I've always loved podcasts, but it wasn't until writing this post that I realized just how much I love podcasts—and what an impact they have on my daily life. They get me out the door in the morning, are the soundtrack to boring chores, tasks, and long runs, and make even L.A. traffic something to look forward to. Life hack: Instead of stewing because your three-mile drive home is 45 minutes-long, take the extra time as a gift to learn about cosmos, tax reform, or how to build a company. Because I listen to so many, it was difficult to select just ten (my boyfriend referred to this post as my "Sophie's Choice post"), but I chose the following based on the fact that I've listened to every episode (with two exceptions, noted in the descriptions) and never miss an upcoming episode! Read on for my top 10 favorite podcasts:
I listen to this New York Times show, well, daily and it's my primary, most consistent news source. Each episode begins with a deep dive into one topic (whether the #MeToo movement or DACA), followed by a short list of "what you need to know for that day." I love that it's roughly 20 minutes long, which is exactly the length of my drive to the gym and is something I look forward to each morning. Michael Barbaro is truly a gifted interviewer—not only does he ask every question I have myself, but he's also incredibly likeable, which is important when you're listening to someone's voice before the sun comes up!
Favorite Episode: Since The Daily reports on current events, it's best to start with the most recent episode, but one that stands out as worth listening to is the episode where Michael interviews a coal miner, and is moved to tears on air from his story.
I can't say enough good things about Pod Save America, a liberal political podcast hosted by former Barack Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor and Jon Lovett (and Daniel Pfeiffer with Jon Favreau on Thursdays). The hosts are so smart, funny, and quick-witted as they don't exactly make light of very stable geniuses, but do provide something to laugh about when it feels like nothing could possibly funny (their "Okay Stop" segment during live shows is a perfect example of this). Their interviews never disappoint, but my favorite parts are always the commentary at the start of the show. (P.S, Don't skip the ads—they're just as funny as the actually segments. It's a better way to... listen to podcasts.)
Favorite Episode(s): Again, since they cover current events, it's best to listen to new episodes each Monday and Thursday, but two that stand out are from when they interviewed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Just hearing "Wait, wait you're listening to Radiolab," in the intro never ceases to immediately brighten my day, because I know that whatever follows will be a fascinating report on science. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich (not to mention regulars like the late, great Oliver Sacks) feel like old friends as they delve into everything from driverless cars to instantly-freezing lakes with genuine wonder and curiosity.
Favorite Episode(s): Breaking News (this should be required listening for everyone who consumes content, so... everyone), The Ceremony, Colors, Numbers, Guts, Nukes, Tell-Tale Hearts (but I may be biased here since I saw it live as part of Radio Love Fest!). Honestly, you can't go wrong—they're all fantastic.
I reserve this podcast for whenever I've had a bad or just blah day because it always brings be back into a good mood—it's like a TV show I've watched a million times, but can still re-watch when I need a lift. In it, host Guy Raz gathers portions of TED Talks into the show's themes, from the importance of play to the power of design, with additional interviews with the original TED Talkers.
As is the case for many people, TAL was the first podcast I ever listened to and holds a special place in my heart. It's responsible for getting me through my first internship, where I stuffed envelopes for 40 hours a week (but was happy to because it meant binge-listening to Ira Glass), offering me a new perspective on countless topics, and making me laugh, hard (Dopplegangers and Fiasco! are two favorites). I've listened to every episode at least twice at this point, so I feel like Ira and I are on a first-name basis (Ira, how do you feel about this?). I admire how vulnerable it is (Ira's openly talked about his rocky relationship with his mom, his divorce, his extremely needy dog) and how brilliant it is, making even benign human experiences feel important.
