Brain-stretching podcasts organized by subject?—?think of it as your audio class schedule.
Literature: The New Yorker Fiction Podcast
Course description: Consume classic and cutting-edge fiction while you work or run errands. Each month, one well-respected writer reads a story written by an author of their choosing. Each podcast wraps up with a little tête-à-tête between the guest and the New Yorker fiction editor, Deborah Treisman.
Recommended episode: David Sedaris reads Miranda July
Economics: Freakonomics Radio
Course description: “Freakonomics” co-author Stephen Dubner has fun uncovering the hidden economics behind everything from sleep to online dating to the gender pay gap. Econ 101 not required.
Recommended episode: Failure Is Your Friend
Extra credit: Want more? Check out NPR’s Planet Money.
Course description: Latin for “all the invisible things,” Invisibilia weaves together narrative storytelling with scientific research to illuminate the hidden forces that control human behavior. Also, the hosts are adorable.
Recommended episode: Fearless
Computer Lab: Reply All
Course description: Ok, I’m not sure if computer lab has been a class since 1999, but this is a terrific podcast about the Internet. As a self-described Internet dummy (idk how I got this job), I think Reply All does an excellent job of making deep-cut Internet issues compelling and relevant for those of us who can barely check our email.
Recommended episode: Zardulu
Course description: If you’re not already a devoted Radiolab listener, it’s about time you got on it. A self-described “show about curiosity,” Radiolab blends science, philosophy, and stories about the human experience. I promise you’ll never run out of stories to share at parties.
Recommended episode: Poop Train
Course description: Radio rockstar Alex Blumberg takes us through the uphill battle of starting a new business. Season 1 is all about getting his podcast network, Gimlet Media, off the ground while season 2 focuses on the online dating startup Dating Ring, and the challenges its cofounders face as women in the tech industry.
Recommended episode: Diversity Report
Study Hall: Mystery Show
Course description: Take a break from your classes and play detective with Mystery Show, a super fun podcast by This American Life veteran Starlee Kine. In every episode, Starlee attempts to crack a new mystery that cannot be solved with simple Google research.
Recommended episode: Case #1: Video Store
Sociology: Hidden Brain
Course description: NPR’s social science correspondent, Shankar Vedandtam, explores the unseen patterns in human behavior to reveal things we didn’t know about ourselves but make total sense.
Recommended episode: Boredom
History: Hardcore History
Course description: One-man band Dan Carlin dives deep into history’s most dramatic moments for stories not covered in your typical history class. Winner of iTunes’ Best Classic Podcast of 2014.
Recommended episode: The American Peril
Language Arts/Storytelling: The Moth
Course description: Hone your storytelling skills with the Moth’s “True Stories Told Live,” featuring real tales from people of all walks of life, from all around the world.
Recommended episode: The Drip
After School: With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus
Course description: Okayyy, this one is not really educational. But it is the closest thing to hanging out with your friends after school. Improv genius Lauren Lapkus turns the tables and allows her funny “guest” to act as the host of a totally improvised radio show.
Recommended episode: The Sleepover Podcast with Lapkus’ improv team Wild Horses.