50 Amazing Podcast Episodes

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I’ll admit it. I’m a podcast junkie! I love listening to podcasts while driving, running, cleaning, and doing the laundry. I find myself saying “this reminds me of a podcast episode” in many conversations with friends and family.

I wanted to take the time to compile a list of some of my very favorite ever podcast episodes. Mind you, unless otherwise noted, these are specific episodes within podcasts that you can subscribe to. I tend to listen to them on my phone, but before I had a smartphone, I’d just listen to them on my desktop (many of them have websites that allow you to listen that way).

The next time you’re out for a walk or about to tackle some big cleaning project and want something to engage or entertain you, just pick something from this handy dandy list. I know this is a long list, so I’ve highlighted in red my absolute 10 favorites if you’re short on time to wade through the descriptions and make a decision! I should also mention that this list has been compiled with adult listeners in mind. That being said, older kids may enjoy the following episodes: #5, #11, #12, #14, #20, #27, and #28.

  1. The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar (This American Life). The amazing and true story of mistaken identities.
  2. Switched at Birth (This American Life). If you liked #1, listen to this one.
  3. We are in the Future (This American Life). All about the Afro-futurism movement and its impact on culture.
  4. In the Shadow of the City (This American Life). Stories that happen just on the edge of the city.
  5. Fiasco! (This American Life). Funny stories of real-life fiascos.
  6. Three Miles (This American Life). Two schools, three miles apart.
  7. Can a Personality Test Tell us Who We Are? (Hidden Brain). Interesting considerations about personality tests and their impact, both negative and positive.
  8. The Ostrich Effect (Hidden Brain). Why we avoid information that is difficult to hear.
  9. Why Disorder May be Good for Us (Hidden Brain). A little mess and chaos may actually be helpful.
  10. Magic of Math? The Appeal of Coincidences, and the Reality (Hidden Brain). How coincidental are those coincidences we experience?
  11. No Coincidence, No Story! (This American Life). A good one to follow with #9, and one of my favorite This American Life episodes ever! Incredible listener-submitted coincidence stories. I mean, these are crazy stories.
  12. Fresh Starts (Hidden Brain). Two different stories about fresh starts. I listened to this one with my son on the drive to soccer practice one night and he was from then on, hooked on podcasts!
  13. Anna in Somalia (Radiolab/Rough Translation). How one book brings two prisoners together. Amazing, amazing story.
  14. Lose Lose (Radiolab). How sometimes in order to win, you must lose. Really thought provoking episode.
  15. CRISPR (Radiolab). This gene editing tool may change the way we soon treat diseases, including ones we previously thought of as incurable. I shared this episode with a good friend of mine, and we’ve had fun ever since looking for CRISPR-related stories in the news!
  16. Henrietta Lacks (Radiolab). How science still uses this deceased woman’s rare cancer cells today. Interesting consideration of ethics in this episode, too.
  17. Patient Zero (Radiolab). Understanding the origins of disease – that one person that sets it into motion.
  18. Busted in Bali (Locked up Abroad). Crazy story about how a man is imprisoned in Bali for a crime he didn’t commit.
  19. Oliver Sipple (Radiolab). The man who became an unintended hero – and how the sad things that followed.
  20. Elizabeth Browning: The Postman Always Calls (The Moth). How a young girl accidentally became a philanthropist. This is one of those stories that really could be turned into a movie!
  21. Someone Knows Something: Season 3This is a series of episodes, should you have more time on your hands. I’ve listened to a few of SKS, but this is my favorite season. It deals with a civil rights cold case. I should warn you that while I think this is a very important series to listen to if you’re able, there are very sad and difficult things as part of this story (it involves the killing of two young African American men during the ’60s).
  22. Time Warp Saloon (Spooked! By Snap Judgment). Creepy story (supposedly true), of two travelers who stop at a very different saloon.
  23. A Friend in the Forest (Spooked! By Snap Judgment). Creepy story about a boy who makes friends with a mysterious boy in the forest.
