Millions discovered the beauty of podcasts last year when Serial – one woman’s investigation into a complicated 1999 murder case – became an international obsession.
In its success, Serial brought podcasts to the masses and taught us they were perfect listening while walking to work, catching public transport or cooking dinner.
But when Serial season one ended, we were left with a massive audio void, crying out to be filled. Without totally writing it off, season two of Serial hasn’t quite been able to fill that void, and so we’ve begun to scour the Internet for more.
Of course, not all podcasts are as nail-biting as a murder investigation; some offer obscure information or historical facts you would never have learned otherwise, or tell stories that would never make it onto commercial TV.
Some wrap up the week in popular culture so you can look like you know what you’re talking about, while others turn complicated economic theory into very listenable anecdotes.
Basically, there’s a podcast for every occasion, and we’ve wrapped up the best below.
Listen when: You want to hear incredible stories weaving together people, science and technology.
In short: One of the most consistently fascinating and entertaining podcasts, Radiolab tells the stories begging to be heard.
For example, did you know most people smile slightly more with the right side of their face?
Or that in World War II, Japan sent pilot-less hot-air-balloon bombs to the US and no one was allowed to talk about it?
Trust us, Radiolab episodes will quickly become your conversation artillery at dinner parties.
Listen when: You want to hear stories about the Internet and humanity intertwining.
In short: Considered hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman bring us this weekly podcast about the Internet.
But don’t mistake Reply All for a technology podcast – Vogt and Goldman find fascinating, often painful, stories centred on people and their relationship with the web.
Top episodes include the IT manager who moonlights for a website that talks people through bad acid trips, or the story of 22-year-old ultra-religious Hasidic Jewish man who bought a computer and it ruined his life.
Listen when: You want to hear about how economic theory relates to our everyday lives
In short: You’ve probably heard of the best-selling book, but did you know Freakonomics is also a podcast releasing weekly episodes relating economic theory to things like prostitution, willpower and soft drinks?
Hosts Steve Levitt (a droll but funny academic) and Steve Dubner (an archetypal New York journalist) come together to answer questions like ‘How can Norway afford so many Teslas?’ and ‘Why do people keep having children?’.
Listen when: You want to hear from well-known, inspirational women.
In short: Girls creator and feminist icon in the making Lena Dunham collaborated with BuzzFeed to create this 10-part podcast, in which she enlists the help of her famous female friends to break down the trials and tribulations of being female in today’s world.
Expect fascinating anecdotes from actress Emma Stone and writer Zadie Smith to name a few, and don’t be put off by the subject matter – Women of the Hour is just as often hilarious as it is serious and contemplative.
Listen when: You want to go on a journey to find the answer to a ridiculous question.
In short: The Mystery Show sees host Starlee Kine attempt to solve one mystery per episode, but there’s a catch: the mystery can’t be solvable just by using the Internet.
Kine really makes The Mystery Show with her irreverant asides and eerie ability to get people to open up about their lives.
Some of the best mysteries she tackles are actor Jake Gyllenhaal’s actual height (a lot more difficult to find out than you may think) and the hunt for a belt buckle owner decades after they lost it.