In 2005, my love affair with podcasting began. My dad introduced me to a podcast where some priest discussed Harry Potter, and I never looked back. I bought a tiny white MP3 player that was eventually held together by scotch tape, because it took such a beating. I’d download episodes of MuggleCast and PotterCast and The LOST Podcast with Jay and Jack, and take notes on every episode as they followed my favorite series. I even spent some time on my own podcast, which hopefully will remain undiscovered in the depths of the Internet archives forever. I have listened to dozens and dozens of different shows, many of them making short appearances on my weekly must-listen list. Below are my nine favorite tried and true podcasts, ones you should be listening to in your car and while you walk to the bus and at the grocery store and while you’re making dinner and basically all the time.
1. This American Life: If you are new to podcasting, there is no better place to start than with “This American Life.” If you’re a podcast veteran and still not listening to “This American Life,” what is wrong with you? This is Podcasting 101, a must-listen. Each week Ira Glass guides listeners through a mix of storytelling and reporting centered around a single theme, staying true to its name and highlighting American life. I was introduced to TAL in 2006 with episode 186 Prom, and haven’t missed an episode since. The stories told on this show have stayed with me for days and weeks and years, and here are some of my all time favorites: 109 Notes on Camp, 487 Harper High School Part 1 & Part 2, and 472 Our Friend David.
2. RadioLab: If “This American Life” is No. 1, “RadioLab” comes in a very close second. I never pegged myself as a science geek, but “RadioLab’s” presentation of complex concepts is astounding. I was in tears on the train home from work the day I listened to Season 11 Episode 6 23 Weeks and 6 Days, and the night I walked home listening to Season 2 Episode 5 Space, I was in such awe of what I was hearing that I laid on the grass near my apartment complex and stared at the moon while they told stories of the men and women who’ve walked there. “RadioLab” is beautiful, thought-provoking and reminds you how great it is to be human.
3. The Memory Palace: It has been a long time since a podcast has caught my attention as quickly as “The Memory Palace” did. My dad recommended this podcast a couple weeks ago, and I listened non-stop until I’d heard every single episode. “The Memory Place” travels through time bringing you stories from the past. Each show is short, running between one and 15 minutes, and every night before I go to bed I pray that Nate DiMeo will drop everything else in his life and spend every waking hour making more things for me to listen to. A couple of my favorite episodes include Episode 54 “Origin Stories,” Episode 49 “Dreamland,” Episode 45 “Heard, Once,” and Episode 35 “A Brief Eulogy for a Consumer Electronics Product.” “The Memory Palace” is part of the Maximum Fun Network, which includes “My Brother, My Brother and Me,” an advice show for the modern era, also a favorite that leaves me laughing out loud every single week.[divider] [/divider]
4. We’re Alive: A Story of Survival: “We’re Alive” was the first radio drama I’d ever listened to, and by far my favorite. The story follows the survivors of a zombie apocalypse in LA, airing every other Monday. I’d recommend starting at the very beginning, Chapter 1 Episode 1 “It Begins.” “We’re Alive” is in the middle of its final season, and I’m not sure what I’ll do without Michael, Saul or Datu. It took me a little while to get into the flow of this story, but it’s well worth the effort.[divider] [/divider]
5. Planet Money: I care zero percent about economics, and twice a week “Planet Money” tricks me into learning more about the current state of today’s economy. Each episode dives into topics I’d normally never venture into on my own, and I can later convince people how very smart and well-informed I am by referencing the things “Planet Money” has taught me. It’s a win-win.[divider] [/divider]
6. Here’s The Thing: “Here’s The Thing” is hosted by Alec Baldwin, and honestly that’s all I needed to know when I first checked this show out a year or so ago. Alec Baldwin could read his grocery list and I’d be into it. A couple times a month Baldwin sits with artists, policy makers and performers, and I always feel like I’m listening in on a private conversation between friends. My favorite episodes include the interviews with Billy Joel, David Simon and Lena Dunham.[divider] [/divider]
7. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: If you’re a history buff, this show is for you. Dan Carlin is the history professor I never had. He presents oft-forgotten moments from our past in a thought-provoking way, weaving a narrative that reminds you why you fell in love with history in the first place. Episodes are long (sometimes over 4 hours) and released every other month. My current favorite episode is a recent one, Episode 49 “The American Peril.”[divider] [/divider]
8. Welcome to Night Vale: “Night Vale” is unlike a place you or I have ever been to. Cecil narrates the mundane terror that is life in this fictional town. I am new to this podcast and only a dozen or so episodes in, but it easily makes the list of what you need to be listening to right now. There is no better place to start than with Episode 1 Pilot. Check out the review Kate wrote back in August for Literally, Darling here.[divider] [/divider]
9. The Moth: This podcast is about the art of storytelling, true stories told live, without notes, on stage. Each story and storyteller comes alive in front of an audience, and I love feeling the energy and feedback that you know is present in the room. Episodes range from 10 to 20 minutes long and while you find the occasional dud, they are few and far between. I’ll be honest and say I no longer enjoy “The Moth” as much as I did a few years ago, but it is an easy and important introduction to the podcasting world as a whole.[divider] [/divider]
What are your favorite podcasts? Tweet us your recommendations @litdarling!