Book Reviews: Listening Is an Act of Love, by Dave Isay -and- This I Believe, edited by Jay Allison & Dan Gediman

I first heard about the StoryCorps Project a few years ago and was immediately charmed by the idea of it.  Two people important to one another enter a soundproof booth and spend 40 minutes as interviewer and interviewee.  The interview is recorded.  They are provided with suggested questions, but more often than not it seems that once the conversation gets rolling, it becomes just that – a conversation, and not so much an interview after all.  Their stories unfold, and what happens is almost magical.  At the end of the session, a high-quality copy of the recording is given to the participants, and another copy is sent to the Library of Congress.  The whole point is to give a voice to everyone willing to sound it.  A collection of some of these recordings has been compiled by Dave Isay in the amazing book Listening Is an Act of Love.

The stories shared here are conversations between husbands and wives, aunts and nephews, coworkers, friends.  The stories are funny, shocking, heartwarming, and heartbreaking.  I am haunted by the stories of those closely impacted by 9/11.  I cried when I read a story about a daughter asking her father to remember his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp.  Some of the “how we met and fell in love” stories made me chuckle.  The stories included in this book are from such different people in such different walks of life, yet so many common themes arise.  Everyone wants to love and be loved, everyone makes mistakes, everyone hurts.

I borrowed this book from the library and read it in one sitting.  It was so moving, so profound, that I want my own copy to keep.  I want to hear these voices again and again, to remind myself that we all – all of us – have a story to tell.

For your information, 100% of the royalties from the book go towards continuing the Project.  Also, you can visit their webpage to see if a StoryCorps facility is near you.


I am also reviewing This I Believe here because it has some things in common with Listening Is an Act of Love.  First, selections from each collection air on National Public Radio.  Also, each collection champions the average American experience (athough This I Believe also invites well-known persons to participate).  Both books are incredibly personal and empowering.

However…I found This I Believe to ultimately be a little pithy and heavy-handed at times.  Which seems only natural when people are passionately expressing their “personal credos.”  I wonder if it would be more interesting to ~hear~ the essays, which is the originally intended format on NPR.  I also wonder if I responded better to Listening because it seemed more like two-way communication vs. the pseodo-soapbox feel of Believe.

I still think Believe is worth reading, and I love that NPR invites anyone to submit their own essay.

*Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links included.