I’ve been evangelising podcasts to anyone who will listen for at least six years (not non-stop I hasten to add).

Podcasts have exploded in popularity in this time. In 2017 112 million Americans had listened to a podcast, up 11% in one year. The UK lags, but still reports that 25% of those aged 15 years and older have listened to a podcast at least once.

Podcasting is a medium like no other, not even radio (though that’s its closest relative).

The beauty of the podcast lies in the form’s intimate, often niche approach to storytelling. Whether debating the socio-economics of work, or the experiences of a lifer in San Quentin prison, there is a common theme to the majority of popular podcasts; they speak to our human condition in a way that is both personal, but also cements you as part of a community of listeners.

Stoking my fire further, I recently attended a seminar looking the practicalities of podcasting, led by broadcaster and podvocate Richard Miron – I’d recommend it. There, it dawned on me just how many podcasts I’ve collected over the years, and there appeared to be thirst from the group to share must-listens.

I’ll be blogging about my efforts in the podworld in the coming months but for now, here is my list of podcasts that have achieved subscription status.

Search and subscribe on your chosen Podcast platform – if you don’t have one yet, read this.

Life stories and the human condition

  • This American Life – Each week they choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. Stories can be surprising, inspirational, gut-wrenching or funny. There’s a reason this reigns supreme in the pod-charts
  • The Moth – Real people telling real life stories, on stage without notes. With some stories rendering me unable to leave the car until the conclusion I don’t recommend listening when you need to be somewhere on time!
  • The Butterfly Effect – You either love or hate Jon Ronson. I love him. And this exploration of the demise of LA’s adult video industry is as insightful about human nature as it is about the tech boom that led to porno’s bust
  • Hidden Brain – A look at the ways our brains work to affect our behaviour and decisions

Missing Richard Simmons – This is a rare oddity. Follow a fan as he investigates why 80’s fitness guru Richard Simmons has disappeared from public life. As joyously odd as it sounds

  • Invisibilia – Latin for invisible things – fuses narrative storytelling with science, it will make you see your own life differently
  • This is Love – A new podcast that explores unique stories of love – romantic, familial and otherwise!
  • Radiolab – A podcast weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries
  • The Untold – From BBC Radio 4, Grace Dent explores hidden stories across Britain

Crime and punishment

  • Serial – Arguably THE podcast. Its first series garnered millions of listeners. It delves into the murder of a US high schooler, and explores whether the man in jail for the crime is indeed guilty. Totally addictive.
  • Dirty John – A chilling investigative documentary that uncovers how a seemingly perfect husband was, in fact a dangerous con-man, and what effect his lies had on the women he targeted

Ear Hustle – A fantastic production from inside San Quentin Prison. Prisoners reveal what life is like on the inside, with warmth, humour and humanity

  • The Tip off – A look behind the headlines, the show uncovers how investigative journalists land their stories
  • Criminal – Explores crimes and criminal behaviour from all angles, focusing on one case a week to tell the human story behind injustice, crime and tragedy
  • They walk among us – A UK true crime podcast that takes a while to get used to, but is thoroughly well researched and presented without bells and whistles

Work, politics and history

  • TED Radio Hour – Based on talks given by riveting speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, each show is centred on a common theme – such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections – and injects soundscapes and conversations that bring these ideas to life

Eat, sleep, work, repeat – Hosted by Bruce Daisley, European VP for Twitter, this is a podcast on happiness and work culture that makes you question if the way we work is helpful, or harmful

  • Pod save America – Three former Obama White House staff take US politics to task with uncensored incredulity
  • Freakonomics – based on the popular book of the same name, Freakonomics discusses socioeconomic issues as they affect our everyday lives
  • How I built this – Interviews with founders of some of the world’s most successful brands
  • Reveal – A US documentary that pits investigative journalism against injustice. From the Centre of Investigative Journalism

Comedy, fun, culture and celebrity

  • My dad wrote a p*rno – A hilarious and NSFW show where a son reads his author-father’s ‘erotic’ fiction aloud to his friends. Actually, literally laugh-out-loud hilarious

Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review – My longest serving pod, this is more than a film review show. It’s an international movement!

  • The Adam Buxton Podcast – Of Adam and Joe fame, Buxton takes dog Rosie on a walk to introduce us to interviews with celeb friends. Not at all showbizzy fluff – it’s insightful and amusing, this has become a firm fav
  • Desert Island Discs – Need I say more. The classic BBC Radio 4 show that asks the great and good to choose their favourite records while discussing their lives and careers. Kirsty Young is a delight!

So that’s it! Let me know which podcasts you’d add to the list and happy listening…