Real human connection isn’t easy to come by. It takes time to cut through the bullshit and get to the juicy stuff: What’s making you happy right now? Sad? What did that feel like? What are you afraid of? Unlike many other mediums, podcasts can offer a window into this wonderful world of human experience. There’s something about only listening; it prevents certain physical judgment to make room for some real human emotions like curiosity, empathy and humor. Sounds have a profound impact on our imaginations, transporting us through sound cues like traffic, birds chirping or the slight wobble in someone’s voice. When I listen to podcasts, strangers become so dear to me. In a world that worships beauty, podcasts glorify authenticity, intelligence, and vulnerability.
When I first discovered audio storytelling in college, I couldn’t get enough. I bought a little handheld recorder and took it with me everywhere. I recorded the sound of the train in Amsterdam, a busker in Dublin, the ramblings of a self-proclaimed millionaire in London. I wanted to capture all this humanness!
Luckily, there are many amazing podcasters creating insightful, compelling and emotionally rewarding audio shows — and my podcast subscriptions are constantly taking up too much storage on my phone. So after years and years of devotion to this medium, I’m going to make my first-ever faves list. And let me tell you, it ain’t easy to choose. 🙂
1. REPLY ALL
My all-time favorite podcast. A new episode of Reply All is like a precious little audio gift. I get a rush of delight when I hear the theme song (it’s soooo good). The show covers fascinating, quirky, and even educational stories about the internet and subsequent online culture. It’s hosted by two friends that feel like my friends. Start anywhere. They’re pretty much all good. A couple of my most loved episodes: #56 Zardulu | #44 Shine On You Crazy Goldman
A podcast about the invisible forces that control human behavior. It’s by the producers of Radiolab, a heavy-hitter in the podcast world. I gobble up new episodes of this show; there never seem to be enough of them. I am always wanting more. On a recent episode, I learned that dreams can actually be a form of emotional therapy. How cool is that?!
Considering I’ve only been listening to this podcast for two weeks, it’s a pretty big deal that this podcast is even on this list. In just two weeks, I’ve listened to 30 episodes. Millennial describes itself as a “coming of age” podcast. It’s about those juicy questions in life and it’s honest, vulnerable and well produced. If you’re at any kind of crossroads in your life (which most of us are at any given time), you’ll probably find this show comforting and relatable.
I am so glad this show exists. Each episode is a fast-moving, interesting conversation about creativity and yes, marijuana. The host, Aaron Lammer, is a fun and inquisitive interviewer and it’s refreshing to hear intelligent, accomplished people talk about weed in such an honest way. Start anywhere. They’re all good! The most recent episode (Episode 14: Dope Girls Zine) featured two badass women from Georgia who started a zine for women who enjoy weed. I totally ordered an issue this week and I can’t wait to receive it!
Jonathan Goldstein — in his literary, self-deprecating, charming way — time travels through someone’s memory (sometimes his own) during each episode to find resolution or understanding. Can you make amends with the past, or at least understand it better? Jonathan’s vulnerability and storytelling prowess makes this show both entertaining and heartwarming. Just listen to the whole first season beginning to end. It’s great.
6. DEAR SUGAR
True story: when my partner and I have an intense disagreement, I’ll sometimes go for a walk (feeling frustrated and angry), pop my earbuds in, listen to the latest from Dear Sugar … and by the time I’m back to the house, I’m ready to be accepting and loving and apologetic. That’s just the effect that listening to Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed has on me! They are accepting, empathetic and honest and they admit to their own mistakes. In an age where people are curating a flawless impression of their daily lives, it’s amazingly helpful to hear about the challenges and uncertainties through listener letters. Scroll through the episodes and listen to a title that appeals to you. There are tons of juicy ones!
- 99 Percent Invisible | A podcast about the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world
- Twenty Thousand Hertz | The stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds.
- Mystery Show | A podcast where Starlee Kine solves mysteries.