The 20 Best Podcasts of 2018

The best true crime, fantasy football, comedy, and politics podcasts, and more

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Podcasts have exploded into our culture and are an excellent way to entertain oneself while commuting, traveling, or working out. We looked at the latest crop of podcasts that premiered in late 2017, as well as those with quality seasons or episodes from 2018, covering a range of topics from sports to politics to pop culture to identity to everyday life. Here are our favorite podcasts of the year, in no particular order.

All of these podcasts are available on multiple platforms, including iOS and Android devices as well as in a web browser, except for "How to Be a Girl," which is available only on iTunes or in-browser.

01
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The Daily Podcast - New York Times
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Hosted by journalist Michael Barburo, The Daily covers one story each weekday in about 20 minutes. Guests include journalists like Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush as well as story subjects. Notable episodes include a "fake news" story that transformed the small town of Twin Falls, Idaho, and a deep dive into the Bill O'Reilly sexual harassment scandal.

02
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Code Switch
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Code Switch explores race and ethnicity and how it all weaves into different parts of our lives from places of worship to the business of selling marijuana legally to the terrible events that happened in Charlottesville, VA in the summer of 2017. Hosted by five journalists of color, Code Switch dissects the complicated news and events happening all over the country and illuminates the lives and voices of those that we don't always hear as loudly as others. An episode from February 17, 2018, explores why positive stereotypes aren't necessarily a good thing. 

Pod Save America
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Produced by the cleverly named Crooked Media, Pod Save America is the brainchild of former staffers of President Obama's White House. This mission of the podcast is to discuss politics "the way actual people talk," amidst nonstop cable news coverage, Twitter, and the rash of fake news that's all over the Internet. While the hosts lean leftward, they're not afraid to talk about where Democrats went wrong in 2016. Get their take on the NFL "take the knee" controversy in the "Stick to Sports" episode, and their thoughts about the NRA, Robert Mueller's investigation, and more in weekly discussions.

2 Dope Queens
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Hosted by writer and actress Phoebe Robinson and former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams, 2 Dope Queens is a live show, podcast, and HBO limited series, featuring their favorite comedians and candid discussions about sex, hair, race, and life in New York City. From bikini lines to the many faces of Nicolas Cage, season 3 will make you laugh out loud. This podcast has two spinoffs: Sooo Many White Guys and Late Night Whenever.

05
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Food 4 Thot Podcast
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Food 4 Thot, which premiered in February, is not actually about food; it's about life. While drinking rosé, the four hosts discuss sex, race, identity and other juicy topics in a format they describe as "like NPR, but on poppers." The hosts, who are all writers, wanted a place where they could discuss Beyoncé, gay bars, literature, and their adventures in publishing. The podcast released nine episodes in the first season, and season two is on deck. Listen to the trailer to get a taste of what to expect.

06
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The Read
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New York City transplants Kid Fury and Crissle chat about hip-hop, politics, and pop culture while bonding over adapting to life in the city that never sleeps. Their biting commentary on The Read is highly entertaining with targets including reality show stars and Oprah, but never Beyoncé. Tune into the Wakanda Forever episode to get their insights about Marvel's Black Panther.

Terrible, Thanks for Asking
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Have you ever wanted to tell the truth when someone asks "how are you?" Unless you truly are doing "fine," this question usually leads to an empty exchange. This podcast features guests who open up about their pain and loss. Host and author Nora McInerny describes herself as a "notable widow." In one episode of Terrible, Thanks for Asking, Nora, suffering from insomnia, goes to Twitter to poll listeners about what keeps them up at night. Newer episodes include one about sibling support systems and another about an uncertain pregnancy. 

08
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Reply All
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If you're obsessed with Internet culture and find yourself getting lost in Reddit forums and social media threads, Reply All will feed your need. The creators mine the web for personal stories, such as a man who wants to turn his family's struggle with cancer into a video game, and dig deep into mundane-sounding topics, such as domain names, that are anything but dull. In early 2017, news broke that Robert Downey Jr. would star in a movie based on episode #86, Man of the People. A recent piece features a writer who's hunting for the Bitcoin she bought several years ago.

How to Be a Girl
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Hosted by a Seattle-based single mother and her eight-year-old transgender daughter, How to Be a Girl is about a family that is just trying to figure it all out. The podcast started when Marlo (not her real name) began recording their conversations and her daughter's quips. Marlo uses the podcast in part to educate people about transgender kids and to protect families from intrusive (if well-meaning) questions and comments. Subscribe to How to Be a Girl on iTunes or add it to your RSS feed; we recommend starting from the beginning.  

