2017 in Review: Podcasts & Books

We are living in the golden age of podcasting. Seriously – there is something out there for everyone. Podcasts are one of the best ways to experience the life of someone different from you. You can listen to ideas that challenge your beliefs and it encourages you to spend some time in the shoes/brain of someone wholly different. This year, I’ve done a deep dive into several podcasts, some of which I’ll recommend.

Click here for a link to the mass podcast list I’ve been aggregating this year. Pick a category and dive in to the world of podcasts!  Please contribute to the doc: if you have a recommendation to be added, leave it as a comment and I’ll add it into the document.

Top 10 Podcast of 2017

10) Alone: A Love Story

This is essentially the story of a deteriorating love that started epic and ended in shambles. I am drawn to it because of the sincerity and authenticity with which the story is told. There are 10 episodes ranging in length from 20-50 minutes. The true story is told by a skilled journalist in an intriguing and thought provoking way. I listed to the whole series in a week.

Favorite episode of 2017: Sept 18 – Ep4: “Impossible to see”

9) The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson 

This podcast kept being recommended in advertisements on other podcasts I listen to. At first I would flinch every time the ad came on, because the moment I heard the word “porn” I automatically decided it must be garbage not worth my time. But then I realized that maybe I needed to check out why that was my gut reaction – so I gave it a listen and I am so glad I did. Jon Ronson traces (as best he can) the butterfly effect of free porn in today’s world. It is not straight-forward, it is not consequence free, and the conclusions he draws are not black and white. This podcast is all about grey area. My favorite thing about this 7 part series is that each angle he uncovers is it’s own sort of catch-22. There are no right answers here, no neat line demarcating moral versus amoral. Just a guy tracing the various stories that have originated from an industry that has undoubtedly and irrevocably, for better or worse, changed our generation.

Favorite episode of 2017: Nov 4 – “Children” (available for free on apps like Overcast/Podcast iTunes app)

8) The Heart, Host: Kaitlin Prest, Radiotopia

This was a recommendation from a friend when I was putting together my massive podcast spreadsheet. I was hooked immediately. Being such an avid podcast listener, there isn’t much that surprises me in tone/form/content like The Heart did. This podcast plays with various sound mediums, rhythms, and the content is inter-sectional in a rare and delightful way. There simply isn’t another podcast out there quite like this one. Unfortunately they won’t be making new episodes in 2018, but I hope that doesn’t stop you from digging into the archive like I did and finding some gems.

Favorite episode of 2017: Nov 22 – “God + The Gays”

7) Radiolab Presents: More Perfect

A long time listener of Radiolab, I was excited to check out this spin-off. Bringing the polish and superb editing Radiolab is known for, each of these episodes dives into the Supreme Court in an intimate way. Prior to More Perfect I never would have thought 9 Supreme Court Justices could be so intriguing. From landmark cases, to never before heard of names that ended up changing the course of American history, each one of these episodes is engaging and fascinating, while also giving you quite the history lesson. This should be required listening for every pre-law student out there.

Favorite episode of 2017: Nov 30 “Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man”

6) Hidden Brain

Science and storytelling all wrapped into one amazing podcast. Shankar Vedantam’s voice is perfection, but beyond that, the stories he weaves are constantly making me think about why I do the things I do. Why people are the way they are. Why the world is what it is. Hidden Brain is all about the unconscious patterns of our lives – and at times, how to challenge those patterns in order to live life more deeply.

Favorite episode of 2017: Oct 10 – “The Edge of Gender”

5) Reveal with Al Letson

Yet another podcast voice that I can’t seem to get enough of. Reveal is from PRX Public Radio Exchange and the Center for Investigative Reporting. They dig deep into stories that you’ve never heard of, forgotten about, or never heard at all and should have. This team does their homework and brings stories from across America that inspire, aggravate, and awe. Do yourself a favor and sit with a few of these. I couldn’t pick just one favorite for this podcast, so start with these.

