Podcasts: A How-To and My Favorites

Podcasts: A How-To and My Favorites

There’s something about car time with kids. It can try your patience for sure, but it also serves up this captive but natural interaction that can be so sweet and free. I’ve had wonderful conversations with my kids in the car, and I remember car time with my mom being priceless, essential to my emotional well-being, and just what the doctor ordered after a long day of high school as a teenager.  I think the fact that there is conversation without eye contact takes pressure off and lends boldness. My girls ask really hard questions in the car about sex and relationships and God. The setting gives the questioned time to process and ramble and delve. And sometimes kids just say cute stuff that warms your heart like this little snippet.

She loves the open world. Oh my heart.

I have to admit, there was also something wonderful about having them contained. Especially in the toddler years. Sometimes I’d load them up and then hit every drive through errand I could think of. Starbucks (well, not an errand per say…and I think I’m still wearing those mochas and maple oat nut scones around my middle), the library, the dry cleaner, the bank, the pharmacy. Being on the move and in control with the two apples of my eye safely harnessed and behind me was satisfying. Like my ducks were in a row. And the view from the front seat!

girls and Flossie in the car; podcasts article

Now that our girls are older, I find myself alone in the car for long stretches. When the girls were young, if I was driving, I had at least one wee passenger. We’d chat or listen to music. Now, a majority of my drive time is solo. I have 84,000 plus miles on my 2014 car. Scott calculated that with my average driving speed and how long I’ve owned the car, I’ve driven it an average of four hours a day! FOUR! That’s a part time job! It can get boring. Don’t get me wrong. I looove my alone time. But sometimes the mind wants some entertainment or just new information to chew on that music can’t provide.

That’s where podcasts come in. Wait. Stay with me. If you aren’t already a podcast listener, you need to know a few things. It’s easy. It’s super fun. And it’s mind expanding in the most entertaining way. A podcast is like a tv series for your ears, so each podcast has episodes. And there are podcasts about every topic imaginable. True crime, parenting, the internet, self help, fashion, decorating, comedy, celebrity interviews, news, fictional radio, psychology, science, nature, religion, and tons more. I am going to show you a step by step tutorial with screen shots on how to get started. Just listen to ONE. If you don’t like it, no harm done. But I bet you’ll be hooked. They aren’t just good for driving. I listen while I’m running and doing housework. Makes drudgery so much more tolerable! If you already know that podcasts are awesome, just scroll down to my numbered list to see what I like. You might discover your new favorite!

how to


  • Grab your iPhone. The podcast app is there, whether or not you’ve noticed it. It looks like this:

iPhone podcasts icon

My background is of Scott and the girls peering up a giant sequoia three years ago.

  • Now, click that icon. It’ll take you to a screen that looks like one of the following pictures:
  • Click the search button on the lower right. Type in “This American Life.” This is what you’ll see:iphone podcasts search results for this american lifeThe top part of the search results lists episodes of different podcasts that include your search terms. The bottom half lists the actual podcast series. That’s what you want to click.
  • So click the This American Life Icon on the lower left.
  • Then click the subscribe button to the right of the icon.
  • Now click “My Podcasts” on the very bottom of the screen. It’s just to the right of “unplayed.”
  • Now click “Feed” right under and to the right of the This American Life Icon. Now your screen should look like this:

iPhone my podcasts this american life feed

These are all of the episodes you have available to you. As new episodes are released, they’ll automatically download to your app when you are home on wifi. They’ll show up in the “unplayed” page. The episodes in the feed are episodes previously released. If you click one, it’ll start playing. Then you just use the pause, play, and back or forward commands on the screen to control it.

what’s good

Here are my favorites! You can also listen online. To do that, click the logo.

