This American Life
No podcast collection would be complete without This American Life. Host Ira Glass delves into first-person stories and short fiction pieces from around the world. It will make you laugh just as often as it will make you cry. TAL holds the torch by which others are judged.
A different breed of storytelling than This American Life and Radiolab comes from the Moth organization. Each storyteller stands under a bright spotlight, in a crowded room, sharing their true experiences with a live audience.
Think This American Life is a bit bland? Then take a walk on the wild side with Kevin Allison’s Risk! The weekly show features live writers, performers, and everyday people telling stories they “never thought they’d dare to share.”
Serial, a spin-off of This American Life, is The Wire of podcasts, unfolding a single, nonfiction story over the course of an entire season. A project of ace reporter, Sarah Koenig, it quickly became the most popular podcast ever. Season one followed the case of Baltimore teens Hae Min Lee who was murdered in 1999 and Adnan Syed, who was convicted of the crime. Season two is due to be released before the end of 2015.
Here Be Monsters
This podcast is like a cross between This American Life and The Twilight Zone. The (mostly) true stories are alternately spooky, humorous, intense, and fascinating, and the experimental and eerie sound design is spellbindingly fun.
Welcome to Night Vale
This series purports to be the local radio announcements of the titular weird desert town. Welcome to Night Vale is a bit like Twin Peaks if it were a podcast—with menacing glow clouds and monstrous mayors.
This podcast is, as host and producer Glynn Washington puts it, “storytelling with a beat.” Snap Judgement is a profound, engaging, and humorous listen. It puts a new kind of spin on standard storytelling.
This podcast is like those radio dramas from the ’30s and ’40s, except with better production values and more mature themes. A new short story is portrayed on every episode and everything about it is amazing, from the voice actors, to the script and the sound design.
These first-person stories often sound like confessions, whether they’re combining several voices or utilize just one. The podcast is the project of award-winning producer Joe Richman and brings together the voices of teenagers, prison guards, and everyday people to explore various topics and tell their own stories.
Death, Sex, and Money
Polite conversation often omits some of the most important topics of our day — and that’s where Death, Sex, and Money steps in. Celebrities and everyday people use the podcast as a vessel to discuss some of the hardest choices they’ve had to make, the biggest questions they’ve had to ask, and the things that have affected their lives the most. Anna Sale hosts.
The recently-launched Limetown is a spooky, fictional podcast about real-life APR journalist Lia Haddock and her fictional investigation into the mass disappearance of the residents of Limetown. Oft described as Serial meets X Files, the episodes slowly build suspense, giving you goosebumps as they do.
State of the Re:Union
Capturing all the many nebulous intangibles of what makes one place different from another is a difficult task. Al Letson does so by travelling all over the United States and telling stories regarding the people and communities he visits. What seems like a simple premise leads to perspicacious observations about our place in the microcosmic sense, as well as in the larger fiber of American identity.
Fans of Serial will enjoy this podcast about crime, which is a pet project of professional radio producers Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer. Criminal incorporates reimagined versions of murder ballads, investigations into historical crimes, and stories on the wrongdoings of the criminal system. Whether moving or macabre, this podcast keeps its listeners interested.