My Top 10 Listening Experiences of 2019
Like everyone else in this space-time continuum, I can’t believe the year is almost over.
Maybe one reason 2019 sped by so quickly was that I spent way more of it listening to random stuff than I’m comfortable admitting–podcast, audiobooks, Spotify playlists… What can I say? Time flies when you’re listening.
Spoiler alert: it was too hard for me to narrow things down so there are actually way more than ten items below. This is what addiction looks like.
That said, here’s a roundup of the most memorable and useful podcast episodes and audiobooks I listened to in 2019…
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My Favorite Podcast Episodes of 2019
Ep. #165 of the What Should I Read Next podcast by Anne Bogel
Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next was among my favorite new-to-me podcasts of 2019. The premise of her podcast is that talking about books is a way to talk about what’s important to us in life, and I’ve never yet encountered an episode that didn’t somehow open my eyes to some new way of looking at life and/or reading. This was the first episode I ever listened to, and it has remained the most memorable one.
Close runners up:
- Rearranging your life to read 600 books a year (Ep 180)
- There’s nothing like a little bookish momentum (Ep 190)
- Good reads from the Great North (Ep 211)
Ep. #027 of the Heavyweight podcast with Jonathan Goldstein/Gimlet
With its perfect (perfectly quirky) fusion of deadpan humor, cringe-worthy sarcasm, and redemptive plot points, Heavyweight has been one of my favorite podcasts since its inception in 2016. I do my best to plan ahead so I’m able to listen to episodes in a public setting–so fun watching strangers get weirded out when I inevitably start bawling and hysterically laughing at the same time.
If I’d asked myself ahead of time which Heavyweight would make my top picks of 2019, I wouldn’t have expected “Scott” to make the cut. It’s about a gun, heroin addiction, and a neo-Nazi–not likely to draw a person in right off the bat. But there was something powerful about the story. And so, taboos and all, this is the episode I keep remembering–and recommending to Heavyweight newcomers. It stopped me in my tracks folding my laundry one afternoon, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
3. “All the Missing“
Ep. #001 of Detective Trapp with Christopher Goffard/Julissa Trapp/Wondery
I began listening to this recently launched podcast miniseries to feed my insatiable true crime fix (and to blow off steam after publishing my recent book about infertility).
I was completely surprised, in this first episode, to discover the role infertility grief (and Catholic faith) has shaped the career of Detective Julissa Trapp (a woman for the ages!). Unable to have children with her spouse, and possessing a life-long pull toward law-enforcement, Trapp came to see infertility as a vocation, an invitation to dedicate her life to catching serial killers, taking risks she likely wouldn’t dream of if she were a mother. It’s been an unexpectedly inspiring beacon in my own infertility grief.
From the Only You Forever podcast by Caleb and Verlynda Gindele
Another favorite new-to-me podcast of 2019! Caleb and Verlynda call their show the “marriage podcast for smart people.” If you’re sick of fluffy answers, gendered generalizations, skewed research, glossed-over approaches, and discussions aimed disproportionately at women, this podcast is for you! I highlighted the episode about working from home because I’ve never heard anyone approach this topic from a marital perspective before and, being someone who has worked predominately from home for most of her adulthood, it’s important.
Close runners up:
- “Infertility and its impact on marriage”
- “Is Your Wife Nagging too Much? It could be your fault!“
- “How to be assertive with your spouse“
Ep. #553 of the Art of Manliness Podcast
I’ve been reflecting on this interview with author Nir Eyal since it first aired in October. His definition of distraction not as a lack of focus but rather as a lack of traction has shifted the way I think about work and attention and I’ve added his book (Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life) to my 2020 reading list. (And yes, women listen to the Art of Manliness Podcast. It’s a thing.)
My Favorite Audiobooks in 2019*
*None of these books were actually published in 2019, but I listened to them this year which is why I’m listing them.
6. Uncommon Type, by Tom Hanks (2017)
I was so excited to learn Tom Hanks was an author (and narrator) that I downloaded this collection of short stories the very millisecond I encountered it on my library’s website.
It was surprisingly well-written (and, of course, expertly narrated by Tom Hanks himself) and drew me in gradually.
My favorite story was “The Past is Important to Us,” about affluent Bert who returns countless times to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1939 to visit a woman he loves. Each time he returns, he can only stay for 22 hours and must find a way to make the most of that time.
7. The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, by Kate Andersen Brower (2015)
I first saw this four years ago in an airport bookstore and have wanted to read it ever since. Worth the wait! This is US history through the side door–told through the eyes of those who care for the White House and its first family. Amid tiny moments of daily life, the author depicts the inhabitants of the White House as human beings–sometimes perplexing, other times endearing, but all the time unique and unequivocally themselves.
Narrated by Karen White, this book (along with Andersen Brower’s follow up, First Women) is a welcome read in an age of unprecedented partisanship.
8. My Squirrel Days, by Ellie Kemper (2018)
Some have criticized this book as being frivolous, too goofy, a little melodramatic…
But come on: there’s a squirrel on the cover. What were they expecting, presidential memoirs?
In summary, few books have so adequately spoken to my quirky, child-like sense of humor than this. Listening to the audio version narrated by the author (famous for her supporting role on The Office, among other shows) was a bonus, and I’m not sure the tone would have landed quite right if I’d been reading off the page. A perfect listen for folks who appreciate the wisdom of levity (and squirrels, and double exclamation marks in professional emails).
9. Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life, by Gretchen Rubin (2012)
This might just be my new favorite Gretchen Rubin book. I liked this sequel even better than her original Happiness Project because it’s in the context of home and relationships, I think, where we struggle to align behavior with even our deepest-held values. As with all her other books, I loved Rubin’s mastery of the well-placed quotation and her ability to synthesize practicality with existential reflection and self-awareness.
This book struck a particular chord with me and will not soon be forgotten.
10. Ira Sleeps Over, by Bernard Waber (1974)
Why yes, this is a kid’s book. Why yes, the main (read: only) source of tension in the plot is a little boy’s fear about sleeping over at his friend’s house without his teddy bear. Why yes, I’m in my mid-thirties. But! This made my top 10 because the digitized audio version (recorded on cassette by Larry Robinson all the way back in 1984) is the same exact version my brother and I listened to obsessively when we were toddlers! (Even then I had an audio addiction.)
I don’t know what cosmological vortex/angel of technology safeguarded that relic for 35 years and got it onto Audible, but wow! It was purely magical to hear a voice and story that was such a memorable fixture in my childhood.
There you have it. And good news! I’m posting this early enough so you still have some time to listen to them this year. Maybe you’ll count some of these among your best listening experiences of 2019!
What was the most memorable thing(s) you listened to this year? Let me know in the comments below or on social media!