I commuted over two hours to work about 7 years ago, and I do not know how I would have been able to make it without podcasts. Sure, I love music, and there is something special about being able to listen to records all the way through without arriving at a destination – but day after day, it does get old.
Podcasts are certainly not a new form of entertainment, but they are having their moment in the spotlight, particularly after Serial (a true crime-esque podcast produced by another podcast This American Life – that’s some epic podcast-ception) garnered big media attention and was downloaded 68million times (cnn.com).
All this to say: podcasts are a “thing” these days, but lucky for all of us, there is truly something for everyone. As I was curating this list, I had to whittle down a list that could truly be pages (and pages) longer. I realized - I am a podcast junkie. Admitting you have a problem is the first step right?
Here is my list of epic podcasts that are worth listening to on your next drive, long work day, or even on a gloomy January evening before bed…
Podcasts that Inspire…
- **Magic Lessons **– If you loved Eat, Pray, Love or Big Magic from Elizabeth Gilbert (which you should read immediately if you haven’t already) then you’ll adore her podcast! She talks with a variety of people about creativity, inspiration, and so much more. Standout episodes include her conversation with Cheryl Strayed (ep 2), Rob Bell (ep 4), and Brene Brown (ep 12). But all of them are incredible and worth listening to!
- Elise Gets Crafty – Elise Basha Cripe is a lifestyle/DIY blogger and business owner who has lots of experience in the Business/Creative/Blogging world. She interviews people each episode and chats with them about a certain topic in that sphere. She is personable, honest, and has great tips, ticks, and ideas.
- **Dear Sugar **– Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild and a few other fantastic books) and Steve Almond started an advice column many years ago in a cult-favorite online literary publication The Rumpus. They are both back and answer questions from listeners based around an episode theme. As far as advice podcasts go…this is the top in my opinion. Stayed and Almond are honest, insightful, passionate, and truly spend intentional time thinking about how they ought to respond to the questions. I always leave with new ideas and am often challenged by their answers to think about how I would respond.
Podcasts that Intrigue…
- This American Life – This podcast has been a favorite of mine for nearly 7 years – and it’s been around since 1995! It truly is the podcast that started it all, in my opinion. Each week, Ira Glass (arguably world’s most famous podcaster) shares a few stories based on a topic. It is done in a beautiful, narrative form that makes it easy for anyone to digest and enjoy. There are too many standout episodes to mention all of them – but some of more recent favorites are: Ep. 423 “The Invention of Money,” Ep. 424 “Kid Politics,” Ep. 425 “Slow to React,” Ep. 451 “Back to Penn State,” Ep. 457-458 “Cops See It Differently Pt. 1 + 2,” and Ep. 573 Status Update.
- Radio Lab – This podcast is very similar to the previous podcast in that it selects stories to share that revolve around a certain topic. However, the topics discussed here are a little more technical or “science-y” in nature. My favorite episode of all time is “Patient Zero” (season 10, episode 4) which tells the story of the origin of the AIDS epidemic. There is also an update to this story (season 13, episode 3), released last year, which chronicles the same stories, but adds a story on the origination of Ebola. All the episodes are fascinating and will definitely give you something interesting to talk about at your next social gathering J
- Serial – This is the podcast that I would argue started the huge podcast bandwagon that exists now. Serial is investigative journalism at its finest. Beautifully narrated and easy to become addicted to (I binged-listened in two days last season), Serial is the world’s most downloaded podcast. In the first season of the podcast, Sarah Koenig (who was a producer on This American Life) tells the story of Adnan Syed, a man who was convicted of murder back in the 90s – but perhaps incorrectly. I won’t give away any spoilers, but you need to listen to this podcast and decide for yourself if you think he is guilt or not!
- Limetown – A relatively new podcast, Limetown is a fictionalized version of investigative podcast. Think Serial – just as addicting – but not real. If you like being on the edge of your seat and having to wait a few weeks for the newest updates (just enough time to theorize with all your friends about what the heck could possibly be happening), then this is perfect for you!
Podcasts that Inform…
- Wait Wait! Don’t Tell Me! – This is a great NPR podcast to keep up with all that’s happening in the world each week. They have fun games and quizzes that have to do with all sorts of news and interesting information happening in the world. If you’re like me and don’t love listening to a straight new show, but still like being informed, this is totally for you! They even have celebrity guests join them occasionally!
- Stuff You Should Know – First things first, this podcast is part of the “How Stuff Works” podcast network which has TONS of amazing podcasts. It was hard to choose a favorite. But, I have listened to the most of this specific podcast, so I thought I’d start there. For the nerd in all of us…this podcast takes a deep dive into a plethora of different and interesting topics. If you’ve lost sleep over how Pheromones work, what a Citizen’s Arrest really involves, or how Stonehenge is like, a real thing…have no fear, there’s an episode for you. It’s a bit drier/more academic than you might expect, but if you are looking for some good old fashion brain stimulation – it’s a good choice. I truly have enjoyed each and every episode in the archives (browse the whole thing, some good stuff is there!).
- You Made It Weird! (with Pete Holmes)– I am a sucker for comedians (notable mention for me is also WTF with Marc Maron) and Pete Holmes is one of my favorites. He talks with other comedians, celebrities, and a whole bunch of other fascinating people about life, love, and other mysteries (that’s not his tagline, but it should be). He is so thoroughly enjoyable and honest, but he keeps it real with his guests and gets them to really dive in and think about life. If you like comedians – subscribe and listen to the interviews with your favorites right away.
- Theater People – Now, this might just be for .001% of the population who is obsessed with musical theater and Broadway, I’m aware. But this podcast is hosted by the biggest Broadway nerd in the world - Patrick Hinds. He is so wonderful and lovely, and if you geek out over Broadway stars, you’ll LOVE his interviews. My favorite episode is his interview with the effortlessly superb Laura Benanti (non-Broadway geeks might know her from TV’s Nashville).
- VOX and RobCast – Mike Erre and Rob Bell are two former Christian pastors that often shake things up in the evangelical world. I put them together because I listen to both of them occasionally, but love them each time I do. With episodes regarding “hot topics” in the church, there is always something to learn from these men.
- Relevant Podcast – This is a podcast created by the same folks who publish Relevant a notable Christian magazine dealing with culture, entertainment, and faith. Since I’ve been listening to this podcast for nearly 7 years, I feel like I am friends with the hosts (a rotating cast of pastors, speakers, writers, and the magazine’s editor – Cameron Strang) and I genuinely look forward to listening each week. This podcast always has great music, great conversation about current events, and my favorite segment called “Slices” – where each podcaster shares a tidbit of news from the week. Let’s just say that common topics of discussion are: the ever-changing evolution of pizza delivery, cats, Nickelback, and so much more.
Podcasts are a great form of entertainment for those of us who like being taken on an audio journey…but I am going to just say I think there is truly something for everyone. If you didn’t see something on this list that interested you, I would honestly urge you to google “(topic you like) podcast” and I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised. These are just podcasts I know are quality and worth listening to. Happy podcasting!
Photos by Whitney Darling