Write about podcasts for long enough and the impulse to use some of the same words becomes hard to fight. “Story” certainly pops up quite a bit. Eventually, you start finding plenty of synonyms for the word “history.” Taking note of others like “legacy,” “moments,” “complex,” and “understand,” and it becomes clear what the most engaging (ah, there’s another one) series manage to tap into.
But looking at the best that 2019 had to offer, there’s one word that seemed to work its way into these descriptions more than any other: “family.” Maybe that’s a matter of personal preference, an unconscious force that makes stories about finding what connects us the most compelling. Whether it’s a group that people are born into or one that they find along the way, the stories that reinforce the idea that the universal is hidden in each of these experiences are always thrilling.
And that’s really the promise of the entire medium. No matter your interests, regardless of what kind of storytelling you find most engaging, each passing day makes it more and more likely that the show you’ve been waiting for is out there waiting to be discovered. (Better yet, if it isn’t, it’s never been easier to make it yourself.)
With that in mind, in an attempt to try to look at the year in podcasting as an avenue for that kind of discovery, here are 50 episodes that all try to tap into those disparate ideas and make them something to be grasped. (There’s some overlap between this list and the one that originally published in July as a mid-year check-in — think of these two lists as halves of a whole year in review. Any of those from the halfway point could easily be here, too.)
So, at the risk of setting up too many words that will only be repeated in the sentiments below, these are the shows that each brought something essential to the greater podcast family.