I’ve been seeing folks post lists of ten, and today, I thought I’d join in the fun. Because FUN.
I’m a self-professed podcast fanatic. I’ve got dozens of ’em I listen to off and on. They keep me company on dog walks, car rides, household chores and meal prep. Some of the more soporific ones coax me to sleep at night. And while my kids give me grief over being a person who listens to podcasts, I don’t care. It’s one of my favorite ways to absorb nonfiction.
I thought I’d share ten favorites with you today. Understand that this was a TOUGH selection process. For every one I’m sharing, there are two or three just as worthy. Here goes:
This is the podcast I wish I had when my kids were young. It’s an honest, albeit expletive-laden look at parenting. Biz Ellis and Theresa Thorn of One Bad Mother know that everyone’s doing the best they can. The community is there to fight judgements and assumptions against one another as parents. And, most importantly, NO ONE is alone, no matter how dark the forest seems. My favorite episodes are the “Genius-Fail Spectaculars.”
You might have your ideas about life for incarcerated persons. Ear Hustle seeks to disrupt that. And I’ll say this. Any media project that goes inside prisons has the potential to fetishize or objectify its subjects. Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor do a remarkable job working to HUMANIZE. It’s a heartfelt and sincere examination of folks who live in prison and their loved ones, and those who have been released.
Ever wonder what it would be like if someone gave Yelp-style reviews to regular things in real-life (geese, Dr. Pepper, Teddy bears, velociraptors)? The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green is insightful, entertaining, educational, and incredibly well-written. There haven’t been many new episodes lately, but I’ve enjoyed the ones that are out there.
You may have watched episodes of Cops at some random time, and for me, I always shrugged my shoulders at the show and its display of human behavior at some of its lowest points. What I didn’t see, and what I didn’t understand, was how insidious and manipulative the show really was, especially in light of the problems plaguing law enforcement and our criminal justice system. Running from Cops was a short but highly powerful series from Dan Tyberski.
This is another podcast that hasn’t been on in a while, but I always love each episode. I’m a freelance storyteller, so shows like The Moth always get me. I’d consider Immigration Stories to be in that same vein. How it distinguishes itself is its focus on immigrants, their descendants, and those who work to support them. Nestor Gomez and Angel Ling remind us that we need to tell our stories, and we need to listen to the stories of others. It’s what makes us human.
Now that I listen to 99% Invisible by Roman Mars, I cannot believe how much design affects so many aspects of my life. And I cannot believe how oblivious I was to all the hidden stories around me. Curb bump-outs. Skate parks. Flags. Airline safety briefing cards. Traffic. Every episode has something new and intriguing to teach me. And most of you out there know that I. LOVE. Learning.
Being a storyteller, I have a passion for folklore. Myths and Legends satisfies me on so many levels. First of all, I get to hear stories across cultures that I’ve never yet heard. And even the stories that I’ve read, or even told, I learn something new because the host is relentless in his research. I’d also add that Jason Weiser is an exceptional writer. He craftily weaves in modern-day nuance and sensibility, all without disrupting the integrity of the stories themselves.
Here’s another short series podcast. At first glance, I supposed Dolly Parton’s America would be corny. I pictured Dolly Parton being a “Dollyland” version of amusement-park shallow. I downloaded the first episode and was captivated. Jad Abumrad explores why Dolly Parton is so popular with such a wide audience. This show is a reminder that I need to bend my perspectives, to evolve my own viewpoint and learn new things about people. For the record, I am now officially a Dolly fan.
I am a pedant. I like for things to be right. There are things people do to the apostrophe that keep me up at night. But I’ve gotten better. I generally don’t try and correct people because I figure if I know what people MEAN, then I don’t have to correct what they say or write. Still, there’s nothing like listening to Judge John Hodgman and “Bailiff” Jesse Thorn settle a good argument over absolutely nothing. Judge John Hodgman scratches that itch.
I don’t listen to many spiritual podcasts. And The Confessional with Nadia Bolz-Weber doesn’t overtly set out to be. She coaches her guests on talking about times when they were at their worst. The stories are heart-breaking and sincere, and she guides them to a bit of clarity and light with compassion and sincerity. At the end of each podcast, she offers a blessing for the guest – but I’ve found that I’ve been in need of those blessings myself.
That’s my ten (of many). I left off great shows like The Nod, The Sportkful, Soooo Many White Guys, Song Exploder, Driving the Green Book, Margaret Cho, Over the Road, They Call us Bruce and Two Dope Queens, to name a few.
Perhaps I’ve given you a solid recommendation or two, perhaps it’s just another glimpse into who I am. Enjoy.