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Need a Mental Escape? Here are 50+ Fascinating Podcasts

Compiled by Becca J. G. Godwin

In uncertain times like these, it’s important to remember to balance news of what the heck’s going on with the positive and uplifting stories that connect us across the airwaves. That’s why we rounded up some of our team’s favorite podcasts to share with you.

The podcasts included in this list steer away from straight news, keep us well-rounded and inspired, and give our minds the mental equivalent of a scalp massage.

Read on for our list of podcasts that will help take the edge off of isolation, keep you from falling down those pesky rabbit holes, and hopefully even put a smile on your lovely face.


Skip Ahead:

The Human Condition

Brain Builders

Audio Fiction

Inspirational Women

Listening With Kids

Stories of Romance

Fan Forums

And More


The Human Condition

Modern Love

Michelle Khouri, CEO & Founder: You might think this show would belong in our romance category, but it’s actually not just about romance. It’s really about the human capacity for, as they put it, “love, loss and redemption.” And it’s about the many kinds of relationships and connections that we have in our life that change our lives in these sometimes very small, sometimes very big obvious ways. So that one’s very inspiring to me; it’s also a tear jerker for me. 

Jessica Olivier, Content Strategist: This podcast will take you on an emotional journey. It’s great to listen to once you’ve set the stage at home. I like to make a tea, or pour a glass of wine, and really sit down in a cozy spot to enjoy it — rather than listening while multitasking like I do so many other podcasts.

While Black

Sigele Winbush, Communications Director: This Atlanta-produced show explores everyday topics that affect so many of us, but from the perspective of Black America. Topics range from “Why HBCUs matter” to the importance of diversity in medicine to, one of my favorites, what it means to compete on the nation’s biggest racing stage, NASCAR…while Black. It’s funny, smart and enlightening. I never complete an episode without feeling a little more informed and greater sense of pride.

Beautiful Anonymous

Becca Godwin, Executive & Content Support: Chris Gethard has been having phone call conversations to forge human connection since before it was forced into being cool again. He talks with an unnamed stranger from anywhere in the world about anything and everything, and the result is surely something special.

Let’s Not Meet

MK: This one takes a very polar opposite position of Modern Love. It is all about the underbelly of the human condition, and the very, very, very creepy, sometimes horrifying things people do.

Invisibilia

JO: This podcast has always done a great job of scratching my curiosity itch! It’s thoughtful, compelling and well-produced.

We Also Love:


Brain Builders

Radiolab

Peter LoPinto, Associate Producer: This is a podcast that I always return to. The sound design is unique and polished, and the stories combine science and philosophy without feeling dense.

Hidden Brain

Judith Hoffman, Business Development: This show is really well done. Back when Radiolab first started, it was much more science-heavy, and I miss those days when they’d really talk about research and weave it into narratives. Hidden Brain is a much more accessible version of that. They talk about all kinds of things our brains are doing, and I love the host. 

MK: This show is phenomenal. There’s just so much that I learn from any given episode.

Your Undivided Attention

MK: It is so scary how eye-opening this show is about the Attention Economy we find ourselves in these days, and the things that we need to be more cognizant of in terms of the way data is being collected constantly by technology companies. And the repercussions, and also just like the general considerations of that.

Science Friday

PL: This show is another favorite. I feel like I should just call out the obvious here and say that I’m unabashedly nerdy (I’ve been known to give an overly impassioned argument as to why Pluto shouldn’t be a planet). Science Friday quenches my thirst for knowledge and makes me feel like I understand the workings of the world just a little bit better.

Masters of Scale

MK: This show is how I build my business brain — how I build my muscle as a business owner. It’s not a secret how much I love that show, and just really admire what the production company is doing across the board.

We Also Love:


Audio Fiction

Earth Break

MK: I love an audio fiction, especially because I have a wild imagination. Audio fiction is really fun because I get to make up the world. I get to basically see it exactly how I want to see it, as prompted by the sound design in the show. Earth Break is a favorite for an apocalyptic sci-fi kind of vibe. It only has one cast member, which is Jenny Slate, and she does a spectacular job with this role. It is unbelievably sound designed, unbelievably acted. It’s so good. 

Bronzeville

JO: I was really impressed with the level of writing and character detail in this podcast. Especially for 2017 when it debuted. Tonally, it stands out from a lot of the other fictions and it had a way of conjuring my imagination to go along for the ride. 

Done Disappeared

Enna Garkusha, Producer: This is a great true crime parody podcast that makes light of all the true crime podcast tropes we know and love.

36 Questions: The Podcast Musical

MK: This show, starring Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton, is so much fun and has such beautiful music. It’s a twist on the typical romantic story and what happens to a relationship over time. 

The Tower

JO: The premise is very interesting and the episodes are short enough that I can knock out episodes between all of the homeschooling activities I am doing with the kids.

Tribulation

MK: One of our sound designers, Cooper Skinner, sound designed Tribulation. It was just recently bought by Audible. It’s this cult science-fiction written by Adam Jahnke, and it is so freaking good. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat. It’s also insane that Cooper is able to create these very complex electro-magnetic realities in this show. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s really good, and you should listen. 


Inspirational Women

InCharge With DVF

MK: InCharge is definitely up there as one of my favorites. It helps that I got to be a part of the raw, in-person conversations, but even listening to the final edited episodes, it’s super uplifting and inspiring to hear how these women who oversee so many different things in their day-to-day lives have had to survive challenges of their own. They thrive through some pretty crazy obstacles. 

