True Tales Of American Life

ISBN: 0571210708
ISBN 13: 9780571210701
By: Paul Auster

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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

Sari Lynn

Editor Paul Auster has collected a large number of mini-memoirs, ranging from a few paragraphs to a few pages in length, and organized them into sections: Animals, Objects, Families, Slapstick, Strangers, War, Love, Death, Dreams, and Meditations. The essays range from those that didn't grab me to ones that were truly delightful! It's good "bathroom reading", meaning you can open to any page and read, without having to have read what came before. It's also great for when you're waiting for an appointment or for a friend to show up. I kept it on my desk at work, for days when I'd find a few minutes to read after lunch.


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.

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.

Pedro Bello

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


This was good. There are more than a hundred stories in this volume, none of them more than four or so pages, all of them ostensibly true. They are organized by category, but beyond that the contents are utterly unpredictable. Almost all of the stories are excellent, and you never know until the finish whether you'll be laughing or crying at the end.It's a book that helps you believe in the casually miraculous, the innately supernatural qualities of human life. Coincidences that should mean something, but spiral off into silence or laughter at a moment's notice. It is a wonderful, moving, entertaining, and immensely human book. Paul Auster may be a member of the literati, but these stories are written by amateurs, and wonderfully free of pretense. Well, most of them. It's a pretty dang amazing book.

Karen Tatiana

This book was a roller-coaster of emotions for me, some stories made me feel heartbroken, sad, nostalgic, amazed, I felt remorse and I laughed out loud like crazy with others, I felt hope, love, solidarity and with a handful of stories, I wanted to know more about the authors, I wanted to know what happened next, how did their stories end or continue, even though it would have been impossible for the narrators to know what happened to the persons they once met or helped."It's hard to believe that there are so many magical moments occurring in people's lives...", wrote Alice in her review and I couldn't agree more."What do you do with a story like that? There is no message, no moral, and almost, not even an ending. You want to tell it, you want to heard about it, but you don't know why".Rachel WatsonWashington, D.C.From I Thought My Father Was God and Other True Tales from NPR's National Story Project.


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.

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.

Brenda Hicks

Listened to this one on tape. since it was originally a radio show, I felt this was an appropriate way to "hear" what the book had to say. My favorites were the war stories. A great book for the road. Interesting, sad and laugh-out-loud stories. It's solid entertainment.


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.

pierlapo quimby

Qua dentro ci sono almeno una dozzina, non voglio esagerare perciò dico solo una dozzina, di raccontini, fattarelli, cronachette, memorialucci, che da soli basterebbero a far arrossire di vergogna, causa manifesta inadeguatezza artistica, buona parte dei cosiddetti scrittori minimalisti degli ultimi decenni.


Este libro es casi un poemario, y como tal exige que su lectura sea lenta y gradual, a su ritmo, por más que uno quiera atascarse y terminarlo en dos días, que bien podría hacerse por el ritmo de cada historia.Después de leer este compendio, con sus altas y sus bajas, uno termina sintiendo que toda la historia y secretos de la literatura contemporánea bien podrían esconderse entre las páginas de esta recopilación. Organizados por temas, Creía que mi Padre era Dios reúne muchas historias, con una simetría mágica, emocionante, intensa. Ríes, lloras, reflexionas, vives.La gran belleza de este texto y que lo aleja completamente de los libros motivacionales y de autoayuda, es que en ningún momento intenta ni apuesta por ser algo inspirador. Son fragmentos de vidas que por algún motivo han tenido un eco, lo suficientemente grande y entrañable como para llegar aquí, en papel. Sin embargo al final siempre se queda este dejo, de que no importa, al final está la muerte, y la casualidad, y las ganas rabiosas de querer creer en el destino, cuando al final lo único que sobrevive son los lazos, la mortalidad, las letras...


This is the second time I have read this collection of true stories from NPR's National Story Project. The stories in this book might be more aptly named anecdotes, as most of them are no more than one page in length, and some are just a few lines. They deal with animals, family, objects lost and found, heartache, and astounding coincidences. Some are comic, some are tragic, but all are true.The ironic thing is, I grabbed this book out of a box one night because I wanted something easy to read that didn't involve the long-term commitment of a novel, but I have been glued to its pages every night for a week. I keep finding myself up way past my bedtime saying "Just one more story, just one more story ..."

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.

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