There are so many great podcasts out there right now. Here’s twelve of the best, covering pop culture, daily life, indepth interviews, history, science and humour.

(As well as the convenience of listening when you want another joy of the podcast format is that when you one you like you can go back and raid the back catalogue, which for some of these shows is huge).

the list podcastThe List

Australia · Radio National · weekly · about 30 mins · website · iTunes · free

A summing up of pop culture happenings from the past week followed up with an indepth discussion on one or two specific topics. Funny and smart host Cassie McCullagh invites one or two guests per episode to discuss trends across music, books, movies, tv, fashion and wider impacts on Australian and global culture.

For example: What Miley Did Next, The Truth About Digital Dating, Selfies At Funerals

pop culture happy hour podcastPop Culture Happy Hour

US · National Public Radio · weekly · about 50 mins · website · iTunes · free

A round-table take on pop culture from a regular gang of US National Public Radio writers and specialists on film, theatre, books and music. Extended discussions around themes (pop culture punching bags, rites of passage, the rise of subtitled film and tv) are fun. Sometimes a bit too much focus on US television for me but the regular team riff together well no matter the subject.

For example: Disney princesses, How many band members have to leave before it’s not the band?

wtfWTF with Marc Maron

US · Marc Maron · twice weekly · 60-90 mins · website · iTunes · new episodes free / subscription for older/premium episodes

American standup conducts extended interviews with actors, comedians, actors and musicians in his garage. Maron’s style is rambling and slightly manic ; his openness with his guests is often reciprocated and along with the longer format results in some of the most honest and insightful interviews I’ve heard from his subjects. I cherrypick through his episodes and focus mostly on the musicians as I don’t know many of the comedians he has on.

For example: Elijah Wood, Moon ZappaIggy PopNick Cave, J Mascis (some of these are premium/subscription)

nerdistNerdist

US · Nerdist Industries · weekly · 50-90 mins · website · iTunes · free

A similar extended interview format to WTF but with younger and zanier hosts, Chris Hardwick and buddies. At time of writing I’ve only listened to a couple of these, drawn in by the recent Neko Case interview.

For example: Neko Case, Daniel Radcliffe, George RR Martin

this american lifeThis American Life

US · WBEZ Chicago · weekly · 60 mins · website · iTunes · latest episode free / older episodes can be streamed on their website or purchased for $0.99

This long-running podcast deserves all the accolades it’s received – it really is extraordinary both in style and the range and depth of subjects covered. The house style puts the voices of its subjects to the forefront.

For example: Harper High 1 & 2, When Patents Attack, Middle School, Switcheroo

stuff you should knowStuff You Should Know

US · How Stuff Works · about 40 minutes · website · iTunes · free

Well-established, the rockstar of the How Stuff Works stable of podcasts. Hosts Josh and Chuck have a relaxed style and cover a huge range of scientific, historical and social topics of with insight and humour.

For example: How Barbie WorksWas There a Curse on King Tut’s Tomb?, Who Are the Amish?, The Real How Jack the Ripper Worked, Shark Diaries

stuff you missed in history classStuff You Missed In History Class

US · How Stuff Works · about 30 minutes · website · iTunes · free

Another How Stuff Works podcast covering a range of historical subjects. The show has had a number of hosts in its history – current hosts are Tracy Wilson and Holly Frey.

For example: Boudica, The Luddites

in our timeIn Our Time

UK · BBC Radio 4 · 40 mins · website · iTunes · free

Serious, no messing around here. Host Melvyn Bragg guides specialist academics – usually from Oxbridge – through indepth discussions of their specialty areas.

For example: Pliny the Younger, Social Darwinism, Chivalry

history of rome podcastThe History of Rome

US · Mike Duncan · about 15 mins · website · iTunes · free

A comprehensive and epic 179-episode series that took creator Mike Duncan five years to research and create. Covers more than 1,000 years of Roman history, from the founding of Rome to the fall of the Roman Empire in 476. Impeccably researched and presented in a easygoing episodic narrative style.

history of world war twoThe History of World War Two

US · Ray Harris · 20-60 mins · website · iTunes · free

Similar in approach and style to The History of Rome, an indepth account of the politics and events of World War Two. Hugely detailed – major events like Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain each get several episodes.

lexicon valleyLexicon Valley

US · Slate · 30 mins · website · iTunes · free

A word and language geek’s delight, hosted by linguist Mike Vuolo and writer and commentator Bob Garfield

For example: Etymology of the word faggot, DudeWhy is No among a Child’s First Words?

judge john hodgmanJudge John Hodgman

US · Maximum Fun · 60-90 mins · website · iTunes · free

A very funny fake internet courtroom in which the very witty John Hodgman passes judgement on petty disputes between couples or friends. Full of pop-culture references and judgements with genuine wisdom beneath the jokes.

The Book Case, Department of Corrections, The Right to Remain Silent, Backseat Jiver

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June 9, 2014

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