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Top Ten Podcasts of the Year

Yeah, I talk about podcasts a lot. One might say I’ve become mildly obsessed with them. But I’ve learned so much from listening to podcasts, and I’ve learned SO MUCH from making them, that I have opinions–a lot of them–about what makes a good podcast and about my favorites.

Spotify told me that my top listened-to podcast for the year was Throughline, from NPR. What Spotify doesn’t account for is that I listen to a lot more podcasts on the Overcast app on my phone than I do on Spotify (though more on Spotify now that I’m not commuting anywhere, since March anyway). And the number of listens doesn’t necessarily line up with the way I feel about podcasts. So I decided I’d make my Top 10 list for the year, just for fun, going from 10 to 1.

10. HowSound. This one is on my list because it’s been incredibly helpful for me as I’ve learned about podcasting myself. I’d actually give it a tie with Gimlet Academy, which is where I first got my start in thinking about what an episode should sound like.

9. The Incomparable Game Show. It’s not all serious over here in Abby’s Podcast Land. I don’t listen to all of the game shows, but I listen to many of them, especially Inconceivable and Random Pursuit. (Honorable mention for silly game shows: Go Fact Yourself.)

8. Preble Hall. The only naval history podcast I know, so how can I not love it? I also assign this in classes.

7. Believed. This one is a short-ish series, and full disclosure, I haven’t actually listened to all the episodes yet–but it’s because they’re so heavy and hard to listen to. It’s about Larry Nassar and the sex abuse tragedy in USA Gymnastics. Phenomenally well-produced.

6. The Heist. A similarly short series, but I learned more about Steve Mnuchin than I ever wanted to.

5. Twenty Thousand Hertz. Between being an audio producer now and a lifelong amateur musician, I love this show. It ticks all the boxes. My kids are big fans of the Jurassic Park episode.

4. 99% Invisible. I’ve actually only just started listening to this one, but I listened to like 5 episodes in a row recently, which I think is a pretty good indication that I like it. Someday I’d like to get a story on 99% Invisible—still looking for the right pitch.

3. Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. This is actually the one show that I listen to within mere hours of its release almost every single week. It just makes me happy. It’s my life aspiration to be famous enough to be a guest for “Not My Job.” A ways to go before we get to that point, though (unless they’re looking for a person who produces a very low-volume niche podcast).

2. Throughline. Throughline is ONE of my favorite podcasts—Spotify wasn’t misrepresenting things. I have learned a lot through listening to this podcast, both about history and about podcast production.

1. Reply All. If you know me at all, you knew what this was going to be. Reply All is my favorite podcast and it’s not close. My favorite episode ever is still #116, Trust the Process (the Sports-Sports-Sports section), but I can’t think of a single episode I don’t like. Special shout-out to new host Emmanuel Dzotsi, who produced my favorite newer episode, #167, America’s Hottest Talkline.

Now, I listen to a LOT of podcasts. So narrowing down to just 10 was very challenging. Some honorable mentions include DIG: A History Podcast, Code Switch, Conversations at the Washington Library, and others that I’ve surely forgotten.

What are your top 10?

One reply on “Top Ten Podcasts of the Year”

Great information. I am in my second semester of experimenting with academic podcasts as teaching tools. Many of the ready-made content for textbooks include an “author’s corner” which are short video clips of the distinguished scholars who either developed, or collaborated in, the development of a textbook. While the content in the video is tied to key points and learning outcomes for a specific chapter, I have issues with only one historian discussing (for example) the annexation of the Philippines.

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