“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree,” wrote the English novelist Emily Brontë.
In other words: It’s fall, y’all!
From the back-to-school buzz to the thrill of Halloween and all the toasty treats in between, fall is the most romantic (and temperate) season. Plus, it’s got the widest range of fashion options (Sweaters! Scarves!), the most Instagrammable scenery and a critical mass of must-see TV. And pumpkin spice everywhere you look (at least in the U.S.)
But you’ll need a soundtrack to your pie baking, long introspective walks and candlelit nights in. Here are cozy, captivating recommendations for every mood.
👻 Ghosts, conspiracies and true crime: Creepy podcasts for spooky season
- The Midnight Library (indie)
You know you’re in for something deliciously weird when the podcast begins with a warning: “The following is intended for bizarre audiences only.”
Created by the crew of the Astonishing Legends podcast, The Midnight Library has all the texture and nuance of a real place, a repository of macabre (or just strange) tales from history and myth. “Literary Oracle” Miranda Merrick and her “Loyal Companion” Mr. Darling spin yarns about poison gardens, hauntings, sea creatures and mummy cats — all in a style that can only be described as “retro radio-hour ASMR.”
Essential episode: “Witch Bottles”
- The Magnus Archives (Rusty Quill)
Like a post-postmodern X-Files, the archives of the Magnus Institute are devoted to the research of mysterious (and creepy AF) phenomena. Writer (and protagonist) Jonathan Sims is the new head archivist at Magnus. As he tackles its seemingly disorganized files, he discovers what’s really going on.
If that sounds derivative, that’s just because it’s impossible to describe its twisty 200-episode narrative arc, labyrinthine meta-plot and huge cast of characters. But it’s worth visiting (and re-visiting) again and again. The critically lauded show wrapped in March 2021 after five seasons, but its cult following (including an extensive fanbase on Tumblr and Reddit) mean there’s always something new to unearth.
Start with: Episode 1 – “Angler Fish”
- Snap Judgment Presents: Spooked (Luminary)
Gather ‘round the virtual campfire: This anthology of real-life scary stories is guaranteed to give you chills. Firsthand accounts of encounters with deceased pets, prophetic dreams, haunted houses (and hauntings of every kind) are accompanied by atmospheric sound design and music. Listen in the dark if you dare.
Crucial creepiness: “Florence in the Machine,” parts 1 and 2
- Someone Knows Something (CBC)
True crime is such a staple of podcasting (and such a fall mood), we can’t compile this list without one. But the explosion of the genre is sometimes a little yucky — you know, trauma as fodder for entertainment.
Produced by Canada’s premier public broadcasting company and award-winning documentarian David Ridgen, Someone Knows Something is more journalism than performance, but it has plenty of heart. Over six seasons, the show has covered some of the most high-profile (and several lesser-known) cases of missing people and unsolved murders in Canada. Ridgen’s compassion and sensitivity shine through every interaction with victims’ families.
Bingeworthy beginning: Season 3, Episode 1 – “The Wrong Body”
🍎 Back to school pods: Blank notebooks, sharp pencils, fresh ways to learn something new
- The Allusionist (indie)
Language nerds, unite. Hosted by the charming, dulcet-voiced Helen Zaltzman, this long-running celebration of linguistics, etymology and adventures in wordplay is always witty and whip-smart.
Ever wondered how regional accents evolved, why curse words became “dirty” or about the multiple meanings of the word “dude”? Admit it — if you haven’t, you’re curious now.
Sleepless starter: Episode #124 – Nightmare
- Ologies with Alie Ward (indie)
Science reporter and humorist Alie Ward invites scientists, historians and other experts to obsess over the study of, well, a bit of everything: the animal kingdom, human anatomy, the natural world and more. A sampling: lampyridology (the study of fireflies, which Alie also refers to as “sparklebuttology”), desairology (mortuary makeup) and vexillology (flags).
Creepy kickoff: “Corvid Thanatology (Crow Funerals)” with Kaeli Swift
- Decoder Ring (Slate)
Who was Murphy and why do we live under his Law? Why is art in hotels so bad? And WTF is up with “Truck Nutz”? These cultural mysteries and more are unpacked, if not solved outright, by Slate’s TV critic Willa Paskin and guests who examine the history and meaning of cultural artifacts both physical and ephemeral.
