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2023's best podcasts: 'If Books Could Kill,' 'Murder on Sex Island' and beyond

A woman wearing headphones. (Getty Images)
A woman wearing headphones. (Getty Images)

You likely found out your top music artists of the year through Spotify Wrapped, Apple Music Replay or a similar platform, but what about your top podcasts?

Whether you like learning about a new topic, diving deep into a cultural moment or getting lost in a fictional narrative, podcasts provide the perfect medium.

Even though 2023 saw show cancellations, advertisement slowdowns and other hits to the relatively new podcasting business, listenership is up, showing an increasing interest in the medium and a hopeful outlook for 2024.

“People want to make this stuff,” says Nick Quah, podcast critic for Vulture. “The question now is, ‘How do we make an ecosystem that’s able to support all of it in sort of a rational, sustainable way?’”

The best podcasts of 2023 from Nick Quah

This podcast focuses on commentary and criticism of popular nonfiction books in relation to American culture and politics. Namely, the show centers ‘airport books,’ often lauded for popular science or smart thinking and which host Michael Hobbes calls “the superspreader events of American stupidity.”

Host Simon Parkin invites a different guest each episode to discuss which five video games they would immortalize in their own perfect, imaginary games machine, thus creating their “perfect console.”

In this podcast, Jo Firestore — author of a novel of the same name — reads from her audio book during each episode. The psycho-sexual thriller tells the story of a reality TV show with a missing contestant and an undercover detective fighting to make it out alive.

Boston’s Big Dig effort has become synonymous with waste and corruption. Host Ian Coss unpacks the history of the highway and tunneling effort with an ever-increasing price tag and what lessons can be learned for infrastructure projects in the future.

This show explores the addiction treatment industry in its #MeToo reckoning. When host and reporter Lauren Chooljian increasingly began receiving tips about New Hampshire’s largest addiction treatment center, she started investigating claims of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of one of the powerful industry leads.

Part investigation, part memoir, this podcast looks back on the 1997 racial hate crime killing of Lenard Clark, a 13-year-old Black teenager, by older white teens. The crime took place on Chicago’s Southside, and host Yohance Lacour unpacks his investigation as a reporter and the impact the case had on his own life.

Gabrielle Healy produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Catherine WelchGrace Griffin adapted it for the web.

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