By Orrin Grey
When we’re not reading, we’re plugged in to podcasts. And these 10 are the best of the best this year. Some were new to the podcast scene, while others have been around but were new to our ears. Whatever the case may be, we highly recommend you carve out some time for these engrossing programs. (Then check out our monthly best-of lists for further listening.)
Call Your Girlfriend (Gina Delvac)
“From feminism to fashion, their completely relevant ranting leaves us feeling warm, fuzzy, and inspired.” That’s what Bust said about the Call Your Girlfriend podcast, where every week Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman call each other to talk about everything from pop culture to politics. And, in this day and age, couldn’t we all stand to feel a little warm, fuzzy, and inspired once a week? That’s what a call from your girlfriend is all about.
The Dropout (ABC Audio)
In 2015, Forbes named her the youngest self-made woman billionaire in America. By the following year, Fortune called her one of the “World’s Most Disappointing Leaders” and had revised her net worth from $4.5 billion to zero. What happened in between is the subject of the hit podcast The Dropout, which is set to become a TV series on Hulu. In it, Kate McKinnon stars as Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and former CEO of Theranos, a privately-held tech company that claimed it had made a breakthrough in testing blood — only to see its owner indicted for fraud.
Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness (Earwolf)
Sure, it debuted back in 2015, but Jonathan Van Ness’ podcast just keeps getting better. In it, the Queer Eye and Gay of Thrones star sits down every episode with an expert in one field or another to tackle some question that he’s curious about. The topics range from serious (“Why is the census so majorly f**king important?”) to light-hearted (“How are turtles doing these days?”) to light-hearted takes on seriously topical issues, like “How can we twerk on climate change?” where Van Ness was joined by none other than the Science Guy himself, Bill Nye.
In the Dark (American Public Media)
In its first season, American Public Media’s In the Dark podcast provided in-depth reporting on the kidnapping and murder of Jacob Wetterling, with intense scrutiny placed on the conduct of investigators. In its thrilling second season, that same scrutiny is brought to bear on the case of Curtis Flowers, a man who has been tried for the same crime six times, and whose case went before the United States Supreme Court during the course of the podcast — where it was overturned in a 7-2 vote, citing racial bias on the part of prosecutors. Following along every step of the way, interviewing witnesses, and digging into police records, the podcast not only covers the case—and the socio-political ramifications surrounding it — but manages to unearth startling new facts.
Dare I Say (Harper’s Bazaar)
Hosted by actress and Booksmart director Olivia Wilde, the Dare I Say podcast from Harper’s Bazaar kicked off this year, featuring intimate and often scathing discussions between two women on topics ranging from reproductive rights to body shaming to LGBTQIA identity and far beyond. As political as it is personal, this podcast highlights what can happen when two empowered women have a chance to talk face-to-face.
Mobituaries (CBS News)
Emmy winner Mo Rocca is a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and a frequent panelist on NPR’s Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me, and he also loves obituaries. His fascination with the form led him to create the Mobituaries podcast, where he delves, with both irreverence and appreciation, into the lives (and deaths) of the often-unsung people and things of the past.
Over My Dead Body (Wondery)
When you hear that a true crime podcast is covering the story of Joe “Exotic” Maldonado-Passage (formerly Schreibvogel) and the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park that he owned and operated in Wynnewood, Oklahoma until 2018, there are a lot of things that you might expect. Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! And you’ll certainly get those — but what you may not expect is a murder-for-hire plot, yet that’s exactly what Joe “Exotic” was convicted of in April, 2019. And that’s exactly what the twisty second season of the Over My Dead Body podcast is all about.
This Land (Crooked Media)
How can a 1999 murder trial possibly result in the largest restoration of tribal lands in United States history? Host Rebecca Nagle explores the links between the murder trial of Patrick Murphy, a right-wing attack on tribal sovereignty, the 1839 assassination of a Cherokee leader, and more seemingly disparate threads in this thrilling podcast that goes all the way to the Supreme Court in a decision that could affect nearly half the land in Oklahoma — and tribal rights for generations to come.
Man in the Window (Los Angeles Times)
It was one of the most shocking true crime stories of the century when the identity of the Golden State Killer — also known as the original Night Stalker, and by many other names — was finally revealed. But who was Joseph James DeAngelo, the former police officer who now stands accused of 13 murders, more than 50 rapes, and hundreds of home invasions in the ‘70s and ‘80s? In order to learn more about one of the most notorious serial killers of the modern age, the Man in the Window podcast dives deep into DeAngelo’s life, interviewing his victims, his family, the police officers who pieced the case together, and even DeAngelo’s fiancé from decades ago.
The Shrink Next Door (Wondery)
In partnership with Bloomberg, The Shrink Next Door podcast covers the bizarre, true crime story of host Joe Nocera’s neighbor in the Hamptons. His name was Ike, and he was a therapist to the stars. There was only one problem: The summer house he lived in didn’t belong to him at all. It actually belonged to one of his patients, who had spent years under Ike’s psychological domination. One summer, the sinister therapist was gone, and in his place was a mystery that this spellbinding podcast seeks to explore.