I had no idea there was a faux national holiday dedicated to podcasting until I saw it trending on Twitter this morning, but I’m so glad I did! Podcasting is one of my favorite entertainment mediums. What can I say? I hate having idle time when I could be learning something new, expanding my horizons, considering a new perspective, or taking in a compelling story. I don’t go on a walk or a drive without queuing up my extensive playlist.
To wit, podcasts take up way more space on my phone than pictures of my own children! And sorry to all of you who can’t bear the sight of thousands of unread emails; that’s just how I roll.
So, in celebration of Podcast Day, I wanted to share a few of my new favorites and old standbys. Give your ears a treat, and check some of them out!
My new favorite! In addition to being an amazing writer and TED talker, Elizabeth Gilbert has the voice of a sweet, soothing angel. This podcast is an accompaniment to Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic. She conducts “magic lessons” with women (including aspiring writers, artists, and podcasters) feeling stuck in their creative lives and seeking a path forward despite some seemingly immovable roadblock to achieving their creative aspirations. Gilbert has a chat with the subject of the week, doling out fantastic advice. (Seriously, I find myself jotting down her pearls of wisdom and repeating them like mantras.)
The following week, Gilbert calls up a member of her amazingly talented tribe (Brene Brown, Ann Patchett, and Cheryl Strayed to name a few) who has experienced a similar creative impediment, and chats about helping the subject start down the path of fulfilling their creative dreams. It’s VERY inspiring for women who crave creative expression, but struggle finding the time or confidence or inspiration to bring it to fruition. I count myself among this number, and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to take magic lessons with the charming, relatable, inspiring Elizabeth Gilbert.
WYNC’s RadioLab is an old favorite. The podcast’s hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich bring listeners scientifically-driven stories told in the most engaging way. The explorations of time, space, neuroscience, and disease are engaging, to say the least. From a storytelling standpoint, one might believe that the black-and-white, fact-based nature of science as a discipline wouldn’t lend itself to creative, emotional storylines, but, oh, how it does!
My favorite segments include a story about Henrietta Lacks and the famous HeLa cells, one about Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, being arrested for “indecency” for being gay, and an examination of the true nature of randomness. Actually, as I was typing that I thought of ten other episodes that I would count among my favorites! Recently, RadioLab broadcast a thought-provoking story on trophy hunting, which has come under fire in the wake of the death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. You know what? I won’t be able to stop thinking of suggestions, so you better just go check it for yourself. Choose one at random; I guarantee it will be great!
I love every show in the Gimlet Media lineup. Start Up is great and Reply All is on my can’t-miss weekly playlist. But Mystery Show is everything I love about podcasting and more; it’s a warm blanket just out of the dryer; it’s dinner ready in the crockpot when you get home from work on Wednesday night. Gah! In other words, I love it. I’ve loved the show host, Starlee Kine, since her This American Life days (another great podcast, but, at this point, that’s like a given), and she does not disappoint as she takes the helm of her own show. (Kind of like another brilliant TAL alum, Sarah Koenig.) Kine delves into what some might consider inconsequential subject matter by attempting to solve seemingly mundane mysteries. (Who does this belt buckle I found belong to? How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal, really? Why was Britney Spears carrying a little-known book that one time in 2008?)
Kine will take on mysteries of any sort, except those that can be answered with a Google search. With her quick wit, humor, and humanity, Kine manages to extract something meaningful and compelling out of even the most banal instances of happenstance, the little things to which a less curious person wouldn’t even give a second thought. But I’m so glad she’s giving a second thought, and a third… and however many it takes to solve these little mysteries that make such a big impact.
Happy Podcast Day to my fellow listeners and favorite podcasters!
P.S. Here’s a (less wordy) list of even more fantastic podcasts!
What I Wore When – A podcast from Glamour magazine about meaningful wardrobe choices at pivotal life moments.
Serial – The story of the possible wrongful-conviction of a Maryland teen for the murder of his girlfriend.
Death, Sex & Money – A podcast about all the things you’re not supposed to talk about in mixed company.
StoryCorps – Little snippets of conversation that have the propensity to elicit tears.
The Longest Shortest Time – A podcast about the paradoxical fleeting drudgery of motherhood.
The Memory Palace – Short, illuminating historical tales as told by Nate DiMeo.
Invisible – A podcast about that which we cannot see. Hidden Brain is a new podcast similar to Invisibilia. I haven’t listened enough to come to a conclusion, but so far, so good.
Important Question Podcast – Two smart, funny friends answering the questions you’d never ask out loud.
Slate’s Double X Podcast – A bi-weekly feminist roundtable talking about the issues du jour. (Slate’s Political Gabfest and Mom and Dad are Fighting podcasts are also on my must-listen list.)
Criminal – Stories of true crime that may make you want to sleep with the lights on.
99% Invisible – Engaging stories of architecture and design.
Love + Radio – Stories about love and sex and all that accompanies them.
Planet Money – A show featuring big and small stories about the economy.
Freakonomics Radio – A podcast by the authors of the excellent book Freakonomics with more interesting conversations on economics.
Nerdette – Conversations with awesome, nerdy women.
Note To Self – Stories about the Internet and its impact on modern life.
StarTalk Radio – Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Need I say more?
offcamera – Interviews with famous people.
Everything Is Stories – The title kind of sums it up.
Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates – The holy grail of podcasts for former debate nerds.
Limetown – A fictional, serialized science fiction podcast centering on the mysterious disappearance of 300 people from a research center in Kentucky.
Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed (of Wild fame) doling out, like, the best advice. Also, do yourself a favor and get the book Tiny, Beautiful Things.
Savage Lovecast – A no-holds-barred discussion on sex and relationships with Dan Savage.
TED Talks Audio – Perfect podcast for TED enthusiasts.
Grammar Girl – A super quick listen for tips on improving grammar and usage.