Dani Shapiro is the author of the New York Times best selling memoir, Inheritance, as well as many other books. Along with teaching writing workshops around the world, Dani has taught at Columbia and New York University. She’s created a list of her favorite storytelling shows.
I’m the creator and host of Family Secrets, a show in which people share their stories with me. I am a writer and before I also became a podcaster, I wrote ten books, both novels and memoirs. I have built my career on storytelling and love seeing how stories unfold in the podcast medium. Here’s a list of some of my favorite storytelling shows; I urge you to dip in to let your mind escape into another world. That’s the power of storytelling, and the power of these podcasts.
Phoebe Judge’s soothing voice and beautiful narration come together with wonderful production and sound for lovely, thoughtful stories about love found in unexpected places. The new season’s focus is animals.
Start with: Roselle and Michael
The Kitchen Sisters have been making radio documentaries forever and they have mastered the craft. The stories are distinctive, historical, and each one is completely unique.
Start with: Tupperware
Love Me is about all sorts of relationships. These stories are awkward, touching, and powerful.
Start with: At a Loss For Words
Meredith Goldstein tackles love and relationships, intertwining stories from her own life. The first three seasons cover breakups, meeting someone, and a question we all ask ourselves: how do you know you’ve found love?
Start with: Cloudy with a Touch of Breakup
What emerges when the sun goes down and the darkness comes out? Nocturne tells those stories. We learn that the things that happen at night are special, and would be impossible occurrences during the day.
Start with: Overnights
UnFictional is a collection of true stories and audio documentaries that are told in an almost mythological way. They stick with you.
Start with: The Man Inside the Radio
Twenty Thousand Hertz is an interesting approach to storytelling, by exploring sound. Toy sounds, jingle sounds, nature sounds, sounds I might take for granted, all get special treatment with excellent production.
Start with: Cremona
Bodies is a collection of medical mysteries, explored by the people who experienced them. Each episode begins with someone suffering with something who asks, “what’s wrong with me?” And the host, Allison Behringer, unfurls a story that gets to the bottom of the mystery.
Start with: Anxious Mess
On Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, Chris Gethard calls regular people up for a one hour phone call, and those are the only rules of this podcast. Chris’s ability to connect with strangers with empathy and open ears is admirable, and has helped me in shaping my own show, The Way We Live Now, where I call people and ask them to tell me about how they are coping with the pandemic.
Start with: Touching Strangers Faces
In Family Secrets, I interview people about how discovering the truth about their families and backgrounds can be healing and helpful in understanding ourselves. Family Ghosts is about family legends, and similarly explores parts of people’s pasts that were at one time stuffed in closets. Each story is an ode to the past, and an examination of how that past blends together with the present and future.
Start with: The Family Jewels
Stephanie Wittels Wachs is doing some of the most extraordinary work in the podcasting space. On her show Last Day, she talks about “what’s killing us,” opening up her own life and personal story by talking about her brother, who died of a drug overdose. Steph’s warmth, compassion, and humor shine through the darkness. I’m lucky to be friends with Steph now. (And we are all lucky to have this show.)
Start with: Trauma (with Dr. Gabor Maté)
If you like my show The Way We Live Now, you will love Jonathan Hirsch’s thrice-weekly call in to people all over the country to present listeners with beautifully produced stories about how we are all coping with the pandemic. It always makes me feel more connected, and the editing is wonderful.
Start with: Imperfect Timing
Liz Sower is a librarian in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, who is skilled in telling spooky (fictional) stories about her town. Listening to Liz is one of the ways I’ve been soothing myself these days (ghost-spooky feels better than the real-world spooky outside) and reminds me of the delight I had in being read to as a child.
Start with: Curses
On Thresholds, Jordan Kisner has conversations with authors about how their most life-changing moments have turned them into the writers that they are today. I love hearing about what makes other writers tick, and this podcast is a unique way to get into their heads. Jordan is a beautiful interviewer and host.
Start with: Tara Westover
Four years ago I discovered a massive family secret of my own, so this podcast is personal. Why do we keep secrets in families? In the name of love? To protect others? Out of shame? Or all of the above? In each episode I explore a guest’s discovery of a family secret and what has changed as a result.
Start with: A World Erased
The news can be relentless and anxiety-producing, but within this unprecedented period of COVID-19, there is tremendous resiliency, compassion, thoughtfulness, and hope. In this daily podcast, I have brief conversations with people who are having all different kinds of experiences: an indie rock star, a nurse in a COVID unit, a chef and owner of a small restaurant, a grief expert, a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction and recovery, a college student home with his parents (um…that would be my son and us!) and many more. The idea is to connect us during a time when we can’t gather in person — we can still have glimpses into each other’s lives.
Start with: Anne