My favorite podcasts right now (and episode recommendations)

When Apple released their podcast app a few years ago, I asked on Facebook for recommendations. (At that point, I was listening to the RELEVANT Podcast and Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me.) And…no one had any suggestions! Womp womp. Not long after that, I just started making my way through all the NPR podcasts. Eventually, bloggers I loved started launching their own shows and then, of course, Serial happened, and here we are.

The podcasts I’m really into tend to change quite a bit, but here’s a list of my favorites RIGHT NOW. I also included episode recommendations, because when a podcast has hundreds of episodes in it’s archives, it’s helpful to have a starting point. (Podcast titles link to the iTunes store, and episode recommendations link to the show notes or audio for that episode when possible.)

New and Notable: I started listening to this group of shows most recently, and right now, I try to catch every episode.

  1. Sorta Awesome: I know I’ve mentioned this show several times, but it’s my absolute favorite right now. The topics are personally relevant, the tone is conversational and honest, and the host, Megan Tietz, has a phenomenal radio voice. I could listen to her read the phone book. Episode Recommendation: All About Friendship (Ep. 14). It may not have made me get all choked up in the frozen section at Meijer.
  2. The Popcast: The Popcast is pure fun, which is just what I need on some days, you know? I’m astounded by the amount of pop culture trivia (and snark) Knox & Jamie have crammed into their brains, but mostly they make me laugh a lot.  Episode Recommendation: Episode 100: Looking Back & Looking Ahead (Ep. 100). I listened to this with my sister while she was visiting, and even though she had never heard the show before, she laughed a lot. I feel like that makes this a good recommendation.
  3. Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert: You are probably most familiar with Liz Gilbert as the author of Eat, Pray, Love. I enjoyed that book when I read it in college, but I have come to love Liz more through her TED talks and the other bits of inspiration she shares on-line. She is generous with her encouragement & compassion. I love the format: one week, talk to a person struggling with their work/art/creativity and offer encouragement as to how they might navigate those issues. On the following week, Gilbert interviews a celebrity “expert witness,” and they continue to discuss the issues and questions from the week before. Episode Recommendation: Cheryl Strayed on Moms: Pursue Your Passions Like a Mofo (Ep. 2). Honestly, though, with only 7 episodes thus far, I’d say you can just binge-listen to the whole show. (Note: there is a language warning at the beginning of each episode, but most actually haven’t had any cursing.)
  4. The Simple Show: Technically, this isn’t new, but Tsh Oxenreider (of The Art of Simple) has relaunched her podcast with a new name and look. I have consistently listened to this show for years. Tsh and her guests (often authors and bloggers) talk through their current projects and adventures, with an emphasis on how they approach intentional living. Episode recommendation: Since the relaunch, my favorite episode was with Amber Haines (Ep. 9), but I recommend digging into The Art of Simple Podcast archives and catching the eye-opening, inspiring episode with Jeremy & Jessica Courtney of Preemptive Love.
  5. Mystery Show: Enter the first podcast to unseat This American Life as the #1 podcast in iTunes in QUITE awhile. The premise of each episode often seems mundane, silly, or insignificant, but along the way, Starlee is able to have the most candid, vulnerable, and important conversations. That’s what makes the show great. It’s a reminder that life’s most significant truths are usually fleshed out in the small and ordinary moments. Episode recommendation: Start with Britney (Ep. 2) and then listen to Belt Buckle (Ep. 3).

The Usuals: These aren’t new, but I still listen to each of them regularly.

  1. Dear Sugar: This is a podcast from Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, the former authors of the Dear Sugar advice column. Note: You can often expect adult conversation and language in this one, and I don’t always agree with them. (I hope that disclaimer is mostly unnecessary.) But again–these are people who are generous with their encouragement, vulnerability, and compassion. Episode Recommendation: How Do I Survive the Critics? (Ep. 6) 
  2. Hope*Ologie: If you know me at all, you know I consume everything Emily Freeman and The Nester produce. I love the light and breezy conversational tone of this show. Episode Recommendation: The Day I Realized I Had a Job (Ep. 9)
  3. The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey: This podcast is like grabbing coffee or drinks with a good friend. The discussions range from the silly to the serious, and I love that mixture. Episode Recommendation: Most recently, I really enjoyed her interview with Jess Connolly (Ep. 47).
  4. Pop Culture Happy Hour: This is one I pick and choose from based on the episode topic, but when it’s good, it’s very good (and often funny). Episode Recommendation: Inside Out and Moms and Dads in Love
  5. The God-Centered Mom Podcast: I appreciate Heather’s podcast because she is honest about her own insecurities and shortcomings as a mom. Her interviews sound like genuine conversations; she’s not just waiting to ask the next question. Episode Recommendation: How to {Really} Parent with Grace (Ep. 55)

The Best of the Best: I think almost everyone agrees that This American Life and Radiolab (along with Serial) are the gold standard in podcasting. I also LOVE StoryCorps and The Writers’ Almanac. These are all podcasts where I go to learn something and broaden my worldview.

  1. This American Life. Episode Recommendation: I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. The first I’d recommend is “Three Miles,” which is very eye-opening and conveys SO well that the problems causing America’s educational inequality are complex and require complex solutions. The other one I would recommend comes with a disclaimer: it is graphic and difficult to listen to at some points, and it also contains adult language. BUT, if you want to think more about the challenges facing police officers, the biases they may or may not hold, and the conflicts between white police officers and the black citizens of their districts, I highly recommend “Cops See it Differently,” Part One and Part Two.
  2. Radiolab. Episode Recommendation: Juicervose. I think there’s a lot of discussion in America about what may or may not cause autism, but there is less discussion about the realities for families living with it. The stories in this episode have stuck with me.
  3. StoryCorps: StoryCorps releases a new episode every week, and they are all being archived in the Library of Congress over time. It’s too hard to choose just one; any or all of them are worth your time. All hail the power of storytelling!
  4. The Writers’ Almanac: This 5-minute show produces daily episodes. Garrison Keillor tells you what happened on this day in history, and then reads a poem. It is short, sweet, and a phenomenal way to start your day. We all need more poetry in our lives.

Anything good I’m missing out on??

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