Best of: the podcasts that won't put you to sleep
Updated: Aug 28
At this stage of life with young children, it feels damn near impossible to read a book to its conclusion (The Very Hungry Caterpillar excluded, of course). Even when I find the spare time to pick up a book, I struggle to finish it. Lack of time or lack of concentration from the seemingly never ending sleep deprivation that comes from parenting the under 5's are to blame. Life can feel so busy at this stage, so podcasts (and audio books) have been my go to over the last few years whether I'm driving, tidying up around the house or on the days I don't have too many work meetings. These are my pick of best podcasts (old and new) to listen to in 2023...
Feel good listens
Marian Keyes and Tara Flynn joined forces on Now You're Asking a podcast where listeners write in with their problems and the Irish duo attempt to solve them. A real feel good, easy listen with many laugh out loud dilemmas, this run of two series from 2021 and 2022 is one of my top picks. Marian and Tara provide great advice across a breadth of problems from their 'askers' and their friendship beyond the studio shines through.
An Oral History of The Office is a nostalgic look back at the hugely popular US version of The Office, hosted by Brian Baumgartner (who played Kevin in the tv show). It goes behind the scenes into what went into making the show and includes interviews from all those central to its success.
Interviews & conversations
The Motherhood Sessions host Dr Alexandra Sacks discusses the emotional / mental toll of motherhood and changing identity with a guest each week and their specific problem whether related to sex, career or loneliness. Profound and honest conversations you should definitely pay attention to.
Grounded with Louis Theroux is a great listen, I'm a big fan of Louis' work of the years and this series is no exception. As you'd expect from the veteran interviewer, the conversations are thoughtful and probing. The guest list is impressive and diverse, my favourites so far have been the premiere with Jon Ronson and a later episode with Ruby Wax.
Top rated podcast The News Agents has been a favourite of mine this year. Its hosts, Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall, are top UK journalists you're likely familiar with. They produce new episodes available every weekday afternoon and have recently launched a weekly US politics focused podcast. It will keep you up to date with what's going on including insightful analysis on why and a healthy dose of skepticism.
The FT News Briefing is a 10 minute podcast providing a synopsis of the Financial Times newsroom that day. Available every weekday morning and covering key global business news, perfect!
The Rest is Politics is another excellent podcast keeping you informed but with a more specific political slant. Former Labour spin doctor and journalist Alastair Campbell teams up with former Conservative cabinet minister and one-time leadership candidate Rory Stewart to provide their insiders' views on global politics. The two debate topics and disagree agreeably, what ensues is a middle-aged male bromance that is actually really great listening (surprising right?).
Infinite Monkey Cage hosts Brian Cox and Robert Ince introduce you to everything you didn't know you needed to know about science this funny and interesting series. A panel of different expert guests each episode provides real depth into each topic covered, ranging far and wide from 'why does wine taste good?' (a personal favourite) to 'supervolcanoes'. Get started and make some notes along the way as there are many answers in there to your 5 year old's never ending list of questions!
The Apology Line is a fascinating series of 6 episodes about a confessional hotline in 1980s and 1990s Manhattan told from the perspective of Marissa Bridge, the wife of conceptual artist Allan Bridge or 'Mr Apology'. As the line was inundated with callers about a wide variety of issues including murder, drug-dealing and infidelity, Mr Apology found himself consumed by it and felt compelled to take action, opening himself up to some serious risk. A podcast to satisfy your dark side!
The story of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes may be familiar to many already but even if it is, The Dropout is still worth listening to. The podcast follows the story of the youngest self-made female billionaire from her attempt at revolutionising healthcare through to facing criminal charges and ultimately being sentenced to more than a decade in prison. This podcast uncovers more detail than ever before with interviews with employees, patients and jurors amongst others.
An older podcast recommendation now (if 2018 can be considered old)... Sandra is a star-studded podcast about an AI assistant and revealing all is not as it seems when Helen packs up her life to start work at the company behind it all. This gives definite Severance and Black Mirror vibes and is a really easy to digest podcast with only 7 episodes averaging around 20 minutes each.
Best supporting acts
The podcast market is well and truly saturated with all genres and there are so many great options that it can be hard to choose, so I hope there's something new for you to try out here. These are some honorable mentions that narrowly missed the list. Happy listening...
Filthy Ritual - true crime
This American Life - non-fiction stories/essays
Off Menu - interviews & conversations
My Dad Wrote a Porno - comedy
Brydon & - interviews & conversations
Who Killed Daphne? - true crime
Getting Emotional - culture
Switched on Pop - music
The Trojan Horse Affair - culture
NewlyWeds - comedy