Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

NPR Host Ari Shapiro Goes Beyond the Airwaves With His Memoir, The Best Strangers in the World: Stories From a Life Spent Listening'


photo credit: Victor Jeffreys As one of the hosts of NPR's flagship program, All Things Considered, Ari Shapiro has a voice that's instantly recognizable to many radio listeners in the United States. Since 2015, Ari has shared heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories on the show, which is one of the most listened-to news programs in the country. In 2020, the format expanded with Consider This, a 15-minute, six-times-weekly podcast-also hosted by Ari.

But journalism is just his day job.

Ari is also a singer, performer, and speaker. He moonlights as a vocalist with the band Pink Martini, and joined forces with actor Alan Cumming for a stage show called Och & Oy! A Considered Cabaret. Now, the award-winning reporter and former White House correspondent is adding author to his resume.

The North Dakota native's memoir, The Best Strangers in the World: Stories From a Life Spent Listening, hits shelves this week. In the book, Ari not only details his experiences reporting stories around the world, but also reflects on his upbringing in Portland, Oregon.

Ari created a playlist exclusively for Spotify that's the perfect accompaniment to his memoir. From The B-52's to the New York Philharmonic, the curation is as varied as the tales that come to life on his pages. We caught up with the host-performer-author to learn more about the inspiration for his book, and the ideas behind the playlist.

What made you decide to write a memoir? Covering the news every day sometimes feels like sprinting on a treadmill, where if you pause to look at the hot guy walking by, you will fall on the floor. And so, I've never been a person who nostalgically looks back at my favorite conversations and stories I've told. But I realized that after more than 20 years as a journalist, some of those stories, and some of those people, have sort of snagged on me as they flew by in the current, and changed the person I am-not just as a journalist, not just a storyteller, but as a human.

In a way, this book is a memoir told through the stories of others. It covers a really wide range, from going on Air Force One with the president to being in warzones to singing with a band at the Hollywood Bowl. But, ultimately, I think of the book as kind of an answer to a question that I get from friends a lot, which is How do you stay optimistic in the face of everything? And the answer is the stories that are in these chapters.

How did your experience as a journalist impact your story? Being a journalist has certainly attuned me to the finer details, so I feel like I can take someone along and tell a story that hopefully transports them and sticks with them. But the thing that made it really challenging is-as a journalist-stories are not supposed to be about me. I'm never supposed to be the focus.

So switching gears and telling stories that are fundamentally about me was unfamiliar and scary and foreign and definitely a learning curve. And as I look back at the drafts of these chapters and the way they evolved, that's the biggest change that I see: learning how to write about myself in a way that doesn't feel like a betrayal to who I am as a journalist.

Can you share a story from your book? I have to tell you about the first time I ever sang with a band. For my debut performance, I was a singer with a band called Pink Martini, a little orchestra from Portland, Oregon, with more than a dozen members. In 2009, they asked if I would record a song for an album they were working on. After, the band leader, Thomas Lauderdale, said, Well we need to find a time for you to perform this live with us. So why don't you come to the Hollywood Bowl?

Now, the Hollywood Bowl seats 18,000 people. But what made it the most terrifying was not the size of the audience. It's that backstage, before you walk out in front of those thousands of cheering people, you see all these huge, framed, black-and-white photos of the legends who have performed there over the decades. There's Aretha Franklin; there's The Beatles; there's Judy Garland-all pictured on the stage you are about to stand on. And then the time comes, and you walk out in the footsteps of those giants and the spotlight follows your path.

It is so exhilarating because as a radio reporter, it doesn't matter how many millions of people might be listening to any given story I do. It's a very intimate conversation between me and the one person who happens to be hearing it. But with a live performance, everybody is sharing that experience collectively, at the same time. There is something so electric about live music because it only ever happens once in that particular way. And so, to be a part of that is a thrill unlike anything I've ever experienced in journalism.

What was the experience like reading your story aloud for your audiobook? First of all, I loved recording my audiobook because my comfort zone is telling stories. That's what I do every day, and so, in some ways, recording the audiobook felt much more easy, comfortable, and familiar than writing the book. But it's exhausting to speak aloud for hours on end. Even though I host a two-hour daily news program, I'm not talking for most of it. I read an introduction to a reporter's piece and then I sit quietly for four minutes. Or if I'm doing an interview, I ask someone a question and then sit quietly while they answer. By the end of the day of audiobook recording, I could barely talk to my husband. I have so much admiration for people who do this professionally.

