I love podcasts like Oprah loves bread.
Do I have a problem? Maybe. But why not leverage my obsession for your own benefit?
Whether you’re dipping your toe into the podcast pool for the first time or are basically the equivalent of an Olympic swimmer in this likely over-extended metaphor, I’m confident I have a podcast recommendation for you.
Podcasts – How it Started
Let me set it up for you. After I got my Bachelors degree, I’ve spent my career almost exclusively in diagnostics labs. This meant a lot of time looking through a microscope or setting up samples at the bench. For my own mental health, I starting listening to books on CD (because it was 2011 and CD players were still a thing). I’m not entirely sure why, but I soon ventured into public radio and was almost instantaneously hooked. NPR, This American Life, A Prairie Home Companion, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me…queue the Britney because I was all like, “Gimmie, gimmie more!” (and it was the early 2010s, after all).
It wasn’t until I got a smartphone and access to wi-fi that the world of podcasts truly became my oyster. (Side note: that’s a gross idiom.) Podcasts are like radio shows. So with WAY more variety and not having to listen in at specific times I was all, “Sign. Me. Up.”
The original podcast that got just about EVERYONE hooked was (and arguably still is) Serial. Season 1 went in-depth about the murder of Hae Min Lee and whether Adnan Syed’s guilty conviction actually stood up to scrutiny. It had amazing storytelling and kept many of us (myself included) on the edge of our seat each week and it, deservedly, won a ton of awards. It’s no surprise that it was developed in partnership with This American Life – a weekly public radio show that’s been around since 1995.
After Season 1 of Serial, it was like a podcast floodgate opened (at least for me).
Podcasts – How It’s Going
You’re probably thinking, “Is this like one of the food posts where the blogger talks about their entire life story when all I really want is the recipe?”
Answer: a little, but you made it to the good stuff! There is a huge variety of podcast genres these days, so you can literally chase your bliss. Here are my recommendations:
Ghost stories and the paranormal are a popular topic in the land of podcasts. And for good reason. Most of us LOVE a good spooky story based on others’ experiences. Even as a scientist, I can completely get on board with those stories that are just plain strange and unexplainable.
Hosted by the fabulous storyteller, Glynn Washington, Spooked was originally an annual Halloween episode produced by Snap Judgement (another of my favorites – it’s storytelling with a beat). It was such a fan favorite, they turned it into a whole podcast. There are currently five seasons available, but, fair warning, you may get a little creeped out so maybe don’t listen right before bed. Actually, I don’t know your life so you go ahead and do you.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed staying up to date on current world events ever since my multi-hour a day NPR sessions. But the last year or so has really tested my ability to keep up because there is just SO much going on.
That’s why I am a regular listener of Today, Explained. Each weekday, they break down an important topic in current events – sometimes it’s the day’s headline, sometimes it’s something that would otherwise have been overlooked. Produced by Vox Media, host Sean Rameswaram interviews experts in a funny, self-aware, pop-culture savvy, and creative way, all within about 30 minutes per episode.
When the podcast Movie Date, hosted by movie critics Rafer Guzman and Kristen Meinzer, wrapped in 2013, I was dev-as-tat-ed. I would literally base my decision on whether or not to see a newly released film based on their recommendations. Also, their banter was wonderful. They balanced each other out perfectly, creating genuine movie recommendation magic.
So imagine my utter ELATION when I found out they started a new podcast called Movie Therapy. Basically, people write in and describe their life situation – divorce, pandemic, babies, death, you name it. Then, Kristen and Rafer offer up movie or television/streaming recommendations to “help” that person dealing with the problem. Each host offers a very different opinion, but both are usually pretty spot on. There’s also a very helpful segment about “What Should I Watch Next”. For example, someone recently wrote in asking for recommendations after loving all of the Bridgerton episodes on Netflix (a common “problem” these days, from what I hear).
Kristen also co-hosts another podcast called By the Book, where she and Jolenta Greenberg choose a different self-help book to live by – following every rule, down to the letter – to find out which ones might actually be life-changing. Also, their theme song is super catchy.
Now, there’s no shortage of true crime podcasts out there (OMG, there are literally soooo many). But this one is, hands-down, my favorite (so much so that I definitely joined their fans’ Facebook group and actively participate on the regular).
It might seem strange to mix comedy and serial killers, and yet, UK comedians Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean are somehow experts at it on All Killa No Filla. The main topic is dark, but the banter is just so funny.
The Dream is another one of those podcasts that seemed to capture everyone’s attention when it hit the scene. It’s part investigative journalism and part personal storytelling. Season 1 explores the world of MLM (multilevel marketing – think Amway, Avon, Herbalife, Beautycounter, etc.) and how it can take advantage of vulnerable populations of people doing the selling. Season 2 looks at the wellness industry and how there are often promises made about healing and health that are hard to deliver (let alone prove).
You’re probably thinking, “Katie, if you like podcasts so much, why do you make your own?”
To which I would reply, “OMG, I totally did!”
Yes, this is a shameless plug for the podcast that Portland Mom Collective’s owner, Lee Ann Moyer, and I host called Raising Cascadia. It’s a podcast for parents raising kids in the Pacific Northwest, although many of our topics reach well beyond the beautiful PNW. Lee and I interview actual experts and try not to take ourselves too seriously when the ridiculous parts of parenting spring up (a recurring theme: awkward is our brand).
Recent episodes feature local mom and author Arianna Bradford, Beaverton City Counselor Nadia Hassan, Mary Rose NW Boutique owner and eating disorders advocate Julie Allen, and more! To be fair, Raising Cascadia is one of my favorite podcasts, mainly because I think most of my jokes are funny and I put a lot of love into the editing.
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, because that blog post would take days to read. But it’s a start. Now, I want to hear from you! Leave me a comment letting me know your favorite podcasts. Or, if you’re still new to the podcasting scene, what are you looking for in a podcast? I’m always up to make another recommendation.