The best podcasts are the ones that make us laugh, learn and feel happy, right? At a weird time in our lives when we really, really need these things, podcasts can be a bit of a saving grace.
The beauty of podcasts is that you can listen to them anywhere, while doing anything; whether it's going for a run, sunbathing in your garden, meandering around your local area, or hiding away in your bedroom telling your family not to disturb you as you've got a very important meeting while actually trying not to laugh too loud at your favourite podcast host. Ssshhh... we won't tell if you don't!
So if you've never entered the wonderful world of podcasts before, or if you're looking for a new listen to enliven your lockdown life, we've gathered the best 16. From outright hilarious masterpieces such as My Dad Wrote a Porno, to sensitive and brutally honest shows such as How to Fail with Elizabeth Day and the unveiling of bizarre scientific mysteries such as Life's Little Mysteries, we've compiled something for everyone.
And where can you find them? Many podcasts can be found right here...
So check out our top 16 and take your pick. Download at home and listen anywhere. This lovely bunch has kept us going throughout lockdown, so we hope they bring you some joy too.
1. The High Low
Prepare to get a whole lot smarter – The High Low is the weekly news and pop culture podcast from journalists and authors Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes. It's a ridiculously entertaining mix of seriousness and silliness, with the pair discussing everything from the cult-like Westboro Baptist Church to Tiger King and Wagatha Christie. Every so often they run an author special, too, playing host to a writer who's caught their eye – previous guests include mental health campaigner Bryony Gordon and bestselling author David Nicholls. Funny, insightful and really, really clever, it's a Real Homes team favourite.
2. My Dad Wrote a Porno
Can you even BEGIN to imagine the pure horror of knowing that your own dad has written a porno?! The very thought makes us squirm in our chairs and want to eradicate every single copy of the book and forget that it happened at all. This very thing happens to Jamie Morton who – rather than quietly dying inside – decides to read the book out loud on a podcast for all to hear. Joined by his pals Jamie Cooper and BBC radio one's Alice Levine for readings, the book turns out to be completely hilarious, worryingly factually incorrect in places, and the source of endless banter for the trio as well as its many listeners. Reading out a chapter every week and making comments that'll send you into uncontrollable fits of laughter, and have your family wondering what on earth you keep laughing at, if you haven't listened yet, it'll be a brilliant pick-me-up right about now.
3. The Great Indoors
The Great Indoors is a must for any interiors enthusiast. In each episode, Kate Watson-Smyth and Sophie Robinson discuss the latest interior trends and topics, bringing their expert opinions and often differing tastes. From lockdown decorating to colour psychology, and from granny chic to panelling, whether you're thinking of redecorating your home or you just love the world of interior design, it's an in-depth deep dive into everything you need to know right now.
4. How to Fail
Nearly every member of the Real Homes team has listened to this and we are all massive fans. Journalist Elizabeth Day interviews a different well-known person each episode, and they discuss their three biggest failures. While it may seem a bit sad, it's not at all! It's a celebration of things that haven't gone right and recognition of what we can learn from them to make us succeed better. The pure honesty, emotional self awareness and exposed vulnerability shown by both Elizabeth Day and her guests is humbling, inspiring and somewhat empowering. Guests include Fearne Cotton, Jane Garvey, Dame Kelly Homes, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Lily Allen and so many more talented icons who are brave enough to open up on air.
She's even done some special podcasts in the last few weeks discussing vulnerability and anxiety throughout this bizarre time - well worth a listen.
5. Off Menu
Hands up if you're a food lover! Who isn't?! This foodie podcast is a real easy listen. Comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster set up a magical restaurant where they invite different guests every week, and talk through their dream starter, main, side, desert and drink. The usually over dinner banter you could expect from two comedians and their guest ensues with much hilarity. Warning: this will make you feel hungry (and also long for the joy of going to a restaurant and being served food!)
6. Dolly Parton's America
How much do you know about Dolly Parton? Striking appearance, and Jolene? Anything else? There is SO much more to Dolly Parton's story, and this podcast does an excellent job of exploring the culture she's from and the impact she's made on the world. Did you know it was common for male country musicians to sing about murdering women? Dolly Parton was the first to write a similar kind of song but instead from the women's perspective. She faces regular hostility for the appearance she's chosen, yet she brushes off comments and turns them into a joke with ease. One listener commented, 'This podcast was my life for about a month,' because once you've dipped your toe into her world, you'll be desperate to find out more.
Hosted by broadcasters Fi Glover and Jane Garvey (host of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour), this weekly podcast is packed with honest, fun and engaging chat that's not only topical but is guaranteed to make you giggle every time. The duo are joined each week by a different guest, with past guests including the likes of DJ and presenter Sara Cox, journalist Laura Kuenssberg and ex-footballer Ian Wright, ensuring there’s plenty to keep you entertained in each episode.
