Feather & Flint

15 Must-Listen Podcasts for Those Who Love Storytelling & Learning

March 26, 2017 41 Comments

I’ve loved podcasts for the past decade. I remember the night that I first listened to an episode of This American Life. I was a junior in high school, and the phrases “investigative journalism” and “storytelling” meant nothing to me at that point–but I knew immediately that I was hooked. I burned through episode after episode, and then fell in love with the hilarious antics of CarTalk, too. (My name is Robin, and I’ve been a public radio addict since I was 16.)

I listen to podcasts whenever I need to turn my overactive brain off for a little while–while I’m taking my hour-long strolls around the city during my lunch break, or while I’m cooking my meals for the week on Sunday afternoons. I love to hear raw, honest stories about the lives of people I’ve never met, or crazy scientific findings that change my entire perspective of the world. I listen to podcasts to expand my mind, and I hope the same for you. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

15 Must-Listen Podcasts for Those Who Love Storytelling

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #1

Radiolab

Radiolab is a show that’s as thought-provoking as it is heartfelt. They explore broad topics like memory, morality, and laughter in a way that’s bound to awaken your curiosity. It’s the perfect mix of journalism, storytelling, science, and philosophy. It’s widely considered one of the most innovative shows of all time, and it has a way of regularly blowing my mind and reinventing my perspective. If you listen to just one podcast on this list, this should be it.

Recommended for: Everyone, really, but especially lovers of science and eye-opening stories. Fans of This American Life, 99% Invisible, TED Radio Hour, The Moth, and Invisibilia.

Favorite episodes: Fu-GoJuicervose, OopsThe Girl Who Doesn’t Exist, Birthstory, 23 Weeks 6 Days, Watching You, Watching MeCRISPR, The Primitive Streak, From Tree to Shining Tree, Colors, Lost & Found

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #2

Invisibilia

Invisibilia is a podcast about the hidden forces that shape human behavior. It blends social science with storytelling in the most fascinating way. They question whether our personalities are stable throughout our lives; what the emotional significance is of the clothes that we wear; and so much more. I couldn’t recommend it more highly. The only downside is that they take long breaks between seasons, so you can’t listen to it year-round!

Recommended for: Everyone, really, but especially fans of Radiolab and the social sciences.

Favorite episodes: Literally all of it

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #3

99% Invisible

99% Invisible examines the hidden intentions and inspirations behind everyday phenomena. It’ll fundamentally change the way that you see the world around you. In the episode U.T.B.A.P.H., you’ll hear the hilarious story of a man whose life’s work is cataloging buildings that used to be Pizza Huts, but which now house churches, police stations, and other unexpected businesses. In Snowflake, you’ll hear about a town in Arizona built specifically for people who experience debilitating symptoms that they believe results from exposure to chemicals and electricity. It’s a fascinating show that I absolutely recommend.

Recommended for: Anyone interested in learning the stories behind ordinary fixtures of our society. Lovers of design, architecture, and “fun facts.” Fans of Surprisingly Awesome, Radiolab, and Invisibilia.

Favorite episodes: On Average, U.T.B.A.P.H., Structural Integrity, Skyjacking, Snowflake, The Fresno Drop, Mojave Phone Booth, NBC Chimes, Hard to Love a Brute

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #4

The Moth Radio Hour

The Moth was launched as a non-profit in 1997 to support the craft of storytelling. It was named for “the feeling of sultry summer evenings in [The Moth’s founder’s] native Georgia, when moths were attracted to the light on the porch where he and his friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales.” They host over 500 live storytelling events each year, where audience members recount their tales on stage; to date, over 18,000 stories have been told. Each episode of Radio Hour contains a handful of stories within a single theme. No two stories are alike; you never know whether they’ll be hilarious, thought-provoking, heartbreaking, or all three at once.

Recommended for: Anyone who loves hearing other people’s deeply personal, vulnerable, raw, poignant stories.

