Sunday, January 04, 2015

Favorite Podcasts of 2014

After over a year away from this blog, I feel compelled to return for one of my favorite things: doing some best of the year lists.

I've typically done a best albums of the year list, but when I was thinking through this year, I couldn't think of many albums that would be on that list. That's not to say there hasn't been some great music that has come out this year. It's just that most of my listening time comes on my commute to work, and this year, I've mainly been listening to podcasts.

While I've been listening to a handful of podcasts for several years now, this year has definitely been the year of the podcast for me. Thankfully there are a lot of great options out there, so, in lieu of my favorite albums, here are my favorite podcasts that I've enjoyed this year.

1. Serial
This was an incredible journalistic story, told over 12 episodes, that seemed to have most of the country captivated. It came from This American Life producer, Sarah Koenig, who takes another look at a murder case from 1999. She wonders if the man presently serving a life sentence for the crime was wrongfully convicted or not. Sarah does a great job looking at a lot of different facets of the story and takes the listener on a roller coaster ride of emotions and convictions about what actually happened. Very well done. Looking forward to season 2.

Recommended episodes: ALL of them

2. Relevant
Put out by the creators of Relevant Magazine, this is 90-120 minute weekly conversation that I have looked forward to ever since I began the journey in the fall of 2007. Although there are foundational elements like news slices, entertainment releases, occasional interactive games, and spots for musical guests, pastors, leaders, writers, etc., most of it is just so very random and hilarious. Looking forward to many more years with this crew.

Recommended episode: Trip Lee (October 31)

3. This American Life
Produced and hosted by Ira Glass, this is a weekly collection of stories that center around a particular topic. I began listening in 2011 and it has been near the top of the most downloaded podcasts at least that long.

Recommended episode: 129 Cars (November 16)

4. RadioLab
I began listening to this after the two hosts, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, were interviewed by Relevant back in September. With each episode there is a central theme and they unpack that theme in a remarkable way, touching on religion, psychology, philosophy, sociology, and history.

Recommended episode: Shorts: For the love of numbers (May 2)

5. Freakonomics
This was another new one I picked up this year. Steven Levitt, the co-author of the book of the same name, is the host. The tagline sums it up well: "A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything."

Recommended episode: How can tiny Norway afford to buy so many Teslas? (October 16)

6. NPR Planet Money
Another new one to me, these are short (usually around 15 minutes) episodes that look at different stories from a financial perspective.

Recommended episode: Why is the milk in the back of the store (July 23)

7. Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin
Having started about a month ago, I've only listed to two episodes so far, but they have both been very enjoyable. Alec Baldwin basically sits down with different people and asks them about their lives. He is a really good host and interviewer because he is able to have fun with his guests and because he is so curious about all the little things that have made them who they are.

Recommended episode: Jerry Seinfeld (June 2)

8. Undone Redone
I began listening to this one some time in 2013. It's a podcast out of Birmingham hosted by Tray and Melody Lovvern that is centered around the theme of brokenness and the messiness of life. They are Christians who got divorced after Tray's sexual addiction came to light, but were re-married six years later, after a lot of counseling and healing. They interview many different types of authors, leaders, and counselors who discuss their own stories of brokenness and addiction. I really enjoy it because it normalizes the issues that many Christians face but are too ashamed to admit. And they always stay focused on how God's grace and love is present among those dark places, drawing us to himself though we don't deserve it.

Recommended episode: Living from our deep desires (February 11)

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