Puzzling primer: “Mystery of the Mullet” (or the aforementioned “Truck Nutz”)
- 70 Over 70 (Pineapple Street Studios)
If you’re deflated by those “30 under 30” lists, this one’s for you. Host Max Linsky’s in-depth interviews with guests over the age of 70 (21 so far out of a planned 70) include TV legend Norman Lear, retired senator Barney Frank, chef Alice Waters and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. But their storied careers are far from the focus of the show. Linsky prefers to have conversations about life’s big questions…
Silver staple: “I’m a Better Person Now Than I Was” with Dan Rather
- Toure Show (DCP Media)
Music journalist and political commentator Toure talks to Black musicians, politicians, athletes, authors, activists and luminaries of all kinds — with a focus on how they became successful and what listeners can learn from their journeys.
Recent interviews include Macarthur fellow and “How to Be Anti-Racist” author Ibram X. Kendi, former Teen Vogue editor and activist Elaine Welteroth and Chef Jerome Grant, who created the culinary program at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Can’t-miss chapter: “Levar Burton — I Am Who I Am”
🎧 Cuddle up: Lose yourself in soul food, secrets and soundscapes
- The Secret Room (indie)
Podcasts are such an intimate medium, and this is one of the shows that best capitalizes on that inherent closeness.
Host/creator Ben Hamm gets to know the anonymous interviewee before they reveal their most closely guarded secrets, which are sometimes shameful, strange or just plain juicy — and often heartbreaking.
Salient subterfuge: 115 – “Veiled Conception”
- Counterjam (Food 52)
This music-foodie mashup is like hanging out with friends at the grooviest brunch place in town (or better yet, hitting your favorite food truck). Chef Peter J. Kim explores the intersection of culture and cuisine with musicians, actors and other culture-makers alongside an eclectic, perfectly curated soundtrack that perfectly complements every episode.
Amuse-bouche: “Flavors of NYC” with Jarobi While & Kelis
- Twenty Thousand Hertz (indie)
The sounds we hear every day aren’t just background noise. The alert tones on our phones, the percussive intro when Netflix loads, the jingles in TV ads, Muzak in elevators… they all have origin stories and highly engineered sonic structures.
Sound designer Dallas Taylor’s curiosity is infectious, and he produces each show to maximize aural pleasure (volume up, headphones on, goosebumps imminent).
Dark beginning: #107 “Dies Irae”
🕯 Cozy pods: Cue the crackling fireplace and *all* the hygge vibes
- Gilmore Guys (Headgum)
The quintessential cozy TV show is even funnier when you break down every obscure pop culture reference and celebrate every eccentric character. Longtime fan Kevin T. Porter and newbie Stars Hollow denizen Demi Adejuyigbe provide an episode-by-episode commentary of all 153 episodes of “Gilmore Girls” (including the miniseries reboot), as well as interviews with cast members and plenty of listener mail.
In later seasons, they dive into “Gilmore” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s other projects: the short-lived dramedy “Bunheads” and new hit show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
In medias res: “You’ve Been Gilmored” (with Emily Heller)
- A Beautiful Mess (indie)
Like Martha Stewarts for millennials who prefer vinyl to Spotify and DIYs to Pottery Barn, sister duo Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman have been cooking, crafting and impeccably decorating for years on their blog of the same name. Their podcast is a casual and super-cozy complement to their cheerful aesthetic.
Home renovation, raising creative kids and running a small business are recurring topics, but there are unexpectedly poignant moments, like their take on growing up in an ultra-conservative evangelical Christian environment, and why they left it behind.
Object lesson: How to “Nancy Meyers” Your Home
- All Things Cozy (indie)
Longtime friends Matt Piwowarczyk and Gillian Walters are connoisseurs of cozy. Their biweekly chat is about as wholesome as it gets. They review (and relish) scented candles, hearty soups, warm drinks, mystery novels and furry companions; needless to say, they were in their element during the pandemic lockdown.
A reviewer calls it “a warm cinnamon roll of a podcast,” which is just about perfect.
Fall favorite: #80 – Turning Over a New Leaf
Audrey Mast is a Detroit-born, Chicago-based writer, editor, educator, obsessive podcast listener and amateur astrologist. This content was produced collaboratively with PodReacher.