This month, NPR asked people to share stories about their favorite podcasts in an effort to encourage others to try listening to podcasts. The effort has been termed ‘trypod,’ which is admittedly clever, but which makes Google really mad when you try to search for more information. Google’s spell-check aside, I wanted to participate and share my top 10 favorite podcasts, the ones that have kept me company on my long drives between Kentucky and Missouri. Maybe you’re looking for a new podcast to try, or maybe you’ve never listened to a podcast and don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’re looking to find someone with weirder listening tastes than you to make you feel a little bit better about yourself.
Whatever the case, I give you the 10 podcasts that have
managed to capture my heart and my ears:
- Animation Addicts Podcast: I love all things animated, so it was great to find a podcast of other late-20s-year-olds discussing animated films and shows. But better than that, Chelsea, Morgan, and Mason really discuss these films, dissecting the story and the characters, examining the style of the music, arguing about whether the jokes are funny or annoying. It’s fun to recap some of my favorite films and to hear other opinions about them. I also really like that the three share information regarding the history, the context, and the innovations of each film, particularly when Mason, who’s in school for animation, talks about new computer technology, programs, or techniques that were used in making a particular film; even though I don’t always understand all the technicalities, I can appreciate the outcome. The Animation Addicts Podcast is the perfect show for any animation fan, and it’s guaranteed to brighten your day.
- The Black Tapes: The Black Tapes is set up as a mockumentary of sorts, one that explores the unsolved and unexplained cases of a famous paranormal researcher. Even though you know this story isn’t real, it’s easy to forget it at times, especially as the cases begin to resemble those horror films that begin with ‘Based on True Events.’ Alex is an interesting and determined lead, and her back and forth relationship with Dr. Strand both as friends and as professionals is fascinating to hear unfold. This podcast may be a bit scary for some listeners, as the cases do sometimes get a bit graphic, but it’s a great podcast to pull you in and keep
you listening until you run out of episodes.
- Harry Potter and the Sacred Text: As the name suggests, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text examines the Harry Potter books as if they were an actual sacred text a la the Bible. Each episode covers a single chapter of the series, beginning, of course, with the Sorcerer’s Stone, featuring quick recaps of the chapter from the two hosts and then proceeding into a discussion of the characters, events, and important truths found in that section. Eventually the hosts begin to look at each chapter through the lens of a particular theme—with a new theme each week—and it’s fascinating to see what can be revealed about the story when you look it from a new perspective. The chapters are also discussed further using one of a handful of sacred practices designed to deepen the understanding of the chapter. Don’t let the hint of religion push you away from this great podcast. They’re talking about Harry Potter and not any true religious text, but examining these books as if they were sacred will reveal thoughts and feelings that will make you realize all over again just how fantastic a series Harry Potter truly is.
- Invisibilia: One of the few NPR podcasts I truly like, Invisibilia examines the unseen
forces that impact us as individuals and as part of the human race. These are things like our natural tendency to categorize people and things, the way clothes influence our perceptions and feelings, and the power of societal norms. This is definitely a podcast that makes you think as the hosts present interviews, scientific studies, and personal anecdotes all designed to open your eyes to the invisible factors affecting your life.
- Lore: Lore is a podcast that explores tales and folklore from around the world with an eye for telling the true story. Each episode focuses on a different topic, whether that topic is a person (H.H. Holmes, Mary Toft), an event (Salem Witch Trials, the construction of the Hoosac Tunnel), or strange and explainable occurrences (curses, doppelgangers, supernatural creatures). The host presents whatever facts or information is available on the topic in a way that is both informative and intriguing, and I appreciate the obvious amount of research that goes into each episode. I also appreciate that, for the episodes where something explainable is discussed, the host gives evidence for multiple possible explanations, yet he always ends with one final bit of fact that really makes you consider your beliefs on things that exist at the edges of what’s truly known and what could be. Some episodes are spooky, some are horrible, others are simply sad, but they all tell fascinating stories that will leave you wanting to know more.
