Hello from the New Year! I hope the holidays treated you well. I took two weeks off to wander around the Midwest with my family, and now I'm feeling ready and excited to tackle the months ahead. I've got big plans for this blog (including a weekly newsletter that I'll start sending out soon -- sign up in the sidebar if you'd like!) But first, I'm dying to share my ten favorite podcast episodes of the past twelve months.
Here are the first five, in no important order. Stay tuned -- the next set will be coming your way on Wednesday.
1. The Problem We All Live With (Parts 1 AND 2) from This American Life. [July 31st and August 7th, 2015; 60 minutes each] This two-part series was hands down the best of the year for me. It's focused on closing the achievement gap in a totally necessary and seemingly feasible way, through school integration. From its summary: "Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there's one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation." I'm a policy nerd at heart (I'm an analyst by day) so these two episodes really spoke to me, but I think they're incredibly important for all ears to hear. If you haven't listened to this two-part series yet, do it now.
2. Work from Women of the Hour. [December 2, 2015; 55 minutes] I was beyond excited about Lena Dunham's new podcast Women of the Hour when it debuted in the fall, and I truly loved all five episodes in the first season. Work was my favorite of the group because it's one of the few topics Lena hasn't really offered her take on, despite her years of experience as a bad-ass boss. Her interview with writer Zady Smith was pure gold -- I loved hearing her productivity tips and the way she manages her lack of self-control when it comes to the internet. And Lena's conversation with Jenni Konner, her writing and creative partner, was a real treat. Every minute of Work was honest, inspiring, and funny, and I'd highly recommend it if you haven't already listened.
3. Edie Falco: Don't Hold the Door for Me from Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin. [April 28, 2015; 40 minutes] Actress Edie Falco hadn't been on my radar in years (I loved her in The Sopranos, but haven't seen her newer show Nurse Jackie) so this episode of Here's the Thing took me by total surprise. Edie talks about her acting career for the first twenty minutes, and then her life as a cancer survivor, a recovering alcoholic, a converted Buddhist, and a single mother of two in the incredible second half. Her confidence and tenacity blew me away. She's a true superstar, and a new role model of mine for sure. If you need some New Year inspiration, definitely give this one a listen.
4. Birthstory from Radiolab and Israel Story. [November 22, 2015; 61 minutes] This collaboration between Radiolab and Israel Story (a This American Life "knock-off" -- their words, not mine!) was a weekly standout of mine back in November, and it's become one of my all-time favorites. It takes a really fascinating look at the ethics of the international surrogacy industry, and it tells the story of one Israeli couple's long, winding journey to fatherhood. Birthstory is one of the most unexpectedly gripping episodes I've ever heard. Required listening for podcast fans, if you ask me.
5. Burn After Reading from A Few Things with Claire and Erica. [November 4, 2015; 43 minutes] I've been a longtime listener of A Few Things -- I wrote about my love for it here -- and Burn After Reading has been my favorite episode to date. Hosts Claire and Erica (founders of the beautiful web shop Of A Kind) chat with author Sloane Crosley about writing retreats, naming her characters, narrating from a male's perspective, and the $100 candle her house-sitter burned through in a week. If you've recently read The Clasp, you'll need to check this one out. If you haven't, listen anyway for some really fascinating insights into the novel-writing process, plus some top-notch candle recommendations.
So tell me, have you listened to any of these? Will you? What were your favorites of 2015? And remember -- five more are coming your way in Part 2 on Wednesday.