Bill Simmons Podcast
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Bill Simmons is a sports columnist, founder, and CEO of The Ringer, a blog and podcast network, and the former host of HBO's Any Given Wednesday. His self-named podcast covers sports and pop culture, and where it converges, such as the Rocky movies. It features interviews with celebrities, athletes, and journalists, and often delves into that hard to avoid topic: politics. A recent episode features comedian Larry Wilmore talking about the L.A. Lakers among other things.

NFL Talking Heads Fantasy Football Podcast
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If your love of football extends off the field into fantasy leagues, the NFL Talking Heads Fantasy Football Podcast will help you up your game. Hosts Jeff Carrier and Seth Lull offer up the tips and information you need to win, including statistics, draft strategies, and their unfiltered opinions.

How Did This Get Made?
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There's something magical about movies that are so, so terrible, but so much fun to watch. We've all asked the question posed by this podcast's title "How Did This Get Made?" The podcasters screen and tear apart the movies that are so bad they're good (think would-be horror flick Lake Placid) both in-studio and occasionally live. Learn more about The Garbage Pail Kids movie (we previously didn't know of its existence) in a live episode featuring Jon Lovett from Pod Save America. In a February episode, the hosts of 2 Dope Queens, come to talk about Freejack, a 1992 science fiction movie.

13
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Homecoming
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We typically associate podcasts with stories, like Serial, or conversations, like Marc Maron's WTF podcast, but Homecoming harkens back to old radio stories, with its fictional thriller starring actors Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, Amy Sedaris, and David Cross. The experience of listening to the podcast is less about the plot than it is about enjoying the performances, chemistry, and character development; the second season picks up where the first one left off, and season three is in the works. 

Hilarious World of Depression
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Supported in part by the Make It OK campaign, the Hilarious World of Depression talks to comedians who suffer from the disease with the goal of removing the stigma of mental illness. It also serves to help people who have depression know that they are not alone. In addition to interviews, the podcast offers support, including how to get help when you need it and coping skills to get you through each day. Dip your toe in with the ​August 2017 episode "How to Get Help" or with the January 2018 episode where Rachel Bloom of the TV show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," talks about that character, her history with depression, and being inspired by Rebecca Black, singer of the infamous song "Friday." 

First Day Back
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First Day Back tells the stories of people finding themselves after a life-changing event. Season 2 premiered in 2017 and followed the story of Lucie and Gerry, who were together for 13 years until Lucie accidentally shot and killed Gerry – an event of which she has no memory. The podcast follows Lucie as she grapples with her past and tries to recover from the trauma. There's no word yet on a Season 3.

Gilmore Guys
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If you love watching TV, reading recaps, and dissecting episodes online, Gilmore Guys will be a treat. One host is a diehard Gilmore Girls fan, while the other is new to the show; together they analyze every episode of the show including the recent Netflix installments. Whether you watched the show in real time or just started streaming, this podcast will bring you all the intel that Stars Hollow and its zany characters have to offer. Episodes in 2018 delve into the Netflix show "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," another creation of Amy Sherman-Palladino.

CTRL ALT DELETE
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London-based Emma Gannon talks to a vast array of guests–actors, writers, and other creatives–about how social media and the web infiltrate their lives and careers. Named after her first book, which has the tagline "How I Grew Up Online," the Ctrl Alt Delete podcast benefits from Emma's high energy and enthusiasm as she gets guests to share their best stories and advice. Check out the February 2018 episode with Greta Gerwig, writer, and director of the Oscar-nominated film "Lady Bird."

18
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Crimetown
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If you loved the first season of Serial and were disappointed that the second season didn't have the same level of suspense, Crimetown could be just the podcast for you. In fact, one of the hosts produced and co-wrote the series "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst." Crimetown takes place in Providence and covers the crime and corruption that goes all the way up the mayor. Season two of Crimetown is in the works.

19
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S-Town
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What starts as the exploration of the dark side of a small town in Alabama at the request of a listener turns into a look into one man's life and how it affected so many others. (It also continues to reveal more disturbing details about the town including the blatant racism that the podcast's subject John D. had warned the host about from the start.)   The real title of S-Town is NSFW, but you can probably guess what the "S" means. This podcast was a one-off, but the team behind it also produces Serial and This American Life, so we can expect to see more engaging podcasts down the road.

20
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Modern Love
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The Modern Love column from the New York Times explores all sorts of love–romantic, family, heartbreak, friendship, and more. The podcast, which is produced by NPR, brings these personal essays to life with readings by famous people from Peter Gallagher to Cynthia Nixon to John Cho. Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti (WBUR) and Modern Love editor Daniel Jones sometimes even get updates from the essay writers.