I usually listen to podcasts while taking a walk (or run, if I’m feeling energetic), so I tend to go for ones that are at least half an hour or longer. These are the ones I listen to the most:
• Judge John Hodgman: A very silly show from author/actor/Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman. People call in with disputes; he legislates and is snarky. This podcast is my favorite. There’s a lot of in-jokes and references to past shows, so for best enjoyment I’d suggest listening to the older ones in addition to newly posted shows.
• Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! A news quiz radio show, taped mostly in downtown Chicago. A revolving panel of guests chat about current events and people call in to answer questions for a chance to win a voicemail greeting recorded by the show’s scorekeeper and question-reader, Carl Kasell. The Boyfriend and I actually went to a taping of the show once. It was awesome, and makes listening to the podcast even more fun since I know how it’s made. :)
• Point of Inquiry: A science- and politics-focused show in which authors, scientists and other folks are interviewed on their fields of study. Chris Mooney is likely the more well-known host, but I think Indre Viskontas is way cooler. She’s a cognitive neuroscientist and opera singer. A recent good episode delves into the art of rhetoric, and why more people should get good at it. A note of warning: The show comes from a very secular liberal perspective. If that would bother you, best to avoid it.
• This American Life: Sort of my gold standard for podcasts, though it’s actually a radio show released in podcast form. They pick a topic and tell 1-4 stories based on that topic. Many are journalistic reports, some are fiction, some are “based on a true story.” I’ve really enjoyed ones that involve people with a very different life than I’ve known. One episode that sticks in my mind has a story of a guy who was addicted to drugs, and decided to volunteer as a coach of a boys’ baseball team. Other really good ones are The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar, in which a young boy goes missing in 1912 and is found with a man who may or may not be his kidnapper, and Switched At Birth, which is just what it sounds like. Compelling stuff.