Top 5 shows to tune into… on NPR… seriously!

I love NPR!

There, I said it. Call me boring, say I’m old, tell me I’m lame, I don’t care. National Public Radio is my thing.

I listen to it in the morning when I get dressed, at work when I write and in the car (but only when I get sick of My Chemical Romance’s cd The Black Parade, which isn’t often these days). As someone who studied television news in school, I can appreciate radio as an art form, well, at least the way NPR does it. Newspapers and TV programs can show images to get the point across but radio reporters and hosts have to connect emotionally and intellectually with listeners using only sound — that ain’t easy!

But more than that, NPR has 5 amazingly entertaining, inspiring programs that I believe everyone should be listening to:

1. This I Believe: For years, every day people (and sometimes famous ones) have been sending in essays explaining the values and beliefs that drive their lives. No matter what kind of mood I’m in or what deep though I’m thinking, there’s always an essay that’s relevant. Some of the most recent essays that have moved me are: “A Marriage That’s Good Enough” about a woman who has come to terms with ‘settling’; “Stress Yields a Sweeter Life” about a man who traded in his suit and tie for tomatoes; and “My Husband Will Call me Tomorrow” about how a wife/mother gets through her days while her soldier-husband is fighting in Iraq.

2. StoryCorps: Every Friday, someone new tells a charming personal story through StoryCorps, an oral history project funded by the Library of Congress. Since 2003, there has been a mobile recording studio visiting every state in the U.S. and taping every day people as they recall memories. Some are sweet, like “A Mentor and a Friend” about an 11-year-old boy’s experience with the Big Brother program; and others are just fun to listen to, like “The Day Bonnie and Clyde Came Calling,” in which two old women recall meeting the infamous duo.

3. A Prairie Home Companion: The movie didn’t do justice to this classic radio show or its host Garrison Keillor. He’s a genius story teller, and his cast of actors, musicians and performers are incredibly talented. A Prairie Home Companion is a throwback to those old-time radio programs in the pre-television era: as the troupe acts out stories, there’s a sound guy who recreates all sorts of noises (like wind, animals, people walking down stairs, etc.). It’s good, clean fun and entertainment, and an almost obsolete art form.

4. Says You! If you like word-play and brainteasers then you’ll love Says You! It’s a half-hour program that features a group of players who try to untangle play-on-words, figure out meanings of obscure words or just confuse each other with their own words. It’s so much fun to play along, even though I’ve yet to get anything right…

5. This American Life: An hour-long show that has a different theme each week and several stories that play off of that theme. It’s on at 10 a.m. on Sundays where I live, so I usually lay in bed listening to it as I slowly wake up. One of my favorites has been Star Crossed Love, which covered the love story between a POW and a soldier, a hilarious interview with advice columnist Ask Amy (Ann Lander’s heir), a high school student’s crush on a celebrity look-a-like, and love story between a chipmunk and a squirrel by author David Sadaris. I just love how the different stories are just weaved seamlessly together… art, I tell ya.

Pure art.