At NPR One, we’ve spent all month making our podcast wish list, checking it a few times, making sure it includes the podcast episodes that have entertained, educated and delighted us and our listeners this year.
So, our gift to you this holiday season is a list full of podcasts to keep you from getting bored while you sit in traffic, on a plane (or in a sled), headed to grandma’s. You can hear the whole list in order here, or listen to individual episodes on NPR One or wherever you get podcasts.
Something you want: Planet Money, “Space 1” from NPR
Be honest, how long has going to space been on your wish list? NPR’s Planet Money team actually fulfills this dream, with their very own satellite. Be there for takeoff and find out why it’s becoming so much easier to leave this planet in the first episode of the series.
Something you need: Conversations with People Who Hate Me, “Hurt People Hurt People” from Night Vale Presents
This is the guide to getting through the holidays. Before you ruin your family dinner by fighting over every hot-button issue, listen to host Dylan Marron have civil conversations with the people who have trolled him online. Without being too preachy, he sets a great example of mutual understanding and acceptance.
Something to wear: Outside, “XX Factor: How the Sports Bra Changed History” from PRX
This is the story of how one relatively simple garment made the idea of female athletes a reality. Mind blown!
Something to read: Nerdette, “Author Margaret Atwood Says ‘The Harvey Weinstein Moment’ Will Last” from WBEZ
Does the news have you feeling down and dystopian? Nerdette’s conversation with the author of The Handmaid’s Tale won’t exactly make you feel better. But, it is a fascinating listen on what this moment in history is teaching us about gender roles and relationships.
Something to Eat: Sporkful, “Searching for the Aleppo Sandwich Pt 1” from Stitcher
This is a different kind of story from war-torn Syria, one that goes looking for a famous sandwich maker and reminds us what is truly important.
Something to Hear: Twenty-Thousand Hertz, “Evolution of Accents” from De Facto Sound
Twenty-Thousand Hertz, a show about the sounds we hear, is an NPR One favorite. This episode, which explores how we got the accents we have, doesn’t disappoint.
Something to Learn: Civics 101, “How to Amend the Constitution” from New Hampshire Public Radio
Now is a good time to relearn everything you forgot from your high school government class. For that, you can’t beat the straightforward lessons of civics 101.
Something to Fear: Snap Judgment Presents: Spooked, “Lost in Time” from WNYC Radio
Spooked is one of the year’s best shows for some truly bone-chilling, mind-bending stories.
Something About Love: Alone: A Love Story, “Chapter 1: Not if, How” from CBC
This show from the CBC is a beautifully told memoir of the beginning and end of a marriage.
Something About History: Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate, “Martha” from Panoply
Even history buffs will find something new in this show that asks “if we’re living through another Watergate, would we know it?”
Something About Family: Family Ghosts, “Sue’s Clues” from Panoply
All families have skeletons in their closets. But, this family doesn’t know where its skeleton is — literally. Hear them solve the mystery of where Grandpa is buried.
A Really Great Mystery: Reply All, “Skip Tracer, Part 1” from Gimlet
A bounty-hunter, a quest for the undocumented immigrant who killed a woman’s brother, and a realization that they are both pawns in a much larger political game. This one has serious intrigue!
Somewhere to Go: Rough Translation, “American Surrogate” from NPR
Rough Translation takes you on a journey to explore how conversations we’re having here play out in different parts of the world. In this episode, we go inside the relationship between an American surrogate and the Chinese woman whose baby she is carrying. Where one woman wants to find connection the other wants to cut all ties.
Something to Question: Cults, “Heaven’s Gate — Marshall Applewhite & Bonnie Nettles” from Parcast
Why do people join cults? And what makes cult leaders so persuasive? The show Cults tries to answer those questions with its detailed looks inside this infamous cult.
Something to Argue: More Perfect, “American Pendulum II” from WNYC
In one of the most beautiful podcast episodes of the year, More Perfect makes the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott case come alive today as the descendants of a former slave and his owners reconcile. If they can do it, can’t we all?
Your Latest Obsession: Dirty John, “The Real Thing” from Wondery
Simply put, this is one of the most addictive new podcasts of the year. Whether you love the characters or hate them, you will not be able to stop listening to this story of love and lies and crime.
Something Funny: Mortified, “I was a Teenage Grinch (& other tales of holiday cheer)” from Radiotopia
What’s funnier than the drama and emotions of the teenage years? Absolutely nothing!
Something Sticky: Midnight Oil, “How environmentalists won by losing the pipeline battle” from Alaska Public Media
For better or worse, the state of Alaska is built on the oil industry. What battles made that happen and what does it mean for the future of people living there?
Something to Envy: Hidden Brain, “Schadenfacebook” from NPR
Feeling jealous of the photos friends are sharing of their picture-perfect holidays? Learn why FOMO is such a powerful force.
Something Icky: Terrestrial, “Would you compost your body?” from KUOW
Gross! Terrestrial asks and answers the questions about global warming that you haven’t thought to.
Something about Joy: Invisibilia, “Emotions” from NPR
Scientists are starting to understand why we feel the things we feel. Invisibilia brings their unique storytelling approach to make some complicated science make sense.
Something about Peace: TED Radio Hour, “Forgiveness” from NPR
From the TED stage, we hear stories that seem to push the boundaries of human forgiveness.
Wishing you all a wonderful feast! For more great podcast recommendations listen to the The Big Listen‘s end of year round up.
NPR One lets you listen to a personalized, curated selection of the best podcasts from NPR, public radio and beyond, alongside great news content from NPR and your local member station. Here is a list of the top news stories of the year from NPR One.