22 Podcasts You Should Be Listening To in 2020

Keely Weiss
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

From Harper's BAZAAR

It feels like early March was just yesterday—now, all of a sudden, it’s July and you’ve somehow exhausted Netflix’s entire catalogue. Not to worry: If you’re looking for something to entertain your eardrums while you get cracking on your latest craft hobby du jour, the wonderful world of podcasts has you covered. From fiction akin to Fleabag to failing at adulthood, home cooking to true crime, this list of new all-star podcasts is sure to keep you entertained for weeks on end at minimum. (There are only 24 hours in a day, after all.)

The Michelle Obama Podcast

The name says it all. The former First Lady’s brand-new podcast features Michelle Obama in conversation with friends, family, and colleagues about our most meaningful relationships and life experiences. The first guest is none other than Obama’s husband, former U.S. President Barack Obama—but stay tuned for appearances from Michelle’s mother and brother, Marian and Craig Robinson; former White House advisor Valerie Jarrett; and talk show vet Conan O’Brien.

It Was Simple: The Betty Broderick Murders

Calling all true-crime buffs: Head straight to this podcast about the infamous double homicide of the 1980s and do not pass “go.” Betty Broderick was a suburban housewife who shocked the nation when she shot and killed her ex-husband and his new wife in their own bed on November 5, 1989. Why did her case capture national attention—and why did she do it in the first place? In this four-part miniseries, The L.A. Times attempts to answer both questions.

Asking for It

Looking for a Fleabag fix in a post-Fleabag world? You might find solace in the similarly audacious Asking for It, filmmaker Drew Denny’s raunchy, darkly funny seven-episode narrative podcast about queer domestic violence. Much like the protagonist in the tale of the three bears, Goldie bounces from “a partner who starves her of love to a partner who nearly drowns her in it, before learning to be just right on her own,” as the podcast’s site reads.

Staying In with Emily and Kumail

It’s the quarantine podcast of your dreams! The Big Sick writers (and IRL couple) Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani are used to never going outside: Gordon is a chronically sick person who frequently has to self-quarantine, Nanjiani is her main caretaker, and—more importantly—they’re both writers who work from home. In this 12-episode series, the two discuss movies, ways to protest from home, and “weird stuff you can do in your house” (their words).

Home Cooking

If—like us—Samin Nosrat captured your heart with her Netflix cooking show, Salt Fat Acid Heat, then this is the only quarantine-cooking podcast you’ll ever want to listen to. From beans to (chicken) butts, Nosrat and cohost Hrishikesh Hirway take you through the best recipes to cook in isolation, what to bake if the store runs out of white flour (again), and so much more.

Unlocking Us with Brené Brown

Do you ever wish you could have Brené Brown basically just living inside your ear, soothingly talking you through all of life’s problems? (If not, what’s wrong with you?) Good news: In her podcast, the author and researcher does just that, tackling topics like vulnerability, apologizing, and anti-racism with guests ranging from Judd Apatow to Glennon Doyle to Tarana Burke.

The Left Right Game

Another must-listen narrative podcast, The Left Right Game stars Tessa Thompson as Alice, an ambitious journalist who follows a group of paranormal explorers into the world of the supernatural for which she is not at all prepared. Pro tip: Catch up now before Amazon Studios launches its adapted television series.

History Becomes Her

History repeats itself, as they say, and the podcast History Becomes Her offers a fresh spin on that concept. Brought to you by Mashable and host Rachel Thompson, each episode of History Becomes Her features a woman working to make a change in our world today, while honoring the women of the past whose work made hers possible. Guests include Three Women author Lisa Taddeo, writer and comedian Akilah Hughes, and New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.

I Weigh with Jameela Jamil

Through her online community and Instagram platform, I Weigh, The Good Place star Jameela Jamil has made it her mission to challenge society’s commitment to defining people’s worth by their weight. Her latest effort to that effect: the official I Weigh podcast, featuring conversations with activists and thought leaders such as Demi Lovato, Billy Porter, and Munroe Bergdorf.

The Heart

Here’s a secret: The Heart, originally created by Kaitlin Prest, isn’t exactly a new podcast. Previous seasons of the series, which describes itself as an “audio art project about intimacy and humanity,” ran from 2014 to 2018 and covered topics like consent, bodies, and masculinity before ceasing production. This year, though, The Heart relaunched with an all-new creative team and a renewed commitment to telling stories about women, love, and pleasure.

The Confessional with Nadia Bolz-Weber

If you’re not familiar with Nadia Bolz-Weber, allow us to acquaint you: She’s an ordained Lutheran minister with tattoos and a nose piercing, and a 28-years-sober writer and public speaker dedicated to the idea that feminism and faith can coexist. In her podcast, The Confessional, Bolz-Weber encourages guests like ELLE columnist R. Eric Thomas and former Westboro Baptist Church member Megan Phelps-Roper to face the things they are most ashamed of.

