15 podcasts that will make you smarter

Marc maronRick Diamond/Getty ImagesComedian Marc Maron is one of the best podcasters in the business.

There are so many great podcasts out now that you’re guaranteed to find some you’ll get addicted to.

And though there are plenty of entertaining options to check out, you can make the most of your next commute, workout, or laundry run by listening to one guaranteed to teach you something.

We’ve given you a few to get going, but it’s by no means a definitive list.

From Terry Gross’ intimate conversations on “Fresh Air” to the “Radiolab” team’s clear but in-depth explorations of science, these are our top picks for expanding your listening diet.

'This American Life' provides a deep look into American society.

This American Life

Since 1995, Ira Glass and his team have been telling moving and sometimes hilarious stories from people across the United States.

In more recent years, the team has beefed up its news reporting, from making the financial crisis understandable to speaking to people affected by this year's immigration ban.

Find it here »

'Reply All' immerses you in the weird world of the internet.

Gimlet Media

You probably use the internet every day, but Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt will give you more insight into its effects on our culture than you were ever aware of.

They have covered great stories like the ways ISIS uses social media and how an Orthodox Jew ultimately left his family behind because of the world he discovered online.

And Goldman and Vogt's goofy rapport will keep you hooked episode to episode.

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'Fresh Air' will give you an intimate look at your favourite writers, celebrities, and journalists.


NPR's 'Fresh Air' host Terry Gross has been on the air for more than four decades, and her interviewing skills have earned her accolades like the Peabody Award, the Columbia Journalism Award, and a spot in the National Radio Hall of Fame.

Gross may have a smooth, relaxed speaking style, but the way she digs deep into her interview subjects will keep you engaged throughout the conversation, whether it's about Jake Gyllenhaal's acting process or what a writer learned from covering Mexican drug cartels.

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'WTF' offers unexpected revelations about success.


Few things can be more instructive than a life story, and comedian turned broadcaster Marc Maron draws the ups and downs of life out of people with a certain raucous grace.

Some especially intellectual episodes include his interviews with comedian Wanda Sykes, actor Vince Vaughn, the late Robin Williams, and, most impressively, President Obama.

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Revisionist history


Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell broke into podcasting last year, starting fights with Vassar and Princeton and looking at how the unusual history of Leonard Cohen's song 'Hallelujah' can illustrate the genius of art.

'A lot of these episodes are angry -- or even funny -- in a way that my books are rarely,' Gladwell told Business Insider. 'My podcast unleashes my id.'

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'Planet Money' will simplify some of the most complex and important economic issues in the world today.


NPR's 'Planet Money' team describes its show like this: 'Imagine you could call up a friend and say, 'Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy.' Now imagine that's actually a fun evening. That's what we're going for at Planet Money.'

Twice a week, you'll get an entertaining, well-reported look at issues like the Greek economic crisis that will leave you satisfied with a foundational understanding of the subject, all in just 15 minutes.

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'The Axe Files' takes you inside the mind of the most influential people in politics.

University of Chicago

David Axelrod was Obama's senior adviser and is still a proud Democrat, but on his podcast he makes the effort to get to know all of his guest's positions and how their lives led them to their beliefs, whether they're Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski or Obama himself.

His conversations offer interesting overviews of all the people shaping the American political conversation.

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'Radiolab' will help you appreciate how mysterious science is.

WNYC Studios

Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich make high-level science accessible, fun, and powerful.

For example, they can make a topic as seemingly banal as 'colour' absolutely riveting.

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'Embedded' brings you into the story.


Kelly McEvers and her team go deep with their reporting for 'Embedded.'

What's remarkable is that McEvers has explored topics from the dramas in minor league basketball to the hidden stories behind prominent police shootings (both of and by cops), and each time you're guaranteed to get a glimpse of that week's topic in a new light.

Find it here »

'99% Invisible' will give you the lowdown on design.


You don't have to have a particular interest in design or architecture to become hooked to '99% Invisible.'

After listening to Roman Mars and his team tell the stories like how a 'fish cannon' is used to keep fish populations thriving to why some urban architecture is intentionally 'hostile' to homeless people, you'll find yourself paying much closer to fine details of the world around you.

Find it here »

'The Tim Ferriss Show' will help you understand the mechanics of success.

The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss, the author best known for 'The 4-Hour Workweek,' has wide-ranging longform interviews with people at the top of their fields, from a former Navy SEAL commander to a billionaire investor, to break down their best tools and habits for his listeners' benefit.

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'StarTalk Radio' will open your mind to the cosmos.


Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is like the most fun professor you never had, and his podcast is a hilarious crash course on the science of the cosmos.

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'Invisibilia' will lead you on a journey to the frontier of psychology.


Radiolab spun off 'Invisibilia,' whose name is Latin for 'all the invisible things.'

It's a podcast about the unseen, unconscious forces that guide our lives: biases, dreams, and quirks of perception.

Find it here »

'Freakonomics Radio' will show you surprising connections.

WNYC Studios

Journalist Stephen J. Dubner and economist Steven D. Levitt became sensations when their book 'Freakonomics' was published in 2005.

In 2010, Dubner launched a podcast with the same mission as their best-selling books: ferreting out connections between seemingly unrelated things.

Find it here »

'Hardcore History' teaches you the most fascinating stories in history that you never learned in school.

Hardcore History

Dan Carlin says he's not a historian. Think of him more as an aggregator of history, weaving together various accounts into one engaging story.

If you listen, you'll probably find yourself amazed that you spent over four hours listening to a guy talk about the Mongol khans or World War I, but Carlin has a gift for illuminating some of the most interesting yet least talked-about moments in history.

Find it here »

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