The 50 Best Podcasts to Listen to Right Now

The 50 Best Podcasts to Listen to Right Now
From TIME - March 30, 2018

In March of 2017, we recommended 50 of the best podcasts for your listening pleasure. Many of those shows continue to do great work, including Heavyweight, Still Processing, The Read, Dear Sugars and Reply All. And two popular pods from last years list, 2 Dope Queens and Pod Save America, snagged HBO TV show deals.

But since that list dropped, the medium has continued to evolve. The internet devoured S-Town, and The Daily became mandatory listening during the morning commute. Shows like Ear Hustle, recorded inside a prison, and the musical 36 Questions pushed the bounds of podcasting. Documentary series like Making Obama and Slow Burn began examining history to understand the current political landscape. Just this March, Marvel made its first foray into the podcasting genre with Wolverine: The Long Night.

Between the newcomers and the old stalwarts we missed last year (sorry!),we found another 50 best podcasts you should be listening to right now. Whether youre a royals obsessive, a true crime detective or a politics nerd, we have a pod for you, listed from A to Z.

30 for 30 Podcasts

Genre: Sports

Why You Should Listen: If you are a fan of ESPNs 30 for 30 documentaries, youll love this spin-off with host Jody Avirgan. Each episode tackles a new sports saga with the same impressive journalistic rigor of the TV series. The podcast takes listeners behind meaningful moments, like when the Miami Heat players snapped that famous Hoodies Up photo, and of more obscure stories like that of an all-female trek to the North Pole.

Episode to Get Hooked on: On the Ice

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36 Questions

Genre: Fiction

Why You Should Listen: In 2015, a Modern Love essay in the New York Times introduced 36 Questions designed to make strangers fall in love. The essay went viral. Two years later, a genre-bending musical podcast brought those 36 questions into the limelight yet again. Broadway vet Jonathan Groff and newcomer Jessie Shelton star as a couple who try to repair their marriage by taking part in the questionnaire. At turns romantic and heart-wrenching, the innovative narrative represents the future of the musical genre. And its just three bingeable episodes.

Episode to Get Hooked on: 36 QuestionsThe Podcast MusicalAct 1 of 3

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74 Seconds

Genre: News & Politics

Why You Should Listen: The documentary podcast aired last summer during the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile in 2016. Riham Feshit and Jon Collins, two reporters at Minnesotas MPR News, chronicle the life of the victim, then the officer, before delving into a second-by-second account of what took place the night of the shooting. This is local journalism at its best. The first four episodes in particular add depth to understanding an important case.

Episode to Get Hooked on: 1: The Driver

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The Allusionist

Genre: Language

Why You Should Listen: Word nerd Helen Zaltzman covers her informative podcast with her dry British wit. In each episode, she answers questions about the English language: Why are some swear words way worse than others? What can we can learn about a potential mate who uses a bland hey on an online dating app? How has the way we use the verb trump changed since the 45th president was elected? Learning has never been more fun.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Hey

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Genre: Culture

Why You Should Listen: More contemplative than your average music podcast, Alt.Latino explores the whole of Latinx culture through interviews and discussions with musicians, DJs and journalists. Host Felix Contreras analyzes sound and lyrics to broach a larger conversation about identity. Recent topics include the Latin Grammys; sexism and feminism in Reggaeton; and how the success of Despacito impacted culture, business and politics.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Reggaeton In The Age of #MeToo

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Audio Book Club

Genre: Culture

Why You Should Listen: The rotating hosts of this monthly Slate podcast are smarter than even the most scholarly members of your book club. So many culture podcasts rely on snark, but this show flourishes thanks to its earnest criticism, though the hosts are not afraid to call out bad prose. The backlog of episodes is a treasure trove of new literary discoveries like Conversations With Friends and classics worth revisiting like Anna Karenina. This is the best podcast for bookworms.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Depending on your tastes, check out Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, What Happened by Hillary Clinton or The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson.

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Binge Mode

Genre: Culture

Why You Should Listen: Last spring, The Ringers Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion recapped every episode of Game of Thrones in the weeks leading up to the shows penultimate season. Episode recap podcasts can be hit or miss, often too meandering and dedicated to fan service. But the hosts have created a set format that works, and they are willing to skewer the material they love. Recently the podcast has turned its attention to other pop culture phenomena like Star Wars and, soon, Harry Potter.

