Podcasts have the power to engage and inspire us like no other medium, turning humdrum commutes and daily walks into moments to be savoured. Whether you want to be transported by an old-school Hollywood scandal, educated on some of the most important topics of the moment or enlightened on the newest wellness movements around the world, we’ve rounded up the best new podcasts to subscribe to now.
Pulling the Thread with Elise Loehnen
This new release from the former Goop chief content officer, Elise Loehnen, features a different wellbeing expert each week, from thought leaders and scientists to doctors and healers, each offering up insightful conversations on topics including call-out culture, white feminism and healing male depression, as well as deep dives into the relationship between women, food and hormones and explorations on where the patriarchy came from. Given Loehnen’s background it’s not as out-there as you might think, and throughout it all she seeks to answer some of life’s biggest questions: Why do we do what we do? And how can we come together to heal and build a better world?
We Were Always Here
It’s 40 years since the first cases of HIV – or ‘Gay-Related Immune Deficiency’, as it was known then – were identified in the UK, and this new series from Broccoli Productions recalls the early days of the Aids crisis in London and hears from those who were most affected by it. Hosted by influential black sexual health activist and programme director Mark Thompson, it starts with his own experiences as a young gay black teenager in Brixton before delving into largely untold stories of others living with HIV, among them trans people, sex workers and people of colour. It makes for powerful, life-affirming listening.
The Way We Are with Munroe Bergdorf
Writer and LGBTQ+ activist Munroe Bergdorf’s new series celebrates those who have turned “trauma into triumph”, taking a look at how the big and small events in their lives have shaped who they are today. Famous faces include Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander sharing his experiences of bullying and poor mental health, actor and broadcaster Jameela Jamil on accountability culture vs cancel culture, and Skunk Anansie’s Skin discussing being both a gay and black woman, at a time when talking about such subjects was shied away from. Refreshingly honest, thought-provoking and inspiring, these are conversations guaranteed to uplift.
Love is a Crime
Joan Bennett may not be a name you’re familiar with, but the starlet was one of film’s most popular femme fatales in the Forties – until she was marred by scandal in 1951 when her husband, Walter Wanger, shot her agent and lover, Jennings Lang. This starry series by Vanity Fair – the magazine’s first ever narrative podcast – retells the little-known scandal in all its glory. With an all-star cast, including Zooey Deschanel as Bennett and Jon Hamm as Wanger, and narrated by film critic Karina Longworth, creator of the hugely popular film history podcast You Must Remember This, it delivers a potent hit of old-school Hollywood glamour.
To a Lesser Degree
With the arrival of COP26, conversations around the climate emergency have reached fever pitch, so there’s never been a better time to tune into the latest offering from The Economist. This eight-episode series, hosted by the title’s global energy and climate innovation editor Vijay Vaitheeswaran, features a different expert guest every week, with Bill Gates discussing why adaptation in agriculture is critical to feeding the world and US climate envoy John Kerry revealing why there’s much to be optimistic about. With a smart take on everything from greenhouse gas emissions and transport to international policy and finance, this new podcast is the easiest way to stay up-to-date with the latest environmental updates.
The Flipside with Paris Lees
Hosted by journalist, presenter and campaigner Paris Lees, each episode of this BBC Radio 4 show explores opposing opinions on everything from family and identity to sex and happiness. A cross between science and storytelling, Lees poses big, punchy questions – like ‘Are we obsessed with sex?’ and ‘Can humans truly forgive others?’ – to a diverse roster of guests, ranging from a female incel (involuntary celibate) and a proud swinger to a Palestinian mother whose young daughter was killed by an Israeli soldier. Powerful and thought-provoking, each episode delivers a unique insight into a potentially thorny topic.
Women vs Hollywood
It’s just over a century since Hollywood was born and women remain more side-lined than ever in the film industry, comprising fewer than 20% of lead characters and only about 10% of directors – and that’s in a good year. The figures for intersectional identities make for even more depressing reading. This new podcast hosted by Empire journalist Helen O’Hara and based on her popular non-fiction book of the same name features an impressive roster of filmmakers, actors and critics – including Phyllida Lloyd, Anna Smith and Tina Gharavi – as they explore how we got into this situation and what needs to be done to change the picture.
The latest true crime hit from Wondery centres around a Halloween party that got out of hand, leading to one of its hosts being found murdered the following day. Matthew Shaer and Eric Benson investigate a cold case from 13 years ago, looking into how Arpana Jinaga was found dead and – most crucially – how her murder remained unsolved for so long. Featuring many of the ingredients you’d expect from a compelling true crime tale, including suspects dressed as the devil and psychics called in to consult, it also takes a serious look at mislaid justice, race and policing.
Heal With It
Hosted by psychologist Maytal Eyal, Heal With It investigates some of the most fascinating and unexpected approaches to mental health from around the world. Through episodes exploring the healing power of barbershops in the US to conversations around the importance of teaching empathy in schools and an organization that trains grandmothers in Africa to deliver evidence-based therapy on park benches, Eyal discovers the weird and wonderful ways different communities are revolutionising the way we look after our increasingly fragile mental health. It turns out healing is everywhere – you just have to know where to look for it.
A guaranteed hit with armchair detectives, this latest true crime offering from Parcast uncovers the fascinating long-held secrets revealed by people taking their final breaths. Kicking off with the gripping cold case of the 1922 murder of film director William Desmond Taylor, to which Hollywood film actress Margaret Gibson confessed as she died from a heart attack over 40 years later, the series explores conspiracies, like the one surrounding CIA officer E. Howard Hunt and his role in JFK’s murder, and surprising revelations, including the fact that Rolling Stones founding member Brian Jones was actually killed by building contractor Frank Thorogood, even though his death in a swimming pool had long been regarded as an accident.
Victoria’s Secret Angels are known for their impossibly toned physiques, bronzed skin and glossy manes – but scratch below the surface and you’ll discover some ugly truths. This explosive documentary series, co-hosted by US journalists Vanessa Grigoriadis and Justine Harman, unpacks the rise and spectacular fall of the lingerie megabrand, which has dominated American culture for nearly 40 years. Through eye-opening interviews with former employees and models, we learn about the brand’s disturbing links to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, as well as revealing just how far the Angels would go to maintain those ‘perfect’ bodies.
Am I Normal?
This TED Audio Collective podcast takes the titular question and runs with it, offering a different approach to the age-old conundrum of just how normal we are: by tackling it with data. Journalist Mona Chalabi explores whether you can use studies and spreadsheets to answer a whole range of the questions that constantly swirl around in our heads – from ‘How many friends do I need?’ to ‘When will I get over my breakup?’ and ‘Why are we so obsessed with women’s fertility?’ – inviting a range of experts, strangers and even her mother to fill in the gaps left by looking at numbers alone.