I love podcasts; I love them for long drives, for while I'm doing housework, for when I'm resizing a large batch of images or other mundane work on the computer, for when I'm not feeling motivated to get outside to run, for all those in-between travel times on the subway, bus or train, when I can't read due to motion sickness issues (gah!). I tend toward well-produced, almost magazine-like podcasts made up of various contributors with fiction and nonfiction combined and minimal talk-radio-like chit-chat, though of course, some of these break those rules. 

I've been relying on my top 5 podcasts for some time now, so a few months ago, I decided to add to my collection of regulars, which just builds on my own particular tastes; I realize these might not be for everyone (however, they all get very high ratings on iTunes' podcast popularity charts). Without further ado, my 2014 additions: Go forth and be not bored!

The Freakanomics Podcast is based on the two best-selling books by the same name, and tackle a range of subjects from an economics perspective. Now, if you haven't read the books, that description might turn you off, but don't let it; Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt discuss everything from bad driving to reproductive technology to arts and science in an engaging, super informative, and never-dull way. (You can listen online or download for free from iTunes.)

Selected Shorts is a beautifully produced podcast that's recorded at Symphony Space in Manhattan; pieces are read by stars of stage and screen (heavy on the stage part); some of my favorite hosts have included John Lithgow and Parker Posey. Hearing actors read writers' work is a special treat, and Selected Shorts lives up to its name of "story time for adults." (Selected Shorts is in the iTunes store and the site is here). 

Slate's Audio Bookclub is exactly what it sounds like: A conversation among Slate's editors about a given book each month. Oftentimes, it's a new book, but sometimes it's one that has recently been made into a movie, or is in the news for other reasons. The rotating cast of Slate editors means you hear a diversity of opinions on the books presented, and it's a wonderful opportunity to revisit favorite books or hear about new ones you might want to read — if you don't mind hearing some spoilers of course. (You can find it free on iTunes or listen on Slate's site.)

Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks is the more popular sibling of the podcast I found first, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and is part of HowStuffWork's collection of well-researched and packed-with-info podcasts (You can see the full list of them here). Stuff You Should Know is hosted by the garrulous and wonderfully sensitive (and pop-culture knowledgeable) team of Josh and Chuck, who fill listeners in on what exactly happens when you die, how Black Friday works, what exactly funny is (and plenty more), along with plenty of random tangents into TV shows and movies. 

The Organist is the podcast from the staff of The Believer, so you have to be into that publication's take on the world in general, which includes a bit of an oddball perspective on almost everything, but also plenty of really interesting nonfiction coverage of the strange and interesting, which is my favorite bit (you can listen online here). 

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Never be bored: 5 more entertaining, free, educational podcasts
Learn something new, get delighted and look forward to road trips!