I first started listening to podcasts when I joined grad school in 2015. I was admittedly late to the whole audio storytelling scene and it took me even longer to make podcasts a part of my daily routine. In February 2017, after I got a job and pushed myself to habitually exercise, I started listening to at least one podcast episode in the gym everyday. After about three days of doing this, I was hooked.
It’s been more than four months now and I have listened to more than 200 episodes — different podcasts, different themes, different days — on the treadmill, in the train, on the streets and in the kitchen.
Here’s a list of some of my most favorite podcasts that are perfect for people who have never heard of podcasts and even for those who listen to them frequently. This compilation has something for everyone.
(Also, I am following no particular order)
- Serial: This had me hooked. This is a story about Adnan Syed, who was convicted for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 2000. Serial is your quintessential non-fiction mystery podcast where host Sarah Koenig is on the mission to find out whether Syed was wrongfully convicted. Serial is really popular among anyone who has ever heard podcasts but for those of you who haven’t listened to it yet, don’t push it further.
- Other: Mixed Race in America: This podcast by Alex Laughlin is about people whose parents come from two different countries, cultures or races. It’s a five-part miniseries about mixed-race Americans and it has everything that makes for a gripping podcast. The episodes are short (so you don’t have to worry about losing interest in between) and so well thought-out (so you won’t get lost or bored or confused). Everyone who likes talking about identity, race, immigration and culture would love this podcast as much as I did.
- This American Life: This is the show that essentially made the podcast genre so prevalent. This American Life is one of the most popular podcasts of all time but that in no way makes it something that’s overrated (because it’s not). It deals with different aspects of life in America and host Ira Glass just makes it so much easier to love the power of storytelling in audio.
- Modern Love: This podcast, where every episode is a reading of New York Times’ Modern Love column, is one of the most heartwarming podcasts ever. It’s definitely not something where you’ve to use your brains or listen to different versions of different stories. Modern Love is like a 20-minute exploration of someone else’s persona, emotions, experiences and stories. It will make you smile, laugh, cry and feel: all at once. Modern Love was my first introduction to podcasts and I keep loving it more with every passing day.
- Code Switch: This NPR podcast always makes me think. Code Switch is about race, religion, diversity and identity and it holds so much more than just one topic or one story. Code Switch is about you, it’s about me, it’s about all of us because we all need to embrace the diversity of the world we live in and we all need to understand so much about the people around us and about the people who are continents away from us.
- Planet Money: This is again by NPR and I wouldn’t have ever imagined that I’d start loving a finance podcast as much as I love Planet Money. I am not someone who understands the world of finance, markets or money but this podcast talks about these concepts in such relatable and understandable terms that everything starts making sense. Whether it’s their coverage of the Indian demonetization or their story about finances in ISIS-controlled areas, Planet Money talks about important and neglected finance stories through a human lens. Isn’t that what we’ve all always needed?
- S-Town: When you check i-Tunes, you’ll see that S-Town is the number one podcast in the top charts. And that’s not without reason. S-Town, a creation of the Serial and This American Life team, is intense, dark, and beautiful and it will stay with you for days after you’ve heard the seven episodes in the series. It’s about a man named John, who hates his Alabama town and asks Brian Reed, the host of the show, to investigate a murder. But the story soon changes course and leads to things no one sees coming.
- Beginner: My friend Misha Euceph started this podcast in March 2017 and I love it so much that I listen to every new episode within the first twenty-four hours of its release. Beginner is the story of a girl who moved from Pakistan to America at the age of 12 and didn’t get to live the American childhood that most of her friends did. It’s about trying to fit in, about embracing things you don’t know and learning them one step at a time. I like Beginner not because it’s a podcast by someone I know, but because it deals with stories of belonging to a new place and coming to terms with who you are and what you want from life. It’s personal, relatable and beautiful.
- The World in Words: This beautiful gem was a late discovery for me but it’s something that just widens my horizons with every single episode. This podcast would be your absolute favorite if you like traveling, learning new languages, or are curious about other cultures. With every episode, the World in Words talks about a different aspect of a language spoken in some part of the world. It talks about the beauty of words and how they’re perceived and understood in languages and cultures all through the world.
- Mystery Show: Do you sometimes wonder why a car-plate’s number is what it is? Or why a stranger you see on the bus stop every day suddenly stops coming? Think about those small mysteries in everyday life and then think about the Mystery Show. In this podcast, host Starlee Kine solves people’s everyday mysteries. Listen to the Belt Buckle episode and you’ll know what I mean. If you’re in the mood of a light, funny podcast that also feeds your curiosities about mysterious incidents from regular life, Mystery Show is your best bet.
- The Moth: This podcast is a compilation of the true, first-person narratives told live in front of an audience. I love the Moth because of its raw appeal — those honest, beautiful and painful personal stories that somehow celebrate the shared human experience. Every episode includes three to four stories told by different people during different Moth events all through the country. The Moth brings together the craft of storytelling and the experience of living, every single day.
It’s honestly so difficult for me to stop here because there are several other podcasts that I’d love to talk about. I’d do a quick mention of a few of them without explanation:
See Something Say Something, Reveal, BBC Newshour, PRI’s The World, Stuff You Missed in History Class, The Heart and The Sporkful.
Let me know about some of your favorite podcasts and keep listening (and reading)!