I listen to no less than 10 hours a week of podcasts, usually nearing 15 hours. It’s a real thing. Brian and I started listening to This American Life And Slate’s Political Gabfest in 2001 when we moved to New York for our subway commutes when the internet was a tiny little baby. Point is – we are podcast enthusiasts, more than any other medium for sure (besides design blogs of course). Now, I’m not sitting on my back porch staring at our flowers growing while listening, no, this is all while I’m doing something that was once menial, but with a podcast is now enjoyable. This is my dog walking and doing house chores time. The hobby turned into a real habit during lockdown when Brian and I would divide up the house on Sundays and clean for four hours straight, each taking a floor (the kids also did their chores and otherwise learned to not bug us). We actually came to love this time and it was only in the last two months that we’ve hired a bi-weekly cleaning service again – not because we were self-righteously rejecting the help, but because we legit enjoyed our podcast time that much (and there is a lot of dopamine you get from completing housework which we’ve now turned into yardwork for the summer).
But like all media right now there is just SO MUCH OUT THERE. I rely heavily on friends’ recs and some help from my algorithm to find the best podcasts. I listen to almost every genre, but they all HAVE to be entertaining – whether it’s psychology, self-help, parenting, news, culture/society, true crime, or comedy. They HAVE to keep me entertained. This is why I feel like I’m a great resource here for today’s list which is the best bingeable podcast series – i.e. the ones that you don’t want to stop listening to because you have to find out how it ends. Think “page-turners” and “unput-down-able” books. Today’s list will be less about single episodes (I’ll do that, too) and more 6-10 part series with a beginning and an end. Grab your laundry and a mop, because these will make your Sunday chores FLY BY.
The Classics – The Podcast Series That Made This Genre
I would be amiss not to go back in time for those of you who might have missed the podcast series that really made this form of media:
Serial, S-Town, Dr. Death, and Dirty John. Sometimes I want to listen to them again almost like watching a classic movie. These totally transformed journalism and frankly gave hope to an industry that is increasingly being forced to chase headlines (to all of our demise).
Important Gripping Cultural Stories
These were mind-broadening and highly educational and entertaining. These are the ones that you can’t stop talking about at dinner parties – big cultural stories/movements that make you smarter.
Rabbit Hole: A deep dive into how the Internet and social media radicalize people (specifically young men). Sounds boring, but totally gripping, I promise.
1619: A must listen to better understand Black American history. I learned so much. Extremely well produced with a momentum that drives but with really good pacing (there is a whole episode about racial appropriation in Yacht Rock).
The Witchhunt of JK Rowling: I can’t stop talking about this one – it documents the last 20 years of society, culture, social media, feminism, trans rights/backlash against trans rights, cancel culture, extreme religion, and even Harry Potter (??) … I wouldn’t be surprised it won many awards for brave journalism. Doesn’t matter where you land on any of those subjects, if you are a curious person you’ll enjoy this series.
Bone Valley: This bridges true crime and the justice system. It’s incredibly well-researched about someone wrongly fully convicted of a crime, serving decades, and how that even happened. It also goes into the childhood of the real killer which I always find to be a fascinating layer.
Nice White Parents: About a public school in New York and how white liberals don’t necessarily always put their money where their mouth is when personally challenged. Definitely forced me to take a look at myself after this one. Nimbyism anyone?
Cover Story – Seed Monday: About two White Fish billionaires and a potential sex scandal. A large subplot about how the super-rich are changing Montana, not for the better, and the pushback they are getting from locals.
Cover Story – A Power Trip: Y’all, this made me absolutely question how we might potentially use psychedelic drugs for trauma and PTSD therapy. Shows you how any industry can be corrupted and we shouldn’t just take “data” at face value.
True Crime (More Gripping Than Scary)
I need to give a caveat here – I don’t listen to any podcasts that give me fear/anxiety around my kids (aka missing kids, mysterious accidents, etc) which there are a lot of. Most of the true-crime I love is more white collar, cult, or sure, “creepy old murders” that they feel far away from my own life. I also don’t love the one-offs as much as other people but I also haven’t tried that hard.
