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The 50 best podcasts to listen to in 2022

The best podcasts out there have one thing in common: you can listen to them no matter what’s going on around you

Edited by
Andy Kryza
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We are living in the golden age of podcasts. If you can dream up a subject, somewhere in the world, there’s a person sitting in front of a microphone chatting at length about it. Whole media empires have been built from podcasts. Some shows have reached a point of cultural saturation previously reserved for movies and television shows – in fact, there are whole TV shows using podcasts as a plot point…and a punchline. (We see you, Only Murders in the Building.) It’s pretty incredible development, given that a little over a decade ago, only the nerdiest of internet nerds knew what a podcast even was. Now, it’s possible that your own mom is recording one in your childhood bedroom as you read this.  

There are so many podcasts at your disposal that finding the ones most worth listening to can be challenging. Don’t worry: we’re here to turn down the static. We’ve put together this list of the best podcasts currently streaming in 2022. Whatever your interests, you’ll find the top examples here, whether it’s true crime, pop culture, current events or narrative fiction – there are even a few your kids will enjoy. So go ahead and put these in your ears. You won’t regret it.

Contributors: Anna Rahmanan Eddy Frankel, Andy Kryza, Phil de Semlyen, Alex Plim, Dave Calhoun, Andrzej Lukowski, Cass Knowlton, Dalia Barth, Isabelle Aron, Alexandra Sims and Matthew Singer

RECOMMENDED:

💤 The best sleep podcasts
🔪 The best true crime podcasts
🎶 The best podcasts on Spotify
🏃 The best motivational podcasts
✊ The best political podcasts
😂 The best comedy podcasts
👩 The best podcasts for women

Best podcasts to listen to in 2022, ranked

You know a podcast is making you cleverer when it involves homework. Each episode of ‘Start with This’ (the second brainchild of the creators of ‘Welcome to Night Vale’, a creepy podcast set in an imaginary US town) gives listeners something to consume and something to create: usually a book or TV show in the first instance, and a writing assignment in the second. The object is to help boost your creativity, and the subjects of the episodes are satisfyingly varied, from ‘Present Tense’ to ‘Non-Lovecraftian Horror’.

Sure, your Platos and your Nietzsches are still famous long after their deaths, but most philosophies remain pretty obscure. Had any chats about the importance of metaphysics to our understanding of the world? Know what verificationism is? If you listened to this lovable UK podcast, you absolutely would. ‘Philosophy Bites’ hosts Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds invite guests for great intros to the debates, thinkers and thoughts that have shaped our world.

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We’ve all asked ourselves that, haven’t we? Hilarious host Nicole Byer spends each episode of ‘Why Won’t You Date Me’ talking about modern dating, including conversations about apps, open relationships, matchmakers and more. Yes, it is raunchy.

Launched in 2021, ‘Crime Show’ delivers on its promise to tell ‘stories about people. And sometimes crime,’ with each episode offering a standalone story that doesn’t exclusively fall back on the grimly overused ‘women getting murdered’ trope (though murder is a common topic). Some shows involve ghosts, others scammers and identity thieves. And in one particularly bizarre episode, we even meet a singer whose voice was stolen by a chart-topping imposter. This isn’t your typical true-crime podcast. 

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This podcast puts the US justice system in the dock. The first season asks why it took authorities 27 years to solve the abduction of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling. Season two examines why a Black man, Curtis Flowers, was tried six times for the same crime, while a 'special report' followup deals with the effects of Covid on the vulnerable Mississippi Delta. ‘In the Dark’s hallmarks are rigorous investigative journalism and epic suspense. Not only is it addictive, it’ll fire you up. 

Merely looking at a copy of the New Yorker can make you up to 15 percent cleverer, and the same goes for listening to its flagship fiction podcast. A current staffer reads a short story by a former New Yorker writer – often several decades former – and discusses it with the magazine’s fiction editor Deborah Treisman. It’s entertaining, sure, but it’s the delving into the thought processes of a succession of extremely smart Americans – think ZZ Packer, Bryan Washington, Jhumpa Lahiri – that gives it its zing.