Julie’s Library

Truth: 2020 has been A Lot, and we’re only halfway through the year. We’re willing to bet that even the most competent and grown-up among us have days when all they want is to curl up in bed while somebody’s grandma reads them a story. Fortunately, Julie Andrews—yes, really—and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton are here to help. In each episode of Julie’s Library, the pair get together in their reading nook to read a different children’s book. It’s billed as a “podcast for families,” but let’s be real, we all need this right now.

Newcomers: Star Wars, with Lauren Lapkus & Nicole Byer

If you’ve ever been the only person in the room who hasn’t read or seen something—Harry Potter, say, or The Breakfast Club—hosts Nicole Byer and Lauren Lapkus feel your pain. Somehow, word got out that neither of them had ever seen Star Wars, and someone at Headgum talked them into making a podcast about it, and, well, here we are. Tune in as they watch every single movie in the beloved franchise, enduring fansplaining from guests like Demi Adejuyigbe and Joel Kim Booster along the way. And if you’re a fan, get excited, because a Lord of the Rings–focused Season 2 is in the works.

Even the Rich

Sometimes the only way to cope with life is to stare voyeuristically at people whose lives are even bigger and more screwed up than ours. At least, that’s the premise behind Even the Rich, hosted by Brooke Siffrinn and Aricia Skidmore-Williams, which combines the vicarious thrill of reading a good tabloid with all the delight of a dishy gossip sesh with your best friend. Past arcs have focused on the British royal family, the Murdochs, and Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

5–4

If you’re a fan of political podcasts but are in the mood for something lighter than a nightly laundry list of everything newly gone wrong in Washington, D.C., check out 5–4—a “progressive and occasionally profane” podcast dedicated to roasting the Supreme Court. Tackling topics ranging from Citizens United to qualified immunity, hosts Peter, Michael, and Rihannon break down the method to SCOTUS’s madness with wit and precision.

Floodlines

Floodlines is a new—yet frighteningly relevant—kind of true-crime podcast: a story about a tragedy in which the villain is the U.S. government. In The Atlantic’s eight-part audio documentary about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, host Vann R. Newkirk II walks listeners through the myriad institutional decisions that amplified the destruction following the disaster.

The Missionary

For the better part of a decade, Christian missionary Renée Bach operated a clinic in Uganda, where she treated almost a thousand children and infants suffering from malnutrition. The problem is, Bach wasn’t a doctor—and more than 100 of her patients died. Was this a case of dangerously well-intentioned white saviorism? Or was Bach a predator looking for easy prey? Over the course of eight episodes, hosts Rajiv Golla, Halima Gikandi, and Malcolm Burnley struggle to answer that question and many others.

Somebody

A warning to true-crime fans everywhere: Somebody isn’t the kind of podcast you listen to in the bath. Host Shapearl Wells is investigating a story that hits close to home: the fatal shooting in 2016 of her 22-year-old son, Courtney Copeland, and the police misconduct that followed during the investigation into his death. Wells’s quest to find justice for her son is heart-wrenching—and absolutely essential listening.

Mouthpeace with Michael and Pele Bennett

If you’re looking for something lighter to listen to, this podcast from former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Michael Bennett and his high school sweetheart-turned-wife, Pele Bennett, may be just up your alley. From their sex life as a married couple to Michael’s thoughts on “sitting out the National Anthem,” the Bennetts tackle every subject with refreshing candor (read: NSFW) and laugh-out-loud hilarity.

Runners-Up from 2019

So you’ve somehow worked your way through all the podcasts on this list. Have no fear: The following three faves launched in 2019, so there are plenty of old episodes to binge—plus, they’re still going strong, so you won’t have to say goodbye once you’re all caught up.

Adult ISH

What does it even mean to be an adult right now? Hosts Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner tackle that question with the help of guests like W. Kamau Bell and Taylor Tomlinson, parsing topics such as code switching, pursuing the American Dream, and dealing with AI-enabled trust issues.

Scam Goddess

If you, like us, also disappeared down an Anna Delvey–shaped Internet rabbit hole this time two years ago, Scam Goddess is a must-listen. Every week, host Laci Mosley regales listeners with a new tale of obsession-worthy scammers, con artists, and ne’er-do-wells. To borrow from Mosley’s own words, it’s like true crime, but without the buzzkill of needless death.

Foxy Browns

Compared to the other shows on this list, Foxy Browns is practically ancient—it premiered in summer 2019—but that just makes it all the more ripe for bingeing. In each episode, hosts Priyanka Mattoo and Camilla Blackett tackle the beauty world from their perspectives as women of color with the help of guests like Retta, Constance Wu, and America Ferrera. If you run out of episodes, don’t get too glum: Mattoo and Blackett are currently hard at work on Season 2.

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