JO: I know this is a FRQNCY podcast, but I really can’t help myself! I love how this podcast shines a light on the ups and downs, successes and failures, of some of today’s most inspiring women. After listening to an episode, I feel like I know the guest on a personal level and my respect for them skyrockets.

Behind the Brilliance with Lisa Nicole Bell

SW: Every episode of Behind the Brilliance is like a beautiful surprise. You never know who its host, Lisa Nicole Bell, is going to interview next, but she never disappoints. Her guests are wide-ranging, but, as the title suggests, consistently brilliant. I’m fired up after every conversation, gifted with insight, advice and guidance. Lisa, herself, is also a woman I admire, and I enjoy her solo episodes as much as I do her interviews. They feel like intimate chats I’m having with one of my favorite girlfriends.

Unladylike

MK: Unladylike is fantastic. It’s a big F-U to the patriarchy and it’s unabashedly feminist… which is me. And of course, local Atlanta hosts – the best.

JO: This show really tackles subject matter that I personally find relevant, but with a unique and nuanced perspective. Hosts Cristen and Caroline are smart, compassionate, funny, and forward-thinking hosts. I love exploring alongside them.

Dolly Parton’s America

JH: This show is amazing. My husband and I don’t have the same tastes in… anything really, but on a road trip from Pennsylvania with our kids, we listened to it the whole ride. Both of us were completely absorbed the whole time. They spent like four years and tons of money creating this. 

How I Built This with Guy Raz

JH: There’s a specific episode – ActOne Group: Janice Bryant Howroyd – that inspired me. This woman came from a family of seven kids in the south and founded maybe the most successful agency in the world. She said things in this episode that still resonate with me today. 

SW: As an entrepreneur, it’s empowering to hear how people have taken their once seemingly wild ideas and made them wildly successful. Their stories are also reminders that we all will make mistakes, have failures, slip-ups and stumbles, but what’s most important is that we keep going. 

We Also Love:


Listening With Kids

Story Pirates

JO: This podcast is just as much for me as it is for my kids! I always laugh. It’s a blast and full of talent. If you listen to the episode Humming/Time Trap, you will be singing the Humming song all day. 

Vintage Sesame Street Albums

https://open.spotify.com/album/6RolQy3AvRJLeOkYZ432hq

JH: Not a podcast, but the Sesame Street albums from pre-1980 that are on Spotify and it’s an audio experience you can’t get other places. They’re filled with songs and learning, and are perfect for my 3- and 5-year-olds. 

Noodle Loaf

JO: Super engaging, educational and interactive for the kids! Perfect length for my 4 year old’s attention span. 


Stories of Romance

This is Love

MK: This is a really beautiful podcast that explores more and less traditional stories of romance. 

Rose Reid, Co-Executive Producer of Total Refresh: I especially love the episodes Blue and Nothing Compares To You. I listened so many times – these are incredible stories about the depth and compassion and beauty of the spirit and imagination and creativity, and relationships that go beyond romance – true connection.

This American Life

JH: There’s a specific episode on breakups where writer Starlee Kine interviews Phil Collins. It’s more than a decade old, but it’s a really amazing listen. She opens the story by saying breakups are one of the most ubiquitous things, and pretty much everyone experiences one, but we don’t spend enough time talking about it or exploring it publically outside of friends and family. It’s a universal experience, but there’s not enough depth applied to it. 

Meet Cute

MK: This is a new company focusing on Nora Ephron-like short form narratives. It’s a cute little one for romance fans. 


Fan Forums

You Made It Weird With Pete Holmes

EG: He’s a comedian who sits down with other comedians, actors, musicians, etc. and records their conversations. Each episode is two to three hours long and unedited, and the conversations always end up centered around the guest’s beliefs about the universe.

Binge Mode

EG: This series recaps all the things we love: Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and even the Harry Potter book series. I would not have understood half of what was happening on Game of Thrones if not for this podcast explaining everything to me. The Harry Potter one is great too – they recap a chapter or group of chapters of each book in every episode, I’ll go back and relisten whenever I’m feeling an HP vibe.

PL: Binge Mode Harry Potter is great because I’ve been a big fan ever since the 3rd book. I used to reread the entire series in preparation for every new release. I remember finishing a couple books at 4 a.m. the day they came in the mail. So, getting to relive the series in such zoomed-in detail with literary analysis as the cherry on top is wonderful.

Game of Roses

EG: This Bachelor recap podcast analyzes every episode as if the show were a sports game. Since the reality show is essentially a game show, they break it down with terms such as ‘Play of the Game’ ‘MVP of the Game’ and ‘Error of the Game.’ This podcast is for those like me who love to hate-watch the Bachelor, and the two hosts don’t hesitate to point out how absurd the show can be.

Watch What Crappens

https://open.spotify.com/show/3iSZPuQ8T8Msh0N33ZD7No?si=ezwHO6HoTbqTTTCHOldJ9A

EG: Real Housewives is another reality TV series I love to binge, and this podcast is a hilarious recap of each episode of the franchise and all the subsequent spinoffs on Bravo. The two hosts do really great impressions of all our favorite housewives as well!


Hungry for More?

Get even more ideas from The New York Times’s recent podcast playlist. Finally, if you want to listen to shows produced by FRQNCY’s team, you can find our productions here

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