My top 8 favorite podcasts

I first got into podcasts when I started commuting last year. I get a lot of reading done in that time, but when I'm walking to and from the bus stop, waiting at the station, or riding the bus, I don't really like to read. Instead, I listen to stories being told on the radio, just like my ancestors. Only unlike my ancestors, I listen to them through my tiny Skull Candy ear buds, not sitting next to a giant wood-paneled radio.

favorite podcasts

favorite podcasts

Podcasts appeal to a whole heap of people, especially now that it's really hard for us to just not do anything for a while (which is probably not good, but we'll save the topic of society's addiction to activity for another blog.)

Without further ado, if you're looking for something new to cut your boredom, help you learn how to be a better writer, or find out more about some cases of true crime, here are my top 8 favorite podcasts (in no particular order):

For captivating stories...

1. Serial

Almost everyone I know has at least heard of this podcast. Around 50% of those people have listened to season one multiple times and became so immersed in Adnan Syed's story that they then spent hours on Reddit and other (super reliable) websites, trying to figure out whether he really did it. It spawned multiple follow-up podcasts (including the next two I've mentioned below).

Not only did Serial give us Adnan's story, it returned late last year with season two, investigating the real story behind the disappearance and recovery of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his post in Afghanistan and was captured and held by the Taliban for five years. It's an absolutely riveting story, even though it's completely different from Adnan's tale. I like how the series has evolved so far, and will continue to be a Serial fan as long as Sarah Koenig digs into cases.

2. Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed

The woman who originally brought Adnan's case to Sarah Koenig's attention was a family friend/esteemed lawyer, Rabia Chaudry. After season one of Serial wrapped up, Rabia joined with two other lawyers who had become interested in the case through the podcast, and together they started their own to dig into the evidence from a legal point of view. As someone who works with lawyers daily and writes about the justice system, I actually found Undisclosed even more intriguing than Serial. Going into all the evidence and comparing it to case law precedent might sound boring to some people, but the way Colin, Susan, and Rabia describe the legal meaning of these cases is fascinating and completely accessible. Not to mention that they uncovered incredible new evidence that was likely responsible for finally getting Adnan a post-conviction relief hearing in February this year, after 17 years of rejection in the courts.

3. Truth and Justice

Host Bob Ruff could be just your average joe, pissed off about the injustice in Adnan Syed's case like millions of other listeners all over the globe. Except unlike the average joe, instead of just getting angry and posting blogs and Facebook rants about it, he decided to start his own podcast and invite his army of listeners to find out who really killed Hae Min Lee. After several months of fantastic episodes, Bob decided to take on a new case, quit his job as a fire chief, and dedicate himself to freeing innocent prisoners full-time. He is now in the process of putting together a report for the Department of Justice showing a pattern of corruption in Smith County, Texas. His show is unique and exciting because it shows you how one person willing to step out and motivate other people can make such a huge difference. Since he's started, Bob has raised money to help a young man mistreated by police pay for a lawyer, has put together a Go Fund Me page to support police officers to do de-escalation training, and has given hope to several prisoners serving life behind bars for crimes they claim to be innocent of. It's a great initiative and a great podcast -- I encourage you to get involved!

4. Someone Knows Something

My writer friend and fellow true crime lover Candice Fox turned me on to this podcast just last week, and I've already listened to all six episodes (at the time of this writing). The host David Ridgen visits his hometown in eastern Ontario to look into a cold case from the 1970s: Five-year-old Adrien McNaughton wandered away from his family into the woods and was never seen again. David interviews the family and never-before-heard-from witnesses from the event, gets the help of cadaver dogs and a professional age progression sketch artist, digging as deeply as he can into this case that's been unsolved for more than 40 years. All I can say is, I'm hooked and I can't wait to find out what happens next. No really, I can't wait.

5. Real Crime Profile

This is one of my favorite new podcasts because it features former FBI profiler Jim Clemente, Laura Richards of New Scotland Yards (and the FBI), and the casting director for Criminal Minds discussing some of the most popular cases of the day from a law enforcement and behavioral analyst perspective. The first few episodes dug into Making a Murderer, and they've now moved on to analyzing The People vs. O.J. I think it's refreshing to hear the law enforcement side of things, especially since Jim and Laura seem to care so passionately about doing the right thing as officers of the law, and are more than willing to point out wrongdoing on the part of the police where it's clearly happened without necessarily jumping straight to saying "But the guy deserved it/did it anyway." They've brought up things in the behavior of Steven Avery and O.J. Simpson that I never would have thought of before, doing so with high entertainment value while still being incredibly respectful of the victims and their families. Put this podcast on your list!

6. This American Life

This radio show has been around for years, but I only got into it after listening to Serial (which was a spin-off of the TAL production.) Firstly, I could listen to the host, Ira Glass, talk all day long and not get bored with it. He's engaging, charismatic, and very smart. But I also love how they choose a theme each week and explore it through multiple stories, stand-up comic routines, songs, and other media, weaving all the stories together to suit their show. I've learned some really cool facts, heard amazing stories, and been entertained for hours by this podcast. Highly recommended.

For advice on writing and creativity...

7. So You Want to Be a Writer

The title says it all. I found out about this podcast shortly after moving to Australia, as it's hosted by the founder of the Australian Writers' Centre and one of the fantastic presenters of its courses: Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait. These lovely ladies produce a show every week, chock full of useful tips, warnings and advice, questions answered, and my favorite segment -- the writer in residence interview. They speak to an author, editor, agent, or some other professional in the publishing industry every week, and it's always so encouraging to me to hear how everyone's path to publication is distinct. No one author's experience is the same as another's. Plus, Val and Al are entertaining, funny, and down-to-earth hosts that I would be happy to sit down and have coffee with any day of the week. If you're a writer or interested in being in the publishing business, you are missing out if you don't listen in.

8. Magic Lessons

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast that followed on from her recent book about writing and creativity, Big Magic. In this show, she phones and chats with several people who are feeling stuck or unsure of their creative abilities, and uses her general awesomeness and motivation to encourage them to keep going. She also interviews a few other top writers. It's one of the most beautiful, invigorating podcasts I've ever listened to, and it was hard not to be instantly inspired to write. While I haven't read any of her books yet, I love Gilbert's podcast and would highly recommend it to any writer or creative spirit.

There you go! I hope you've found one or two new favorite podcasts to listen to in your down time (or washing dishes time, or cooking time, or working out time...) Drop me a comment below if you have any recommendations of your own!