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In this podcast from The Ringer, former Vibe editor-in-chief Danyel Smith offers a lovingly insightful deep dive into a different Black woman in the music industry each week, focusing on craft, impact and legacy while telling very specific moment-in-time stories. That includes a show dedicated to Whitney Huston’s explosive 1992 Super Bowl performance, the rise of Sade, a dissection of the searing Lauryn Hill diss track ‘Lost Ones’ and much, much more. 

The ‘wellness’ industry is crawling with snake-oil salesmen hocking miracle cures. Maintenance Phase is here to help sort fact from fiction with its funny, erudite look at the BS clouding the market. From fad diets to vibrators, fat-shaming to whatever Gwyneth Paltrow’s doing at every moment, the show is here to demystify an extremely complicated topic in a way we can all understand. 

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Part travelogue, part living-history document and absolutely nothing like the white-savior movie that bears half its name, Driving the Green Book finds BBC broadcaster Alvin Hall and social justice trainer Janée Woods Webe hitting the road from Detroit to New Orleans using The Negro Motorist Green Book, a segregation-era roadmap for safe travel throught the American south. Along the way, they encounter those who endured – and still endure – prejudice and racial violence in the US, but also discover vibrant music, civil rights monuments, great food and tales of love amid turmoil. 

Even if you lived through it, explaining the music of the ‘90s is no easy task. History has boiled it down to grunge and gangsta rap, but it was also a time of random-ass revivals, quick-disappearing fads and blockbuster pop. So far, writer Rob Harvilla has managed to touch on a little bit of everything, from the smash hits (‘Enter Sandman,’ ‘I Want It That Way’) to the cult classics (‘Cannonball,’ ‘Hey Jealousy’) to the purely inexplicable (‘Smooth,’ ‘Pretty Fly [For a White Guy]’), mixing sharp critical analysis with endearing personal anecdotes. Obviously, 60 songs was never going to cover all that ground – thankfully, the series returned to analyze another batch of 30-year-old bangers for season two.

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‘This American Life’ originated as a public radio show (which it still is) in the 1990s and eventually took on the podcast format as well. Hosted by the instantly recognisable Ira Glass, each episode of this weekly show has a theme that is explored, usually through first-person narratives, by folks from all walks of life in the US and beyond. Think ‘stories about being little’, the pros and cons of therapy and the tale of a flute player who steals a million dollars’ worth of dead birds.

Given its long history, the podcast boasts a huge library. You can browse through 26 years of episodes right now.

Actor and comedian Laci Mosley presides over a true-crime podcast that revels unashamedly in the most twisted, tenacious and cunning hustles on record and analyses them as works of art. Part-con investigation, part-comic riff-along, ‘Scam Goddess’ drags enjoyably-monikered scammers like ‘the Deutschland Duper’ and ‘the Hoodwinking Hipster’ into the light. Mosley and a guest will chew over these devious schemes with a forensic eye and the odd entertaining tangent. 

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At the end of 2019, seeking to shed light on the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing on American shores, the New York Times launched the 1619 Project. The effort was a multimedia one, tackling the topic in print, online, television and audio. The latter initiative took the form of a podcast, ‘1619’.

The five episodes (the last one is split into two parts) are hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who interviews the paper’s writers and critics to try and dissect the legacy of slavery in the country.

For some, sports is life and life is sports, and while that’s probably not the healthiest way to look at the world, in the right hands, it can be pretty funny. In this podcast, comedian Ian Karmel and his comedy buddies get together to draft everything from fictional athletes to Seinfeld characters to ‘animals who can fuck right off.’ Naturally, the debates can get pretty heated – and hilarious.

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This is a monthly podcast hosted by Willa Paskin, the television critic at Slate. She is an outstanding journalist who examines a single object, habit or cultural question in each episode. Here are some of the questions ‘Decoder Ring’ has explored in the past: why do gay people love Judy Garland so much? Who is afraid of Bart Simpson? How do you start a conspiracy theory?

