*Updated November 2018*
I’m not sure how I ever got by without podcasts in my life, but when I started tuning in to them a few years back, I became hooked instantly.
As a freelance graphic designer by day, my happiest working hours are spent being creative in front of my computer while plugged into my latest favourite shows.
True crime has long been a morbid fascination genre for me, so most of what I listen to all fall into this category. But don’t worry if you’re not into stories of murderers and monsters (totally understandable), because I’ve since broadened my horizons to bring you the following list of my favourite podcasts to consider adding to your own binge listening list.
Let’s kick off with my favourite genre…
TRUE CRIME PODCASTS
You’re probably already familiar with Serial by now, but if you’re not, it’s the true crime podcast which smashed listener records worldwide with its gripping story of the death of schoolgirl Hae Min Lee, and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed who was convicted of her murder. Podcasts were around long before Serial, but this show helped to propel both the format of podcasts and the true crime genre into the mainstream. It’s an obvious one to add to any must-hear podcast lists, but there’s no denying that it’s still one of the best shows out there.
There are now three series of the show, with the second telling an extraordinary story of US soldier named Bowe Bergdahl. The third looks at the US justice system and brings you stories from inside the courthouse.
Listen here: https://serialpodcast.org/
Short for ‘shit town’, this was the podcast hit of 2017. It started when a man contacted the show’s host to help him investigate a murder in his hometown, which the son of a wealthy family had allegedly been bragging about committing.
But the story doesn’t take you where you might think, and instead tells a very moving, melancholic, and inspiring tale of one man’s life.
Listen here: https://stownpodcast.org/
Up and Vanished
For me, few things are more gripping than a cold case, and things only get more interesting when an unsolved case is reopened again due to new leads being brought forward. Up and Vanished is just that, and tells the story of a high school teacher and beauty queen named Tara Grinstead, who was found murdered over a decade ago.
Listen here: https://upandvanished.com/
There is now a second series of Up and Vanished, and the host has also produced another show titled Atlanta Monster.
In the Dark
This unsettling podcast tells the story of Jacob Wetterling, a young boy who was abducted in 1989. What’s significant about this case are the police mishandlings which occurred right from the start, and how it subsequently led to the establishment of the US sex offender registry.
A second season is also now available and tells an equally gripping story of Curtis Flowers, who’s been tried for the same crime six times.
Listen here: https://www.apmreports.org/in-the-dark
Someone Knows Something
Now in its fourth season, this podcast tells the story of a different cold case through the show’s investigative work and recorded interviews. The second season, in particular, had me gripped, as it tried to uncover the disappearance of a woman named Sheryl Sheppard, who went missing in 1998.
Listen here: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/sks
I love this podcast which is unlike any other. Instead of following court cases like most true crime podcasts, Ear Hustle takes you to the other side and tells stories from inside San Quentin prison. Each episode delves into what life is like for inmates, and features real interviews and audio from inside the prison filled with insight, emotion, and humility.
Listen here: https://www.earhustlesq.com/
This is one of my all-time favourite podcasts, and unlike most true crime series, it’s not serialised, so you can tune in at any time.
All based on the genre of crime, each week host Phoebe Judge tells really fascinating tales of people who have wronged, been wronged, or got caught somewhere in between. Expect a mix of weird, sometimes gruesome, sometimes funny, but always entertaining stories from around the world, lasting around half an hour each.
Listen here: http://www.thisiscriminal.com/
For those who like shows on the lighter side, here are a few of my favourite laugh-out-loud shows…
Did you use to keep a diary when you were younger? Does the idea of public speaking also give you the shakes? Mortified combines these two great embarrassments of life to create a highly entertaining podcast which I love.
Recorded at their stage shows, tune in to hear grown adults read out passages from their childhood diaries in front of a live audience. Some will shock you, others will move you, but most of all they’ll make you laugh and feel relieved that you’re no longer that awkward teenager.
Mortified is also now available as a short series on Netflix where you can watch some of the stage shows!
My Dad Wrote a Porno
If the thought of other people hearing your childhood diaries wasn’t embarrassing enough, then imagine gathering your friends together to review an erotic novel penned by your own father instead.
This podcast really needs no further explanation, because nothing will prepare you for the hilariously colourful (and sometimes quite frankly grotesque) stories that host Jamie’s dad has created in his book, Belinda Blinked. You need to start this one from the beginning.
