From a musical staged for your ears to stories told by unlikely (and even unnamed) storytellers, 2017's new podcasts had plenty of listening options to entertain our drives, chores and jogs.
But what were the best new podcasts of the year? We're glad you asked.
After more than a year of sharing our favorite Podcast Picks, here's a list of seven new shows that we'll keep downloading well into 2018.
Murder mysteries have become one of the most popular categories in podcasting. However, the team behind Serial doesn't follow the trends they start. With the seven-part S-Town, they turned the genre on its head by creating a show that starts as an investigation of an alleged crime, but turns into an arty, weird (by host Brian Reed's own admission) character study of the town eccentric.
2. 36 Questions
If you're a fan of musicals, there's a good chance you've heard your fair share of cast recordings. But merely listening to those shows isn't the best way to enjoy them... until now, with Two-Up's 36 Questions. Jonathan Groff (aka Frozen's Kristoff, aka Glee's Jesse, aka Hamilton's King George) sings and stars with Jessie Shelton in a three-act story that cleverly uses what sounds like cell phone voice notes to craft a special ears-only production.
3. Dirty John
Don't be thrown by the name Dirty John: This is a sexy show, yes; but not like that. Instead, the podcast from Wondery and L.A. Times asks the question, "How much do you really know someone who you meet online, introduce to your family and marry?" The riveting, nonfiction 6-part podcast begs to be binge-listened.
4. Rough Translation
So, what's it like abroad? That's a vague question, and can mean anything from "How were the international hotels?" to "Did the monuments look bigger in person?" But Rough Translation, hosted by NPR international correspondent Gregory Warner, thoroughly answers the age-old post-trip question by examining the meaning of ideas like race, love and "fake news" in places other than America. And by taking listeners out of their bubbles and into countries thousands of miles away.
5. LeVar Burton Reads
This show is exactly what it sounds like, and even better than you could imagine. The former Reading Rainbow host shares short stories in his soothing baritone, and it feels like a warm, nostalgic hug that will lull you into a cozy sleep.
6. Ear Hustle
"Ear hustle" is prison speak for eavesdropping, so it's the perfect name for a show that lets listeners hear conversations happening right inside of San Quentin State Prison. What sorts of conversations? Well, funny and enlightening ones about the dating-like process of choosing "cellies" (cellmates), the harsh realities of dealing with gang life and what it's like to have fights with your brother in a tiny cell. The series, a partnership between incarcerated men Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, and Bay Area artist Nigel Poor, was a Radiotopia contest winner chosen from more than 1500 entries.
7. Sincerely, X
How can you make TED Talks even more personal? Ironically, by letting speakers remain anonymous. This podcast from TED, in partnership with Audible, shows that storytellers can secretly open up about their own provocative and potentially problematic tales, it gets listeners to talk about often-taboo topics, including stories about mental health issues and professional burnout.