The Short List

Shalom writes a lot about his strict religious upbringing, which doesn't sound like it'd be much fun. But somehow he makes these stories into funny little O'Henry-like fables. If you've never heard him, start with Blessing Bee in show 281.
Josh writes for Wired, GQ, Rolling Stone, and founded Epic, a magazine for narrative non-fiction. His weightlifting snowman story in episode 323 was made into a t-shirt, and his Santa story in 371 might be made into a film.
Birbiglia's a stand up comedian who first appeared on our show in 2008 and quickly became an audience favorite. We built show 361 Fear of Sleep around one of his most memorable stories, about a sleepwalking catastrophe.
As a producer, Alex was the driving force behind The Fix Is In (168), The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar (352) and Act V (218, with Jack Hitt). It was his obsession with mortgage-backed securities that led us to The Giant Pool of Money (355) and all the Planet Money shows that came after.
Scott is one of the most original voices working in radio. The best introduction to his work is a full episode of his stories: 181 The Friendly Man.
In the early years of our show, Adam was on the program quite a bit, thanks to an unusually large pool of funny, radio-friendly stories from his own life. Later, he and Alex Blumberg formed our Planet Money team.
Jonathan was a producer at our show for years. His most popular story: The Greatest Phone Message in the World (203). Other greats: 198,191, 241. His stories rewriting the Bible: 233, 305, 321. He now has his own show, Heavyweight.
Jack has done some of the funniest stories we've ever run and also some of our best investigative stories. In the funniest camp: 61, 145. On the investigative side: 218, 310, 331, 15, 38, 229. Both: 253.
John's a contributor to The Daily Show, writes books and plays the PC in those "I'm a Mac I'm a PC" ads. He's done great funny stories for our show (178, 205, 232) but also a lovely poignant one in episode 243.
Etgar is one of the best known writers in Israel, the kind of writer people call "voice of a generation." Some of his work is also available in English.
Starlee was a producer for the show for years. Most memorable stories: creating a band in 223, writing a song with Phil Collins' help in 339, explaining the Beaver Trilogy in 226, doing comedy karaoke in 238 and encouraging her parents to divorce in 261.
Before becoming a staff producer at This American Life, Sarah was a political reporter at the Baltimore Sun and before that, at The Concord Monitor, covering the 2000 Presidential race.
Alex is the author of There Are No Children Here and other books. He specializes in deeply reported stories that are also emotional stories, character studies.
In 2008, after our Giant Pool of Money show, Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson started Planet Money as a co-production of our show and NPR News. They have a thrice weekly podcast and a blog and
David's the author of several books, and is one of very few to fill in as guest host of our show (248).
Jon's the author of several books and does stories for the BBC. He has some remarkable interview moments in episodes 314 and 338.
Davy's the creator of Found magazine. He reads samples from Found in episode 239. Stories about his mom - who channels an ancient Buddhist monk - are in episodes 212 and 262.
Dan's the editor of the weekly newspaper The Stranger, host of the Savage Love Podcast and author. One of his most memorable stories was filmed for our live cinema event and put into episode 379.
David's the author of many bestselling books. Many stories from the early ones appeared first on the radio, before showing up in print.
Alix worked on the show from the very beginning, and went on to become a great reporter. Each of these led to a flood of email from listeners: 77, 204, 322.
Julia's an actress, writer and performer. She let us excerpt her one-woman show about cancer in episode 9 and her show about losing her faith in episode 290.
Nancy's one of the original producers of our show and has done some amazing stories for the show, most notably in episodes 46, 164, and 266. Her writing in the third episode of our TV show is mindblowingly good.
Sarah's the author of several books and has a great, classic radio voice that sounds like no one else. Some of her most popular stories are in these episodes: 81, 104, 107, 118, 151.

Other Favorites

Is it weird to say Jay is the king of independent radio producers? He's done hundreds of great series and stories. He founded the public radio stations on Cape Cod. He also founded, an amazing and inspiring website to teach people how to make radio.
Elna is a writer and comedian who performs regularly at The Moth. She wrote a memoir called The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance.
Petra is an investigative reporter who writes for places like The Nation and Mother Jones and Harper's. She's working on a book about the justice department's terrorism trials since 9/11.
Ian is a TV and radio host in Canada, as well as the author of the nonfiction books Man Medium Rare and Freewheeling. Not to be confused with the lead singer of the Stone Roses.
Susan was a producer at our show. After she left, she created two diary-style radio stories with an Afghan teenager (shows 230 and 254) and co-wrote a book with him, Come Back to Afghanistan. Her essay in episode 175 was turned into the feature film Unaccompanied Minors.
Lisa is a writer and performance artist who published the zine Rollerderby and performed with several experimental bands. Her books include Drugs Are Nice and The Lisa Diaries: Four Years in the Sex Life of Lisa Carver and Company.
Sean contributed to the show on and off starting in 1999, and then came on staff in February 2014. He’s also worked as a producer at Radiolab, a regular contributor to Marketplace, and a freelance reporter for lots of other shows and podcasts including Studio 360 and 99% Invisible. His career started at WBUR in Boston where he was a news-writer, engineer, announcer, field-producer, reporter and, finally, a correspondent for the station’s award-winning documentary unit Inside Out.
John is a performance artist in Chicago who we first noticed onstage singing as his alter-ego John Sinatra Conners.
Pete wrote the zine Dishwasher, as well as the book of the same title, chronicling his mission to wash dishes in all 50 states in the US.
Wendy is a freelance radio producer who used be a producer at This American Life. She also contributes to Jonathan Goldstein's show WireTap.
David is a New York based storyteller and regular performer at The Moth. He wrote the memoir "House of Cards: Love, Faith and Other Social Expressions."
Jane is a staff producer who started as a This American Life intern. She also supervises music for the radio show, and did that job for the TV show too.
Hillary is a freelance writer and producer in Philadelphia. She writes and illustrates novels for young adults, and makes stories for lots of different public radio shows.
Dave is a writer and comedian in New York City. One of his many projects is a live talk show called the Dave Hill Explosion.
Chana got her start at the local stations in Seattle, before she was scooped up by the Planet Money team. Her story about AIG in episode 382 is particularly great.
Alexa is a super-successful TV writer whose credits include Friends, Sex and the City, The West Wing and Big Love.
Jorge is a writer who we met when he interned at This American Life. He is a frequent contributor to Jonathan Goldstein's radio show WireTap, and has masterminded online marketing campaigns for bands like OK Go and Green Day.
Dave is on the Planet Money team, and is such a skilled radio reporter that sometimes we have to pinch ourselves to remember that this is his second career. His first? Nuclear physicist. No kidding. PhD and everything.
Mary Beth has won more than fifty awards for her public radio reporting and producing. Her story Tom Girls in episode 374 got a huge listener response, and took the Silver Medal in the 2009 Third Coast competition.
Robert was an early innovator on the NPR News programs in the 70's and 80s, who went on to do television on ABC's Nightline and elsewhere. Lately he's the co-host of the most innovative new show in radio, Radiolab.
Sandra is a writer and performer who does regular commentaries on KPCC and on various public radio shows. She's also published several books and is a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly.
Joel is currently a writer and columnist for GQ. He's one of the many people from Harper's magazine who hooked up with our show.
Brett is a writer who seems to contribute to almost every magazine there is. He also participated in John Hodgman's Little Gray Books lecture series.
Beau O'Reilly is a founding member of the Curious Theater Branch, a professor of playwriting at the School of the Art Institutes of Chicago, and author of over 75 original plays.
Before becoming a producer at This American Life, Lisa was a print reporter at the Baltimore Sun, where she won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. Her story about an Iraq War veteran in episode 340 is a must-hear.
Radiolab is an innovative public radio show produced by WNYC and distributed by NPR, hosted by Jad Abumrad and public radio veteran Robert Krulwich. They approach subjects broadly related to science, and explore them with sound-rich documentaries (Jad is also a composer, and you can hear it in Radiolab's delicate mixes).
Joe runs Radio Diaries, one of the most interesting documentary series in public radio.
Margy writes about film and TV for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly and other publications.
David has written for lots of publications, and currently works for The New York Times.
Julie is the Senior Producer at our show, which means she's in charge of finding material for the program. Hundreds of people wrote to us after hearing her story about battling the phone company in episode 253.
Paul and his friend Jack Hitt were the two people Ira first turned to for help in creating This American Life. Paul was the show's editor for a while. He now writes for the New York Times Magazine and did a book about the Harlem Children’s Zone.
Cheryl is a writer and monologist, based in Chicago.
Brady wrote the story collection Letting Loose the Hounds and the novel The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint.
Cheryl is a writer living in New Orleans, who most memorably contributed to episode 296, our post-Katrina show. She has a memoir called Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around.


Banks is one of the greatest American fiction writers around, and it's truthfully always hard for us to talk to him without a smidgeon of nervousness.
