree! I’m so grateful for the interestingness she assembles. She finds amazing stuff. You’ll be intrigued and distracted for days.
This company is my great weakness. My mom was a fan too. The series, Elements of Jazz by Bill Messenger is amazing. He’ll go to the piano to explain a concept. The teachers are all like that and really good. And they’ll distract you and educate you for hours. You can buy on audible, iTunes or directly from the company and watch or listen via their app. Their course on
The History of World Literature will kill 24 hours and 37 minutes, for example. The episodes typically run 30 minutes, so they don’t challenge my lack of concentration. I love that I can just lay back and listen. Recently, they started to offer a monthly subscription service so you can access a ton for a small price! You can start with a free monthly trial.
Other favorites include ::
I love this dramatized radio show. They remind me of old-fashion radio dramas but when the BBC records them you’re in for a true treat. You can hear David Tennant or Benedict Cumberbatch play Jane Austen heroes.
Other favorite dramatizations from Audible include ::
The companion podcast for BCC History Magazine, the topics covered usually overlap with the articles in the magazine. They usually cover two separate topics, unless there’s a special lecture that they’ve got from a conference or something. And it’s not just British history but history from all over the world. Fascinating and distracting! (also available in iTunes)
Melvin Bragg talks fast because he is trying to get a lot into less than 45 minutes. Every week, I check out what topic he is covering and miss the podcast terribly in August when he takes a break. He mostly covers historical and literary topics with the occasional math and science thrown in. He interviews three top academics and asks great questions. I always learn something. (also available in iTunes)
This 8 episode podcast series is storytelling at it’s best – suspenseful, informative, weird and relevant. Leon Neyfakh retells the story of Watergate as if you were living in it, not knowing the outcome. He explores pockets of the story I never heard before, and I know a lot about Watergate! He starts out telling the story of Martha Mitchell (whom I knew about) who was also known as the mouth of the South. She loved to eavesdrop on her husband, John Mitchell, Nixon’s Attorney General, and loved to talk to reporters. I guarantee that if you listen to the first five minutes, you’ll be hooked. If you’re a member of Slate Plus, you can also access some fun supplemental material too.
Living in Washington, I was lucky enough (and well enough that night) to be able to attend a live show on Watergate at the Watergate Hotel. I had a chance to meet Elizabeth Drew, a political writer I’ve read and loved she I was 10. And I got a chance to ask the first question at the event about Ford’s decision (deal) to pardon Nixon, which was a thrill.