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Bored of Local Radio? Here are 29 of the Best Podcasts For Curious Minds

The Best Podcasts For Curious Minds

Our pick of the best podcasts covering technology, culture, science, politics and new ideas.

We’re frankly staggered that people still listen to commercial radio in 2017, with its adverts, presenter “banter” and that annoying song being played over and over. You’re better than that, so here are 29 podcasts for your drive, or while out running, or just to block out the noise the next time you’re in the mall. You’ll be entertained, informed and hear some bold, interesting thinking in the fields of technology, culture, science, politics and new ideas.


— History —

The Dollop
The Dollop with Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds is the most fun you will ever have during a history lesson. Every week, Anthony reads a story from American history to Reynolds who has no idea what the topic is going to be about. This power dynamic puts Reynolds in the place of the listener, and the ensuing reactions are hilariously relatable – with just the right amount of mockery. The hosts make this podcast genuinely funny, whilst successfully teaching you about some seriously interesting topics, from the Radium Girls who rotted away, to a shrewd look at Uber. Listen to this podcast if you’re greedy for some often-surprising knowledge but need satire and laughter too.

Code Switch
While this podcast mainly focuses on race in America, its topics are relevant and always educational. From defining the uncomfortable notion of white identity to highlighting the ways in which our advertising targets particular races, Code Switch aims to dig a little bit deeper than the usual narratives on race. This weekly series comes from NRP and is written by a team of seven journalists. Subscribe to Code Switch on iTunes and other popular podcast services.

— Culture —

How Did This Get Made?
Have you ever sat through a movie so terrible that you genuinely don’t understand how it can exist? How Did This Get Made? covers this exact topic. Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas call up scores of their friends to sit through and comment on awful movies. An extract from their review of Leprechaun in the Hood is the embodiment of what their show is about. If you enjoy poking fun at ridiculous films, this is for you. The hosts and guest stars give you a really accurate synopsis of the most terrible movies ever made, in the midst of incredibly humorous commentary.

Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty
This new podcast miniseries from Gimlet and Loud Speaker’s network brings us a biography of the legendary hip-hop executive Chris Lighty – the man behind iconic artist is like 50 Cent and Missy Eliot – prior to his untimely death by suicide in 2012. Chris Lighty’s story is one well known by many, but host Reggie Ossé succeeds in shedding lighting on the telling and intriguing details of his life. Yet whilst exploring one man, Ossé seamlessly opens up the history of an entire musical movement.


— New and big ideas —

The Tip Off
The Tip Off asks journalists to explain how they got the leads for their biggest stories. This weekly podcast gives a satisfyingly dramatic look at the detective work behind journalism. There will be car chases, slammed doors, terrorist cells, meetings in dimly lit bars and close shaves with despotic regimes. However, while all of these are worth a listen, what you really stay for is the episode on the Panama Papers. Hosted by investigative journalist Maeve McClenaghan, she asks the journalists who led the investigation how they managed to keep the biggest data leak in history a secret for so long.

The Anthill
The Anthill is a new podcast from The Conversation and seeks to unearth the most interesting research from the world of academia. Each episode revolves around a different theme, from time, to the success of underdogs and the power of a reboot.

Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People
Every week, Chris Gethard opens the phone line to one anonymous caller and he can’t hang up first, no matter what the subject is. This is Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, full of shocking confessions and philosophical discussions. A recent episode saw Gethard talking about the current state of policing in the US with a small town police officer.

TED Radio Hour
Don’t have the time to watch all those TEDx talks your friends keep sending you? Listen to them instead with the TED Radio Hour from NPR, presented by Guy Raz. Recent episodes include exploring how Big Data will reshape the world and why we lie.

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame has launched a new podcast, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. Sort of like a games show, the live audience says something they don’t know and a panel of celebrities and experts interrogate the guest presenter about the “IDK”. If you live in Manhattan, New York, you can attend the live tapings of the show and see how it all works.

Stuff You Should Know
How many times have you taken a pub quiz and wished you had better general knowledge? If you want to feed your curiosity and learn whilst listening, then Stuff You Should Know is a podcast for you. Hosted by cheery Americans Charles (Chuck) Bryant and Josh Clark, this podcast is true to its name. From telling you how the sun, ketchup and magic mushrooms work, to explaining why we guess, swear and itch, every episode is engaging and will leave you feeling more knowledgeable than before.

Sound Matters
Sound Matters is a series of podcasts looking at – and listening to – the sounds of the world around us. It looks at how we listen to sounds, the stories we tell about them, and the ideas, inventions, discoveries, possibilities and ideas around sound. The podcast is written and produced by Tim Hinman, with B&O PLAY and previous episodes have discussed how sound affects memory and zombie music.

S-Town is currently the most popular series from the This American Life team, hosted by Brian Reed, about a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. The series is a poetic exploration of friendship, mental health and life in the American south.

