Podcasts for the Curious Mind – The Best in Storytelling, Informative, & Entrepreneurial Podcasts

(2015-2016 edition, see also 2019 edition. Updated August 2016.)

In 2014, I switched from devouring the best TV shows to the best podcasts. Here are a list of the best podcasts currently produced.

Each one is consistently:

  • entertaining
  • informative
  • binge-worthy (if you are so inclined)

Exploration and Storytelling Podcasts

It turns out, a story-based format is remarkably compelling for audio.
Exploratory podcasts make you think and question.


Note To Self A playful look at how technology impacts our daily lives (from information overload to addictive games, etc), encouraging you to question everything. Led by a refreshingly positive female host, Manoush Zomorodi. Short, digestible episodes [15-30 minutes].
99% Invisible Mesmerizing clips exploring fascinating topics you never thought to question. Wrapped in beautiful audio effects and Roman Mars’s soothing narration, this is an immersive media experience. [~20 minutes]
Invisibilia Mini documentaries on awe-inspiring topics; came out of Radiolab so just as beautifully crafted but not as annoyingly artsy. [1 hour]
Reply All 2 hipster-y guys finding interesting trends and stories happening in the digital world, cracking themselves up in the process. These always put me in a good mood. [~30 minutes]
Hidden Brain An NPR podcast exploring how our brain impacts our world in unexpected ways. Fans of pop psychology, self-improvement, and behavioral economics will love this, led by the very relatable Shankar Vedantam. Dan Pink is a frequent guest. [~25 minutes]
Revisionist History Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast. Nuff said. [~45 minutes]
The Memory Palace History retold in 5-7 minute stories that bring them vividly to life and put you at the scene; rich sound effects and a narrator whose voice you just know would tell the best bedtime stories. [5-10 minutes]
Criminal Fascinating stories involving true crime from an unusual perspective, each episode stands alone. [~45 minutes]
Serial True crime podcast sensation that pretty much mainstreamed binge-podcasting as a thing. Season 1 questioned the conviction of a promising Muslim teen for his girlfriend’s murder, Season 2 examined Bowe Bergdahl’s experience as Taliban POW survivor and potential traitor. [~1 hour]
Unfictional Short true stories or live storytelling events compiled around an episode theme; short, fun & compelling; KCRW-produced. [~30 minutes]
The Moth Award-winning live storytelling events that will make you laugh, cry, and feel things you don’t expect. Great with a glass of wine on Saturday night. [~1 hour]


2 Dope Queens 2 hip, young comediennes introduce us to a lineup of up-and-coming comedy stars. Hosts Jessica Williams (from the Daily Show) & Phoebe Robinson are the closest we’ll get to having friends this street-smart & hilarious. [~1 hour]


The Truth Podcast Creative short fictional works written, produced, and acted out for radio, on topics ranging from sci fi to popular culture (think Amazing Stories or The Twilight Zone); it’s like watching a movie with your ears. [~15-20 minutes]

Informational Podcasts

News / Research

Planet Money For the economically minded, business stories with a twist. Plenty of humor, fresh perspectives, and some unusual-for-radio American dialects make this stand out. [~20-30 minutes]
Marketplace Kai Ryssdal’s voice is like butter as he examines the day’s top business & market stories with wit and a bit of skepticism. [~35 minutes]
Too Embarrassed to Ask Timely, insightful reviews of technology stories and gadgets, hosted by 2 outstanding female journalists, Kara Swisher & Lauren Goode. I just don’t love the Kara-hates-Lauren banter. [15-30 minutes].
On the Media Insightful stories relating to media & politics – not only what’s trending but how the media covers it. Excellent journalism. [~45 minutes]
As It Happens Canadian daily radio news hour, with cute accents and endearingly bad puns. Different perspective on U.S. & global topics, plus insights into our northern neighbor. [60-80 minutes]
Science Friday For the scientifically curious, fun exploration and coverage of science topics broken into small, easily digestible clips. [~10-60 minutes]
Freakonomics Unusual and humorous economic conclusions on all sorts of pop culture topics – based on the bestselling book [~45 minutes]
Inquiring Minds 2 scientists interview guests (from astronauts to climate watchers), discussing and analyzing thought-provoking scientific and brain-related topics. [~1-2 hours]

Interviews & Influencers

Fresh Air Probably the finest interviewer of our generation, the inimitable Terry Gross. [1 hour]
Star Talk Radio Your personal cosmologist, Neil Degrasse Tyson, talks about the universe, but also interviews celebs & fascinating people, then hosts a live show with comedians and scientists to intersperse commentary around the interviews. [1-2 hours]
Here’s the Thing Alec Baldwin’s surprisingly excellent interview series with all sorts of great minds. They open up to him in unusually candid ways because, well, he’s Alec Baldwin. [~45 minutes]
Tim Ferris Podcast Self-experimenter and author of the 4-Hour (Work Week/Chef/Body)- interviews people that are the best in the world to deconstruct what they do, on topics ranging from productivity to headspace, enterpreneurship to self-experimentation. [1.5-3 hours]
Good Life Project A long-running show where Jonathan Fields (author of Uncertainty) interviews artists, movers, entrepreneurs, and thinkers exploring topics of happiness and meaning. Browse the impressive episode archives to pick a few standouts as a starting point. [1-2 hours]

Entrepreneurial Podcasts

There are so many in this category, but finding consistently good ones is tricky, and time is precious.

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders A Stanford lecture series where top business thinkers, influencers, and writers come to share their insights. [1-2 hours]
Online Marketing Made Easy Queen of Social Media marketing, Amy Porterfield, gives strategic, actionable tips on online marketing.
This Week in Startups A great primer on what’s hot in Silicon Valley, Venture Capital, and tech media. The journalist-turned-Internet-millionaire host can be a jerk, but he’s incredibly sharp and conducts a great interview. [1-2 hours]


Valerie Lanard

I am a fitness buff, engineering leader, and wearables lover. This blog originally started as part of my now-defunct fitness video startup, Gigabody. It has evolved to encompass my writing on tech and work culture as well. Find me on a bike, on a hike, in a skort, or near a usb port.

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