If someone had told me in 2000 that in 2015 my favorite shows would be on PBS and NPR I would’ve laughed in their face. But life is a crazy ride and sometimes you find yourself falling hard for things you never thought possible. For example, later today I will sit down with my ipad and log into a website that allows me not only to see American public broadcasting, but also British ITV so that I can stream public broadcasting from across the pond. I’m also saving some of my favorite podcasts to listen to while on a drive to Greenville later this week and I’m so excited about that drive I could just bust. I believe that NPR and PBS have gotten cooler as I’ve gotten older, because obviously I can’t possibly be any less hip. Obviously.
But anywho – I thought it’d be fun to list a few of my favorite podcasts for this month’s Top 10 on the 10th post and share the public broadcasting love with the interwebs!
10. Criminal – “Criminal is a podcast about crime. Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.”
That description on their website is just perfect. To give you a little example – one of the episodes was about a guy that admitted to being guilty to a white collar crime and was sentenced to 18 months jail time. However, when he showed up to serve his sentence, he realized he was being placed inside a leper colony. One of the things I love about this podcast is that the episodes are typically less than 20 minutes long and they do an amazing job of telling the story in that time. If you like stories about justice, injustice or just plain criminals, this is an awesome podcast.
9. The Moth – “True stories told live.”
The Moth is a nationwide event where people come together on themed nights to tell their own true stories. The podcast is a collection of “best of” at these events and they never disappoint. I find myself laughing, gasping and in total disbelief as I enjoy these true stories. One of my favorites was told by a baker that eventually became the pastry chef at the White House from 2007 – 2014.
8. Invisibilia – “Invisibilia (Latin for all the invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.”
This podcast does a fantastic job with both technology and human interaction and discusses topics that always make me go, “hmmm.” My favorite episode was their discussion on “categories” and how we literally need to assign something to a category in order to process it (fruits, vegetables, boys, girls, etc).
7. StoryCorps – StoryCorps’ mission is simple – to preserve and share stories. They set up booths in towns all across America and give people the opportunity to come in and record their story. They are also leading a project that is capturing a story about every single victim from 9/11. When you walk through the National September 11 Museum, clips from these stories will be playing through the speakers. After just listening to a few I was already in awe of the everyday heroes from 9/11. While The Moth stories tend to be funny, StoryCorps stories are always inspiring and make you feel better about the world we live in.
6. Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin – “Here’s The Thing is a series of intimate and honest conversations hosted by Alec Baldwin. Alec talks with artists, policy makers and performers – to hear their stories, what inspires their creations, what decisions changed their careers, and what relationships influenced their work.”
First of all, let me just say that Alec Baldwin is a fantastic interviewer. He asks the tough questions and keeps things very interesting. My favorite episode was of Julie Andrews, probably because she’s one of my favorite people.
5. This American Life – This podcast is hard to describe, not only for me, but also for them because they have no description on their website! I’d call it a human interest podcast where the host dives into a topic and shows the unknown side of it. For example this week’s episode is called “Put a Bow on It” and the host is diving into the headquarters of Hardee’s and finding out how they decided to sell that burger (because seriously, their advertisements have NO SHAME). One of my favorite episodes of TAL was when the host went to New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of Katrina and interviewed folks in the lower 9th ward. His ability to make you see something when all you have is audio is unmatched.
4. Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert – This podcast was launched in anticipation of Liz’s new book, Big Magic. As a “maker” I fell hard for this podcast (and the book) and I gobbled up these episodes like they were my last meal. Sadly, I can’t tell if Liz is going to continue to the podcast now that the book is launched, and I really hope so because it was AWESOME! But in either case – these 12 episodes are wonderful and if you consider yourself a creative person it’s a must-listen.
3. Undisclosed Podcast – For those of you out there that are Serial fans, I hope you’re listening to this! Undisclosed takes Serial to a totally new level with 3 lawyers breaking down the minutiae of the case bit by bit. In the most recent episode they interviewed some inmates to get their perspective on the case and I was pretty blown away. If you’re into crime dramas this gives you a really great look into the details and the legal side of how our criminal justice system works. Side note – I’ve also heard great things about Serial Dynasty, but I just couldn’t get into it when I tried it. If you’re a die hard Serial or Adnan fan you might want to check that one out too.
2. Death, Sex & Money – “A podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.”
This show also did an amazing job with the 10th anniversary of Katrina – they interviewed coroners, musicians and families that lost everything during the hurricane. I actually fell in love with this podcast when I listened to the episode where she interviewed a 6th generation funeral director. Anna Sale does a fantastic job asking hard questions and her interviewees answer them with such grace, like we all talk about this stuff everyday. Another of my favorite DS&M episodes was when she interviewed “Maria” after she retired from Sesame Street. Seriously – who would’ve thought that “Maria” would have so much to say about Death, Sex and Money, but she did! In her most recent episode she interviewed the husband of an astronaut that died in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle explosion and I cried all the way to yoga class. This is easily one of the best 3 podcasts available.
1. Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! – “NPR’s weekly current events quiz.”
I’ve never enjoyed news this much! The guest stars are hilarious (Tom Bodett had me crying I was laughing so hard and Paula Poundstone was crazy funny)! But the way they discuss the news topics of the week are wonderful – they have a way of keeping you updated on everything that’s going on but not boring you to death with facts. The Listener Limerick Challenge and the Lightning Round are my two favorite segments, both of which always leave me smiling, and frankly, don’t we all need more reasons to smile while we’re driving!
Now, for those of you seriously questioning my judgement with this list because it doesn’t include Serial, let me just say that at the time of this article, Serial is not currently airing new episodes. When they start up again in the fall I will absolutely include them on my must-have list, but for now I was trying to stick to shows that are on the air. Yes, I love Serial, and yes, it’s best ever. I think that’s something we can all agree on.