In the midst of a pandemic, we find ourselves needing to go to greater lengths than usual for entertainment. Unfortunately, we can’t watch The Queen’s Gambit and bake bread forever, so we have to find other ways of filling the time.
Luckily, there’s a nearly limitless supply of podcasts available for our enjoyment and education. They’re the perfect thing for when we’re lazing around at home, or while doing any number of other activities, like cooking, washing dishes, folding laundry, exercising, or soaking in the tub.
But with so many available, it can be tough to know which podcasts to choose. Read on for the best new and long-running podcasts to enjoy in 2021.
This Land started back in 2019 with an extremely successful season surrounding a Supreme Court case. Sharp v. Murphy centered around a dispute over reservation status in the state of Oklahoma. The podcast explores the law, politics, history, and Native American issues involved in the case.
The first season is absolutely worth a listen, but the show’s producer, Crooked Media, is also coming out with a second season in the spring of 2021. Try out the first season in the meantime and you’ll be hooked enough to eagerly await the second.
Dare to Lead
You really can’t go wrong with Brené Brown, and her brand-new podcast, Dare to Lead is no exception. The wildly popular researcher and storyteller debuted this podcast in October of 2020, and she’s already had a dizzying list of guests, including President Barack Obama and Olympian Abby Wambach.
Brown’s latest podcast is described as “the ultimate courage-building playbook for leaders at every level.” It’s a no-brainer for fans of Brown’s preliminary podcast, Unlocking Us. If you’re looking for courage, inspiration, or just interesting conversations between incredible individuals, this is a great podcast to try out.
This Podcast Will Kill You
This Podcast Will Kill You is the ultimate pandemic-times podcast. It’s hosted by Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke, two American disease ecologists and epidemiologists. Every episode, they chat about a different disease—most of them infectious, which is what makes this such a fitting 2021 podcast to subscribe to.
The podcast, though often disturbing for obvious reasons, is also light-hearted and truly entertaining to listen to.
The History of Sketch Comedy
If you’re looking for something truly fun and a break from the stresses of reality, The History of Sketch Comedy is a good way to go. Premiering on January 28, 2021, it’s hosted by the successful and entertaining actor/comedian/producer, Keegan-Michael Key.
The podcast will consist essentially of what it sounds like—a history of sketch comedy, important events and developments in this art form, and influential people and characters throughout sketch comedy’s past. Whether you’re a sketch comedy buff or not, this is sure to be an amusing and enlightening podcast.
If you’re hoping that 2021 will be a saner, more productive year than 2020, the podcast Life Kit might be able to help you out. This NPR podcast is designed to help us all out with being a human—or, as some might say, “adulting.” Recent episodes include The Art Of Breaking Up, From ‘The Talk’ To Moving On, What To Say To Kids When The News Is Scary and Time To Start Fresh: Follow These Steps To Deep Clean Your Space.
Unraveled: Long Island Serial Killer
Unraveled: Long Island Serial Killer is a soon-to-be-released podcast (due out January 27th, 2021) that is sure to be a hit with true crime junkies. Over the course of almost 20 years, an unknown serial killer murdered somewhere between 10 and 16 people. Hosted by journalist and documentary producer Alexis Linkletter and true-crime journalist Billy Jensen, the podcast reinvestigates the murder and attempts to find answers in the unsuccessful search for the killer.
This American Life
This American Life is the farthest thing from new in the podcast world, and many of us are likely already familiar with this long-standing legend of radio shows. But it’s hard to make a list of best podcasts without including it, so here we are. Hosted by the respected pioneer of 21st-century radio Ira Glass, the podcast focuses on a different theme each week and shares stories that fit the theme. As the name suggests, the podcast provides us with portrayals of the thousands of iterations of American life.
If you still haven’t tried out This American Life, 2021 is a good year to finally do so.
Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions
If you did a double-take at this podcast’s name, you aren’t alone. Bill Gates and Rashida Jones are an unexpected if not downright surprising pair, but this turns out to be an engaging and enjoyable podcast that does just what it says—tackles some of the biggest questions right now. A couple of examples include What will the world look like after COVID-19? and Is it too late to stop climate change? If you’d like to hear two extremely talented people shoot the (very intelligent) breeze, here’s your chance.
Invisibilia is already a well-known and well-loved podcast. But they’ve recently gone through a change of hosts and, starting in March 2021, will be hosted by Yowei Shaw and Kia Miakka Natisse. The new iteration of this five-year-old podcast should be interesting—and definitely worth checking out.
Dying for Sex
For those who already discovered Dying For Sex, it was probably one of the podcast highlights of 2020. If you haven’t yet discovered this Wondery podcast—or thought it sounded too strange or raunchy to check out—go download it now. Over the course of this miniseries, best friends Nikki and Molly explore the realities of Molly’s diagnosis with terminal cancer and her subsequent sexual escapades. The podcast is touching, heartbreaking, a little bit scandalous, and worth every damn minute.
The Apology Line
The Apology Line is one of the more intriguing podcasts of 2021. For 15 years, there was a phone line in Manhattan that you could call and anonymously apologize for…anything. This phone line, and the man who answered the phone (“Mr. Apology”), is the center of this podcast. Mr. Apology’s gradual obsession with these confessions and the people behind them will keep you fascinated and entertained.