7 Storytelling Podcasts So Good You’ll Forget About TV
Inside: Reviews of 7 great storytelling podcasts that will help you take your entertainment on the go.
Ready to be convinced that storytelling podcasts are going to be the answer to many of your current challenges as a busy working parent?
Buckle up and get ready for both the why AND the recommendations to set you on your way.
Why Storytelling Podcasts Are Where It’s At
Do you like TV? How about pizza, air, and happiness? Oh really – you do? How odd that we are so similar!
Now, do you like the entertainment factor of TV but would be open to substituting your TV watching habit with storytelling podcasts to free up some time in your day for other things? Are you a working mom with a long commute and minimal time for entertainment?
That right there is me in a nutshell.
I’m a working mom of two active kids and it would be easy for me to say that I do not have time for a hobby of my own, let alone time to build a business out of that hobby. In fact, I DID say those things, as I was zoned out in front of the TV at night.
But I’ve come to find that 24 hours is actually a lot of hours, and it’s up to me to figure out how I am going to use them. Like I tell my kids, I needed to own my choices.
Owning My TV Choices
Writing was and is my hobby of choice, and if I wanted the time to write, I needed to make the time. I wanted to make the time by eliminating cleaning and laundry, but TV was the more responsible/realistic cutback so we cut the cable cord.
Now I still enjoy some Netflix here and there, but my viewing habits have decreased considerably in favor of spending time on my blog and books. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a couple of hours an evening!
So I write my own stories now instead of watching them, but I do miss hearing stories that don’t come from my brain or include talking trains or mischievous ducks. Our brains respond to story – it’s science! So to fill the story-hearing gap in my life and make the most of my hours with some multitasking, I take my stories in the car and on my workouts.
Care to join me?
These storytelling podcasts offer something for everyone and will be sure to keep you good company as you move about your busy day.
7 Can’t-Miss Storytelling Podcasts
Modern Love on NPR is a podcast spin-off of the Modern Love column in the New York Times. These real-life stories center around three key themes – “love, loss, and redemption.” Each episode follows the tale of a love story – unrequited love, family love, not quite love, friendship love, romantic love, and love you so much it hurts love. A Rom-Com, with way more nuance.
On the podcast, famous actors read the Modern Love essays and then they close out the show with their thoughts on why it resonated with them. You also get to hear from the writer him or herself, which is probably my favorite part. It’s like closure with a capital C after a real whirlwind of a story.
Some of my favorites include Boy, What A Fabulous Baker, Seeing the World Through My Wife’s Eyes, and To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This.
Time per episode: Under a half hour
The Moth is a fantastic storytelling podcast composed completely of live storytelling sessions on stage. Like a poetry slam, but for 15-minute stories. There is a considerable range of true stories in the episodes, including a moving Blue Man Group performance, neuroscience and sociopaths, and Rachel Dratch’s bad dating experience. In fact, that’s all included in one single episode!
Try this one if you like Ted Talks and stand up comedy.
Time per episode: 1 hour
30 for 30
Have you seen any 30 for 30 ESPN documentaries? They are fascinating. And the 30 for 30 podcast manages to do all of the things the documentaries do but without the visuals. These sports stories are so well done that I honestly don’t miss the TV part at all.
If you dig into the archives, you’ll find standalone episodes and focused on stories like how the UFC came to be, the fight over hosting night games at Wrigley Field, the creation of the Madden video game, and activism in the NBA. Through interviews with players, coaches, fans, and the media, the podcast brings all of these stories to life and takes you behind the scenes of the business of sports.
As the podcast has progressed, there are multi-part series like the series titled Pink Card which details the story of Iranian women fighting for their rights, through the lens of the nationwide ban on women attending soccer games.
Time per episode: Under 1 hour
2 Minute Stories
Confession: I fell asleep watching Star Wars. I’ve never actually seen the whole thing. And I’m not talking about the whole thing like the series. I mean the first movie, or any of its predecessors. I’ve also never read or watched Harry Potter, much to the chagrin of my entire generation.
The truth of the matter is I just don’t love storylines that don’t feel real to me. Futuristic or magical stories don’t jive with my natural gravitation toward “OMG that really happened!”
BUT, and it’s a big but, I love Justin Hasting’s 2 Minute Stories podcast. Most of his 2-minute stories have a futuristic bent towards them as they picture a world in which something drastic has shifted and people are learning to adjust to their new normal. So if you like the futuristic genre, or even if you don’t, I really recommend checking out 2 Minute Stories. And you literally just need 2 minutes. We all have 2 minutes.
