Whether you’re looking to learn something new or see something from a new perspective, there is a wide variety of interesting websites filled with thought-provoking content. Pick your favorites and add them to your favorite RSS reader or subscribe to their email newsletters.
1. Farnam Street
Helping you make the most out of your brain to learn faster and smarter.
- Articles are organized by topic for quick access
- Subscribe to a free weekly newsletter
- Has an interesting podcast as well
- Some content and features are only for paying members
- Site itself is very minimal design-wise
Farnam Street is well-known for content designed to help you learn faster, think better, improve decision making, and teach you how to use your brain better. For instance, learn from some of the biggest intellectual giants, such as Richard Feynman or Peter Bevelin. You can also pick up how to learn and recall things faster and easier than before or how to get more out of every reading session.
Make sure you don’t miss The Knowledge Podcast with incredible interviews, lessons, and amazing insights. You can get early episodes, no ads, extra content, book summaries, and more by becoming a member for $20/month or $100/year.
2. The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings)
Insightful content designed to give you a deeper meaning of life.
- Long-form content on a variety of insightful topics
- Completely ad-free
- Two different newsletters (weekly digest and random archive posts)
- Topics may sometimes feel random (though they do fit the overall theme of broadening the mind and heart)
The Marginalian, formerly known as “Brain Pickings,” is the brain child of Maria Popova. Since the site began in 2006, Popova has written millions of pages worth of content examining art, science, philosophy, history, and much more. Gain inspiration through the stories of others, such as Resolutions for a Life Worth Living, or understand how witchcraft, our universe, and science fiction relate in How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe.
Since the site is ad-free, Popova does kindly ask that you consider donating once or even monthly to help offset the costs of running the site, but it’s not required.
3. TED Talks
Learn from thought-leaders on almost any topic through engaging talks.
- Talks are from experts and thought leaders in their fields
- Content is always engaging and sometimes even entertaining
- Each talk is designed to educate or help broaden your mind
- Some content is only for members ($5/month or $50/year)
TED Talks is one of the most interesting websites to visit. There are numerous topics, such as ancient worlds, encryption, language, music, philosophy, vulnerability, and everything in between. Talks are usually less than 20 minutes, making them ideal to listen to on the way to work. There are also transcripts available.
You can also check out podcasts via the TED Audio Collective or read the insightful Ideas blog. While you can search by topic or get recommendations, a few great talks to get you started include Tim Urban: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, Jon Ronson: When Online Shaming Goes Too Far, and Andrew Solomon: Depression, the Secret We Share.
4. Harper’s Magazine
Long-form journalism at its best as the magazine examines culture, politics, society, and the environment.
- Founded in 1850 and even featured Theodore Roosevelt, Tom Wolfe and Winston Churchill
- Original and innovative thinking is the premise
- Covers politics, society, the environment, and more through a thorough journalistic approach, along with fiction and engaging essays
- Some content is only for print/digital subscribers ($23.99 for one year or $33.99 for two years)
Harper’s Magazine started in print in 1850 to encourage new and well-known voices to talk about the issues of the day. It’s still going strong today. If you prize well-researched long-form content with interviews, facts, and new perspectives, this might just be one of the most intellectual sites to visit.
Find the month’s latest statistics in the Harper’s Magazine Index or thoughtful articles on current issues, such as February’s feature Free Country on extremist gun rights. While some posts are behind a paywall, subscriptions give you access to Harper’s Magazine’s full 171-year archive. Or you could try to bypass the paywall at your own risk.
The ad-free place for serious thinkers; discover the world from new perspectives.
- Completely ad-free and no paywall (donations are welcome)
- Covers a wide range of topics from history to technology
- Includes text and video content, including an entire section specifically from experts
- May feel too psychological for some readers
Aeon is a unique place on the Internet filled with thought-provoking ideas from a wide range of voices. The site includes essays, videos, and audio content on philosophy, science, psychology, society, and culture. You’ll find interesting essays about animals, such as Becoming a Centaur, and details about ancient worlds, such as this piece on Uncovering Sparta.
The Ideas section of the site provides in-depth content created by experts in their fields. Psychologists, philosophers, and more come together to explain human nature. Subscribe to the free newsletter so that you never miss a thing. Also check out Aeon’s partner site, Psyche, for more about the human condition.
Read and even write about any topic imaginable, helping you learn something new every day.
- Almost any topic imaginable is available on Medium
- Editors hand-pick front page content in each category
- You can contribute your own thought-provoking content
- Anyone can contribute, which means some content won’t be as great as others
- Only some content is free, with the rest requiring a $5/month subscription to help pay writers
Medium is a unique entry on this list, but it’s equally one of the most interesting and weird websites to feed your brain. Since it’s a blogging platform, you never know what you might find. However, that’s part of the appeal. Long-form, well-written content typically rises to the top. To make it easier to find the best content, editors hand-pick what to feature.
You can also find individual publications on specific topics, where content is carefully chosen. For instance, Personal Growth and Better Humans both help you learn how to live better, while Start It Up helps you grow your ideas.
7. Wait But Why
Answering the world’s most burning questions with some light-hearted humor and visuals.
- Looks like a comic site, but you’ll always leave with new knowledge
- Explains complex topics in layman’s terms with plenty of visuals
- Learn and laugh at the same time
- Content is uploaded very sporadically
- Might feel too cartoony for some (but that’s also what makes it great)
Wait But Why is easily one of the most interesting websites to visit to learn something new or just to procrastinate when you’re bored. Think of it as a mix between webcomics and a deep dive into human nature, science, and even culture. It may seem weird at first, then you realize it’s just a cool website that really can do it all.
