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

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)

[Refreshed August 2016]

Exploration and Storytelling Podcasts

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

Non-Fiction

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]

Comedy

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]

Fiction

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 get 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]

Am I missing a great podcast? Tweet me @valer and let me know!

Things My Obituary Won’t Say

  • She was a terrible friend, but very codependent. Only truly happy in the company of others.
  • Her kitchen should have had a Michelin star for its creations.
  • Despite not believing in herself, she had amazing on-stage presence and lived for the spotlight and podium.
  • Perpetually late and hater of mornings.
  • Every day she drank a huge glass of milk, between meals of cucumbers & fast food.
  • Never met a dog she liked.
  • Immediately warm to strangers, but an utter teetotaler who abstained most of all from caffeine.
  • Extremely unloyal, traded jobs & friends like last year’s fashions.
  • Lover of rolling in grass, dusty rooms, hairballs from all breed of animal.
  • The patience of a saint, wonderful most notably with toddlers.
  • Avid board game player who never met a tabloid she didn’t buy.
  • Wearer of expensive perfume and elegant lady shoes (the higher the heel the better).
  • Never cracked a book except to see if it had pictures.
  • Utterly risk averse. Unwilling to go for her dreams, lest she never be hired again.

How will you NOT be remembered? Happy Friday!

Life Lessons

I have a theory. I believe life’s downs are critical lessons to make us appreciate life’s ups. To teach us gratitude.

When things go wrong, loved ones die, projects fail, dreams are dashed, relationships end, or an illness knocks us out, it puts into perspective just how special and precious normal is. 

Seize the day. What if this is your last year? What do you want to have accomplished or seen or shared in your life story?

Enjoy the moment. Time flies, just slow it down for a second here and there. Stop and smell a flower, close your eyes and inhale the fresh air, savor a bite of delicious food, squeeze a special hand.

Use your words. Contrary to how it sometimes feels, everyone can not read your mind, not even the people closest to you. Tell someone how much they mean to you. Say thank you. Say I was thinking of you. Say hi. Say something nice.

Celebrate your health.  Normal is normal, nothing special. Until an illness breaks you down or a loved one dies too young, then you fleetingly realize that normal is so incredibly lucky and glorious when it comes to health.  Don’t squander it. Use your body because you can, feed it well, revel in the miraculous luck of normal.