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Image: Time Out

The 50 best podcasts to listen to in 2023

From true crime to politics and music to history, it's another great year for podcasts. Here's what we're listening to.

Ella Doyle
Edited by
Andy Kryza
&
Ella Doyle
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In July 2023, podcasts turned 20. We know, it sounds weird, but podcasting actually technically began on July 9, 2003, so they haven't really been around all that long. And somehow, in that time, we've been blessed with endless brilliant things to listen to, and new gems are still popping up all the time. New additions to our list include Joe Pera's new sleep podcast and The Ringer's fascinating new look at pop culture's role in the Vietnam War, which has climbed to our top 10.  

But wait. We've got more. Here at Time Out, we love a good poddy so much, we made our own, which aired in July this year: ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’ is a brand-new podcast, hosted by Time Out London's editor Joe Mackertich, where London celebs walk listeners through the best spots in their area. Oh, and it always ends in a pub. You can listen to ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the rest of the gang. 

So read on for our full list of the best podcasts going right now, where we've got political podcasts that look behind the news, comedy podcasts with your favourite funny people, and plenty of those all-important investigative whodunnits to keep you up at night. Whatever you’re into, it’s all here. And if you’re looking to dig deeper into one genre, try our specialist lists on for size (you’ll find them below). Happy listening.

Contributors: Anna Rahmanan, Eddy Frankel, Andy Kryza, Phil de Semlyen, Alex Plim, Dave Calhoun, Andrzej Lukowski, Alexandra Sims, Matthew Singer, Joe Mackertich, Huw Oliver, Ella Doyle, Rose Johnstone, Jess Phillips, Charlie Liddington, Georgia Evans.

RECOMMENDED:
🎧 The best podcasts on Spotify
😂 The best comedy podcasts
🗞️ The best news podcasts
💤 The best sleep podcasts
🎶 The best music podcasts

Best podcasts 2023, ranked

Okay, we know. It’s ‘Serial’. It’s been around since 2014. But this podcast is an absolute unadulterated cult classic, and for good reason. Series one changed the scope of the podcast world forever, paving the way for every brilliant investigative true crime podcast you’ve listened to this year. The first season delves into a murder case, for which the victim’s ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted. Following the podcast and subsequent media attention, in 2022, he was released. Season three was equally as groundbreaking, exploring the day-to-day happenings of an American courthouse. The best part? Season four is reportedly on its way. Find us a podcast as influential as ‘Serial’ – we’ll wait. 

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Ella Doyle
Guides Editor
Do We Get To Win This Time?
Photograph: The Ringer/Spotify

2. Do We Get To Win This Time?

'Nam is the subject of The Ringer's endlessly fascinating ‘Do We Get To Win This Time? How Hollywood Made the Vietnam War’ podcast – and specifically 'Nam movies: the great, the totally out-there, and the ones with John Wayne in them. Hear Oliver Stone talking Platoon, revist the controversy of The Deer Hunter, and have a toke on whatever the cast and crew of ‘Apocalypse Now’ was smoking back in the Philippines' jungle in 1976. There's real IQ in the storytelling, too, as host Brian Raftery explores what the war's ever-evolving filmography says about America.

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Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
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This fascinating podcast from April 2023 on BBC Three takes a deep dive into Lighthouse, an organisation offering mentorship and life advice, through the lens of one man who was sucked into its vortex. Lighthouse is a cult, the podcast demonstrates, and it impeccably shows what happens when a family member becomes indoctrinated. He and his girlfriend are interviewed – she was forced to watch his indoctrination from the sidelines. Thankfully the story has a happy ending. Ella Doyle, Guides Editor

‘This American Life’ originated as a public radio show (which it still is) in the 1990s and eventually took on the podcast format as well. Hosted by the instantly recognisable Ira Glass, each episode of this weekly show has a theme that is explored, usually through first-person narratives, by folks from all walks of life in the US and beyond. Think ‘stories about being little’, the pros and cons of therapy and the tale of a flute player who steals a million dollars’ worth of dead birds.

Given its long history, the podcast boasts a huge library. You can browse through 28 years of episodes right now.

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Andrzej Lukowski
Theatre & Dance Editor, UK
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You know those stories where you just can’t see where its going? Filthy Ritual is one of them. Filthy Ritual is the story of Juliette D’Souza, whose well-carved image helped her swindle half of one of London’s richest areas (Hampstead) as part of a series of intricate scams. The podcast is helped by the genuine likeability of the interviewees and the expert hosts, who are seasoned true crime presenters. 

