Podcasts offer a more convenient way to tell stories than any other form of storytelling. If you hear of a podcast from a friend or colleague, download the show right away. Or you’re on a walk, or stuck in an airport, or about to wash the dishes when you find an intriguing story to listen to. It’s a low barrier to entry that allows you to try out a topic you knew little about, or follow a host down an oddly specific rabbit hole.

When asking the HuffPost newsroom for their favorites from this past year, I was surprised at how many I myself missed, or hadn’t even heard of at all. It’s a reminder of the vastness of the podcast offerings out there today — so much so that there will inevitably be amazing shows we neglected to list here. Here are our top picks for audio adventures in 2021.


The weird joys of the internet can be so fleeting — the trending TikTok sounds, the viral tweet threads, the niche community beefs — that it’s nice to be able to hold on to them a bit longer with something like a podcast. Enter “ICYMI” from Slate, a new addition to the tradition of podcasts that examine whatever the opposite of IRL is these days (see: “TLDR,” “Reply All,” “Endless Thread,” etc.). Twice weekly, co-hosts Rachelle Hampton and Madison Malone Kircher examine the phenomena that can only come from — and be adequately chronicled by — the very online. The hosts try to explain complex topics in 60 seconds. This segment is my favourite. If the terms “couch guy,” RushTok, yassification or “no bones day” are meaningless to you, consider this a crash course in being on the internet now. —Jillian Capewell

“Believe Her”

Nikki Addimando, her partner in the murder of Chris Grover is currently being held in prison. While her lawyers, friends and family presented a detailed, documented history of domestic abuse that Nikki says led to a final deadly encounter in September 2018, the judge and jury didn’t believe her. Justine van de Leun is a true crime journalist who has created a series of six parts about victims who have killed their abusers, and how that treatment works in the criminal justice system. It is both compelling and emotionally charged, while also being clear and transparent about the difficulties these cases often present. —Kate Sheppard

“Nice Try!”

The original season of “Nice Try!” examined the quest to create a utopian space. Avery Trufelman is the host for Season 2. This season was recorded in a time where many people spent less time at home. He tells us stories of products designed to improve our lives. I loved learning how some doorbells were meant to scare people, what inspired the invention of the Crock-Pot, and why Americans just won’t embrace the bidet. Each episode features historical facts, humor and other quirky information. —Sara Bondioli


In December 2019, Alex Stedman, Chris Stedman’s best friend, died. Alex’s suicide and the email trail he left behind left Stedman wondering a lot of things, but perhaps the most mysterious was whether his Britney Spears-obsessed friend had actually managed to link up with the singer on an internet message board. This is an entertaining pop culture mystery anyone who loves Britney can appreciate. More notably, it’s a moving investigation of depression, friendship, loss and how the people around us shape our lives. —Kate Sheppard

“For Colored Nerds”

For Colored Nerds” is a podcast on Black culture by two best friends, Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings. It first ran from 2014 to 2017 and then went on hiatus as the hosts went on to create other shows like “The Nod,” and now it’s back as of November 2021! So far this season they’ve interviewed “Insecure” actor Jay Ellis, Nikole Hannah-Jones and more. It’s fun and smart, and the creators who previously spent time at Gimlet are often heralded as mentors to other people of color in the audioSpace and major advocates for more diversity in podcasting. —Sarah Ruiz-Grossman

“Crime Show”

As the tag line of “Crime Show” proclaims, it’s not about “those crime stories.” You know the ones: A woman — probably young, almost certainly white — is killed or kidnapped and the podcast host — perhaps someone without traditional investigative training — spends anywhere from six to 10 episodes trying to solve the case. The crimes on “Crime Show,” which tells a new story every episode, are rarely murders, and if they are, host Emma Courtland ties it to some larger structure that made the murder possible (for example: a society that ignores and mistreats its homeless population). Usually, though, they’re nonviolent crimes, told from the perspective of someone who was involved, though it emphasizes the reality that crimes rarely involve a clear victim and a clear “criminal.” It’s reminiscent of “This American Life,” in that each episode is simply a well-told glimpse into other peoples’ lives — and who doesn’t love a good yarn? —Nora Biette-Timmons

