Podcasts are a wonderful way to learn new things and if you find the right one, to be wildly entertained. If you’re ready to binge listen, we found 23 of the best educational podcasts to listen to every week.
All Pods All the Time
I loved podcasts before they were a thing. I was one of those kids who spent a lot of time holed up alone in my bedroom and listened to the radio for company. But not the crazy morning zoo or Casey Kasem’s weekly Top 40.
I listened to AM talk radio, 700 WLW out of Cincinnati and All Things Considered on the local NPR station out of Miami University. Remember those old digital clock radios that had a timer? I would set the timer for 59 minutes and fall asleep listening to some talk radio show or another.
This continued when I went to college. I listened to Detroit sports talk radio constantly because I was a massive Red Wings fan and listened to Jim Bohannon to go to sleep.
When I moved to New York City and needed something to keep my company walking back and forth to work, I bought a Sony Disc Man (damn, I’m old!) and bought the complete set of Lake Wobegon CDs from the NPR’s Praire Home Companion show.
Not long after that iPods and podcasts were invented and I was an early adopter. But unlike talk radio, podcasts allowed me to choose the topic. I was and continue to be in love.
And now, nearly 20 years later, there is a podcast on nearly every topic imaginable.
I guess the reason I always preferred talk radio to music is that I like to learn. It’s the same reason I prefer non-fiction books and television to fiction. Because I want my entertainment and learning to overlap.
If you want the same thing, you’ll love these educational podcasts. Most are available on whatever podcast app you use, iTunes, Sticher, Podbean, etc. Most are released as a weekly podcast but some publish more often and some less.
History is a broad subject and probably my favorite. Whatever you’re interested in, there is a history behind it. And the odds are good that the history is fascinating and will give you a whole new appreciation of a subject. If you’re a hardcore history lover, these are great podcasts to listen to.
I love food and history and the two of them together are probably my favorite subject. A Taste of the Past is hosted by Linda Pelaccio who is a culinary historian. Each episode explores history through the culture of food.
There is so much more to food than how it tastes and Linda interviews authors, chefs, and food experts in a conversational way. The topic may be a single food like chicken, a food region like Sicily, or a time period like the cooking of Medieval Egypt, or ten restaurants that changed America. Each episode will expand your knowledge and your culinary curiosity.
The Bowery Boys are two New York City friends, Tom Meyers and Greg Young who cover all aspects of New York City history. But you don’t have to be a New Yorker or even ever have visited New York City to enjoy this podcast.
The hosts are engaging and humorous and have great chemistry. And in a way, New York City is wider American history because so many events that shaped the country as a whole took place in the city.
The topics are wide-ranging going all the way back to the Lenape, the Native Americans living in New York when Dutch settlers arrived to various city luminaries like Madam C. J. Walker and Texas Guinan to various calamities the city has suffered like the Blizzard of 1888 and the Black Tom Explosion of 1916.
And each October the boys do a special show featuring all of the ghosts and ghouls of New York, always a fun one to listen to.
Before this was a podcast series, it was a book. An awesome book that you all should read. Neal MacGregor is a former director of the British Museum and the book also made him into the best selling author.
In this 100 episode BBC podcast, MacGregor takes listeners through two million years of world and human history as told by everyday objects like a shadow puppet from South East Asia, a 14th-century banknote from the Ming Dynasty, and a Hoxne Pepper Pot. And right up your alley as an LMM listener, a credit card!
Each episode is like peeping through a crack in a door into another time and place.
Do you prefer your history lessons to come with a spooky twist? Then I have a great podcast for you. Lore proves that truth is stranger than fiction. Host Aaron Mahnk has turned the podcast into a mini-empire which now includes several books and a series on Amazon.
The show covers urban legends like the Jersey Devil, folklore like changelings, and the paranormal like the infamous Fox Sisters who were at the forefront of the Spiritualism movement of the late 19th Century.
The stories Aaron describes in Lore are documented factually even if the events around them may not be. There are indeed newspaper reports of the Jersey Devil, an Irish man really did kill his wife when she refused to admit she was a changeling, and the Fox Sisters were real people.
If you want to curl up next to a fire and give yourself a little fright, tune into Lure on a stormy night.
