I listen to a lot of podcasts, given that now I have an one hour plus commute to and from work every day. This drive can be so grueling if I let it, and podcasts really help to lighten my mood. It’s especially fun to listen to an inspirational podcast on the way home, in order to journal or collage or draw once I’m there. The most common topics in the podcasts I listen to are the human condition, economics, creativity, and humor.
I’m not going to lie. This podcast is my inspiration for creating this list! Like everything else that Elizabeth Gilbert does, Magic Lessons is SO GOOD. Gilbert created this podcast as a companion to her latest book, Big Magic. In the 12 episodes of Magic Lessons, she interviews everyday people of varying creative paths about their obstacles in creativity, and gives them each an assignment to help them along the way. Each person’s story is complemented by an interview with one of her writer friends on the particulars of their situation. Guest appearances include Brene Brown, John Hodgman, Cheryl Strayed, and others. At the end of the season, Gilbert follows up with each of the creatives to see the progress in their journey.
By far my favorite, this is a podcast about curiosity. Radiolab’s topics are described as “where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” The human experience hooks me every time. Radiolab is the podcast that first got me listening to podcasts years ago, and I’ve heard every one. My favorite episode is still the one about Space Capsules. It features a description of how Carl Sagan was recorded for the Voyager expedition the day after he and his soon-to-be-wife Ann Druyan discovered they loved each other, his existence cataloged and sent off into space humming with love. How romantic and human! Coincidentally, the artist featured in this same episode, Dario Robleto, lives down the road in San Antonio. He’s one whose work I enjoy quite a bit.
Garance Dore’s podcast is a really great, fun cast for boosting your mood and sparking your inspiration. It’s also a great companion to her fabulous blog, which is so cheerful and stylish that you have probably already heard about it! Not only is Pardon My French an inspiring podcast to listen to, but her website also has companion articles, photos, and videos that bring another level to the story.
I’ve been listening to podcasts on and off for the past 6 years, but what really got me hooked again was Season One of Serial. You know what I’m talking about. Season One looks back to a crime that occurred in Baltimore in 1999, when high school student Hae Min Lee disappeared and turned up murdered in a park. Her boyfriend, Adnana Syed, was convicted of her murder and sentenced to jail. The podcast looks into the details of the case and the question of the reliability of memory. Is he guilty? Is he innocent? I can’t tell you the answer, but the show is such a cliffhanger. Season Two recently ended, reporting the details of the return of POW Bowe Bergdahl’s case. Equally intriguing, this season feels like it has not ended yet since the trial has not come to court. Serial is a podcast hosted by reporter Sarah Koenig, from the creators of This American Life.
By Aaron Mahnke, Lore is the best podcast for when you are looking for a good scare. True-life scary stories are told in a campfire-style experience in each episode. Even though it hasn’t been around for very long, it has swiftly grown a faithful following, including me. Good news! Aaron Mahnke is collaborating with the producers behind the Walking Dead to create a tv show based on some of the stories that he tells in the podcast. Also, Trent Reznor has contributed to the spooky soundtrack.
One of the most popular podcasts out there, this podcast is the podcast about the human condition that I listen to in between RadioLab episodes. This American Life is about… this American life. It tells entertaining tales about being human and living, but is in it’s own words “often hard to describe”. It’s guaranteed that this faithful weekly podcast will deliver me a dose of entertainment for a long drive in traffic, and help keep my mind off the road. My latest favorite is called Prom, a story about seniors dancing at their Prom Night in 2001 when a tornado suddenly reinvented the geography of their small town in minutes.
I wish that I could find something that would make me feel as inspired and dedicated as Ira Glass. Also, Philip Glass contributes to the soundtrack, which is totally cool.
There are so many other good podcasts out there! I mentioned before that I have a long commute, but I’ve also binge-podcasted during housing renovations and cleaning, or just when I find a good podcast to listen to. So, a few of my other favorites include: With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus, Mystery Show, Stuff You Should Know, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, Planet Money, Criminal, Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People (it’s very Sleepless in Seattle), and Philosophize This!
What’s the perfect length of a podcast? This really depends. An hour is nice, and usually standard. But depending on the voice, sometimes I can get really bored of listening to the same thing for an hour.
If you are having trouble figuring out how to play podcasts, here are a few handy tips. They are available on your phone and on your desktop. They can usually be accessed on a website, and you can also find them in the iTunes, SoundCloud, and Stitcher Radio apps. I listen to all of my podcasts using the Podcast app that comes pre-downloaded on my iPhone. Just search for the podcast, click to subscribe, and it will always be there in the “My Podcasts” tab of the Podcast app. When I first open the app for a drive, I’ll browse the “Unplayed” tab to find the latest episodes by date from each podcast. To discover new podcasts, I’ll usually check out the “Top Charts” and “Featured” tabs, and also find new ones via guest speakers on the podcasts that I am already subscribed to.