This show is all about curiosity. Though it is broadcast as a radio show across America, you can catch up through its podcast. Each episode centres on one investigation told through sounds and stories. And it’s award-winning; Radiolab received the Peabody Award in 2010, a prestigious American award for broadcast shows, for its exploration of the chimpanzee “Lucy” that was raised in a human household.

Radiolab Presents: More Perfect
Radiolab’s first spinoff, More Perfect, launched in June 2016. Looking exclusively at the untold stories of the US Supreme Court, it takes hugely complex topics and tries to make them accessible and informative. One of the major themes of the show is the power of the nine justices, who have huge influence over almost all aspects of American life through the decisions they make.


— Politics and current affairs —

News Roast
Having launched a fearless tirade against the establishment with BBC3’s The Revolution Will Be Televised, BAFTA award-winning satirists Jolyon Rubinstein and Heydon Prowse return in this riotous podcast to lampoon the week’s hottest topics. Known for their intrepid targeting of hypocrisy, the podcast sees the duo translate their auspicious antics to audio; accompanied by a veritable host of guests, including Ken Loach, Adam Buxton and Owen Jones, the pair create a revitalizing mockery of the weekly news.

Our Man in the Middle East
This series from Jeremy Bowen, the veteran BBC correspondent, Our Man in the Middle East charts the last 25 years of history in the region. A mixture of archive clips from Bowen’s reporting and voice over from Bowen himself, each episode is a short exploration of a particular period or event. Bowen’s experience shines through. He brings a journalistic balance to his work and when he does offer an opinion, it’s considered and has real impact. There are few better, or easier, ways to understand the recent history of this turbulent region than this.

If Serial sparked your love of true crime, and you need a fix before the next season appears, Criminal can fill that gap. The episodes are normally around 30 minutes, so perfect for a commute, and explore a different true crime incident, whether it’s discovering how a child had her identity stolen or the unauthorised tigers in captivity in America.

The Skylines Podcast
Every two weeks, Jonn Elledge, Stephanie Boland and guests talk about the politics and workings of major cities, and test the contention that maps are a great topic for radio. The Skylines Podcast tackles everything from Psychosomatic Diarrhoea, Belgian boy scouts and the weirdest transport systems around.

— Technology and science —

The WIRED podcast
WIRED UK presents a weekly podcast discussing the best of science, tech, ideas, business and design, the interesting stories the team has worked on that week and the new developments in the WIRED world.

Ctrl Alt Delete
Funny and honest, this tech focused podcast series brings a much needed female perspective to the internet. As the former social media editor of British Glamour, Emma Gannon draws on her own experiences online to discusses the world of work and existing online with her high profile guests. If you are worried about how employable you will be in five years, worry not. From dealing with trolls to baring your soul on social media, this series has never been more relevant for emerging women in the workplace.

The Food Chain
From BBC World Service, this weekly podcast explores the economics, science and culture behind different food topics. The Food Chain poses interesting questions about the food we have on our plates and looks at things such as population growth and climate change and how this will affect food in the future.

Reply All
Reply All is a show all about the internet. If you’ve never tuned in before, the website includes a handy list of “starter” episodes to get stuck into, including how a video game about cancer was developed and how the anonymous app Yik Yak unearthed a racist streak at a university in upstate New York.

Note to Self
Host Manoush Zomorodi hunts for the smart choices that will help you live and think more productively. She speaks to an array of people, including tech industry leaders and school teachers to try to ascertain how technology can better influence our lives. Answering questions such as: can your phone make you better in bed? And are your kids real? The subjects are always surprising and the answers even more so.

Invisibilia explores the invisible forces behind human nature and the third series released this year – the concept album – questions how real our reality is. Over seven episodes hosted by Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel, the team tell stories of unusual behavior and explain them with science. Find out how emotions are made when a child is killed in a car crash and the man driving the other car sues the family or gain an understanding on the bubbles and echo chambers people live in by following a man who has made a life out of hopping between them. Stick around for the final episode which questions the value we put on who we want our future selves to be and the tragic consequences this can have.


— Fiction —

Alice Isn’t Dead
An unnamed narrator drives a truck full of deodorant across America, in search of her wife Alice – whom she believes to be dead. From the creators of NightVale, Joseph Fink wanted Alice isn’t Dead to be “more directly creepy” than its predecessor. And it succeeds with flying colors. Pursued by flesh eating thistle men, and surrounded by towns that move from place to place like dust, every highway the narrator travels is a warped representation of real roads across the United States. It isn’t funny – it’s unapologetically dark and herein lies its appeal.

This fiction podcast follows a therapist and an army veteran as they join a new government program to help soldiers readjust to civilian life. However, the motives for the program are far more sinister than first assumed. Told through a series of therapy sessions and phone conversations, the story twists into an intimate exploration into the dangers of suppressing trauma.

A Stab in the Dark
UKTV has launched a new, six-part podcast series called A Stab in the Dark. Hosted by the award-winning crime novelist Mark Billingham, the podcast looks into the worlds of crime fiction and TV crime drama and will see Billingham joined by different guests from the genre. Not fiction per se, but an excellent dive into the glamorous world of crime novelists.

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