As someone who writes about podcasts year-round, ‘End Of Year List’ season is one of my favourite times of the year. Choosing the ‘best podcasts of 2023’ can be a chance to elevate some shows that I think everyone should be listening to. But it’s also a lot of pressure to pick the ‘best’ podcasts because of all the millions of podcasts, what makes a ‘best’ show?
At the end of the day, all I can offer to readers are my favourite shows – and those aren’t necessarily going to appeal to all listeners. I was lucky enough to have the space to recommend a WIDE range of podcasts in my guest issue of Pod Bible magazine, and was absolutely thrilled to have Closet Confessions as our cover stars for that issue. As a team, we offer listeners The Pod Bible Polls to highlight some of the podcasts we’ve featured over the past year in the magazine and online. But we’ve no doubt missed podcasts that deserve to be in there!
So in an attempt to share as wide a range of podcasts as possible, and get a group consensus on some shows worth checking out, I’ve once again asked our team and contributors to give you their recommendations.
I’ve asked them to recommend the new show they think stands out, and the podcast that has been their personal favourite in 2023. This is the Pod Bible ESSENTIAL guide to some of the best podcasts in 2023…
New pod of the year: Ghost story
Ghost stories are usually too spooky for me, but throw in some family drama and true crime? I’m hooked. Ghost Story is Tristan Redman’s investigation into the haunting from his childhood, a murder in the house next door and a hunt for answers beyond the veil. This series keeps humanity at the centre of the eerie by questioning: who is the teller of our stories? And what, or who, lingers? A thrilling and hearty story to round off 2023. Listen here >>
Pod of the year: Lights Out
One of the superpowers of podcasting is the ability to create intimacy between creator and listener. Lights Out does this beautifully. This anthology documentary series curates deeply personal stories, some of loss, hope or belonging, and each with a reminder: there is more that brings us together than divides us. The show will no longer be broadcast by BBC Radio 4 but I hope they find a new home in 2024 to continue their refreshing work. Listen here >>
Best new podcast: Where Are You Going?
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones. Host Catherine Carr has quick chats with passersby all over the world – dog-walkers in Ely, God-botherers in New York City, sightseers in Amsterdam – which open with the titular question. Where they go from there is always surprising, and Carr is excellent at gently and non-judgmentally probing to find the amazing stories and people walking past all of us every day. In a year when more I’ve been narked than ever by pods spinning out thin stories over too many episodes, each 10- or 15-minute pod is exactly the size and shape its stories need it to be. It’s a really beautiful thing. Listen here >>
Favourite podcast of the year: Believe in Magic
The scam-artist exposé is still massive, but none have managed to perform such a thorough and unexpected turnaround in my sympathies. Megan Bhari became a huge star within child cancer fundraising circles, managing to work wonders while fighting her own brain tumour. Then parents of other children with cancer started to suspect something was off, and went to war with Megan and her mum Jean. The story is gripping enough through its first four episodes, but soon Megan is in real danger and something altogether darker, and more distressing colours the final eps. A report into Megan and Jean and their relationship provided a chilling coda. Listen here >>
Best new podcast: The Girlfriends
Novel’s The Girlfriends tells the story of doctor Bob Bierenbaum through the perspective of his ex-girlfriends, led by Carole Fisher, what was first mindless gossip and jovial investigation between friends, about the enigmatic local eligible bachelor became something more sinister. The highlight for me is Alayne, the sister of one of Bob’s ex’s Gail Katz. With haunting sound design the story of Gail is the main thread and her sister tells it with such admirable strength. Listen now >>
Favourite podcast of the year: Love, Janessa
Janessa Brazil actress/model image alone has been used by many scammers to lure men into online relationships and give up thousands in cash – there tends to be scepticism when it comes to catfish scammers especially toward the victim. BBC World Service and CBC’s Love, Janessa handles it with sensitivity and thorough research, Host Hannah Ajala unravels a story of the business of a catfishing and the emotional weight it can have on a victim but also it asks the question who is the person behind the image? Listen now >>
Best new podcast: Springleaf
James Acaster has one of those personalities that makes him the perfect storyteller. His tongue-in-cheek one-liners, iconic comedic timing and sharp wit are all loveable aspects of his work and his delivery. Springleaf is up there as my top pick for the Best New Show for 2023 because of its great storytelling and unexpected plot twists. It perfectly bridges the gap between humour and knowledge and is jam-packed with an incredible bunch of comedians, and guests. Listen now >>
Favourite podcast of the year: Redhanded
I’m a serious lover of all things true crime, and I love that Redhanded covers a range of it from a-list celebrities to horrifying small-town investigations, family secrets and more. The show is carried by Suruthi Bala and Hannah Maguire, who bring to life trauma, gruesome horror and more in short but engaging episodes. I love that the show provides a multitude of facts, whilst touching upon popular conspiracies. Listen now >>
Best new podcast: Where Are You Going?
