There is a reason why some people find podcasts so addictive.
It’s been suggested that the art of audio storytelling can boost levels of the ‘love-hormone’ oxytocin, making the act of listening a feel-good exercise.
Then there’s the convenience factor – you can listen on-demand, at any time. Exercise your mind while you exert your body at the gym, tune in on the train, or even drift off to a podcast in bed.
Best of all, they’re free.
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If you aren’t already part of the Serial-boom (over 100 million downloads and counting), here’s 13 quality podcasts to convert you… 1. 99% Invisible
A show about design that steers clear of mid-century chairs and overpriced lemon juicers. Roman Mars (the coolest name in podcasting) uncovers gripping backstories in seemingly mundane man-made things, such as garbage collection in Taipei; those inflatable men with the boing-y arms found in used-car yards; and the board game Monopoly.
Further listening: 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy.
2. Missing Richard Simmons
In early 2014, Richard Simmons, the fuzzy-haired, synonymous-with-the-80s, health-enthusiast “went missing”.
An instant hit (debuting at number one on the Apple podcast charts) the show’s format is reminiscent of Serial – investigative journalism punctuated with personal musings. Filmmaker Dan Taberski hunts for his friend, revealing a hidden side to the eternally-smiley Simmons.
If you enjoy this try: Mystery Show.
3. Start Up
Start with episode one: a very meta moment. The podcast about startup companies, starts with the start up of the startup company that produces this podcast, Gimlet Media.
Founder Alex Blumberg gives a no-holds-barred account of the making of his company: from the elevator pitch, to naming the company (terribly), to overcoming major setbacks.
Season 4 moves into a different gear, becoming somewhat sensational, shadowing the infamous Dov Charney, American Apparel founder and ex-owner, as he propels his latest venture.
More inspiring innovators: How I Built This.
A “show about curiosity”, each episode is an audio documentary where mind-blowing science meets irresistible storytelling. In other words, perfect for anecdotes that impress workmates and revive boring dinner parties.
These podcast superstars use ingenious methods to manipulate the audio format; such as using a choir as a metaphor for how a Mantis Shrimp perceives billions of colours.
Episode to start with: Reasonable Doubt, a fascinating facet to the complex story of Steve Avery from Netflix’s Making a Murderer.
5. This is About
Intimate stories from quirky corners of Australia. From a dungeon mistress turned counsellor to a play turned United Nations scandal. It’s impossible to tell what’s in store each week for this new show from RN.
For more stories: The daddy of podcasts and mother of Serial, This American Life.
6. Freakonomics Radio
The bestselling-book-turned-TV-show-turned-podcast reveals the “hidden side of everything”.
Journalist Stephen Dubner and economist Steven Levitt join forces to intensively analyse the surprising and weird ways humans operate using behavioural economics.
Favourite episode: When Willpower Isn’t Enough.
7. Song Exploder
Each episode, a musician dissects their song into its basic components of chords, riffs, influences and experimentation. The unique journey of songwriting is always compelling, even if the actual song (satisfyingly played in its entirety at the end of each episode) is not to your liking.
The show pulls a truly eclectic guest list, from a wide array of genres, including Metallica, Björk and Bonobo.
More Music? Try: Desert Island Discs.
With a plethora of podcasts on true-crime, Criminal stands out as one of the most memorable.
Host Phoebe Judge’s rock-steady voice eerily examines a different crime every week, including identity theft (with a twist), brownie lacing, and good old serial killing.
More crime? You Must Remember This gives a chilling recount of the Manson murders.
9. Reply All
Billed simply as “a show about the internet” Reply All has evolved from cute anecdotes about online culture to a program that shows the world-wide effect of the web.
A revolution in Guatemala starts on Facebook. Needy mothers access breast-milk markets. And then there was that time the hosts took microdoses of acid every day for week to improve their work performance. Only to have their mothers reflect on this, with each other, five episodes later.
Get more Gimlet gold with: Heavyweight.
10. Word For Word
This newcomer has the makers of the Macquarie Dictionary tell stories behind words and phrases.
Discover 2016’s Word of the Year (nominees include “fake news”, “deconstructed coffee” and “halal snack pack”) and anticipate the moment editor Sue Butler will drop “the big one”, in the episode about swearing.
Lost for words? Also try: The Allusionist.
11. Revisionist History
Does what it says on the box. But does it? Bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell, revisits events of recent history. “Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.”
The well-researched history podcast presents a fresh spin on the way an event was widely reported, offering a rethinking, rather than retelling, of events.
Relive more of the past with: Remarkable Lives, Tragic Deaths.
Devour fascinating facts about food and drink as the hosts interview historians and scrutinise scientists.
Much-loved consumables such as chocolate, oysters, beer and wine are investigated, as well as some contentious trends, such as kombucha and veganism.
Hungry for more? Try: The Sporkful.
13. Bret Easton Ellis
Best-selling author Ellis (American Psycho, Less Than Zero) starts each episode with a monologue that can last 20 minutes. You could be forgiven for not realising this is an interview.
Fans of his writing will welcome the pop references and cultural commentary he packs into his never-ending sentences and pointed questions. “Moby, how does it feel to be white, privileged, cis-gender male in 2016?”
Past guests have included Kanye West, Judd Apatow, Molly Ringwald and Marilyn Manson.
Into interviews? Check out: Conversations.