The best podcasts of 2018

Sound on

2018 was tumultous for many of us, but don’t tell that to podcasts — the still-growing medium had a hell of a year. Call it peak podcast if you will, but there was so much to enjoy in our earbuds. We picked our 10 favorites (plus a few honorable mentions!) to help you wade through it all.

10. Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness

Queer Eye’s grooming expert is known for his sweet demeanor; his entertaining Game of Thrones recap series, Gay of Thrones; and his silky locks. All those parts of Van Ness’ personality are present on his podcast, but the topics he selects provide an element of surprise. From chatting with Reese Witherspoon about “lady entrepreneurship” to talking politics with Nancy Pelosi to dissecting the medical marijuana industry, Van Ness’ curiosity piques ours. —Patrick Gomez

9. My Favorite Murder

Now well past their 100th episode, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark continue to bring their terrified yet comedic voices to their weekly retellings of both notorious and — of even more interest — obscure true-crime stories, all while reminding us to stay sexy and not get murdered. —PG

8. The Good Place: The Podcast

If you love the genius NBC sitcom, now in its third season, and haven′t heard its uproarious companion piece —  hosted by Marc Evan Jackson, the actor behind the aridly comic demon Shawn — what the fork are you waiting for? With help from the Thursday night sitcom’s writers, crew, and stars (including Ted Danson and Kristen Bell), Jackson drills down on each episode, the various philosophies examined on the show, and the extracurricular events that help craft the innovative comedy’s stories. It’s good shirt. —Sarah Rodman

7. FiveThirtyEight Politics

Nate Silver leads a refreshingly nonpartisan political podcast that’s all about the data. And contributor Clare Malone has emerged as one of the most intelligent and thoughtful commentators of her generation. —Henry Goldblatt

6. Bitch Sesh

What started out as a Real Housewives recap show has morphed into a Real Housewives recap show and a hilarious window into the lives of thirty- and fortysomething working moms. Danielle Schneider effortlessly tosses off jokes with endearing self-deprecation, and it’s one of life’s great mysteries why Casey Wilson isn’t the star of every sitcom on the air. —HG

5. Hell and Gone

New York-based writer and investigator Catherine Townsend returns to her native Arkansas to solve the 2004 small-town murder of 22-year-old Rebekah Gould. This true-crime tale plays out with the tempo and tension (and score) of a scripted Hollywood whodunit. —PG

4. Thirst Aid Kit

Feminist intellectual gusto meets expression of female desire on this timely podcast, where hosts Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins explore lust, representation, and how the medias shape what women want. Their outrageously funny conversations, insightful interviews, and oh-so-fabulous fanfic wars cast desire in a potent new light that will make you LOL (lust out loud). —Maureen Lee Lenker

3. Walking the Floor

Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett is one of the best listeners in all of pod-land. The lively, genial, and deeply knowledgeable host puts his musician guests — from critical favorites to superstars, and in genres ranging from country to punk — at ease, allowing them to expound on everything from inspiration to gearhead talk. A must for fans actually interested in hearing about the music. Newbies can start with the illuminating Vince Gill episode. —Sarah Rodman

2. Radiolab

Miniseries like” Border Trilogy” (about the U.S.–Mexico border), “In the No” (about consent), and “Gonads” (about gonads, duh) were fantastic tentpoles this year on Radiolab, a podcast about our extraordinarily strange world. And stand-alone episodes like “Unraveling Bolero” and “More or Less Human” are like spa days for the brain. —Katie Hasty

1. You Must Remember This

Catnip for cinephiles and history buffs, You Must Remember This breathes life into Hollywood’s secret and forgotten histories. The latest season piggybacks off host Karina Longworth’s new book, Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood, which highlights and humanizes some of the fascinating women who encountered the playboy billionaire during his time as a film producer — like screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas, who attended MGM-sponsored orgies in the 1920s alongside Hughes’ mentor Marshall Neilan. In her memoir, Maas detailed the systematic sexual exploitation endured at the hands of men like Neilan, who “initiated more young women and men into more kinds of kinky sexual practices than one could possibly imagine.” —Michael Miller

Honorable mentions

Alice Isn’t Dead: The podcast that spawned a book and a forthcoming USA drama just wrapped its third and final season. It follows a truck driver as she drives across the country in search of her missing wife, and in the final episodes, the road trip is over at long last. It answers some of the biggest burning questions, but will likely leave you contemplating what it means to actually go home. 

Conversations With People Who Hate Me: Imagine confronting some of your life’s biggest trolls, but instead of reciting your long-practiced burns, you sit down for sensitive discourse on your disagreements. It’s much more satisfying than it sounds, especially in the hands of creator Dylan Marron, who tackles topics like racism, the transgender military ban, and more.

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