True Tales Of American Life

ISBN: 0571210708
ISBN 13: 9780571210701
By: Paul Auster

Check Price Now


Currently Reading Essays Favorites Fiction Memoir Non Fiction Nonfiction Paul Auster Short Stories To Read

About this book

Chosen by Paul Auster out of 4000 stories submitted to his radio programme on National Public Radio, these 180 stories provide an illuminating portrait of America in the 20th century. The selection requirement of the stories was that they should be true and not previously published.

Reader's Thoughts


A review on the LiveJournal community 50BookChallenge review of I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR's National Story Project spurred me to check this out from the library.It's a collection of 179 pieces written by men and women from all over the United States - all races, genders, walks of life, beliefs and ages. The book is broken down into ten categories: Animals, Objects, Families, Slapstick, Strangers, War, Love, Death, Dreams, Meditations. Most pieces are only a page or two - the shortest is six sentences.I agree that some of the bits, especially in the Dreams section, got to be repetitive, but I found the Meditations section to be much more moving than just "so-called stories" would have been. This is going to sound cliché - but I laughed, I cried, and I was sorry to have reached the end of the book.I can see this becoming a bedside favorite - something to skim through before settling down for the night.


The charm of this book was in how real it was. Just real stories from real people, courtesy of NPR. I think everyone has at least one story that is a really good one and here is a collection of just that. I was moved to tears several times and was just sucked in story after story.


Collection of true stories submitted by NPR listeners. Many of them are stranger-than-fiction episodes (which Paul Auster obviously has a penchant for) and make for a good bedtime read. There were a handful of stories that left an impression deep enough to make me want to jot down the story synopsis, but apparently not deep enough for me to remember when I failed to actually write them down :p Except for one. There was this story, towards the very end of the book, about a woman in her 60s who who purposely downshifted her lifestyle and became a homeless. She sold her house and all her possessions, invested the money in some fund from which she receives a few hundred dollars a month (she makes it clear that she's not on welfare), moved to another state where it's warmer, rented a spot in someone's backyard where she pitched a tent, and she spends her days reading at the library, watching dress rehearsals at the local theater for free, goes to gallery openings where she can both enjoy art and free appetizers. She doesn't explain what led her decision and what kind of life she's led before (except she does have a daughter who she talks to occasionally on the phone), but she comes across as an intelligent, decent and responsible American citizen. She ends her piece by noting she does have anxiety and fear about what'd happen if she got sick, about the imminent winter season, about the future. Her closing sentence is "Wish me luck."Ever since I heard this story, she's stuck in the back of my mind, and every so often, I send her my best wishes and hope that she is doing well.On a side note, purchasing this audiobook on iTunes made me realize how iPod app is very audiobook-unfriendly. Lack of chapter divisions and bookmark functionality make it difficult to re-listen to stories that you liked or even to find the spot where you left after re-launching the app. It annoyed me enough to swear I'd never buy an audiobook on iTunes and to go sign up on Their app is soooo much better.


I love this kind of book. Lots of quick, easy snippet-stories with enough truly interesting or moving ones to make up for the occassional shoulder-shrug-worthy ones. It was kind of like a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book, with a more intellectual flavor and marginally better writing. I'm not sure why they chose this title. The story the quote comes from was neither unique nor archetypal, plus I don't think the title conjures up the feel of this book very well. Anyway, a great nightstand book. Skip the intro and the last chapter, "Meditations." You won't be missing anything.

James Stephenson

A superb collection of stories from 'ordinary folk', not remarkable so much for the stories themselves as for the voices, the themes and the sweeping portraite of generations of Americans. Across the enormous distances of the USA and from world war 2 vets to the young of the 21st century, the unity and diversity of experiences is powerful to read. Auster's introduction, a model of prefatory essay writing, says this all better than I can of course, and we can see his love of conincidence through the selection of works which make it into the book - those 'stranger than fiction' moments which so many of these first-time authors have taken the opportunity to record. Auster's organisation of the stories is powerful also - midway through the section on Death the emotional harrowing of story after story takes its toll, but we are lifted into Dreams immediately after and that macro-level shaping shows, in many ways, Auster's narrative artistry at its finest. To summarise - how can you summarise such a diverse collection, spanning a continent and four generations of non-authors who noentheless had a story to share? Nothing short of brilliant.


Amazing how many different experiences can be captured in these short selections. I found them exceedingly rich and could not read them all at once.