Emmy-winning journalist Jemele Hill has always come off as a person who knows a lot about everything, and her witty, insightful, often hilarious Spotify pod furthers that notion by covering a wide swath of topics relating to film, journalism, music, literature and beyond. The show has included interviews with Lisa Ling, Dan Rather, Tiffany Haddish, Kamala Harris, Stephen Colbert Michael B Jordan, Jill Scott, Chuck D and many other luminaries exploring the weight of their work and the larger cultural diaspora in depth with one of the best interviewers in the game. 

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NPR’s popular podcast wrapped up about four years ago without literally telling us how to do everything. But there’s still a treasure trove of knowledge stored in its archive, as hosts Mike Danforth and Ian Chillag solve problems that you hadn’t previously realised were problems: from mounting an impassioned defence of weasels, to tips on bluffing your way through a conversation about golf. Its 265 episodes are all standing by to help enhance your brainy parts.

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Not all crimes involve a severed head in a forest. ‘The Shrink Next Door’, one of the most shocking – and funniest – stories of manipulation you’ll ever hear, is the second kind. It’s about a New York psychiatrist who takes his relationship with one patient way, way too far. It’s full of swanky country pads and amazing New York Jewish accents, and it will leave you saying ‘oy vey’ like you really mean it. Once you’ve finished, check out Apple's new adaptation starring Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd.

Did you know that Loretta Lynn’s 1975 song about birth control, ‘The Pill’, was banned from radio stations when first released? These are the kinds of factoids you'll learn about when listening to ‘Cocaine and Rhinestones, a fascinating dive into the history of twentieth-century country music. And if you’re not into country, don’t worry – there are awesome music podcasts out there for all tastes.

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Very funny people Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael (plus a roster of very funny special guests) love movies. Especially questionable ones. In this hysterically nerdy pod, the trio go lovingly 'Mystery Science Theater' on a cross-genre spread of so-bad-they’re-good films, from the Schwarzeneggerian wonders of 'Jingle All the Way' to the kid-mobster weirdness of 'Bugsy Malone'. As a bonus, they also dive into great films that are certifiably bizarre, including John Woo’s action classic 'Face/Off' and Patrick Swayze’s 'Road House'

On the flip-side of the film-nerd spectrum from ‘How Did This Get Made,’ John Bleasdale’s ‘Writers on Film’ features conversations with historians and authors who literally wrote the book on your favorite films and filmmakers. The conversations are full of insights, factoids and anecdotes on the making (and impact) of everything from 'Shaun of the Dead', 'Midnight Cowboy', 'Highlander' and much more.

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The very funny team of researchers behind British game show QI spends its days discovering weird, wonderful and completely unrelated factoids. And every week, they spill the most random, gobsmacking stuff they’ve discovered. Consider it the podcast equivalent of meeting a group of giddy trivia champs at the pub… people who are excited to tell you tales about red pandas, seafaring vegetable detectives and ancient air conditioners.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. During each episode of this podcast, a new person will literally sit in a room alone and talk about his or her biggest fears. From cockroaches to death, flying, large crowds and even boredom, the discussions on ‘10 Things That Scare Me’ run from funny to deep and everything in-between.

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Missing dinner with friends? Pull up a chair to this extremely British table and let singer Jessie Ware and her mum Lennie keep you company.. They invite celebs (guests include Billy Porter, Maisie Williams, Ed Sheeran, Paul McCartney and UK MP Jess Phillips) over to Lennie’s for dinner, they have a good old chat and sometimes Jessie’s brother gets roped in to make pudding (David Schwimmer slags off his banana bread in one episode). It’s the podcast equivalent of a juicy novel.

For 15 years, journalist Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History has taken a revisionist approach to some of history’s biggest events, weaving a dense but approachable tapestry about world-chaning events, historical villains and more, with ample pop-culture references to keep things fresh. Episodes range from a 15-minute talk comparing Alexander the Great and Hitler to a six-hour discourse on the Celtic Holocaust, culminating in a whopping six-part look at the Asia-Pacific war that spans nearly 20 hours. Somehow, it never gets dull.

