Podcasts are a great way to spend the commute doing something productive for your brain. Some challenge you to think outside the box, others tell you funny, sad, and thought provoking stories, and a few even get you to laugh out loud on a crowded subway car. When you feel like exiting your phone’s Facebook app and listening to a story, consider turning to one of these great podcasts.

P.S. Want to listen to a podcast, but have no idea where to find it? Try some of these players:

StartUp - (LINK)

Made by minds formerly at work for shows like This American Life and Planet Money, StartUp is an exploration of what it’s really like to build a business, told through first hand narratives and recorded interviews. The first season tells the story of the podcast creator himself as he launches Gimlet Media, his podcast network, while the second takes a dive into the story of two female founders creating a dating website. Look no further to be both inspired and daunted by what it means to start a business in the modern world.

The Moth - (LINK)

True stories told live on stage -- The Moth is exactly that. Whether by professional storytellers or amateurs with something to say, The Moth is first and foremost an organization that puts on shows where its stories are told lives by people of varied backgrounds. Wrapped in podcast format, you’ll hear 10 to 30 minute stories about life, love, struggle, success, hilarity, irony, addiction, and everything else a storyteller tells about.

This American Life - (LINK)

This American Life is a weekly radio show and podcast that focuses on a single theme each episode, telling several stories that fit within that theme. Each episode is presented in a documentary style and focuses heavily on creative storytelling rather than journalistic fact-telling. Typically broken up into four parts, each act of a This American Life episode is vastly different from the next, but they combine effectively to tell a single story from a variety of perspectives.

Radiolab - (LINK)

Produced by New York City’s NPR affiliate, Radiolab is a podcast and radio show that focuses on themes in science and philosophy. The show tackles broad and difficult topics like space, time, life, and death, often in the form of a debate among the show’s hosts and participants. Sound and music is an important part of Radiolab, and each episode has its own uniquely produced soundtrack to go along with the topic. The use of sound is as important to the stories and debates in the show as the words that are said.


Serial - (LINK)

In its first season, Serial became a global phenomenon as host Sarah Koenig told the story of the death of a young girl in Baltimore and the case of the man who received a life sentence for her murder. This year, Serial returns for a second season that tackles the story of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier captured and held by the Taliban for five years. Serial is intelligently produced, weaves a well-researched narrative, and tells an engrossing tale that allows the audience to come up with their own conclusions.

Night Vale Radio - (LINK)

Night Vale Radio is a story and podcast told in the style of a radio news broadcast from the fictional town of Night Vale. The town is no stranger to weird oddities, from suspicious government experiments in the town’s park to alien abductions and beyond. And yet the way the townsfolk respond to these oddities is with an eerie sense of normalcy and status quo. Told from the perspective of the town’s radio broadcaster and his interviewees, each episode is creepy, funny, and engaging. Every episode has a song specifically produced for it that ties into that week’s overall theme.

Pop Culture Happy Hour - (LINK)

Pop Culture Happy Hour is a podcast produced by NPR that discusses the latest books, music, movies, and pop culture happenings in the world. Led by a group of NPR pop culture writers and bloggers, the show is a discussion of the latest and greatest in pop culture and entertainment, whether it’s Star Wars movie, the hosts’ favorite new Netflix shows, and much more. They go beyond just discussing why they liked or hated a TV show or movie to in depth discussions on how it was produced and some of the funny quirks you might have missed in your first viewing. It’s a smart yet funny podcast that’s sure to entertain you and give you ideas for your next Netflix binge.

Freakonomics Radio - (LINK)

Freakonomics Radio is a weekly podcast that takes interesting topics from pop culture, world news, and beyond and talks about the hidden economic and business aspects behind major world occurrences. From topics like why people keep having children, to how a woman’s quest to find the best cheeseburger led her to a healthier, smarter diet, Freakonomics Radio tells smart stories that expose the math and money behind topics both grand and seemingly mundane.

99% Invisible - (LINK)

Design is a huge yet underappreciated aspect of our lives. The reason your phone looks and feels the way it does may not be readily apparent as you’re reading an article, but a lot of thought and research goes behind its construction. 99% Invisible focuses on the world of design and architecture, explaining the things around us that we overlook that were designed and constructed in a way that best suits our needs. Each episode focuses on a single design or piece of architecture and involves interviews with architects and designers.

Hardcore History - (LINK)

Hardcore History is half a lecture, half a story, told by Dan Carlin, radio host turned podcaster. Dan Carlin is small part commentator, big part historian in his Hardcore History series, where he takes on various eras and locations in time to teach or reteach us about historical events. Whether you want to know more about Genghis Khan or the World Wars, Carlin’s unique storytelling voice can help you escape into the past on your way to work.

Image courtesty of Sascha Kohlmann.

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