12 Podcasts That Will Make You Much, Much Smarter

Just listen and learn

Gripping as they are, it's easy to get exhausted with true crime podcasts. Morning commutes are grim enough without the weight of an unsolvable triple homicide on your psyche.

You know what your ears deserve instead? Knowledge. Hours and hours of it, provided by some of the world's wittiest geniuses.

That's why we've gathered together twelve of the most accessible and educational podcasts on the internet - because who doesn't want to be the smartest guy on the carriage?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Freakonomics Radio

Best for: weighing down your wallet.

Hosted by very clever man Stephen J. Dubner (co-author of the eponymous book series), 'Freakonomics' will make you totally rethink the way you treat your hard-earned dosh. And not just by telling you to invest in cheaper toilet paper or forego the luxury of central heating – rather, Dubner is interested in the ways you can defy economic norms to your own advantage and stay ahead of the game. 'Are Pay-Day Loans Really As Evil As People Say?' is a particularly enlightening episode that we suggest you ignore with every ounce of your being.

Check it out here.

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips

Best for: ambitious grammar Nazis.

Despite sounding like a 13 year-old boy's lamest fantasy, 'Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips' is an essential resource for anyone who's ever found themselves proofreading their own CV for the 67th time in one evening. She covers dreaded trip-ups like semicolons; and hyphens – and would probably have a breakdown if she ever saw this sentence.

Check it out here.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

Best for: HBO TV pitch ideas.

Dan Carlin is not a professional historian. He is, however, one of the most gifted storytellers that your ears will ever encounter. He waxes lyrical about the darkest and most violent periods of humanity's past with uninterrupted passion and drama, often for up to 4 hours at a time. The man is a yarn-spinning machine. You might not like his bombastic, confrontational, Fox News-esque manner, but believe us: he's worth sticking with.

Check it out here.

Intelligence Squared

Best for: winning dinner table debates.

It's a pretty simple formula: lock a bunch of experts and eggheads in one room, lob a hot topic through the window, and smush your ear against the wall as they engage in sharply contested, synapse-frying debate. You'll find yourself nodding like a Churchill dog to every argument, such is the quality of beef we're dealing with here, but it's still a great way to come to a decision on an issue that's been clinging to your grey matter for far too long (P.S. don't worry, we got you).

Check it out here.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Meditate This!

Best for: spiritual enlightenment on the go.

This is about as macho as mindfulness gets. Hosts Peter Falker and Jason Hollander decided to start 'Meditate This!' in 2014 after agreeing that "there wasn't really an easy entrance point for guys like [them], who are skeptical by nature" to pursue the celebrated psychological technique. Their funny, bullsh*t-dodging voices stand out in an industry beset by dulcet tones and wishy-washy pseudo science.

Check it out here.

Startalk Radio

Best for: people who actually want to live on Mars, for some reason.

Sure, he's a living, breathing, slightly irritating Reddit meme - but US TV astrologist Neil deGrasse Tyson still talks the talk when it comes to the cosmos and all its wonders. He lectures accessibly and excitedly on everything from comets to the emerging prospect of space tourism, and somehow manages to make astrophysics vaguely get-able. Ish.

Check it out here.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Stuff You Should Know

Best for: people who think they should know 'stuff' by now.

You never quite know what you're going to get with Josh Clarke and Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant, the wisecracking cohorts behind 'SYSK'. One episode they'll be delving into the politics of the gender pay gap, and the next they'll be explaining the complex mechanics of PEZ dispensers. Imagine an off-syllabus school lesson taught by two ribbing smart alecks down the pub, and you've got it in one.

Check it out here.

The Bugle with John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman

Best for: learning from the past.

We know what you're thinking: how does John Oliver manage a whole podcast series on top of his weekly viral political takedowns? The answer is: he doesn't. In his own words, John is "too f*cking busy", and hasn't been able to dedicate too much time to the wildly popular audio show. A shame, but that doesn't mean you can't delve into its back catalogue and pick up some retrospective lessons from the past. The witty pair's sideways, absurdist view of global news will teach you to pick holes in everything you read.

Check it out here.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Slate TrumpCast

Best for: figuring out how the hell Donald Trump happened.

It's daunting to think that, if 'The Donald' manages to get his child-like paws on the big red button, this podcast could someday become a vital cultural reference point. 'Slate's Trumpcast' takes a look at the social conditions that helped bring the Republican nominee to political prominence, as well as the make-up of the man himself (wig and Ronseal tan aside). There's a satisfying amount of micky-taking, too. Check out this interview with a clinical psychologist as a little taster.

Check it out here.

The History of Rome

Best for: understanding the trappings of power.

Got around 5000 hours to spare? You have?! Well then, by all means lend your life to Mike Duncan's exhaustively amazing 'The History of Rome' podcast. If you don't happen to have that much free time, we suggest skipping ahead to the episodes that focus on unhinged Roman Emperors. Caligula makes Game of Thrones Joffrey look like a well-balanced middle manager.

Check it out here.