Episode to Get Hooked on: S1E1: Winter is Coming

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Bodega Boys

Genre: Comedy

Why You Should Listen: Desus Nice and The Kid Mero riff on everything from Donald Trump to basketball to movies in this laugh-out-loud podcast. A lot of comedians force podcasting chemistry. But these two real-life friends have found the sort of easy banter you simply cant fake. They also stick to familiar territory, cracking jokes about life in New York which succeed because of their specificity. And their impressions are unparalleled. On the strength of their podcasting prowess, the duo now has a Viceland TV series called Desus & Mero.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Ep 100: Splack Mirror

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Buffering the Vampire Slayer

Genre: Culture

Why You Should Listen: Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains one of the few shows on TV that did justice to a complicated female hero and still feels relevant today. On Buffering, hosts Kristin Russo and Jenny Owen Youngs obsess over how the series upended sexist tropes, analyze the undeniable sexual chemistry between Buffy and Faith and write jingles for favorite characters like Vamp Willow. But they also wrestle with Xanders problematic one-liners and Joss Whedons imperfect portrayal of women. In the process the fun and addictive series has developed T-shirt worthy inside bits, like Smash the Demon Lizard Patriarchy.

Episode to Get Hooked on: 3.06 Band Candy

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The Butterfly Effect

Genre: Society

Why You Should Listen: Somehow, a podcast miniseries about pornography turns out to be surprisingly sensitive podcast. Journalist Jon Ronson begins by interviewing the German man who popularized free porn and examines how his actions affected porn creators and watchers alike. Ronsons matter-of-fact approach to an often-taboo topic makes for riveting reporting. He unveils fascinating factoids, like popular searches for teenager and MILF online has put 20-something female porn actors largely out of work.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Ep. 1: A Nondescript Building in Montreal

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By the Book

Genre: Society

Why You Should Listen: On each episode, an enthusiastic Jolenta Greenberg and a skeptical Kristen Meinzer pledge to live their lives according to the rules of a new self-help book for two weeks. The results are often hilariousespecially when they enlist their beleaguered partners to join inand occasionally life-changing. Come for the hit-and-miss advice of books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Stay for the banter between the hosts.

Episode to Get Hooked on: The Five Love Languages

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Comedy Bang! Bang!

Genre: Comedy

Why You Should Listen: Five hundred or so episodes into its run, host Scott Aukerman still manages to keep Comedy Bang! Bang! completely unpredictable thanks to his mix of improv games and offbeat character work. Nominally an interview podcast, Auckermans improv show embraces the bizarre and has built entire databases of recurring characters and jokes in the process. The podcast-turned-television series remains one of the funniest podcasts out there attracting comedians like Patton Oswalt, Nick Kroll and Tig Notaro.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Best of 2017 Pt. 4

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Genre: True Crime

Why You Should Listen: Most true crime series focus on a single murder. Crimetowna podcast from the makers of HBOs The Jinxwidens its lens to look at the culture of crime and corruption that can consume an entire city and its government. The holistic approach allows creators Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier to avoid certain true crime clichs, like the red herring or synth-heavy music to cue an interview with the bad guy. The first season was set in Providence, and filled with the sort of characters that would be right at home in a mobster movie. The creators are working on a second season set in an undisclosed location.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Chapter 1: Divine Providence

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The Daily

Genre: News & Politics

Why You Should Listen: The New York Times The Daily is hands down the best podcast of the last year. Each morning, host Michael Barbaro interviews Times journalists and occasionally their subjects about that days biggest story in just 20 minutes. Barbaro has commiserated with a coal miner, replayed an uncomfortable interview between Bill OReilly and the reporters who likely got him fired and linked the Times coverage of the Sochi doping scandal to Russias interference in the U.S. presidential election. Thanks to Barbaros straight-forward style and reassuring voice, the overwhelming news cycle feels manageable, and the issues more personal.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Monday, Feb. 12, 2018 (Russian doping at the Olympics)

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Dear Prudence

Genre: Advice

Why You Should Listen: Daniel Mallory Ortberg is the fourth Prudence to write an advice column for Slate and the first to start an advice podcast. (Ortberg recently announced that he is transitioning.) Ortberg and a rotating group of guests offer empathy and understanding at a time when we all desperately need it, not to mention a fair dose of wit. They solve problems ranging from how to bring up sex discrimination in a work performance review to how to deal with friends that mock your decision to be a stay-at-home dad.

Episode to Get Hooked on: The Live Cruise-ship Romance Edition

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Dirty John

Genre: True Crime

Why You Should Listen: The Los Angeles Times entry in the popular true crime genre examines the extraordinary and terrifying tale of a con man and his many victims. This case has everything a noir drama ought to: suspense, deception and plenty of twists. Though Dirty Johns production doesnt always measure up to that of more established shows, veteran reporter Christopher Goffard pursued the story with a rigor that other true crime podcasts simply dont have.

Episode to Get Hooked on: The Real Thing | 1

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Genre: Culture

Why You Should Listen: Each season of Dissect breaks down a single album with an episode devoted to each song on that album. Host Cole Cuchna tackled Kendrick Lamars To Pimp a Butterfly in the first season and Kanye Wests My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in the second. Cuchna scrutinizes rhymes, sounds and themes with the academic diligence one might expect from a PhD. He also analyzes the psyche of the artists themselves, like when West almost cut Nicki Minajs verse on Monster because it was too gooda fact that Cuchna seizes on to examine the rappers insecurities.