Favorite episodes: People, Problems, Places, Live from Boston, any of the StorySLAM episodes (where storytellers face off against each other, and audience members vote for their favorite; so you’re hearing the best of the best in the StorySLAM episodes)

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #5

Serial

Serial grew famous overnight in 2014 for telling a fascinating crime story in the most addictive way. In Season 1, you listened as investigative journalists examined the case of Adnan Syed, a then-high school student convicted of the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. You quickly learn, however, that the story is so much more complex than it seems from the surface, full of unexpected twists and turns that unfold in real time as Serial’s reporters learn new information about the case. By the end, you truly don’t know who’s really guilty–is Adnan a sociopath who’s fooled everyone (including the reporters) into feeling empathy for him; or was he the victim of a trial that was botched (at best) or corrupt? Most fascinating of all is the fact that the hype around Serial forced the justice system to reconsider Adnan’s case–so the story isn’t over yet.

Recommended for: Anyone who loves a good mystery with fascinating, complex characters, even if true crime generally isn’t your thing.

Favorite episodes: All of Season 1

Listen with iTunes | Stream Season 1 online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #6

Magic Lessons

Magic Lessons is a podcast created by author Elizabeth Gilbert as a follow-up to her incredible book on creativity and inspiration, Big Magic. (If you’re a creative of any kind, please read the book and listen to the podcast–it will blow your mind and dramatically change your life for the better.) On each episode, you’ll listen to an incredible conversation between Elizabeth Gilbert and a listener facing a creative challenge. For example, on the first episode of Season 2: “Jo has spent years working on her Ph.D. on the Holocaust and fighting for feminist causes, but that work is not where her true passions lie. She wants to fulfill a childhood dream and write comedy and comic novels. Jo wonders: Am I allowed to stop saving the world and make fun art?” After this initial conversation, Liz asks a famous creative in the same area as the listener to impart some wisdom on the situation. It’s the most inspiring, heartwarming podcast out there–artists of all kinds, do yourself a favor and give it a listen.

Recommended for: Anyone who considers themselves creative–whether you’re a professional, or someone who loved some artistic pursuit at some point in your life and are looking for ways to add it back into your life.

Favorite episodes: All of it

Listen with iTunes | Stream Season 2 online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #7

 This American Life

This American Life is one of the most famous radio shows of all time, having been on the air since 1995. To date, over 600 episodes have been aired. It’s the common ancestor of all modern radio shows. It’s a combination of journalism and essays–often poignant, sometimes funny, and always fascinating. Each episode is an hour long, usually containing several stories that fit within a given theme, although my favorite episodes tend to be those devoted to a single story.

Recommended for: Lovers of excellent journalism and fascinating stories about how other people live.

Favorite episodes: The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar, Dr. Gilmer & Mr. HydeSwitched at Birth, House on Loon Lake, Same Bed, Different Dreams (just Act 1), Three Miles, Dead Men Tell No Tales, 129 Cars, Use Only As Directed, When Patents Attack! (Parts I & II), The Giant Pool of Money (Parts & II)

Listen with iTunesStream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #8

TED Radio Hour

TED Radio Hour pulls the best TED Talks together into hour-long episodes that also include in-depth interviews with each speaker. As with many of my favorite podcasts, it’s an amazing blend of storytelling and scientific research. If you love TED Talks but don’t feel like sitting down to watch each presentation individually, you’ll love this podcast.

Recommended for: People who love TED Talks but would rather listen than watch (perfect for road trips!), or anyone who loves hearing about fascinating scientific break-throughs interspersed with personal stories.

Favorite episodes: I can’t even choose, there are too many good ones!

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #9

How I Built This

How I Built This tells the story of how widely respected companies were founded through in-depth interviews with their founders. It’s fascinating to hear how well-known companies came to be–their successes, failures, and everything in between. Hearing founders’ stories, values, inspirations, and business practices firsthand will make you feel personally connected to some of these companies; and if you’re starting your own business, you’ll definitely hear some familiar struggles and gain valuable wisdom.

Recommended for: Entrepreneurs starting their own businesses, or anyone interested in hearing how famous companies came to be.

Favorite episodes: Samuel Adams: Jim Koch, Southwest Airlines: Herb Kelleher, Spanx: Sara Blakely, Kate Spade: Kate & Andy Spade, Lyft: John Zimmer, Chesapeake Bay Candle: Mei Xu

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #10

Freakonomics

The Freakonomics podcast started as an offshoot of the eponymous book about the intersection of economics and sociology, making these topics interesting and accessible to non-academics for the first time. It actually inspired me to take on a second major in sociology when I was in college. They ask fascinating, amusing questions like “Should tipping be banned?” and “Does your name impact how successful you’ll become?” You don’t have to know a thing about economics–anyone who’s ever questioned society’s most fundamental behaviors and assumptions will find it absolutely fascinating.

Recommended for: Fans of the Freakonomics books. Anyone who’s even remotely interested in the social sciences, whether or not you know anything about them.

Favorite episodes: Why is My Life So Hard?, Make Me a MatchThe No-Tipping Point, How Much Does Your Name Matter?, The Upside of Quitting

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #11

StartUp

StartUp is a fascinating podcast that digs into what it truly looks like to start a business. In a very “meta” way, Season 1 follows Gimlet Media–the company behind the StartUp podcast itself–as they start their podcast business. In Season 2, they follow another fledgling start-up: a dating app. Season 4 contains some fantastic reporting on Dov Charney, the incredibly controversial founder of American Apparel, as he gets fired from his own company and starts a new business.

Recommended for: Entrepreneurs starting their own businesses, or anyone who’s ever wondered what working for a start-up would really be like.

Favorite episodes: All of Seasons 1 & 2

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #12

Note to Self

Note to Self is a podcast about the human side of technology. They broadcast fantastic conversations about how technological innovations shape our daily lives; as well as how we can rethink and renegotiate our relationships with our phones, social media, and other technologies that we’ve come to rely on. They’ve also done some great investigative pieces on privacy in the modern era that I’ve listed below.

Recommended for: Fans of Reply All. Any human with a smartphone and a Facebook account, whether or not you’re tech-savvy in any capacity.

Favorite episodes: Eye in the SkyTaking the Lead (Parts I-IV), Apple’s Security Debate is Everyone’s Problem (Including Yours), Is My Phone Eavesdropping on Me?, How to Shake Up Your Echo ChamberWhen Your Conspiracy Theory is True

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #13

Reply All

Reply All is a podcast about the internet and technology–but it’s the opposite of dry. Like all of my favorite podcasts, it’s a blend of awesome reporting and storytelling. You’ll hear stories that examine how our lives are impacted by technology and how strange things on the internet came to be. It’s always interesting and almost always hilarious. My favorite story is On the Inside, a fantastically reported four-part series on a criminal case that fans of Serial and Criminal will adore.

Recommended for: Anyone who loves examining how technology and the internet have shaped our lives. Fans of Note to Self.

Favorite episodes: On the Inside (Parts I-IV), Russian Passenger, In the DesertThe Fever, A Simple Question, We Know What You Did

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #14

Surprisingly Awesome

Surprisingly Awesome covers a new topic each week that seems incredibly mundane on the surface, but which turns out to have a fascinating side waiting to be revealed. For example: Pigeons are now considered “rats with wings”–but did you know that they were once considered exotic, beautiful birds that cosmopolitan socialites would flock to parks to visit, observe, and feed? Alternatively, did you know that they originated in rocky areas in the Middle East–and that’s why they’re found in concrete urban environments today?

Recommended for: Anyone who loves knowing fun facts about the objects and concepts that surround us in our daily lives.

Favorite episodes: Broccoli, Pigeons, Postal Addresses

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Must-Listen Storytelling Podcasts: #15

Criminal

Criminal isn’t for everyone. I pick and choose the episodes that I listen to and leave others unplayed. However, if you’ve finished binge-listening to Serial and are dying to hear more true crime mysteries, I definitely recommend this podcast. If you love a good mystery but are upset by chilling details (like me), I absolutely recommend the episodes below–the stories are absolutely fascinating and will linger in your mind long after they’re over. If you can stomach more disturbing aspects of crime, delve into the other episodes.

Recommended for: Fans of Serial, true crime, and mysteries.

Favorite episodes: Melinda and Judy, Money Tree, Just Mercy, Dropping Like Flies

Listen with iTunes | Stream episodes online

Discover 15 must-listen podcasts for those who love storytelling, now on #featherandflint! Click To Tweet

Did I miss any of your favorite storytelling podcasts? Which podcasts from the list are you most excited to check out? Let me know in the comments–I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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41 Comments

  1. Reply

    Sincerely Miss J

    March 27, 2017

    Wow! So many different podcasts that sound very interesting. I don’t listen to podcasts often, but I’ll have to check some of these out! 🙂

    Sincerely Miss J
    http://www.sincerelymissj.com

    • Reply

      Robin

      March 27, 2017

      Thanks for reading! Definitely do – if you’re looking to get into podcasts, these are the ones I’d recommend most!

  2. Reply

    Lecy | A Simpler Grace

    March 27, 2017

    I love finding new podcasts. Thanks to you, I have so many new ones to listen to! Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons is one of my favorites. 🙂

    • Reply

      Robin

      March 27, 2017

      Ahhh, it’s SO good! I love Elizabeth Gilbert. If you love Magic Lessons, you’ll definitely love the rest of this list!

  3. Reply

    Teri

    March 27, 2017

    Can’t wait to check these out! I’m especially excited about the Ted! Love Ted talks.

    • Reply

      Robin

      March 27, 2017

      I was so excited to hear that they had made a podcast, too! You have many happy hours of listening ahead of you 🙂

  4. Reply

    Heather

    March 27, 2017

    I have never really explored the world of Podcasts. You’ve definitely given me something new to explore! Thank You!

    • Reply

      Robin

      March 27, 2017

      Yay, I’m so happy to hear that!! Let me know which ones you end up loving!

  5. Reply

    Christy

    March 27, 2017

    #8 through 12 really intrigue me. I love learning about how company’s journey to success, and as an engineer, I ofcourse love TED talks! Thanks for the list!

  6. Reply

    Lisa

    March 27, 2017

    I’ve never really listened to podcasts; I’m way behind on that curve! But what I love about this is that you’ve given me a list of some me of your favorites from each, so I know good ones to look up right away. I’ve heard good thing about Serial, and I’m definitely going to be giving these a try! Thanks!

  7. Reply

    AA

    March 28, 2017

    I’ve done a lot of the crime/murder mystery type podcasts but definitely want to venture out and try some new genres. I’m gonna bookmark this post and check some of these out! I’m also super intrigued about that Richard Simmons one- lol

  8. Reply

    candy

    March 28, 2017

    This is wonderful. I use this when I go to give service at the nursing home. I can broadcast a podcast in the room where the elderly are and they tell me it is like the old day when they gathered around the radio.

  9. Reply

    Anonymous

    March 28, 2017

    I love most of these podcasts! I hadn’t heard of Magic Lessons so I’ll give that a try this weekend. I miss Invisibilia, too. Any chance it’s coming back soon?

  10. Reply

    Rachel Ritlop

    March 28, 2017

    I always hear the best things about Serial! I just never know when to actually listen to the podcasts haha

  11. Reply

    Jenna Urben

    March 28, 2017

    I loved Serial and I cannot wait to listen to S-Town!

  12. Reply

    Taylor Mobley

    March 28, 2017

    I love podcasts! Those and audiobooks get me through long drives. I need to look into these suggestions! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Reply

    Kristin

    March 28, 2017

    Wow! That is so interesting! I am so new to the podcast world that I had not really heard of any of those (other than mentions of “Serial”). It’s good to have recommendations on hand because I would like to get into them!

  14. Reply

    Anna nuttall

    March 28, 2017

    Oooh nice selections of podcast. Thank you and I will give these a listen. xx

  15. Reply

    Kat

    March 28, 2017

    As a podcast junkie, I also love these! I would also suggest you check out The Art of Charm, Tim Ferriss, and The Lively Show. 😀

    Kinda obsessed with how easy it is to learn nowadays via podcasts.

  16. Reply

    Brittany L Bergman

    March 28, 2017

    I am such a big podcast enthusiast, and I love many of the ones you mentioned! I also really love The Birth Hour — it’s a great storytelling podcast about (as the name might give away) birth stories. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it before I had my daughter, but now I love listening! It provides such a cool connection when you can resonate with someone else’s experience.

  17. Reply

    Elizabeth Johnson

    March 28, 2017

    My husband listens to almost all of these! HAHA He is a podcast lover too. He really loved Serial and Start Up. This is a great round up. I am saving this for later reference!

  18. Reply

    Anita

    March 28, 2017

    I absolutely love podcasts. I first got into them 7 or 8 years ago but never to the obesssion I have now. I rather listen to podcasts than watch tv and I can listen for hours and hours. I’m obessed with Adnan’s case and I have most of your list and then some….but I have never heard of Radio Hour, I am so downloading this now. Thank you.

  19. Reply

    Lucy |Leaning In

    March 28, 2017

    I love listening to podcasts and almost all of these are new to me! Fab! I’ll definitely be checking some of these out. Thank you 😊

  20. Reply

    Divya

    March 28, 2017

    Great list here! I feel like podcasts have been around for so long but never became popular until after Serial went viral. (At least – that’s what it felt like to me because that’s exactly how I started falling in love with podcasts!)

    I’m a HUGE fan of Reply All. PJ’s laugh just gets me every time!

  21. Reply

    Harmony, Momma To Go

    March 29, 2017

    This list is amazing I just started getting into podcasts I’m pinning this list for reference

  22. Reply

    Dominique Bagnoche

    March 29, 2017

    I love listening to podcasts! This list is awesome! Great work 💕💕

  23. Reply

    Andreea

    March 29, 2017

    I pinned this so I can have a proper look later! I loved Serial and StartUp sounds interesting for my current situation. Have you heard about Lore? I really like this one too, all sorts of stories, spooky sometimes.

  24. Reply

    Therése

    March 29, 2017

    Great ideas! I have never listen to pods before, will have to check some of these out later!:)xo

  25. Reply

    Kim

    March 29, 2017

    I’m so excited to find this post! Loved Serial and looking for other recommendations. I could listen to TED Talks all day and happy to know there’s a podcast for them! Thanks for sharing!

  26. Reply

    Stephanie Scott

    March 29, 2017

    Great post! Podcasts are my jam! Enjoyed seeing ones that I didn’t know about. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Reply

    Nicole

    March 29, 2017

    Thanks for this I will have to check some of these out!! I love your blog btw, the style and design too are beautiful!

  28. Reply

    Catherine Short

    March 29, 2017

    I have been listening to podcasts for over 10 years too! Even though I’m from Chicago, I have to admit I have a hard time with Ira Glass’ voice. Eek!

  29. Reply

    Meredith

    March 29, 2017

    I’m a huge podcast fan, and some of these are new to me. I’m adding them to my list, so I can check them out. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Reply

    Amanda

    March 29, 2017

    This is a great list of podcasts. I will be checking these out. I, too, am an NPR fan. Wait,Wait, Don’t Tell Me, Car Talk and Prairie home companion are among the ones that I have enjoyed.

  31. Reply

    Elizabeth Brico

    March 29, 2017

    These sound AMAZING! I pinned this so I can remember to come back and check them all out. THANK YOU, this is a super cool post!!!!

  32. Reply

    April K.

    March 29, 2017

    I LOVE podcasts. I’m subscribed to about 60! I’ve heard so many people mention Serial, but I still haven’t listened. I may give it a try!

  33. Reply

    Erin Nichols

    March 30, 2017

    I have got to check some of these out. I have been getting pretty into Podcasts lately, and have been looking for some good ones.

  34. Reply

    Meghan

    March 30, 2017

    I was just telling someone the other day that I wanted to start listening to more writing and storytelling podcasts. So this couldn’t have come at a better time! Thanks for putting this together!

  35. Reply

    Mistle

    April 6, 2017

    This is an amazing list of Podcasts!!! I will admit I have not listened to any of these. I will be checking out several of these!! Thank You for the recommendations!

  36. Reply

    Natasha

    April 12, 2017

    We love podcasts! Weirdly, I enjoy listening to Freakonomics while I run. Listening keeps me distracted from how much I hate running! We also enjoy the TED Radio Hour quite a bit. I didn’t know Gilbert had a podcast – I’ve got to check it out!

  37. Reply

    Corey | The Nostalgia Diaries

    May 25, 2017

    I love Magic Lessons! I also love NPR’s StoryCorp project. I need to check some of these out – great list.

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