Bender is a novelist and short story writer. She's won two Pushcart Prizes and teaches at USC.
Canada is president of the Harlem Children's Zone, which has set for itself the ambitious goal of completely reinventing the war on poverty. He's also a great writer, in his memoir Fist Stick Knife Gun.
Michael Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, but everything he writes is fantastically entertaining.
As a child, Phil Collins appeared in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but his scene was edited out. Later he became one of the best-known rock musicians in the world. In episode 339 he teaches Starlee Kine how to write a breakup song.
Davis writes with a quiet, terse, instantly recognizable style. She was a MacArthur Fellow and a finalist for the National Book Award. Her six books of stories were recently published together in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.
Diaz is a writer and professor at MIT, and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Live of Oscar Wao.
Eggers is best known for the memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. He's also written the screenplays for Away We Go and Where the Wild Things Are. Dave runs McSweeney's, and founded the nonprofit literacy group 826 National.
It's hard to write about David Foster Wallace without hyperbole so let's just say here that he was a fantastically interesting novelist, reporter and essayist.
Gilbert's most recent book is the blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love. She's also worked as a magazine reporter and participated in John Hodgman's Little Gray Books Lecture Series.
Malcolm Gladwell writes hugely popular books like Blink and The Tipping Point. He's also a great live performer.
OK Go formed in 1999, and were the house band for our 2000 and 2003 live tours. In addition to being a great band, they make hugely inventive, hugely popular music videos.
Gold writes about the kinds of dive restaurants and little ethnic food joints that traditionally haven't been the focus of serious food writing. In 2007 he was the first food critic to ever win the Pulitzer Prize.
Gourevitch is a journalist who's probably best known for his writing about the Rwanda genocide. He's a staff writer at the New Yorker, editor of The Paris Review.
Spalding was best known as a stage monologist but was also a writer and actor.
Hall was the 2006 Poet Laureate of the United States. He has published fifteen books of poetry and twice won the Guggenheim Fellowship.
Hornby is an English novelist, essayist and screenwriter, whose books include High Fidelity and About a Boy.
Kaysen is a writer most well known for her memoir Girl, Interrupted.
Klosterman is a journalist and essayist who writes about pop culture with the intellectual intensity of someone designing a new way to fly to the moon.
Lamott writes fiction and nonfiction, memoirs and advice for writers. She has a famously huge following on Facebook and has been called "The People's Author."
Michael Lewis is possibly the most entertaining nonfiction writer alive. If that's not true it's at least close to true. Liar's Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, his NYT article about Jonathan Lebed (Google it): what's not to love?
Also known as Click and Clack, Tom and Ray have hosted the public radio show Car Talk since 1881, four years before the invention of the automobile.
Matt starred in the film In the Company of Men and has been in movies and TV shows with half the famous actors you've ever heard of.
Greil Marcus is a very influential American cultural critic.
Paterniti is a reporter and the author of the book Driving Mr. Albert, about taking a road trip with Einstein's brain.
Andy Richter does all kinds of interesting stuff but he's best known for his work on TV with Conan O'Brien.
Peter hosts the public radio show Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!, which is produced at our home station WBEZ Chicago. We know him personally!
Sante is a Belgian-born writer and critic who emigrated to the US in the early '60s. His books include Low Life and his awards include a 1997 Grammy for the album notes to the Anthology of American Folk Music.
Saunders' writing is sometimes compared to Kurt Vonnegut's, but Saunders is a totally original writer who blends deadpan realism, science fiction and social commentary. He's also a great reporter.
Sittenfeld wrote the bestselling novels Prep and American Wife.
Suskind is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former writer for the Wall Street Journal.
Talese is one of the fathers of the 1960's-era New Journalism, without which it's not clear This American Life would ever have come to be.
John Flansburgh and John Linnell have been playing catchy, accordion-powered alt rock in TMBG since 1982. They've also done some pretty sucessful children's records.
Troupe is best known for co-writing Miles Davis' autobiography. He also collaborated with Chris Gardner on his memoir The Pursuit of Happyness.
Weschler was a staff writer at The New Yorker for over 20 years. His books include Mr Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder. He's now director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU and the Chicago Humanities Festival.
Joss Whedon created the TV programs Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse. Also Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
Tobias Wolff is another one of those iconically great writers that we've been lucky to talk into coming on our program. He penned This Boy's Life, a title we had ringing in our ears when we named the radio show. His 2003 novel Old School has nothing to do with the Will Ferrell movie.