The audio equivalent of people watching, Where Are You Going? has been a revelation for me this year. As someone who works from home for most of the week I’ve really missed the mini interactions that a commute or a visit to the shops during your lunch break would create. With WAYG? Catherine Carr asks strangers in the street one simple question – where are you going? – and the answers are always hard to predict. With episodes recorded across the country and beyond, there’s a rich variety of voices to be heard from and stories that have me laughing in one moment then shedding a tear in the next. My only gripe is that the episodes aren’t longer. Listen here >>
Favourite podcast of the year: Sliced Bread
An older podcast but one I only got into this year is the BBC show Sliced Bread, a series hosted by Science presenter Greg Foot (who helped get me and my daughter through lockdown with his daily live YouTube shows) that investigates the latest hyped up products or fads to see if they really are the “best thing since sliced bread”. Topics such as personalised vitamin subscriptions, manuka honey and ice baths have been looked into, and while your preconceptions may often be correct before listening, there’s always an abundance of fascinating facts and take-aways to help inform future purchasing decisions. Listen here >>
Best new podcast: A Little Queer Podcast
Queer role models are far easier to discover these days, but sometimes it’s nice to have someone just explain everything for you, and A Little Queer Podcast does that perfectly. Capri Campeau and Ashley Whitfield are beautifully honest about their experience about their queer journey, queer identity in tv and film, your first queer relationship and so much more. They are eccentric and loud, and discuss so many areas of the queer experience in such a casual and accessible way. The perfect podcast for baby gay’s or people looking to understand queer culture. Listen here >>
Favourite podcast of the year: Welcome To Nightvale
Anyone that ventured into Tumblr back in its golden age will have heard of this show. It’s weird (like weird weird) but if you’re into fiction, the supernatural, and conspiracy then you’ll love it. I’ve stumbled across it before but have loved bingeing it properly this winter while wrapped up warm. For those few who aren’t familiar with the show, Welcome To Nightvale is a twice monthly radio show from the fictional town of Nightvale, where every conspiracy theory is true. Tune in for ‘The Weather’ which consists of jazzy beats, listen in to local gossip about the lurker in the lake, and enjoy the smooth voice of your host across some 200+ episodes. I also love the fact there is so much fan content for this show to consume across every platform you could think of – even a novelisation of the show! Listen here >>
Best new podcast: Oh What A Time
The podcast cover looks as beautiful as a Pod Bible Magazine cover and that’s because our illustrator Dan Draws actually created this podcast cover!. Oh What a Time mixes history and comedy, forging discussions around bizarre laws to more weightier discussions such as healthcare through the ages and The Great Depression. The presenters, Elis James, Tom Craine, and Chris Scull, all bring knowledge and laughs as well as knowing when to sit back and play the ignorant layman when required. To say it’s easy listening almost implies an insult, but it’s actually testament to the relaxed and skilled conversations. And you will end up googling to double check some facts. Listen now >>
Favourite podcast of the year: Pod Save the UK
If you need satire in your life, then this is it, but it’s more than that… The Mash Report’s Nish Kumar is able to provide some laughter to the weekly news, but he also has an obvious need for activism, looking to solve issues with the show’s expert guests, and Coco Khan uses her background in journalism to bring the best out of the guests and topics. The big news stories are covered in ways conversational media isn’t able – if you want information and inspiration, then this is the weekly podcast for you. Listen now >>
Best new podcast AND Favourite podcast of the year: The Retrievals
Susan Burton narrates a five-part journey into Yale Fertility Clinic, unveiling a nurse’s conviction for tampering with fentanyl vials during egg retrievals. Susan remains objective as she rotates between the women and unfolding events, exploring the complexity of determining the ‘right’ outcome. It feels like the first time the women collectively and publicly process their dismissed pain by Yale. The collision of motherhood, female pain, and the law during sentencing, coupled with the judge’s reconciliation, is gripping. A compelling listen. Listen now >>
Favourite podcast of the year: #DEAD2ME: The Interviews
The supporting podcast to the Crime+Investigation show #Dead2Me, this show goes deeper into the harrowing experiences of those close to victims of crimes stemming from digital-age dating. Each episode, hosted by criminologist Dr Honor Doro Townshend, features heart-wrenching testimonies from families and experts, exploring the warning signs of domestic abuse and digital dangers. Listen now >>
Best new podcast: Bitter/Sweet
In a year where we’ve continued to see a lot of new podcasts, and a lot of high-budget investigations, Bitter/Sweet has offered a palate cleanser for me. The show is not unique in its focus on memorable meals, but it delivers these stories in such a special way. We hear guests’ stories through gentle nudges from host Natasha Miller asking them to explain atmosphere, smells, and more. But these are sandwiched between Natasha’s own story unpacking grief for her mother twinned into her own meals. Natasha has a lovely voice for the storytelling – she won the Bronze ‘Best Narrator’ at the Audio Production Awards – and the emotional vulnerability adds so much. Plus, episodes are not bloated, fitting under twenty minutes. Listen now >>
Favourite podcast of the year: Sherlock & Co
According to my podcast app, I’ve listened to over 500 different shows this year, and Sherlock & Co. is the one I am most excited to see pop into the top of my queue. I’m a bit of a sucker for a Sherlock Holmes retelling in films and television, but I generally don’t listen to fiction podcasts. I think this gets past my barrier because it feels like a documentary recorded in real time. We even interviewed John and Sherlock earlier in the year, and pulled them up on a few of the ethical questions around true crime podcasting. Fittingly for a Sherlock retelling, this show feels really clever – the production is really smooth, yet through little audio-in-jokes we still get the impression that John is a bad producer. I love the reference to Sherlock’s hobby with the dramatic violin-based music, and even though I know the stories, these versions are different enough to be interesting all over again. But my favourite aspect of Sherlock & Co. is how surprisingly funny it is. I laugh out loud at John far too much, and I’ve needed that from my podcasts this year. Listen now >>