Whether reality TV is 100 percent your type on paper or leaves you screaming ‘get me out of here’, this ten-episode series offers a fun dose of nostalgia, exploring the ethics behind iconic shows and TV personalities. Charting the past 20ish years of telly, from the launch of 'Big Brother' and the wasteland of mid-noughties plastic surgery transformation shows, through to the spawning of Kardashians and the juggernaut of 'Love Island' – we wanna forgive you, but we wanna forget you. Charlie Liddington, Head of Creative Strategy & Live

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Had a bit of trouble sleeping recently? You're in for a treat. Joe Pera made a triumphant return to podcasting in March 2023 with his brand new podcast ‘Drifting Off with Joe Pera’ – his first actual sleep podcast (the rest were just unintentially relaxing). Listen to the sweet sounds of Pera's soothing voice, the twinkling music, and the pretty random subject matters, and find yourself waking up after a peaceful eight hours. Thanks, Pera. Ella Doyle, Guides Editor

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Rose Johnstone
Head of Commercial Content, UK
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Comedian Nish Kumar and journalist Coco Khan have turned the dumpster fire that is British politics into a podcast. And it slaps. Weekly episodes cover hot political news of the week,  from Tories Morris Dancing at lockdown parties to Speedy Sue trying to get out of a speeding ticket. It’s chatty, clever, funny and proudly partisan; Nish is a liberal standup; Coco’s nickname’s ‘leftwing Barbie’. But it’s what you’d expect from the sister pod of ‘Pod Save America’, the podcast launched in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, by former Obama staffers. Tune in, if only to hear the top tier nicknames pinned to Westminster Frontbenchers. 

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Jess Phillips
Social Media Editor

Want a podcast that will entertain you and make you feel smart? Start with this. No really, ‘Start with This’. This podcast by Jeffrey Cranor (of ‘Welcome to Night Vale’, the creepy US podcast about an imaginary town) is an interactive experience – first you listen to an episode, then you go and create something from what you’ve learned, be it a writing assignment or another bit of homework. ‘Start with This’ strives to help you boost your creativity, with episodes ranging from ‘Present Tense’ to ‘Non-Lovecraftian Horror’. 

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Andrzej Lukowski
Theatre & Dance Editor, UK
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You Must Remember This
Photograph: Apple Podcasts

11. You Must Remember This

Written, produced and narrated by Karina Longworth, ‘You Must Remember This’ is a deep-dive into forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. Its current series, ‘Erotic 90s’ explores everything from the fallout of Croenenburg’s Crash premiere at Cannes in 1996 to the lasting feminist legacy of Thelma and Louise. At times, the stories sound somewhat unbelievable, but that’s the nature of Hollywood. The podcast’s use of conflicting reports, mythologizing and spin all paint a very vivid picture of what it’s like behind the camera.

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Georgia Evans
Deputy Commercial Editor, Time Out

Merely looking at a copy of the New Yorker can make you up to 15 percent cleverer, and the same goes for listening to its flagship fiction podcast. A current staffer reads a short story by a former New Yorker writer – often several decades former – and discusses it with the magazine’s fiction editor Deborah Treisman. It’s entertaining, sure, but it’s the delving into the thought processes of a succession of extremely smart Americans – think ZZ Packer, Bryan Washington, Jhumpa Lahiri – that gives it its zing. Andrzej Łukowski, Theatre and Dance Editor

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Love, Janessa
Photograph: BBC

13. Love, Janessa

As a society, will we ever tire of listening to cases of swindling and deceit? The answer is no, of course, so you can be sure the content will keep coming. And Love, Janessa, a 2023 release from the BBC, is one of the most jaw-dropping yet. Each episode reveals more and more of the extent of this catfishing scheme, and the woman whose identity lies at the centre of it. Host Hannah Ajala is excellent. Ella Doyle

One for all the budding centrist Dads out there. In each episode of ‘The Rest is Politics’, former Downing Street director of comms Alastair Campbell and one-time Tory leadership candidate Rory Stewart have it out over the biggest stories of the week. They may come from very different backgrounds and perspectives, but a back-slapping bromance emerges as they spar over topics as assorted as depression, the Iraq War and Burnley Football Club. Whatever you think about their politics, you’ll end up warming to this unlikely pair. 

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Huw Oliver
UK Editor
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Simon Parkin is one of very few journalists capable of writing about gaming with the depth, wit and intelligence (unfortunately) usually reserved for art and cinema. In this punchy series, he chats to celebrated people who have some connection to video games, asking them to pick five titles to put on their perfect console. It's Desert Island Discs with Metal Gear Solid instead of Elgar's "Enigma Variations", basically. 

