That American Life

Sophia Vilensky

I hopped on the bandwagon a bit late, but I’m no fake fan.


This American Life is a (very popular) weekly public radio program hosted by Ira Glass. Broadcast since 1995, episodes were released as a podcast alongside its radio twin in 2006.


The show centers on a specific theme each week (examples include prom, the cruelty of children, and stories that will “make sense when you’re older”). Episodes are then split into acts in which reporters and storytellers research and recount tales.


All sorts of stories are welcome in This American Life. Sweet, sad, the ridiculous, creepy and mundane. New podcast episodes become available Sunday nights at 8 p.m., and the whole catalog is available on

Although I have yet to make a huge dent in the decade-large archives, here are some of my favorite stories from months of heavy listening.


Episode 586: Who do we think we are?

Act One: Whose great idea was this?

In this act, Mariya Karimjee tells the story of her own clitorectomy … and how she figured out the story in the first place.


Episode 585: In Defense of Ignorance

Act One: What you don’t know.

When Lulu Wang’s grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, her family decided not to tell her. Ignorance, my friends, is truly bliss.


Episode 537: The Alibi

Listen to the whole thing

The first episode of This American Life spin off podcast Serial. It’s the most popular podcast for a reason, folks. So. Good.


Episode 527: Human Spectacle

Act One: I am the eggplant

You’ve seen “The Truman Show”, but have you ever heard of Japanese comedian Nasubi? He was on a reality show, except he didn’t know it was a reality show. It’s creepy. Listen.


Episode 449: Middle School

Listen to the whole thing

There’s a reason I always end up paging through my middle school yearbooks when I’m home. Awkward and amusing, anecdotes from these prime years create a remarkably and painfully relatable episode. Prepare to cringe.


Episode 571: The heart wants what it wants

Act One: Jesse’s Girl

In the 1980’s, the “Church of Love” convinced men to donate insane amounts of money to the angels they were corresponding with. The plot was eventually found out to be a mail scam, but there was no way the men would give up on love that easily.


Episode 181: The Friendly Man

Listen to the whole thing

This episode is made up entirely of stories from reporter Scott Carrier. With topics stretching from schizophrenia to reusable battery thieves to 11-year-old understandings of adult relationships, there’s a reason Carrier was offered his own episode.