Sometime in the last few years, I became a podcast junkie. I’m all over the map with them, from advice about creativity to spooky fictional tales to celebrity interviews.
My favorites tend to be the ones with great storytelling in each episode, either via the same hosts each episode or relying heavily on guests who tell their own stories.
Leslie and I are both hooked, so we’ve put together a list of our all-time favorites. Brace yourself; you’re going to need to clear some storage space on your phone to download some of these before your next road trip, or for your daily commute.
- Why I love it: This podcast covers one true crime story each episode, but with a wide variety of perspectives, from a female serial killer to a courtroom sketch artist, former prisoners who had unusual experiences in the system to an arboreal mystery.
- Episode: No Place Like Home
- Why I love it: The regular hosts of this sort-of technology-related show frequently burst into laughter, both at each other and at their chosen weekly topics.
- Episode: Zardulu
- Why I love it: Parenting and family stories that manage to show how universal the experiences of parenthood (and childhood) are, and how wide a variety of families and children live in the world.
- Episodes: The Accidental Gay Parents or When the Breadwinner Makes Dough
Suzanne has a tiny bit of an “internet problem,” so she has some additional footnotes.
So big we shouldn’t have to tell you about them:
- RadioLab: This science-themed show got its start on public radio, but I listen exclusively by podcast. My favorite heart-breaker is Gray’s Donation, but I also highly recommend the one about Elements and the one about Colors.
- This American Life: Another public radio juggernaut. Honestly, it’s hard to pick one episode for you, so just go listen to a couple.
- The Moth: While listening to Bathtub Sailor, Seamstress, Spy, I laughed out loud as a man chronicled crossing the English Channel while rowing a bathtub, then proceeded to get teared up as a mom talked about her teenage child.
Weird/niche/recommended with reservations:
- Hello from the Magic Tavern: For nerds who are into fantasy and also enjoy improv. The premise: A man from Chicago falls through a “dimensional portal” and ends up in a magical land called Foon. He interviews magical creatures and weirdos, co-hosted by a talking badger and a wizard.
- Love + Radio: Often-uncomfortable topics told by real people. Think: A convicted sex offender who has been attacked for his crimes, or an internet insult-dominatrix.
- The Black Tapes, Limetown or The Message: Creepy, serialized fiction. The Message is a single-season podcast about an alien transmission from outer space. The Black Tapes tackles supernatural investigations and a researcher who wants to debunk any ideas of dark magic. Limetown is about a mysterious scientific experiment set in a small town.
Suzanne is right on the money with the podcasts she listed. I got hooked on This American Life listening to the Slow to React episode. I was literally on the edge of my seat (warning: it is not for the faint of heart). Podcasts are totally replacing radio shows: They’re downloadable and easy to produce (so we hear), and there are a ton of options. If you happen to jump into the passenger seat of my car, this is what I’ll probably be listening to.
- Why I love it: This podcasts is for those who like learning tabout medical history. A husband and wife couple lead you through topics like hemophilia or ear wax with the historical treatment of it. Dr. Sydnee McElroy is a practicing physician and her husband Justin is the common Joe who asks all the important questions. It is usually light hearted and fun for everyone.
- Episode: Trepanation
- Why I love it: Where else can you get three hours of World War I history for your listening pleasure? If you liked your college history lectures, now you can listen and learn without having to take any tests!
- Episode: Blue Print for Armageddon I
- Why I love it: This is a great source to listen to interesting new music and hear about the songs and learn about the artists. I don’t actively search out new music, but this is an easy way to hear new stuff. Plus, the hosts won’t treat you like your snobby music friends who listen to all the right music.
- Episode: The Year in Music 2015