Like Bedtime Stories—But For Adults
We get it; real life is heavy right now. And with podcasts being all the rage, it’s a bit tougher to find lighter stories we can escape with. But not anymore! These fiction podcasts offer unique narratives and outstanding acting and audio quality. Each show is perfect for driving, doing dishes, or even dusting—they make the most mundane tasks all the more enjoyable.
And if you’re traveling by car this holiday season, check out our favorite audiobooks for road trips!
1. Hello From The Magic Tavern
What do Burger King, a shapeshifter, and Wi-Fi have in common? They’re the essential elements of “Hello From the Magic Tavern,” an improv podcast simultaneously dedicated to comedy and fantasy. Conceived by Arnie Niekamp, he’s built an entirely fictional world called Foon (think Narnia), where he’s able to use his spotty signal weekly to teach us humans about it. Each week, he’s joined by his fictionalized cohosts to continue the story, sometimes using audience suggestions. It’s a silly, relaxing show that you don’t need to listen to from the beginning to enjoy (although recommended).
Review | “[I] discovered this during the pandemic. It’s been so helpful, almost as if it were created for healing purposes. Delightful, sharp, very funny.” – Abbas J., iTunes Review
2. Margaritas and Donuts
Started by Faith McQuinn and Amanda Lorraine (or the duo behind Observer Pictures), this limited-series podcast is a top choice for romcom fans who love strong female leads. The plot centers on Josephine, a pediatrician, who tries her hand at dating over 40 after some encouragement from BFF Katrina. Streamed over six episodes (or one supercut), over a dozen actors fully embody the characters for about as real as fiction can get. Featured in the New York Times, “Margaritas and Donuts” is easy to listen to and even easier to love.
Review | “It hits all the perfect beats. It was sweet funny I couldn't stop listening. If you haven't checked it out and you love romance you need to.” – Sara N, Podchaser Review
3. Everything is Alive
If your lamp could talk, what would it say? That’s generally the premise behind
”Everything is Alive,” an unscripted interview show where inanimate objects come alive. While this format may seem strange to some, each item is given a rich personality and history thanks to a band of talented voice actors. Unexpected and brilliant, you’ll walk away with a changed perspective on everyday objects in your life. (Lest you think this podcast is only for oddballs, it has nearly 5K reviews with 4.5 stars!)
Review | “Simultaneously funny, relaxing, and thought-provoking. This is the podcast I recommend to anyone! It is charming, and absolutely original” – Natalie M., iTunes Review
Fans of Radiotopia or Joel Kim Booster will love “MOONFACE,” the new podcast from James Kim. This coming-of-age story follows Kim Booster’s character, Paul, as he tries coming out to his Korean mom. The only problem is, she can’t speak English, and he doesn’t know Korean. Inspired by Kim’s own upbringing, this six-part series demonstrates the power of communication, culture, and complicated family dynamics.
Review | “Thoughtful, vivid, and adventurous, James Kim’s debut fiction podcast is a remarkable addition to the flowering genre. By the end of the whole thing, you’ll feel like you’ve had a glimpse of the raw intensity that this medium, and this style of storytelling, can offer.” – Vulture Review
If you like getting emotionally invested in characters’ lives (or loved, say, “Red, White & Royal Blue” in print), RomComPods will be your new go-to. Each season focuses on a different character: The first follows Claire, who was about to marry her college sweetheart. And the second season focuses on Lucy, a woman ghosted by her crush, who also happened to be her boss’s son. Every episode is packaged neatly into 20-40 minutes with a gratifying finale, as you root for their happily-ever-afters.
Review | “Perfect Rom Com for these crazy times. Light, fun happy episodes to escape 2020. Can’t wait until the next episode!” – Jean M., iTunes Review
If you devoured “True Detective” or “Sherlock,” you’re going to love “Exeter,” a podcast from the Sundance Channel’s streaming branch, Sundance Now. Starring Jeanne Tripplehorn (who herself starred in “Criminal Minds”) as a veteran detective, she must prove her worth to her team and community when a woman she put in prison turns out to be innocent. With an incredibly talented cast, it’s a slow burn serial that will keep you engrossed throughout all 14 episodes.
Review | “The writing is fantastic & the sound effects are so believable that you can visualize the story as it's unfolding. The style of Exeter is so original & captivating.” –Aimee N., iTunes Review
7. The Truth
For totally original stories—which have been featured on popular podcasts like “This American Life” and “All Things Considered”—check out “The Truth.” Each episode is tightly recorded in under 20 minutes, with its own “Black Mirror”-esque themes like bots, enhanced emotional support animals, and inter-dimensional game shows. We love the high-quality production and audio, making us feel entirely transported to another time and place in this equally dark and funny podcast.
Review | “The stories are not only brilliantly performed, the sound design is also beautifully nuanced and well executed. The stories also pack a poignant and timely message.” – Joshua D L., iTunes Review
8. Forties AF
In a time crunch, but want to get your drama fix? “Forties AF” will do just that, with most episodes clocking in under 15 minutes. This fiction podcast focuses on three 40-somethings embarking on a new decade of dating. Described as “sexy, sassy, and funny,” you’ll be moved to tears from both joy and pain as they navigate this new chapter of their lives. It’s entertaining, nuanced, and relatable to women of all ages.
Review | “As a man listening to the relationship and life perspectives of these characters who are women in their forties now, it’s quite eye-opening. I feel a lot of the scenes and dialogue are refreshingly raw, giving us men a view into the inner-dynamics of this demographic.” – Tony E., iTunes Review
9. The New Yorker Fiction Podcast
New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman sits down each month for a conversation and reading with various fiction authors in this podcast, from Tommy Orange to Jhumpa Lahiri to Margaret Atwood. Because guests orate other authors’ books (ones they love), it’s a refreshing and new way to hear a story you may have read before. And if you’re not familiar with the story, don’t worry—each episode sets the stage with context prior to the reading.
Review | “Every month a New Yorker writer picks a New Yorker story to read and discuss. The result unearths a lot of classics and forgotten gems. I love hearing how much the writers love and are influenced by other writers.” – Opal C., iTunes Review
What are some of your favorite fiction podcasts? ? Share their titles in the comments below!