6 Podcasts to Listen to Over Christmas Break

When I was growing up, my mom would always tune in to episodes of WBEZ Chicago’s This American Life on our local NPR station every Sunday morning; I was always fascinated by the stories told and got excited to hear each new episode as they came out. Then, a few years ago, my mom introduced my siblings and me to the world of podcasting. Since then, we’ve been plugging our phones into the aux cords of our cars to listen to podcasts on long drives (and short ones, too), popping in our headphones to listen while walking around the house and performing small tasks, and even connecting to a speaker in the kitchen to listen to one while cooking dinner. We’re a family full of podcast aficionados.

Podcasts, since they’re solely audio with no visual aids, have to focus on how to effectively tell a story and really captivate an audience. Because of that, podcasts, to me, are some of the best examples of rich and complex storytelling and writing you can find. Here are just a few of the many podcasts that will leave you thinking long after they’re finished!

1. This American Life.

This American Life, produced in Chicago, is probably one of the most popular podcasts/radio shows to exist. This documentary-style podcast presents various stories that all adhere to each an overarching theme that changes with each episode. Every episode delves into the mundane parts of our everyday life and exemplifies how even the ordinary can be extraordinary.

Recommended episodes: #218, “Act V” and #528, “The Radio Drama Episode”

 

2. Serial

Written and produced by Sarah Koenig of This American Life, Serial is an investigative, nonfiction podcast that tells one story per season. It debuted in 2014, with the first (and most popular) season telling the story of Adnan Syed, who was convicted and imprisoned for the murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore in 1999, who was very likely treated unfairly by the Maryland judicial system. However, Serial is so great because, even though Koenig goes into the first season with the mindset of possibly proving Adnan’s innocence, as she dives into the evidence and pieces together all the “what ifs” of the case, it becomes very difficult to determine whether or not Adnan committed the crime, and Koenig does a great job of avoiding the bias of assumed innocence or guilt.

Recommended episodes: all of season one

 

3. Reply All

Advertised as a show about the Internet, Reply All is so much more than it seems. Because so much of our lives happen on the Internet, hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman are able to delve into topics that examine our lives, the choices we make, the political climate, and so much more.

Recommended episodes: #44, “Shine On You Crazy Goldman” #s 64-67, “On the Inside, Parts I-IV”

 

4. Heavyweight

Heavyweight is a show that offers beautiful insight to human emotion, particularly regret. Based upon the premise of revisiting the moments in people’s lives after which they felt everything changed, host Jonathan Goldstein helps people to overcome regret and be at peace with their lives and decisions. A deep examination of human emotion, Heavyweight has some of the most beautiful storytelling I’ve heard.

Recommended episodes: “Isabel” and “James”

 

5. Revisionist History

Hosted by author, Malcolm Gladwell, Revisionist History revisits the smaller parts of history that were overlooked or misunderstood in the hopes of reaching a better understand of what happened. Gladwell’s dry humor combined with the interesting featured events form a unique and enjoyable perspective of the world.

Recommended episodes: “The King of Tears” and “McDonald’s Broke My Heart”

 

6. The Moth

When on the topic of excellent storytelling, The Moth, dedicated to the art of telling stories, is one of the absolute best. With episodes that contain just one single story or two or three all in one, The Moth travels the world and basically hosts open-mic storytelling nights, giving all sorts of amazing people the opportunity to share their stories.

Recommended episodes: “Radio Hour: Hitchhiking, Mosh Pit, and Iggy Pop” and “Radio Hour: Mr. Rogers, Bellevue, Super Markets and Coney Island”

 

All of these podcasts are available online, on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, and other various podcast apps. Happy listening!