Inside: Reviews of 6 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 rambunctious preschoolers 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 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 book. 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.
6 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
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.
In the first and second seasons each podcast episode was standalone 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.
Season three is a five-part series on Bikram Yoga and the man behind the movement. It is full of history, great achievement, and deception. There are parts that are fascinating but also painfully unsettling. There is so much about the man who created Bikram Yoga that I never knew. If you want to dig deep with this podcast, check out season three.
Time per episode: Under 1 hour
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 towards “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.
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
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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