I’m a huge fan of podcasts and I’m not alone: there are over 700,000 podcasts in existence (that’s about 29 million episodes) and 51% of Americans report listening to podcasts. Whether it’s a juicy true crime thriller or current events with a twist, I’m always on the hunt for the next binge-worthy listen. I once cleaned my entire house while riveted by the story of Dr. Death; a psychopathic neurosurgeon who managed to kill 33 patients before he was stopped by a bumbling medical system. I credit good podcasts to keeping me sane (and entertained!) during dreaded domestic drudgery and the many hours I log driving my car.
Finding the perfect podcast in a saturated market can feel a bit overwhelming, but just like finding a good book, it’s possible. For comparison, there are between 600,000 and 1,000,000 new books published every year in the United States alone. And just like books, if you can think of a topic, there’s likely a podcast for it. Obsessed with toenails? Ladybugs? Cement? Fonts? Good news; there’s a podcast for that (I promise, there are no toenail or cement podcasts on this list, although I do have a fondness for typography).
If you’re new to the podcast world, the easiest way to start is with personal recommendations or the browse feature on your podcast app. We’ve started a list of some must-listens and will update throughout the year. And if you have a personal favorite, please share with us in the comments!
- Stuff You Should Know. They cover everything. I never knew I could be so enthralled by the 1928 disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde in The Grand Canyon, but I was hooked. Seriously gripping story-telling. The only downside is choosing an episode. I’ve settled on What Happens When the Government Thinks You’re Dead? for my next listen. Apparently, this happens to thousands of people each year.
- Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. Awaken, discover, and connect to the deeper meaning of the world around you with interviews curated and hosted by Oprah. Each episode is around 30 minutes and several times I’ve caught myself wishing they would be longer, as many episodes have stuck with me long after I listened.
- The Accidental Tech. I love that this is a tech podcast that was accidentally created while trying to do a car show. This is a great listen for Mac enthusiasts.
- The Longest Shortest Time. A parenting podcast win. This super approachable podcast bills itself as a “podcast for everyone.” Journalist Hillary Frank shares “stories about the surprises and absurdities of raising other humans and being raised by them.”
- Tech Talkers Quick and Dirty Tips to Navigate the Digital World. They aren’t kidding when they say quick and dirty; most episodes clock in at under ten minutes. It’s a bouillon cube of information for all things digital and presented in such a way that even the most tech illiterate will understand. Which is precisely why I listen.
- The Teacher’s Pet. True crime in the Australian suburbs that is layered with shocking details. The Australian accents are a bit thick at times but it gets easier the longer you listen. It’s so popular in Australia the government had to remove the podcast last month in the interest of giving the suspect a fair trial.
- TED Talks Daily. Thought-provoking talks on almost every conceivable subject.
- NPR’s Fresh Air. Hosted by Terry Gross, the show features intimate conversations with today’s biggest luminaries.
- Dear Sugars. Authors Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond offer up some of the most insightful, compassionate advice. I’ve actually enjoyed getting caught in Portland traffic when I’m listening to Cheryl and Steve.
- News in Slow. I listen to News in Slow French, but it’s also offered in Spanish, German, and Italian. Current events are read by a journalist in a slower than typical cadence. It’s a great way to get the news while brushing up on your foreign language skills. Unfortunately, my French is rapidly atrophying and I wish there were a News in Even Slower version.
- Dirty John. This is another binge-worthy true crime story of an increasingly complex web of love, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival. Reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard from the L.A. Times.
- Malcolm Gladwell, Revisionist History. From the author of The Tipping Point and Blink, one of America’s most popular and influential intellectuals takes readers through the overlooked and misunderstood.
- Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. Okay, at first I was going to skip this one, despite its popularity. I kept picturing Dax Shepard in his role in Idiocracy (which I loved) interviewing famous people. But I feel it merits a spot on the list because he has connected with so many listeners. The episodes are long (two hours, oy), but the conversational vibe makes you feel as if you’re sitting in the room with Dax and his guests. Notably, he may be the only interviewer to properly showcase the approachable, likable side of Gwyneth Paltrow.
- Adam Ruins Everything. Based on the TV series that debunks misconceptions that pervade U.S. society. Excellent fodder for water cooler chats or friendly debate. Adam tried to ruin my sincere love of diamonds and I’m ignoring him.
- Serial. From the creators of This American Life, Serial tells one story – a true story – over the course of a season.
- The Pitch. Where real entrepreneurs pitch to real investors for real money. Anyone in the startup world needs to listen to this show.
- Last Seen. The heist of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is something like the holy grail of art crime and the largest unsolved art heist in history. So good you may forget to start dinner and end up ordering pizza at 8:00 on a school night. Or so I’ve heard.
- Spawned. A parenting podcast hosted by our friends at Cool Mom Picks. Liz and Kristin’s chemistry and quick wit shine as they cover the latest parenting topics and trends.
- Wow in the World. Great for road trips with the kids. NPR tackles questions like “How in the world did 170,000-pound dinosaurs walk around without collapsing under their own weight?” Bonus: you won’t fall asleep at the wheel; it’s truly fun and informative.
- Dr. Death. As mentioned above. So good you can clean a five-bedroom house without feeling like it’s work.
Come back throughout the year to see what we’ve added to the list and please share your favorites with us!