The Podcast Episodes That Will Get You Hooked On Podcasts

I love podcasts. I’ve said it before. But sometimes when I bring up podcasts with people in my real life, they don’t know what I’m talking about or they don’t know where to start. It’s hard to know what to listen to when there are seemingly endless options. You might know you like 30 minute comedy TV series and murder mystery books. But if you’ve never listened to a podcast, how do you find out what you like? Where do you start?

This list of podcast episodes, they’re the gateway drug to becoming a full-blown podcast addict. Each is put out by a podcast that I truly love (and have probably listened to dozens of other episodes of) and each episode completely hooked me. So if you’re trying to figure out where to start with podcasts, here are my ultimate suggestions.

The Podcast Episodes that will Get You Hooked on Podcasts - Need help deciding where to start with listening to Podcasts? Here are some of the best podcast episodes! |

This American Life – Harper High School Part One and Part Two

Here is the description, straight from This American Life:

We spent five months at Harper High School in Chicago, where last year alone 29 current and recent students were shot. 29. We went to get a sense of what it means to live in the midst of all this gun violence, how teens and adults navigate a world of funerals and Homecoming dances.

I could not stop once I started these episodes. In fact, what started out as a quick jog turned in to walking aimlessly in circles around my neighborhood until I got to the very end. It’s shocking that this is reality for teenagers (or anyone, really) in America.

The Lively Show with Kendi Skeen

If you’re a blogger and you haven’t listened to The Lively Show yet, hop to it. I’ve listened to some interviews with a couple of my favorite bloggers and I find their thoughts on blogging and business completely fascinating (and helpful). It’s also interesting to put a voice to the words you’ve been reading, often for years. Kendi’s episode was my favorite. She was so introspective and thoughtful. She’s incredibly successful but very open about her failures as well. I like her even more after listening.

Freakonomics – Is There a Better Way to Fight Terrorism?

Simultaneously eye-opening and terrifying, this episode of Freakonomics will have you questioning everything you thought you knew about terrorism, particularly the cause.

Radiolab – Patient Zero

A fascinating look at the story of Typhoid Mary, a woman who genuinely never believed she was sick, despite being a carrier of typhoid and causing the death of several people. The podcast continues by tracking the AIDS virus, the man commonly thought to be patient zero, and taking a stab at who patient zero actually may have been.

Nerdist interview with Bill Gates

You know Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft. But how well do you know Bill Gates, the philanthropist? Mr. Gates discusses what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has accomplished and what we need to do to eradicate poverty, plus why just throwing money at an issue is not nearly as beneficial as investing in education and infrastructure.

The interview with Mr. Gates ends and two staff members of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are interviewed – an Epidemiologist and the Director of Program Related Investments at the foundation. Somehow they might have been even more fascinating.

Nerdist interview with Daniel Radcliffe

This particular interview is what helped me see Daniel Radcliffe as more than just Harry Potter. He’s incredibly likeable and this interview just makes him seem so absolutely normal. He loves American football and only briefly talks about his time on the Harry Potter set (most of his childhood), looking back fondly on how much he adored the crew.

If you loved this episode, you might like the episode with Benedict Cumberbatch.

This American Life – Will They Know Me Back Home?

A heartbreaking look at wartime, with stories from multiple perspectives. Act Two, the story of Sarah, an Iraqi translator who worked with the US military, is gripping and stirs up all kind of emotions. Her story is one you absolutely must hear.

Stuff You Should Know – How Temper Tantrums Work

I referenced this podcast episode in my post last week, A Letter to the Mamas Out There. N and I both randomly had listened to this separately and found it completely fascinating and a little comforting. As non-parents, it’ll give you more patience for other people’s children and for parents, well, hopefully it will make you realize how normal your kid’s meltdown is. The science behind temper tantrums is pretty cool though.

Also really great episodes of this show – How Bipolar Disorder Works and How Dissociative Identity Disorder Works.


There is a reason you’ve heard about this podcast. I couldn’t pick a single episode because it is just that gripping. I listened to it episode by episode (which was torture, waiting for a new one to be released every Thursday morning). Just listen to the first episode. You’ll be hooked.

N, the original podcast junkie of our household, recommends these episodes:

Radiolab – The Fact of the Matter (particularly the second story)

Radiolab – 60 Words

Invisibilia – The Secret History of Thoughts

Criminal – I’m About to Save Your Life

Stuff You Missed In History Class – The Christmas Truce

So tell me, what episode of a podcast got you hooked? What is your all-time favorite podcast episode? I can’t wait for the recommendations!

  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Radcliffe? SOLD!

    Also, I’m addicted to Tyler Oakley’s podcast. It’s ridiculous and hilarious and filled with fluff and nonesense but I love it. I also have been trying out some writing podcasts. The ones I’ve found are mainly for fiction writing, but I want to find some for blogging too.

