Starter episode: “Adele”
Becoming overly invested in other people’s low stakes yet intricate interpersonal drama is a surefire way to forget your own troubles, and this delightful series exists for that sole purpose. The name is a deliberate misnomer; there are no actual crimes on “Petty Crimes,” just the kinds of trivial mini-battles that inevitably arise when strangers coexist. The hosts — Ceara O’Sullivan, a writer for “Saturday Night Live,” and Griff Stark-Ennis, an actor — take turns telling each other a petty crime story, and then deliver a verdict on who was in the wrong.
Highlights from the first year of episodes include a custody battle over a houseplant named Cassie and a passive aggressive windshield note at a Barry’s Bootcamp parking lot. Each episode ends with a rapid-fire round in which the hosts debate whether hypothetical etiquette scenarios (like not tipping for a cold brew coffee, or riding shotgun in an Uber, or starting to eat before everybody is served at a restaurant), are “criminal or minimal.” It’s all much more compelling than the subject matter has any right to be.
Starter episode: “Signed, Karma”
In a saturated marketplace of meditation apps, Headspace is a long-running mainstay. For the last few years, the company has been releasing podcasts to supplement its popular library of audio meditations, and this Q. and A. show is one of the latest offerings. Hosted by Robin Hopkins, an actress and writer, “Dear Headspace” centers on listener-submitted questions about mental health, relationships, life transitions and more. In each episode, Hopkins answers questions alongside a rotating cast of Headspace meditation teachers, whose voices will be familiar to users of the app. The emphasis on mindful self-awareness, and specifically how our thought patterns can influence our perceptions and behavior, sets this apart from other advice column style shows.
Starter episode: “How to Live in the Present, with Kessonga”
A grab bag of deep dives into quirky cultural questions, “Decoder Ring” is educational easy listening. Hosted by Slate’s Willa Paskin, the show delivers thoughtful, thoroughly researched investigations into mysteries that you may have idly wondered about before, like: “Why is there so much parking in America and yet I can never find a spot?” Or, “How did clowns get so creepy?” While the series has no overarching theme, many of the most memorable episodes focus on the back stories behind internet phenomena — some relatively well known, like the viral optical illusion of #TheDress, and some more niche, like the fan-fueled conspiracy theory around the queer subtext of the BBC’s “Sherlock.”
Starter episode: “The Sideways Effect”
If you’re feeling burned out and overstimulated, even the most lighthearted spoken word content can feel oppressive. This BBC radio program is tailor-made for those moments — immersive soundscapes from around the world, interspersed with snippets of gentle narration. “Slow Radio” transports the listener to places as varied as the Brazilian rainforest, a Arctic glacier and the rugged coast of a British island where marine life thrives in the absence of human residents. Some episodes play like an immersive nature documentary, notably the Christmas Eve edition that followed a reindeer mother’s journey across the Nordic wilderness with her young. Others encourage you to find calm by focusing on specific sounds in a setting like downtown Nashville. It’s impossible not to feel more centered after finishing an episode.