It seems like everyone either listens to or hosts their own podcast now. The medium is so popular and convenient, allowing listeners to tune in without needing a radio, and the topics range so widely from current news to two men discussing Gilmore Girls.
Podcasts started my habit of listening to something to help me fall asleep, something I do to this day, and also allowed me to explore a medium I wasn’t very familiar with. Podcasts have kept me company during long flights, sleepless nights, long night shifts, endless chores, and even the occasional run I go on.
I’ve been listening to podcasts on and off for seven years now and have tried 20+ podcasts in various genres during this time. The more I listen, the more I’ve narrowed down my favorites, and today, I’m sharing them with you.
THE GOLDEN RATIO PODCAST
I’ve been following the Instagram account ever since they did their first takeover of the WeRateDogs Snapchat account, all the way back in 2016. Being a long-time golden retriever lover, I fell in love with all the dogs immediately. I mean, what’s better than watching four sweet golden faces run around the house and play? I became even more invested when I learned that Jen (GR Mom) and Ingo (GR Dad) were infinitely cooler than I could ever dream of being.
When they started a podcast, I waited a couple of months before listening. I wasn’t much of a podcast listener before, but I wanted to know more about the dogs and Jen and Ingo’s lives. How often do you get to hear from an internationally regarded computer scientist/social media professor (Jen) and a Harvard-educated lawyer (Ingo) while they talk about dogs and life?
Adding to their coolness is the fact that they’re both runners. GR Mom is an ultrarunner, meaning she does distances longer than marathons. While GR Dad mostly does marathons, he has occasionally done an ultra just because he felt like it.
They’ve done a few episodes about races they’ve done and how they started running. Most recently, GR Mom recounted the emotional experience of being able to do the Boston Marathon after months of waiting for big marathons to open up again.
When I started running, I listened to their running episodes over and over again to learn all the tips and tricks I could (hello chest ice). It was made even better by them starting a running podcast (and later a true-crime podcast) that I also listened to on repeat.
The best thing about their podcast is that I’m never bored. Listening to them talk is so comforting and I occasionally put on one of their episodes when I’m having trouble falling asleep. Honestly, they could talk about the art of folding laundry (as GR Dad has done a little bit) and I’d listen to it. It’s like having a really cool aunt and uncle share their dogs with you and tell you all the things you really need to know about life.
Regular segments of their podcast include:
- Cocktail of the Week —> Where I learn everything about alcohol even though I don’t drink
- German Word of the Week —> GR Dad teaching us different words in his native tongue
- Conch Life —> Weird police cases that happened in the Florida Keys that week
I highly recommend their podcast if you’re looking for something calm but entertaining.
MY FAVORITE MURDER
No surprise here, I listen to a podcast about murder. At this point, I think it’s expected that I’d have something crime-related on any of my lists.
I actually got this recommendation from GR Mom in one of the Golden Ratio podcast episodes. She was talking about My Favorite Murder because she also loves true crime, and any recommendation from GR Mom is good enough for me. It also comes in handy while I’m running because the idea that I could be hunted down by a serial killer at any moment keeps me going.
What makes this podcast so fun is the banter between hosts Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff. They’re normal women with a long-standing passion for true crime, telling each other their favorite stories about crime. Hearing from people outside the field of crime makes the whole listening experience more like a conversation between friends. The podcast is a little chaotic, even after five years of them doing regular episodes. But that’s what makes it even more entertaining.
Karen and Georgia are also incredibly open about their own struggles and how that has impacted their lives and love of true crime. Many of their episodes involve sincere discussions of mental health and the value of therapy. Since the topics of their episodes tend to be really dark, their discussions of mental health help remind us to take a break from the darkness of the world and take care of ourselves.
Adding more fun to the podcast is the Minisodes, a short segment featuring hometown stories from listeners about everything ranging from personal true crime connections to sinkhole stories to a very wide variety of pervert stories. I love hearing all the crazy things that happen to other people and it makes all listeners feel like they’re part of a much bigger community.
This podcast coined the term “murderino,” meaning people who love true crime. It’s the first time I heard a word that felt representative of my unexplainable interest in the subject. For once, I felt like there was a community who understood scouring the Internet late at night for facts about serial killers, keeping up with crime stories in the news, and finding out all the interesting facts possible about how crime is committed. Plus, the fact that Karen and Georgia are just two women who love this and love talking about it makes the show so much more relatable and fun to listen to.
Bonus point? There are short animations of hometown stories and other bunny trails that occur during the show. My personal favorite is their commentary on the Mothman legend.
I’m a little sad that they haven’t covered one of my favorite serial killers - H.H. Holmes - but there’s plenty of time for them to do it eventually. Hopefully.
MY DAD WROTE A PORNO
Okay yes, this was also recommended by GR Mom. She has fantastic taste in media so I’m always going to follow her recommendations.
