I connect with narratives in many forms and really love the storytelling aspect of podcasts. Hearing people recount meaningful moments or current issues in their own voices really makes each story feel more immediate. I also love that I can multitask while listening to podcasts. I get too sucked into the visual aspect of TV to do much else, but I can be totally absorbed in a podcast while simultaneously cooking dinner. You won't see Serial on my shortlist only because (gasp!) I haven't listened to either season yet. It seems strange to proclaim how much I like the podcasting genre and then immediately admit that I haven't consumed what may be its most popular show. It's on my list, but it may be awhile before I get to it because I like listening to podcast episodes as self-contained short stories. In no particular order, here are my current favorites:
Reply All is technically a show about the internet, but it's really about how people interact with the internet in ways that are positive and/or negative (sometimes simultaneously), heartachingly sad, quirky, and even profound. On a weekly basis, I'm curious to see what hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman serve up next. Episode #47 "Quit Already!" was one of the most singularly inspiring stories that I came across in 2015. It is heartwarming and uplifting, and encouraged my faith in humanity.
Death, Sex & Money by Anna Sale delves into real life issues that are messy, complicated, and traditionally unfit for polite dinner table conversation. The show discusses family, aging, finances, and relationships of all kinds in a manner that feels both honest and kind. I'm at a stage of life where these topics are increasingly front and center, and consequently I'm really drawn to these stories even when they'e vastly different from my own life. Anna Sale tops my list of favorite interviewers for her ability to gently help people tell very personal (and sometimes truly intimate) stories. I've recently enjoyed her interview with Brooke Shields and a follow-up look at the joys and pitfalls of living alone.
Surprisingly Awesome lives up to its name. Each week, hosts Adam Davidson (New York Times writer and NPR Planet Money host) and Adam McKay (writer/director/producer whose work includes Anchorman and The Big Short) take a supposedly boring topic and seek to unlock its fascinating backstory. I'm a massive nerd, and this show taps into my affinity for random facts and trivial knowledge. I'm probably the target audience. Each episode makes me want to tell whoever I talk to that day about the amazing properties of concrete and broccoli (episodes #3 and #6, respectively). Both Reply All and Surprisingly Awesome are part of Gimlet Media. At this point, I indiscriminately adore everything that Gimlet produces and I get reeeeally excited whenever they come out with a new show. I plan to dive further down the rabbit hole with Sampler next.
p.s. here's a great list of 10 podcasts that I'm excited to explore more