My Favorite Pods

I like working out. I like folding laundry. I like chauffeuring my kids around in what used to feel like endless circles to sporting events and evening activities. Why is this you ask? I will tell you why. One word (not two) —podcasts. I LOVE podcasts, and I so look forward to being able to listen to them during these moments.

I love the format of this relatively new medium. I love the in depth information provided to me in the intimate and very personal podcast space. I feel more informed after listening to many podcasts. I feel smarter, better (and sometimes worse) about myself, about other people and about the world at large. I think I would have been a fan of the old radio shows back in the 1940s and 1950s, which were perhaps the pre-cursors to podcasts.

I find myself telling others about what I’ve learned, heard, laughed at or was inspired/entertained by on a podcast. I am sure I have annoyed people with my endless rants on new information in my head. Just ask my husband and a few close friends. And then there are others — like my dad, other close friends and random people I talk to in Starbucks who have asked me for podcast suggestions.

So, just in time for the last week when we can begin our emails by typing “Happy New Year” here are my recommendations for some awesome podcasts. This list is not based on any kind of scientific rankings, ratings or anything like that. It’s just some stuff that one girl (me) enjoys listening to and thought other people (you) might like to take a look at (or actually a listen.)

And heads up to the technically impaired readers (dad) just look for the purple icon on your phone with an image of a white radio microphone and click on it. Then search for the podcasts by name and subscribe and start listening. They are all free as in they will cost you nothing. I am not getting paid by any of these awesome podcasters to tell you about them. I am just really into the podcast space (I know that’s a thing) and I hope to one day have my own podcast. More to come on that — soon maybe?!

Interview Pods

Fresh Air: NPR fans and even non-NPR fans that don’t love the soft talking NPR monotone voices of public radio hosts will love the Fresh Air pod. It showcases rock star NPR host Terry Gross interviewing a huge range of people. She gets everyone on her show – famous people, not famous people, kind of famous people and always super interesting people. Some of my most recent favorites have included actor Paton Oswalt on the sudden death of his wife and finding love after losing her. Terry gets him to talk like only she can. I was also really intrigued by Terry’s interview with journalists Jane Mayer and Rebecca Traister on sexual harassment going back to Anita Hill and the Clarence Thomas hearings and how that relates to the current me too movement. And I loved Terry’s interview with Jimmy Fallon on his new children’s book, Everything is Mama. I’m a sucker for children’s books and children’s book authors. Added bonus: I’ve discovered a lot of binge worthy shows from Fresh Air including The Crown, Transparent and Togetherness.

Katie Couric: I love listening to my favorite girl crush and former Today Show host/breakfast buddy Katie Couric and her podcast partner (love that title) Brian Goldsmith, interview other journalists, politicians, athletes, actors, writers, entrepreneurs and more. Katie puts her interviewees at ease as only she can, and Brian and Katie feed off of each other’s expertise and personalities to get it all out on the table. Some of my top picks so far have included cookbook author Ina Garten, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, comedian and television host Samantha Bee and presidential photographer Pete Souza. Katie and Brian make the interviews feel and sound like real authentic conversations. Katie’s laugh is infectious, and so is her spontaneous singing mid-interview. But beneath the singing and the laugh is a serious journalist who holds her guests accountable like when she questioned Morning Joe and Morning Mika on their reported questionable chumminess with Trump. Special shout out for the amusing rapport between Katie and Brian as they read their versatile ad copy and for their catchy pod theme music which always gets stuck in my head

Inspirational/Creative/Entrepreneurial Pods

Don’t Keep Your Day Job: This might just be me (although I don’t think so because this podcast is so highly rated and has a large and quickly growing following) but I am so inspired by singer songwriter Cathy Heller’s podcast, Don’t Keep Your Day Job. I stumbled upon this pod with its first episode almost exactly a year ago, and since that time Cathy has so inspired me to get to work and launch my new blog (check) and write my newest book (almost check.) Cathy features creative types of all kinds — bakers, florists, potters, writers, designers, other podcasters, well-known instgramers (that’s a thing) and a lot of successful business owners who started out with just one simple idea and then threw in a ton of hard work and passion to make that idea into something more. My faves so far include makeup goddess Bobbi Brown, author Emily Giffin and potter Brian Giniewski. I was so inspired by Brian and his amazing drippy pots that I wrote about him. I love Cathy’s pep talks and strategy sessions aimed at her listeners. Sometimes she gets a little too spiritual for me (and I am pretty spiritual) but that’s okay. She believes in what she is saying and doing, and she has helped so many people. Even if you don’t think you are a creative person or entrepreneurial type, listen to this pod. I promise you that it will inspire you to be do better in your job and in your life.