  1. up and vanished icon; podcasts article     Up and Vanished (16 and over only)- This is my current binge-listen. It’s a new podcast made by a documentary filmmaker about an unsolved missing persons case from 2005. I’m only halfway through the current episodes, but it is fascinating and very well done. Episodes range from 30 to 60 minutes. Listen to the first episode and then subsequent episodes in order or you’ll be confused.
  2. hidden brain icon; podcasts article     Hidden Brain- 30 minute long episodes about psychology and the brain and why we do the things we do. I wrote an entry called Tunnels about a recent episode that spoke to me. It’s episode 65.
  3. side hustle school icon; podcasts article     Side Hustle School- A new favorite as I work on my own side hustle, this show spotlights a different person in each episode who works a regular job and starts an income-earning project on the side. The daily stories are told in a snappy, relatable format I find inspiring. Listen to the episode about chicken saddles, “Saddles for Pet Chickens: Get Ready to Wing It!” Yep, chicken saddles are a thing and people pay money for them.
  4. happier icon; podcasts article     Happier with Gretchen Rubin – Upbeat, applicable ideas about how to make your life happier, easier, and more meaningful by the author of The Happiness Project. Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft, a writer and producer in Hollywood, discuss quick tips, try-this-at-home advice, know yourself better concepts and life hacks that are refreshingly light but meaty. These ladies have a cute banter and casual girlfriend vibe but deliver substance. This one grew on me. I wasn’t sold right off the bat, but after a few episodes, I wouldn’t miss it. I haven’t listened to the first season (someday I’ll go back and take care of that!), but a favorite episode to check out is episode 112, “Pick a Uniform,” or 95, “Practice Mise-En-Place.”
  5. homecoming icon; podcasts article     Homecoming (16 and over only) – A scripted fictional series starring Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, David Cross, and Amy Sedaris. The story centers on a caseworker at an experimental facility, her supervisor, and a soldier attempting to rejoin civilian life and unfolds in a series of telephone calls, therapy sessions, and overheard conversations. It’s an edge of your seat, never heard anything like it suspense drama. I can’t suggest a favorite. It rolls out like a movie. Listen from episode 1 to 6 in order.
  6. how i built this     How I Built This- Showcases the creative genius and process of successful entrepeneurs via in-depth interviews with the creators of businesses like Spanx, Clif Bar,  Airbnb, Angie’s List, Melissa & Doug, Patagonia and so many more. Each episode highlights a different business and really gives the inside scoop by going to the source and asking the right questions. Feels honest and generous. I love knowing this stuff! I loved the episode entitled “Spanx: Sara Blakely.”
  7. death sex and money icon; podcasts article     Death Sex & Money (16 and over only)- Describes itself as a podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation. Anna Sale interviews celebrities and everyday people about relationships, money, family, work and making it all count while we’re here. Always interesting, authentic, and different.  My favorites are “How to Be a Man with Bill Mathers,” and “The NFL Made Me Rich. I Won’t Watch It Now.”
  8. invisibility icon; podcasts article   Invisibilia- (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. A beautiful combination of storytelling and science. My favorite episodes are “Entanglement,” and “The Problem with the Solution.”
  9. dear sugar icon; podcasts article    Dear Sugar (16 and over only)- Hosts Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild) and Steve Almond discuss letters sent in by readers who want thoughtful, empathetic advise. The show says of itself, “The universe has good news for the lost, lonely and heartsick. Dear Sugar is here, and speaking straight into your ears.” It’s like listening to a one-sided therapy session which sounds dry and awful, but Cheryl and Steve are so insightful, kind, and energetic in their attempts to give good answers. It feels sincere and warm. And maybe a little like getting a gossip fix without actually gossiping. Some of the topics are out there!
  10. the longest shortest time icon; podcasts article      The Longest Shortest Time- A parenting podcast that is interesting for anyone who is a parent or has a parent. The host is adorable and has a great interviewing ease. My favorite episodes are a series called “The Accidental Gay Parents,” episodes 60, 62, 80, and 81. You will fall in love with these guys.
  11. modern love icon; podcasts article     Modern Love- This is based on The New York Times Modern Love column which publishes essays written by contestants about love, loss, and redemption. The essays are read by familiar actors and set to a subtle backdrop of music and sound effects. Its so beautiful. My favorite is episode 18, “A Heart Outrun” read by Colin Farrell.
  12. s town icon; podcasts article     S Town (16 and over only)- This one is hard to describe. It’s another one to listen to in order starting with episode 1. It is an investigative story told by a reporter invited by a man named John, who despises his Alabama town, to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life. It’s a trip!
  13. Radiolab icon; podcasts articleRadiolab- This is a science and philosophy show for “listeners who demand skepticism, but appreciate wonder.” They cover a wide array of topics like DNA editing, Ponzi schemes, and high tech surveillance. My favorite episodes are “Eye in the Sky” and “Alpha Gal.”
  14. this american life icon; podcasts article     This American Life- This is the podcast that drew me in to podcasts. It is an NPR human interest show where they tell a few unrelated stories around a central theme. It is just so interesting, thought provoking, and satisfying. I could listen all day. There is no way I could choose a favorite. Try episode 589, “Tell Me I’m Fat.”

If none of those ring your bell, click Top Charts to see what other people are loving.

apple podcasts top charts

Or check out this podcast list or this one both on one of my favorite blogs, Cup of Jo.

Are you going to try it?

If you are already hooked, what do you love? I’m always looking for new podcasts to try.

  • […] myself, but it’s a big undertaking. One day, I was listening to Side Hustle School (one of my favorite podcasts) and heard a story of a woman who, with no fashion or apparel experience, launched a successful bra […]

  • […] myself, but it’s a big undertaking. One day, I was listening to Side Hustle School (one of my favorite podcasts) and heard a story of a woman who, with no fashion or apparel experience, launched a successful bra […]

  • […] on my lap waiting for a daughter to finish swimming. (If you, too, live in your car, you have to read this.) This is another “As Seen on TV” thing, so think white elephant or gift exchange. But also, […]

  • […] on my lap waiting for a daughter to finish swimming. (If you, too, live in your car, you have to read this.) This is another “As Seen on TV” thing, so think white elephant or gift exchange. But also, […]

  • Holly Merrill says:

    Really! This is where the podcasts hide! OH, so nice of you for sharing. Thanks Joanne!

  • […] I was ALL IN! It’s still one of my favorites, but I try new podcasts all the time. I wrote an article about my favorites back in June of 2017, and many are still the same. I wouldn’t denounce a […]

  • […] Now, this costs ZERO dollars! But it can be a very thoughtful and much loved gift. If you love podcasts and have someone on your list that you know would love podcasts but hasn’t quite entered that world yet, this is a certificate you print and complete. It has instructions on how to listen to podcasts and a place for you to suggest the perfect podcast for your recipient. If you need ideas, check out these articles I wrote on my favorites: 8 Awesome Podcasts I Hope Never End and Podcasts: A How to and My Favorites. […]

  • >