One of my tentative plans for 2009 was to start listening to This American Life. I've always been a fan of talk radio, but until now I've limited my exposure to the CBC and sometimes NPR (when our CBC reception is off or we're visiting the USA). I think the name This American Life prevented me from checking it out earlier, but I decided to give it a try because I wanted to know why everyone loves Ira Glass (the host) so much. Also, I'm into podcasts now.
I wish I hadn't waited so long, and now I'm making up for lost time by listening to this list of favorite episodes. These are a few of my favorites from that list:
- Break-Up. Writer Starlee Kine on what makes the perfect break-up song and whether really sad music can actually make you feel better. Plus, an eight-year-old author of a book about divorce and other stories from the heart of heartbreak.
- My Pen Pal. Sarah, a ten-year-old from the upper peninsula of Michigan, unwittingly becomes pen pals with Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, arguably U.S. enemy number one at the time. Then she goes to visit him.
- Superpowers. A teenage girl made a checklist of all the things she'd need to do to become a superhero – learn to fly a helicopter, learn Russian, learn to fire a bazooka, you get the idea – and then proceeded to do all the things on the list. Also, which superpower is better: flight or invisibility?
- Babysitting. The last story in this show, about two teenagers who ended up babysitting children who didn't exist, is one of the most popular things we've ever put on the air, and even won an international prize.
- Switched at Birth. On a summer day in 1951, two baby girls were born in a hospital in small-town Wisconsin. The infants were accidentally switched, and went home with the wrong families. One of the mothers realized the mistake but chose to keep quiet. Until the day, more than 40 years later, when she decided to tell both daughters what happened. How the truth changed two families' lives—and how it didn't.
This American Life is home to story-telling brilliance, which allows it to entertain me with topics I never thought I'd be interested in. Not surprisingly, David Sedaris and Jonathan Goldstein are frequent contributors.
I know some of you are already fans, but even if that's the case, I think you should listen to one or two of these episodes so we can be fans together. Phil Collins won me over in one of them! Can you guess which one?