To Live and Die in LA: Both seasons are so gripping and are about a mysterious disappearance of a woman in LA. And the publishing of these podcasts has led to information about who dunnit. Just excellently produced and as you can imagine, it’s someone close to them (which always makes me feel better somehow).
Root of Evil: The history of the Black Dahlia murderer, as told by his relatives who are younger journalists. This was fairly disturbing at times, but my goodness it was excellent and I couldn’t stop listening. They deep dive hard, and even after they prove the murderer, there is a follow-up episode that offers some hope and redemption re inherited trauma/abuse.
My Own Backyard: This was a huge story when I was in college so I was genuinely curious who did it. This podcast was so well researched with intrepid and relentless journalism that it actually helped bring justice. So good.
Looking For The Todt Family: Truly disturbing but I couldn’t stop. This does have to do with kids but the circumstances are so bizarre and family related so for whatever reason it didn’t give me anxiety (but totally creeped me out). Extremely unsettling (and generally not what I love).
Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera: Really sad.
Suspect: Mislaid justice via a Halloween party crime – it’s so good. (I haven’t listened to season 3 yet).
Betrayal/Double Lives/Scams/Cults, Etc.
The Shrink Next Door: LOVED. Kinda Stockholm syndrome-y, and dealing with Hamptons wealth culture (always a favorite). So good.
Sweet Bobby: I stopped this the first time around because I felt it was the usual catfish story (which honestly I find myself not really relating to). But out of desperation I picked it back up and then it blew my mind. There is a twist. Just wait for it.
Twin Flames: UGH, SO GOOD. This is about a self-help relationship cult and how they guided people to do disturbing things in the name of finding their true love.
Scamanda: A blogger that uses cancer to make money from followers. Oof. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but as a blogger, I was gripped.
Betrayal: Definitely made me start tracking Brian on “find my phone”. As someone who is currently happily married, it’s honestly so hard to believe when people say that had NO IDEA about their partner’s double life, but the first season specifically feels so true and I had such empathy for her. The second season is your worst nightmare as well!
Escaping NXIVM: Growing up religious I have a real place in my heart for self-help or enlightenment cults. This is a good one.
OC Swingers: Exactly what you think it is, and then worse.
Queen of Con: Admittedly I didn’t finish this yet because I had heard so much about the ending, but it was good and felt like it should be included here.
Something Was Wrong: I loved the first few seasons then it fell off for me (now there are 17 seasons so I’m sure there’s some real good ones in there). But the first two follow specific relationships and how one person was unbelievably betrayed and manipulated.
Deep Dives Into Infamous News Stories
I love these because they confirm in my mind how much “growing the business” so fast is not always the healthiest choice and how we in America push for MORE MORE MORE at all costs.
WeCrashed: Loved it. Just another story of a dude abusing his power with greed and narcissism.
Flipping The Bird: I mean, such a douche. It’s about Elon Musk, obviously, and his life and purchase of Twitter.
The Just Enough Family: SO GOOOOOOOOOD. It’s about a famous and rich New York family and how they reacted to and squandered their fortune. My old boss, Jonathan Adler, is on it a lot as he was great friends with Liz Lange – the heiress of the fortune. I signed up and paid for season 2 the second it was over (which I rarely do, and they still haven’t delivered).
What Podcasts Am I Missing???
I KNOW I’m forgetting so many – please leave them in the comments (for me, too!). And if you are into this I’m SO happy to also do a list of my favorite one-off podcast episodes in all my favorite categories (self-improvement, parenting, relationship, science, work/business, etc). Leave your favorites in all categories below!!!
P.S. If you are in need of long-lasting headphones that stay in your ears these are my all-time favorites. I don’t know how people do chores with AirPods in without falling out one million times a day, so I know that these look dorky but I literally couldn’t care less – they stay in, the battery lasts for 5-6 hours straight and they aren’t tiny so they don’t get lost easily. Hot Tip: I only listen with one in at a time (especially while walking) so even when the battery wears out I can just switch to the other side.
Opening Image Credits: Photos by Kaitlin Green | From: The Farmhouse Kitchen Reveal And All My Thoughts And Feelings About It