More than any other art form, podcasts are intrinsically linked to passion. The most niche programs and wildly popular shows come from a place of devotion to a particular topic. Wrangle a few microphones together and whether you’re a solitary fan of an under-discussed subject or a dedicated team of highly trained storytellers, a podcast offers the chance to connect with those who can share your enthusiasm with you.
In a year when love and empathy were in constant demand, podcasts became a place for understanding, discovery and commiseration. Each of the year’s landmarks, milestones and tragedies brought with them a show that could help give a voice to those affected the most. Above, we’ve gathered picks for 50 of the best individual episodes from 2016. Some of these are ideal starting points to understanding what makes these shows great. Others are oddities that managed to harness a special moment of audio magic.
The above list is the faintest possible tip of the iceberg. Finish with those 50 and there’s still an infinite pool of new programs to pull your latest obsession from. Love learning about the secret lives of past commanders-in-chief? Try Presidential or Presidents are People Too. Dying for more quick-witted quips from the some of the smartest minds in London? Subscribe to The Allusionist and No Such Thing as a Fish (and catch their TV show, too!). Enjoy the meaningless process of drafting abstract concepts? The Poscast and All Fantasy Everything have you covered. Not getting enough laughs from the movie debates in your feed? Look no further than Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period, Blank Check and Black Men Can’t Jump in Hollywood. (And get a little bit of everything from The Gist, the best daily podcast in the business.)
With new, innovative shows premiering on a weekly basis, there is a truly inexhaustible supply of podcasts available. Whatever your passion, there’s something there for you in this weird, wonderful audio universe. Hopefully this collection is a helpful foot in the door.