I only very recently started listening to this podcast so I haven't yet listened to every episode, but I immediately took to it because it's so funny. In it, the host reads an erotic novel his dad recently self-published, aloud to two of his best friends—which is already the best idea for a podcast. It's rife with laugh-out-loud moments (Why does the protagonist, Belinda Bloomenthal, have the least-erotic name? And, why does the author reserve his most descriptive details for the weather, but use the verb "plunge" with disturbing frequency during erotic scenes?). It's incredibly raunchy and very much NSFW, but also, surprisingly, charming.
Favorite Episode: Start from Season 1, Episode 1! You'll be very confused and maybe a little disturbed if you don't.
In this podcast, Guy Raz (who also hosts TED Radio Hour!) interviews founders of some of the biggest companies, humanizing the businesses and revealing the fascinating stories behind them. Every episode is inspiring, and contains entertaining stories (starting a business is, apparently, rarely a smooth path) as well as invaluable career advice.
A few winters ago, I pretty much risked my life to cross the street in New York to tell Sarah Koenig how much I love her, which she immediately registered with shock—it didn't occur to me until later that she's probably not used to people knowing what she looks like, just what she sounds like. Anyways, if you haven't listened to Serial, you already know you should, if not for the experience, then to at least know what people are talking about when they say, "Jay totally did it." Unpopular opinion: The second season, which follows Bowe Bergdahl's alleged army defection is just as captivating as the first.
Favorite Episode(s): Start from the beginning and work your way through!
To be honest, I had to stop listening to My Favorite Murder because it completely freaked me out—there was one episode (the one with the ropes under couch cushions, if you listen) where I literally did not sleep for a week. That being said, similar to the hosts Karen and Georgia, I'm still fascinated by murder and psychopaths, but they have a knack for putting the worst through a quirky and even funny lense. I've tried to go back several times—I even saw them live at the Ace last year!—but just can't listen to true crime if I expect to sleep at all. To all those brave enough to listen: Stay sexy, don't get murdered.
Favorite Episode(s): So many, but please heed my warning—these stories are intense. Mary Vincent's story is horrifying, but incredible. And Albert Fish is pretty much the worst person in the world. But to get to know Karen and Georgia's personalities, I recommend starting from the beginning!
My favorite part of Still Processing, a NYTimes culture podcast hosted by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham, is the back-and-forth that always happens at the beginning when Wesley and Jenna share what's been on their mind that week and their "media diets." It can be as random as a crystal Jenna says has been bringing her positive energy, to a popular TV show, but it always inspires me to try or listen to at least one new thing. And their conversations about pop culture are some of my favorite—they're incredibly thoughtful, and make a perfect team. And guess what? Perfect timing because their latest season starts today!
Favorite Episode(s): Since each episode covers current events, I recommend starting from the beginning but I love the interview they did with Jordan Peele last year.
Honorable Mentions (I really tried to limit this list but they're all worth mentioning—here are some other favorites, with some notes): Terrible, Thanks for Asking, Modern Love, Off the Vine with Kaitlin Bristowe (for any Bachelor fan), S-Town (an example of really incredible storytelling), Lady Lovin', Ear Hustle, Lovett or Leave It, Crooked Conversations, Majority 54 with Jason Kander, Where Should We Begin with Esther Perel, Inside the Hive with Nick Bolton, Why Oh Why with Andrea Silenzi, KCRW's Press Play with Madeleine Brand, Dear Sugars (good for the soul, with Cherly Strayed), Levar Burton Reads (so relaxing, perfect for evening listening before bed), Song Exploder, NPR Pop Happy Hour, Stuff You Should Know Podcast, The Dollop, Professor Blastoff (I love anything with Tig Notaro), Closer Than They Appear, You Must Remember This (specifically the Manson family series). Homecoming (fiction!), More Perfect, Guys We F***d, The Worst Idea of All Time, Invisibilia, New York Magazine Sex Lives
P.S., Emily here! Had to jump in and share a few of my favorites—and the recs I've received over Insta Stories! Ones I've listened to and liked: Dirty John, My Favorite Murder, Serial (duh). Ones I'm going to try: Casefile, Up and Vanished, Thin Air