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The 10 best podcasts to expand your mind on the go


Podcasts are always on the up - in 2013, Apple marked the one billionth podcast subscription - and that may be because in multitaksing terms, they are undoubtedly one of the greatest, and easiest, ways to expand your mind while doing something else.

Whether you're commuting, listening while doing other tasks or even at the gym, it's possible to subscribe to podcasts to make you laugh, but many can teach you new topics as well, and the conversational radio show feel of a podcast will often make you forget you're listening to something educational.

Cast thoughts of lectures aside - amongst the quarter of a million podcast shows out there, an incredibly broad range of topics teaching you little known facts about topics from history to design. Here are a few of our favourites:

99% Invisible

What's it about? Design

You might think of design only influencing artists, fashion designers and trendy furniture makers, but the truth is every single man made object will have had some level of design applied to it. 99% invisible talks about the activity that has shaped our world but is largely overlooked. Despite being something you'll listen to, you'll certainly find it an eye opener.

When can I listen to it? Broadcast weekly, each episode is 20 minutes long

Find it: 99percentinvisible.org

Oxford Biography

What's it about? Famous people's lives

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is a sort of Encyclopedia Britannica documenting notable people's lives throughout time, and thankfully somebody had the genius idea of putting that work into audible form. Impeccably researched (of course), you'll learn more than a few insights into historical figures from Guy Fawkes to George Orwell.

When can I listen to it? Broadcast fortnightly, each episode is between 10 and 30 minutes long

Find it: global.oup.com

The Memory Palace

What's it about? History - but not as you know it

Telling short but sweet stories, this historical podcast transforms events and lives into an episode that can take the form of a song, poem, or short story, focusing on a particular point in a historical episode. You'll find out why that was important, but the non-traditional form makes that a more interesting perspective by far.

When can I listen to it? Broadcast monthly, the episodes are only five minutes long

Find it: thememorypalace.us

The Broad Experience

What's it about? Women!

The Broad Experience - as well as a wonderful play on words - is a podcast about women in the workplace presented by British-born writer Ashley Milne-Tyte. Based partly on her own personal experience and research, she realised this was a conversation that needed more voices added to it, and the podcast covers topics from getting a raise to women's experiences in different industries. You'll learn about your rights, and how to make sure you're being treated fairly at work.

When can I listen to it? Each episode is broadcast twice monthly and are around 20 minutes long

Find it: thebroadexperience.com

Savage Lovecast

What's it about? Sex

Co-founder of the It Gets Better project, Dan Savage is an experienced sex columnist and advisor, and answers listeners' questions in a hilarious, relatable manner. While you (hopefully!) won't be too baffled by the topics on hand, his attitude to relationship and sexual dilemmas from a couple disagreeing about whether to have children to a pastor addicted to pornography will ask you to consider how you would treat such problems in a non-judgemental manner.

When can I listen to it? Broadcast weekly, each episode is up to an hour long.

Find it: savagelovecast.com

Little Atoms

What's it about? Science

Little Atoms looks at the individual scientific ideas and culture that have over time changed how we see our world. Focussing mainly on the Enlightenment period of the 17th and 18th century, the presenters interview famous figures in science and culture like Brian Cox, Ian McEwen and like to challenge traditional views, questioning the world around us - which you'll find yourself doing too.

When can I listen to it?

Find it: littleatoms.com

The Moth

What's it about? Real life stories

The Moth is a really individual podcast. Recorded live, it's part a stand up show, part a storytelling exercise. Each show has a theme and anybody - from professional stand ups or authors to ordinary people plucked from obscurity - can tell a story from their experience based on that theme. The podcast is a summary of the best stories, examines the art of storytelling, overcoming borders to find out how we relate to one another.

When can I listen to it? Weekly - each episode is an hour long

Find it: themoth.org

The New Yorker

What's it about? Culture

It might seem counterintuitive to listen to a magazine, but this podcast takes an issue from the cultured magazine, famous for its long read articles, and discusses it at greater length. From politics to profiles of famous people, or delving into a feature topic, you can learn about current affairs, history or just more about a famous figure.

When can I listen to it? Weekly, each episode varies in length

Find it: thenewyorker.com/podcasts

Stuff You Missed In History Class

What's it about? History

The Stuff You Should Know podcast is one of the most famous around - with hosts going in depth on topics from sugar to the moon landing. But this spin off, telling the little-known histories of individuals like Hetty Green, the millionairess known as the "Witch of Wall Street" or an irreverent look at an event like the Gunpowder Plot is just as entertaining and educational. You'll forget you're learning and find yourself reeling off facts to impressed friends.

When can I listen to it? Episodes are broadcast weekly, and are 30-40 minutes long

Find it: missedinhistory.com

The QI podcast

What's it about? Quite interesting facts

The researches behind quirky Stephen Fry hosted quiz QI - the QI Elves as they're known realised a lot of interesting facts they were finding out were going to waste if they didn't come up in the show, so they started gathering around a microphone and discussing their favourite little-known facts in this new podcast. If you're off to a dinner party, prepare to dominate conversation after listening.

When can I listen to it? Weekly, each episode is 30 minutes long

Find it: qi.com/podcast



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