- Sayer: Sayer is a sci-fi/horror podcast with a psychopathic AI that someone decided should be in charge of everything. Set on Typhon, Earth’s new man-made moon, each episode is narrated by Sayer itself as it provides you with information and instructions to help you get along in your new home and job. Unfortunately, terrible and bizarre things happen quite often on Typhon, so you get placed into a tale of new chaos every episode. The storylines seem strange and disconnected until things really get going and you realize everything is in fact part of the same story. It’s likely you’ll end up re-listening to episodes in a new light after new information has been revealed. The story has a great ending if you manage to put all the pieces together, but I will admit to being confused from time to time, so here’s a free bit of information to help clear things up: there are no bees on Typhon.
- Serial: I will admit to only having listened to the first season, but that was enough to land Serial on my list of favorites. If you’ve watched Making a Murderer, this story is quite similar, with a young man being convicted of a murder he swears he didn’t commit and a line of evidence that fails to conclusively prove anything. The writers have done a fantastic job of laying out all the evidence and presenting both sides of the story. They make no claims as to the man’s innocence or guilt, but they show that there was enough reasonable doubt to make you wonder how the man ever got convicted. A lot of time and research has been put into making this podcast, and although it’s tough to listen to at times, you’ll want to binge all 12 episodes of season one.
- Stuff You Missed in History Class: Educational yet entertaining, Stuff You Missed in
History Class is a podcast that cover historical people, events, places, and artifacts that probably didn’t make it into your high school curriculum. There are a wide range of topics, and each episode covers something new, so you’re free to pick and choose what ones to listen to. And there are plenty of episodes to choose from, since this podcast has been running for a while. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it’s educational in a way that will make you look really smart come trivia night. A must-listen for any history buff or for anyone wanting to know a bit more about the past.
- Welcome to Night Vale: You’ve probably heard of this weird little podcast or at least seen it as you scrolled through the most popular podcasts on iTunes—this podcast has been high on the charts since it was first released. Welcome to Night Vale is a community radio show for Night Vale, a little desert town where some really strange stuff happens. No one’s allowed in the dog park except for the hooded figures, the librarians are more likely to eat you than they are to help you find a book, and you’re liable to be late for work because the Faceless Old Woman that Lives in Your Home filled all your shoes with scorpions. And these are just the things that happen on a normal day. Welcome to Night Vale may seem too weird or too ridiculous—and it is more than a bit of both—but it’s also extremely intricate, clever, heartwarming, and truly terrifying. It takes pages out of shows such as The Twilight Zone and Twin Peaks to create a world where things aren’t quite right, but where the people you meet are truly one-of-a-kind. But only because everyone had to kill their double. Wait, you let your double go? And she’s working at Big Rico’s? You’d better hope the City Council never finds out.
Produced by the BBC, Witness presents interviews from people with firsthand accounts of people, places, and events that changed the world. These interviews span decades and cover a wide variety of topics, and each gives a unique and personal voice to a time past. It’s educational, but still interesting, and once again, there are years of episodes to pick and choose what interests you.
Flash Forward: Every episode of Flash Forward begins with a quick trip to the future, where some change in society has altered how our world works. Some of these changes seem more realistic than others, yet each is truly a possible scenario, with some even probable in the near future if technology continues to progress as it has. Upon returning to the present, the host discusses the realities and consequences of that particular imagined future with experts on the topic, ranging from psychologists to scientists to science fiction writers. It’s a very logical game of “What If?” that will sometimes leave you looking forward to the future and other time will make you paranoid of how humanity will screw itself up next.
There you go. My top 10 podcasts plus one extra just because. The next time you need something to listen to, check out one of these podcasts or one of the other thousands of podcasts available now. Whether you’re looking for something that makes you think, something that makes you laugh, or something that makes you cry, there’s a podcast for it.
So try a podcast today. You won’t be disappointed. Happy listening.