Turn on, tune in, get smart
Putting out a podcast is as easy as buying a laptop, podcast mic and just going for it. So, predictably, there are a seemingly endless number of podcasts out there, and the vast majority of these are, well, not great.
So we’ve done a little research and come up with a list of (in our opinion) the best podcasts you should be listening to right now.
Human psychology is fascinating, and the rise of pop psychology is a testament to this. Yet, what’s most fascinating is how we can be fooled, fool ourselves and generally make a mess of making the right decision or finding the truth.
Which is why You Are Not So Smart is both an important and fascinating podcast. Run by David McRaney, each episode focuses on the weird ways we make mental errors, delude ourselves and develop weird beliefs. You’ll learn just as much about how you can avoid these mistakes as you’ll learn about people in general.
It also has an amazing intro song, in case you were still on the fence about it.
Vox has done an amazing job with its Explained series on Netflix, but sadly those episodes are few and far between, so it’s a good thing they also run a daily podcast by the name of Today, Explained. As a daily podcast, the topics tend to be very much about what’s happening in the news right now.
Unlike most daily news shows, Today, Explained takes the time to consult experts and really dig deeply into what’s going on at the moment. It’s one of the best podcasts to get a good grip on the facts and factors that play into the headlines, which might be the only thing many people read before forming their own opinions. If you listen to Today, Explained you don’t have to be one of them.
True crime has always been a popular genre, but podcasts have absolutely blown up the fanbase for these sordid tales of naughty people doing very naughty things. Sword and Scale is widely considered to be one of the very best examples.
The production values are sky high and you’ll be treated to a mix of narrated stories, interviews with experts, criminals, victims and anyone else with insight into each particular crime.
At the time of writing there are a staggering 153 episodes spread over six seasons. So you have plenty of catching up to do!
Is it really necessary for us to punt one of the most popular podcasts in the world? Maybe not, but if you somehow haven’t heard of the Joe Rogan Experience or have, but aren’t a listener, we’re here to tell you that it’s definitely one show you should give a chance.
The Joe Rogan Experience is hosted by, of course, Joe Rogan. A man who rose to fame largely as a comedian. It turns out, however, that he’s also a fantastic interviewer, letting a wide variety of interesting guests spill the beans on what they believe and think. The show is certainly irreverent and, at times, politically incorrect, but no one can ever accuse it of being boring!
Rogan will have anyone on the show if he thinks people should hear them. Many scientists, tech luminaries and politicians can be counted among their number, but there’s no telling who Mr. Rogan will have on his show next. That sense of “anything can happen” is definitely a part of the podcast’s lasting appeal.
Money makes the world go ‘round, but very few people really understand how money works, how it affects us and what happens when the financial world really goes south. Planet Money explains complex financial concepts and events in a way that anyone can understand.
It’s another NPR hit and an essential listen for anyone looking to understand economics. Which, ultimately, should be all of us.
Analog(ue) is a tech podcast that’s actually about how that tech makes people feel. As tech fans it’s easy to get caught up in the specifications and numbers, but hosts Myke Hurley and Casey Liss concentrate on how these technologies fit into our lives and how people can better make tech a part of their lives, rather than making tech the point of their lives.
It’s incredible that someone else didn’t call dibs on a name like “Bookclub”, but yes this aptly-named podcast is all about the written word. It’s an excellent way to discover new notable books to read and features interviews and discussions with the authors of the works themselves.
Bookclub is a BBC Radio 4 production, so the quality is professional. If you still love reading in the age of the internet, it’s a match made in heaven.
Speculative fiction and real-world science have always had a cosy relationship. A lot of the technology we have today was inspired by shows like Star Trek or books and writing by authors such as Arthur C. Clarke. Which is what makes Flash Forward such a compelling podcast.
The podcast starts with a “what if?” question and then takes us to the future to see what the consequences might be. So you’ll hear stories informed by experts based on premises like “what if there was no more darkness” or “what if we never fixed the Y2K bug?”.
It’s mind-bending entertainment that makes you think. Can there be a better endorsement than that?
Radiolab is one of many NPR radio shows that gets syndicated as a podcast. NPR has a stellar record for producing quality content and Radiolab stands with the best of them. Well, it was one of their standout shows, but now Radiolab is distributed by WNYC.
Radiolab episodes are exceptionally well-produced and run about an hour in length. The show tackles heavy topics philosophy and science, while scoring it to strange and wonderful experimental music. Interviews with experts on these topics have a live and unedited feeling, while complex concepts are broken down so that a non-expert audience can easily understand it.
With almost two million regular listeners, it’s clear that anyone with an interest in science or philosophy should give this trippy show a listen.
Podcasts Saved the Radio Star
With such a list of high-quality podcast entertainment, you should be set for any length of “me time” you might be facing. No matter which podcasts suit your personal taste, you’re sure to come out the other side a more educated and informed person.
What do you consider to be the best podcasts out there? Have you considered creating your own podcast? These are the essential podcast tools you need to get started.