Favorite episode(s) of 2017: Jul 1 – “Losing ground”, May 6 – “What cops aren’t learning”, May 22 – “The man inside: Four months as a prison guard”, Sept 9 – “Running from cops”

4)  Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel

Esther Perel seems to be having a bit of a moment. Well deserved though! From a best-selling book to a widely watched TED talk, Esther Perel is helping people left and right. The first couple of episodes were uncomfortable to me. It’s strange to be hearing a counseling session as if you’re in the room with these people wading through the depth and discomfort of their pain. Some episodes made me want to scream. Some made me wonder why these people were together in the first place. Some made me wonder if I ever want to do the hard work of relationships, because that’s what you get from this podcast: the understanding that relationships are REALLY hard work. But maybe that’s what makes this podcast so good. Because you’re listening to people in the trenches. People struggling in some of the most heart-wrenching ways, but there they are, seeking help for it. Seeking answers. Seeking a way to get back on solid ground, and I can’t help but respect the hell out of that. So for all you counseling nay-sayers, get outta here and let Esther Perel continue having her moment – she’s got some gems we all need to hear.

Favorite episode of 2017: Dec 1 – “I Can’t Give You a Child” (free on podcast apps like Overcast)

3) Death, Sex & Money with Anna Sale

If you’ve heard me talk podcasts, you’ve probably heard me bring up Death, Sex, & Money. The tagline is “things we think about a lot and need to talk about more”. I love the truth of that statement. There are so many topics I get squirmish about and these are 3 of them. The host, Anna Sale, does such a great job of creating comfortable environment for her guests to really get to the heart of issues and talk about hard things. I probably love this podcast because I get to listen to it in the privacy of my own home, alone, and don’t actually have to talk about these things; but I appreciate Anna and her guests for their willingness to do so. Vulnerability – I’m working on it 😉

Favorite episode of 2017: Jun 28 & 29 – “Our Student Loan Secrets Parts 1 & 2”

2) The Daily with Michael Barbaro

I joked to a friend that Michal Barbaro is probably my best friend at site. Since the podcast started early this year I have started just about every morning of 2017 listening to Michael Barbaro give me stories about the day’s news. I have literally talked back to him, laughed, cried, cussed, and rolled my eyes – all with his dulcet tones playing in the background of my morning routine. If Michael (yea we’re on a first name basis already) isn’t already part of your morning routine, you should get on that asap – he’s a great friend to have.

1) Code Switch

Duh. This should surprise no one. Two years in and they continue to impress and inform the masses on race and identity. Just listen so I can stop talking about it to myself.

Favorite episode of 2017: I repeat, listen to them all. But here are some to start with: Sept 27 – “Befuddled By Babies, Love And Ice Pops? Ask Code Switch”, June 7 – “A Prescription for ‘Racial Imposter Syndrome'”, 2016 Honorable Mention: May 31 – “Can We Talk About Whiteness?”

Honorable Mentions: Invisibilia, LeVar Burton Reads, Modern Love, 2 Dope Queens,  Friendshipping with Jenn & Trin, What Trump Can Teach us about Con Law, Revisionist History, NPR Up First,  The Moth

Top Books of 2017

Due to the sheer mass of podcast listening I’ve been doing (in between Netflix binging, of course) my reading habits have suffered this year! I definitely fell victim to my habit of reading far too many fantasy young adult novels, but hey, I like what I like. Don’t judge me. For the last 3 years I hit the 50 books/year mark, but this year my total came in at 24. Here are my top reads from this year. Feel free to check out 2016, 2015, and 2014 for other book recommendations!

1) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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I read this on my flight to Thailand somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. It’s amazing. This book has so many quotable pieces. Bite size chunks of wisdom that I think fit beautifully in the context of this tension Paul was experiencing: how do you live when you know you’re actively dying? What’s important to us as humans and what is the meaning of life? I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone trying to make some sense of death, and incidentally, searching for how to really live life.

2) The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
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Beautifully written, heart wrenching, and empowering. The untold stories of the countless women who contributed in immeasurable ways during WWII are so important. Great read and a wonderful story worth telling.

 

3/3.5) milk and honey // the sun and her flowers both by rupi kaur

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23513349.jpgThe poems are engaging because of their brevity and depth. It seems contradictory – like those two things can’t exists together, but when kaur writes, they do. These are poems that I’ve scribbled in my journal or revisited on days when they seem especially applicable. They’re short and sweet and sometimes, just what you need.

4) The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

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I was nearly halfwaythrough this book before I really appreciated it’s greatness. The storytelling here is masterful and the way Jemisin builds this complex world is admirable and worth sticking with. I can’t wait to pick up the next book in the trilogy.

 

5) New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

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Full of wisdom and musings about the world, both external and internal to oneself. I see this book as one I will be re-reading for years to come. “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”

 

Here’s to a new year of consuming media other than copious amounts of Netflix!

Cheers 2018!

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