s of today, I have listened to 1,034 hours and 1 minute of podcasts. I know because my Stitcher podcast app told me so when I hopped on this morning to listen to the latest interview Anne Lamott gave regarding her upcoming book Hallelujah Anyway.
Seeing as I spend a LOT of time alone most days – painting, doing mail art, cleaning, cooking, working out, walking Graham – podcasts are a constant companion for me.
(I pressed and framed this leaf for my brother as a gift last Christmas. He’s also a huge podcast fan so he obviously took it as a huge compliment because he knows that podcasts are pretty darn great. ;)
The other day, Bobby and I were at a fundraiser-type cocktail party and dinner. I found myself talking with this wonderful woman and I ended up dropping in references to podcasts no fewer than 3 times. That’s a lot for a casual chit chat. I literally can’t help myself.
Here are my 11 top favorites, in no particular order, with some honorable mentions at the end.
*S-Town. This new podcast is getting so much hype and for good reason. It’s a fascinating story about an eccentric man from a small town in Alabama who absolutely hates where he lives. It was produced by the same team behind Serial (which I couldn’t listen to because it struck a wrong chord with me and my anxiety) and This American Life (which I listen to religiously, along with every other American). Bobby and I binge-listened to this in two days. We literally laid in bed finishing it last night and just looked at each other and said, “WHOA” after hearing the final sentence of the final episode. The entire thing is gripping with brilliant storytelling. It has given me so much to think about.
*Happier with Gretchen Rubin. A podcast with discussions about tools and techniques for making your life a little happier. I love the rapport between Gretchen (the famed author of The Happiness Project, among other bestsellers) and her sister Elizabeth Craft. I’m honestly tickled every time I listen and have picked up some great advice. (One of my favorite episodes: Podcast 56: Schedule a Time to Worry.)
*Building a Story Brand with Donald Miller. The entrepreneur in me gets so much out of the podcast. The interviews tend to be relatively short and sweet with lots of gems for building a successful small business. The host, Donald Miller, has this really friendly presence that makes you feel like you just joined him for a cup of coffee. (A favorite episode of mine: Episode 8: Secrets of Insanely Good Customer Service.)
*Reply All. I’m completely enamored with the two hosts of this podcast. One of them, PJ Vogt, has a laugh that is the best I’ve ever heard. (I’m not alone on this, either – there is a Reddit thread titled, “PJ Vogt’s laugh is my favorite laugh.”) If that isn’t enticing enough to make you listen though, you should definitely listen for the utterly fascinating stories they do about weird and wacky things on the internet. Their reporting is so dang good and fresh and fun. (Hard to pick a favorite episode, but if I were absolutely forced to do so it would be: #56: Zardulu.)
*Missing Richard Simmons. Another new podcast that is totally fascinating and displays brilliant storytelling about the complete disappearance of Richard Simmons from the public eye. I wasn’t aware of the drama surrounding Richard’s exodus until I started listening, which shows how out of the loop I am when it comes to celebrities. After listening to the first episode, though, I immediately texted my brother and sister and was like, “You HAVE to listen to this.” There is a good amount of controversy about this podcast and whether it’s voyeuristic/exploitive. I think we’ll continue to wrestle with those questions about the ethics of podcasts and storytelling the longer this medium is around. (Favorite episode: the entire thing.)
*Side Hustle School. Yet another newcomer to the podcast party. Side Hustle school has daily episodes that are bite-sized, highlighting stories of entrepreneurs who have developed successful side hustles. It makes me want to go out there and develop multiple streams of income. Bobby and I love listening to these episodes together and are constantly joking around about potential side hustles we could start. One of these days, we’ll come up with something that’s actually legit. (A delightful and intriguing episode: Episode 2: British Man Earns $700/Month Writing Fish Tank Reviews.)
*StartUp. Another business podcast! (Can you tell I love this genre?!) StartUp has multiple seasons out and they each focus on the realities of trying to get a business up and running. Start fresh from Season One. You won’t regret it. (The latest season about ousted American Apparel CEO Dov Charney was fascinating; it was the podcast equivalent of a page turner – but really, every season they’ve put out is incredible.)
