The+best+podcasts+shine+a+light+on+important%2C+interesting%2C+and%2C+most+of+all%2C+human+stories.

images courtesy of Spotify

The best podcasts shine a light on important, interesting, and, most of all, human stories.

I’m All Ears

Podcasts offer everything from good journalism to touching stories.

March 10, 2021

In 2020, the number of podcasts on Spotify nearly tripled, rising to a record 2.2 million shows. With such growth, it seems that podcasts are finally starting to be recognized for all the information, humor, and storytelling they bring to listeners’ ears.

I’ve filled my days with various podcasts for the past few years, so it’s refreshing to see everyone else starting to realize the beauty of a good episode. An audio story has the ability to move us, force us to think, and make us feel less isolated– especially right now.

As a self-diagnosed podcast addict, here are a few of my favorite shows that offer everything from breaking news to heartwarming anecdotes to ghost stories.

The Daily

I start almost every single one of my mornings with The Daily, a news podcast produced by the New York Times. Every weekday, journalist Michael Barbaro breaks down a big news story by interviewing experts or people in the field.

This podcast is a great way to learn more about the world and escape from the vicious cycle of jumping to conclusions when reading headlines. Barbaro asks important questions that allow listeners to thoroughly understand the topic, and the show highlights the different perspectives that really make up America.

I especially appreciate how the various journalists focus on the implications of the news on real people. 

When I listen, I feel curious, connected, and, above all else, like I’m doing my part in staying informed.

 

 

Episodes to start off with: 

“The Assault on the Capitol”

“How Close Is the Pandemic’s End?”

Heavyweight

Heavyweight is by far one of my favorite podcasts of all time, and I recommend it to literally anyone who will listen. Each episode features Jonathan Goldstein helping his guests revisit a pivotal time, moment, or person in their lives to find some kind closure.

A reformed drug addict who wants to find a family heirloom he stole in order to repair his relationship with his father. A juror who sentenced a man to death and has regretted it ever since. A girl who has always wondered why her sorority randomly exiled her in college. A guy who wants to meet the man that hit him with a car and left him crippled.

The stories are heart-wrenching, hilarious, and so incredibly human. I started listening when the pandemic first hit last year, and it has been the perfect cure for feelings of isolation. In fact, my 2020 Spotify Wrapped informed me that I listened to 15 episodes in one day last spring. I definitely had a problem, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

The people and their vulnerability leave me in tears, all while Goldstein’s witty narration makes me laugh.

Not to mention, the show itself is also an audio masterpiece, as there are dozens of small auditory details in every episode that truly make the stories feel special.

Episodes to start off with:

“#14 Isabel”

“#27 Scott”

The Anthropocene Reviewed

You probably know John Green for his young adult books, including The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, but I’d argue that his podcast is just as entertaining, profound, and attention worthy. Every episode features one or two short reviews that Green writes about what he calls a “facet of the human-centered planet,” which include the notes app, sunsets, academic decathlons, sycamore trees, the 1950 movie Harvey, and so much more.

The Anthropocene Reviewed stands out to me mostly because of what Green does with these seemingly random topics. He intertwines history and facts with personal anecdotes, and he somehow always draws absolutely beautiful conclusions, usually relating to how to continue being human in a world that can often feel so bleak.

Plus, as an author, Green has an incredible way with words, and I often end up being in complete awe of his ideas and exactly how he phrases them.

Episodes to start off with:

“Air Conditioning and Sycamore Trees”

“Auld Lang Syne”

 

This American Life

Although This American Life is an hour-long radio show produced by the Chicago Public Media, millions of listeners tune into the show in the form of a weekly podcast. It’s arguably the show that made podcasts cool again. Hosted by Ira Glass, each episode features stories of people from all walks of life, tied together by a common theme. 

It does a fantastic job of getting to the heart of each and every narrative, so much so that you may feel oddly attached to these people you’ve only heard speak for a few minutes. From time to time, I still think about the actress who was kidnapped by the North Korean government or the Mexican immigrants working on a farm in rural New York or the grandfather who changed his political position after a lifetime of voting for one party.

Their seemingly wild and ecstatic tales are surprisingly relatable, and the connections to current events are always interesting.

 

Episodes to start off with:

“Making the Cut”

“Chip in My Brain”

Lore

Lore is the perfect combination of history, storytelling, and the paranormal. Every episode, Aaron Mahnke tackles some kind of folk story or legend and investigates its origins. He’s discussed mythical creatures, ghosts, natural disasters, murderers, and just about any other anomaly you could think of. 

I’m consistently impressed by the work and research that goes into every episode, and I always learn something new. Before Lore, I was never very interested in history, but the show is a unique intersection of fact, fiction, and the supernatural that I absolutely adore. It’s genuinely fun to listen to, and it’s never afraid to explore alternative sides of the story.

The show pays homage to the all natural emotions that drive most of the stories forward. The twists at the end of every episode end up giving me goosebumps or leaving a smile on my face; there is something so satisfying, and sometimes chilling, about the way it all connects.

 

Episodes to start off with:

“In the Woods”

“Rope and Railing”

Girlboss Radio

Despite its admittedly overdone title, Girlboss Radio is my go-to listen when I need a confidence boost. The show features a variety of accomplished women, with careers ranging from business executives to newspaper editors to entertainers, who discuss their biggest challenges and how they stay motivated.

This podcast is worth listening to simply because it serves as a reminder that most people, no matter how powerful they seem, suffer from the same setbacks and insecurities that we all do. For some reason, hearing the editor-in-chief of a successful magazine admit that she experiences imposter syndrome is a little empowering. 

Two days ago, the show announced that it would have a new host. While I’m not sure how the new dynamic might play out, I’m hopeful that the message will stay the same. Overall, it’s a celebration of female friendships, collaboration, and hard work, which makes it a fun, encouraging listen.

Episodes to start off with:

“Amy Pascal, Film Producer and Business Executive”

“Michelle Lee, Editor in Chief of Allure”

Sway

Sway, another podcast produced by the New York Times, consists of Kara Swisher asking influential figures tough questions, and it is a champion for accountability. Swisher pulls no punches, and it is so satisfying.

The podcast relies heavily on current events, meaning that every guest on the show has something important and relevant to add to the conversation. Some of the most interesting episodes have included Nobel Prize winner Dr. Jennifer Doudna, Parler CEO John Matze, comedian Sarah Cooper, and billionaire Mark Cuban.

The show has given me more perspective on everything from big tech companies’ roles in politics to biological advancements to the stock market. It’s safe to say that much of Sway’s value comes from its wide variety of topics, honest journalism, and excellent host. 

 

Episodes to start off with: 

“Should You Choose Your Baby’s Eye Color?”

“If You Were on Parler, You Saw the Mob Coming”

About the Writer
Photo of Kristen Kinzler
Kristen Kinzler, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Kristen Kinzler is a senior at NASH who loves expressing her opinions and drinking excessive amounts of coffee and tea. When she's not writing or rewatching Supernatural for the fourteenth time, she can probably be found playing lacrosse, reading, or watching hockey. She plans to attend Bowdoin College next fall.

1 Comment

One Response to “I’m All Ears”

  1. Mrs Morris on March 10th, 2021 5:01 pm

    Fantastic list! May I recommend Radio Lab, On the Media, Throughline, Floodlines, Passenger List, and Dolly Parton’s America?

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