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.


One Comment

  1. Wow. Just listened while I’m unpicking the hem on Oliver’s old bedroom curtains (They are going in the kitchen). Never heard of serial podcasts before. Brilliant! 🙂



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