Anyone who has spoken to me in the past year and a half has probably heard me start at least half a dozen sentences with “I was listening to this podcast the other day and…” followed by some interesting fact/crazy story/entertaining tidbit that I learned from the referenced podcast. When my friends, family, and husband get the impression that I have nothing but podcasts to talk about, it’s because podcasts consume at least 10 hours of my life every week. And I love it.
The podcasts below have turned my one-hour-each-way commute into time that I actually enjoy. Seriously. People shudder at the thought of spending that much time in their cars – I look forward to it. If you need some extra entertainment in your life and are interested in giving podcasts a try (or adding more to your queue!) I suggest starting with these:
If you’ve never heard of Serial before, then I hope you’re enjoying your recent escape from that rock you were living under! And what did you discuss at parties during the fall of 2014? But serialously – you need to listen to it. Serial is the real-life, real-time story of its host, Sarah Koenig, investigating the 1999 murder of a high school teen. I’ve just attempted to write about six different sentences about how great it is, and failed at all of them because it is just THAT hard to put into words. This podcast has something for everyone, from true-crime lovers to NPR lovers to books on tape lovers to reality TV lovers. From what I’ve found, enjoyment is universal. Give it a shot.
Pro tip: you HAVE to start listening from episode 1. You will be majorly confused if you don’t.
POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR
I wrote about this podcast two years ago (!) when I first started listening to it, and I love it as much today as I did then. This show is strictly for those of us who like to nerd out over television, movies, books, and other pop culture items. If that’s not your jam, this podcast will seem pretentious and boring to you, and that’s okay. If it is your jam, Pop Culture Happy Hour will give you a dose every Friday of a different timely topic analyzed in a very insightful way by people who are both thoughtful and funny. The show has three regular panelists (all of whom work at NPR) and a fourth panel slot that is filled by a rotating cast of other NPR characters. Each week they discuss one of-the-moment topic (like a movie that’s coming out that weekend), one more general topic (like “Presidents in pop culture”), and close the show with things they are reading/watching/listening to that they are enjoying that week.
Pro tip: listen to these while they’re fresh. They had a clear message when they put “pop culture” in the title – not all of the topics have a very long shelf life.
THIS AMERICAN LIFE
I really hope I don’t have to explain what this one is. TAL has been on the radio for two decades, and distributes its shows in podcast form as well. As the host says every week, each week they choose a theme, and bring you a bunch of stories on that theme. No matter what that theme is, no matter if the story itself is happy or sad, each story is memorable and special and something you can only find on This American Life.
Pro tip: if you’re trying to choose which episode to start with, I suggest Episode 510: Fiasco! and Episode 489: No Coincidence, No Story! (their episode titles don’t usually have exclamation points in them. I guess I’m just really into enthusiasm).
Startup is the real-life story of a guy trying to start his own business. Although I generally do not find business-themed podcasts (or business-themed anything) all that interesting, this one is a major exception because it is hosted by an ex-This American Life producer, Alex Blumberg and told in a totally human, relatable, no-business-jargon way. Also, as someone who works at a startup company, I find his willingness to admit when he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing a refreshing change from the Silicon Valley norm.
Pro tip: start from the beginning; partially because it makes more sense in order, and partially because you need to listen to the early episodes to hear him give the worst business pitch of all time (you need to hear it, trust me).
DEATH, SEX, & MONEY
On This American Life, I love the stories about relationships and families the most. Death, Sex, & Money focuses on those topics, and only those topics. If you find the “talk about your feelings” part of This American Life (or anything) to be uncomfortable/repulsive, this isn’t for you. If that stuff is TOTALLY for you, every week the host, Anna Sale, interviews someone new about their life, focusing on the topics that are oh-so-helpfully provided in the title of her show.
This is the very first show launched by the guy who does the StartUp podcast as a part of his podcasting company. It’s a show about this internet (which, like business, is SO not my thing – how did I end up working in technology again?) but it, like StartUp, is done with such a wonderfully human touch that I’ve found every episode captivating.
HERE’S THE THING
I can’t believe I’m saying this…but this podcast is hosted by Alec Baldwin, and I really like it. I, like every human being with a shred of a sense of humor, love love LOVE Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock. But, the few times I’ve heard him interviewed I was afraid my eyes would get stuck the wrong way in my head from all the eye-rolling I found myself doing (seriously: the man is pretentious). So when one of my co-workers said that I should really really REALLY give Here’s The Thing a try, I resisted. However, I am doing my best to cultivate a “don’t knock it until you try it” policy, so I listened to the episode where Alec Baldwin interviews Julianne Moore (because she’s lovely all the time). And you know what? It was great. So then I listened to his interviews with Ira Glass, Jerry Seinfeld, Andrew Luck, David Brooks, Chris Rock, and Lena Dunham. And all of those were great too. Alec Baldwin certainly has a different style than your standard interviewer – he jumps in more, asks more questions, interjects personal stories more frequently – but his rapid-fire questions and natural tendency to get the ENTIRE timeline (with details!) of someone’s life and career makes for very, very interesting interviews.
And, if for some reason this is entirely new for you, you can listen to podcasts on the podcast app on your iPhone! Just subscribe to the ones you want to try and new episodes will show up as they’re available. Each of the podcasts above also have their own websites, so they’re all accessible online, too.
Do you have any other podcast recommendations? The ones above aren’t quite enough to get me through the entire 10 hours each week, so I’m always looking for suggestions!