Episode to Get Hooked on: S2E8Monster by Kanye West

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Ear Hustle

Genre: Society

Why You Should Listen: In a world filled with true crime and chat podcasts, new ideas are hard to come by. But Ear Hustle, a podcast about San Quentin prison life made by prisoners, is something wholly new. Co-founders Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, current inmates, and artist Nigel Poor ask prisoners to share stories about what its like inside solitary confinement or how conjugal visits actually work. The stories are intimate and often lighthearted. This is not a podcast that takes on the prison industrial podcast: Its one that gives a voice to those who are often voiceless. It also won best podcast idea at the prestigious Podquest competition last year.

Episode to Get Hooked on: The Boom Boom Room

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Endless Thread

Genre: Society

Why You Should Listen: WBUR has teamed up with Reddit to mine the social media site for gripping stories, beginning with the tale of a flight crew that survived the airplanes windshield coming detached from the plane mid-flight. Host Ben Brock Johnson and producer Amory Sivertson add new depth to these Internet-famous fables with interviews, narrative arcs and, crucially, their fact-checking abilities. So far, theyve covered everything from Reddit love stories to the opioid epidemic. The show promises to develop into a worthy rival of Reply All and This American Life.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Kickin it

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Football Weekly

Genre: Sports

Why You Should Listen: Soccer fans stuck in the states can tune into this podcast and feel transported across the pond. Twice a week, host Max Rushden (who recently replaced the James Richardson) and his rotating group of guests discuss Premier League and European soccer. The show has a distinctly British sense of humor with the perfect balance of punning and punditry. The Guardian writers also bring a historical context and keen insight to their conversations thats hard to come by stateside.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Christmas Carrolls and Sids ham garage

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The Gender Knot

Genre: Society

Why You Should Listen: In each installment, co-hosts Nastaran Tavakoli-Far and Jonathan Freeman pose a question: What can men do to help women achieve equality? Are women too compassionate? Is there a masculinity crisis? They invite on experts and guestsmany of whom disagree with one anotherin an attempt to untangle these knotty problems. Freeman isnt afraid to ask questions as the token white man, while Tavakoli-Far often pushes back against guests mansplaining. Ultimately, the show serves an important purpose: Encouraging men and women to enter a productive dialogue with one another.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Men and feminism: How can men best help feminism?

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Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

Genre: Childrens

Why You Should Listen: Heroines rarely fare well in traditional fairytales: Snow White gets poisoned, Little Red Riding Hood gets eaten by a wolf and Ariel loses her voice. Thats why the book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, which uses the fable format to tell real stories of heroic women, felt so necessary when it came out in 2016. Now authors Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo have transformed their bestselling book into an inspiring, often tear-jerking podcast: #MeToo founder Tarana Burke narrates the story of Harriet Tubman, journalist Jessica Valenti the tale of tennis legend Billie Jean King and actor Poorna Jagannathan the saga of NASA engineer Margaret Hamilton.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Yusra Mardini read by Diana Nyad

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The Heart

Genre: Love & Sex

Why You Should Listen: The Heart is currently on hiatus, but last summers series about consent is a must-listen. Through a number of very personal stories, host Kaitlin Prest explores the grey areas of consent and how hard it can be to say no. Her story is complicated and heart-wrenching. Prests candor about her confusion and pain makes this audio memoir all the more resonant for listeners who have experienced something similar.

Episode to Get Hooked on: No: Advance

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Heavens Gate

Genre: History, Society

Why You Should Listen: Thirty-nine members of the Heavens Gate cult committed suicide in 1997, and two decades later the public is left with more questions than answers about this tragedy. Heavens Gate manages to tap into two trends: the current wave of 90s nostalgia (I, Tonya, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Roseanne) and the amateur detective craze thats made true crime podcasts so popular. But Snap Judgments Glynn Washington elevates what could be a voyeuristic affair into a thoughtful show. Washington grew up in a cultthe Worldwide Church of Godso he approaches the Heavens Gate story with true empathy. Early on, he argues that anyone could have fallen prey to Heavens Gate.

Episode to Get Hooked on: 1: The Seekers

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Its Been a Minute

Genre: Culture, News & Politics

Why You Should Listen: In Its Been a Minute, host Sam Sanders, a veteran of the NPR Politics podcast, explores the intersection of pop culture and politics with a panel or interviewee. That approach feels pertinent in a year when more actors are considering political careers and politicians are blaming culture for societys ills. Sanders background in political reporting serves him well: In this years best episode, he noted that after the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally, the burden had fallen on black, Jewish and LBGTQ people to speak out. So Sanders decided to have some hard conversations with white guests about bigotry and how to solve it.

Episode to Get Hooked on: Charlottesville and White People

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