Once upon a time people used to listen to the radio. It was easily the most convenient way to get your news, music, specialty programs, sports, you name it. Radio still exists, but with it exist many other forms of ways humans can “listen” to audio content – such as satellite radio, internet radio, music apps with playlist customization (i.e. Spotify, Amazon Music), and there are probably even people out there who still utilize iTunes and CD’s.
Mixed in among the endless entertainment options for your ears are lovely little gems called podcasts. These have really gained in popularity over the last five or six years, mainly due to the immense popularity of Serial, which is hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial more or less opened the floodgates for the podcast world, and now there are shows dedicated to just about every niche imaginable. I’ve been on the podcast train for about four years now and can say without a doubt that these are my preferred listening choice while getting ready in the morning, while driving, while cooking dinner, basically any chance I get I will pull up a podcast and try to cram in an episode. I follow quite a few podcasts but there are only a handful that make it into my regular listening rotation. Below is my list of all-time favorites, but I have no doubt there are others out there I have not yet discovered. If you have recommendations for other great podcasts, fill me in below in the comments!
Lore is a very addicting podcast, focused on dark historical tales. Episodes explore mysterious creatures, tragic events, and unusual places in the pages of history. A lot of the stories that Aaron Mahnke covers I have never heard of, which also makes it feel educational. His storytelling combined with the engrossing subject manner makes this series a can’t-miss – especially if you are a lover of history and mysteries. Whenever it pops up in my feed, I listen right away.
- Crime Junkie Podcast
I recently started binge-listening to Crime Junkie and was hooked right away. Host Ashley Flowers covers a different true crime case every week – some which have been solved, some which are still unsolved. The storytelling is very matter-of-fact and straightforward, so everything is very easy to follow. Episodes are usually around the 40 minute mark which means you don’t need to invest a ton of time (once you skip through the ads). If true crime is your game, then start listening!
- And That’s Why We Drink
This podcast is so much fun, and I feel like I would love to hangout with hosts Em and Christine because they are hilarious. Each week they cover different ghost stories and true crime cases. They have covered a lot of crazy things, so I’d definitely recommend going through and listening to old episodes, especially if there are certain topics and stories you’re particularly interested in. Be warned: these gals do a lot of side-chatting and have a tendency to go off on tangents. I’m not bothered by it, in fact I rather enjoy it, but if you don’t have time for chit-chat and just want to hear the story then this might not be the podcast for you.
Ahhhhh, where it all began. If you haven’t listened to Serial you simply must. In fact, this should be the podcast you start with because I think it really set the tone and raised the bar on the production and storytelling standards for all these types of shows. Host Sarah Koenig has done three seasons of the show so far, but the first season, covering the murder of Hae Min Lee and the subsequent arrest and imprisonment of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, is by far the most popular. Koenig has a real gift for research and the show intersperses clips of her interviews with different “characters,” as well as her reporting on different facets of the story. After the huge wave of popularity that followed the first season of Serial it was likely near impossibly that the following seasons would be able to match up. I personally think all the seasons are very well done – one you start listening, you want to see each story through to the end.
If you know me at all you know that I’m always anxiously awaiting my next opportunity to read. So naturally when I found the podcast Overdue, a show about the books you’ve been meaning to read, I knew it would be food for my soul. Hosts Andrew and Craig read a different book each week, some newer some older, and then dissect the details of the story. They have great chemistry, and there are many laugh-inducing moments throughout the episodes. I started by listening to episodes about bookies I had already read, but now I’ve started to listen the all the others as well, which is just as delightful. I love how frank the hosts are when discussing the books – they don’t let writers get away with anything, no matter who they are! If you love books then I think you’ll really appreciate this podcast.
- We Hate Movies
This podcast is hilarious. Each week the hosts watch bad movies and then spend a solid hour or more ripping them to shreds while carrying on comedic banter. It’s pure gold. This was another podcast I discovered and then started binge-listening to episodes that covered movies I had already seen. I cannot count how many times I have laughed out loud at the pure silliness of this show. Let’s face it, sometimes there’s nothing better than dissecting a good bad movie, and that’s what this show is all about. Warning: there is a fair amount of cursing, sexual references, and general raunchy adult humor. If that’s not your cup of team maybe give this one a pass.
- Up First by NPR
This is the podcast I typically start my day with. Right around 15 minutes long, covering the highlights of the day’s news headlines, it’s just enough content to last me from the drive to work from daycare.
- FiveThirtyEight Politics
If I need to get caught up on the happenings in politics, I usually turn to this podcast. Nate Silver and team cover the latest in politics, issues, and game-changers. As we get closer and closer to the 2020 election, I’m sure I’ll be tuning in even more.
- Stuff You Should Know
Ever the student, I love to learn new things, and the Stuff You Should Know podcast has covered hundreds of topics that I never even knew I wanted to learn about. Champagne, LSD, chaos theory, Rosa Parks, hosts Josh and Chuck have dug deep on these and many other subjects. Much of their research goes beyond popular theories and news headlines, so it’s not just a repeat of shared information. If you’re looking to get educated on the most expensive toilet in the world (among other things), check out this series.
- The Dropout
This podcast covers the fascinating story of Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos. Elizabeth was once referred to as “the next Steve Jobs,” and then in an instant the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lost it all and faced criminal charges. I saw the HBO documentary about Elizabeth and was blown away. Then when I learned ABC News had produced a podcast covering her story, I knew I had to check it out. The whole story is covered over the course of six episodes, and I dare you to not binge-listen to the whole thing in one sitting. A really crazy story that you will swear has to be fiction.
Another winner from Aaron Mahnke. The first season of Unobscured takes a very deep dive into the story of the Salem Witch Trials. Mahnke covers the story in amazingly precise detail, shedding light on some of the issues and facts that get glossed over in popular retelling of the events. Mahnke interviews some of the most prominent Salem Witch Trial historians for the show, and each episode is jam-packed with a myriad of facts and timelines. I have a feeling this is one I could go back and listen to, as there’s no possible way to retain all the information after one go-round. I can hardly wait to see what he covers for Season 2!