Ologies cover the many areas of study ending in 'ology.' Think psychology, geneology, but there are so many more that you didn't even know existed. Each episode delves into a certain 'ology' and leaves you feeling enlightened with knowledge into an area that you had no idea would be so interesting. From Penguinology (yes really!) to Disasterology, and from Cabinology (literally about cabins) to virology (very topical right now) there are tons of subject areas to dive into, instantly giving you a fascinating insight. Comedian and science correspondant Alie Ward interviews a professional '...ologist' in every episode, revealing the facts that you'll want to tell your friends about on your next zoom call.
9. Desert Island Discs
This is just such a great podcast to put on while you're cooking dinner or relaxing in the garden. Guests, otherwise known as 'cast aways' reveal the eight songs, a book and a luxury that they'd take with them to a desert island. The podcast plays a shorter version of each song and the guest shares why it's important to them, making it a lovely mixture of music, honest human experience and fun. From Daniel Radcliffe to Melanie C and Zoe Ball, find out the soundtrack to the most talented people's lives and get lost in the stories behind them.
10. Squiggly Careers
If our current climate has left you a little worse for wear job wise, this podcast can give you the knowledge and motivation to rethink your next step. Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper discuss all things work, from stress management to tackling taboos, and from self-esteem to neuroscience, helping you to either cope with the new demands of working from home, or navigate unexpected changes. It's an intelligent, sensitive and informative listen that'll give you a giggle too.
11. Table Manners
In horrible times like these, sometimes you just want to listen to a group of nice people having a chat around a dinner table – that's where Table Manners comes along. Hosted by singer-songwriter Jessie Ware and her mum, Lennie, the pair play host to a different celebrity guest each week. From the off the jaunty theme tune cheers you up, and what follows is 30 minutes to an hour of cheerful, soothing conversation. Jessie and Lennie cook up a different meal each week, and you're treated to the sound of steak sizzling in a pan or Lennie rattling around in the kitchen while Jessie has a natter with their guest. It's uplifting, calming, and sure to make you very hungry.
12. Life's Little Mysteries
When dogs look like they're smiling, are they really feeling happy? Why is the sea salty? What would happen if every volcano on earth erupted at once? If you've got a curious mind and questions like this are the ones that keep you up at night, this is the podcast for you. In a bid to solve 'Life's Little Mysteries' it explores everything from the solar system and our planet, to the human body and tech. The experts Mindy and Jeanna from Live Science explore the most interesting and bizarre scientific mysteries, and share and solve them in a fun way. We bet you'll be dropping into conversations all your knew scientific knowledge.
13. Happy Place
Well if there's any time when you should listen to this podcast, it's right now. Have you found that being in lockdown leaves you with soo much time in your own head, no matter how much you try to keep yourself entertained? In each episode, Fearne Cotton talks to famous people about life, love and loss, and everything in between, in a bid to reveal what happiness means to them. It's a truly heart-warming podcast that'll make you feel all the feels, think about the positive and escape our mentally chaotic lives.
14. David Tennant Does a Podcast with...
Actor David Tennant plunders his little black book of celebrity mates like Whoopi Goldberg, Tina Fey, Gordon Brown and Olivia Colman, and invites them for an hour’s talk. With more time to dig a little deeper and less spent on plugging new movies/books/TV series, it’s a franker, more sweary version of a chat show. The stars loosen up as David is ‘one of them’, and feel free to go off at random tangents, such as Michael Sheen having a minor meltdown over photoshoots making him feel like a performing monkey, and weeping to War of the Worlds.
15. The Missing Crypto Queen
This excellent investigative series has all the ingredients for a must-listen podcast: an enigmatic business woman; a new crypto currency that promised people riches they could barely believe, and a scam that saw people around the globe lose their hard-earned savings, often with heartbreaking consequences. With first-hand accounts from people involved, this eight-part search to find the mysterious Dr Ruja Ignatova (the aforementioned Cryptoqueen) and get to the bottom of what has been called ‘one of the biggest scams in history’ will have you gripped from the start.
16. Love Stories
Author and journalist Dolly Alderton's Love Stories might not be being updated any more, but the archive ready and waiting for you to listen back to them whenever you wish. Released with the author's bestselling book Everything I Know About Love, each episode sees Dolly in conversation with a special guest about the loves of their lives – their passionate loves, their unrequited loves and their forever loves.
Looking for a good cry? Matt Haig's episode, in which they dive into his struggles with mental health, is a devastating and inspiring listen. Want something lighter? Try Dolly's episode with Ruth Jones. Our personal favourite is with the dreamy Stanley Tucci, where he talks pasta, working with the iconic Nora Ephron, and why Meryl Streep is still his dream girl. Heart = melted.