The Best Podcasts Of 2021

Over the last several years, podcasts have drastically risen in popularity, and this is undoubtedly tied to their accessibility. Anyone with a smartphone can listen to podcasts for free, and they range in content so widely that there's truly a podcast for everyone. Some podcasts are best for long drives because they're entertaining and keep you awake, for example, and other podcasts are even great for building your self-confidence, which can never hurt.

Podcasts are great not only because they're a free form of entertainment in a world that requires us to pay for everything, but also because they can be enjoyed anywhere, unlike television series or films (via Keep Inspiring). They also help pass time, such as when you're doing chores. You can get lost in the conversation, which is a nice alternative to music. They often even contain helpful hints, such as some podcasts being aimed at new moms.

As with all other media, 2021 was a record year for new podcast releases, but some stand above the rest. These are the best podcasts of 2021.

This podcast uproots country music history in the U.S.

Beginning this year's list of best podcasts is one that first started in 2017, but which recently found a resounding stride with its new episodes. According to The New Yorker, Cocaine and Rhinestones' second season this year has proven just as well-researched and thought-provoking as its predecessor from 2017. This podcast digs into the history of American country music, and its success is entirely thanks to Tyler Mahan Coe, the researcher, writer, and presenter of the show. If you have any interest in country music, this one's for you!

This podcast is juicier than any book

If you're not into country music, perhaps you're into juicy gossip and the unraveling of unabashed truths. In that case, "Once Upon a Time... at Bennington College" is for you (via Entertainment Weekly). This podcast centers not only on the titular institution but also three of its students who also happen to be big names in modern literature. Led by Lili Anolik, the podcast seeks to uncover as much information as possible on Donna Tartt, Jonathan Lethem, and Bret Easton Ellis. She accomplishes this through interviews with professors and even Lethem and Ellis themselves, among others associated with them.

This podcast continues a heartwarming legacy

If you're the sentimental type, this next podcast will be right up your alley. This year, CNN transitioned the ever-popular television series "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" to podcast format following the titular host's 2018 death (via Esquire). This podcast then allows Bourdain's fans to relive their favorite episodes of his series anywhere and anytime, for free. It keeps his memory alive, and it can inspire more and more people to see and embrace the world, its peoples, and its foods.

This podcast is a fresh take on true crime

Many podcasts fans are into true crime tales nowadays, and while this next podcast isn't a murder or kidnapping case, it's just as twisty. According to Entertainment Weekly, one of the best podcasts of the year is none other than "The Dropout: Elizabeth Holmes on Trial." This podcast takes a deep dive into the story of Holmes, the former owner of the Silicon Valley company Theranos, which ultimately fell victim to claims of fraud. Holmes' case includes not only fraud but also deception, twisty romance, and unbelievable claims of what science — and man — can do.

This podcast is as real as humans can get

Finally, there's no greater romance than the one between humans and life itself, which is what Anna Sale covers in "Death, Sex, and Money" (via Esquire). She directly discusses the topics we're told to keep to ourselves, and she does so with compassion and grace. The show ends up being full of heart and genuine laughter, love, and personability. The stories told range in tone from heartbreaking to funny, and isn't that what life's ultimately about?

So, which of these best podcasts of the year will you add to your list in 2022?