    • Actually, you’ll appreciate this too – in 2010 he interviewed Matt Smith. The episodes don’t go that far back in the iTunes podcast store but you can listen to it on the website. I’m going to listen one of these days!

  • I’ve listened to a few, but I never know where to start! thanks for sharing this!

    • That was my issue at first too until N gave me a couple to listen to. This American Life has over 500 episodes so it was hard to decide but once you kind of get a feel for how they do things, it’s easier to pick episodes you’ll like. Enjoy!

  • THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS!!!! I just binged on Serial and I was thinking ‘okay, NOW WHAT!?’ saving this post! My commute to work has seriously stressed be out and Podcast’s have never made my commute to work more enjoyable than now! EK!

    • That’s exactly how we survive our commute also. If you liked Serial and are interested in crime related stuff, Criminal is a good option. The episodes are shorter and obviously aren’t as amazing as Serial was but still really good. Some This American Life episodes are really fantastic too.

  • Thanks for sharing! I caught up on Serial within days of you sharing about it and have been aimlessly listening to random stuff ever since.

    • If you like crime part of Serial, try Criminal. Also, This American Life (the podcast that produced Serial) is really amazing although I find their podcasts to be more hit or miss.

  • Mary A

    I love the Nerdist postcasts! I just recently started listening to podcasts and this one has been my go-to for every commute (45 minutes to and from work each day). Chris Hardwick is now my hero and I want to listen to all 600+ episodes. I love that I can pick and choose which celeb/nerd/comic that he interviews to listen to- skipping to best first. I would recommend the Nerdist podcast to everyone since there is a wide variety of guests. Just saw Chris Hardwick do stand-up after falling in love with him after 1 week of podcast listening.

    • I love how he doesn’t ask the obvious questions. Sure, I secretly wanted him to pry at Daniel Radcliffe all about Harry Potter, but he didn’t. And the conversation wound up being so incredibly interesting and unexpected. I like that he keeps things casual and fresh.

  • YES YES YES TO ALL OF THESE! You’ve just given me listening material for a week’s worth of office data entry! HOLLA.

    • Well YAY! As a fellow blogger, The Lively Show is really amazing to listen to and she has lots of episodes so there is plenty of material to amuse you.

  • Brittany

    I just discovered “Call Your Girlfriend (CYG): A podcast for long distance besties everywhere” and have been binge-listening. They mostly discuss the basic knowledge things that aren’t local nightly newsworthy. Kimye wedding, discuss, naming your baby nutella? What else should we name babies? They’re decently accomplished women talking girl talk. Oh, and they have weekly menstruation news–which I find completely fascinating but maybe that’s just me… haha! I started at the beginning (May 2014) and have been working my way toward present day.

    • OOH Thank you so much for sharing! Sometimes I need to balance the serious topics in some of the podcasts with something a little lighter, although I hadn’t found something like that that I enjoyed. This sounds right up my alley. Thanks for sharing!

  • Such a great list! Pinned!

    • Thanks so much for pinning! xo

  • Thank you so much for sharing The Lively Show among these other awesome podcasts!! I’m so glad you are liking it. : )


    • Thank YOU for producing such amazing content. I feel inspired every time I listen to an episode!

  • Ok, you are my favorite. I adore podcasts, especially now that I’m home with my little one all day everyday. I’ve been needing some new podcasts to subscribe to and ta da! here you are with some recommendations! I already love Radiolab, This American Life, Stuff You Should Know, and Invisibilia. I’m definitely going to check out the rest. Thanks!

    • Awesome! Do you have any recommendations for me?

      • First of all, I checked out The Lively Show and I’m hooked! I’m currently working on listening to all of her old ones!
        Lately I’ve been enjoying:
        Unfictional – captivating true stories
        The Longest Shortest Time – parenting related, but I would have found it interesting pre-baby too
        Death, Sex, and Money – interesting interviews with various famous people about those three taboo topics
        Savage Lovecast – he has really opened my eyes and educated me about alternative lifestyles/sexual orientations/sexual preferences

  • Thanks for this! Saving for later- I love podcasts (Serial got me hooked, of course) and want to get hooked on another.

    • I haven’t found another podcast where every episode has me has hooked as Serial did. Mostly I find that there are episodes of a podcast that are that way and then maybe the next episode isn’t as much. I listen to most of them out of order (since they aren’t a series) and only pick the topics I’m interested in. I can’t wait for season 2 of Serial.

  • Podcasts are not something I know any thing about

    • Maybe this post will inspire you to listen to a few. You can always listen to them online via the links provided if you don’t have a podcast app on your phone. It’s kind of funny that podcasts are so popular right now because they are really just radio shows, which is kind of a throwback technology.

  • JC

    I just started to get into podcasts. Right now I’m hooked on small biz & creative podcasts, which is funny since I don’t actually have a small biz really. After The Jump, Elise Gets Crafty, Small Passive Income are a few. I like your list though. It may be time to expand my horizons.

