my favorite podcasts you should listen to
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You Should be Listening To These Podcasts: My Top 16 Favorites

my favorite podcasts you should listen to

I listen to podcasts all the time. I listen to them whenever I’m commuting, whether by train, plane, automobile, 0r even when I’m walking around the city. It’s almost always the last thing I do before I go to sleep (Ira Glass is my insomnia cure…it’s like he’s reading me a bedtime story). Some are simply entertaining, while others are very informative — many are both. Needless to say, I subscribe to a lot of podcasts, so I can [almost] always listen to something new. Do you listen to podcasts? If you want some podcast recommendations, these are my favorite podcasts you should be listening to:

Revisionist History – A podcast from Malcolm Gladwell that has already completely won me over in its first season. Revisionist History is an intellectual, analytical exploration of subjects that might have been misunderstood. The three part series on education is particularly eye-opening. In short, put this on your list. I can’t wait for season two.

Lore – Lore is a podcast about true life scary stories, by supernatural thriller author Aaron Mahnke. Each episode features a story from “the darker side of history,” exploring the origins of folklore, twisted historical figures, and the depths of our fears and superstitions. You won’t lose sleep at night — they’re not terrifying, so don’t let that deter you — but you’ll find yourself coming back for more tales around the campfire. Or in my case, my portable Bose stereo. Oh, and they’re apparently making this into a tv show!

Embedded – Embedded is an NPR podcast reported from the inside (hence, the name), with in-depth exploration of varying subjects: Doctors Without Borders, prescription opioid addicts, feuding biker gangs, and more. Listen and you will learn.

This American Life – True story: I’ve listened to almost every single episode of This American Life since 1995, where their archive begins. It’s still my favorite, and Ira Glass is in my top 10 people I’d love to meet and/or invite to a dinner party. There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme, which are separated into different acts. Explore the full archives for some great gems — I especially love any episode with David Sedaris. If you’re a blogger, writer, or have any internet presence, you might particularly enjoy “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS.”  Another favorite: “Same Bed, Different Dreams.” Just listen to all of them.

Science Vs – Science Vs takes on current fads and opinions with one weapon: science. Oh, and wit. Host Wendy Zukerman is quite charming! This season explores attachment parenting, gun control, fracking, and organic food.

Strangers – Strangers was started by Lea Thau (previously of The Moth), and features stories that will give you “an empathy shot in your arm.” The stories are intimate and very personal, about love, heartache, kindness, and personal connections, often relating back to Lea’s own life, as well. It feels like having a late-night conversation with a close friend.

Criminal – Criminal is a podcast by Phoebe Judge (how fitting!) about “people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” Some are more light-hearted and silly (like the one about the guy who loves to flip the bird, just because), and some are darker and more complex. And some are downright crazy, like the one about a dedicated stalker from the Harry Potter fan site. Listen to that one…it’s insane.

Reply All – Reply All is a witty show about the internet, hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, except it’s not really about the internet in a tech forum kind of way — it’s much more fun than that. Each show is dynamic, fun, and short enough to keep your attention.

Invisibilia – Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about “the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” Though each episode is about an hour long, they seem to fly by, which makes them great for a long car or train ride.

Mystery Show – A podcast where Starlee Kine solves silly mysteries like Jake Gyllenhaal’s height, where Britney Spears got an obscure book, or the origin of a very particular belt buckle. There’s only one season, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they eventually come back. Starlee was always one of my favorite contributors on This American Life, but she really shines on her own. Plus, I’ve always wanted to be a private investigator, and I appreciate her commitment to solving the unknown.

Planet Money – The economy, explained, only made much more interesting and not at all pretentious. Their archive is deep, so you’ll have lots to choose from.

Modern Love – Modern Love features the popular New York Times column, with readings by notable personalities and actors, followed by updates from the essayists themselves.

Radiolab – Radiolab is a show about curiosity…which basically means it features a lot of interesting subjects. It’s wonderfully executed, with a distinctive audio style — they’ve had years to perfect their production. Episode I’m obsessed with? An exploration of the K-Pop machine.

More Perfect – Radiolab’s spin-off series, More Perfect, dives into the past and present world of the Supreme Court, from specific cases to the evolution of their power. It’s way more interesting than it sounds on paper — I promise!

Serial –  Serial is different from most podcasts, in that each episode is centered around one case for the whole season. If you haven’t listened to season one, featuring Adnan Syed’s case, that’s probably where you should start your podcast exploration. It really is just as gripping as everyone says, and you’ll find yourself listening to them back to back (lucky you, not having to wait). Season 2 goes in a different direction, telling all sides of the story from a prisoner of war. Though it was admittedly not as much of a nail-biter as season one, it’s still worth a listen. P.S. It’s a spinoff of This American Life, by Sarah Koenig (who is also invited to my imaginary dinner party).