A Very Fatal Murder
This is a new show, but it’s already got me hooked. Disguised as a true crime podcast, it’s actually a mockumentary which parodies the true crime genre by telling the story of a fictional murder – it’s made by the team at the Onion, which should probably give you a good idea of what to expect.
If you enjoy true crime and/or sarcastic humour, then you’re bound to enjoy this.
Listen here: https://www.theonion.com/c/a-very-fatal-murder
If you’re interested in internet culture and the modern digital world we live in, then Reply All is the podcast you need in your life. I seriously love this show and its hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, who between them try to explain the latest internet memes, solve weird tech problems from listeners, and tell some really fascinating stories which all revolve around the world wide web. It might be summarised as a show about the internet, but actually, it’s much more than that.
Listen here: https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/all
If you’re at all interested in design or architecture, 99% Invisible is the podcast for you. Each episode is dedicated to things that are usually overlooked in the world around us and focuses on a new topic with interviews and storytelling every week.
Listen here: https://99percentinvisible.org/
Stuff You Should Know
As the title suggests, this general knowledge podcast educates listeners on ‘how stuff works’. They cover an astounding number of topics, and with years of shows behind them, you’re sure to find a whole bunch of episodes and subjects which interest you. You’ll learn something new without even trying, and be entertained along the way.
Listen here: https://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/
Where There’s Smoke
I’ve been on a quest for self-improvement in the last few years, and Where There’s Smoke is the podcast I’ve really needed in my life. Each episode focuses on a different area of improvement through the lens of current events and pop culture, with tips and insights to take away every week.
Having found myself feeling really overwhelmed at the atrocious news I see happening around me lately, one episode that really helped me to put things into perspective was their recent episode on complicity, and how social media and online outrage affects us and society.
Listen here: https://www.wheretheressmoke.co/
JOURNALISM & STORYTELLING PODCASTS
This American Life
This is arguably one of the most popular podcasts of all time, and are made by the same producers who brought us the podcast Serial.
Presented by Ira Glass, each week the show tells a number of different short stories and essays all based around one theme. The production value and quality of storytelling in this show are second to none, and the episodes feature a great mix of fascinating, moving and funny stories. If you’re yet to tune in, you can go on a serious binge as there’s a whopping 15 years worth of content so far.
Listen here: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/
For me, this podcast is like no other. Hosted by Megan Tan, it tells the real-life story of being a millennial, and what it’s like to navigate your twenties in real-time. The show follows Megan’s life as she graduates from university, tries to find a job and figure out what to do with her life, and is all too relatable for anyone in a similar stage in life. I discovered the show during a time of change in my own career when I was weighing up which path to take, and found it a very real and very inspiring listen.
Although it’s sadly no longer in production, you should still catch the three series from the beginning.
Listen here: http://www.millennialpodcast.org/all-episodes
If you’ve ever thought about starting your own business, then you’ll love the show StartUp. It follows the story of host Alex Bloomberg who leaves his career behind to set up his own podcast media company, and it tells an entertaining, informative and very transparent account of what it’s really like to start a business. From pitching investors to just figuring out what to wear to meetings, the series later follows the stories of other startups. It’s a great show to listen to for any aspiring entrepreneurs like me.
Listen here: https://www.gimletmedia.com/startup
Alex’s company Gimlet now produces a whole bunch of other great shows (like Reply All!), many of which I love. Check out all of them here: https://www.gimletmedia.com/shows
I especially love podcasts that tell interesting stories I might not otherwise get to hear, and The Habitat was one of my favourites of this year.
Did you know that on a remote part of Hawaii, there’s a fake planet Mars where six volunteers are tasked with imitating life as astronauts for a whole year? This podcast documents their experiences and relationships from within the program, and how NASA is preparing for life on the real red planet.
Listen here: https://www.gimletmedia.com/the-habitat
This is Love
Brought to you by Phoebe Judge and the team at the Criminal podcast, their new show This Is Love tells beautiful and heartwarming stories based around our strongest emotion.
It’s a moving, life-affirming, and positive boost you need in your life.
Listen here: https://www.thisislovepodcast.com/
Covering all types of stories, Reveal is an investigative journalism podcast which reports on the unreported. If you’re interested in world issues beyond the headline, you’ll be shocked to hear some of the stories they uncover.
Listen here: https://www.revealnews.org/episodes/
And there you have it, 20 of my favourite shows to add to your podcast list today.
Do you listen to podcasts? Have I missed off your favourites? Share them with me in the comments!