I've been recommending podcasts since the beginning of the boom in audio entertainment began a few years back. There are now thousands of options for listening, including some for almost every niche there is, from creative workers' advice, the world of plumbing, myriad podcasts for parents (and a few for childfree people), from exploring ethical fashion to swimming. So whatever your thing is, there's probably a podcast on the topic. You just have to search, but you'll find it.
As a longtime podcast junkie, I look to the form to be entertained and educated — and I like a nice clean production style with minimal chatter between the hosts. (So no, I'm not a fan of "My Favorite Murder," though everyone else seems to be.) Here are a few of the podcasts I've been obsessed with recently that cover a variety of subjects. I'd recommend all of these for great listening for your next interminable flight, road trip, long gardening session or house-cleaning blitz. This isn't an exhaustive list of every new podcast but includes those that I've found to be intelligent, amusing and in some cases, quite unexpected.
1. "Hit Parade" is a newer podcast from Slate magazine, which produces several of my all-time favorite podcasts. Hosted by the incredibly well-informed, seriously music-nerdy Chris Molanphy, I put it first on the list because when it pops up on my podcast feed, everything else pales in comparison. Molanphy has been covering music — and especially the music charts — for years, and his show is organized loosely around pop rankings and hit songs. So while our host is absolutely encyclopedic in his knowledge of music history, his podcast is always a fun listen. The proof of how excellent this show is lies in its coverage of one of my least-favorite bands of all time: Bon Jovi. Molanphy dislikes the chart-toppers too, but still managed to make an extremely fun-to-listen-to episode about why BonJon matters in music history. Other episodes include one on Madonna, including her influences and feminism; Tom Petty and Prince; the charity megasingle; and another episode on B-sides.
2. The "Flash Forward" podcast is focused on the future, which is a nice place to spend time since the reality of the present can feel incredibly stressful. Science writer Rose Eveleth is the host, and she ably guides us through possible futures like: What if we got rid of all the mosquitoes? Or, what if California became an independent country? Eveleth takes a creative bent to these questions — this isn't just a straight science-reporting podcast covering the near future. Because what comes next is created by us, (almost) anything can happen, so thinking about it requires a flexible thinking style. When the present is too much, and the past is getting you down, spend a podcast thinking about the future. That's what I do!
3. "This Movie Changed Me" is an offshoot of the long-running "On Being" radio show and, yes, it's about films. But it's emphatically "not a movie review podcast, it's a conversation" as its homepage declares. Indeed, plenty of the movies talked about here aren't anywhere near new. Recent episodes have included coverage of the '80s classic "Say Anything" and the beloved '90s rom-com "You've Got Mail." The format is more than just talking about movies; it's about how a particular movie transformed one person, and that person is the guest on each program. It's widely accepted that books can change you forever, to be read and re-read, but this podcasts accepts as its premise that movies can function similarly in a person's life. The podcast says it "transports listeners inside the world of movies by celebrating our intimate relationships with them," and I couldn't agree more.
4. If you like "Florida Man" stories, you'll love "Felonious Florida." The true-crime podcast covers "only in Florida" crimes, brought to you by Lisa Arthur and Juan Ortega, reporters at the Sun Sentinel newspaper, which is based in Broward County and covers all of South Florida. Two crimes take us through the first season of the show, including the Casey's Nickelodeon Murders, which aren't resolved after 24 years, multiple trials and a videotape showing the murder. And then there's a closer look at the unsolved Boca Raton Mall murders from 2007 that are part of a string of kidnapping-murder crimes — or are they?
5. Medium magazine's "Playback" podcast is super-new, but based on the first couple episodes, I think it's going to be a must-listen. It's such a simple format; I'm surprised I haven't seen it before: A writer reads his or her own article from Medium and then has a conversation about it with the host. The first episode features feminist writer Roxane Gay's essay about her long and complicated relationship with her body. It's an intimate experience to hear from the writer of such a personal piece, and the post-reading conversation is enlightening; I often have questions when I read personal essays, and this is a chance to hear some of those kinds of questions answered. From the show's description, most of the featured writers will be telling first-person stories, and I'm looking forward to hearing more from these writers-turned-interviewees.
6. "A Piece of Work" is hosted by Broad City's Abbi Jacobson, which is honestly the reason I first checked it out; I love everything about Jacobson. Luckily, this podcast is no exception to her other great work. Describing itself as "everything you want to know about modern art but were afraid to ask" it does exactly that by diving into pieces of art from the New York Museum of Modern Art's collections. Topics include the often-confusing and hard-to-get subjects of modern art, like why monochromes are actually interesting, the point of Everyday Art, what Pop Art is outside Andy Warhol, how to understand performance art, and what minimalism is doing. Jacobsen isn't alone on her adventures; she has guests/friends on to look at the art with her and speak about it, including Questlove, Ru Paul, Tavi Gevinson, Hannibal Burress and more.
7. "Our Friend from Israel" is the brainchild of From the Grapevine, a sister site to MNN. Hosted by editor and author Benyamin Cohen, it's an interview-style show that features someone from Israel in each episode — but where they are from is where the similarities end. The weekly podcast features everyone from an actress to an alien-hunter, an archaeologist to an athlete. I was inspired by the story of the pianist who taught himself to play one-handed after fighting cancer. I won't give away the whole story, but connecting with individuals in a one-on-one interview format is one of the best ways to get to know people you might not otherwise meet.