If you’re already a converted podcast listener, you can skip this section and go straight to our list of must-listen podcasts – if you’re not, what on earth are you waiting for? Once you take the plunge into the wide and varied world of podcasts, there will be no turning back. Informative, inspirational, gripping and immersive, there’s something about this format that captures our imaginations like nothing else. Whether devoured on the tube, in the kitchen, on a walk or on the couch, podcasts are the perfect nuggets of bite-size storytelling to introduce you to new people, new places and new ideas all in the duration of a single episode.
The boom in podcasts over the past couple of years, however, has left us wading through such an expansive sea of different genres and series that it’s almost impossible to know where to start. But luckily for you, we’ve handpicked some of our favourite shows of all different genres – so whether you’re desperately missing travel, hungry for true crime mystery or want to dive into some of the world’s biggest political and social issues today – there’s something here that’s perfect for you.
The Travel Diaries with Holly Rubenstein
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: podcasts have the power to transport you anywhere in the world and if you’ve listened to The Travel Diaries with Holly Rubenstein, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. In this travel-themed podcast series, the travel journalist and editor speaks to high profile travellers about their most memorable travel experiences and how they have shaped them into the people they are today. From Poppy Delevigne and Dev Patel to Yotam Ottolenghi and Sir Michael Palin, these conversations are filled with serious adventures to satisfy your growing wanderlust.
They Walk Among Us
Of all genres in the podcast world, true crime has got to be one of the most popular – and They Walk Among Us, the award-winning British podcast, has got to be our favourite of the bunch. Now already onto season five, the gripping show takes its listeners on a different whodunnit mystery in every episode, each one leaving listeners with the chilling realisation that villains – both sinister and surreal – may be closer to home than they think.
Shagged, Married, Annoyed
If you’re navigating this pandemic with young children and your partner in tight confines, this is one podcast show that’s going to make you feel a little less alone in the chaos. In each oddly comforting episode of Shagged, Married, Annoyed husband and wife duo Chris and Rosie Ramsey talk about, well, everything. From embarrassing school memories and parenting woes to a chicken burger mystery and ear wax . . . no topic is off-limits. This is easy listening that will definitely have you giggling along the way.
This American Life
The first podcast show to have won a Pulitzer Prize, there’s a high probability that you’ve already heard of this show, but with there being even a tiny chance that you haven’t, we had to include it. Hosted by Ira Glass, each one-hour episode of This American Life tackles a theme and approaches it in multiple ways, through various real-life stories. The episodes are wonderful works of journalistic storytelling, bringing on voices from around the world with remarkable stories to tell – as many heartwarming as there are heartwrenching. With hundreds of episodes available, a good starting point is the one that earned them that prestigious Pulitzer Prize in early 2020 – ‘The Out Crowd’, an episode that shines a light on the very human impact of Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy.
Today in Focus
Hosted by Anushka Asthana, Today in Focus is a current affairs podcast by the Guardian with the aim of taking its readers behind the headlines of the news for a more thoughtful conversation around the political and social climate today. The 30-minute episodes are best enjoyed with a morning coffee to ground yourself and get you thinking about the biggest issues of the day, and perhaps even how you can make a difference in your own community.
It’s a Continent
Tackling the wide and tragically ill-informed misconception that the continent of Africa is a single country, It’s a Continent informs its listeners of the huge diversity within Africa and champions the individual identity of each nation. The hosts, Chinny and Astrid are brilliant at making what are, in essence, history, geography and political lessons into episodes that are as entertaining as they are educational.
Created and hosted by the author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, this podcast tackles issues of racism with a key focus on the UK. On About Race Reni Eddo-Lodge invites guest speakers involved in anti-racist activism to join her in exploring the modern history that has led to the inequality and racism prevalent in society today. The conversations are eye-opening, intelligent and complex. They will invite you to take a look at your own life and question how complicit you may be in these systems of oppression, and what you can do to actively fight against them.
The New Yorker Fiction Podcast
Sometimes the greatest escape is losing yourself in a well-crafted story that takes you out of your own life and into somebody else’s – especially when it’s made up. The shorty story archive of The New Yorker is one of the richest sources of short fiction in the world. In this monthly podcast, fiction editor Deborah Triesman invites an author who has been published in the New Yorker to pick a short story from the archives to read to the listeners. Afterwards, they embark on a thoughtful discussion about the story, going beneath the surface of the text and delving into some of the key themes explored.