Listen Up: 10 Podcasts That Are Killing It Right Now

Whether learning a new skill, looking for inspiration, taking a mental break or just passing time on a commute, podcasts are here for us curious minds. Here are some of our favourites, with topics to tickle almost any fancy, and why you should download them today.

1. Serial

This ambitious true crime podcast came out of the gate so strong in 2014 that it inspired SNL skits, spin-off podcasts and an HBO Documentary that’s coming out this month. Investigating the 1999 murder of high schooler Hae Min Lee, it was downright addicting. But most listeners would agree that its second season, released the following year, was a total letdown. Season Three, which came three years later in 2018, switches up the format and shares individual stories from all corners of a Cleveland courthouse to shine the spotlight on the American Justice System. And now? Fans can’t wait for Season Four.

2. My Favorite Murder

Rumor has it that hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark met at a Halloween party where they connected over recounting infamous murders. Two years later, a podcast was born, and its focus? You guessed it—murder. The quirky combo of dark humour and crime begot a cult following of “Murderinos” who analyze every episode on their Facebook fan page. This May, the hosts are taking their niche voice to the mass market and releasing a hotly anticipated first book, Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered.    

3. Articles of Interest

A spinoff mini-series of the spectacular 99% Invisible podcast, Articles of Interest goes in-depth on clothes. Trust us, you don’t need to be into fashion to be fascinated by the power of what fashion can do. This podcast looks at the history of things like Hawaiian shirts, punk and plaid and explores what certain items represent to a person or a culture. And, bonus! It answers an age-old question: Why doesn’t womenswear have pockets?

4. WTF with Marc Maron

Comedian host? Check. Celebrity guests? Check. Candid interviews that’ll make you feel like a fly on the wall in their living room? You bet. From talking suicide with Robin Williams to discussing racism with Barack Obama, WTF with Marc Maron presents frank and fascinating conversations with a touch of humor on the side. 2019 alone has seen stars like Aaron Sorkin, Howie Mandel, Yeardley Smith and Allison Janney—enough said.

5. The Moth Presents

A New York tradition since 1999, The Moth Presents is an open-mic storytelling slam that launched its podcast in 2009. Famously featured in HBO’s Girls when aspiring writer Hannah took the stage to read a piece on jealousy, The Moth features true stories, told live and without notes from anyone with a story to tell (but only the best make it to air). You’ll laugh…hard. But some stories are so heart-wrenching they’ll make even the cold-hearted cry. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

6. Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness

Everyone’s favourite member of the Fab Five, beauty-guru with hair for days Jonathan Van Ness goes much deeper in his weekly podcast, interviewing experts about an array of meaningful topics. His genuine curiosity and charisma compels fascinating conversations about anything from “What is astrology even?” and “What can allies do to defend trans rights?” to “How do you know if bae is the one?” leaving listeners both enlightened and heart-warmed with every episode.

7. The Habitat

With its extreme cold, lack of oxygen and barren landscape, could astronauts ever really live on Mars? What would life be like? Six strangers have volunteered to help NASA find out. Secluded in cramped quarters on a remote Hawaiian volcano, eating preserved food and with limited communication with the outside world, this eight-month-long  psychological experiment would test even the strongest relationships. And thanks to the volunteers’ regular audio diaries, podcast listeners get to indulge in the reality-tv worthy day-to-day drama…and tell their friends “It’s for science.”

8. Dirty John

If you haven’t yet binge-watched the Netflix series Dirty John starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana, stop everything and start here. This 2018 Australian podcast, which inspired the above spinoff, goes more in depth than the hit Netflix series, and reveals the even crazier nightmare surrounding the sociopath con artist who manipulated, married and abused a woman he met on a dating site.

9. In the Dark

This show’s second season is as compelling, heart-breaking and fascinating as its first—it could be plucked straight from the mind of John Grisham (but, tragically, it’s true). Curtis Flowers has been tried six times for the shooting of four people at a Mississippi furniture store in 1996—and he’s still in jail, despite a series of mistrials and a district attorney who seems hell-bent to have him executed. Host Madeleine Baran and her team spent almost a year interviewing witnesses and re-examining evidence to have his conviction appealed, and in this podcast presents a compelling case…and a sobering look at racism in the justice system.

10. Stuff You Should Know

Fact finders, trivia lovers and know-it-alls, rejoice! This podcast is like crack for the curious mind. The concept is simple—hosts Josh and Chuck explain how stuff works in conversational, often funny, laymen’s terms. The topics range from “are feral children real?” to “jobs of bygone eras” to “how dyslexia works,” addressing things you never thought you’d want to know, but are so, so glad you do! And hey, they make for great dinner party banter.  

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About Sara Cation

After a decade writing and editing at Canada's top magazines, Sara is blazing her own trail in the freelance world covering her passions: food and drink, books, music, travel and local culture.