Best Podcasts of 2024 So Far

Best Podcasts of 2024 So Far

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It’s getting increasingly difficult to discover new treasures in the cacophonous world of podcasting. There are a lot of shows—many of them not good. It seems every week a new celebrity announces a podcast in which they ask other celebrities out-of-touch questions or revisit their own network sitcom heyday. And studios continue to scrounge for the most morally dubious true-crime topics they can find.

So forgive me if I find myself returning to some of the masters this year. Podcasting stalwart 99% Invisible has turned to analyzing the Robert Moses biography, The Power Broker, and I’m gobbling up each episode, despite never having actually finished the doorstopper of a book myself. Normal Gossip, a show that exploded in popularity when it premiered in 2022, is currently publishing its best season to date. And Serial, a full decade after it debuted and quickly became the most popular podcast ever, is back with a terrific fourth season centered on Guantánamo. There are surprising new discoveries to be found too, including an audio diary podcast following fascinating subjects like an octogenarian pinup girl and an investigation of a gas attack on a furry convention.

Here are the best podcasts of the year so far.

Read More: The 10 Best Podcasts of 2023

99% Invisible: The Power Broker

Best Podcasts of 2024 So FarBest Podcasts of 2024 So Far

99% Invisible, the show about the details we rarely notice, particularly in the design and architecture realms, has long been a must-listen podcast for anyone who even vaguely cares how our world is organized. So it was perhaps inevitable that one day host Roman Mars, along with Daily Show writer Elliott Kalan, would start an audio book club to cover the 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning Robert Moses biography, The Power Broker. For those unfamiliar with Moses, the famed New York urban planner arguably had a greater impact on the future of the largest city in America than any other person in history. Under Moses’ supervision, the city constructed 35 highways, 13 bridges, numerous parks, hundreds of playgrounds, Lincoln Center, Shea Stadium, housing projects, and the 1964 World’s Fair. He also bulldozed through entire communities to build his expressways and park land. Robert Caro‘s impeccably researched tome positions Moses as both a visionary and a destroyer of valued, flourishing immigrant neighborhoods.

The podcast is pitched toward the many listeners who have never quite made their way through the 1,200-page book, tracing Moses’ life over several episodes and inviting on guests like New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie, comedian Conan O’Brien, and the Power Broker author himself, to add historical and political context. It makes public policy debates fun.

Finally! A Show About Women That Isn’t Just a Thinly Veiled Aspirational Nightmare

I was skeptical of this mouthful of a podcast, which has no host and arguably no uniting theme among its episodes besides the fact that it’s covering the stories of (mostly) non-famous women. But those women are absolutely fascinating: They include an 80-something pinup girl recording her time shopping for vibrators, a telehealth abortion provider who works for the intentionally provocatively named Satanic Temple, and a cat wrangler rounding up the wild felines that have begun to overrun New York City.

Each episode is structured as an audio diary with that week’s particular subject outlining her day from start to finish, including diversions and interruptions. The host-less format works, plunging listeners immediately into the perspective of its subjects. Crafted by Jane Marie, creator of the investigative podcast The Dream, and Joanna Solotaroff, who cut her teeth producing 2 Dope Queens, the podcast is, indeed, an enthralling celebration of women.

Fur and Loathing

You may be surprised to learn that a 2014 chemical attack in the suburbs of Chicago, which targeted hundreds of people, remains unsolved to this day. The reason you haven’t heard of this terrifying incident? The target was a convention for Furries, a fact that led several reporters to chuckle live on air. (Furries, for the uninitiated, are a community of people who dress up in large, fuzzy animal costumes. And, yes, before you ask, for a subsection of furries there is a sexual component.)

Investigative reporter Nicky Woolf, who has covered online subcultures for years and previously hosted the podcast Finding Q about QAnon, admits he has a soft spot (heh) for furries, an online community that’s rather cuddly compared to other toxic subcultures on the Internet. Thankfully, unlike many cold case podcasts, the show doesn’t take itself too seriously—the fur puns do abound—even while delving into particularly dark corners of the Internet to try to answer its central question: who would want to hurt the furries?

Normal Gossip, Season 6

Normal Gossip is back and arguably better than ever. In each episode of the podcast, host Kelsey McKinney shares an anonymized dramatic story with a guest, scratching the itch to hear juicy gossip, even if it’s about people you don’t personally know. The first season proved a breakout hit in 2022, and now, after a shaky period, the sixth season is hitting the highs of those first few beloved episodes. The uproarious stories delve into the delightful niche worlds of amateur Shakespeare productions, mushroom foragers, and membership-only children’s play spaces.

A few adjustments to the format have proved fruitful: Asking every guest their relationship to gossip, a staple of earlier seasons, was getting repetitive, so the decision to ask guests to bring their own gossip was a genius idea. Now, you get two gossip stories for the price of one! (Well, technically it’s free unless you would like to describe to Defector Media for special bonus episodes.)

