Our research team spend a lot of time on the road: that’s a lot of listening hours. Sometimes the sing-a-long reigns, but we often find podcasts are better for keeping the brain engaged and driver awake, not to mention the smug feeling of arriving cleverer than when we left.

Here’s a roundup of our favourite podcasts to keep you company on the road. 

The Inquiry

A great show from the BBC World Service that aims to “get behind the headlines” to explore issues that are shaping the world, talking to three expert witnesses to get a full picture. Recent topics have included ‘Is privacy dead?’ (one of our favourite and most alarming yet), ‘How did we get hooked on plastic?’, and ‘Why are the Taliban so resistant?’ Fascinating.

History Hit with Dan Snow

Celebrity historian Dan Snow brings his usual clarity to all manner of historical chapters, exploring topics such as the latest Mayan discoveries, the Bayeux Tapestry and the real Charles II with an array of learned guests: “extraordinary, dramatic, tragic and fascinating stories of our shared past”.

Under the Skin with Russell Brand

Although sometimes abrasive, Russell Brand is an intelligent interviewer with strong ideas and a natural curiosity, making his exploration of topics with guest speakers pretty rewarding. In this series, he speaks to people such as Ruby Wax about madness and psychology, Professor Brian Cox about God and the universe, neuroscientist Sam Harris about whether Islam or consumerism are the biggest threats to freedom, and Headspace founder Andy Puddicome about whether mass meditation could change everything.

WTF with Marc Maron

A comedy podcast from across the pond, Marc’s show (often recorded in his garage at ‘The Cat Ranch’) features “revelatory conversations with iconic personalities such as Macaulay Caulkin, Robin Williams, Keith Richards, Ben Stiller,  and President Barack Obama”. Today, it more than six-million downloads each month, popularity which speaks for itself.

Joe Rogan Podcast

“A long form conversation with guests that is one of the most popular comedy podcasts on iTunes”, Joe Rogan – more known for his connection with Ultimate Fighting – debunks any meathead image with his endless curiosity for the world, with shows on all manner of varied topics, from archaeology to police corruption and nutritional tips from biochemists.

If you’ve ever wondered why more people are going vegan, why companies rely on job interviews, what imposter syndrome is, or why we dream, look to the BBC’s Why Factor podcast for answers. An enlightening exploration of those idle questions that flit across our minds. A slightly more reverent version of Olly Mann and Helen Zaltzmann’s Answer Me This podcast, also worth a listen.

The High Low Show

Witty women Dolly Alderton & Pandora Sykes talk pop-culture and news, a blend “based on the founding message that life is best consumed with a mix of the trivial and the political. The errant chin hair to the Trumpian politics, if you will.”

Walking the Dog

Times journalist Emily Dean records wholesome chats with famous and often funny guests while striding around the countryside. Expect meanderings from Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Matt Lucas and Jonathan Ross.

Kermode and Mayo’s film review

Another from the mighty Beeb, and great for film fans, Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode discuss the week’s movie releases while interviewing stars. According to Wikipedia, August 2014’s 1.6 million downloads place it second behind The Archers in the corporations most downloaded list.  Praise indeed.

The Adam Buxton Podcast

Comedian Adam Buxton hosts frivolous, giggly conversations with great guests (Kathy Burke, Romesh Ranganathan, Simon Amstell), interspersed with recordings from his walks with Rosie the dog and daft jingles.  Don’t miss the episode with Adam’s old friend Louis Theroux: very funny.

TED Radio Hour

A radio hour based on the famous talks, which give bitesized talks from expert speakers, laying out fresh approaches to old problems and new slants on current issues. Just the sort of brain-piquing content you’d expect from TED.

Desert Island Discs

The classic choice, Desert Island Discs has been going since 1942 and has hosted an array of famous cast-aways picking the eight tracks, book and luxury that they would take with them to solitude on a faraway island. Today hosted by Kirsty Young, conversations around the items are funny and insightful and with an archive stretching back over 70 years, you won’t run out of episodes in a hurry.

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