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Another one by the New York Times, ‘The Daily’ is the paper's, well, daily news podcast. It has gained an almost cult-like following thanks to host Michael Barbaro, who interviews the publication’s journalists about the top stories of the day. Barbaro’s soothing tone and his ability to truly break down an issue in 20 to 30 minutes have catapulted him to fame.

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Elizabeth Holmes is the disgraced founder of Theranos, a blood-testing technology that she claimed would revolutionise the medical industry. The story of her lies and fall has been chronicled in a book, an HBO documentary, an upcoming Jennifer Lawrence film and, of course, in gripping form as ‘The Dropout’ podcast.

Gillian Pensavalle’s ‘The Hamilcast’ really is a weekly podcast devoted to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash-hit musical ‘Hamilton’, and it really is now coming up on its two hundred and fiftieth episode. Having long ago interviewed Miranda himself and all the iconic original cast members, it remains a gloriously enthusiastic affair in which ultra-likeable superfan Pensavalle dials up a cast member or creative from one of the many, many productions of the show from around the world and basically just gossips with them for a bit. It's kind of gone beyond talking about ‘Hamilton’, and is instead a fascinating and fun insight into what it's like to work in musical theatre.

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Each week on ‘You’re Wrong About’, journalists Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes select a major historical moment – say, the OJ Simpson trial – and analyze why it’s been ‘miscast in the public imagination'. The results of this podcast are invariably fascinating and surprising.

If BBC classic ‘Desert Island Discs’ is a bit heavy on Beethoven and childhood anguish for your liking, give this spin on the concept a whirl. It’s hosted by food writer Margie Nomura with an ear for a good story and a savvy sense of the connection between food and emotion. The guests usually wax nostalgic about the dishes that made them. If you fancy hearing Stanley Tucci saying the word ‘risotto’ a lot – and trust me, you do – look no further. 

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There are plenty of food podcasts out there, but ‘The Sporkful’ is the pièce de la resistance – it has even won a prestigious James Beard award. Creator and host Dan Pashman approaches ‘food from many angles’, including Q&As with chefs and restaurateurs, the role that culture plays in eating, scientific notes, thoughts on identity and more.

Every band is somebody’s favorite band. But some bands transcend simple fandom and generate their own legion of dedicated followers. Spotify host Yasi Salek dives deep into a different cultishly beloved band each week, complete with curated playlists with the potential to win new converts. Shows focus on drastically different band lifestyles, from the tour cultures of Phish and Dave Matthews to the ‘family’ of Juggalos devoted to Insane Clown Posse and the downright puzzling Gin Blossoms devotees still screaming for ‘Hey Jealousy’ all these years later. 

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Dan Taberski’s seven-episode series takes a microscope to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack – in particular, its more overlooked consequences. Each episode zeroes in on the experiences of those forced to change their lives after that fateful day: From a Pakistani business owner reckoning with the disappearance of hundreds of his Muslim neighbors, to writers at The Onion grappling with the notion of ‘too soon’. What results is stirring and often darkly humorous. 

Sometimes you want a story without all the little details. You know, the juicy bits. Comedian Rosie Waterland and co-host Jacob Stanlkey have you covered, getting to the nut of true-crime sagas, conspiracy theories, celebrity gossip and history’s most interesting people without getting too into it. Think of it like a less inebriated Drunk History: one that values good storytelling above all, but doesn’t skimp on fascinating facts.

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Miss Marple. Jessica Fletcher. Jane Tennison. Some of the sharpest sleuths in the pop-cultural canon have been women. Also, as this anarchic podcast proves, some of the funniest ones. Its half-cut hosts, Hannah, Catie and Taylor, rummage around the finer details of some criminal case like they’ve just stormed in from the pub. Which they probably have. 

