It’s become a joke among my nearest and dearest how much I love podcasts. This obsession is relatively new for me; two years ago, I listened to the REGULAR radio and read things ONLINE, like most NORMAL people… but then Serial happened. Like so many others, I was harassed and harangued into listening to the first episodes of Sarah Koenig’s hit podcast, and then the harassed became the harasser and the circle was complete. Maybe I even bullied you into listening. If so… sorry / not sorry.
I could write an entire post on the genius that is Serial, but today’s not the day. Needless to say, if you haven’t heard it, you should. I’m talking specifically about the first season. I really like the second season, too, but many of my friends were decidedly ‘meh’ about it. The sophomore album is always the hardest.
Anyhoo. Earlier this year, the hashtag #trypod hit the interwebs to encourage podcast listeners to introduce somebody – anybody! – to a new podcast. I think it was actually back in March. Well, I may be tardy to the party, but in the spirit of sharing what I love, I have compiled a list of what I am listening to most these days. No matter how you do you, I hope there is something here for you to love. After all, podcasts are free, easy, and some are very, very good.
This American Life
Good for: Deep dives and “aha” moments
It’s iconic and for good reason. TAL, hosted by Ira Glass, is one of the most listened to podcasts, and since there are more than 500 episodes to choose from there truly is something for everyone. Browse their archives and start anywhere that takes your fancy. I highly recommend Episode 562: The Problem We All Live With for a heart-expanding experience. Or for something a little lighter but no less fascinating, try Episode 513: 129 Cars. (Top tip: Do NOT buy another car until you have heard this episode.)
Judge John Hodgman
Good for: Belly laughs and listening with kids
My wonderful, road-warrior friend, Sarah, turned me on to this gem, and boy am I glad she did. If you only know John Hodgman from his “I’m a PC” commercials or from his appearances on The Daily Show (or if you don’t know him at all), allow me to highly recommend his brand of humor. His podcast is witty, silly, mostly family friendly, and very, very funny. In it, he plays the role of “judge” and adjudicates minor disputes between participants. He has a great rapport with his equally witty “bailiff” Jesse Thorn. In a world of angry comics, these two are serving up comedy that is as earnest and kind as it is hilarious. Like This American Life, you can really jump in anywhere. We really enjoyed Episode 292: Conifer Emptor and Episode 166: My Legal Pony. Binge worthy.
Good for: Being an informed citizen/voter/human
I know, I know. Politics…Ugh. Hear me out.
Fact 1: This podcast averages about 1 hour of content a week (more during election seasons or in particularly news-heavy weeks). Fact 2: Whether directly or via your paycheck, mortgage payments, sales tax, etc. you will likely be spending THOUSANDS of dollars in taxes this year. Fact 3: If you’re like me, you will spend HOURS each week on some combination of The Voice / Parks and Rec reruns / Whatever-Cartoon-My-Kids-Are-Hooked-On-Now. And – real talk – those things don’t matter. I do love me some Leslie Knope, though.
My point is, taking in 60 minutes of well-curated, current news is not hard, and it may just give you a new insight or two along the way. (And, spoiler alert, the NPR correspondents even crack a joke from time to time. What?!) Still not convinced? Well, allow me to suggest that, as grown ups, we all need to eat our vegetables. None of us is getting any younger, after all. As far as veggies go, this my version of a yummy salad covered in warm goat cheese. But if you decide that the NPR Politics podcast doesn’t grow the kind of vegetables you like, then, by all means, you should find a farm that has the veggies you do like. Just please, please don’t buy your vegetables at the candy store. That never works out well, you know what I’m saying?
Good for: Light listening on road trips
This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I really enjoyed it. The premise is that the host and producer, Starlee Kine investigates mysteries that can’t be solved with a simple Google search and actually really don’t matter at all – except to the people who bring her their cases. There are only 6 episodes in the first season, and, frankly, it’s amazing the lengths that Kine and her team will go to in order to get to the bottom of the most mundane questions. Therein lies the magic of the Mystery Show. It’s probably not going to teach you anything new or change your worldview, but it’s fun and engaging and exactly the right pace for easy road trip listening. I particularly enjoyed Case #3 Belt Buckle.
Good for: Challenging your own ideas
Invisibilia is a girl-power tour de force that examines the invisible forces at work within us. The three hosts Hanna Rosin, Lulu Miller, and Alix Spiegel are great storytellers. They do an excellent job of making brain science research easier to understand and digest by weaving in fascinating interviews with everyday people. Again, start anywhere that takes your fancy; I recommend the Frame of Reference episode.
The upshot: whatever you like to consume and however you like to consume it, I hope you will consider trying a podcast for a refreshing change of pace. And, if you do find a podcast you love – any podcast – I hope you’ll throw a few bucks at them during their fund drive.
– Claire XO
Do you love a podcast I didn’t mention here? Share, please!