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Posted on January 17, 2017, at 3:56 p.m. ET
What it's about: With hosts Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby, it's about race and culture. The podcast touches on subjects like Asian representation in Hollywood, how "political correctness" is used as a weapon, and what it means to be a race ambassador. The kinds of topics they cover are so important in times like these!
Start with this episode: "The Explanatory Comma" is one of the best podcast episodes that's ever been done about what it means to include an audience.
—Nicole Nguyen & Julia Furlan
What it's about: It's all about the untold history of Hollywood in the 20th century, which host Karina Longworth (through narration and re-creation) ties into that period's historical events you've heard of (and those you haven't — seriously, there's some weird fringe stuff in here).
Start with this episode: There are some great episodes on McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklist, but the best episodes of the series by far are the 12 (!) on Charles Manson's Hollywood.
What it's about: In each episode, host/producer/reporter Rose Eveleth brings to listeners a new version of the future, sometimes blending your worst dystopian fears with headlines in the best way.
Start with this episode: As 2017's headlines get weirder and more terrifying, the "Extra! Extra!" episode on a future when there's no line between fake and real news is an excellent place to begin.
What it's about: Take a deep dive into New York history, narrated by the highly informative — and incredibly entertaining — Greg Young and Tom Meyers. They give virtual tours of neighborhoods, like the East Village, and tell fascinating stories of New York traditions, like watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve. Plus, they make lots of corny jokes and have great banter.
Start with this episode: "The Grid — Commissioners Plan of 1811" (Episode 122). It tells the awesome story of how New York's streets were put in place, and they reference it in a lot of other episodes.
What it's about: Famous author Malcolm Gladwell goes back and reanalyzes events, people, and ideas from history and examines how they could be reapplied to today. Think of it as A People's History of the United States for the podcast crowd.
Start with this episode: Episode 1, "The Lady Vanishes," is a mind-blowing, little-told story that perfectly sets up the idea of the podcast.
What it's about: The host of TED Radio Hour, Guy Raz, talks to famous entrepreneurs — think L.A. Reid of Epic Records and Kevin Systrom of Instagram — and finds out how they built such successful businesses.
Start with this episode: The show's first episode, with Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, is incredibly inspiring and made me want to get shit done.
What it's about: Linguistics professor and author John McWhorter looks at language and linguistics in a way that reminds you that language is a tool we use intentionally, every day. In past episodes, former hosts Mike Vuolo and Bob Garfield banter about everything related to words — from the origin of swear words to why the dialogue in Seinfeld still resonates so widely.
Start with this episode: "Get Your Creak On," episode 24, examined vocal fry just as it was becoming a lightning rod for controversy.
What it's about: It's a shorter-form podcast where musicians break down what went into making a particular song. It's edited in a way that makes it seem like they're just talking and talking, putting them (instead of the host, Hrishikesh Hirway, who's also a musician) and their thoughts and music front and center.
Start with this episode: The episode on the music from Arrival is really wonderful, as well as a recent one with DJ Shadow and the one with the Long Winters.
What it's about: A show for people interested in Disneyland and Disney World history that also gives updates about what's going to happen next in the parks.
Start with this episode: Episode 116 is about a Muppets-themed restaurant that was never built. It's such an interesting look at a part of Disney World we'll never get to know.
What it's about: It's (obviously) about food, but they have really cool guests every week covering different food-related topics, and they also do quick reviews of kitchen equipment and have food experts answer listeners' questions about cooking. It's a great show for food nerds who want to improve their cooking skills, hear about everything food-related, and learn more about the science of cooking and baking.
Start with this episode: Episode 402, "The Barefoot Contessa Speaks Out," tells the Food Network chef's fascinating back story, from working for the White House (not as a chef) to becoming a TV star.
What it's about: This short-run offshoot of Radiolab delves into lower-profile Supreme Court cases and shows how even those have a major impact on our lives. It's incredibly well-produced.
Start with this episode: Episode 1, "Cruel and Unusual," is an eye-opening look at the death penalty. You won't believe how it started and how it's evolved.
What it's about: It literally explains who the latest hottest celebrity is for people who are out of the loop. This podcast genuinely changed my life because I now feel so hip and in tune with all the celebrity news I never needed anyway. I now confidently know who Bella Thorne is.
Start with this episode: The Jackie Evancho episode may finally help you figure out who's performing at Trump's inauguration.
What it's about: Karl and Will Brueggemann invite composers and music experts to break down and explain video game music from all generations.
Start with this episode: Episode 243, which discusses the original Super Mario theme music.
What it's about: It's hosted by a musicologist and a songwriter, who get together to talk about what makes popular music so...popular. It's insanely fascinating because they break music down into component parts and really get into why some songs are so addictive and how so much of music is related and created.
Start with this episode: "Purple Lemonade," which talks about Prince and Beyoncé, which is really everything you need to know.
What it's about: Dan Carlin's an excellent storyteller and a huge history fan. He knows exactly when to talk about general historic events and when to zoom in to the gory and terrible details.
Start with this episode: Check out the "Blueprints for Armageddon" episodes for a terrifying chronicle of WWI.
—Jose Luis Hernandez
What it's about: It teaches you about why random things that might seem boring at first are actually fascinating and worth understanding.
Start with this episode: The episodes on pigeons, broccoli, and crying are all particularly good.
What it's about: It covers the ups and downs of starting a business. Each season has been a bit different — Season 1 focused on a single media outlet, Season 3 profiled a different startup in every episode from a cross-section of industries, and Season 4 is tracing Dov Charney's attempt to build another clothing company.
Start with this episode: My two favorites from Season 3 are the ones about Grooveshark and the now-shuttered Bento.
What it's about: Each week, the podcast looks at an object from the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and gracefully tells the story behind it with the help of some wonderful guests.
Start with this episode: The first episode of the series, "NASA's Human Computers," is a great place to begin, especially for folks who're excited about Hidden Figures because it tells the true story that inspired the film!
What it's about: It summarizes the research on both sides of trendy or contentious topics so you can be more informed for the next spirited debate — or cocktail party — you have.
Start with this episode: The gun control episodes were especially illuminating for me.
What it's about: This show talks about all things China and the hosts are full of humor and charisma. (One of them was formerly a long-haired member of a legendary pioneering rock band in China.) Their discussions on the country are so rich, genuine, and balanced that it's like a journalism school course on China.
Start with this episode: The episode about China's millennials and how they compare with millennials in the US.
What it's about: It's technically a design and architecture-themed podcast, but it actually explores the "hidden" stories of all kinds of things, like the NBC theme chimes and the origin of water fountains. The episodes are short — usually 20 minutes long or less — which means there's no fluff, but they always find fun, creative ways to produce it through music and sound effects.
Start with this episode: "Structural Integrity" is an award-winning episode about a building in midtown Manhattan that was on the verge of collapse, the surprising person who figured it out, and how they fixed it without anyone noticing. It's outstanding.
What it's about: This is a podcast that's both informative and funny, and it teaches me things like how to find interesting stories and be a good reporter — but it's so genuine and full of great stories that average listeners would enjoy it too.
Start with this episode: My favorite episodes are the ones with Jack Hitt, Ben Taub, and Kathryn Schulz, to name a few.
These two podcasts cover topics related to race and identity, will give you plenty of laughs, and feature interviews with delightful guests you either may have heard of or will be psyched to meet.
To see all of the shows produced by BuzzFeed's PodSquad and to learn about politics, internet ephemera and more, look for BuzzFeed on iTunes podcasts or on your favorite podcast app.
Aspiring Elaine Benes.
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