This year the Lifehacker staff listened to journalism, true crime, fiction, chat shows, comedy, and music appreciation. Here are the best podcast episodes we heard in 2019.
Lisa Rowan, Personal Finance Writer
I’m still thinking about “Stowaway,” a May 2019 episode of Criminal. Many of this true crime show’s episodes are grisly, but this is the one I recommend, over and over, to people who have never listened to the show before. It’s about a woman who decides to spend a week on a cruise ship as a stowaway. It’s charming and engrossing and every time I think about a cruise ship I think of this episode.
Meghan Walbert, Parenting Editor
Everyone has to listen to Reply All’s Feral Hogs episode. First of all, they interviewed the guy who posed the original ridiculous feral hogs question, and he is really funny and laughs at himself about the way he framed the question. But then also? Feral hogs are actually…a really big freaking problem! I learned way more than I expected to.
Joel Kahn, Senior Video Producer
I’ll go with the “Dollitics” episode of Dolly Parton’s America. It’s about how Dolly stays firmly silent on political matters, and how her fans can see that as either support or derision for certain issues. It also points out how she wrote the anthem for working women in 80s, and has a great interview with Jane Fonda!
Abu Zafar, Video Producer
Reply All’s episode about the Snapchat thief is amazing and I tell literally everyone about it.
Tim Mulkerin, Social Media Editor
In every episode of Oh No Ross & Carrie, hosts Carrie Poppy and Ross Blocher investigate some paranormal claim, fringe religion, or pseudoscientific fad. Their multi-episode series on so-called “evidential” mediums was particularly hilarious and facepalm-y.
Beth Skwarecki, Health Editor
You’re Wrong About’s episode on Kitty Genovese. She was murdered in 1964, supposedly in full view of dozens of neighbours who couldn’t be bothered to call the cops. But it turns out almost nothing about the story you’ve heard is true. It was the dead of night, 911 didn’t exist yet, and neighbours cared for her as she died. They also had some very good reasons for not calling the cops. Listen to this ep, you’ll see what I mean.
The Dream is a podcast about multi-level marketing schemes, and its first episode is fascinating tale of a very sort of pure pyramid scheme that was popular in the 1980s. You just fork over some cash, and wait for others to fork over their cash to you. No pretensions of selling anything, just money changing hands and suckers being had.
And I really liked “The Fight to Stay in the Game” from weightlifter Alyssa Ritchey’s podcast BittyStrong, about how devastating a pre-competition weight cut can be. A lot of lifters at her level—close to making the Olympic team, but not shoo-ins—choose their weight class based on where they think they’ll be most competitive, not on what’s best for their body. She’s spoken openly before about what this process is like, and I found this one really powerful just to understand what’s going on in the sport for a lot of athletes.
David Murphy, Senior Tech Editor
I really liked this episode of the Savage Lovecast, mainly because Dan did a great job of owning up to an issue — having someone on his show with scam credentials — and discussing the effects of that, rather than trying to sweep it under the rug. (Read more!)
Nick Douglas, Staff Writer
Imaginary Advice is an experimental comedy/essay/fiction podcast by Scottish performer Ross Sutherland. The episode “Dream Your Way to a Happier You” shows what happens when you hack into your wife’s hypnosis tapes.
Levar Burton Reads is a great way to experience the best modern speculative fiction. Burton is, of course, one of the world’s greatest talents at reading aloud. His wonderstruck tone is perfect for “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” (part 1, part 2), Ted Chiang’s time-travel tribute to One Thousand and One Nights.
Virginia K. Smith, Managing Editor
Before 2019 it never occurred to me that I needed a 90-minute podcast deep dive into the career of every member of Genesis. But there are a lot of things that didn’t occur to me before 2019! On Alice’s recommendation, I fired up this Hit Parade episode for a full afternoon of apartment cleaning, and in addition to having a tidy apartment, I think I’m now a Phil Collins superfan?
Micaela Heck, Podcast Producer
The episode “Anxious Mess” from the Bodies podcast was really stunning. It’s about a woman unable to grapple with her own emotions and is misdiagnosed and treated for ADHD. When she finally figures out the disorder she’s ACTUALLY dealing with, it reveals how little information there is for women with this condition. (I don’t want to say what it is because it’s technically a spoiler alert!)
This episode from The Cut about a nightmare Lyft ride really shook me. It made me angry to realise how little responsibility ride-sharing companies take in the safety of their customers, especially when the solution seems so obvious. The reporting, writing, and editing of this episode is amazing too.
On a lighter note, this episode of Spectacular Failures was really entertaining. Who knew the family behind U-Haul was such a Succession-like story?
Heather Hass, Creative Producer
I’ve just started Nick’s fiction podcast Roommate From Hell, actually! The actors, writing and sound effects are super fun. I haven’t listened to a ton of podcasts like this, but I like to listen to something that feels like a movie but podcast form. Also the episodes are perfect length to get a little break in your day with a story, but not so long you feel like each episode is a movie length on its own. I should have started it during Halloween, but I feel like there’s room in every season for a lil spookiness.
Alice Bradley, Deputy Editor
I’ve recently been introduced to the silly escapades of the McElroy brothers, whose podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me is a nonstop delight. Ostensibly it’s an advice podcast, but as the introduction explains, “The McElroy brothers are not experts, and their advice should never be followed.” In the episode “Frasier Crane’s Anime Dreamscape,” they discuss a Yahoo! question about a Frasier Crane-reboot episode premise. I won’t explain the premise because when I heard it I snort-laughed on the subway, and I wish the same for you. More surprise laughter in 2020. Let it be so.
As of today, all Alexa users can finally use their Alexa to play podcasts through Spotify, simply by saying “Alexa, play The Upgrade on Spotify.” If you’re partway through an episode on the Spotify app, Alexa will pick up where you left off, and vice versa. No more juggling your progress between the two apps.Read more