By Katie Stewart |

I love listening to NPR. My other obsession: I am crazy about podcasts. There is something about audio consumption that is just so comforting to me. It reminds me of my childhood when my step mom would read Harry Potter to my brother and I before we went to bed. It’s not just news I enjoy but the personal stories that I can learn about from so many different shows. Now, I have my own “story” time when I’m doing the laundry, driving home from class or taking my dog for a walk.

I could go on and on about the ones I love, but here are my top three. Do yourself a favor and follow these podcasts. Download the NPR app and start listening. You won’t regret it.

Modern Love

Modern Love is a sort of an extension to the Modern Love column that is printed in the New York Times. David Jones is the editor of the column and advisor to the show. What I love about this podcast is just as they describe “a show about love, loss and redemption,” there are no limits to which type of love can find its way into the story. In some episodes, I’ve listened about the love of a turtle, the loss of two dogs or the love of friendship. Modern Love knows no bounds and does not discriminate against those of the LGBTQ community either.

Some of the same stories are in print for the New York Times, but what I find unique about listening to the podcast is that a famous actor will read the story, and afterwards, the host will talk with the author. Sometimes the story happened years ago, and you get an update on how their lives are going now. Also, Jones comes on at the end to talk about why he thought the story needed to be told on Modern Love.

Two recent episodes I’ve listened to is A Life Plan for Two read by Olivia Munn and Learning Humanity from Dogs read by Ethan Hawk. The first one is about teenage love that blossoms over time, resulting in just two people stuck in the friendzone. The author is now a comedian and she and her friend still receive letters rooting for the two to get together. The story read by Hawk is about a man who is fighting for his sobriety when his wife unexpectedly leaves him. He returns to his empty house with his two giant, St. Bernard dogs. His heartbreaking and inspiring story is about how he learned unconditional love from his dogs.

BBC World Service Outlook

Speaking of unconditional love, BBC’s World Service Outlook podcast is amazing. Often times, they interview people from all over the world  who have been captured or tortured, or simply in a very trying situation that they were able to overcome. The most shocking recent episode was about a Georgian woman who is the mother of a sociopath. A very tragic story. Right at the top of the show, we learn about her background and her own personal battles. Then, the listener learns about what her son did to earn this diagnosis. It is chilling. It is truly a miracle that this woman was able to overcome her son’s crime and speak about his condition so objectively.

Another amazing story on Outlook is the episode called Awake But Trapped Inside My Body. Since eleven years old, a young girl has been struck with a rare neurological condition where she loses control of her body. For several years, she is consciously aware and left with her own thoughts, but unable to do anything with her body. She was an aspiring Olympic swimmer when her world came to a halt. She also talks about the book she wrote about her experiences, detailing how the medical workers were very unprofessional when they think a patient can’t hear them. Her story was absolutely compelling.

Fresh Air

Last, but certainly not least is Fresh Air. This show was the reason I started downloading podcasts. I would miss the last half of the show driving home listening to the radio. What I love about Fresh Air is the variety of the podcast. Often times, there is something to do with literature, music, popular culture, politics or personal stories. It’s truly amazing. The host Terry Gross has been on the show since it first started in the 1980s. Gross’s ability to listen and not judge is endearing — she is able to ask her guests some of the most difficult questions.

Recently award-winning chef José Andrés joined Gross to talk about the chaos that ensued in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. He explains how chefs and customer service people are able to handle chaos and adapt quickly. Andrés’ helped prepare 100 thousand meals a day. It was amazing to learn the impact he’s making by using his skills as a chef.

Another interesting podcast is Breaking Free From The Evangelical Purity Movement by author Linda Kay Klein about the shame caused by churches that “claim women and girls are responsible for the sexual desires of men.” She walks the listener through her love of the church and how her mother’s love for the Evangelical church lead her there. After years of shame and feeling unworthy for having kissed her boyfriend, she left the church in her 20s. She talks about how she has had to manage the shame and guilt while still trying to keep her faith intact.

Podcasts are like books for the ears. Find Modern Love, BBC World Service Outlook and Fresh Air when you download your podcasts. They’re all good about offering new episodes frequently so you’ll never get bored listening to their shows. You can thank me later.