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Best podcasts: These are the insightful, engaging shows to listen to

Bored? These are the best podcasts to listen to

There’s a podcast about pretty much everything these days. In a world saturated with hundreds of thousands of them, figuring out what to listen to next can be challenging, and finding the best of the bunch can seem almost impossible.

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 are most likely hit or miss. Yes, we understand that finding the best podcast for you might be too overwhelming with the wide selections out there, but you know what’s not going to be hit or a miss? Listening to one of these incredible recently released podcasts. Whether you’re into politics, sports, true crime, fiction, or something else, we’ve got you covered.

Rabbit HoleLogo for the Rabbit Hole.

Easily bingeable, Rabbit Hole takes a look into how the internet affects our lives and our politics every day and how we got here. Unparalleled in its research and production, The New York Times’ eight-part series is haunting at times, but the story it’s telling about how we interact with the internet is profound and hard to forget. Well worth your time. 


Lolita Podcast

Jaime Loftus’s podcast series are always deeply researched and often very personal. Lolita Podcast looks into Nabokov’s classic and controversial novel, but then it looks into how Lolita persists in our popular culture, in ways both good and bad. Righteous and alive, Lolita Podcast is definitely one of the best new podcasts for you to check out this year. 


StartupThe logo of Startup that features a starlit sky and an apartment building.

Startup is Gimlet Media’s CEO Alex Blumberg’s take on the successes and pitfalls of running his media company. Having sold to Spotify a few years ago, this show 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.


Slow Burn

From Slate, Slow Burn takes on a new subject every season — topics like Watergate, the rise of David Duke, and even the tense feud of the ’90s between Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. Its newest season is all about what abortion rights in America looked like prior to Roe v. Wade. Slow Burn’s ability to present a comprehensive narrative combined with compelling personal histories is completely addictive.


The Right Time

The Right Time is the smartest sports podcast available today. Bomani Jones covers every aspect of athletics in a way that no other sports journalist can. ESPN is taking notice, too, upping the drops from twice a week to three times just this year. Any time is the right time to listen to more Bomani Jones. 


Still Processing

If you want a deep and intelligent discussion about your cultural interests, you should be sure to keep Still Processing in your podcast rotation as well. Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris add meaningful perspective to ongoing important conversations regarding movies, music, politics, and more. This season, Wortham is off on book leave, but Morris has returned with an all-star lineup of guests.


NYT Popcast

The New York Times also has one of the smartest and most fun music discussions on the podcast market. Journeyman journalist Jon Caramanica has been covering pop music and hip-hop like no one else for decades now, and as much as he is an expert, every episode includes music-writing guests with even deeper expertise on each artist and subject. I’m a longtime fan of Popcast and can’t recommend it enough. 


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 your and other people’s hands with lye. As far as storytelling podcasts go, Everything is Alive managed to find a unique premise and use it to become one of the best podcasts in the category.


The Daily

The Daily is a daily news podcast that drops every weekday morning at 6 a.m. and features recent reporting from New York Times jounalists. Hosted by journalists Michael Barbaro and Sabrina Tavernise, the episodes feature interviews with Times journalists and tend to run about a half-hour in total. If you want audio updates on the latest breaking stories, this is a great podcast to listen to in the morning.


Bodega BoysDesus Nice and The Kid Mero in Bodega Boys.

This is a podcast from Bronx natives Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, aka the Bodega Boys. You might have seen them on the Complex TV web series Desus vs. Mero or on the late-night talk show on Viceland, Desus & Mero. Since 2015, the duo has been bringing their raw comedic takes on all things pop culture. If you need a laugh, tune in and become part of their Bodega Hive.


Stuff You Should Know

You should know more stuff. Luckily for you, there’s an easy way to do that. Stuff You Should Know has a crazy back catalog that only continues to expand, and covers a wide range of fascinating topics. It certainly has a bundle of episodes you’re already interested in, but the special thing about Stuff You Should Know is how often the episodes spark new interests. With the help of Stuff You Should Know, you can find your new obsession.


This American LifeThe logo of This American Life in red and white.

This should be on every Best Podcast list every year. This American Life’s decades-long run as a radio show and podcast showcasing the eccentric and mundane from across the country is a true pioneer in what to expect from any good podcast. The gold standard in audio storytelling, This American Life should remain in every rotation of quality podcasts.


Start With ThisThe logo of Start with This, featuring a silhouette of a person's head on mint background.

Start With This is not just a regular podcast; it also serves as a playground for creativity. The hosts, Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink (creators of Welcome to Night Vale) focus on a topic in each episode and end it with two assignments — something to create and something to consume. Overall, the show is designed to encourage listeners to think about, talk about, and make art.


Every Little ThingThe logo of Every Little Thing with bunny ears peeking from a hole.

Do you have a nagging question that googling just won’t answer? Try calling into Every Little Thing. No, seriously. Call them at 833-RING-ELT, and they just might answer in their podcast. “Why do we cry?” “Why do punches sound like that on TV?” It’s only the important questions on Every Little Thing, and maybe your question is next. 


You’re Wrong AboutThe logo of You’re Wrong About with a rainbow on gray background.

If you want to learn even more, You’re Wrong About sheds new light on subjects you think you already know. With the speed at which news and culture move, it’s so easy for things to get oversimplified. Luckily, the hosts of YWA use their journalistic skills to look into how our collective understandings may be mistaken. Some episodes are one-offs, and some installments in a series — regardless, You’re Wrong About is definitely one of the best podcasts on the market. 


99% InvisibleThe logo of 99% Invisible in black, yellow, and white.

In what originally began as a podcast about architecture, 99% Invisible is really about design, and design is everywhere. Design is responsible for your street, your house or apartment, how you dress — it’s responsible for how this website is set up. With that in mind, 99% Invisible takes a closer look at all the aspects of design that we fail to notice. 


The DropoutThe logo of The Drop Out featuring an illustration of Elizabeth Holmes.

If you follow the news you probably heard about Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos. If you haven’t, here’s the quick version: a young college dropout starts a promising blood-testing company that is projected to make $990 million dollars in 2016. Even Joe Biden is on board at one point. And then, the company comes under criticism. There are accusations. The Dropout is about the fine line between faking-it-until-you-make-it and fraud, and what it takes to be a CEO, and a female CET in particular. It’s about tech culture and dreaming big, and the characters in it — though you probably won’t like them — are fascinating.


SmartlessThe Smartless logo with portraits of Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnet.

Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett take turns bringing on guests and talking with them. It’s a pretty simple concept, but the trio is funny and has great banter. Guests include Kamala Harris, Adam Sandler, Paul McCartney, and others.


Completely ArbortraryThe logo of Completely Arbortrary with an illustration of a pinecone.

Made by Casey Clapp and Alex Crowson, Completely Arbortrary is a podcast about trees. Casey is an arborist, Alex is not, and on each episode, they profile a different tree. While this may not sound thrilling at first, the two have a really fun dynamic, and you walk away having learned something interesting. If you’re into the outdoors, especially if you live in the Pacific Northwest, this is a great podcast.


Renegades: Born in the USAThe logo of Renegades: Born in the USA, featuring Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen.

Apparently, Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen are friends. In Renegades: Born in the USA, the two sit down for eight episodes to discuss a number of topics. Among them: Race, masculinity, fatherhood, money, and music. Casual and conversational, you’ll enjoy listening to these guys sitting around talking. These really famous (and insightful) guys.


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