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Podcast Pulse: The Best New Podcasts of 2021

From historic tales to media deep-dives, here are the best new podcasts of 2021… so far!

new podcasts

In the Apple podcasts app, one of the main categories is “New and Noteworthy.” Yet, a lot of the podcasts featured there aren’t that noteworthy, and aren’t even new! If you’re looking for new podcasts to add to your rotation, the best way to do so is to corner someone else who listens to podcasts and ask them for their latest finds. Fortunately, I’ve compiled my list of the best new podcasts of 2021 for you! A lot of these podcasts started toward the end of 2020, but they’re still shiny and new.

Maintenance Phase

It’s the wellness podcast to end all wellness podcasts. In “Maintenance Phase,” writers Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes tackle trends and debunk myths surrounding health and wellness culture. Covering topics like “The Biggest Loser,” anti-fat bias, diet pills and snake oil, it offers a mix of infuriating facts and the relief of laughing through the pain. “Maintenance Phase” is my new podcast obsession.

Recommended episodes: Snake Oil, The Biggest Loser, The President’s Physical Fitness Test, Fen Phen & Redux, Anti-Fat Bias

Lolita Podcast

When host Jamie Loftus was a teenager, she read “Lolita” – and she never stopped thinking about it. “Lolita Podcast” is a deep dive into one of literature’s most controversial books and the ripple effects it had on our society and culture. Haven’t read the book? Don’t worry! A large part of the first episode is devoted to summarizing the book’s most important points, and the rest of the podcast is focused on “Lolita” adaptations, subcultures and literary criticism. “Lolita Podcast” covers its sensitive subjects with extreme care.

Recommended episodes: Listen from beginning to end.

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Real Dictators

Are you a history buff? “Real Dictators” is a documentary-style podcast about the history of real-life dictators, from General Tojo to Kim Jong-il. Host Paul McGann narrates the stories with a compelling sense of urgency, and the interviews with experts provide much-needed historical context. This polished podcast is a great way to sink into some dark history.

Recommended episodes: Kim Jong-il series, Joseph Stalin series

Seen and Not Heard

“Seen and Not Heard” is an audio drama about a young woman, Bet, who has recently become hard of hearing. She struggles with family interactions, attempts to learn sign language and even falls in love. The audio aspect allows the listeners to hear exactly what Bet is hearing at times, putting you directly in her shoes as she tries to understand those around her and to be understood herself. Created by Caroline Mincks, who is also hard of hearing, it’s clear that “Seen and Not Heard” comes from a place of authentic personal experience.

Recommended episodes: Listen from beginning to end.

Competitive Literature

Sure, they both read the book, but who read it best? On “Competitive Literature,” Julie Greiner and Grace Freud compete to see who has the best opinions about a book chosen by their guest of the week. It’s a long podcast, and the winding discussions on different books often turn into hilarious tangents. Julie and Grace are judged on who had the best reading of the book, their understanding of the text, and whether they even read the book in the first place. In the words of the podcast description, “Who is smart? Who is bad? All that and more will be answered on Competitive Literature.”

Recommended episodes: A Series of Unfortunate Events with Jamie Loftus, Sapiens with Doug Freud

What podcasts are you listening to? I’m always looking for new ones. Tell me about them in the comments below!

Looking for even more podcasts? Check out my articles about the most bingeworthy podcasts and the best podcast episodes of all time.

Comments
  • Barbara C.

    There are two you should check out- “This podcast is killing you” done by two graduate students and each episode is about a different contagious diseases. If you are interested in science, you will like it.
    And my favorite “Better Friendships” with Julie Reuter. It explores how and why friendship is important.

    Reply
  • Christopher S.

    I started my own podcast in November called In My Footsteps. It combines New England history and travel tips with nostalgia, lifestyle, entertainment and more! Plus they’re all less than an hour long so they’re easy to listen to!

    Reply
  • crissy s.

    I would recommend, “That’s Outrageous”. The hosts talk about off beat news stories of the week – things they find either outrageously good or bad. Plus they then review a movie often starring Patrick Muldoon and have on interesting guests.
    Recommend ep 20 with author Mike Sacks

    Reply
  • crissy s.

    A good one is “That’s Outrageous”. The hosts talk about the quirky news stories of the week that they find either outrageously good or outrageously bad. They often have on interesting guests and have a penchant for actor, Patrick Muldoon.
    Recommend episode 20 with author Mike Sacks.

    Reply
  • I have been super impressed with the podcast called “The Change Academy,” done by Monica Reinagel, nutritionist and Brock Armstrong, exercise physiologist. These two savvy weight loss experts attack the subject by focusing on behavior modification and increased daily movement, replacing bad habits with good ones.

    Reply
    • I’m a fan of that podcast too! In every episode Monica and Brock make it seem like I can break all my bad habits.

      Reply

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