*Heavyweight. Oh GOODNESS do I love this show. The host, Jonathan Goldstein, has done stories on This American Life so you know he’s a winner. I’ve heard this podcast described as being a sort of time machine with Goldstein as a therapist who helps people go back to certain moments of their lives and somehow change what was and what is. I realize this description might make you feel like you just imbibed some foreign substance. It’s just SO HARD to describe how unique and great this show is without you giving it a listen firsthand. (It’s near-impossible for me to choose just one favorite episode so you get two this time: Episode 2 – Gregor and Episode 4 – Tony.)
*Dear Sugar. I know, I know, Cheryl Strayed has practically become a household name at this point. Her book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar, is a favorite of mine and I think her ability to empathize and give solid advice is off the charts. In this podcast, she joins her good friend and fellow author Steve Almond to deliver advice and “radical empathy for the lost, lonely, and heartsick.” I don’t always agree with the advice but I’m consistently impressed with Cheryl and Steve’s ability to talk through sticky, tough questions week after week and offer their best advice. (Favorite episode: My Best Friend’s Wedding. I have referenced this particular episode an abundance of times in various conversations. It gets at the heart of friendship, love, disagreeing with a friend’s decisions, how we all can fall into that category of “know it all” and wanting to control other people’s choices because we OBVIOUSLY know best…it’s just great.)
*On Being with Krista Tippett. Interviews with thoughtful, influential, thinkers about spirituality and the things that matter most. Krista Tippett has a voice like honey and makes my soul feel like it’s found a place to land. She’s a master interviewer. This podcast fills me up spiritually and intellectually. It has depth and soul. (Favorite episode: Alain de Botton – The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships. I’m making a list of podcast episodes I want to revisit periodically because they made my heart jump up and down in one way or another. This interview with Alain de Botton is definitely on that list. Read it if you’re in a relationship, want to be in one, are married, thinking about being married, are single and counsel/listen to friends who are in relationships…basically if you’re a human. It’s so good.)
*Revisionist History. Malcolm Gladwell is a genius at delving deep into concepts and finding surprising takeaways. His books have been endlessly popular and he definitely did not disappoint with his venture into podcast land. With each episode, it’s as if Gladwell does a mic drop at the end. Episodes 4, 5, and 6 about the state of education and inequalities within our system hit me right in the gut. It’s truly fearless journalism. He cares so deeply about the truth that he’s not willing to sugarcoat or be diplomatic for the sake of not ruffling feathers – which is what so many talk-radio pundits claim to do but, in my humble opinion, do poorly at as they sprinkle in tons of unsubstantiated claims. Gladwell’s conclusions are well-researched, insanely intelligent, and articulated in a thoughtful way that puts him in an entirely different solar system from those talking heads. He’s brilliant and brave and insightful. I can’t wait for whatever he releases next.
*Any podcast where Elizabeth Gilbert is interviewed. I love her views on life, spirituality, curiosity, art. She’s just a beautiful human being with a twinkle in her eye and a wicked sense of humor. Sure, she repeats some of the same things on these podcasts but I love listening to her again and again. I badly want to have a spirit like hers. Here are a few of my favorite podcast interviews with her: You Made it Weird: Episode 283, On Being – Choosing Curiosity Over Fear, School of Greatness: Episode 341, and The RobCast: Episode 21.
*The Liturgists episode on The Enneagram (Episode 37). A good friend recommended this introduction to the Enneagram and I was hooked after the first few minutes. The Enneagram is a fascinating and ancient personality type system. I’d learned about it in bits and pieces before listening to this episode but this introduction grabbed me in a whole new way. I’m hooked – it is oh so illuminating. Plus, this podcast is really well done in general and has a polished production quality that clearly takes hours and hours of work.
*The Tim Ferriss Show. I don’t religiously listen to Tim’s podcast, but I’m usually glad when I do. He’s willing to go into exquisite depth with his guests – sometimes I love that, sometimes it’s a bit too in depth for my taste, depending on who the guest is and how interested I am in their expertise. Sometimes episodes are truly mind blowing though and I think about them for weeks afterward. An example of this would be Episode 166: How Creatives Should Negotiate and Episode 170 with Shay Carl. So many gems in there!
*The James Altucher Show. James is SUCH a character. He one of the most honest interviewers I’ve ever listened to – he’s willing to ask uncomfortable questions and isn’t bogged down by normal social conventions. He’s honest in a way that’s shocking and endearing. It’s really refreshing to listen to him. Some conversations are more fun for me than others – I especially loved Episode 217 with Tony Robbins. If you’re in any type of funk, listen to it IMMEDIATELY.