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

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.


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."

Karen Hanson

This book actually turned out to be something totally different than what I thought it was. I didn't realize it was a compilation of stories from many people. I'd never heard of NPR's "National Story Project." Apparently Paul Auster started it and basically asked people to send him short, true stories. I'm not sure if they still do this on the radio, but this book was a collection of a few of the stories sent in over the years. I really enjoyed this book. It was amazing to hear all these stories from all these people... some sad, some happy, some unbelievable. It was a perfect audiobook for my daily commute because of the short story format. It's something you can pick up and put down and not have to remember a long story line or what was going on. Highly recommended.

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.

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.


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 ..."

Marco Tamborrino

"Non so cosa sia più straziante: il dolore manifestato apertamente o quello sopportato di nascosto per non affliggere coloro che amiamo. Ma so che quella sera nel seminterrato ci stringemmo l'uno all'altra e sfogammo tutta l'infelicità che ci aveva condotti ai nostri segreti e solitari muri del pianto. E da allora non abbiamo mai più sentito il bisogno di piangere da soli." Quando Paul Auster lanciò questo progetto, chiese solo due cose agli americani: che le loro storie fossero vere e brevi. Ed è questo a essermi piaciuto così tanto. L'incredibile veridicità della maggior parte dei racconti. Incredibile perché è difficile immaginare che certi eventi siano realmente accaduti a persone comuni. Tra queste pagine troviamo le lacrime e i sorrisi, la morte e la vita. Ci parlano dell'America da un punto di vista qualsiasi. È l'America dei suoi abitanti, l'America restituita al suo popolo. Paul Auster è sceso dal gradino dello scrittore e ha chiesto a agli americani di scrivere per lui. Li ha presi per mano e li a guidati nei loro ricordi, nei loro dolori e nelle loro gioie, creando questo piccolo gioiello.Una raccolta di 126 racconti che soprendono per la loro forza e per la verità che trasudano. Ci raccontano anche di come la scrittura possa aiutare a esorcizzare i propri demoni, di quante cose saremmo capaci di liberarci se scrivessimo tutti. Paul Auster ha restituito alla letteratura una certa poetica del vero, e per una volta l'America non ci appare Hollywodiana come nei film, ma così umana che non riusciamo nemmeno a riconoscerla.

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.


Most of the stories were interesting enough, but there was an overabundance of tales about 'coincidence'. After the first ten, they all started to seem much less miraculous. The inclusions from writers of earlier generations were especially enjoyable and reminiscent of tales from my grandparents.


This is a good book to take to the doctor's office and read while you're waiting. Lots of very short bits from NPR's National Story Project. Pleasant light read, but didn't change my life.


Several years ago, Paul Auster began the National Story Project in which he invited Americans to send stories to NPR. The only requirements were that the stories had to be true and they had to be short. Over 4,000 stories were submitted within months and from those, Auster selected the 179 stories included in this volume. A wonderful read. Americans are living intense, wacky, wonderful lives and are willing to share them. One of my favorites was the story of a small boy who heard his father tell one of their neighbors to drop dead and shortly thereafter the man did. Obviously the boy drew the obvious conclusions about the power of his father. A great book to pick up and read in short sessions.

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.


I love the "short" format, and it didn't disappoint in this collection. The writers convey so much, but because the focus of each essay is so tight, the reader is left with plenty fill in on their own. I don't like it when books go on and on, leaving nothing to the imagination - I prefer to wonder about all the alternatives. Some sections are stronger than others. War stories in particular got a bit repetitive for me.I do think the title is terrible - makes it seem like the book is going to be about a disturbing and dysfunctional family, which doesn't even represent the one story the phrase is taken from, much less the entire book.

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