Time per episode: Well, that feels insulting.
When Mommy Grows Up
As moms, we love to inspire our kids to dream big dreams about who they’ll be as they grow up. But when is the last time you stopped to ask yourself, “Who am I going to be (next) as I grow up?”
The When Mommy Grows Up Podcast is the motherhood and career podcast for moms who need help defining what success looks like to them as mid-career professionals and parents along with the support they need to go after it.
Hear real stories from real moms facing the same challenges you are. Finding flexible jobs, crafting a job you love, discovering your passions, crushing it at work and getting kids off the bus! We’ll talk through it all. Hosts (and fellow moms) Becca Carnahan and Marie Tremblay of Next Chapter Careers, take your questions and provide practical step-by-step advice to help you move forward. All served up with a virtual mom hug and lots of laughs!
Time per episode: 20 minutes
What I find particularly satisfying about a good television show is establishing a connection with the characters. They become more nuanced with each plot twist, you get to know their imperfections, you welcome that their story doesn’t mechanically arch but instead moves more naturally like life. And that’s what you’ll find in Mnemonic.
Ryan Tressel gives listeners the gift of peering into his past and then snapping back to the present all the while creating the connections that tie together a life. It’s deeply personal and doesn’t hold back the details.
If you wish your television had a little more real and a little less “reality” then give Mnemoic a listen.
Time per episode: Under 20 minutes
This American Life
Excuse me while I nerd out over This American Life.
Another NPR gem, This American Life is exactly what it sounds like – stories of real people living their real American lives. There are stories about love, death, racial injustice, the inner workings of politics, family secrets, sexual harassment, and our education system.
Every episode is focused on a theme and usually includes multiple stories told from personal perspectives. Not every story is wrapped up in a neat bow, because that’s not how life always works. But you do get the opportunity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for 20 minutes to an hour and try to see how they experience this American life in a way that may vary greatly from your own.
Come for the documentary-style storytelling, stay for the emotional roller coaster.
Time per episode: 1 hour
Happy Storytelling Podcasts Listening!
So I know with this list of storytelling podcasts recommendations it seems like I just filled your queue with more entertainment, which could leave you less time for YOUR hobby or passion project.
But, think of this like subbing out lettuce for a burger bun. No, that’s ridiculous. Wheat bun for a white bun. You’re satisfying the story craving while also walking/running/driving, and saving some time calories.
So get to some storytelling podcast listening, and to getting more time back in your day. Whether you’re pursuing a hobby, working on a side hustle, or tackling an exciting work project, we could all use a little more time to do what we love.
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Read More Podcast Recommendations:
Motivational Podcasts for Women with Big Goals
Fun and Educational Podcasts for Kids
How to Make Your Long Commute Productive
13 Game-Changing Working Mom Hacks to Make Life Easier and More Fun
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this will be perfect for my blossoming podcast addiction. I’m addicted to overdrive free audiobooks but there is definitely room for some shorter audio while I’m “doing the dishes” and “watching my kids”. Thanks for the great list!
I’ve never heard of overdrive but now I’m looking it up! Thanks for the tip!
Great suggestions! I have one to add, too. It’s called “Sleep With Me”–but really it’s about sleep, or trying to. The idea is that the host’s monotone and monotonous stories will help insomniacs. Of course, it’s so hysterical I could never sleep while it’s on. Worth a listen just for fun.
I’ll definitely check it out! I love a good laugh! 🙂
My go to podcasts are “the mom hour” & “edit your life”. They’re not story podcasts. Just a couple of moms talking. & I enjoy listening… most episodes are 30-60 min. Thanks for other suggestions!
Awesome! I’ll check them out. 🙂 Thanks!
If you love storytelling you have to listen to Arc Stories- they are live, true stories and are fabulous. Some are sad, some are hilarious, all are entertaining.
And CRIMINAL is great as well- it tells stories of crime but not the “if it bleeds it leads” variety.
Looking forward to checking both of these out! Thank you!
It is a great disservice that Levar Burton Reads isn’t included on this list! 🙂
Please check it out if you haven’t, it is brilliant!
I will check it out today! Thank you!
The Adventure Zone is a really great story-driven RPG podcast – I recommend it! (It does have adult content, as a note)
Thank you so much for these recommendations. I come from a family of great storytellers. My daughter and I are launching a new podcast: The Road More Traveled: Stories I Tell My Daughter. These podcasts have been a great inspiration, so thanks for sharing.
Our American Stories is my favorite podcast, very uplifting stories about real americans and how great this country is. I highly recommend it.