NPR: Not Just My Parents’ Radio

July 22, 2016

If I could pick a soundtrack to my life up until this point, it wouldn’t be a single song or the work of a particular artist. The soundtrack to my life would be the collected broadcasts of NPR from January 13, 1993 until today.

No matter where I was as a child, NPR wasn’t far away. A radio sat on the butcher block of my childhood home, a portable solar-powered radio was carried around the yard, and a station in every single car that my parents owned was preset to 90.3. I can sing you the opening theme to Morning Edition, I can tell you the name of Car Talk’s personal makeup artist (Bud Tuggli), and I can tell you the number for the pledge line of WAMC (1-800-323-9262). These are things I learned by osmosis. The sheer number of hours that I was exposed to NPR led to me retaining little tidbits of information. The gravitational pull of NPR is nearly inescapable for me, and it has more to offer me — and you — than just background noise.

If you’re a music buff, or are just looking to hear some a grab-bag of music, look no further than NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. Each concert lasts around 15 minutes and range in genre, from un-Auto-Tuned T-Pain to Chris Stapleton. This recent one from Los Hacheros will really brighten up your day.

If you’re looking for a book to read, MPR’s The Thread has consistently pointed me in the right direction. This list of best books of 2016 (so far) is a great place to start. I’m in the middle of “Version Control” by Dexter Palmer right now and it’s mind-bending to say the least.

If listening to great stories rather than reading them is more what you’re looking for, NPR has no shortage of great podcasts to choose from. Invisibilia is one in particular that has consistently gotten me to really think. It is centered on the invisible forces that control human behavior and dives deep into why we all do the things we do. Their most recent episode focuses on what happens when we do the opposite of what is expected in response to an external stimulus. This “Flip the Script” episode is worth a listen.

NPR is no longer something I interact with just because my parents did. I don’t know if I would call it trendy or hip. But it’s something I continue to choose to listen to and to search out. Maybe my parents were onto something.