Long before "Serial"
captured the attention of virtually everyone in the country, many of us
discovered the remarkably helpful (and addicting) world of podcasts. The
concept of a podcast might sound nerdy or boring, but trust me; they just might
change your life.
The beauty of the podcast is that we don’t have to be
tethered to a television or glued to a screen to enjoy the entertaining,
enlightening, educating and—big selling point—FREE content. Whether we’re
driving to work, doing tedious housework or drowning out the sound of the
Xbox, we can slip on a podcast and engage our minds.
The only problem is that the podcast world is oversaturated
with options. (Believe it or not, there’s more beyond "Serial" and "This American Life.")
Given that I’m a bit of a podcast aficionado, I’ve narrowed down my favorite
options for all types of parents, for all types of purposes.
Here are 20+ podcasts worth your time:
Podcasts that help
you look smarter around your kids:
You’re probably familiar with the book "Freakonomics," but their weekly radio show covers everything you
never knew you needed to know. It’s one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes,
providing all sorts of random knowledge—from “Should the U.S. Merge with
Mexico?” to “Why You Should Bribe Your Kids.” It’s like a never-ending vat of
information. And the quick 20- to 45-minute episodes make it easy to squeeze
into your day.
If you’re often caught off-guard by your kids’ most random
questions, "How Stuff Works" will give
you quick, easy-to-understand nuggets of knowledge to pass off as your own
brilliant wisdom. Hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark have a way of breaking down
topics—from body odor to animal camouflage to panic attacks—in an
entertaining, informative format.
History," hosted by Dan Carlin, gives impressively in-depth, expertly
crafted teachings of the most intense moments in history that school textbooks
would never have the space to cover. Each subject, be it World War I or
Genghis Kahn, is more like an audio book than a traditional podcast, providing
a riveting look at the parts of history we never knew we needed to know. If
history class never captivated you, buckle up.
Some of the episodes are free, some
cost a few bucks; but even the $1.99 price is a steal for the amount of detail
and research Carlin puts into each topic.
Podcasts that help
you have conversations with grown-ups:
If you surround yourself with the right people, the best go-to
conversation starter is simply, “Did you listen to the Radiolab episode about…”
Wildly popular (and for good reason!), this highly produced,
expertly researched show by WNYC is brainy and awesome. If you’re
going to dive into a new information-based podcast (and you’re already a fan of "This American Life"), "Radiolab" is the one to start with.
Is it really any surprise that NPR produces some of the most
compelling podcasts out there? "Wait
Wait…Don’t Tell Me!" is another gem, especially for gathering current events
knowledge in a fun, easily digestible format. Listeners call in to get quizzed
on the week’s happenings, allowing us to keep on top of the news while also
laughing along. Who says parents have nothing to contribute to conversations
beyond fecal matter and the latest SIDS study?
If you’re lonely and crave some girl time in your life,
even though all-night feedings and a packed afterschool schedule leave little time
and brain space, "Call Your Girlfriend"
is a more-than-adequate replacement. Listen in on two hilarious long-distance
friends answer reader questions and chat about everything from race politics to
Podcasts that might
make you a better human being:
If you’re one of the many parents practicing meditation and
mindfulness to be a less reactive, more compassionate person, Tara Brach’s
extensive collection of teachings and meditations is the next best thing to a
pricey retreat—and it’s all free. Although she comes from a Buddhist
background, her training in psychology and meditation makes her teachings more
about the realities of being a human than anything based in religion.
"On Being" is an
investigation into the human spirit—an exploration of who we are, why we’re
here and how we live. This is, quite possibly, one of the most important
podcasts available, having received a Peabody Award and presidential
recognition for host Krista Tippett’s incredible work. It just might change you
for the better.
The art of storytelling has forever been the best way to
understand the human experience and expand our perspectives on life. With that
in mind, "The Moth" is a live reading
series (started in 1997!) of compelling true stories. Their podcast features favorite
stories told on stages all over the country—stories that’ll make you cry, make
you think and make you feel.
If you’re a fan of comedy, then you probably know a thing or
two about podcasts already. Virtually every comedian has a show by now (or, at
the very least, has been interviewed on one)—think Bill Burr, Joe Rogan,
Chris Hardwick, Doug Benson, Cameron Esposito and on and on. While it’s
interesting and forever entertaining to hear comedians talk about their craft
and tell hilarious stories, comedians are also some of the deepest and smartest conversationalists in the podcast game.
A personal favorite of mine, Pete Holmes’ "You Made It Weird" runs the gamut from
tears-streaming-down-your-face funny to contemplate-your-existence interesting.
(If you’re unfamiliar with Pete Holmes’ standup, then you might know him from
his TBS talk show, or his CollegeHumor Batman sketches or as the E-Trade
baby.) Silly, uncomfortable, honest and enlightening, "You Made It Weird" makes even the longest commutes enjoyable.
An innovator in the genre, Marc Maron’s "WTF" is one of the most recommended comedy podcasts in existence.
Even though the show is certainly rooted in comedy, it’s so much more; it’s a
reflection of life—with all of our neuroses, shadows and philosophical
struggles. If you want to dig into fascinating conversations with some of the
most famous and interesting people (his episode with Louis C.K. is one of the
best interviews I’ve ever heard), then Marc Maron has over 500 episodes to fill
your long drives.
If your day could use a good laugh, "Comedy Bang Bang" brings the funniest people together to chat,
laugh and riff bits. With over 300 episodes, I’m pretty sure that every funny person ever has been a guest—people like Adam Samberg, Dane Cook, Sarah Silverman, and even Jon Hamm.
It’s a sure-fire way to make the dreariest day a little sunnier.
And if you’re looking for another narrative to invest your
time, "Welcome to Night Vale" is a
unique option. Reminiscent of old-time radio, listen along as the fictional
radio show updates you on the creepy, eerie happenings around the desert town
of Night Vale. Once you start, you’ll be hooked.
Produced by the same people as "Radiolab" and "Freakonomics," and hosted by "This American Life"
contributor Hilary Frank, THIS is the podcast for all of the smart new parents
who, at times, feel like they have no idea what they’re doing. The crux of the
show is the heartfelt stories—stories that make us parents feel less alone.
If motherhood doesn’t always feel like a natural, sunshiny,
Instagram-filtered dream, then the ladies of "One Bad Mother" will leave you feeling a heckuva lot better.
Everything from mom ruts to mom guilt is explored in a funny, honest and truly
If you thought NPR had an impressive line-up of podcasts,
Slate.com is another well-respected source. Their parent-focused podcast "Mom and Dad Are Fighting" is particularly
relevant for those of us responsible for tiny humans. Slate editors Allison
Benedikt and Dan Kois discuss everything from parenting fails to the existence
of Santa, with interviews, news and debates in between.
Podcasts to listen to
on the way to school drop-off:
A new, beautifully told children’s story each week—ranging
from familiar tales (like "Pocahontas" and "Pinocchio") to original stories, myths and poems. This is one podcast that everyone
in the car will enjoy, no matter the age.