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Joe Mackertich
Editor, Time Out London

Sperm-donor conceived journalist, Louise McLoughlin, explores the niche world of the donor conceived community - from finding half-siblings to uncovering dark family secrets. She documents her journey to finding her half-sibling Jess and biological dad Neil, and speaks to other families who have been betrayed in the worst way by fertility doctors. It’s personal and investigative, and you’ll definitely need a few Kleenex when she finally meets the man that looks like her. Jess Phillips, Social Media Editor

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This documentary-style podcast looks back at a ‘The Bachelorette’-esque reality show from the early noughties, in which men competed for the heart of Mexican actress Miriam Rivera. Miriam was a trans woman, and the show’s premise relied on this being kept from all of the show’s contestants, and revealed only in the final episode. It’s barely believable that the show ever aired, let alone in this millennium, but the podcast, expertly hosted by Trace Lysette, expertly tells the dark story of all who were affected with genuine sensitivity and care. It’s a hard listen, but an incredibly important one in our current climate. Ella Doyle, Guides Editor 

We’ve all asked ourselves that, haven’t we? Hilarious host Nicole Byer spends each episode of ‘Why Won’t You Date Me’ talking about modern dating, including conversations about apps, open relationships, matchmakers and more. Yes, it is raunchy.

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This podcast puts the US justice system in the dock. The first season asks why it took authorities 27 years to solve the abduction of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling. Season two examines why a Black man, Curtis Flowers, was tried six times for the same crime, while a 'special report' followup deals with the effects of Covid on the vulnerable Mississippi Delta. It's just been taken on by the New Yorker, and journalists are working on series three. Its hallmarks are rigorous investigative journalism and epic suspense. Not only is it addictive, it’ll fire you up. Alex Sims, Contributing Writer

Sometimes, you don’t want to listen to the gory details of a murder first thing in the morning. Sometimes you want to hear about dating mishaps, sexual exploits and family problems. Most of all, you just want to have a good old giggle with the girlies. Well that, friends, is ‘The Receipts’. Hosts Tolly T, Audrey & Milena Sanchez dissect listener dilemmas every episode, and they never hold back. You might just catch yourself laughing like you’re in the room with them. Ella Doyle, Guides Editor

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The sister podcast to Caroline Criado Perez’s bestselling book 'Invisible Women', Visible Women continues to expose gaping gender data gaps – spotlighting everyday systems and objects that are crazily (and often dangerously) designed exclusively for men. From gender inclusive urban design (we love to see it) to pianos upholding the patriarchy (we don’t love to see it), each episode is packed with quotable bombshells to drop on your friends at every social gathering for the next three to six months. Charlie Liddington, Head of Creative Strategy & Live

Off Menu has become something of a cult classic in the UK (and beyond), with new episodes every week featuring some of the hottest celebs of the moment. We're talking everyone from Lenny Henry to Paul Mescal, plus some more up-and-coming people too. Structured like a Desert Island Discs for food, the delightfully awkward duo howl with laughter through a good portion of each episode. Foodie or not, it's guaranteed to lift your spirits. Yes, there is now a live show. Ella Doyle, Guides Editor

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In this podcast from The Ringer, former Vibe editor-in-chief Danyel Smith offers a lovingly insightful deep dive into a different Black woman in the music industry each week, focusing on craft, impact and legacy while telling very specific moment-in-time stories. That includes a show dedicated to Whitney Huston’s explosive 1992 Super Bowl performance, the rise of Sade, a dissection of the searing Lauryn Hill diss track ‘Lost Ones’ and much, much more. 

Launched in 2021, ‘Crime Show’ delivers on its promise to tell ‘stories about people. And sometimes crime,’ with each episode offering a standalone story that doesn’t exclusively fall back on the grimly overused ‘women getting murdered’ trope (though murder is a common topic). Some shows involve ghosts, others scammers and identity thieves. And in one particularly bizarre episode, we even meet a singer whose voice was stolen by a chart-topping imposter. This isn’t your typical true-crime podcast. 

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At the end of 2019, seeking to shed light on the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing on American shores, the New York Times launched the 1619 Project. The effort was a multimedia one, tackling the topic in print, online, television and audio. The latter initiative took the form of a podcast, ‘1619’.

