What do these great podcasts have in common?

A curated podcast list by
Creation Date March 8th, 2020
Updated Date Updated May 7th, 2020
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About This List

These podcasts aren't part of any particular genre, although they are all primarily nonfiction. (A few of these podcasts occasionally broadcast fiction pieces as part of a mix of content). What they have in common is a strong host personality that infuses the podcast, and use of audio as an art form to tell stories. I wish I had a name for this "genre." I have a sense that there's a lineage here where these great creators influenced each other, so I'm organizing this list in chronological order by the date each show started. In some cases, I'm aware that the podcast creator started doing the thing they do either on a different show, or on radio, and where possible I've used the date each creator started doing what they do. I am deliberately excluding "Serial"-style shows-- shows where each season tells a story in many episodes-- though I love many of those shows also and they certainly have a place in the overall chronology of the medium.
  1. Progenitors

  2. This American Life is a weekly public radio show, heard by 2.2 million people on more than 500 stations. Another 2.5 million people download the weekly podcast. It is hosted by Ira Glass, produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media, delivered to stations by PRX The Public Radio Exchange, and has won all of the major broadcasting awards.
  3. First-person diaries, sound portraits, and hidden chapters of history from Peabody Award-winning producer Joe Richman and the Radio Diaries team. From teenagers to octogenarians, prisoners to prison guards, bra saleswomen to lighthouse keepers. The extraordinary stories of ordinary life. Radio Diaries is a proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.
  4. The Kitchen Sisters Present… Stories from the b-side of history. Lost recordings, hidden worlds, people possessed by a sound, a vision, a mission. The episodes tell deeply layered stories, lush with interviews, field recordings and music. From powerhouse producers The Kitchen Sisters (Hidden Kitchens, The Hidden World of Girls, The Sonic Memorial Project, Lost & Found Sound, Fugitive Waves and coming soon… The Keepers). "The Kitchen Sisters have done some of best radio stories ever broadcast" —Ira Glass. The Kitchen Sisters Present is produced in collaboration with Nathan Dalton and Brandi Howell and mixed by Jim McKee. A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.
  5. Nick van der Kolk's Love and Radio features in-depth, otherworldly-produced interviews with an eclectic range of subjects, from the seedy to the sublime. Get inside the mind of a rogue taxidermist. Find out what it's like to experience a stroke firsthand. Or spend time with an artist who gives away her life savings every night. You've never heard anything like it before. This show is moving to Luminary! For more, go to LuminaryPodcasts.com.
  6. A two-time Peabody Award-winner, Radiolab is an investigation told through sounds and stories, and centered around one big idea. In the Radiolab world, information sounds like music and science and culture collide. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, the show is designed for listeners who demand skepticism, but appreciate wonder. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including On the Media, Snap Judgment, Death, Sex & Money, Nancy and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. © WNYC Studios
  1. 2006-2012

  2. The Heart is an audio art project about power and love. From Mermaid Palace and Radiotopia.
  3. From public radio producer, Nate DiMeo, comes The Memory Palace, a finalist for the 2016 Peabody Award and one of iTunes Best Podcast of 2015. Short, surprising stories of the past, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hysterical, often a little bit of both. "The most potent pieces of audio being produced today." - The AvClub thememorypalace.us The Memory Palace is a proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX, a curated network of extraordinary, story-driven shows. Learn more at radiotopia.fm
  4. The economy explained. Imagine you could call up a friend and say, "Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy." Now imagine that's actually a fun evening.
  5. Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we've just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars. Learn more at 99percentinvisible.org. A proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.
  6. Snap Judgment (Storytelling, with a BEAT) mixes real stories with killer beats to produce cinematic, dramatic, kick-ass radio. Snap’s raw, musical brand of storytelling dares listeners to see the world through the eyes of another. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of leading podcasts including Radiolab, On the Media, Nancy, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, and many others. © WNYC Studios
  1. 2013-2014

  2. The Nod tells the stories of Black life that don’t get told anywhere else, from an explanation of how purple drink became associated with Black culture to the story of how an interracial drag troupe traveled the nation in the 1940s. We celebrate the genius, the innovation, and the resilience that is so particular to being Black -- in America, and around the world.
  3. "'A podcast about the internet' that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it." - The Guardian. Hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, from Gimlet.
  4. A series about what it's really like to start a business.
  5. Criminal is a podcast about crime. Not so much the "if it bleeds, it leads," kind of crime. Something a little more complex. Stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, and/or gotten caught somewhere in the middle. We're a proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX, a curated network of extraordinary, story-driven shows. Learn more at radiotopia.fm.
  6. Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.
  7. Hosts Rumaan Alam, Isaac Butler, and June Thomas interview creative people about how they write, compose, paint, and more.
  8. 11
    How to Be a Girl is an audio podcast I produce about life with my six-year-old transgender daughter. It stars the two of us -- a single mom and a six-year-old "girl with a penis" -- as we attempt together to sort out just what it means to be a girl.
  9. A storytelling show that explores the night, the landscape of the unseen, and how thoughts, feelings and behaviors transform in the dark.
  10. Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia—Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.
  1. 2015