The show is simple. Jamie Morton’s dad wrote erotic literature, self-published it, and proudly gave Jamie a copy. In turn, Jamie made a podcast where he reads a chapter of the book to his friends, Alice Levine and James Cooper, each week. The “literature” is terribly written and makes little sense, but the commentary and confusion from everyone are what makes the podcast so good. When I first listened to the show, I had to stifle so much laughter because I can’t explain the logic behind laughing about pomegranates and the rivets that held the Titanic together.
As gross as it sounds, I have a fantastic time listening to this. It reminds me that if someone like Rocky Flintsone (Jamie’s dad’s penname) can write a book like this and have people buy it, there’s a chance for me to sell books that are actually well written. And I have a constant reminder of what NOT to do when it comes to writing steamy scenes.
In addition to the regular episodes, there are Footnote episodes where the trio answer fan questions, explain the female body to James (he’s gay), and talk to special guests about the show. They’ve amassed a massive following of celebrities, including Daisy Ridley, Ben Barnes, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Dan Levy. It adds to their ongoing joke about turning the book into a movie as each guest gets the chance to fan-cast themselves into a role of their choosing.
What I love most is how ridiculous the whole podcast is. As a host, Alice notably forgets everything that’s ever happened and frequently gets teased about never paying attention to the story. Jamie gets incredibly uncomfortable with his dad’s writing (as anyone would) and spends a good amount of time trying to make sense of a story that really has almost no plot. James requires a lot of education about the female body and is jokingly the son Rocky wishes he had. Put it all together and it’s a recipe for laughing so hard that you can’t breathe and everything hurts. I’ve cried laughing a few times.
It’s not the kind of podcast I’d recommend to most people. The language is 100% NSFW and the humor occasionally makes you nauseous, but it works. For those who love crude humor, bad writing, and all-around British antics, this is a hilariously uncomfortable podcast to listen to. And I’m currently making my way through a re-listen of the show.
THE BLACK TAPES
If you know me, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of horror or the paranormal. But this podcast is done so well that I have to admit I’m very invested.
Though it’s done as if all the events are real, the show is actually entirely scripted. None of the people or events exist, but it feels like it’s all real. The performance is incredible and makes me think of The War of the Worlds and how many people actually thought the world was being invaded by aliens in 1938 because of the radio show. Not that I think all the events from the podcast are real, but it feels like it all could be.
Because it’s created to be a fictional piece of investigative journalism, the episodes are all pretty short. They follow Alex Reagan as she digs into the life of Dr. Richard Strand, a man who prides himself on being able to debunk every paranormal video in existence. He promises a substantial reward for anyone who can provide him with a real, documented instance of paranormal activity although he doesn’t believe that any of it is real. As Alex tries to uncover Dr. Strand’s strange insistence that all paranormal claims are fake, she discovers more about his hidden past and several big events that slowly connect.
I’m a big fan of investigative journalism, so this was right up my alley. I’ll admit that I haven’t listened in quite a while and need to re-start it in order to remember what’s going on. The story was perfectly creepy in that it unsettled me without giving me any nightmares, and the pacing is incredible. Even as someone who doesn’t like the genre, I can admire that the writing makes for one of the best listening experiences I’ve ever had.
One of these days, I plan on going back to the beginning and listening through again because I want to know how the story ends. The beauty of this is that the show is already complete, so I don’t have to worry about new seasons coming out. I can simply take my time to enjoy the story once again.
SERIAL - SEASON 1
It’s an oldie but a goodie. This was the first podcast I ever listened to way back in 2014. I heard about all the hype around the show and the famously unsolved case, so I had to check it out. At that time, the idea of investigative journalism in the form of a podcast was foreign to me. I was curious about how it would work and what the case was, so I started listening.
I can still remember what it was like to play the first episode. I was walking out to get dinner groceries while my parents were away, and after the first couple of minutes, I was hooked. Sarah Koenig has an incredible podcast voice and such a way of retelling the case. Even though it was dangerous, I blasted the podcast as I walked, afraid to miss a single detail of Hae Min Lee’s murder and the supposed innocence of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. That night, I listened to three more episodes before finally falling asleep to the sounds of the podcast playing.
I consumed the first season in about two days and waited a week before re-listening. To date, it’s the show I’ve replayed the most. I think I’ve gone through three full listens and started a fourth round that never got finished. There was just something about the case and the way it was told that kept me coming back. Perhaps it was the first time I’d really heard true-crime investigative journalism, or perhaps it was the highly engaging editing. Either way, this was the most I fell in love with what podcasts could be.
While the show does have controversies, I think it pioneered a virality that people didn’t know existed for podcasting. Up until then, I’d never heard of one becoming that famous and widely talked about. Serial really changed the game and made people think about how this would go on to compete with regular radio.
Admittedly, I wasn’t too invested in the second season and never listened to the third, but the first holds a special place in my heart for making me fall in love with the medium.