You created a musical playlist for your memoir. How did you pick the songs? Above all, I wanted the playlist to feel optimistic and joyful because that's what I want people to walk away from the book feeling. Even though the book takes you to warzones and refugee crises, the book is
See more stories from spotify

More from Spotify


Celebrating Central Park With Spotify and KIDZ BOP

Photo credit: BFA/Darian DiCianno/Deonte Lee/Matteo Prandoni New York City residents and visitors alike have made countless memories in each of Central Park...


GLOW Artist Sycco Shares How She Found Her Voice

Dive into the psychedelic pop sounds of Ripple or Dribble to immerse yourself in the bright and colorful world of 20-year-old Sycco. The artist, who has Tor...


Podcast Q&A and Polls Help Creators Talk to Fans Where They Are

Looking back, it's clear the early days of podcasting were uncharted territory. Avid listeners would finish an episode and engage with each other elsewhere-...


Spotify Camp Nou Glows' With Spotify and FC Barcelona's LGBTQIA+ Creator Takeover

LGBTQIA people are in music, art, television-and on the football pitch. So earl...


Spotify's New Interactive Experience Helps Latin Music Fans Find Their Flow

It's hardly hyperbole to say that Latin music has taken over the globe: Latin music streams on Spotify have increased by almost 170% in the last five years....


The Transformative Power of Spotify Songwriter Sessions

When you're an emerging writer, the toughest thing is getting into the room, starts Aaron Buckingham, a lead on Spotify's Songwriter and Publishing Rel...


How Spotify Blend Creates a Connection Between Fans, Friends, and Artists

Whether you're an artist, a listener, or a bit of both, there's one thing that has been true since time immemorial: Music should be shared. If you'r...


The Crossover Effect: Artist Collaborations Thrive on Spotify

The crossover collaboration is one of music's great traditions. When artists from different genres, regions, or simply different career stages bring their t...


RADAR US Is Back With Peso Pluma, the Emerging Hitmaker Taking Msica Mexicana to the Global Stage

As M sica Mexicana (Mexican music) increasingly captivates fans around the world...


Raissa Anggiani Berhasil Raih Kesuksesan Melalui RADAR Indonesia dan Buka Peluang Bagi Angkatan 2023

Raissa Anggiani tidak butuh waktu lama untuk membuat pendengar Indonesia terpuka...


Raissa Anggiani Finds Success Through RADAR Indonesia and Paves the Way for Its 2023 Class

It didn't take long for listeners in Indonesia to be enchanted by Raissa Ang...


RADAR Poland Returns With 5 Artists Who Embrace a Truly Genreless Sound

RADAR serves as Spotify's program to spotlight rising talent from around the world, supporting emerging artists on their journey to global stardom-including...


Spotify's AI DJ Brings a Personalized Listening Experience to Fans in the UK and Ireland

In February we unveiled DJ, a personalized AI guide that understands you and you...


Eurovision 2023 Wrap-Up: Loreen Wins Big in Liverpool and on Spotify

Each spring, millions of music fans are glued to their TVs, mesmerized by the fabulous spectacle of song, dance, and theatrics that is the Eurovision Song Conte...


Spotify Rolls Out 11 New Languages to Users Around the World

At Spotify, we're committed to bringing the best in audio to our users around the world. That means ensuring our experience is accessible in the languages o...


Spotify's Innovative Fuego Playlist Turns Fans Into Music Curators

Spotify's Fuego has been red hot since launching last year, with surprise updates each week redefining how listeners discover Latin music. But continuously ...


Toronto Singer-Songwriter Katherine Li Delivers All the Feels as May's EQUAL Global Artist

Within the span of only a few months, 19-year-old singer, songwriter, and social...


Spotify Original Podcast Stolen' Adds a Pulitzer and Peabody

Earlier this year, thanks to its impactful reporting, the Spotify Original podcast Stolen: Surviving St. Michael's won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Universi...


Naples' One-of-a-Kind Music Scene Is Having a Championship Year

Naples is having a magical moment in 2023. As the city celebrates a title-winning football season, its thriving music scene has also claimed a big victory: Napl...


Ride on the Coastal Cowgirl Trend With Paige Lorenze's Music Playlist Picks

Coastal cowgirl: It's a vibe. This aesthetic, inspired by a mixture of slow-paced country living and sun-soaked coastal dreaminess, has been trending on soc...


Miley Cyrus's Flowers Makes Spotify History as It Reaches 1 Billion Streams

It's official: Miley Cyrus's hit song Flowers danced itself into the record books yet again, reaching one billion streams faster than any other song i...