  2. A podcast about mysteries, hosted by Starlee Kine. From Gimlet.
  3. A show that delves into topics that seem mundane, annoying and sometimes downright boring - to reveal that they're surprisingly awesome.
  1. 2016

  2. A lovingly crafted podcast that reveals the stories behind the world's most recognizable and interesting sounds.
  3. 1
    Love Me is a CBC original podcast about the messiness of human relationships.
  4. Radiolab’s More Perfect is a series about the Supreme Court. More Perfect explores how cases inside the rarefied world of the Supreme Court affect our lives far away from the bench. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other great podcasts including Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, On the Media, Nancy and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. © WNYC Studios
  1. 2017

  2. Who invented pants? How did ‘pink for girls’ and ‘blue for boys’ happen? What do dogs say when they bark? ELT is here to answer your burning questions. If you have a question that needs answering, call the ELT Help Line at 833-RING-ELT or send an audio message to elt@gimletmedia.com. Every Little Thing is produced by Gimlet Media and hosted by Flora Lichtman.
  3. America is divided, and it always has been. We're going back to the moment when that split turned into war. This is Uncivil: Gimlet Media's new history podcast, hosted by journalists Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika. We ransack the official version of the Civil War, and take on the history you grew up with. We bring you untold stories about covert operations, corruption, resistance, mutiny, counterfeiting, antebellum drones, and so much more. And we connect these forgotten struggles to the political battlefield we’re living on right now.
  4. Professor Elizabeth Joh teaches Intro to Constitutional Law and most of the time this is a pretty straight forward job. But with Trump in office, everything has changed. Five minutes before class Professor Joh checks Twitter to find out what the 45th President has said and how it jibes with 200 years of the judicial branch interpreting and ruling on the Constitution. Hosted by acclaimed podcaster Roman Mars (99% Invisible, co-founder Radiotopia), this show is a weekly, fun, casual Con Law 101 class that uses the tumultuous and erratic activities of the executive branch under Trump to teach us all about the US Constitution. Proud member of Radiotopia from PRX.
  5. A new family history podcast hosted by A.J. Jacobs. They say we’re one big family: this is the show that proves it. You will be filled with delight… or abject horror. You never know. It’s family.
  6. Ear Hustle brings you the daily realities of life inside prison shared by those living it, and stories from the outside, post-incarceration. The podcast is a partnership between Nigel Poor, a Bay Area visual artist, and Earlonne Woods, formerly incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and was co-founded with former San Quentin resident Antwan Williams. The Ear Hustle team works in the San Francisco Bay Area, both in San Quentin State Prison’s media lab and from offices on the outside, to produce stories that are sometimes difficult, often funny and always honest. Episodes offer a nuanced view of people involved with the American prison system and those reintegrating into society after serving time.
  7. Showcase, from PRX’s Radiotopia, features original podcast series of all stripes, from emerging and leading producers around the world.
  8. BFF Kathy Tu and Tobin Low are super queer, super fun and ready to take over your podcast feed. Join them for provocative stories and frank conversations about the LGBTQ experience today. Because everyone’s a little bit gay. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other podcasts including Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, Snap Judgment, On the Media, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin and many others. © WNYC Studios
  1. 2018

  2. A show about the cost of health care that’s more entertaining, empowering, and occasionally useful than enraging, and terrifying and depressing. Reporter Dan Weissmann digs in to show how we got into this crazy mess and how we just might live through it.
  3. Articles of Interest is a show about what we wear. It's a six-part series from 99% Invisible, looking at clothing. Produced and Hosted by Avery Trufelman
  1. 2019

  2. The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.
  3. Journalist and bestselling author Michael Lewis (Liar's Poker, Moneyball) takes a searing look at what’s happened to fairness. It feels like there's less of it every day—whether it comes to lending practices, college admissions, professional sports, or psychological well-being. Who are the people trying to level the playing field, and are they making an impact? Lewis interviews referees (Season 1) and coaches (Season 2) from many walks of life, bringing his trademark insight and wry humor to their stories of (in)equality today. Sign up for email updates on Against the Rules and other shows from Pushkin Industries at pushkin.fm.
  4. In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why? That simple question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America’s great icons. Join us for a 9-episode journey into the Dollyverse. Hosted by Jad Abumrad, creator of Radiolab and More Perfect. Dolly Parton’s America is co-produced by OSM Audio and WNYC Studios.

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