Serial, Season 4

I am loath to put yet another Serial Productions podcast on a “best of” list, but they continue to earn these spots by putting together some of the best investigative podcasts in an industry that has begun to scale back its investment on that important work. Sarah Koenig returns for the fourth season, this time partnering with journalist Dana Chivvis to explore Guantánamo Bay in short stories told week by week. Each new episode focuses on a different person’s experience, be they a prisoner, guard, or journalist who has been struggling to dig past government propaganda while covering the prison for decades. Together, they paint a vivid portrait of life in a place that three different presidents have pledged to shut down—and yet it remains in operation.

Delving into stories of torture, subterfuge, and even federal agents joining a man accused of leaking secrets on his honeymoon makes for rapturous listening. The Serial team has been working on Guantánamo reporting for nearly a decade, and Koenig and Chivvis are able to review recordings of old interviews with the benefit of hindsight, like when they were taken, on their first visit to prison, to its three gift shops, which included Disney-themed Guantánamo merch. It’s just one surreal moment of many in a terrific series.

Stick the Landing

Within the Ringer’s prestige TV feed lives a new series called Stick the Landing hosted by TV critic-turned-TV writer Andy Greenwald (who also co-hosts The Watch). The show humbly asks whether various beloved television shows stuck their landings. Each episode, he invites on a guest to analyze a series finale. If you are already a listener to various podcasts in the Ringer Universe, you’ll appreciate what is, essentially, an excuse for crossover episodes that put Greenwald in conversation with the likes of Mallory Rubin (on Friday Night Lights), Sean Fennessey (on Mad Men), and (of course) Bill Simmons (on The Larry Sanders Show).

These episodes are designed for people who have consumed the shows in their entirety, full of spoilers and deep analysis of how the plot of the series has come full circle from pilot to finale. So make sure to search for your particular favorite shows. Greenwald just wrapped Season 1 and is purposefully holding back episodes on some of the most watched and controversial finales of all time until Season 2. Here’s hoping the show returns soon and—eventually—tackles that Sopranos ending.

Things Fell Apart, Season 2

If you’ve ever wondered how the culture wars came to be, Things Fell Apart may offer the closest thing to an answer. Host Jon Ronson not only produces impressive investigative podcasts (Last Days of August was my favorite), but he also excels at finding particular case studies that illustrate a larger societal phenomenon. Things Fell Apart connects the dots from isolated incidents to larger movements, and the second season is even better than the first.

Each episode asks a question: How does a serial killer targeting Black sex workers in the 1980s connect to the killing of George Floyd in 2020? How does a bestselling book on trauma fuel campus protests? How does a chance encounter at a yacht club between a sick girl’s parents and a would-be researcher spark some of the first COVID vaccine conspiracy theories? The stories on their own are interesting, but the listener also comes away at the end of the season with a greater understanding of why we’ve lost a shared notion of truth.

Who Trolled Amber?

Speaking of the culture wars, in Who Trolled Amber? Alexi Mostrous, the reporter behind Sweet Bobby and Hoaxed, tackles one of the most inescapable and polarizing moments in our cultural history from an intriguing angle. In case you were extremely off-line in the spring of 2022, actor Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard after she wrote an op-ed in which she called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” (A U.K. judge had previously found “the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms. Heard by Mr. Depp have been proved to the civil standard.”) During the trial, the pro-Depp memes became inescapable online, inciting a reckoning around the limits of the #MeToo movement.

Rather than litigate the accusations against either Depp or Heard, this podcast focuses on who, exactly, was creating the onslaught of accounts criticizing Heard and defending Depp. Was it real people or bots? And if bots, who was behind the campaign? The series takes twists and turns you wouldn’t expect, involving foreign leaders with particular agendas and a tragic motor vehicle accident in Florida that presaged the online reaction to Depp v. Heard. Consulting with experts on bots, foreign intelligence, and law, Mostrous does emerge with some answers as to what exactly happened to spark the online furor and what it may reflect about the current state of the culture.


There are still fun corners of the Internet, and Wikihole, hosted by The Good Place actor D’Arcy Carden, illustrates the joys of Wikipedia-ing something and then falling down a rabbit hole of links and tangents only to reemerge in the place where you started.

Carden invites on comedians like Bowen Yang, Kumail Nanjiani, and Ellie Kemper for a sort of quiz show drawing from the bizarre facts of Wikipedia’s depths, from dolphins to Ancient Rome to Lenny Kravitz. Because the guests competing to answer questions are versed in the ways of comedy, they happily riff on whatever bizarre facts can be dug up on Stetson hats. The episodes are highly chaotic, but that is a feature more than a bug.

Write to Eliana Dockterman at [email protected].

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