Like any best-of list, choosing the best podcasts of the year is a fundamentally foolish task. With a neverending collection of new shows and fresh perspectives popping up every day, singling out a couple dozen seems like trying to stab a tidal wave with a dinner fork.
With all of those listening options sprouting up quicker than anyone can listen to them all, there are going to be wonders that lie just beyond any top charts or list of featured shows. We’ve tried to cover as many shows in our regular review of the month’s best episodes.
Journalists are constantly upending the expectations of sports talk radio on shows like “Hang Up and Listen.” Scripted shows like “The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel” are bridging the gap between the average podcast listener and younger audiences. “Twenty Thousand Hertz” is exploring the endless world of audio. “Snap Judgment” is constantly pushing the boundaries of personal storytelling. LeVar Burton has a show where he reads short fiction!
Pick out any 50 shows at random and you’ll get a fascinating mix of what grabs people’s attention and what fuels people’s passions. They may not be expertly produced or perfectly paced, but they’ll provide a window into what it’s like to love something so much that you’re willing to sit behind a mic and talk about it for hours on end to an audience you don’t even know is listening or not.
But in the above gallery, you’ll see our attempts to pick out a few podcasts that may help feed a new appreciation for the form, with shows from established networks and independent productions alike. Ask us again at the end of the year and we may have an entirely different list.
In fact, we’re counting on it.