Hi, my name is Kellie, and I’m a podcast junkie. I started listening to podcasts back in 2008, as a college freshman, when a friend of mine introduced me to This American Life (a great foray into the world of podcasts). I fell in love with the art of storytelling. I fell in love with the interweaving of storytelling and research. It’s no surprise that less than 10 years later, I would be considering starting a podcast of my own. You know I love to learn every day, and podcasts are a great way to consider new ideas, dive deep into a topic, or simply be entertained.
I have so many different favorite podcasts that I enjoy, varied across so many topics (although you will undoubtably notice my deep affinity for true crime). Hopefully, in this list, you will find something to appeal to your own tastes, or a jumping off point to explore more podcasts. In no particular order: here’s 25 favorite podcasts to get you hooked.
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Each week, Ira Glass (the iconic voice of This American Life) and his team picks a theme and puts together a variety of stories based around the theme. The stories are all true, told in a variety of voices. The stories are funny, dramatic, sad, and everything in between. I love this show because you are exposed to a wide variety of people and unique experiences. The producers love to try new things and experiment, so a very interesting type of journalism is born. If you want to find out more about the show, read the About Our Radio Show portion of their website, or just go for it and get stuck into some of their favorite episodes.
Episode to try: Numbers
I’m tempted to say that if you haven’t heard of Serial, or at the least the Adnan Syed case, you might have been living in a cave since 2014. Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, and follows a single story over the course of an entire season. So far, there have been 2 seasons, covering two very different stories: about Adnan Syed, a man serving a jail sentence after being convicted of murder, and Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier in the US Army who left his post in Afghanistan and was held captive by the Taliban. Each season can be listened to independently, and they’re both incredibly gripping.
Also by the creators of This American Life and Serial, S-Town has a distintly literary feel about it, like a good Southern gothic novel. This story starts off as a true crime mystery, but ends up as something else entirely. It is incredibly poignant, about life, death, depression, and the passage of time. If it were a book, you wouldn’t be able to put it down.
4. Planet Money
I stayed away from planet money for a long time. I associate economics with numbers, and me and numbers don’t get along. The episodes on Planet Money discuss the economy in a fun, interesting, and laid back way.
As it turns out, I find economics very interesting. In the same vein as Planet Money is Freakonimics Radio. Freakonomics started as a book. New York journalist Stephen Dubner went to meet award-winning economist Steven Levitt and write about him for The New York Times Magazine. What resulted was an unexpected partnership and Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, a Times best seller. They started a little Freakonomics empire with books, a documentary, a blog, and a radio show. The radio show lives up to its tagline, as it seeks to explore the “hidden side of everything.”
Sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction. Lore has won “Best of 2015” AND “Best of 2016” in iTunes. This award-winning, acclaimed podcast is about true life scary stories. It’s dramatic. It’s dark. The show’s creator, Aaron Mahnke, exposes the roots of our nightmarish fears by telling the dark side of history in the form of “campsire” style stories.
Episode to try: Echoes
Christopher Kimball, of America’s Test Kitchen fame and genius, started another business centered around food and cooking. I was hooked on ATK, and now have the same affinitiy for Milk Street. I love Christopher Kimball, I could listen to his voice for ages (I also think he is adorable). I appreciate the laid back nature of the show, and love that it is interesting and includes information that I can use to cook every day. He answers cooking questions live on air (just call 855-4-BOWTIE, how cute is that!?), and does fantastic intrerviews with chefs and critics. If you like food, you’ll love Milk Street. Also, check out some excellent Christopher Kimball and Milk Street-related cookbooks below.
Episode to try: The Food Lab Plays 20 Questions
I’ve always loved history. I didn’t pursue it in college, but it is still something that I enjoy learning about. It’s fun to find ways to continue to grow in knowledge of history for years after grade school. This podcast is excellent. Tracy and Holly, the hosts, cover fascinating topics and historical figures that you might not know much detail about. They are really good about featuring women and and minority groups especially, which I appreciate because as we all know, generally history has favored the white man. Stuff You Missed in History Class is from the How Stuff Works network.
Episode to try: though typically the episodes cover a single topic, or are perhaps a two-parter, one of my favorite things I heard on Stuff You Missed in History class was a multi-part mini series on People’s Republic of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong. Check out The Great Leap Forward, which kicks off the series.
Criminal from PRX is a true crime podcast, but not what you might expect. It is about unusual stories that relate to crime–people who have done wronged, who were wronged, or somewhere in between. They often cover stories of things you might not have considered in the realm of crime, and also how how crime touches people’s lives. it presents crime for what it is–something historical, sociological, and even anthropological.
Episode to try: Money Tree
The premise is this: adults reading their teenage diaries, live, to a room full of people. No exaggeration, no embellishment, just God-given awkwardness. It is mostly hilarious, often poignant, and sometimes bittersweet. It reminds us that “we are freaks, we are fragile, and we all survive.”