The five episodes (the last one is split into two parts) are hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who interviews the paper’s writers and critics to try and dissect the legacy of slavery in the country. Andrzej Łukowski, Theatre and Dance Editor

Very funny people Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael (plus a roster of very funny special guests) love movies. Especially questionable ones. In this hysterically nerdy pod, the trio go lovingly 'Mystery Science Theater' on a cross-genre spread of so-bad-they’re-good films, from the Schwarzeneggerian wonders of 'Jingle All the Way' to the kid-mobster weirdness of 'Bugsy Malone'. As a bonus, they also dive into great films that are certifiably bizarre, including John Woo’s action classic 'Face/Off' and Patrick Swayze’s 'Road House'. Phil De Semlyen, Global Film Editor

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This is a monthly podcast hosted by Willa Paskin, the television critic at Slate. She is an outstanding journalist who examines a single object, habit or cultural question in each episode. Here are some of the questions ‘Decoder Ring’ has explored in the past: why do gay people love Judy Garland so much? Who is afraid of Bart Simpson? How do you start a conspiracy theory?

Emmy-winning journalist Jemele Hill has always come off as a person who knows a lot about everything, and her witty, insightful, often hilarious Spotify pod furthers that notion by covering a wide swath of topics relating to film, journalism, music, literature and beyond. The show has included interviews with Lisa Ling, Dan Rather, Tiffany Haddish, Kamala Harris, Stephen Colbert Michael B Jordan, Jill Scott, Chuck D and many other luminaries exploring the weight of their work and the larger cultural diaspora in depth with one of the best interviewers in the game. 

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Each week on ‘You’re Wrong About’, journalists Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes select a major historical moment – say, the OJ Simpson trial – and analyze why it’s been ‘miscast in the public imagination'. The results of this podcast are invariably fascinating and surprising. Alex Sims, Contributing Writer

Most of us have been fired at some point. But most of us haven’t been fired by the nicest man in Hollywood. And fewer still have been canned by said nice man because we had ‘dead eyes.’ In this series, comedian Connor Ratliff seeks to discover the truth of his Hanks-sanctioned firing from Band of Brothers back in 2001, along the way exploring the pitfalls and horor stories of Hollywood courtesy of actors, directors and comedians he meets in his self-declared stupid quest for the truth. 

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Just when we were gasping for a brand new, hard-hitting investigative series from a national newspaper, we got it, thanks to the Guardian. ‘Can I Tell You a Secret?’ starts off as a story of online secrets in a small town in England, and spirals into a strange, dark whirlwind that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s a gripping and important look into the seriousness of internet fraud and cyberstalking, which journalist Sirin Kale presents excellently. Ella Doyle, Guides Editor

Did you know that Loretta Lynn’s 1975 song about birth control, ‘The Pill’, was banned from radio stations when first released? These are the kinds of factoids you'll learn about when listening to ‘Cocaine and Rhinestones, a fascinating dive into the history of twentieth-century country music. And if you’re not into country, don’t worry – there are awesome music podcasts out there for all tastes. Andrzej Łukowski, Theatre and Dance Editor

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On the flip-side of the film-nerd spectrum from ‘How Did This Get Made,’ John Bleasdale’s ‘Writers on Film’ features conversations with historians and authors who literally wrote the book on your favorite films and filmmakers. The conversations are full of insights, factoids and anecdotes on the making (and impact) of everything from 'Shaun of the Dead', 'Midnight Cowboy', 'Highlander' and much more. Phil De Semlyen, Global Film Editor 

The very funny team of researchers behind British game show QI spends its days discovering weird, wonderful and completely unrelated factoids. And every week, they spill the most random, gobsmacking stuff they’ve discovered. Consider it the podcast equivalent of meeting a group of giddy trivia champs at the pub… people who are excited to tell you tales about red pandas, seafaring vegetable detectives and ancient air conditioners.

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Sure, your Platos and your Nietzsches are still famous long after their deaths, but most philosophies remain pretty obscure. Had any chats about the importance of metaphysics to our understanding of the world? Know what verificationism is? If you listened to this lovable UK podcast, you absolutely would. ‘Philosophy Bites’ hosts Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds invite guests for great intros to the debates, thinkers and thoughts that have shaped our world. Andrzej Łukowski, Theatre and Dance Editor

For 15 years, journalist Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History has taken a revisionist approach to some of history’s biggest events, weaving a dense but approachable tapestry about world-chaning events, historical villains and more, with ample pop-culture references to keep things fresh. Episodes range from a 15-minute talk comparing Alexander the Great and Hitler to a six-hour discourse on the Celtic Holocaust, culminating in a whopping six-part look at the Asia-Pacific war that spans nearly 20 hours. Somehow, it never gets dull. Andrzej Łukowski, Theatre and Dance Editor

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If BBC classic ‘Desert Island Discs’ is a bit heavy on Beethoven and childhood anguish for your liking, give this spin on the concept a whirl. It’s hosted by food writer Margie Nomura with an ear for a good story and a savvy sense of the connection between food and emotion. The guests usually wax nostalgic about the dishes that made them. If you fancy hearing Stanley Tucci saying the word ‘risotto’ a lot – and trust me, you do – look no further. 

