5 Podcasts to Make You More Interesting

With 250,000 podcasts in the iTunes store, you have to hunt for the ones worth downloading. In my quest to find something that can distract me from the smell of the subway, I think I've listened to a good proportion of them. Most are amateur or so short they're not worth downloading. (I'm talking to you, two-minute New York Times U.S. News videos.) But with these five on your iPod, you'll arrive at work a better-informed woman, armed with interesting topics to fuel the day's discussions-- no more relying on Cosmo's "sexy conversation starters." (P.S., Cosmo: When has asking a stranger how many sweaters they own* ever elicited any conversation beyond "I've suddenly remembered I need to go somewhere else now"?) Just make sure you don't miss your stop.

*Real suggestion from September Cosmo

NPR TED Radio Hour

TED is having a moment, but TED Talks are a mixed bag — there are a lot of duds, but also some seriously profound talks. The kind folks at NPR sift through and put together excerpts of the most interesting TED talks, based around themes like “What is Beauty?”, “The Violence Within Us” and “Why We Collaborate.”

  • If you only download one episode, make it: “Turning Points”

Stuff You Should Know

If you’ve ever wondered how hard it is to steal a work of art, whether we can build an elevator to space or why you should never scare a vulture, you’ll want to subscribe to SYSK. With more than 500 episodes (and a cult following) to their names, co-hosts Chuck and Josh hit just the right balance between chatty and informative.

  • If you only download one episode, make it: “How Asexuality Works”


Every week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation produces a new hour-long documentary on human-interest topics like the lives of street vendors in New York City and the popularity of feng shui in Hong Kong.

  • If you only download one episode, make it: “A journey up the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea to meet the men of the Spirit Houses”

Science Talk

Don’t be put off by the name: Scientific American breaks down the latest in science and technology, and you can understand it. (Take it from someone who studied anthropology.)

  • If you only download one episode, make it: “Psychopathy’s Bright Side: Kevin Dutton on the Benefits of Being a Bit Psychopathic”

BBC Four Thought

Fifteen-minute talks, mostly by academics and writers. Same idea as TED, but more consistently good. Also, British accents.

  • If you only download one episode, make it: “Jules Evans: Socrates and Psychotherapy”