Ever since I read Eat, Pray, Love I have loved Elizabeth Gilbert. I mentioned her TED talk in my post on My 10 Must-Watch TED Talks, and I specifically mention this podcast, Magic Lessons, in my post 15 Ways to Ignite Your Creative Spark. She started this podcast after writing Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, because she felt like the discussion on creative process and creative roadblocks wasn’t quite over.
In the show, she gets on the phone with creative individuals across the country (and one in England, if I remember rightly). She talks with them about their real-life creative ruts and how to overcome them. In the second part of the show, she has inspiring and well-known creative thinkers (Brene Brown, Brandon Stanton, Glennon Doyle Melton) come on the program to talk about the issue the original caller was facing. Listening to Liz talk is so soothing, encouraging, and motivating. If you are a creative person, I strongly suggest this podcast when you’re feeling stuck, or just want someone to light a fire under you.
Episode to try: “Show Up Before You’re Ready” featuring Glennon Doyle Melton
12. The Sporkful
“It’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people.” Enough said!
This podcast is all about the invisible forces that control human behavior, like ideas, beliefs, assumptions, and emotions. My favorite thing about this show is that it combines lovely storytelling to present compelling and interesting research. Their most recent seasons have covered personality and emotion.
Episode to try: Fearless
I really do love true crime, and True Crime Garage might be my favorite of all the true crime podcasts I’ve enjoyed. Nick and The Captain cover murders, and sometimes unexplained disappearances, in lots of detail, all while enjoying a beer (or two, or five) in their garage.
Sawbones is a marital tour of misguided medicine. This show features discussions about medical history—diseases, historical figures in medicine, medical procedures, and various aspects of life as it relates to the medical field. The hosts are a married couple—Sydney, who’s a doctor and Justin who brings the comic relief. You will learn a lot and enjoy the humor, but mostly you’ll be rolling your eyes wondering why on earth people used to have such terrible medical practices.
Another great podcast from How Stuff Works, FoodStuff shares stories and science behind every bite we take or drink we enjoy.
Episode to try: How Did French Cuisine Become King?
As an American, I didn’t often hear much about Australian or British true crime. Much of what I knew focused on famous American cases and trials. The anonymous host of Casefile is Australian, and often shares gripping and gruesome tales with which I’m unfamiliar, which makes the mystery and suspense that much more thrilling. I enjoy how the host tells the stories in a detailed and intense way. A warning—this podcast contains a lot of content that would not be suitable for all audiences.
“Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance.” If you’ve ever enjoyed reading any of Malcolm Gladwell’s five New York Times bestsellers, chances are you will LOVE hearing him present a talk show. Through a substantial amount of excellent research, Revisionist History goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, or an idea. The show illuminates how often things are overlooked or misunderstood.
Episode to try: Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment
This podcast combines mainly combines motivational speaking with interviews. In the show, lifestyle entrepreneur, author, and former pro-athlete Lewis Howes discusses inspiration, entrepreneurship, business, health, relationships, positive mindset, and more both on his own and with guests. I always feel great after listening to this podcast.
Episode to try: 8 Keys Powerful Leaders Use to Achieve Greatness
20. In the Dark
Another criminal justice-related podcast that follows the same story for an entire season, In the Dark focuses on the notorious Jacob Wetterling child abduction and murder case. Reporter Madeleine Baran reveals how law enforcement mishandled the case. But it’s more than true crime—it’s about how this particular case changed the way we think about child abductions, about the subsequent creation of the national sex offender registry, and raises questions about accountability.
In the Dark is working on its second season now, and I think it is going to be quite different than the first. I can’t wait to find out.
Unsolved murder cases are popular podcast material. Here’s another one—Accused: The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Andes. Learn about this cold case from 1978 as it unfolds from episode to episode, and make your own whodunnit judgments.
22. Up First
I try to “touch the news” every day. Up First provides an effortless way to do it, by releasing a podcast every morning with about 15 minutes of the day’s most important news.
23. Generation Why
My last true crime podcast on the list (I honestly could have made true crime podcasts its own blog post), Generation Why is all about unsolved murders, controversies, mysteries, conspiracies, and crime.
Embedded takes one story from the news and investigates much deeper. They did an incredible series on police videos that is well worth a listen, and the heroin crisis in Indiana.
Episode to try: The House
25. My Husband’s Recommendation: Jocko Podcast
Jocko Willink is a former United States Navy SEAL. This is what Clay has to say about his podcast: “The podcast defies categorization, but most of the time, it’s an exposition of human nature within team relationships. There is a distinct focus on leadership. The episodes average somewhere around 2.5 to 3.5 hours each, and they are produced on a weekly basis. The episodes consist of book reports, interviews with awesome people, and Q&A sessions with Jocko and his engineer, Echo. The one thing that I can definitively say based on my experience with the podcast is that it has revealed to me a “gear” in my personal efficacy that I could never have imagined existing. My exposure to this podcast has truly changed my life.”
Episode to try: Napoleon
What are your favorite podcasts? What should I get hooked on next? Share your favorite episodes and shows in the comments.