    • I hadn’t heard of any of those so thank you so much for the recommendations! I bet a lot of the stuff about small businesses would be applicable to blogging as well.

  • Emilie

    just started getting into podcasts. Thanks for the list. Invisibilia is another great one.

    • N loves Invisibilia. The one on Thoughts was really interesting. I haven’t decided if it’s a must listen for me yet, since it’s so new.

  • Kari

    I would add the Nerdist with Tom Hanks. If you’re having a bad day this will perk you up in just 90 minutes.

    • I have that episode downloaded and haven’t listened to it yet. Tom Hanks is such a quirky guy. I’ll definitely listen to it now.

  • Shatzimom

    Here’s one, Science Friday, oh and BBC documentaries. There’s the ‘We’re Alive’ story on Stitcher; this had me hooked through all four seasons. I’m familiar with most you mentioned, will check out the others. I love podcasts because I can download them and listen while I am doing the dishes or raking the lawn. Please share when you find good ones. Found your blog through bloglovin.

    • Thank you so much for the recommendations! I hadn’t heard of any of those so I’m really excited to add a couple more great podcasts to the rotation. I also listen to podcasts when I do house chores or when I’m walking the dog. It’s an easy way to feel like you’re learning something or being productive, even in down time during the day.

  • So glad I saw this post! My husband had been listening for years, but his podcasts don’t akways interest me. I’ve been wanting to start and didn’t know where to start. I’m on vacation and now I’ll have something to listen to on the flight home!

    • I had the same issue with podcasts for a long time. I kind of assumed that I wouldn’t be interested because a lot of the podcasts N listens to are about sports. I’m so glad I gave them a chance because now my commute is so much more enjoyable.

  • Awesome list! We just started & finished Serial (finally) on a road trip a few weeks ago. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since! We’re also fans of Snap Judgement (also from NPR). Will definitely be listening to those TAL episode recommendations!

    • With Serial, I went in way too deep. I’d spend too much time on Reddit threads trying to get more information that wasn’t on the podcast. I was completely obsessed. I’m interested to see how things turn out for Adnan. I haven’t heard of Snap Judgement so I’ll definitely check it out. Thank you!

  • Thankyou so much for this list! I just finished Serial (sooo good!) and now I’m hooked on podcasts! x

    The Sunday Chapter

    • Serial really helped bring podcasts to a lot of people’s attention. There is some really great material being produced and podcasts are such a great way to make use of driving time etc.

  • Em

    Radio Lab Season 6 Episode 3 = Parasites. I was listening to a replay on a Sunday afternoon, background while painting in New England, the land of Lyme disease, and stopped everything to listen. I then shipped out the podcast to everyone I knew. I had to cajole people into listening, but they all were transfixed. The second story on hookworms is unbelievable – a PERFECT science/history lesson for elementary/middle school.

    • Well I know what we’ll be listening to on our commute home from work today. Thanks so much for sharing! N thinks Radiolab is his favorite consistently good podcast. They do have excellent material. Their most recent episode was really good.

  • Thanks! I’m new in the States, lost in many ways! I look forward to dig into this!

    • Well maybe This American Life would be a great starting point. Although I think a lot of their themes are really universal. Enjoy!

  • I love the StartUp podcast!

  • I’ve been following your blog for a while, and I’m a fan! I love listening to podcasts while doing mindless activities, and some of my other favorites are: Stuff You Missed in History Class, The Moth, and 99% Invisible 🙂

  • Will try some of these out 🙂 I need to finish the first episode of Serial

  • I LOBE the nerdist. my favorite!

  • my Spring Break plans just got a lot more exciting! Thank you for sharing this awesome list. During the week, my husband and I listen to podcasts while we cook dinner – much better than mindlessly watching TV!

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  • Amanda

    The Relevant Podcast is my absolute favorite! I listen to multiple episodes a day!

  • Elizabeth Graziose

    Radiolab. These three episodes I actually keep and have listened to a few times. They come up in conversation sometimes.

    1. Colors: Radiolab rips the rainbow a new one.
    2. Dark Side of the Earth: 200 miles above Earth’s surface astronaut Dave Wolfe — rocketing through the blackness of Earth’s shadow at 5 miles a second — floated out of the Mir Space Station on his very first spacewalk. In this short, he describes the extremes of light and dark in space, relives a heart-pounding close call, and shares one of the most tranquil moments of his life.
    3. Speedy Beats: There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit.

    I also really love the Moth, although I would be hard pressed to pick just one. Such surprising stories sometimes!

  • Dawn Treader Review

    I began podcasting because of shows like This American Life and Radiolab… we sample other shows, adding music and effects. Our focus is on mysterious and unexplained topics. This is my favorite so far…

  • Bernadette Groves

    I love Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine. Informative and funny as well.

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