Even though I enjoyed podcasting in my various iterations from day one (way back in the prehistoric internet years of 2011), I was admittedly a slow adopter to becoming a regular listener. I felt like I just didn’t have the time, and as a mom to small children, I had enough noise in my life.
Over the years, though, my life stage—and podcasting—changed. No longer was someone always crying, and the world of podcasting has boomed to the point of overwhelm. There are shows about everything.
My playlist continually evolves, based on my mood and the current season. To go further, I hardly blanket-listen to any one show (Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me! withstanding). For me, it’s about individual episodes.
Here are eight current podcasts I think you’d enjoy, with a recommendation on a particular episode.
Alec Baldwin is a fantastic interviewer (though he sometimes interrupts), and his voice was made for radio. Seriously, even his intro alone, paired with the jazz music, is enough to soothe my soul. I think his podcast is one of the best things he does.
Try this episode(s): His recent interview with Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, was great. If you grew up on 80s pop culture, like me, you might also like his interview with Molly Ringwald.
2. NPR Politics
This is definitely due to our current season, but these hosts are doing great work right now. Several times a week, they post current news in an easy-to-explain way, along with answer listener questions. When news of You-Know-Who’s sexual assault-talk scandal leaked, they were on it within hours. And starting next week, they’ll be doing daily shows. God bless ’em.
Try this episode: Any of their listener question episodes.
3. The Popcast
I don’t always agree with everything Jamie Golden and Knox McCoy say, but no one can argue they don’t know their stuff. I love listening to their banter about all things pop culture, and Jamie’s accent is like honey (as is Knox’s wheezy laugh). Prepare to be offended (they like to make fun of moms who are super into Harry Potter, as well as people into fall, as well as people into Gilmore Girls), but only in a delightful, “we’re friends” kind of way.
Try this episode: Age, Youth, and Old People in Pop Culture (episode 158)
Only Malcolm Gladwell can release ten episodes and already be a podcast darling. His episodes mimic his long-form writing: deep dives into fascinating topics you never before thought of, but you’re so glad he went there. It’s a bit scripted, but that’s okay by me—I listen when I need a good story.
Try this episode: Hallelujah
5. Reply All
A podcast about the internet, this show is all over the place—in a good way. They dig in to those “Why is that?” stories about the wild west of the internet, and most shows are a delight. I like their Yes Yes No segment. There’s definitely language, and it’s not a show to listen to around kids.
Try this episode: Baby King (episode 61) dives into weird gifs, and it’s a good one.
Their description, “Making room at the table for the spiritually homeless and frustrated,” is spot-on with their take on oft-hard topics. Posting is sporadic, but every episode is phenomenally produced, and their long-form approach always leaves me thinking. Several episodes have stuck with me for months after I first listen (and sometimes I listen twice).
Try this episode: Their episode Black and White: Racism in America (episode 34) is required listening for everyone, I think.
I listen to this show on the weekends (like The Podcast), when I need a brain break and want to mull over books, movies, music, and more. These episodes are think-pieces, however, and I love their thoughtful approach to entertainment. Everyone at their round table is fantastic.
Try this episode: The recent HGTV and Cooking Shows episode is a good one, though I always love their summer movie preview episodes. They also had a great episode on Hamilton last spring.
Host Andy Miller is a graphic designer, and his episodes are geared specifically for creative people who care about trying to make a living at making things. But it’s enjoyable for all types interested in artists (the paint + canvas kind, but also writers, musicians, and the like).
Try this episode: Episode 80, Kill FOMO Before it Kills You, floored me.
Top photo: the great Ira Glass of This American Life