When to Jump; Again, this could be me especially since I was recently on this new awesome pod hosted by Mike Lewis, a seemingly regular guy who left his successful and stable career at Bain Capital to play professional squash. Side note and full disclosure: I played squash in high school and college, but I was never going to make it anywhere near the professional tour. Mike sounds very approachable on his pod, and so his guests open up to him and tell him their whole life stories including what inspires them and what makes them get out of bed each morning. I loved, loved, loved his interview with Manoush Zamorodi, who I just happened to go to high school with, and who hosts an amazing podcast of her own called Note to Self (check that out!) Mike and Manoush talked about technology and how it can positively and negatively affect our lives and how Manoush stumbled upon the connection to being bored and brilliant, the subject and title of her new awesome book. Check that out too! I thoroughly enjoyed Mike’s podcast with Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin, two hilarious and successful writers and You Tubers. Mike launched his pod with an inspiring episode, featuring Facebook COO and Lean In and Option B. author Sheryl Sandberg. Note: Sheryl is Mike’s cousin. I would love to be a fly on the wall at their family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Political Pods

Five Thirty Eight: I had to break up with Nate Silver in my head for a little while after he and everyone else was wrong about predicting the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. It should be noted that Nate was the least wrong of everyone else who was wrong. I don’t like to get too political in my writing, but full disclosure — I voted for the candidate whose name rhymes with Gillary Flinton. After she lost, and the guy who prides himself on being a “very stable genius” won, I needed something, someone to help me make sense of it all. Enter, once again Nate Silver and his Five Thirty Eight Politics Podcast team. They came back after the election with new creepy sounding pod theme music but the same awesome team. Politics reporter Clare Malone is not messing around. She knows her stuff, and she should as she has traveled all over the country to get the scoop from the ground up. I am also a huge fan of whiz kid Harry Enten with his thick and endearing New York accident and his long-suffering Buffalo Bills persona. I am not a Buffalo Bills fan, but I am a long suffering anything fan — especially this year as I watch my teenage son root with every fiber in his being as a long-suffering Philadelphia Eagles fan. Nate and his team have rightfully so taken themselves out of the prediction business, but they put all the issues out there for their listeners. Special shout of for their emergency podcasts, which seem to be happening more and more these days and also for their amazing and thorough coverage of the special Senatorial race in Alabama.

Pod Save America: Same deal for these guys. I had to break up with my pod boyfriends Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor and Dan Pfeiffer after the 2016 election, but then like any good lame desperate girlfriend, I went back to them looking for more. And guess what? I got it. These former Obama staffers and progressive podcasters are inspiring. They have made me feel hopey and changey when that was the last thing I wanted to feel. They are funny. They make boring ad copy sound funny (they made me try Blue Apron) and they have really great guests including just about every Senator and Congressperson I (and I hope you) would want to hear from. Their discussions and analyses on healthcare and the new tax bill (or as they call it — donor relief) are some of the best I’ve heard. Sometimes they can be a little too smirky, a little too agreeing with each other, but I don’t care. I am so glad I decided to get back together with them.

Storytelling Pods

Modern Love: My worlds collided in a really good way when my favorite New York Times column, which I religiously read every Sunday in print, even before I read the wedding announcements turned into a pod. This pod is hosted by the awesome Megna Chakrabarti from the NPR Boston station WBUR and features personal essays of “love, loss and redemption.” Each week a different actor/actress reads one of the column’s essays and the stories come to life through their voices, their inflections, background music and other cool sound effects. After the reading is over, Megna interviews the real writer of the essay, and we the listeners get to learn how they are doing now. Did they find real love after being heartbroken? How are they dealing with their grief? What was their loved ones reactions to having their personal story published for all of us to read? (I always wonder about that) and more. Megna also talks to the amazing Modern Love editor Daniel Jones. I love to hear Dan’s thought process for why he picks each essay he runs in the paper. What struck him? What intrigued him? It definitely pays to advertise too on this pod as I purchased dry shampoo from Living Proof after hearing about it on this pod, and I have bought it again. Great product. I must say that my favorite essay by far appeared on the podcast last spring when Debra Winger read Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s essay “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” Truly powerful and beautiful words made all that more powerful when read aloud on this pod. I’ve listened to this episode several times.

