I first discovered podcasts during the babyhood stage of parenting. As all parents can attest, this phase requires endless hours of rocking and feeding little ones. Luckily for me, this chapter happened to intersect with the release of Season One of the famous Serial podcast. I tuned-in and have been a podcast junkie ever since. Most of my podcast listening these days happens while commuting, working out, gardening, or of course tackling the bottomless pit of housework that comes with having a busy family. Podcasts are an amazing way to turn the doldrums of daily life entertaining or educational; often both. I am clearly not the only mom loving podcasts these days, as noted by the reoccurring “Ask” I see from friends, especially on social media, about what podcasts folks out there are loving these days. So, I thought I share my six favorite podcasts of the moment:
- The GOOP Podcast. I feel a little, well, Goopy, saying this, but this is my favorite overall podcast to date. Started by Gwyneth Paltrow (GP) as a subset of her lifestyle brand, the GOOP Podcast consist of occasional interviews by GP herself (often when the interviewee is a famous friend such as Oprah, Julia Roberts, or Ariana Huffington), but more often interviews are conducted by GOOP’s Chief Content Officer, Elise Loehnen. GP’s interviews are both candid and smart, but it is Loehnen who is the real star of the show. Her obsession with the overarching topic of wellness, as well as her thoughtful and inquisitive interviewing style leads to fascinating insights on topics from women’s health, relationships and sex, parenting, and much more. While the topics can be a bit “out there” for me, overall, I have gained so much knowledge and inspiration about issues relevant to my life as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, and friend. Some favorite episodes include “How to Create Memories that Matter” and “Manifesting the Life You Want”.
- Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. As mentioned in this recent article about stress and anxiety, if I’m having a day when a good laugh is in order, I turn to the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast. Truth be told, I have always loved Conan, but wasn’t sure I’d enjoy his podcast because part of what makes him so hilarious to me is his physical humor. Taking away the camera, however, you realize just how smart and witty he truly is. I have, no joke, been brought to tears of laughter by the show’s advertisements. If you are unfamiliar with podcasts, there are typically paid product endorsements, often read by the show’s hosts, which is why most podcasts are free to listeners. I’ve even recently deemed the show too dangerous for treadmill running as I’m certain I’ll end up on the floor of the gym. The pretense of the show is Conan sits down to interview his friends or those he’s “aspiring” to be friends with, which is often other famous comedians such as Stephen Colbert, Ben Stiller, and David Letterman. I often find his witty banter with assistant Sona Movesian and producer/moderator Matt Gourley just as funny as his interviews. Now on to Season Two (whoo-hoo!!), some of my favorite episodes from the show’s first season include Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michelle Obama, and Bill Hader.
- Broken: Jeffrey Epstein. For reasons which are probably obvious, I don’t like to have the news on when my young children are home. Thus, podcast are great way to get up to speed on things. The Daily, for instance, by The New York Times is, wait-for-it, a daily 20-minute podcast that reports on the biggest news story of the moment. If you want to do a deep dive into a headlining story, there are several podcasts devoting an entire series to one big story. Because I like a saga, these are some of my favorites. I’m currently tuning in to the newly released Broken: Jeffrey Epstein, from film director Adam McKay and a new studio, Three Uncanny Four Productions. Epstein, who ran with some of today’s most famous and infamous celebrities and politicians, was arrested for trafficking underage girls, then recently found dead in prison. The series will have you thinking a concoction of “you really can’t make this stuff up” to “the truth is stranger than fiction.” And while I’m only three episodes deep so far (because that’s all that’s out there at the time of writing this), it is proving to be captivating and of course horrific.
- Disgraceland. Ah, Disgraceland. It is not a podcast I’d say, recommend to my Grandmother, or certainly ever play when my kids are in earshot. But it is so bad (and I mean that in the sinful sort-of way) it’s very good. If you love music and true crime, then you have got to check it out. It is tales about musicians, as they often do, behaving very, very badly. It should be noted that the show’s writing is framed through the caveat of fictional entertainment, based on true stories. Even so, the things I’ve learned are mind blowing, often creating a twinge of discomfort as reconcile the feelings of love and adorations I have for the music and bands I love (i.e. “Led Zeppelin: Dark Power, Cocaine, Backstage Brawls and Heavy Metal Magick”) with the often-heinous behavior. The podcast is written, including the shows score and theme song, and hosted by the music-obsessed Jake Brennan, whose sultry voice poignantly guides listeners through these crazy tales. Some favorite episodes include “Kurt and Courtney Love 1: No Direction Home” and “Ike and Tina Turner: The Inventor and Queen of Rock ‘N’ Roll”.
- S-Town. While it’s been out for a while now, I had to include S-Town because it’s the most captivating podcast I’ve listened to thus far. From Serial and This American Life, S-Town is a story that unfolds when Brian Reed, a longtime This American Life producer, begins investigating a story after receiving a tip from a man named John B. McLemore about an unsolved murder in a small Alabama town. The insane twists and turns of this story become about so much more than a murder investigation, including small town politics, family feuds, suicide, friendship, and even hidden treasure. Be forewarned, the subject matter, not to mention the language in this show, is not for the faint of heart. I would be too hard-pressed to choose favorite episode because each one is truly as good as the next.
- Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Time to lighten things up a bit? Here we go… My son is seven, which means he spends most of his daytime hours away at school. Because of this, I try to find ways to bond with him in the evenings. And one of the best ways, of course to, bond with someone is to find a common interest (or a common enemy, luckily were not there yet). For the two of us, that is reading, and specifically these days, Harry Potter. I was a literature major in college, and part of why I enjoy this podcast is because it has reframed reading the series for me from thinking of it as merely children’s books. Now, like many of the amazing works of fictions I read in college, I evaluate the text more critically, picking up on reoccurring themes, character and author motivation, and plot lines. The podcast, hosted by friends Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, typically focuses on one chapter per week, exploring different themes and reflecting on how they can inspire and inform on our own lives. Full disclosure, I have only listened to four of six seasons as my son and I are currently only on the fourth books, but these episodes give me lots to reflect on and discuss with my kiddo. Stand out episodes so far include “Fear: The Letters From No One” (Book 1, Chapter 3) and, one of my favorite themes of the books, “Loyalty: The Second Task” (Book 4, Chapter 26).
That’s a wrap for my top six picks. I’ve found that to truly enjoy a podcast I need to connect with both the hosts and the subject matter, and this list of shows definitely do both. By the way, good audio and production quality tends to go a long way too I’ve noticed! Hope you enjoy some of my suggestions, and of course, we’d always love to hear yours. Still not sure how to find Podcasts, or even what Podcast is? You can visit https://www.thepodcasthost.com/listening/ for loads of information on different types of podcasts, how to listen, best podcasts apps, and much more. Happy listening!