‘Modern Love’ is a popular New York Times column that was also turned into a highly rated anthology series on Amazon. The podcast, which landed before the TV production ever did, features notable personalities reading the popular columns. At the end of each episode, the hosts interview the original essayists to discuss post-column life.

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Although plenty of folks listened to other shows before Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder co-created this investigative journalism podcast, ‘Serial’ captured the attention of the world like none before it – just as Making a Murderer stoked an obsession with true-crime documentaries, ‘Serial’ laid the groundwork for the genre in audio form.

The anthology features three different seasons, each one focused on a different true story. If you haven’t listened to it yet, this is a great (and binge-worthy) introduction to the medium.

Guests present their disputes – both petty and serious – to Judge John Hodgman. No, he is not an actual judge, but enough of an impartial comedian to try and solve issues. Warning: there will be laughs.

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The subtitle of this comedic medical podcast is ‘A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine’. Dr Sydnee McElroy and husband Justin are basically a tag team: in each episode of ‘Sawbones’, she brings up the history of a certain medical practice while he views it through a comedic lens.

Here are a few things you should know about ‘Wooden Overcoats’: it aired from 2015 to 2019, it’s narrated by a mouse, it’s about two competing funeral homes set up in the same small English village, and it’s a side-splitting fictional comedy. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be confused but, most importantly, you’ll be thoroughly entertained.

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Mums aren’t the only ones who will enjoy ‘Motherhood Sessions’, hosted by reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks. Expect to get emotional while listening to guests talk about the many facets that make motherhood one of the most complicated, rewarding, confusing and deep aspects of life.

There must be a reason Dolly Parton is so famous – and ‘Dolly Parton’s America’ sheds light on just that. You’ll take a walk through Dollyverse, learning all about the artist’s life, the significance of her hit ‘Jolene’ and, of course, hear about the Dollywood theme park. But you’ll also hear about how Ms. Parton has shaped American culture as we know it.

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Every episode, cheeky English chappies James Acaster and Ed Gamble invite a celebrity guest to their fictional restaurant to pick their dream menu. And what comes out of the kitchen? Banter, obviously. Loads of bloody banter. They’ve had everyone from Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers to actor Martin Freeman, director Edgar Wright and singing megastar Josh Groban, and it always leads to some delicious conversation. 

BBC host Melvyn Bragg dedicates his prolific podcast to the history of ideas, cutting deep into the diverse and under-explored history behind science, culture, philosophy and more. It’s a show where Anne Brontë and Shakespeare co-exist on the same conversational plane as Robert Oppenheimer and the Russo-Japanese war, and where the entire history of London comes to life across the span of a single enthralling episode. 

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Most of us have been fired at some point. But most of us haven’t been fired by the nicest man in Hollywood. And fewer still have been canned by said nice man because we had ‘dead eyes.’ In this series, comedian Connor Ratliff seeks to discover the truth of his Hanks-sanctioned firing from Band of Brothers back in 2001, along the way exploring the pitfalls and horor stories of Hollywood courtesy of actors, directors and comedians he meets in his self-declared stupid quest for the truth. 

With more than 375 episodes to their name, the Bowery Boys have dug deep into the trenches of New York history and left no stone unturned in their enthrallingly personal approach to the history of the Big Apple. Topics range from the history of the city’s cemeteries to the emergence of Broadway. It even looks at the stories behind some of the city’s most iconic hotels, taking the same focused approach to histories both broad and highly specific and bringing the city to life with verve.

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We all struggle with proper work-life balance, and hosts Rico Gagliano and Liz Dolan know that. In short, ‘Safe for Work’ explores our relationship with our job and the demands of corporate life. Yes, it’s safe to tune into this at work!

This is a podcast about music. More specifically, this is a podcast that dissects how a song is made and why it gets stuck in our heads. Every episode is worth a listen, but if you're looking for something specific (for example: why do we love Prince so much?), you can search for a certain artist, theme or music genre on the ‘Switched on Pop’ website. You're guaranteed to land on something interesting.

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