For the first year in ages, I’m actually satisfied with how much I’ve read in 2017. But no matter how many pages I turned, audio remained my favorite way of delving into different worlds or seeing our own from a new perspective.
Coincidentally, 2017 saw a bunch of podcasts that were much longer, or much more dense than anything I can remember hearing in the past. Listening to them on trains, buses, or my endless lapses around Tempelhof airport was like having a book read out in my head. At the same time, I got to be outside—a perfect combination.
Here’s my annual list of favorite podcast episodes, the stuff that made me stop in my tracks or sometimes even giddy with excitement. Have a listen!
- S-Town — Chapter One
Ostensibly about a murder case in rural Alabama, this seven-episode show quickly turns into an a character study that challenges how you’ll think about belonging and betrayal.
Missing Richard Simmons – Where’s Richard?
Beginning with one of the most compelling story openings I’ve ever heard, this podcast takes a topic you probably don’t care about and makes you care. It’s weird, wacky, voyeuristic, and I could not stop listening.
Ways of Hearing – Time
“My friends and I lived in an all analog world”, says musician Damon Krukowski at the beginning of this show. Then he goes on to explore how digitization has changed the way we listen—and how that has impacted everything from our sense of time to how we express love.
Hurry Slowly – Craig Mod
When writer Jocelyn K. Glei announced that she was recording a podcast about “pacing yourself”, I was already on board. Then she got one of my favorite writers on the shows and I listened gleefully. This episode is about many of the topics I’ve been thinking about lately—how to be productive, how not to be distracted, and how to be in the moment—and presents an unorthodox solution.
Heavyweight – Jesse
Season two of Jonathon Goldsteins excellent podcast featured this tale of a man who got hit by a car now wants to find the driver to say thanks.
Reply All – Man of the People
Imagine you’re a shady doctor at the beginning of the radio era. Wouldn’t it make sense to get a broadcasting license and tell the world about your magic cures?
99% Invisible – The Pool and the Stream
Turns out that skating culture is linked to Finnish architecture of the 1930s.
The Memory Palace – Temple
In May, I went to New York City for a week. As luck would have it, Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace would do a live performance at the Met one of the days I was there. “Even though it’s sold out, I’m sure we can get in somehow,” my friend Pete remarked. Lo and behold, we did — and this was one of the stories performed that night, just a room away from the insanity of an Egyptian temple actually standing in a museum, thousands of years later.
Deutschlandfunk – Der Tag
2017 has been the year of news podcasts, with the New York Times’ The Daily blazing the trail. If you speak German, check out our state broadcaster’s one: Der Tag is on point, exceptionally well done, and nowhere near as stiff as the Deutschlandfunk broadcasts I remembered from years ago. (No recommended episode here, since it comes out every single day.)
Available Light – Anterior Future
…and for a bit of shameless self-promotion: My favorite episode of my own podcast, tracing the exceptional life of the photographer Tina Modotti.