This American Life

The past few weeks have been chaotic and there are so many details I must make a point to record so I can remember them. It might be a sign of my age but I really enjoy at least one day a week, usually a Sunday, spent at home in my kitchen just cleaning and cooking and pottering. Since Serial podcast took over all of our lives I’ve searched for a way to replace it. There is a lot happening out there!

Oliver has had a stack of favourite podcasts for years, but for me This American Life is the best quality true life storytelling I’ve found. Every Monday I get a new hour long episode, they are always insightful and surprising. I recently found that I could listen to their archives (over 500 episodes!), though their website, iTunes and a paid for podcast app. In the midst of a chaotic week I really look forward to that hour. 

Often there are two or three, maybe four stories on a chosen theme. And sometimes they dedicate the show to one story, and I find these are spectacular. They stay with me. They episodes flow between politics, injustice, hilarity and everyday life. No matter the subject matter, I am usually enthralled. And I suppose that’s the point; because we all spend time on the little things just as much as the big things. Could I fail to mention that host Ira Glass has the best voice for storytelling?

So I have some recommendations for your next Sunday potter:

Episode 199: House on Loon Lake (listen here) – a full hour dedicated to one real life Hardy Boys mystery.

Episode 492: Dr Gilmer and Mr Hyde (listen here) – another full hour, the story of a Doctor who replaces his namesake and discovers that his predecessor committed a terrible crime, shocking his patients. 

Episode 246: My Pen Pal (listen here) – a traditional episode, with two acts, two stories, both touching and eye opening. Yes, I cried.

Episode 513: 129 Cars (listen here) – the first episode that made me take notice of TAL. No traditional storytelling, but a couple of weeks spent inside a car dealership interviewing salespeople about their day to day lives. I would never turn on a documentary with this description, but somehow it’s utterly fascinating.

Episode 436: The Psychopath Test (listen here) – named after the Jon Ronson book, this is a great introduction to the concept of the psychopath test. Listen to the podcast, read the book and then figure out who you know is probably a psychopath.

There are over 500 episodes for your listening pleasure here at their website. I also recommend Radiolab and Freakonomics for instant bursts of insight. You can use a podcast app for instant access to new episodes.