  24. S-Town. This is a 6-part “Southern Gothic” podcast put on by one of the producers of This American Life. It got people listening to podcasts who never listened to podcasts previously. I should warn you that there are some troubling themes in this series, so I’d advise you to not listen with young kids around.
  25. Beauty and the Beast (Tales). I happened upon this podcast late last spring and found it intriguing. It’s the original telling of popular fairy tales, in all their original, dark splendor. I haven’t listened to all of them, but I did find the retelling of Beauty and the Beast interesting. I should warn you: in spite of the name, it’s surprisingly not kid friendly.
  26. Finding Cleo (Missing and Murdered). Investigative reporter attempts to piece together what happened when one young indigenous girl is taken by welfare workers from Canada to a family she’s never met in the United States. Difficult themes with this one, but it opened my eyes to a part of recent history I was unaware had happened.
  27. The Cheesiest (Past and the Curious). Kids’ podcast episode about how President Jackson was gifted a 1400 pound of cheese.
  28. Music! (Past and the Curious). Kids’ podcast that has a pretty amazing story about Marian Anderson, an African American singer who made history. While this is a kids’ episode, I’d never heard this story before and I think I was just as fascinated as my kids were!
  29. Harriet Tubman (Stuff you Missed in History Class). I learned all kinds of new things about Tubman!
  30. The Prime Minister and the Prof (Revisionist History). A WWII story I’d never heard before about the tragic surroundings of a famine in India.
  31. Free Brian Williams (Revisionist History). An interesting look at how our memories of stories can change over time. My husband and I listened to this one on a drive home one day and had different reactions to this story. Good thought and conversation provoking episode.
  32. A Good Walk Spoiled (Revisionist History). A closer look at the impact of golf on communities.
  33. The Scarcity Trap: Why We Keep Digging when we’re in a Hole (Hidden Brain). Why our brains tend to fixate on where we’re lacking. This episode helped me look at poverty in a new light.
  34. Life, Interrupted (Hidden Brain). The impact of constant interruption and the benefits of making time for “deep work.”
  35. Poison Control (Radiolab). Fascinating story of how Poison Control got started.
  36. Unraveling Bolero (Radiolab). How one song connected two artists.
  37. Ponzi Supernova (Radiolab). Interview with Madoff.
  38. My Damn Mind (This American Life). One man experiencing delusions ends up in a dangerous situation.
  39. Serial: Season 1. Like S-Town, you probably have heard of Serial, if you’ve heard of podcasts at all. But just in case you haven’t, you might enjoy Serial. I’m in the camp that firmly believes Season 2 was a disappointing bust. Stick with season 1.
  40. Something Only I Can See (This American Life). How one woman living with muscular dystrophy believes she has a lot in common with a world class hurdler.
  41. Stranglers. I listened to this series while training for my half marathon last fall! Well researched series on the Boston stranglings of the ’60s. This is a true crime series, so be warned.
  42. The Moth. This is a story-telling podcast series and there are just tooo many episodes to list here. I did call out my very favorite (#19), but I think the entire podcast is worth subscribing to, particularly if you just love a good story. One of my absolute favorite podcasts to listen to while cleaning and doing laundry!
  43. The Problem we all Live With: Part 1 (This American Life). A closer look at school integration.
  44. Tough Room: Make ’em Laff (This American Life). Ira Glass visits the writing room at The Onion where headlines are crafted.
  45. Break Up (This American Life). Phil Collins helps a writer come up with the perfect break up song to express how she’s feeling.
  46. The Placebo Effect (Adam Ruins Everything). Maybe placebos aren’t as bad as we’d supposed.
  47. Dirty John. This 6-part series tells the true story of how a woman falls in love with a man who is not what he appears to be.
  48. Entanglement (Invisibilia). A woman can physically feel what she sees other people feeling.
  49. Busted: America’s Poverty Myths (On the Media). This 5-part series tackles some of the pervasive myths about poverty in America.
  50. I, I, I. Him. (Invisibilia). Two stories of loss and coping. The story of the beekeepers from this episode has stuck with me.

I’d love to hear from you: what are some of your favorite podcast series or episodes? 

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