This American Life is the granddaddy of podcasts. It is known, it is loved, and with 20 years experience, it has a backlog of 500+ episodes for you to choose from.
This American Life was my first introduction to podcasts/radio shows. I remember it well. I was riding around town with a friend on a Saturday morning, when the episode called “24 Hours at the Golden Apple” came on. Suddenly I found myself not wanting to get out of the car, so I could continue listening to this fascinating story. Reporters were simply sitting at a 24-hour diner in the heart of Chicago and talking to patrons who came in throughout the day.
In that story I honed in on what makes This American Life special- the fact that everyone has a story and if you listen to people, they will share theirs with you.
Episodes of This American Life range in topics from the silly to the serious, from Heartbreak to The Financial Crisis, and prisons to summer camp.
The This American Life website provides a list of widely agreed upon favorite episodes, if you’re looking for a place to start. But here are some of my personal favorites:
The Break Up : I have listened to this many times to laugh and cry. Have you ever been so heartbroken you wanted to write a sad song and play it to Phil Colins? Well one reporter got her chance.
The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar : This is a beautiful piece of storytelling. A woman looks into the mystery of her grandfather’s kidnapping as a child, and finds a story that will touch you and haunt you.
Testosterone : An unlikely subject for a radio show, this hour changed the way I look at men, and how we are all influenced by hormones in general. It will make you laugh and give you perspective on how we all operate.