The Moth: I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. The stories told on the Moth podcast are all better than Cats. This podcast is all about storytelling. It features recordings of real live non-famous people telling their real stories live to audiences across the country. These storytellers suck you in, and before you know it, you have folded three loads of laundry, and your long commute is over. I cried out loud tears steaming down my face in my car stuck in horrible holiday traffic as I listened to a comedian tell her story about becoming a mother to a special needs child. Tears hit me again during my drive last summer to see my college girls in New York as I listened to another woman tell her story about her baby daughter undergoing brain surgery. It’s not all sad though. These same stories have elements of humor in them. They are all thought provoking, and you will find yourself rooting for the storytellers wanting to find out how their stories end but also not wanting them to stop talking. Special shout out to former Obama speechwriter David Litt’s hilarious story about his embarrassing encounter with the leader of the free world. Hint: it has something to do with remembering the words from the Golden Girls theme song. You’ll have to listen to find out the dets. 

Special Shout Out to These AMAZING Pods

The Daily: I listen to this quick, usually around 20 minute pod from the editors of The New York Times almost every morning first thing. It keeps me informed of yes, all the news that’s fit to print, and I feel on top of things — like I know what’s going on in the world and am an informed citizen for at least 24 hours. It’s hosted by the awesome, awesome New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro. He speaks to his guests and his listeners like you would expect a real newsroom person to speak. He gets right to the headlines, right to these facts (yes The New York Times reports real facts and real news) and then asks probing in depth questions so you understand more. He has regular guests from the paper including Matt Apuzza, Maggie Haberman and he often calls them as breaking news is coming into the newsroom as they answer the phone with “this is Apuzza” and you can hear the hustle and bustle of the newsroom. Sometimes they almost hang up on Barbaro to get to an unfolding story. I feel like taking out a notepad and pencil and writing down what I’m hearing. Some Daily pods feature the late breaking news that everyone is talking about and some go more in depth into one particular topic like the story of a woman who was laid off from the Carrier plant, a family that was affected by the Opioid crisis and the story of class and sexism behind the Tanya Harding scandal. It’s like having The New York Times read to you every day in 20 minutes. I first learned about the Harvey Weinstein scandal from Michael Barbaro on the Daily when he interviewed Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey the morning after their amazing investigative reporting story broke.

Serial: This is the pod some would say that put pods on the map. When This American Life launched the first episode of Serial back in 2014 hosted by Sarah Koening, who I kind of feel is a close personal friend of mine and who I would definitely trust with my life, people started to listen and to download in record numbers. Serial tells a true story over the course of a season revealing a new episode each week. In the first season, Sarah tells the story of the murder of a teenage girl named Hae Min Lee in Baltimore in 1999. Her classmate and ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed is arrested, charged for the murder and sentenced to life in prison. I am not giving anything away here. I hate when people do that. Throughout each amazing episode, Sarah goes through all of the evidence, interviews the key players including many calls to Adnan in jail. She makes you wonder if the right guy is in jail. Listeners and fans of the show have varying opinions on this. I have my own. I will let you listen and figure yours out on your own. I will say that I listened to this pod a couple summers ago when I was very into taking long bike rides on the towpath along the Delaware River canal. One day a friend stopped me to chat along the way, and I almost jumped out of my skin, as I was so engrossed in this pod. I thought the friend might have been the real murderer coming to kill me in the woods. It’s that good. You will get into it. You will binge listen to this. The second season launched in 2015 and deals with American soldier and Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl and the investigation into how he was captured by the Taliban, how U.S. forces got him back and the how he was tried for war crimes. It’s an interesting story for sure but didn’t grab me the way Adnan’s story did. Take a listen for yourself and let me know what you think.

Happy listening everyone!