20 excellent podcasts for listeners who love a good story
Now that summer is here, many of us have the opportunity to spend a little more time digging into the media that we missed out on over the past several months. That’s especially true for podcasts, which are perfect for passing the time during a long road trip or waiting out an airport layover.
A good story makes any podcast more compelling, and these 20 podcasts are essential listening for folks who appreciate a seriously good story. From fictional creepy tales to real-life love stories, add these story-driven shows to your queue ASAP.
Perhaps responsible for kicking off renewed interest in podcasts upon its release in 2014, the first season of “Serial” follows the murder of Hae Min Lee, a teenager in Baltimore County, and there are a slew of twists and turns along the way. Subsequent seasons follow accused Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, and people incarcerated in Cleveland’s Justice Center Complex. Find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major platforms.
This harrowing podcast from Wondery tells the story of Texas doctor Christopher Duntsch, who maimed and killed more than 30 patients during his time as a spinal surgeon. Packed with interviews of people impacted by Duntsch’s butchery and the Dallas medical professionals who tried to stop him, “Dr. Death” is a riveting listen and an indictment of the American healthcare system. Listen on Wondery, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major platforms before streaming the brand new Peacock series based on the podcast.
In one of those tales that is truly too bizarre to be true, Dirty John is based on a true story originally reported by the Los Angeles Times. In the podcast, listeners hear about the increasingly twisted ways that serial scam artist John Meehan ingratiates himself into the life of Debra Newell, a rich Newport Beach woman who quickly fell in love. Be sure to listen for the seriously shocking ending. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major platforms.
This American Life
An outgrowth of the long-running National Public Radio series, “This American Life” is one of the quintessential storytelling podcasts. Here, the stories run the gamut from author Lindy West’s confrontation with a hateful online troll to an exploration of the true meaning of “camp.” Stream via the NPR app, Apple Podcasts, and all other major platforms.
One of the most iconic narrative podcasts in the genre’s history, S-Town was downloaded more than 10 million times in the days following its 2017 release. It follows the story of John B. McLemore, an eccentric horologist who originally wanted the show to investigate a murder in his small Alabama town. Without spoiling anything, suffice it to say that the story is much more complicated than that. Stream via NPR, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify.
To Live and Die in LA
One of the more creative entries in the true-crime drama is “To Live and Die in L.A.,” which follows the mysterious disappearance of actress Adea Shabani. Host Neil Strauss enlists family friends and a private investigator to dig deep into a seriously complicated case. Listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major platforms.
“Snap Judgment” is both a weekly radio show and a podcast, and however you listen, this incredible storytelling show is definitely worth checking out. The tales here really run the gamut, from a deep-dive into the United States census to deeply personal stories about sex, love, and life. Listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major platforms.
This Gimlet podcast focuses on digital stories, digging deep into basically everything you don’t understand about the internet. Launched in 2014, there are more than 150 episodes of Reply-All for newcomers to dig into, making it perfect for summer bingeing. Listen via the Gimlet app, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify.
Widely regarded as one of the finest podcasts of any genre, “Radiolab” got its start as a WNYC show in 2002. Now, it’s essential podcast listening, a good pick for anyone who loves to think deeply about big topics. Listen via the NPR app, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify.
Welcome to Night Vale
This fictional podcast is definitely a little bit on the weird side. It’s stylized like an old-school radio show, set in the town of Night Vale, and tells the story of all the weird things that happen in this truly strange place. A little bit horror, a little bit humor, it’s definitely a must-listen for anyone who appreciates the bizarre. Listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all major streaming platforms.
A fixture of the storytelling scene since the late 1990s, The Moth is a New York-based collective focused on both live events and a podcast dedicated to good stories. Generally, the stories are true, but they’re always entertaining. Listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all major streaming platforms.
Mortified: The Podcast
Everyone’s experienced a seriously embarrassing moment, but on “Mortified,” folks are telling the world about their most cringe-inducing experiences. The episodes of this show, based on the live events with the same name, are always funny, and sometimes leave the listener walking away with a new perspective on life. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major streaming platforms.
You’re Wrong About
On this podcast, host Sarah Marshall digs deep into the stories you think you know everything about. The topics here run the gamut, from myth-busting the “cancel culture” panic to stories about some of pop culture’s most misunderstood figures, including Princess Diana, Courtney Love, and Anna Nicole Smith. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other streaming platforms.
Telling the true stories of incarcerated people at San Quentin State Prison, “Ear Hustle” is an eye-opening look into what it means to be in prison in America. The podcast also takes a look at what happens to formerly incarcerated people after they are released and is a must for anyone interested in the criminal justice system. Listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major platforms.
Can’t resist a juicy political drama? Slow Burn is a must. The show’s first season is an intensive look into the Watergate scandal, which forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Subsequent seasons look into the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the rise of Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and all are worth a listen. Stream via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and all other major streaming platforms.
It’s totally okay to start with the second season of “In The Dark,” which provides a look inside one of the most controversial criminal cases of the last century. The podcast follows Curtis Flowers, a man who was convicted of a quadruple murder that he says he did not commit six separate times. It’s an incredible look into the justice system, one that produced real-life change. No spoilers here, but the outcome is remarkable. Listen via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and all other major streaming platforms.