Lately, I’ve been slacking on reading. I find the commitment of a novel daunting when added to all of the reading I need to do for work. I love long reads, but sometimes, I just don’t feel like putting in the effort after spending the day staring at words. Audiobooks are a fun option, but they are still a longer commitment, and sometimes I love a compelling story I can experience start to finish, in an hour.
Enter storytelling podcasts. I came late to the podcast game. I thought of them mostly as eavesdropping on people having conversations with each other, like radio shows, or interviews, or simply information-giving. None of this really appealed to me. Then I discovered the world of storytelling that existed in the podcast community, and I was hooked.
There are few things I enjoy more when I want to zone out and relax than storytelling podcasts. Whether it’s when I have a few minutes to myself during the day and looking for some self-care, or when I’m trying to sleep at night, popping on my headphones and a storytelling podcast does the trick every time.
If you’re new to this genre, or want to explore more options, let me share with you some of my favourites.
The Moth shares true stories told by the people who experienced them. Rather than being recorded in a studio, they are the audio from live storytelling events held around the world. The creators of the events and the podcast work with storytellers to polish their stories, and their storytelling, then participants share their stories to an audience, without the use of notes or other aides. Some stories are by professional writers and speakers, while others are just from people who had something fascinating to share. I have been moved to tears of laughter, sorrow, and inspiration many times listening to this deeply compelling podcast.
Lore is based on, well, folklore. Rooted in real history, carefully researched and fact-checked, but exploring less easy to prove stories of the supernatural and tall tales, Lore is a fascinating account of the past, a snapshot of our ancestry, and a cultural discovery. While careful to portray these accounts as tales passed down and beliefs of the time rather than cold hard facts, Lore definitely has moments when you question the existence of the paranormal. At times chilling, not insignificantly from the very real barbarity of practices in our history, Lore is one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve heard yet.
If you loved him reading children’s books on Reading Rainbow, wait until you hear him read for grown-ups. The premise for this podcast is simple – LeVar Burton reads stories he likes. That’s it. These are short-fiction stories, usually in the range of forty-five to sixty minutes, give or take. They are frequently, but not always, science-fiction, simply because LeVar enjoys that genre. They are written by authors with a wide diversity of representation in terms of gender, race, culture, age, and sexual orientation. As a bonus, LeVar often interviews the author after the story (or discusses the story if the author is no longer alive or is unavailable), and has even brought his show on the road, reading stories by authors local to the city he is in. If there is a better narrator than LeVar Burton, I’ve yet to find them. His voice is simply transformative.
Like The Moth, this podcast features audio from live performances, but instead of true stories, performers read short fiction. The stories range from new writers to established authors. Sometimes they are read by the author themselves, other times by an enthusiastic narrator, or even celebrities. While LeVar Burton Reads is largely science fiction, Selected Shorts tackles a wide variety of genres.
Adapted from the popular New York Times column, these essays about “Love, Loss, and Redemption” are read aloud, sometimes by celebrities (Kristen Bell read a fantastic one about a sex chair, that was more endearing and funny than it was kinky.)
This podcast is not for the faint of heart. The stories are less polished than the other ones on this list, told with brutal honesty and raw feelings, and tackling intense and taboo subjects. The stories told are incredible, but I do caution trigger warnings for many things including assault, suicide, and substance abuse. Definitely read the description of each episode before starting it.
It’s a given that this podcast is hilarious. Whether it is diary entries, poetry, or short stories, we all wrote some doozies when we were kids. Sometimes, though, these readers are fantastic and insightful writers as children, and you may find yourself feeling as inspired as you would listening to seasoned artists. If you’re looking for an easy, entertaining listen, this is it. It might even inspire you to dig out some of the old papers in your parents’ hope chest.
Whether you are in the mood for a gripping true story, a quick or funny anecdote, or a master piece of fiction, these podcasts have you covered. Happy listening!