Another one by the New York Times, ‘The Daily’ is the paper's, well, daily news podcast. It has gained an almost cult-like following thanks to host Michael Barbaro, who interviews the publication’s journalists about the top stories of the day. Barbaro’s soothing tone and his ability to truly break down an issue in 20 to 30 minutes have catapulted him to fame. Andrzej Łukowski, Theatre and Dance Editor

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Anyone that’s ever thought nothing exciting happens in rural west Wales has to listen to this one. Host Kerry Godlima tells the unbelievable story of the police sergeant who falls in love with a bank robber. Diligent cop and hopeless romantic Jill Evans, starts a relationship with beauty entrepreneur Dean Jenkins. What happens next turns the quiet town of Haverfordwest upside down. Jess Phillips, Social Media Editor

Not all crimes involve a severed head in a forest. ‘The Shrink Next Door’, one of the most shocking – and funniest – stories of manipulation you’ll ever hear, is the second kind. It’s about a New York psychiatrist who takes his relationship with one patient way, way too far. It’s full of swanky country pads and amazing New York Jewish accents, and it will leave you saying ‘oy vey’ like you really mean it. Once you’ve finished, check out Apple's 2021 adaptation starring Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd. Eddy Frankel, Art & Culture Editor, Time Out London

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Elizabeth Holmes is the disgraced founder of Theranos, a blood-testing technology that she claimed would revolutionise the medical industry. The story of her lies and fall has been chronicled in a book, an HBO documentary, an upcoming Jennifer Lawrence film and, of course, in gripping form as ‘The Dropout’ podcast.

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Missing dinner with friends? Pull up a chair to this extremely British table and let singer Jessie Ware and her mum Lennie keep you company. They invite celebs (guests include Billy Porter, Maisie Williams, Ed Sheeran, Paul McCartney and UK MP Jess Phillips) over to Lennie’s for dinner, they have a good old chat and sometimes Jessie’s brother gets roped in to make pudding (David Schwimmer slags off his banana bread in one episode). It’s the podcast equivalent of a juicy novel.

Every band is somebody’s favorite band. But some bands transcend simple fandom and generate their own legion of dedicated followers. Spotify host Yasi Salek dives deep into a different cultishly beloved band each week, complete with curated playlists with the potential to win new converts. Shows focus on drastically different band lifestyles, from the tour cultures of Phish and Dave Matthews to the ‘family’ of Juggalos devoted to Insane Clown Posse and the downright puzzling Gin Blossoms devotees still screaming for ‘Hey Jealousy’ all these years later. 

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Dan Taberski’s seven-episode series takes a microscope to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack – in particular, its more overlooked consequences. Each episode zeroes in on the experiences of those forced to change their lives after that fateful day: From a Pakistani business owner reckoning with the disappearance of hundreds of his Muslim neighbors, to writers at The Onion grappling with the notion of ‘too soon’. What results is stirring and often darkly humorous. 

‘Modern Love’ is a popular New York Times column that was also turned into a highly rated anthology series on Amazon. The podcast, which landed before the TV production ever did, features notable personalities reading the popular columns. At the end of each episode, the hosts interview the original essayists to discuss post-column life.

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The subtitle of this comedic medical podcast is ‘A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine’. Dr Sydnee McElroy and husband Justin are basically a tag team: in each episode of ‘Sawbones’, she brings up the history of a certain medical practice while he views it through a comedic lens. Andrzej Łukowski, Theatre and Dance Editor

Mums aren’t the only ones who will enjoy ‘Motherhood Sessions’, hosted by reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks. Expect to get emotional while listening to guests talk about the many facets that make motherhood one of the most complicated, rewarding, confusing and deep aspects of life.

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There must be a reason Dolly Parton is so famous – and ‘Dolly Parton’s America’ sheds light on just that. You’ll take a walk through Dollyverse, learning all about the artist’s life, the significance of her hit ‘Jolene’ and, of course, hear about the Dollywood theme park. But you’ll also hear about how Ms. Parton has shaped American culture as we know it. This podcast blew up in 2020 but if you haven't listened yet, do it now. It's timeless. Alex Plim, Director of Digital Content 

BBC host Melvyn Bragg dedicates his prolific podcast to the history of ideas, cutting deep into the diverse and under-explored history behind science, culture, philosophy and more. It’s a show where Anne Brontë and Shakespeare co-exist on the same conversational plane as Robert Oppenheimer and the Russo-Japanese war, and where the entire history of London comes to life across the span of a single enthralling episode. 

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