This American Life

This American Life describes contemporary life with themed episodes and a variety of stories on that theme — mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. The stories presented are engaging, intimate, surprising, funny, disturbing and bittersweet.

Recent Episodes

#512: House Rules

Where you live is important. It can dictate quality of schools and hospitals, as well as things like cancer rates, unemployment, or whether the city repairs roads in your neighborhood. On this week's show, stories about destiny by address.




Much of this story is told to Nancy Updike by ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose series on the Fair Housing laws — with more stories, research and interviews — is here.

#477: Getting Away With It

Stories of people breaking the rules fully, completely
and with no bad consequences. Some justify this by saying they’re doing it
for others, or for a greater good. Some really don’t care. And, unlike the
mealy weaklings you usually hear on this program: None of these wrongdoers
seem regretful about what they’ve done in the slightest.

#511: The Seven Things You're Not Supposed to Talk About

Producer Sarah Koenig's mother lives by a set of rules about conversation. She has an actual list of off-limits topics, including how you slept, your period, your health, your diet and more. You don't talk about these things, she says, because nobody cares. This week we try to find stories on these exact topics that will prove her wrong.

#510: Fiasco!

Stories of when things go wrong. Really wrong. When you leave the normal realm of human error, fumble, mishap, and mistake and enter the territory of really huge breakdowns. Fiascos. Things go so awry that normal social order collapses.

An updated version of a classic episode, now including one of the most popular stories we've ever aired... about a police officer and a squirrel.

#509: It Says So Right Here

Everyone knows you can't always believe what you read, but sometimes even official documents aren't a path to the truth. This week we have stories of people whose lives are altered when seemingly boring documents like birth certificates and petitions are used against them. And a family wrestles with a medical record that has a very clear, but complicated diagnosis.

#508: Superpowers 2013

This is an updated version of a classic episode, featuring a new story from Snap Judgment.



We answer the following questions about superpowers: Can superheroes be real people? (No.) Can real people become superheroes? (Maybe.) And which is better: flight or invisibility? (Depends who you ask.)


Chris ware's comic mentioned in the episode is here.