The Podcast You Must Add To Your Feed (If You Can Handle It)
And the podcast is: Strangers.
I am selective about the podcasts I listen to, so listen regularly to only a handful. Since they only come out weekly, I always feel a little starved for good, new content. There are a million great podcasts out there, but to hold my attention you’ve got to tell me compelling stories, ideally in longform narrative, and the more complex and human the story, the better I like it (and likely the more messed up I’ll be about it). I rarely listen to interview shows.
But Strangers man. This is freaking one complex show, dude. Whoa. I listened to three episodes tonight as I was doing other things, which is super normal for me. But twice, I stopped what I was doing and just listened because I was so gripped by the story. And I mean I stopped for like several minutes and just listened. Wow. I don’t know how I’ve never heard of this before (because that means my circles aren’t talking about it and–what are you all doing then?) but brava, Lea and your team. Incredible. #trypod [also, I just read the about page and Strangers was featured on Sampler, which I loved and listened to every week (aside: yo, Brit! When’s your new show coming out?) but still somehow I only found this show tonight, scrolling through the top charts. I don’t know.]
But there are so, so many good podcasts, guys. Here is my top 10:
1. This American Life of course. Love Ira. Love that they produce such high quality, interesting, thoughtful stories time and time again. I’m trying to think of my favorites because there have been so many over the years. #304 Heretics maybe has had the greatest influence on me, and particularly in college. This part especially
And I thought, well, I’ll be. That’s weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. That’s where the pain comes from. We do that to each other, and we do it to ourselves. Then I saw emergency rooms. I saw divorce court. I saw jails and prisons. I saw how we create Hell on this planet for each other. And for the first time in my life, I did not see God as the inventor of Hell.
Oh, and this little video called The Cameraman, that I believe comes from their TV show and not the podcast. I still don’t quite know what to make of it, except to observe, as so many others have, that social media and cell phone cameras and our technology and means of communication affects us. Badly. Not always and certainly not simply, but there it is.
2. Reply All always entertaining, and incredibly thought-provoking, it is my favorite show. I love the hosts, and they help me understand the world around me a little better each time I listen. Thursdays are the hardest day of the week for me so what an upper it is to download their new episodes each week.
Actually, I just remembered this and half to mention it: I first heard the show at a podcast festival in 2016, and did not like it. Like, the festival was at NYU so it was full of college students and when these guys came out, the audience went nuts! I don’t even remember the episode they did that night, but I remember those cheers being a persuasive recommendation and I’ve been listening ever since. Give it a shot.
3. RadioLab. Words is probably the best episode I’ve ever heard, or at least my most listened-to episode. It is so fascinating. It features: deaf kids learning how to communicate but without ever being taught to! Super fascinating.
Now that I’m thinking about all this, it’s very easy to pick out the episodes of this show that have messed me up. I even posted one of the most beautiful stories already.
Reasonable Doubt, which I’ve never been able to listen to again because it so terrified me (and also, what happened to the man in the second segment? Crises of faith are tough, yo, and I’m curious about his journey.). And I never have felt compelled to watch Making A Murderer because I think all I need to know is in this episode. But also, don’t you agree that that woman’s gut was totally right?? Like maybe it was applied to the wrong situation but she felt something wrong about him and rightly so! I nearly wrote in and was like, Lady! Keep trusting your gut!
4. The RobCast. Even when he talks too much, which is basically every time, he’s saying good stuff. I’ve quoted it here twice before. And he publishes on Mondays, so it’s kind of the best way to start the week.
5. Happier. Practical, insightful, and just varied enough to keep me returning week after week. Plus, Gretchen Rubin sounds like such a mom, right? But in the best way. I’m like, I can handle life. It’s crazy but doable, and I can even be happy.
6. Dear Hank and John. Because I have a thing for John Green, but also because it’s super funny and nerdy and just a good feeling show for the middle of the week.
7. My Favorite Murder. Good stories, hilarious hosts, but also it scares me and has made me see my own world and life in a different way. Like, a more vulnerable way. I’ve learned to say Eff Politeness! (which is quite a polite rendition of the actual catchphrase) which has been very helpful. But I had no idea how many people were murdered in their homes so I’m a good deal less secure in the world, and also terrified to have any kids ever. So. Maybe I don’t recommend this one?
8. & 9. Serial and Invisibilia are two of my other favorites, but the seasons, man. I’m just too impatient for seasons. Listen to them anyway, and at this point you can binge listen to both of their past seasons while waiting impatiently for their 3rd seasons to drop.
10. The Memory Palace. I don’t listen to this one regularly anymore because I was so in love with the original microform stories (so to speak). But oh, Nate, you know how to craft a story. I recommend the first 37 (they start on this page) because those are what first drew me into the show.
I will say that I’ve recommended this to half dozen people, none of whom took to it. I don’t know if they were expecting something else or they just didn’t like the feel of the show (?) but each one of these first few dozen episodes is under 5 minutes, so they’re super quick, but really—what’s that word that means it gets you right in the heart? I don’t know. I’m just saying: expect vignettes. Radio vignettes. And tell me what you think.
What are your favorite podcasts? What am I missing out on?