My journey to the center of the podcast earth began when my then-boyfriend, now-husband Luke introduced me to "All Songs Considered" on a car ride. I thought it was fun and interesting, but since I have the listening attention span of a fruit fly, I didn't pursue the show myself.
But that all changed when I moved to New York and suddenly had these long subway commutes to work. And since I can't read unless I'm sitting down and there's nothing chaotic happening around me, reading was obviously out of the question. So I turned to podcasts to fill the media void in my life, expecting to find a slew of boring old white men talking about politics. Thankfully, that wasn't (usually) the case.
At first, I floundered around in iTunes, picking shows at random and hoping for the best, but I've since developed somewhat of a "podcast palate." To keep my friends from doing the same thing I did, I've compiled my favourite shows for you to delve into. Happy listening:
1. This American Life. The podcast that started it all. A product of WBEZ Chicago, the show zeroes in on Americans with interesting lives and stories. It sounds boring, but I promise that it's not. Not to mention that host Ira Glass is arguably the most influential radio figure today, paving the way for casual, conversational radio and not the sing-song-y cadence of TV anchors. Thanks, Ira.
2. Serial. There was no way I wasn't going to put "Serial" on the list. You know the drill: a Muslim teenager named Adnan Syed was convicted of killing his girlfriend in 1999. He's now in jail, but NPR journalist Sarah Koenig thinks something's fishy and steps in to investigate. And although the first season is over, no radio program has drawn in more listeners since "This American Life."
4. Invisibilia. Another successful NPR juggernaut, "Invisibilia" focuses on the unseen forces that have profound effects on our lives. Previous topics covered have been a blind man who uses echolocation to get around, a woman who literally feels other people's pain and an individual who doesn't have the ability to fear. It's a fascinating study on human behaviour, and the hosts, Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, are really fun to listen to.
5. Pop Culture Happy Hour. This fluffy show features staffers from various departments, like Steven Thompson from NPR Music, Glen Weldon from NPR Books and host Linda Holmes from NPR's culture blog, "Monkey See." They talk about the latest in TV, awards shows, books and even social media. It never fails to put a smile on my face.
6. All Songs Considered. My first podcast love, "All Songs Considered" is a cool, informative show about the latest music releases. Co-hosts Robin Hilton and Bob Boilen take turns playing each other songs and then briefly discuss them. Although not all of the music they feature is to my liking, the podcast exposes me to genres that I wouldn't think of listening to on my own. Not to mention that show's Tiny Desk Concerts, which feature prominent musicians playing in the NPR Music office, are all kinds of fun.
7. On the Media. Hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield are the last word in radio journalism. The duo truly embody their role as watchdog journalists, shedding light on inappropriate behavior in the press, government and private sectors. "On the Media" has won Edward R. Murrow Awards, the National Press Club's Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism and a Peabody Award. I always feel super smart and journalistic after I listen to it, and if that's not an accomplishment, I don't know what is.
8. Slate's Culture Gabfest. I understand that the Slate-hate is pretty real, but their podcast game is so on-point. Not only does their Editor-in-Chief, Julia Turner, participate in the "Culture Gabfest" every week, but I love their witty banter and topical conversations. It can be a bit pretentious at times, but I can usually overlook it.
9. The Bitch Bible. I just discovered this podcast the other day, and I'm already obsessed. Although the show just released its third episode, host Jackie Schimmel has long had a website by the same title, where she discusses hard-hitting issues like "Vanderpump Rules" and cocktail recipes. However, the show is obviously not for everyone: if you don't want to repeatedly hear the word b*tch or listen to long discussions about whether or not Jackie is basic, then look elsewhere for your comedic fix. But if you enjoy lengthy talks on the Kardashians, then speak friend and enter. It's uncensored, offensive and (real talk) hilarious.
10. She Does. Focusing on women who work in media, "She Does" has interviewed ladies like Debra Granik (director of "Winter's Bone"), Anna Sale (creator of podcast "Death, Sex & Money") and Katja Blichfeld (co-creator of the webseries "High Maintenence"). Although their twee logo and website are all fun and games, this show isn't cutesy or girly — it's feminism at its best.
11. Call Your Girlfriend. This celebration of female friendship in podcast form is seriously addicting. Hosts Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow (who was included in the Forbes' "30 Under 30" list) are best buds who live in separate cities, so we get to listen to the duo tell each other about their weeks, talk about gender and race issues and discuss the latest Beyoncé news. My favorite part? The segment, "This week in menstruation." Yeah, they go there. And their theme song is obviously Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend," so that's a reason to listen to the show in and of itself.
Passing fancies and/or budding interests:
1. Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin. Do I want to listen to Alec talk for an hour? Not really, but his guests are usually pretty interesting. Like, that Ira Glass episode, tho.
2. The Dead Author's Podcast. Host H.G. Wells (Paul F. Tompkins) interviews other dead authors (portrayed by fellow comedians) about their life work. I was pretty into this podcast for a while but eventually fell out of it. However, if you love literature and the Upright Citizens Brigade, you might enjoy this show.
3. The New Yorker: Out Loud. It's pretty simple: when I want to feel intellectual, I listen to this. When I want to laugh, I do not listen to this.
4. RELEVANT Podcast. I love that RELEVANT has its own show, but these episodes are just so freaking long. 90 minutes is a lengthy amount of time to listen to anyone talk, no matter how interesting the content.
5. NPR: Fresh Air. I occasionally enjoy a little "Fresh Air" in my life, but some of their topics are a bit boring/important for my taste.
6. 99% Invisible. Host Roman Mars discusses design, journalism, architecture and more on this highly popular podcast from PRX.
7. Snap Judgment. I haven't listened to this enough to formalize an opinion on it, but "Snap Judgment" is an incredibly well-made show from NPR that tells people's personal stories in a cinematic manner. Hosted by Glynn Washington, this podcast always keeps me on the edge of my seat.
8. What I Wore When. This podcast from the editor's of Glamour consists of 10-minute episodes, in which they interview women about what they wore to important events in their lives. It's too short to be anything of real substance, but I applaud a major fashion publication on stepping up into the podcast game! (Hint hint, Vogue).
9. Unbuttoned with Yahoo! Style. This show has only had one episode so far, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not that I have any interest whatsoever in Yahoo! Style, but Editor-in-Chief Joe Zee manages to put together a compelling show about fashion, style and celebrity news. Plus, at the end of each episode, he promises that they will play Cards Against [Fashion] Humanity, which proved to be amusing in the pilot.
10. Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Again, this show just released its pilot episode, but I'm optimistic. And rightly so, since it's a podcast about happiness — but not in a cheesy, self-help kind of way. It's funny, witty and current.