Documentaries have ruined me

About 15 years ago, I distinctly remember hearing a radio broadcast that was unlike anything I’d heard before.  It wasn’t the usual talk show, news, sports, call-in, top 40 type show.  It was engaging.  It was a well-crafted story, yet non-fictional.  It was refreshing in a landscape of RF wasteland.  It was my “driveway moment” 1.  It was This American Life.

This American Life, or “TAL”, as I like to abbreviate it, is a radio documentary program.  It’s been on for a very long time now, and just gets better with age.  That first day I heard it, I was hooked.  Around the same time I discovered TAL, I was beginning to get into documentary film as well.  So I was ripe for the brand of storytelling.

So much in fact, that documentaries have begun to take over my life.  My reading habits have shifted from fiction to engaging first-person nonfiction over the past decade.  Seriously.  I have the hardest time staying engaged with novels these days.  I am embarrassed to say that I have many books I’ve put back down after the first chapter because it doesn’t grab me the way an amazing nonfictional work will.

Recently, I have found Netflix to be a really great source of streaming documentary film.  Here are some of the highlights in film in the past several years for me:

  • Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control
  • Dear Zachary
  • Crazy Love
  • Mr. Death
  • The Up series
  • Protagonist
  • Collapse
  • The Devil and Daniel Johnston
  • The Staircase
  • My Architect
  • Jesus Camp
  • Spellbound
  • Inside Job
  • The King of Kong

Some really great radio documentaries that I’ve enjoyed following are:

  • This American Life
  • Radio Lab
  • Snap Judgment
  • Hearing Voices
  • 99% Invisible
  • The Moth

Check out TAL’s Favorites section and give a listen.  But I warn you, you might make the same mistake I did and find yourself derelict in an ocean of wonderful nonfiction for the next decade.


  1. Rather than turning the radio off, you stay in your parked car to hear the radio piece to the end.  Source

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1 Comment

  1. You’ve definitely gotten me hooked on documentaries, sweetie! I look at the list above and realize that I’ve seen or currently listen to at least half of those movies or programs.

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