We’re well into the pandemic at this point, so now is the as good a time as any to start in on a new podcast or five. Chances are you’re up to date on whatever you already listen to and could probably use a fresh voice, topic, or a mix of both. Seeing as there are over 800,000 podcasts (with something like 30 million episodes) out there, it doesn’t matter what your interest is — we guarantee there are at least fifty podcasts about it, with new episodes coming out all the time.
Trying to figure out which of those podcasts are good would be a gargantuan task. You could listen to friends or hope that the “You Might Also Like” section of your podcast app is up to snuff, but those approaches might be hit or miss. Know what’s not going to be hit or miss? Reading the rest of this article and realizing we picked out the best podcasts for you.
We’ve collected some of the best podcasts to listen to in 2020. Whether you’re into politics, sports, true crime, or something else, we’ve got you covered here.
In this last season of the series, Startup is Gimlet Media’s CEO Alex Blumberg’s take on the successes and pitfalls of running his media company. Having sold to Spotify earlier this year, this final season looks at the intersection of art and money and how one values each. That value changes, you find out, when you have your employees’ fates in your hands.
If you don’t love Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers to most of us), then can you call yourself a good person? The man that taught so many to be kind over generations is revered by countless, and Finding Fred is a continuation of that. Through conversations with a wide range of people, host Carvell Wallace does his darndest to continue the legacy that Rogers started more than 50 years ago.
Last Days of August
Porn star August Ames committed suicide in 2017 just days after receiving a large amount of backlash for something she tweeted. In The Last Days of August, creator Jon Ronson explores just how tough it is to work in porn, especially for people suffering from mental illness. Through interviews with friends and family, Ronson also explores what led Ames to kill herself, even if no one can quite agree on the final reason.
Remember Shawn Kemp and the Seattle SuperSonics? Most of Seattle does (as do plenty of people who were outside of the Emerald City at the time). They were beloved up until the team folded in the mid-2000s. Sonic Boom is a look at the team and its history, including how and why the team closed up shop in Seattle (they would become the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008) … as well as what happened after.
If you listen to NPR with any regularity, especially Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me, you’ll recognize Mo Rocca. A frequent guest, he has his own show, Mobituaries, in which he, in short, explores the past. What we mean by that is he finds stories of things that we may have otherwise left to the sands of time and brings them back to the forefront (hence the obituary pun in the show’s title) through his own personal brand of humor and insight.
Broken: Jeffrey Epstein
If you so much as looked at a television or computer screen at some point this year, you saw the name Jeffrey Epstein. A convicted sex offender, Epstein was found dead in his jail cell earlier this year. Broken doesn’t look directly at Epstein’s crimes, but it does explore how people like Epstein (and many others) are able to get away with what they do because of wealth, influence, or other advantages. You’ll also hear about Epstein’s victims and the impact his crimes had on their lives.
We’ve all seen pop culture series’ like The Real World and Big Brother, but what happens when the people forcing other people to live together (in a space secluded away from the world, no less) are from NASA? In The Habitat, six volunteers are sent to a remote island in Hawaii to live for a year as pretend astronauts on a pretend Mars. The sextet chronicles their highs and lows through audio recordings, which are spliced together in the podcast with documentary narration. Listening to see if one person might kill another is addictive, to say the least.
Ever wonder how companies like Amway were and continue to be successful, despite the fact that they are pillaging the people that work for them for everything they have? What about the fact that a Waffle House’s ability to be open is literally used to help understand how bad a hurricane is in the South? Household Name digs into the stories behind the brands and companies we all know and see just about daily and gives us an inside look at their successes, failures, and more.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: Ears Edition
If you don’t know what The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is, you’ve clearly been living under a rock for the last few years. The show made famous by Jon Stewart and now helmed by Noah now has a podcast arm. Ears Edition features both highlights and extended interviews from Daily Show episodes. If you’re one of the ones that just watch the show highlights that Comedy Central puts on YouTube the following day, this podcast is for you.
Everything is Alive
An “unscripted interview show,” Everything is Alive is an interesting take on exploring the world. How so? In each episode, an interviewee is an inanimate object telling its life story. Ever wanted to hear how a bar of soap feels? What about an elevator? Think of this as that part of Fight Club concerning Jack’s organs, except you’re not part of Project Mayhem or burning yours and other people’s hands with lye. As far as storytelling podcasts go, it certainly isn’t This American Life, but it is worth a listen.
Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd
Dax Shepherd loves talking to people and celebrity guests. That is, in short, the premise for Armchair Expert. By talking to people, though, Shepherd tries to get at what makes us human. In each episode, the actor-turned-podcast host attempts to gain at least a nugget of information about how to be a better human. With a focus on the challenges people encounter, Shepherd dives headfirst into the task of being an armchair expert of life.
Hosted by comedian Dan Cummins, Timesuck is an investigation into just about everything in life. Weekly topics range from true crime to the paranormal to history podcasts and beyond, and are all hallmarked by Cummins’ signature wit. What helps Cummins stand out from other informational comedy podcasts is his willingness to investigate his own thoughts and beliefs and — through dialogues with people around the world — change his mind if he finds information the prove specific points.
30 for 30
Developed out of the über-successful 30 for 30 film series, ESPN’s 30 for 30 sports podcast series takes the best parts of the sports documentaries and brings them to audio format. If sports are your thing, these episodes follow athletes from around the world to learn their stories, unraveling what makes someone successful (or not) while also offering a look at how sports can influence cultures around the world. The stories go beyond sports, though, offering something for sports fans and non-sports fans alike.
Small Town Murder
One of the consistently funny true crime podcasts, Small Town Murder explores crimes in small towns (population under 30,000) that are, often-times, bat sh*t crazy. If you thought Florida was the only state for crazed criminals out there, Small Town Murder is a testament to the opposite. What helps hosts James Pietragallo and Jimmie Whisman dig into more than just the crime at hand. The duo look at what makes every town tick, from real estate sales to the local holiday parades that drive small-town life.
The Manual Podcast
Did you think we wouldn’t be a little narcissistic and include ourselves on this list? If you’re looking for more from The Manual in your life, then this podcast is for you. From award-winning chefs to race car drivers to the owners of major breweries, we’ve talked to the best of the best in all of the industries you care about. We’ve talked to some great people in our first years, and the list of guests is only getting better from here.
Article originally published December 28, 2018. Last updated to include new suggestions for 2020.
- 12 Best True Crime Documentaries on Netflix Right Now
- 10 Horror Podcasts to Listen to at Your Own Risk
- The 10 Best Podcasts for Long Road Trips
- The Best Netflix Documentaries to Stream Right Now
- 10 True Crime Podcasts to Obsess Over Right Now