Choosing favorites is tough, but I do love looking back on the year gone by. So today I’m going to keep torturing myself and share my best listening experiences of 2018.
For me, the mark of a truly great listening experience is that I’m still thinking about it, even months later. Bonus points to anything that’s so listenable it makes me want to run another mile, fold another load of laundry, or sit in my car in the driveway so I can keep listening.
I split my listening time between podcasts and audiobooks, so today I’m sharing some of each.
My favorite podcast episodes
In no particular order:
I loved Austin’s 2018 release I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, and listening to her tell her story in her own words may have been even better. This is a powerful episode about looking back to move forward, and how and why we all need to work to end racial oppression.
2. But That’s Another Story: Louise Penny
I’m so glad you all urged me to give Will Schwalbe’s podcast a try. The episode with Louise Penny is a great place to jump in: they discuss Charlotte’s Web, how her awkward childhood made her a writer, and her path to publishing Still Life.
This isn’t a new interview, but it’s a good one. Krista Tippett asks excellent questions, which make the most of Godin’s unique perspective on things.
If you subscribe to On Being, you know that the show always releases two versions of each episode in their feed: the polished final version, and the raw, uncut audio. When I listen to On Being, I always listen to the polished version, because it saves time, and, as a podcast myself, I know the final version is better. But we accidentally downloaded the uncut version only before a road trip, so Will and I listened to the raw interview. It begins with a mic check, and ends with a personal signing off they both know won’t make the final cut.
This was a fortuitous mistake: listening to Tippett frame her questions (which sometimes took three tries) and Godin rephrase his responses for the listener’s sake was fascinating. I may never listen to the final version again.
4. Song Exploder: The Decemberists – Once in My Life
In each episode of Song Exploder, musicians take apart their songs and tell the story of how they were made. I love the behind-the-scenes look into the creative process, even if I’m not familiar with the musician or their work. The episode with the Decemberists is the one I keep talking about, and I also loved this episode with REM about their song Try Not to Breathe.
When I first heard that the topic for Season 3 was the criminal justice system in Cleveland, Ohio, I was not excited. But then I listened to the first episode, and I was hooked. You don’t have to listen to the whole series for this to be worth your while, but I recommend beginning with #1, A bar fight walks into the justice center. Important and timely.
I love Emily’s short podcast (and her made-for-podcasting voice), and I’m particularly fond of this episode, in which she tells a story about a memorable Uber ride in Chicago. I know I’m not the only woman who relates too well to the story she tells, and needs to be set straight—gently, because that’s Emily’s style.
This podcast is for women who love their careers and their families; each episode features an interview or focuses on a specific topic. This episode was a little unusual, as it’s focused on co-host Laura Vanderkam’s book Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. If you haven’t read the book, this is a great intro. I’d already read and loved the book, and appreciated this behind-the-scenes view into the work from the author. (You probably notice a theme in my podcast choices by now, huh? I do love a good peek behind-the-scenes.)
I almost didn’t include this one, because it’s niche and three hours long, but I’m sliding it in because once I began I felt compelled to listen through all three hours, and even revisited some sections. Nick Kokonas is the co-owner of Alinea, the founder of Tock, and an all-around interesting guy. In this episode they discuss solving tricky problems, how studying philosophy prepares you for life, misconceptions about the restaurant industry, and the history of Alinea. I also enjoyed hearing why Nick believes “what are the last five books you read” is a crucial question in any interview he conducts.
My favorite What Should I Read Next? episodes
It is SO HARD to pick favorite episodes of my own podcast—much harder than picking the above favorites, and that was brutal! I’m choosing a combination of episodes that stand out in my mind and those that would be a good introduction to the show. If you’re not a regular listener, you can truly jump in anywhere.
These are in chronological order:
1. Ep 122: This AMAZING episode will have you RACING to the library.
I chat with Season 29 Amazing Race winner Scott Flannary about how book clubs can help you connect deeply with your community, book-to-stage adaptations, childhood favorite heroines, and how an introvert finds time to read/recharge during a hectic filming schedule.
2. Ep 133: Authors who get where you’re coming from.
Sachi Argabright came to me with a specific request: she’s looking for unique and soon-to-be-released titles by authors who share her Asian American heritage. We discuss travel, reading goals, book organization, and much much more.
3. Ep 146: Refugee camps, civil war, and the triumph of a library card
This episode features an incredible conversation with Chatti Phal-Brown about how war, family, trauma, joy, and hope for the future have shaped her reading life. Spoiler alert: we both cry.
4. Ep 153: Revolutionizing your reading life, 10 minutes at a time
Kari Sweeney is a working mom of four who has developed a unique system to keep her reading life running like clockwork. We discuss wishy-washy star ratings, the right season for the right book, how she freed herself from book guilt… and she shares her secret to getting the hottest new books the week they release—for FREE.
5. Ep 155: When stolen audible credits spur a beautiful bookish relationship
This episode features our first father-daughter duo, and it is a delight. Ashley is an English teacher; Brent is an engineer. Their tastes differ but they share a love for an untold story. My challenge is to recommend beautifully written, science-y books they’ll both enjoy.
6. Ep 158: The life-changing magic of clearing your unread shelf
I chat with Whitney Conard about her Unread Shelf project, saying goodbye to reading shame, and the right and not-quite-right times to read. At Whitney’s invitation, I get to take a hard look at Whitney’s unread shelf and help her decide—from the bountiful selection of titles—what she should read next.
7. Ep 159: How to cope with the longest book hangover ever
Shawntaye Hopkins discovered Jane Austen’s books for the first time as an adult—and after that initial discovery, she dove in DEEP. In this episode we talk about the magic of immersive literary events that celebrate the classics (not just Jane!) and how they’ve changed the way Shawntaye reads her most beloved books. We also explore her TEN YEARS of book journaling, the book she’s still hungover from, and my recommendations for her include a book you probably have never heard of.
I love audiobooks because they let me read while my hands are full—whether that’s driving, doing the dishes, or walking the dog. For my fellow audiophiles: click here to see the abundant audiobook archives on Modern Mrs Darcy.
Readers, what were YOUR favorite listening experiences of the year?
P.S. My favorite reads of 2018 are coming to the blog next week. If you don’t already, click here to subscribe.