In Review

Top podcasts 2016: Seven shows to listen to this year

Tune into tales of love and loss, eerie true crime and discussions about the search for alien life

If you have never listened to a podcast or are looking for something new to make the commute pass more quickly, here's a list of some of the best podcasts currently around, including science shows, true-crime, comedy and discussions about consciousness and love.  

The Infinite Monkey Cage

Explore the big science questions about life and the universe in a light-hearted way in this regular BBC Radio 4 podcast. Charmingly impatient comedian Robin Ince and the "sexy face of physics" Brian Cox discuss issues such as the possibility of finding life on other planets, the truth about reality and whether we can travel through wormholes. The show also features guest scientists and stirs in enough gags to lighten up the more mind-boggling facts and theories.   

The Adam Buxton Podcast

English comedian, writer and actor Adam Buxton tackles the podcast genre with characteristic wit and verve. Each episode, you'll hear interviews with the likes of Jon Ronson, Richard Herring and Sara Pascoe, as well as songs, musings on life and music and reliably amusing responses to listeners' questions. 

Serial season two

Following a hugely successful first season which explored the events surrounding a real murder case in a "whodunnit" format, the second season of Serial heads to Afghanistan. It examines the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier who walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured and held by the Taliban for nearly five years. The podcast investigates the ripple of consequences that spread out from his actions, the people affected and the choices they made.

Sword and Scale 

For those who can't get enough true crime, Sword and Scale is a fascinating podcast that draws its name from the symbol of justice. Unlike Serial, it walks listeners through a series of bizarre crimes and complex cases that may have been solved, but still raise unresolvable issues. Creator and host Mike Boudet calls it an "immersive audio experience", featuring interviews with crime experts, trial snippets and even 911 calls. 

This is Actually Happening

Producer Whit Missildine presents real-life stories with life-changing consequences. The show uses first-person stories to reveal eye-opening tales of everyday people, from shipwreck survivors to children searching for their missing parents - and a man who was shot five times, pronounced dead and woke up in a morgue.   

Modern Love: The Podcast

Based on the popular column from the New York Times, this weekly audio series examines the many aspects of love, loss and redemption with some great guest readings. You might hear Judd Apatow, Sarah Paulson, Colin Farrell or January Jones reading an essay or story about love, followed by a conversation with the writer and host Meghna Chakrabarti about the emotional significance of the story.

Sampler

This is a podcast for people who really love podcasts. It regularly scouts the podcast world and makes a selection of the most interesting, noteworthy and new shows you haven't heard of just yet.

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