Meteorologists are predicting a potentially large amount of snow to fall on DC by Tuesday morning, and that just might mean a snow day for federal workers and employees of other organizations that swear by the Office of Personnel Management’s schedule. But just because you’ll be stuck inside doesn’t mean you have to be bored and intellectually isolated. Here’s a list of stimulating podcasts that will help you pass the hours—and learn a ton in the process.
- Crimetown (Gimlet Media)
This new podcast examines the tangled permutations of crime and corruption in US cities. Its inaugural season explores the colorful characters of Providence, Rhode Island, where organized crime and other depravity has infected every aspect of public life.
Perfect for: Understanding how messed up the world is.
- Ponzi Supernova (Audible)
Essentially a finance spin on the wildly popular true-crime genre, this podcast features recent interviews with convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff. It’s hosted by journalist Steve Fishman, who interviewed Madoff for New York magazine in 2011.
Perfect for: Serial fans.
- Missing Richard Simmons (Stitcher)
This podcast follows filmmaker Dan Taberski as he searches for his missing friend Richard Simmons. Simmons, fitness guru and famously accessible celebrity, suddenly disappeared without explanation in 2014. The deeper Dan digs, the stranger the story gets.
Perfect for: Nancy Drew-wannabes and people who loved sweatin’ to the oldies
- 99% Invisible (KALW)
Pure catnip for the curious, 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the seemingly mundane things we don’t think about and “the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.”
Perfect for: The relentlessly questioning human.
- Left, Right, and Center (KCRW)
I tried to avoid political podcasts in this list since Washingtonians are usually inundated with them. Still, this wonky yet genteel confrontation over politics and policy was worth adding for its smart and badly-needed perspective.
Perfect for: Getting out of your partisan news bubble
- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History (Dan Carlin)
Carlin delves deeply into world history, lending his wide-ranging and unexpected perspectives. In one episode Dan compares the modern view of Adolf Hitler with the way history views Alexander the Great, and wonders if the two were more alike than different. He’ll make you passionate about context. I love Carlin’s brain.
Perfect for: Realizing history really is fascinating and relevant, and learning all the cool stuff they never taught you in high school.
- 2 Dope Queens (WNYC)
Actress and author Phoebe Robinson and former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams, along with their favorite comedians, hilariously dish on sex, romance, race, and hair. Sometimes the show can get raunchy, consider yourself warned.
Perfect for: When the patriarchy’s got you down or you’re missing your best friend and just need to laugh until you snort.
- Nerdette (WBEZ)
Hosts Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda delightfully geek out about everything from artists to astronauts in hopes of revealing nerdy facets of your favorite thinker or pop culture figure, or in turning you on to your new favorite thing.
Perfect for: When you want all of the nerd but none of the bro.
- How to do Everything (NPR)
“If you have a problem, yo, we’ll solve it.” So promise the co-hosts Mike Danforth and Ian Chillag, who got their start as producers on Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me. How To Do Everything is half-advice show, half-survival guide, and fully entertaining.
Perfect for: When you want to feel like you have your life together.
- Reply All (Gimelet Media)
Creators describe the podcast as “a show about the internet and trained rats, time travel, celebrity dogs, lovelorn phone scammers, angry flower children, workplace iguanas, and more.” Really this show is about humanity, with some tech sprinkled in as a device.
Perfect for: Those who love a good story.
- Invisibilia (NPR)
Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin, and Alix Spiegel examine the invisible forces that control human behavior—ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions, interweaving narrative storytelling with scientific research to ultimately make you see your own life differently.
Perfect for: Questioning your existence.
- StarTalk Radio (StarTalk podcast network)
Beloved astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, along with his witty co-hosts, scientists, and celebrity guest discuss astronomy, physics, pop culture, and everything else under—and beyond—the sun.
Perfect for: Nerds and those with nerd-like inclinations.
- Strangers (KCRW)
Lea Thau recounts true stories of the people we meet, how we connect with them, and what it’s like to lose them. Described as an “empathy shot in the arm,” it examines human kindness without devolving into the saccharine. It might just make you question who you really are as well.
Perfect for: When you’re feeling cynical about humanity and don’t want to feel cynical about humanity.
- Special Sauce (Serious Eats)
Serious Eats’ podcast features, well, serious eaters. It’s a delight to listen to Ed Levine joshing with foodie friends such as Top Chef’s Gail Simmons or Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Susie Essman about what they love in the world of food and secrets to their success.
Perfect for: People who really, really love food.
- Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything (PRX)
This podcast challenges listeners to really think about what’s going on in the world, and the role you ultimately play in it. Humorous yet earnest, Benjamen Walker works through culture, media, art, and technology, connecting the dots along the way.
Perfect for: The person who embraces their existential crises.