Listen on Spotify | Website


The 20th anniversary was the first time I had expected to see much news coverage. Dan Taberski created this series. He focused not on what occurred that day but rather the effects of the disasters in America in the following years. Taberski, known for the hits “Missing Richard Simmons” and “Running From COPS,” finds insightful stories that tell us more about how we live today than any mere retrospective. (Taberski also created “The Line,” another impressive podcast out this year. Is the man sleeping? —Kate Sheppard

“Aack Cast”

Funny papers staple “Cathy” showcased a chronically single woman who loved chocolate, hated exercise and couldn’t shake her aging mother’s influence. After her heyday as a cultural phenomenon in the 1980s and ’90s, where clipped-out strips of the comic adorned many a stressed-out office worker’s cubicle, Cathy became somewhat of a feminist punchline — the apex of an unempowered, image-obsessed woman. In this series, Jamie Loftus (of equally great pods “My Year in Mensa” and “Lolita Podcast”) examines the legacy of Cathy and the artist who created her, Cathy Guisewite — and finally gives both of them their due as cultural icons. —Jillian Capewell

“Slow Burn”

The sixth installment of Slate’s “Slow Burn” podcast gives you everything you need in a retrospective about the 1992 LA riots. Joel D. Anderson hosts the episode. The first episode begins with footage of four officers beating Rodney King outside Los Angeles. It also features perhaps the most recent interview with George Holliday who captured the event. In the second episode, we will see what actually happened just weeks after King’s video went on television. It is the tragic shooting of Latasha Harlins (15 years old), who was shot and killed by a Korean shopkeeper. “Slow Burn” expertly unpacks all the moments that led to the uprising while adding the perfect dose of media analysis and racial biases of the moment. The season is in the middle of its run and it’s definitely worth catching up on as the 30th anniversary of the riots approaches in April. —Erin E. Evans

“The Grawlix Saves The World”

Three longtime Denver comics and the brains behind the comedy series “Those Who Can’t” (streaming on HBO) engage in twice-monthly challenges to better themselves and the world around them. Producer Ron! These three are always funny and NSFW, but they also have a great sense of humor. The trio have won previous challenges. watch scary movies, eat outside their comfort zones, read a book from the “Twilight” series and do hot yoga. —Ryan Grenoble

“One Click”

Don’t let a celebrity host — actor Elle Fanning — turn you off from what is a deeply reported series on 2,4-dinitrophenol, or DNP, a chemical sold on the internet for use as a diet drug that literally cooks people from the inside. Fanning shares some personal experiences as a star of body conscious Hollywood. Jessica Wapner, a journalist, is the highlight as she weaves regulatory and ethical issues with intimate stories about people who died from DNP. —Kate Sheppard

“Food, Light, Energy, Love”

The “Food, Light, Energy, Love” podcast is a community-supported and Black woman-hosted trove of ancestral, youth and elder wisdom that centers the voices of folks working to decolonize our unjust food systems. Yonette Fleming, a farmer from the HattieCarthan Community Garden and Market, Brooklyn, New York is an antidote for the formulaic, fast-paced podcasts. She ground her guests and audience in thoughtful, slow conversations that remove the clutter and noise surrounding justice work. This podcast nurtures the seed of an idea into spiritual depth for listeners, just as light and energy are the results of love and reciprocated energy into food. —Jared Greenhouse

Listen on SoundCloud

“70 Over 70”

So much of our culture is obsessed with youth — preternatural teen talents, anti-aging potions, the sharp drop-off of relevance you feel as you turn 30 — that a show dedicated to hearing from people over the age of 70 is a welcome change. Max Linsky speaks with Sister Helen Prejean in a memorable episode. Prejean is a nun who has served as a spiritual advisor to several death row men, including Brandon BernardHe was executed with lethal injection on December 2020. Prejean and many other interviewees for this program offer poignant insights about life, love, and purpose. —Jillian Capewell