NPR Politics – A podcast where NPR’s political reporters talk to you like they talk to each other. Much like Planet Money makes economics more interesting / less intimidating, NPR Politics feels lighter, more communicative and less scripted than the news, without being satirical. It makes politics fun, but is still very informative.

What are your favorite podcasts? Let me know, below!

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29 comments

  1. Also:
    Fresh Air with Terry Gross–the best interviews about a huge range of topics. You’ll sound smart!
    Pardon my French with Garance Doré–fashion and more.
    99% Invisible–design is everywhere.

  2. This is a great list! You should try Mortified, if you haven’t already. Each episode is short (under 20 minutes each, which is nice for a quick commute), and incredibly funny. Always puts me in a good mood.

  3. I LOVE podcasts! I’m a fan of many of this list, too 🙂

    While I love the more in depth ones such as This American Life, Revisionist History and Radiolab, sometimes the content can get a bit emotionally heavy.

    For some lighter (and in my opinion just as high quality!) options, my go-to podcasts are 2 Dope Queens and Note to Self.

    The Moth and Stuff Mom Never Told You are both excellent choices as well.

    • I haven’t listened to 2 dope queens or note to self, yet – I’ll check them out! And yes, the content of many I listen to can be VERY emotionally heavy, sometimes. Radiolab’s most recent episode about triage left me drained all day. But it was so good.

  4. I really like “Stuff You Should Know”. They pick a theme each week and then talk about it. Topics are really wide and you’ll get episodes on stuff like how DNA works to what Megalodon was and anything you can think of inbetween. The hosts are really good & casual, so you feel like you’re a part of the conversation.

    • I do listen to Stuff You Should Know, but have to be in the right mood for it. It’s a great go-to for their variety of topics, that’s for sure!

  5. The Mortified Podcast and How to be Amazing with Michael Ian Black. Will You Accept this Rose for fellow Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor in Paradise fans out there

  6. Linda Jenkins says:

    I have been wanting to start listening to podcasts. This is a wonderful list. Thanks for sharing, Keiko. You have me intrigued now.

  7. There’s only 1 podcast on your list that I haven’t subscribed to! I’ll check out science vs as it appears that we have similar taste!

    I’ve also loved Undisclosed – podcast by Rabia Chaudry, the woman who brought Adnan’s story to Sarah Koenig. The things they further uncover about Adnan’s story is mind blowing!

    I also just started (and finished) Love Me.
    Modern Love and Death, Sex & Money,99% invisible are go to’s. And Israel Story (just like this American Life just in Israel!)

  8. The two podcasts I can’t live without are Stuff Mom Never Told You (covers all kinds of topics about being a woman in society) and Stuff You Missed in History Class (a history podcast that covers an incredible amount of subjects, including quite a few on fashion in various time periods and countries). I also just started listening to one called Call Your Girlfriend which is a wonderful podcast between two long-distance besties and they talk about all kinds of pop culture/political/ridiculous things. It’s usually light hearted and they’re both really funny – I often find myself laughing out loud while listening. 🙂

  9. you listed some of my faves and some new ones! Thanks!

    Some I’m currently obsessed with:
    You Must Remember This: stories about old Hollywood and starlets. Lots of in depth research and done in series (the blacklist, MGM stories, one on Charles Manson – creepy but fascinating!)

    Dear Sugar: life advice from Cheryl strayed and Steve Almond.

    Note to Self: connecting technology with our everyday lives. Often focusing on women’s connection.

    The Babysitters Club Club: when I need a laugh. 2 men in their 30’s discussing each book from the Babysitters Club one episode at a time. Hilarious!

    • You Must Remember This sounds right up my alley!! I will check out all of them – thank you! Also, my friend had me listen to The Babysitters Club Club and it was amazing. I read all of the books, so it was definitely a trip down memory lane. I hope they tackle Sweet Valley High, too!

  10. The Sounds in my Head aka “music podcast featuring songs and bands you might have otherwise missed” is one of my favorites for indie tunes. It is hosted by a guy named Daniel, he has impeccable taste and is super charming.

  11. All of these! So much yes! Also check out 99 Percent Invisible, its sort of like invisibilia, Roman Mars is pod-god. Love Me from CBC is my favourite new podcast.

  12. Oh man. You had me at the first one. These are great. I listen to NPR all day everyday as I drive everywhere for work but I don’t listen to podcasts. Gotta get on that.

  13. Song Exploder ! Hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway – it tells the stories behind songs as they were being created, broken down a piece at a time by the artistists. Highly recommend ☺️

  14. I too love podcasts! I listen to all those you listed above, so I thought I would share a couple with you? Here goes!
    Love + Radio
    Snap Judgement (fantastic, warm and casual storytelling!)
    The Heart (can be a bit too candid for some, but very empowering in many respects)
    Radio Diaries
    The Truth (Some of these are the best I’ve experienced)
    Criminal
    Reply All
    The Memory Palace
    Story Collider
    Esquire Classics