Mailbag posts are some of the best, as Tim Urban tries to answer reader questions with a mix of humor and well-researched facts. You’ll even find the occasional series, such as The Story of Us about society in general.
8. Open Culture
Culture and education blend into a platform filled with free brain food resources.
- Free educational resources, including courses, audiobooks, textbooks, and more
- Long-form cultural content, both text and video
- Content on numerous topics
- All the resource lists can feel overwhelming
Open Culture is the place to go if you’re looking for educational resources, such as academic courses, free textbooks, and language lessons. You’ll also find lists of movies, lectures, favorite books of famous individuals, and more. In addition to all the free resources, there are also regular posts on a variety of topics, such as The Amazing Engineering of the James Webb Telescope (astronomy), Sci-Fi Pioneer Hugo Gernsback Predicts Telemedicine in 1925 (health), and Behold the Photographs of John Thomson, the First Western Photographer to Travel Widely Through China (1870s) (travel & history).
Easily find content by filtering by topic. Otherwise, just scroll and enjoy the latest posts.
Thoughtful and educational content designed to further your learning throughout your life.
- All content written by experts in their fields
- Focused on expanding your education no matter your age
- Includes language-learning resources (including ESL)
- Doesn’t feature any opinion or perspective-style pieces
- Content doesn’t have much personality
ThoughtCo. is a premiere educational resource for both kids and adults. It focuses heavily on science, technology, and math, but also includes humanities and languages. All writers have degrees and a professional background in the fields they write about.
For adult learners, there’s guidance on how to continue your education and potential paths in different fields. Or anyone of any age can just browse and learn something new every day. Find out more about Martin Luther King, Jr., learn why math is considered a language, or discover the relationship between culture and nature.
Learning how science connects the world with deep dives and engaging content.
- Deep dives into various science topics
- Features different themes monthly
- Offers narrated stories to listen to
- Only focuses on science
- Must subscribe for some content (offers three different plans)
Nautilus is a popular print science magazine that’s also available online. You can read most of the current issue’s content for free on the website, but there are ads. Each month, there’s a new theme that uses science to explain how the world’s connected, including combining science with culture, humanity, and nature.
A subscription to the print magazine or a Nautilus Prime subscription gives you full access to the current issue ad-free, along with past editions. You’ll find interesting posts on the Nautilus blog, too, such as You Can Save More Animals by Donating $100 than Going Vegan and Why AI Lags Behind the Human Brain in Computational Power.
11. Information Is Beautiful
A beautifully visual look into the most important news and statistics in the world.
- Absorb content quickly with graphics
- Ideal for brain food snacks
- Covers a variety of topics
- No long-form content
- Content is random
Information Is Beautiful is unlike any other site on this list. Still, it’s one of the most interesting websites and incredibly fun to use. Instead of long-form content, everything is presented in graphical form, such as charts, mind-maps, and infographics. You’ll find everything from COVID-19 stats to rhetological fallacies.
If you’re on the search for brain food, consider this site the appetizer or a quick snack when you have a few free minutes. However, the amount of facts you can learn is immense, making it a worthy addition to this list.
Discover new perspectives on culture, business, current events, and much more with long-form journalism and essays.
- Long-form content on science, business, art, books, and more
- Get unique perspectives through personal essays
- Find must-read books designed to feed your brain
- Much of the content is curated or submitted from other sites but still carefully chosen by editors to fit the site
- Supported by ads unless you buy a membership (one-time contribution, $5/month, or $50/year)
Longreads helps fund voices eager to share their thoughts, research, and investigative reporting. All content is long-form, giving you far more detail and depth to stories about local businesses, current events, cultural issues, and even the best food. Learn more about well-known lesser known figures changing the world through Longreads profiles. Try the 2021 best-of roundup to get started.
13. JSTOR Daily
The place where scholars provide in-depth background on how today’s events came to be.
- All content is backed by linked research
- Content is provided by scholars and experts
- Access to academic journals, images, books, and other research materials in 75 disciplines
- Some content and resources are only for educational institutions and research organizations
- Free researcher accounts are limited to six premium posts/resources per month (premium accounts cost $19.50/month or $199/year)
JSTOR Daily takes a different approach to the news. Instead of just reporting what’s going on, scholars and experts look to the past to explain how things are different and the history of what led to today. For instance, Politics and Power in the United States looks at what led to the January 6th, 2021 insurrection. The Gruesome Truth at the Heart of Squid Game analyzes the dark undertones behind the popular series.
Topics include business, politics, culture, history, education, and more. All content is backed by research from supporting academic and/or scientific journals, which are linked to and free to read for any user. Research groups, including educational institutions, can subscribe (fees vary by type of membership and organization) to access the same research materials that JSTOR Daily writers use.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I have to pay to use these sites?
Many of the sites above do have some sort of premium model in addition to free content. However, you can choose to only read the free content and still have more than enough brain food to keep you full of thought-provoking content.
Premium models, including donation-only models, are there to help support the hard work of the writers, marketing, and the cost of running the site itself.
2. How can I get content from all these sites in one place?
The easiest way is to use an RSS reader. These gather posts into one feed or allows you to organize content into different feeds/topics. Then, instead of having to visit each site every day or week, you just open your RSS reader.
3. Is all the content on the above sites completely factual?
This depends solely on the website. These are all interesting websites, but there are no guarantees that all content is factually accurate. This is especially true of any opinion and essay content. If you doubt any of the content, consider performing additional research.
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