This is the perfect book to read before bed, because you can read it in tiny chunks, but it's also the worst book to read before bed, because you think, "just one more tiny chunk! Look how tiny!" and then you've read 30 more and it's 2 a.m. I love this book. It's hard to believe that there are so many magical moments occurring in people's lives, but hell, I want to believe it.


I enjoyed this book quite a bit and have actually reread it several times. A Lesson Not Learned is one of the best stories in the book even though it took my breath away when I first read it. I would recommend this to anyone. It's an easy, fast read that most will enjoy.

Nathan Harrison

I'm a sucker for non-fiction like this, especially when it's given the NPR imprimatur. There's a lot of coincidence at work in the stories in this book, but they are all supposedly true (though it may only be that they are "true enough", in the words of David Sedaris). The possibility of narrative liberties aside, I'm into synchronicity, period -- whether it be the work of a pattern-finding brain or more mysterious forces. As a bonus, all these stories are related first-hand, more or less, having been submitted to a radio program by listeners. And while there's an unmistakable hint of a editorial voice at work, there's enough variety of authorship to make each little tale its own.


In 2003 I bought a copy of True Tales of American Life, edited and introduced by Paul Auster. The copy was second hand and was inscribed on the title pageTo Fluffykins BunnyLove from the Rabbit with Medium Sized earsxxxI wondered who these creeps were. I tried reading the book and got bogged down around page 50 because it turned out that the true tales were all two pages long and relating wildly improbably co-incidences to which the only possible reaction was "oh yeah? you don't say so" with one eyebrow raised extremely high. I stashed the book on the top shelf of my tall bookcase and forgot it. In 2005 there was a minor domestic incident, the details of which I do not need to enter into, and I found myself staggering backwards into the said tall bookcase. It shuddered and some books looked like they would fall out but only one did. An edge of it caught my nose quite painfully on its way to the ground. It was True Tales of American Life.In a rage I packed it and several others up in a box and took them to the Oxfam shop.In 2008 I was holidaying in Devon (which is hundreds of miles from Nottingham, a very pleasant part of England). Naturally I was poking around the one bookshop in the pretty market town of Okehampton – it was one of those with stone floors and ridiculously narrow staircases to the various floors, and I turned awkwardly and sort of fell against one of the bookcases. Several books cascaded down around me and in great embarrassment I began replacing them. I noticed that one of these books was none other than True Tales of American Life. Whimsically, I opened it and looked at the title page, and there I sawTo Fluffykins BunnyLove from the Rabbit with Medium Sized earsxxxIncoherent with the majestic profundity of this amazing occurrence, I explained to the woman serving in the shop that this very book was the one which had fallen on my nose in Nottingham three years previously. She raised one eyebrow, her left, and said"Oh really? You don't say so."

Laura Brown

A collection of 124 stories that Paul gathered from NPR’s National Story Project. They are written largely by regular Joe’s, constricted by the guidelines that the stories had to be 1. Brief and 2. True. He organized them by sections including War, Death, Love, Satire, Meditations, etc. From the beginning to the final story, they brought tears to my eyes with how incredibly they evoked humanity in its most minute essence. An amazing book - the best I’ve read in years.

Cris V.

Este libro no me decepcionó en absoluto. Bajo la premisa de ser un compilado de 180 relatos de vida cotidiana estadounidense, muchas de las historias aquí presentes se tornan fascinantes. Desconozco la obra de Paul Auster como autor (por el momento) pero, si maneja algunas temáticas como las presentadas en este libro, no puedo esperar para poder leer algo escrito por él.Lo hermoso de este libro es que está dividido en varias secciones y todas ellas, en mi opinión, reflejan aspectos fundamentales de lo que representa ser humano. Amor, animales, objetos, muerte, por mencionar los que más me impactaron, demuestran que lo que es más importante para cada persona, generalmente, no involucra lujos económicos.Recomendaría mucho este título, tanto por los temas que presenta como por el cómodo formato de relatos breves que maneja.


This is a collection of 180 stories written by NPR listeners. They are short, easy to read. Some funny. Some sad. It's a great book for reading in bed at night since you can finish a story and turn out the light.

Pedro Bello

vou lendo o Paul Auster ate encontrar um livro que goste muito.Ainda não foi desta.


These stories are incredible - of course some are more enjoyable than others. (While reading the "war" section, I took a bit of a break to read Wendell Berry.) But as a collection of real stories it's terrific: some that make you think, some that make you cry, and some that make you laugh or smirk. A wonderful representation of life and humanity.The premise of the book: Paul Auster was asked to tell stories for a NPR segment and after talking to his wife decided it would be a better idea to read other people's stories. This collection is comprised of pieces people sent in to be read on-air.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *