4 Podcasts for People Who Love Good Stories
For the Love of the Story
There's an art to a good story, the kind that stays with you long after you it's over. Memorable characters. That twist in the plot you didn't expect. A narrator who captivates and cajoles, persuades and perseveres. Stories have a way of inspiring, intriguing, and exasperating us.
But stories also have a way of connecting us. It's why we gravitate toward books and movies and TV shows. We love a good story that taps into the very thing that makes us human.
But in today's world, finding time to read a story or watch movies or TV shows can be difficult. We're so busy, on the run from work to dinner, practice to class, and everything in between. So these days, if you're searching for a good story, sometimes the best way to experience one is to listen. That's one of the reasons podcasts have become so popular.
So, if you're looking for a good story, but don't have time to commit to an entire book (or audio book), here are a few podcasts that feature well-crafted stories in a unique format.
1. This American Life
This American Life is one of the flagships of the "story" podcast genre. It's been an NPR staple for years, and for good reason. Each week, the hour-long show features several "acts," which are three to four separate stories all centered around a particular theme. If you're a writer or storyteller of any kind, it's an intriguing idea and one that's interesting to watch play out. Some weeks, the theme works better than others, but it's always an interesting show from beginning to end—and it's always interesting to see how they make the theme work! Recent favorites include:
2. The Memory Palace
I stumbled on this podcast one day when I was looking for a podcast to fill the hole in my commute after the first season of "Serial" came to a close. While "The Memory Palace" is vastly different from "Serial," it really is a beautiful example of the art of podcast storytelling at the its best. In this podcast, host Nate DiMeo weaves together a new story in each episode, generally about a particular moment, person or event in history. A former journalist, Dimeo's attention to detail and the thoughtful turns of phrase he uses to create the cadence of each episode is evident. Some stories may make you cry. Others might make you angry—but whatever the episode is about, you can guarantee that you won't walk away without feeling something. Some all-time favorites:
I found "Lore" when searching for history podcasts. That might put some off, but "Lore" isn't a history podcast , really. Written and produced by Aaron Mahnke, each episode weaves a story, usually on a slightly mysterious, macabre or weird topic. Like Nate DiMeo, Mahnke is a consummate storyteller, beginning each episode with a motif and artfully weaving it throughout the entire episode, coming back to the metaphor at the end and building on it in ways I often don't expect or see coming. My favorite episodes are the ones where Mahnke takes on an entire city, guiding his listeners to look beyond the cities they think they know to experience something, well, more. One of my favorites is Behind Closed Doors.
Aaron Mahnke on Storytelling
"Gravy" is a whole different kind of take on storytelling from the other podcasts mentioned. It's probably most similar to "This American Life," if I had to categorize it. Produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance, Gravy tells stories that somehow, in some way, center on food. But the stories aren't just about a particular recipe or the history of a food; they're really more about people and the way food brings us together. The stories go beyond the food and delve into our humanness, our fears and struggles and the things that bring us delight. Check out a few favorites of mine: