The Best Podcasts to Listen to On Your Commute

Is there anything more boring than a daily commute? Unless your commute is a straight drive down a gorgeous scenic highway that only you know about, chances are you’ve experienced the dread, frustration, and mind-numbing monotony of the daily commute to the office. Rather than choking back your road rage or memorizing every billboard you pass, why not throw on something to at least soothe your ears? Fewer occasions are better suited for podcasts than commutes, so here our favorite 30-minute-or-less podcasts for your commute.

Positiviteeny!

best podcasts for commute positiviteeny

Even if you’re lucky enough to head off to your dream job every day, everyone succumbs to the depressing drags of the workday routine occasionally. That’s why we recommend Positiviteeny, the itsy-bitsy podcast dedicated to sending out “messages of hope, support, and inspiration in 10 minutes or less!” Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, your hosts Travis McElroy, Erika Ishii, and Amy Dallan drop a positivity bomb on you. Rather than giving you a list of things to be happy about, the three hosts instead encourage you to find your own positivity as they have quick-but-meaningful conversations about topics like how to deal with goofing up, forgiving others, accepting compliments, practicing self-care, and more. The result is teeny, tiny episodes that act as bright little reminders to live your best life.

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A Thousand Things to Talk About

A Thousand Things to Talk About

A Thousand Things to Talk About is the perfect droplet of listening for super-short commutes or those last few minutes of your drive. Although episodes are only 1 minute to 4 minutes long, the ideas that host Andrea Parrish drops will stick with you far longer. Every weekday, Parrish succinctly tackles a topic and leaves her listeners with a question to ponder and discuss all day long. Topics are widely varied and can range from ideas that feel strangely ethereal, like dreams or self-knowledge, to topics that seem shallow but become surprisingly deep, like lawns and selling art. The show is quick, interesting, and has a way of making you genuinely reflect even on topics you wouldn’t imagine you’d care to. There are literally hundreds of episodes in the show’s archive, too, so you’ll have conversation-fodder for a long time.

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Up First

Up First

If you like to stay in-the-know on current events, Up First needs to be part of your commute routine. Not only does this podcast keep you up to speed on the new every weekday morning, but it also saves you hours of scouring articles or watching cable news by doing it in 10 to 15 minutes. Hosted by Rachel Martin, David Greene, and Steve Inskeep, Up First gathers up all the news and serves you the biggest stories “from politics to pop culture” in a super-quick format. Up First is an NPR production, so you know it sounds great, with crystal clear audio and sound clips woven in for a clean, newscast-y feel.

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Blank on Blank

Blank on Blank

Blank on Blank is an older podcast that dusts off archival audio and shares interviews with a huge variety of figures from history. The show was built around the idea that “writers save interviews recorded while reporting, yet most of them are never heard,” and each episode features previously forgotten interviews with a huge range of historical figures, from entertainers to journalists to explorers and authors. The interview audio is woven seamlessly with modern narration and music that tells a brief story of each interviewee. The show is nothing short of fascinating, as listeners are treated to the thoughts and stories of figures from Hunter S. Thompson to George Washington Carver in their own voices.

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Song Exploder

Musicians and music lovers should be hitting up Song Exploder on the reg regardless, but with episodes that are typically 20 minutes or less, it’s especially great for a commute. Each episode of the show centers around a single song as creator Hrishikesh Hirway invites the artist to discuss how it was created. Artists discuss their inspiration and give a sound-by-sound retelling of how the final song came to be. The show is a natural hit for musicians, but anyone with even a passing interest in music will find themselves engrossed in Song Exploder’s stories of artistic creation.

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The Story Behind

The Story Behind

On The Story Behind, host Emily Prokop takes quick, deep dives into the history of everyday objects, from the theremin to the smiley face to Play-Doh. Prokop’s narration style is slick and conversational; she manages to pack more information in each episode than seems possible. Episodes run from 5 to 15 minutes, and Prokop’s narration is backed by a varied, unobtrusive soundtrack. What makes The Story Behind unique, however, is the way in which Prokop structures episodes to keep you invested in topics you never would have thought to research yourself, making her short stories of “the extraordinary history of the ordinary” perfect for getting absorbed in on your way to work.

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If you burn through all of these, you should check out our favorite podcasts for road trips, our top overall picks for 2019, the best fiction podcasts overall, the greatest history podcasts, a few hilarious comedy podcasts, the best options for work and your workout, a few hilarious comedy podcasts, or The Manual’s own podcast. Need more suggestions? And if you’re new to podcasts, you’ll need one of the top apps for listening.

Article originally published February 1, 2019. Last updated to ensure podcast availability.

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