Good podcasts give you more than opinions or entertainment; they give perspective. I like to listen to my favorites on iTunes while making dinner, or when I want to unwind after a long day.
I’m consistently impressed with Q: The Podcast, a Canadian take on current events and pop culture. The host, Jian Ghomeshi, is the best in the business and isn’t afraid to challenge his guests’ arguments. I go to NPR’s Fresh Air and The Sound of Young America [now called Bullseye] for in-depth interviews with artists and icons, though hosts Terry Gross and Jesse Thorn tends to fawn too much.
For great thematic storytelling, This American Life and Radiolab are the perfect combo. I also love Studio 360 for its “American Icons” series, which spotlight different American figures and works of art like the Lincoln Memorial and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. To feel smarter, the TEDTalks video podcast is a good start, though with its scientific and technological focus I tend to skip videos that don’t interest me.
Finally, to keep things interesting, I’ll take in The Bugle, a comedic (and often dirty) take on current events by British comedians John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman wherein the two gentlemen exchange one-liners about everything from the city of Cleveland, Ohio, to erstwhile Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
All of this adds up to an eclectic but immensely gratifying mix of entertainment and enlightenment. And they’re all free.