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UPDATE November 30, 2021

Apple Podcasts presents the Best of 2021

Apple celebrates this year’s best and most popular podcasts and their creators
An illustration representing the Apple Podcasts Best of 2021.
Apple recognizes exceptional podcasts and their creators for their unique ability to help listeners through this challenging and uncertain time.
Each year, Apple recognises the best and most popular podcasts for their exceptional content, unique ability to engage audiences, and innovation in craft, spanning production, presentation, sound design, and more, that expand the definition of podcasting and deepen its impact on listeners worldwide.
This year, Apple Podcasts Best of 2021 features shows that provided listeners with a powerful sense of connection in a challenging and uncertain time. Curated by Apple Podcasts’ world-class editorial team, listeners can explore Editor’s Picks featuring local creators, and charts for the top new shows that engaged listeners throughout 2021.
“2021 marked the start of a new chapter for podcasting with shows that moved us in ways unlike ever before,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats. “We are honoured to recognise the phenomenal creators who are redefining podcasting with this year’s best shows, and to help more listeners around the world discover, enjoy, and support their inspiring work.”
Apple Podcasts is pleased to recognize “A Slight Change of Plans” with Maya Shankar from Pushkin Industries as Best Show of the Year, and “Anything for Selena” with Maria Garcia from WBUR and Futuro Studios as Newcomer of the Year. These deeply personal yet universally relatable shows grapple with profound change, perceptions of identity and self-worth, and the meaning of belonging, with thought-provoking discussions that reflect the human experience.

Best Show of the Year: “A Slight Change of Plans” with Maya Shankar

Illustrated portrait of Maya Shankar.
Maya Shankar, a cognitive scientist who’s no stranger to big, heartbreaking change, helps listeners process their own experiences of change through vulnerable, mind-expanding conversations with engaging guests.
Maya Shankar is no stranger to change. Before she was a cognitive scientist who founded the White House Behavioural Science Team and served as the first Behavioural Science Advisor to the United Nations, she had a different plan. “My whole childhood revolved around the violin, but that changed in a moment when I injured my hand playing a single note,” said Shankar, who was a student of Itzhak Perlman at The Juilliard School at the time. “I was forced to try and figure out who I was, and who I could be, without it.”
“A Slight Change of Plans” blends compassionate storytelling with the science of human behaviour to help listeners navigate their own big change. “It’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed by any given change. I’ve often found myself thinking, ‘I’ve never gone through this particular change before — what do I do?’” Shankar said. “But while our changes may appear different on the surface, cognitive science teaches us that the strategies we use to navigate those changes can be quite similar. Which is heartening to realise! It means we can learn from changes that don’t look like ours.”
The show features stories about all sorts of change, from Tiffany Haddish discussing how she navigated the foster care system and discovered that she had a rare gift that would change her life, to John Elder Robison, who underwent experimental brain treatment to try and increase his emotional sensitivity. The show dives deep into the science of change with experts like Adam Grant and Angela Duckworth, and features illuminating conversations with Oscar-nominated actor Riz Ahmed, Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves, professional rock climber Tommy Caldwell, and other real-life inspirations like Shankar herself, who had her own slight change of plans earlier this year.

Newcomer of the Year: “Anything for Selena” with Maria Garcia

Illustrated portrait of Maria Garcia.
Maria Garcia, a queer Chicana journalist, ponders what it means to belong through her relationship with artist Selena Quintanilla.
“Anything for Selena” asks profound questions about belonging. “I loved Selena since I was 7 years old,” said journalist Maria Garcia. “I couldn’t articulate this when I was younger, but I felt a profound sense that she mattered — not just because of her music, but because of her expansive cultural impact.”
That set Garcia on a personal quest, leading her to ask questions about Latino fatherhood, fraught relationships with race and language, and her own identity. “We tried to make meaning of Selena’s life and legacy,” she said. “I wanted to write her a love letter, an ode, a beautiful story.”
“We started production in the summer of 2020,” Garcia added. “I recorded the show with just my microphone and MacBook in my walk-in closet, which we padded for crisp sound, so the podcast truly came together in the thick of the pandemic. It felt natural to use the tools of my craft — rigorous reporting, vulnerable storytelling, cultural analysis — to do Selena’s legacy justice, to prove that she left an indelible mark on Latino identity and American belonging. And so many people wrote to tell me that the podcast made them feel seen.”
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