2015 was a year of creative energy for me. I can pinpoint more than a handful of moments when I felt inspired to do or create in very exciting and diverse ways. These moments stand out as personal highlights of the past year, moments I’ve been bursting with enthusiasm, awe and new perspective.
Music, painting, handwriting, food, hiking, photography, sewing, journalism, Gospel understanding… these are all areas I explored or grew in last year with much excitement. One theme stands out in a huge way: storytelling.
It’s just been everywhere for me this year, an appreciation and love for good storytelling and all the many ways stories are told. I’ve studied it, I’ve thought about it, I’ve been taught about it, I’ve practiced it, I’ve come across it, it’s come across me.
One of my favorite places to go for exceptional storytelling is my podcasts app on my phone. It’s no news that 2015 was the year of the podcast—the medium simply exploded. Podcasting is the new blogging and I have no complaints about that.
The art of audio storytelling is so rich. It has given me daily inspiration and fascination in the past year (thanks to a handy cord my in-laws gave me as a Christmas gift last year that lets me plug my phone into my car speakers and listen to podcasts on my commute). I’ve learned so much from my favorite podcasts and been absolutely captivated by many episodes in 2015.
So as I look back on my favorite feeds, here is a list of my top podcasts and episodes of the year. I could gush about all of them and recommend almost every episode, but I narrowed it down to some favorites.
This podcast is only slightly about mysteries. It’s mostly about people. In each episode, Starlee Kine takes you on an adventure with twists, turns and fascinating conversations. There are only six episodes so far, so you might as well listen to all of them, but my top three are:
- Case #2: Britney (yes, that Britney).
- Case #5: Source Code (apparently Jake Gyllenhaal’s height is truly a mystery).
- Case #6: Kotter
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich turn science into story with Radiolab. Although it’s clear that from their perspective, science/evolution/nature are the ruling forces in the world, there are many moments when listening that I so clearly see and marvel at God (they don’t see it that way, but the evidence speaks for itself). This year I feel like the episodes have been hit or miss, but when they hit, they are out of the park. Here are my favorite episodes of the year (admittedly, they are the less-sciency ones):
- Sight Unseen. I cried walking in to work. This was one of the most moving pieces of radio I’ve heard.
- The Rhino Hunter. This is the kind of journalism I wish every media outlet would do. It tells a story the headlines do not. Fascinating exploration of the topic of hunting and conservation.
- La Mancha Screwjob. This was so much fun to listen to. Another peek into a culture I never think about: professional wrestling.
- Smile My Ass. Another fun episode, about “Candid Camera.”
- BONUS: Three episodes from 2014 are some of my favorite podcast episodes ever so I have to recommend them: Hello (talking with dolphins), Outside Westgate (the Kenyan mall terrorist attack) and Juicervose (autism).
Reply All is a self-proclaimed show about the Internet. It took a while to hook me—I don’t think the storytelling is as gifted as with NPR podcasts, but the stories they uncover are just as interesting. It’s one I always look forward to listening to.
- #16 Why is Mason Reese Crying?
- #37 Taking Power (funny)
- #42 Blind Spot
- #40 The Flower Child (this is a good example of the story being fascinating to me but the storytelling somehow disappointing. Can’t quite put my finger on it.)
This quickly became my favorite when it was new. It’s similar to Radiolab, but with awesome female hosts. One episode from its first season stuck with me the most:
Just incredible storytelling. Almost never disappoints. Here are a few standouts:
- Put a Bow on It. Multiple “Hamilton” references, plus it’s just fun.
- Abdi and the Golden Ticket. So many times I’ve been transported across the globe by a podcast. Excellent example here.
- NUMMI 2015. I heard bits and pieces of the original NUMMI episode (about a GM and Toyota partnership) back in 2010 and it’s always stuck with me. Still fascinating.
- Same Bed Different Dreams. Part of it’s about North Korea. Enough said.
- BONUS: The Radio Drama Episode from 2014 is freaking amazing. It was my first exposure to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work (“Hamilton”) and I still sing the songs in my head.
Honorable mentions go to TED Radio Hour, which always inspires or teaches, and Death, Sex and Money, which I’ve just started to listen to. Oh, and, of course, Serial, but I don’t need to tell you about that one.
What are your favorite podcasts?