“The Turning”

If you have ever wondered, “Was Mother Teresa a cult leader?,” this podcast series is for you. And if you haven’t, you will as you learn more about the Missionaries of Charity, the Catholic order she led. The series also explores her faith struggles and how popular images of the saint can be distorted to ignore the more difficult experiences of other sisters. —Kate Sheppard

“Inside the Groove”

Whether you’re the biggest Madonna fan or just curious about how some of the most iconic pop songs in history were created, Edward Russell’s “Inside the GrooveThe podcast is worth a listen. In each episode he picks one of the singer’s tracks — from chart toppers like “Vogue” and “Holiday” to deeper cuts like “Dear Jessie” — and performs a brilliantly obsessive deep dive into how it was made, from the inspiration behind the lyrics to the recording of the background vocals. Russell knows his stuff — and what he doesn’t know, he’s meticulously researched ― so you dance away from each 20ish-minute session with him feeling like you’ve been gifted the deepest secrets of the queen of pop’s material world. —Noah Michelson

“Be There in Five”

I adore Kate Kennedy’s “Be There in Five” podcast. Although she covers many topics such as pop culture, entrepreneurship, and religious trauma, her unique blend of humor, thoughtfulness, research, humor, and heart is what makes Kate Kennedy so great. I appreciate Kate’s vulnerability in talking about tough issues like fertility and the messaging around motherhood on social media, as well as her LOL-worthy deep dives into all aspects of millennial nostalgia. “Be There in Five” is long-form and solo-hosted, so listening to it makes me feel like a friend is keeping me company as I clean my apartment or go for walks. I am inspired by her quick witticisms and wordplay to be more punny. —Caroline Bologna

“Who? Weekly”

I’ve been a casual listener of “Who? Weekly” since the podcast launched in 2016, but during year two of a global pandemic, the show became a much-needed antidote to depressing newsy podcasts. Hosted by writers and friends Lindsey Weber and Bobby Finger, the podcast tracks the weekly rise and fall of celebrities who make you go “Who?” These are not the Kardashians or the Tom Hankses of the world — those are “Thems.” The podcast’s tag line is: “Everything you need to know about celebrities you don’t.” With bemusement and delight, Weber and Finger follow the sponsorships and the striving that influencers, YouTube stars and reality-TV personalities do to become stars. For a sample, listen to Weber and Finger analyzing the taxonomy of a “Dancing With the Stars” season in “Simu Liu, Michael Voltaggio & Elizabeth Theranos?

If you become a Patreon listener, you get to hear Finger and Weber weigh in on A-list Thems, from the return of Bennifer — the 46-minute deep dive into the media history of the relationship that made me a paying subscriber — to the most ridiculous Architectural Digest videos of the rich and famous. You have to pay attention to Instagram captions of breakups and TikToks. It can be exhausting, but Weber and Finger along with Timmy their research assistant make it seem effortless. —Monica Torres


“Wild” is the kind of show I just want to put into someone’s hands and say, “Trust me on this one.” In this podcast from LAist studios, writer Erick Galindo and producer Megan Tan (whose “Millennial” podcast will forever be one of my favorites) follow the origin stories of 10 people, one per episode. Their stories are told in this engaging, enchanting, and almost poetic way that will make you feel deeply and leave thinking maybe there’s a little more magic in the world than you thought. —Jillian Capewell

“Black Girl Songbook”

Danyel Smith (ex-editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine) is the perfect person to host a podcast discussing Black women in music. The podcast’s second season dives into some of the lives and lyrics of your favourite singers. That Smith opens the Brandy Norwood episode with, perhaps, my favorite Brandy song ever, “Have You Ever?” was the perfect way into this series. And I immediately had to go back and listen to several other episodes, including, of course, the Beyoncé episode. The podcast is a vibey mix of reminiscing on the ’90s and paying respect to artists’ place in music right here and now. —Erin E. Evans

Listen on Spotify | Website

Source: HuffPost.com.

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