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It took me a long time to get into podcasts since they started rising in popularity, but they’re becoming hard to ignore, as smart devices make it easier than ever to plug into a show about virtually anything.

I think that’s what part of the problem was for me initially — where do I start and what’s worth tuning into?

The reality is that for a relatively low cost, anybody can create and disseminate these audio or video files digitally for anyone to find and download on their Podcast app if they’re an Apple user, Google Podcasts for Android users or by downloading a number of apps (some free and some requiring a small fee).

This allows literally anyone to have their own little “radio show” without being regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

I’ve listened to plenty of low-quality productions, but I’ve also heard some that I think are worth listening to and I’d recommend to others.

Whether for sheer entertainment or broadening my knowledge, here’s a list of some of the best podcasts I’ve stumbled upon.

1. Dirty John

It may be unsurprising that I was drawn to this podcast that was a dramatization of a true story narrated and reported by a journalist from the Los Angeles Times. This series, recommended to me by a friend, helped a solo car drive this past fall to the southwest Nebraska/Kansas border pass relatively quickly as I made the trek to my best friend’s wedding.

I was instantly sucked into this drama, particularly because narrator Christopher Goffard lets listeners know right away there’s something a little off about mom’s new boyfriend whom she met online. Was he after love or something else? Each episode revealed more secrets about the boyfriend that pushed his way into the lives of one family.

I knew I enjoyed the podcast right away, but I got a deeper appreciation for it at the conclusion of the series when it’s revealed how the story came about.

The podcast must have been well received, as it is was adapted for television and debuted on Bravo last November.

2. Believed

This extraordinary podcast by NPR gives voice to a few females who were among hundreds victimized by Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s serial sexual abuse and helped put him behind bars.

The podcast explores how Nassar used his power and reputation as one of the best gymnastics doctors to get away with abusing hundreds of women and girls for two decades (at times even when parents were in the same room). It raises concerns about how previous investigations failed to protect what became future victims.

The episode that introduced the series said it best: “We’ll show you how even well-meaning adults failed to recognize Larry’s abuse and how you could have missed it, too.”

3. Dr. Death

Another product of fantastic journalism, Dr. Death dramatizes a true story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a former overly confident neurosurgeon who earned the nickname Dr. Death for botching surgery after surgery, and the system that allowed him to do so for so long.

Produced by Wondery — the same network as the Dirty John series — the podcast looks at how a horrible surgeon was protected by a system that’s supposed to be devoted to healing and providing medical care to those in need.

The podcast makes you consider how vulnerable you are when you go to the doctor’s office and trust your care in their hands. I believe the vast majority of those in the medical field are dedicated and passionate about providing the best possible care to each person who walks through their door. However, this podcast will make you question who has your back (or life) if you encounter one like Dr. Death.

4. In the Dark, Season One

This investigative series hits closer to home, as the team of journalists investigated law enforcement’s investigation following the 1989 abduction of St. Joseph boy Jacob Wetterling. The series includes interviews with other individuals that remember that night, and others who experienced similar incidents around the area and have long wondered if it was connected to Jacob’s abduction. They were reported to law enforcement, but the case wasn’t closed until 27 years later when Jacob’s abductor Danny Heinrich eventually confessed, but not after abducting and sexually assaulting another boy.

The podcast also includes interviews with law enforcement about the case and if they believed they could have done anything different. Jacob’s parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, also talk about the most devastating moment of their life and the search that followed on a national stage and eventually led to the adoption of a sex offender registry.

Do you have a favorite podcast? I’m always looking for new suggestions to make the selection process a little less overwhelming. Tweet me @alyssasobotka or email me