Politics/ Current Events
I know, you’re sick of the news because it seems to be all politics all the time. Me too. I used to listen to NPR in the morning but it was to American focused. So I switched to BBC World Service but even that was all 45 all the time.
Because I value my sanity, I have stopped listening to those two sources and switched over to these podcasts which cover a variety of topics in depth.
Reveal is a joint project between The Center for Investigative Reporting (CRI) and PRX (Public Radio Exchange. CRI journalists investigate government fraud and waste, human rights violations, and threats to public safety.
This show is old-school investigative journalism, what newspapers used to do before they realized there was more money in a sidebar full of Kardashian stories. Some recent stories include the appalling mass voter suppression happening in Georgia, families separated at the U.S. border, and dirty cops in Baltimore.
Stand Out Episodes
Inside a Rehab Empire
Frontline is a vanguard of independent journalism. The most compelling thing I have ever seen is the three-part series they did in 1996 called The Farmer’s Wife about a young Nebraska couple fighting to save their small family farm and their marriage. Watch it, you’ll be absolutely riveted.
This is not a podcast in the traditional sense. Frontline has turned the television series into what they call audio casts. These audio casts contain the same audio as do the shows with a small amount of narration added when necessary to explain something you’re missing without the visual.
Some recent episodes cover the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Unite the Right rally in 2017, Vladimir Putin’s conflict with the U.S., and Scott Pruitt’s war on the EPA as Governor of Oklahoma before being appointed to head that very agency.
The host of On Being, Krista Tippett, was a journalist and then a Cold War diplomat before earning a Masters of Divinity from Yale University. She also has one of the best, most soothing voices in radio.
Krista started On Being because she thought there was a lack of intelligent discourse around matters of spirituality, human morality, and the question of what it means to be human.
The conversations you hear are thought-provoking, inspiring, and hopeful. Recent topics On Being has covered include love as a language, the freedom of real apologies, and embracing vulnerability.
Don’t let the Masters in Divinity dissuade you if you’re not religious. I’m as far from religious as it’s possible to be and I love this show. It’s not about religion in the traditional sense of the word and even when an episode covers a religious topic, it’s not preachy.
The American media is largely inwardly focused, if you want to know what is going on in the rest of the world, you’ll need an international source. That’s what The Globalist is.
The show is hosted by a variety of editors from the London based magazine, Monocle and they frequently interview experts to explain the news events of the day.
Episodes cover major U.S. news but news and stories from countries all over the world. Recent stories have included Jerusalem’s mayoral race, the link between sports and diplomacy, and the Helsinki Book Fair.
The Globalist is smart news for smart people. If you want to make dinner party talk about more than the same stories rehashed one hundred times a day, download this podcast now.
Stand Out Episodes
Why climate change could influence the price of beer.
Gawker aims for a comeback.
If there is something more important than money (there is), it’s health. There is a world of information about every aspect of health so there is so excuse not to take care of yourself and your body. These educational podcasts can help you do that.
Darlene Kvist has been a nutritionist for 25 years and she is OG low carb, she knew how much healthier it was decades before modern nutrition finally caught on. She has been hosting a radio show dedicated to nutrition and wellness since 2004 and that show is available as a podcast.
Darlene is founder and owner of Nutritional Weight and Wellness, a wellness practice that now has several locations in Minnesota. Each week two nutritionists employed in the practice discuss topics like eating for better sleep, the effect of stress on weight, and the best fats for cooking.
If you have a particular ailment, the chances are good that Dishing Up Nutrition has dedicated an entire episode to it. If you’re looking for good, easy to understand nutritional advice, this is a great podcast.
Gretchen Rubin is a best selling author and “observer of happiness and human nature.” Gretchen hosts the podcast with her sister Elizabeth Craft, a former book editor.
The sisters provide concrete things we can do to make ourselves happier, no crystals or burning sage or any other silly nonsense. The show covers topics like the power of habit to change ourselves and our lives for the better, the importance of education, and how to find happiness at work.
Before I became a devotee of Happier, I thought everyone had a set limit for happiness and some people were just more capable of being happy than others and there wasn’t much you could do to change that. But this podcast has taught me otherwise.
Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe are two of the best-known personalities in the Paleo world. The podcast deals with many aspects of health, not merely diet including fitness, beauty, cooking advice, and how to adopt a healthy mindset.
Recent shows have covered biologic dentistry, thyroid health, autoimmune conditions, and the gut microbiome. The show is inclusive of all types of Paleo, even Vegan Paleo.
Stand Out Episodes
Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet with Dr. Chris Masterjohn, PhD
Dr. Terry Wahls on the “Wahls Protocol,” Paleo, Multiple Sclerosis, & Autoimmunity (Dr. Wahl’s has also done some excellent Ted Talks).
Money, ya gotta have it. If you don’t have it or don’t know what to do with it, there is a great educational podcast to teach you what you need to know.
I mean, did you think I wasn’t going to put us on this list?! But it’s not quite as nepotic as you might think. I was a fan of LMM before I started working for the show. I didn’t know a thing about how to handle money and think money is a boring subject.
But I liked podcasts so started looking for one that would teach me about personal finance and if it did so in a way I could understand as a very layperson and not put me to sleep, bonus! Someone on Reddit recommended LMM, I started listening and I was hooked.
The show is funny, entertaining, and informative. And it offers something for everyone, from those who like me didn’t know Thing 1 about money to those who know a lot about it already.
Ok, not every episode of this show is about money but there is a common theme. What do those three things have in common? They’re all taboo topics. That’s the thread that binds the wide array of topics discussed by host Anna Sale. This show is produced at WNYC where Radiolab is also produced.
Recent shows have covered the lack of parental leave in America (death), why Governor Jennifer Granholm cut her hair (sex), and professional sugar babies (money) (and sex!).
FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early and is something of a movement at the moment. LMM has covered it but the Fire Drill Podcast is wholly dedicated to it. Hosts J and Gwen, two Millennials who have both saved hundreds of thousands of dollars and plan to retire early.
The pair discusses common FIRE topics like owning rental property and building a successful blog and cover wider personal finance issues like paying off debt and handling money in a relationship.
Both women are willing to open up about their own financial lives and get their guests to do the same which makes the conversation more relatable than it would be if everyone was just doling out advice.
Ok, I get it. Some of you can only listen to anyone talk about money for so long no matter how entertaining before you’ve had enough. Like I said, even I don’t think money is the most fascinating topic, especially not compared to true crime or missing persons (my two favorite pod topics at the moment).
But you still need to learn about money so you can get your money lessons in just a few minutes. Millennial Money Minute is hosted by Grant Sabatier and Matt and the two get right to the point on topics like the money taboo, traveling for less, and getting comfortable with risk.
I love the idea of information in small bites because it allows listeners to get the gist of a subject quickly and then learn more about a topic that interests them.
A lot of career-focused podcasts seem to be aimed at people who want to become entrepreneurs, The Tim Ferriss Show, Smart Passive Income, etc. But not all of us want the responsibility of being the boss.
Maybe we like the security of health insurance and 401ks or the ability to leave work behind when we leave the office which is something those who run their own business don’t have the luxury of.
So I chose some podcasts that I like that are good to nine to fivers who want to be happier and more successful at work but have no desire to run their own shows and for those considering a career change.
Feel like you’re invisible at work and maybe in other areas of your life too? Then you need Christina Canters at Stand Out Get Noticed can help you, well, stand out and get noticed.
Christina is a communication skills coach and her podcast will help you improve your ability to communicate not only at work but in your personal and public life too. If you understand the importance of networking but are too intimidated to actually get out and do it, this podcast will help you gain enough confidence to put yourself out there.
The show helped me in my private life. When I moved to New Orleans, I didn’t know a single person and needed to be able to put myself out there in order to make friends in a new place. I used a lot of the advice from this pod and viola! Friends!
Christina and her guests discuss things like improving the confidence in your voice, how to start a presentation strong, and getting past your fears.
Stand Out Episodes
I discovered Mike Vardy and the Productivity podcast because he was a guest on LMM ages ago. Back then I was trying to work a 9-5 and work for LMM at the same time and needed to be able to squeeze as much out of my day as I could.
When I left 9-5 to write full time I needed to know how to be productive while working from home where there are a million distractions (especially when you have friends who also work from home). His podcast has come through for me in both of those scenarios.
