Love learning? Here are five free podcasts you need in your life

Photo credit: Giulia due Puntozero Do you ever feel like there is so much to learn and not enough hours in the day? Most people I talk to wish they could read more books, watch more movies and better understand current affairs, but struggle to find the time to fit it all in.

I feel your pain. Reading is one of my favourite pastimes, but I often go days without picking up a book, let alone following the news. It’s amazing how fast the working weeks fly by.

Fortunately, I recently discovered the humble podcast. Now I can listen to concise and interesting radio shows on the way to work, when I’m out exercising, or even as I cook or do household chores.

There are podcasts available on just about every subject under the sun – whether you are into fashion, gaming, music, cooking or movies, I’m sure you will be able to find a podcast you love. And the best part? Most podcasts are FREE.

I love podcasts that help me learn new things about the world, especially global current affairs (which unfortunately lack decent coverage in mainstream NZ media).

So without further ado, here are my five favourite free podcasts for people who love learning – enjoy!

BBC Radio 4 Documentary of the Week

Every Friday the team at BBC Radio 4 select their favourite documentary from the week been and publish it as a podcast. Ranging from 30 minutes to an hour in length, these podcasts explore a particular topic from all angles through interviews and analysis. My favourite episode to-date explores the rising slow journalism movement against a backdrop of constantly breaking news and instantaneous media.

Website: Top pick: Good News is No News 

BBC History Extra

By far my favourite podcast, BBC History Extra is a must-listen if you are a history geek. Recorded by the team at BBC History Magazine, each episode is about an hour long and covers two topics. The podcasts are recorded as interviews with leading historians and authors. The topics tend to be quite UK-centric, but as a Tudor enthusiast this doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Besides, the entire archive is published online, so you can select from over one hundred different episodes.

Website: Top pick: Kamikaze pilots and Captain John Smith

The Good Fight

An American podcast produced by Ben Wikler, The Good Fight focuses on positive political movements happening throughout the United States. From Black Civil Rights to progressive economic policy, The Good Fight gives a voice to groups of people who are out there trying to make good things happen. I find it an incredible window into US politics – Ben Wikler provides context to every topic he covers and explains complex scenarios in an approachable, easy-to-understand manner. Plus, he also uses awesome music for dramatic effect.

Website: Top pick: Fed up with the economy?

TED Talks (audio)

You really can’t go wrong with a TED Talk. If you haven’t discovered TED yet, you are seriously missing out. Described as a “platform for ideas worth spreading,” TED provides people from all walks of life with an opportunity to share their innovations with the world. The videos are hugely popular but the audio podcasts are just as good.

Website: Top pick: Matthieu Ricard: How to let altruism be your guide

BBC World Service Global News

News websites often overwhelm me; there are so many articles, where to start? The BBC World Service Global News podcast pulls together “the best stories, interviews and on the spot reporting from around the world.” It always includes an update on the major global stories, but also throws in a special interest story. The podcast is published twice a day and runs for about 30 minutes.


Do you listen to podcasts? What are your favourites? I’d love to hear your recommendations – please comment below. In the meantime, happy listening!