Podcasts are the perfect road trip accompaniment. They keep you engaged, but can provide white noise to keep you focused on the road. We tried to cast as wide a net as possible to keep you entertained on your cross-country drive, so we have some straight up entertainment, comedy, history (a good bit of history, actually), design, and trivia. For the one’s where plot matters, go back to the first episode. For the others, jump around however you want. There’s plenty of past episodes to sort through, so keep this open in a tab while you plan your long haul. Here are 10 binge-worthy podcasts for your next road trip.

Hardcore History

Dan Carlin is a master at providing context to history, something exceedingly few people put any effort into. His narration of the events of ancient history draw you into the story, putting you directly into the shoes, armor, battalions, clothes, or mindset of any of the participants of the events. Take his most recent, “The Celtic Holocaust.” In it, Carlin perfectly captures the apocalyptic wars the Romans waged in Gaul. The ancient Celts are no longer an abstraction from thousands of years ago, and instead become families, children, soldiers, and individuals staring down Julius Caesar’s nuclear ultimatum. It’s a visceral, emotional, captivating program that revitalizes history in the most literal sense of the word. If you think he can only do it with ancient subjects, listen to “Blueprint for Armageddon,” and tell us you don’t feel like you’re in the trenches with the soldiers from both sides, completely disillusioned with nationalist politics, waiting for someone to finally tell the artillery to stop firing. Listen


99% Invisible

99% Invisible comes from the Buckminster Fuller quote, “Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.” It’s mostly meant to say you don’t see or think about the work that goes into design, be that personal or architectural, for furniture, gadgets, tech, or accessories. Host Roman Mars wants to tell those stories and force you to consider the work, thought, time, and effort that went into making your everyday life possible. He’s covered money, Hurricane Sandy, all kinds of sports, dozens of topics you wouldn’t expect, which is probably part of the point. There’s a huge back catalogue, so you can sort through and pick and choose what topics interest you. Listen


Stuff You Missed in History Class

People don’t seem okay with being force fed the same history their parents and grandparents were. It’s a great step forward, so anyone who’s going to step up and provide some alternative education (as long as it’s researched thoroughly and academically) is worth giving a chance. The people we’re giving a chance here are Tracy Wilson and Holly Frey, and they certainly seem to know their stuff. They pick obscure bits of history, as well as stuff we’ve been taught school didn’t teach right, do their research, and try their best to get as close to the truth as history will allow. Topics can get heavy, but there’s a fair mix of lighter topics too, so you can decide which kind of history you want to learn. Disastrously depressing or mildly uplifting. Listen


Reply All

Most of the descriptions out there for Reply All focus on surviving the age of the Internet, which is mostly fair. But we’d extend it a bit. We’d say it’s more of a psychological case study of modern society. PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman seem to have hit on the realization that people and technology aren’t a one way street, with one changing the other and nothing coming back. It’s a give and take, where people improve or alter technology, tech dictates psychological change and further innovation, and people alter even more. They cover everything under the modern sun and seem to make a genuine attempt to understand why people act the way they do. There’s not much in the way of making fun or belittling the things they don’t agree with, which makes it something fresh in a cultural time when so much is about tearing down other people. Listen


Freakonomics

Freakonomics was the first program that showed us how deeply rooted in economics everything in the world is. Nothing exists without affecting economics and economics affecting it, giving host Stephen Dubner the freedom to cover whatever topic he finds interesting. He keeps it fairly timely, usually taking cues from modern events and building his show around them, but he’s also had some of his best shows challenging things we consider timeless, unchangeable institutions. Tipping, lawns, Chuck E. Cheese, Chinese competition, and the complete rebirth of Earth 2.0 have all gotten full episodes, rarely in ways that pander to our own preconceived notions. This is also a worthy pursuit for people who find economics boring and complicated. There’s definitely a topic that will bring you in and you’ll end up accidentally learning about money. Listen


The Adventure Zone

D&D is sliding into the mainstream more every year, which is why we’re comfortable recommending The Adventure Zone. It’s shows like this one that enable the switch from ‘80s basement dwellers to average what’s-his-faces. Obviously there are still some nerdy elements to the game, as it is the largest bastion of stereotypical four-eyed nerd-dom, but thanks to efforts like those of the McElroy family, people are beginning to understand the storytelling potential of the game. Just as Lord of the Rings weaves an intricate story of fantasy and adventure that welcomes a wide audience, Griffin’s main campaign is exceptionally good at making you forget you’re listening to a family play a fantasy RPG. And being a family, there’s a natural quick wit to the improvisation at the table, so if you’re on the fence about the D&D part, but love comedy, this is worth a try. Listen


No Such Thing as a Fish

QI can be a difficult program to watch for those of us stateside. It doesn’t broadcast over here, that we know of, and none of the legal streaming sites have it. If you ever find yourself in Europe with Netflix access, you can stream a good percentage of it, but otherwise, your only legal option for quite interesting tidbits is No Such Thing as a Fish. It’s a podcast hosted by four of the show’s researchers (Dan, James, Andy, and Anna among others). They pull completely off the wall facts seemingly out of nowhere, just like the show. In fact, the only difference between this podcast and the show is a disappointing lack of Stephen Fry. And we haven’t listened to all the episodes, so he might have snuck one in at some points. Listen


Presidential

For as close as you can get to unimpeachable sources, The Washington Post is pretty close. We don’t want to sound like we’re detracting from the other respectable academic podcasts on this list, but they can’t really compete with 140 years of reputable journalism. The show was produced as a special event for the 2016 election and has one episode per president. Historians and journalists paint captivating pictures of the lives of our previous presidents, talking about their careers, personal lives, hobbies, and whatever else they can fit into their allotted time. It’s a great, straightforward show with no agenda beyond education the American public on their Executive Branch. Listen


Monday Morning Podcast

We’ve briefly recommended Bill Burr before, but let’s do that again by talking about his personal podcast. Bill Burr is a comedian who somehow manages to skate the line between offensive material and active alienation of the public. In his sets, he covers domestic abuse, race relations (with a particularly insightful angle; his wife is African-American), bullying, homophobia, and a ton of other stuff that sounds way heavier when you’re listing general topics off. But he’s never done it in a way that brought cultural backlash. He’s never apologized for what he’s said, never been boycotted (that we know of), and never mistreated anyone in his field. He’s gotten in heated arguments with people, but he’s always kept things as civil as he could and never made personal attacks. His podcast is all that with a rawer feel, since he’s talking off the top of his head and not doing practiced, refined material. But in a way, that makes it more endearing. You get to see a more genuine slice of how Bill Burr thinks as a comedian (with human being coming in a close second). Listen


Crimetown

Organized crime’s been a far more influential force in the development of the American psyche than people are willing to admit. There’s almost no aspect of life some form of the mob or the mafia hasn’t gotten their hands on at some point or another, and plenty of the places they’re involved would otherwise be considered straight edge pieces of Americana or, at the very least, legitimate businesses. In Crimetown, Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier explore organized crime’s effect on individual American cities, starting with Providence, Rhode Island. Season One loosely follows Buddy Cianci and his political career in Providence, but it covers other characters as well. Politicians, lawyers, cops, businessmen, and their mothers all get tied up in the mafia’s operations. You’ve seen this kind of stuff in movies, but it’s always insane to be reminded that not every mafioso is Robert DeNiro and Ray Liotta talking to Martin Scorsese behind the scenes. Listen

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