The show discusses issues like beating burnout, why willpower doesn’t work, and the importance of morning routines.
Host Pete Mockaitis is a career coach who knows that employees need to hear more than “You’re doing great, keep it up!” to improve their performance and move ahead. You need actionable steps to follow so you can be more awesome at your job, whatever your job is.
That is exactly what this podcast will give you. Recent topics have included bridging gaps in your skill set, how being curious can help you achieve more, and seizing career opportunities.
It doesn’t matter if your job is running your own business or working for someone else. The advice you get from this podcast will help improve your work performance.
These are podcasts that I really love that I couldn’t slot into any of the topics above but don’t feel you need three additional similar suggestions within their genre. So I added them in as bonuses because I wanted to share them with you all.
True crime seems to wax and wane in pop culture like the paranormal does. There will be a glut of shows, books, and podcasts and then the subject will fade away for a few years. True crime certainly seems to be having a moment, especially when it comes to podcasts.
There are more than I can count out there and they’re of varying degrees of quality. I listen to a few but Southern Fried True Crime is my favorite. Often for me, delivery is more important than content but Erica Kelly gives you both.
Her voice! It’s like warm molasses being drizzled onto a hot buttermilk biscuit. (New York me just totally cringed at that analogy but New Orleans me thinks it’s awesome!). And the content is just as good as the delivery. Erica does a ton of research for each episode. The two I’m going to recommend are actually among the best podcast content I’ve heard on any subject.
As the name suggests, the show covers crimes that have taken place in the south. And we got some doozies down here. It’s the heat I think. Erica covers a lot of lesser-known but still intriguing cases so you’re unlikely to have heard of most of the cases she covers before.
I have two gripes. The main one is that she does not publish new episodes consistently. There can sometimes be several weeks between episodes. I know how much work goes into a podcast but even if she just published once a month, as long as it was consistent, I’d be happy.
The other is the commercials. I fall asleep listening to podcasts (you should try it, the pod blocks out your own churning thoughts) but the commercials are like radio or TV commercials, loud and often louder than the content of the show and it’s jarring so I can’t fall asleep to SFTC because the commercials jolt me awake.
I wanted this list to contain some perhaps lesser known podcasts and Stuff You Should Know certainly doesn’t fit that description. It’s one of the most popular podcasts but the show is just so consistently good, I wanted to include it just in case there are a few of you out there who haven’t yet discovered it.
Hosts Chuck and Josh are silly and smart and they have great chemistry. And the show covers just about any topic you can imagine including how easy bake ovens work, how aphrodisiacs work, and water beds, the sexiest bed.
They cover more serious topics too like how homelessness works, is lethal injection humane, and how patents work. Even if you think a subject the guys are covering is boring, give it a listen. They can take even super dry subjects like ballpoint pens and make them funny and informative. A real gift!
The show is part of the howstuffworks family of podcasts and there are several other fun shows like Stuff You Missed in History Class and Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know.
Haunted Places is a Parcast podcast and it seems like Parcast is putting out a new kind of podcast every week, serial killers, unsolved crimes, female criminals. And all Parcast shows are really good but Haunted Places is my favorite because everyone likes a good ghost story and even better if it’s a historical haunt.
That’s what Haunted Places covers, famous, historic, haunted places like the Paris Catacombs, Glamis Castle, and Rose Hall.
Host Greg Polcyn is another podcast host with a great voice and great delivery. Some of the episodes can be a little gory (someone getting their face bitten off in an oubliette was pretty gross) but I like to hear the dark history of a place and this podcast certainly delivers on that.
Podcasts are one of my favorite inventions. Right up there with the internet and air conditioning. If I’m alone, I’m listening to one. When I work, run, cook, run errands, and fall asleep at night. There is something very intimate about falling asleep to someone whispering in your ear.
Podcasts for me have become bedtime stories for a (sort of) grown up. And that there is almost literally a podcast devoted to every subject you could think of.
But because the entry bar is so low, there are lots of poor quality pods out there. Just like any other pastime, you only have so much time to devote to it so we wanted to make sure to give you the best educational podcasts we enjoy. Happy listening!