Podcasts are like water: refreshing when cool, but easy to drown in.
There are tens of thousands of audio programs available to your ears — more than 700,000 podcasts exist, according to a recent New York Times article — yet they all certainly aren’t compelling or even consistent.
When you happen upon an intriguing podcast, though, it’s a bit like magic: transfixing, enlightening, perhaps even eerie. Recently, “To Live and Die in LA” captured my attention. While I had conflicting feelings about plunging into yet another story about a missing woman, the investigative work behind the podcast was riveting and the theory about what happened to Adea Shabani was credible. If you’re fascinated by true crime (let’s face it, so many of us are), “To Live and Die in LA” is worth a listen. (Don’t just take my word for it; the show has amassed more than 15 million downloads.)
Here are 14 additional podcast recommendations from Lily staffers and our colleagues. Happy listening.
On a recent road trip, I downloaded a few episodes of Uncover Season 1, “Escaping NXIVM,” and my friends and I listened, enthralled, for four hours. The podcast follows one woman, Sarah Edmondson, who became involved in the Albany, N.Y.-based cultlike group — and tracks how she got out. Earlier this summer, NXIVM’s leader, Keith Raniere, was found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking. I have yet to finish the podcast (and, I’ll be honest, it isn’t a light listen), but was eminently compelled by it. The story took on a whole new weight, too, when I recently told my dad about it: Apparently, he and Raniere went to the same high school.
—Lena Felton, Lily multiplatform editor
There are a lot of podcasts about technology, and just when I think I’ve heard it all, this show always surprises me. The show captures the nuances of our digital interactions — from becoming Instagram official with your romantic partner to why we text in lowercase. The podcast just did a three-part miniseries about how the Internet changes how we die.
—Maya Sugarman, Lily video editor
Titi Shodiya and Zakiya Whatley, the hosts, are incredibly intelligent scientists and have really made science accessible and relatable to me. They are hilarious, and I learn something totally new each episode, like why people couple up during “cuffing season.” Not sure what cuffing season is? You’ll have to listen to find out.
—Rachel Orr, design director for By The Way
“Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.” That’s what Kyle Stephens told her abuser, Larry Nassar, in a Michigan courtroom in January. “Believed” explores how Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor, abused hundreds of women and girls for two decades, and how many of those same women — including Stephens — later confronted Nassar in one of the largest sexual abuse cases in U.S. history. The podcast also explores how the parents involved sometimes failed to believe their own children.
—Claire Breen, Lily multiplatform editor
The self-proclaimed “podcast about the Internet” is actually about so many things, from the shy Canadian woman who accidentally started the incel movement, to the shame induced by falling for a phishing attack. The Reply All staff does original reporting, investigating scams and solving Internet mysteries, but also makes time for games of Yes, Yes, No — in which the hosts explain memes to their boss. It’s always a mind-expanding, whimsical, weird delight.
—Maggie Penman, audio producer for Post Reports
This is a woke podcast if there ever was one. Co-hosted by Phil Yu and Jeff Yang, the podcast is billed as “an unfiltered conversation about what’s happening in Asian America.” Yu is the brains behind the popular Angry Asian Man blog, which has become a rallying cry against injustice for the Asian community, covering everything from news to pop culture. He’s such a community icon that actor Randall Park wore two of his blog’s shirts in the Netflix film “Always Be My Maybe.” Yang frequently writes about pop culture for CNN and founded the pioneering Asian American publication A. Magazine. His son, Hudson Yang, stars in the ABC sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat.”
—Marian Liu, operations editor for By The Way
Whenever I need to shut my brain off and laugh out loud, I pop on “The Teacher’s Lounge” by Big Grande, a Los Angeles improv comedy group. It’s a parody of a podcast by a group of high school teachers that gets weirder and weirder every season.
—Natalie B. Compton, staff writer for By The Way
What happens when you put six people in a small dome and leave them there for a year? That’s basically the premise of “The Habitat.” Half a dozen volunteers leave their lives behind to spend 365 days in an imitation Mars to help NASA understand what sending astronauts to the Red Planet might actually be like. Think MTV’s “The Real World” meets space exploration — there’s drama, frustration, camaraderie, romance and discovery.
This podcast is a great dose of reality for our burned-out millennial generation. Season 1 documents the wide consequences of the perpetual search for perfection — in this case, the search for utopia. Each utopia the podcast explores comes with unexpected outcomes. I especially recommend the final episode, “Herland,” about worlds where there are no men.
I just discovered this podcast earlier this week when browsing the Apple Podcast app. It’s a no-nonsense show about how money can create problems in different areas of life. I love how the host, Reema Khrais, really highlights the discomfort people feel when talking about money.
Is depression funny? Podcast host and creator John Moe makes a point to ask that question to each of his subjects, many of whom are big name stars and comedians, such as Margaret Cho. These interviews are refreshingly raw about a taboo topic. One of my favorite episodes featured celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, who spoke candidly about his former struggle with addiction and about Anthony Bourdain’s death.
It seems the latest podcast trend is shows about failure. The show turns stories about business disasters into an enjoyable listen. A warning: There are lots of puns. Remember MoviePass? I recommend this episode about how the company came to be.
Journalist and author Michael Lewis talks about the demise of fairness in our society, from loopholes in the New York Stock Exchange to why we don’t trust sports referees despite them being more accurate than ever before. This podcast is worth a binge listen.
—Natalie B. Compton
The hosts, Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat, make this podcast worthwhile. They have a unique passion for all things true crime, including doing everything possible to become a volunteer detective. They carefully lay out a different crime in each episode. I’m seriously considering donating to the show on Patreon — I love it that much.