Anyone who's talked to me for more than 2.5 seconds has probably heard me say the phrase, "I was listening to a podcast...." I got into them a few years ago, after a friend recommended that I listen to Tina Fey's "Bossypants" read by the author herself. I had a half hour commute, and once I finished the book, I was itching to find something new. I discovered the podcast app in my phone and dove head first.
About 6 months later, the podcast juggernaut that is Serial dropped, and suddenly I could talk with so many people about this thing I was listening to. Thanks to the popularity of Serial, I was able to find community in radio listening, and I've been swapping podcast titles with friends and acquaintances ever since.
I figured I'd let you all in on my favorites!
Certainly not that old compared to the dynasties of This American Life or Prairie Home Companion, and in fact, it's not even the oldest podcast on this list, but it's the first one I ever listened to, so it's the godfather for me. Helmed by This American Life alum Sarah Koenig, Serial is a story about Hae Min Lee, a high schooler who disappeared in Baltimore in 1999, and her ex boyfriend Adnan Syed, who has been in prison for 18 years for the crime.
For Your Brain
This one is for all my history buffs out there. Each season, Mike Duncan takes an in-depth look at some of the most notable revolutions in modern history: French, British, American, Haitian, and currently Gran Colombia. Comprehensive research meets lighthearted storytelling for an interesting and informational listen. (Check out his podcast History of Rome for his touch on some ancient stuff).
What started out as a podcast about architecture and design, explores the things we barely notice that shape the way we move through our world. From stairs that lead nowhere to voting cards to smart cars, this podcast tells the stories of our built environments. Plus the host Roman Mars has the sexiest voice in radio.
First thing you need to know is that this is produced by PBS, which means it's dense & journalistic, but so so worth it. Hard-hitting stories from Washington DC's school reform to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's origin story, this one goes out to anyone who's a fan of Ken Burns docs.
A fun analysis of some of the most controversial topics today, Wendy Zukerman uses the scientific method to get past the feelings to the facts. Every episode is a treat, and this Aussie's quirky interjections keep everything light and accessible.
For Your Heart
This podcast by Buzzfeed, hosted by Tracy Clayton & Heben Nigatu, will be a breath of fresh air for women of color, centered around self-care, mental health & the media. Not a woman of color? Take this as an opportunity to listen to the lives of others. The list of special guests is crazy good, and this podcast will make you feel full up every week.
Death, Sex & Money
Anna Seale pushes past the fluff and talks about the toughest stuff in life (rhymes!). Regular people, and not so regular famous people spill their guts about the things we often don't dig deep enough to ask, and you'll feel better and more connected for having listened.
Criminal bills itself as "stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle." A take on what is unlawful that in rooted deeply in the human experience, this is NOT your average true crime podcast.
For Your Consideration
There Goes the Neighborhood
TGtN is necessary listening if you live in or near an urban area. This 9-episode special reporting segment tackles gentrification where the term began: Brooklyn. Through multi-faceted storytelling & diligent reporting, The Nation offers the most accessible yet thorough look at what it means for cities to change, and how America has made it so that someone must be at the bottom of the ladder.
From the makers of HBO's The Jinx, Crimetown tells the story of the not-so-distant organized mob past of Providence, RI. This one just started, but it's already very very good. Real life Sopranos meets The Dark Knight shit.
More Perfect by Radiolab
Podcast staple Radiolab's Jad Abumrad offers 6 tales of the Supreme Court. This miniseries pulls back the curtain on those human beings who judicate the highest court in the land, and the circumstances & conditions that ave created the fabric of our country.
It's no surprise that blogger turned media mogul Leandra Medine of Man Repeller would branch into the world of podcasting. Indeed, she hosts her own called Monocycle, but Oh Boy is the real gem from MR. Host Jay Buim sits down at his kitchen table with some of the coolest women in fashion & media, and talks through their evolutions from childhood through today and beyond. A must-listen for fashion people, or just anyone who enjoys origin stories.
I'll let them explain themselves: "Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again. In this seven-part podcast, American Public Radio host Lia Haddock asks the question once more, 'What happened to the people of Limetown?'"
These kids have gone big time with a book and TV deal in the works, so no one knows when season 2 will come out, but when you finish, we can agonize together.
This podcast is a simple story about a rehabilitation program for war veterans that isn't what it seems. With a star-studded cast including Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, & David Schwimmer, Homecoming is the Hollywood of radio.
There's a reason why 4 of the podcasts on this list are products of radio company Gimlet Media. In the first season, Co-founder Alex Blumberg chronicles the emotional process of starting Gimlet Media, and each season shows a different start-up as they try to get off the ground. The latest follows Dov Charney of American Apparel infamy as he starts a new American T-shirt brand, but every season is a lesson in drive, loss, business, creativity, passion, perseverance, and "doing" for the sake of "doing". This one is for anyone with an American Dream.
Whew! You made it! Hopefully you've found at least one podcast you'd like to check out, and perhaps been inspired to give your ears a little fun the next time you're washing dishes or going from here to there. If you found something you like, let me know here on the website or over on Instagram!