I started listening to podcasts 10 years ago, when the pickings were slim and my daughters were the only other listeners I knew. I started with This American Life, Radio Lab, and The Moth. I remember my very first podcast was a story told by Ira Glass that took place in the Deep South about a little boy who died. I can’t remember the details, but I do remember how surprised and delighted I was when the podcast included interviews with the actual people in the story. This was absolutely mind-blowing to me. What a far cry from listening to books-on-tape or CDs. I was hooked.
I’ve curated a couple of lists, so if you’re new to podcasts or you’re up for recommendations. The self-contained podcasts means the entire podcast is a single story. What’s great about the proliferation of podcasts is that we all have different tastes; I lean towards true crime, personal stories, and abhorrent human behavior.
Technically, “Serial” isn’t a single-story podcast; it has three seasons to date. But when you hear “Serial,” you think of the first season, the murder of Hae Min Lee, a talented, athletic high school student whose body was found in the woods in 1999. Adnan Syed, her classmate and former boyfriend is serving life in prison for her murder. There’s a fantastic book by Adnan’s Syed’s cousin and attorney, Rabia Chaudry called “Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice after Serial” and there’s a documentary airing on HBO as of this writing (3/26/19). The storytelling is masterful; the failure of our justice system is mind-blowing. I’m jealous of you if you haven’t listened to this yet!
From the outside, super-successful business owner, Debra Newell, has it all — two beautiful daughters, a booming career, and a house on the beach. And Debra was ready to share it all with the right man and, to her, that was Dr. John Meehan. If you haven’t listened to this and/or you don’t know the story yet, don’t Google it because there is a massive twist at the end that you’ll never see coming. “Dirty John” has been made into a movie airing on Bravo.
Our central character, John B., unaffectionately calls his Alabama hometown, Shittown. This is an intriguing character study of a complex, highly-intelligent, wickedly funny man who was stuck in a place he didn’t want to be; he was the sole caretaker of his ailing mother. The story hits on clock-making, buried gold, sexuality, and mental illness. I have mixed feelings about this one because I’m not sure John fully consented to the telling of very intimate, painful details of his life. But this is a very good podcast.
Imagine a world in which the norm is for high school girls to date their married teachers and that one of the teachers has the nerve to bring his girlfriend into his home under the guise of helping a child from a troubled home, and then continues the affair under his wife’s nose. The girlfriend is kicked out of the house, the husband and wife go to counseling, and the wife disappears, leaving her two beloved daughters behind. This sounds like an implausible plot for a piece of fiction, but is the true story of the disappearance of Lyn Dawson in 1982 told by veteran Australian journalist, Hedley Thomas, who breathes life into this tragedy and unearths enough evidence to move the story closer to the truth.
Christopher Duntsch, a charismatic and over-confident Texas neurosurgeon left 31 patients seriously injured and two patients dead. What in the world were health care staff around him thinking? Why didn’t the system stop him earlier?
This podcast is the result of a three-year long investigation on how Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, deemed to be the “next Steve Jobs” and the youngest self-made billionaire lost it all and why she never should have had it in the first place. Warning: Elizabeth’s voice is unnaturally deep and that’s because it is… unnatural. To me, this is also about how wealthy, intelligent older men became complete idiots in the company of a manipulative 20-something blonde. You may want to catch the HBO Documentary, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.
One blizzardy December day in 2009, 28-year-old Susan Powell disappears, leaving behind two young sons and her husband, Josh. This is the story of severe family dysfunction and the colossal failure of child protective and 911 services, and much, much more. Ladies, be ready to cringe at Josh’s father, Steve who was in love with Susan and was delusional in thinking she felt the same way. The ultimate creepy father-in-law. This story will give you whiplash from all the twists and turns and will break your heart. On May 4th and 5th, the Oxygen channel will air a four-hour special called, The Disappearance of Susan Cox Powell, described as the “definitive story” of the years leading up to her disappearance.
One hot August day in 2016, I was washing my car, listening to the first episode of this new podcast. When the host, Payne Lindsey said he didn’t really know what he was doing, I wanted to stop listening right then but my hands were wet and soapy. I’m glad I continued because Payne took his listeners on a real-time ride through the ups and downs of investigating a cold case that culminates in a press conference announcing an arrest in the 2005 disappearance of Tara Grinstead.
Ocilla, Georgia is a quaint southern town of 3600 people where 11th-grade history teacher, Tara Grinstead, was well-known and well-liked. Tara had a successful background in the beauty pageant world and at 30, she continued to stay involved by helping young contestants with their hair and makeup. That’s what she was doing the day she disappeared. Tara felt safe in a community where everybody had your back… until loyalties shift and then you have a small town capable of harboring the horrible truth of what happened the night she disappeared.
My oldest daughter has an uber-demanding job at “The Washington Post,” helps her husband edit his dissertation, cooks real food, exercises, and stays in touch with a family scattered around the world. She is the type of person who never forgets a birthday and I can tell you, she didn’t get that from me. So, when she asked me if I’d listened to “Bear Brook” yet, I subscribed and downloaded as we continued chatting because any podcast recommendation from her is going to be significant. I wasn’t disappointed.
I could not come up with a better description than what is on the website: “Two barrels. Four bodies. And the decades-long mystery that led to a serial killer. A podcast about a cold case that’s changing how murders will be investigated forever.”
10. What do you think the 10th one should be?