Thorn Joins the Spotify Safety Advisory Council

At Spotify, we've had long-standing policies against content that promotes, solicits, or facilitates harm, including child sexual abuse or exploitation. It ...


Discover the Songs that Help Superstar Driver Lando Norris Get Ready for Race Day

He might only be 23, but McLaren Racing's Lando Norris is already one of the...


May the Fourth Be With Your Spotify Listening

Check your calendar: The annual moment for date-related puns, internet frenzy, and fandom has arrived. May the 4th, aka Star Wars Day, is a celebration of one o...


A Small Light' Producer Este Haim Shares the Classic Songs That Inspired the Star-Studded Soundtrack

Yesterday marked the premiere of A Small Light, a new limited series on National...


Our Generation Comes to Life With IRL Event Space From Illustrator Eliza Williams

Story photo credits: Alice Backham If you're ready to reset your expectatio...


Conoce Sonido Perpetuo, nuestro nuevo estudio pblico para el talento emergente de Medelln

La historia musical de Medell n se ha forjado con pasi n, creatividad y talento,...


Check Out Sonido Perpetuo, Our New Public Studio Built for Medelln's Emerging Talent

The musical history of Medell n is one of passion, creativity, and talent rooted...


Rising Together To Celebrate Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month on Spotify

May marks Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month (APIHM), and Spotify is using this moment to continue to support Asian and Pacific Islander representation on ...


EQUAL Marks Two Years of Celebrating Women Artists And Spotify Announces the Next EQUAL FEST

From Japan to Argentina, Malaysia to the U.K., women artists, engineers, and pro...


Sweden's Best New Artists Celebrate Their Grammis Nominations With New Spotify Singles

On May 3, Sweden's music industry will come together for the 40th edition of...


Celebrate Country Legend Willie Nelson's 90th Birthday With New Spotify Singles

Often spotted with a bandana on his head and a guitar in his hands, Willie Nelso...


Punjabi Music Gains Worldwide Recognition

Punjabi music is enjoying a remarkable rise in popularity-and not just with listeners in India, but also among the diaspora and broader global audiences. Of the...


Tune In to the Hottest Arabic Playlists Spotify Editors Curate for the World

No matter where you live, music has the power to transport you home. And for those living apart from their extended families and places of origin, that feeling ...


Spotify Reports First Quarter 2023 Earnings

Today, Spotify announced our first quarter 2023 financial performance, showing outperformance across nearly all key performance metrics. Take a look at the high...


Spotify rapporterar intkter fr frsta kvartalet 2023

Idag publicerar Spotify sina finansiella resultat f r f rsta kvartalet 2023. Klicka h r f r att ta del av hela den finansiella pressreleasen och kolla in h jdpu...


GLOW Artist Joy Oladokun Embraces the Beauty in the Unexpected

Joy Oladokun is one of those self-proclaimed rare birds who didn't set out to become a professional musician. The fact that Joy now gets to write, record,...


Bizarrap supera las mil millones de reproducciones con Quevedo: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 52

El artista y productor Bizarrap es el ltimo en llegar al Club de los Mil Millon...


Bizarrap Racks Up 1 Billion Streams for Quevedo: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 52

Bizarrap is the latest artist to reach the Billions Club. The Argentinian producer has racked up more than 1 billion streams on Spotify of his track Quevedo: B...


Spotify Hosts Summits in Germany To Bring Creators and Industry Professionals Together

Last week, hundreds of artists, publishers, creators, and individuals working in...


This Earth Day, Spotify Lifts the Voices Fighting Climate Change

Climate change is a problem that impacts individuals, communities, and the planet we call home. Real solutions to help the planet exist, but it's going to t...


Streaming Helped Eloise Land a Room of Her Own

U.K.-based indie artist Eloise doesn't have a standard songwriting routine. Rather, she writes when inspiration strikes. It's annoyingly variable, she...


Spotify Amplifies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists With New Playlists and a Music + Talk Show

In 2017, Spotify launched Blak Australia, a music playlist that spotlighted Abor...


America Must Take the Lead in the Fight Against Tech Gatekeepers

Daniel Ek Founder and CEO, Spotify As a Swedish entrepreneur, I've long admired the American marketplace, where principles like innovation, competition and...


Our New Integration Allows You To Share Music and Podcasts On BeReal-Here's How

You never know when that yellow hazard notification is going to strike, but when...


Explore the Innovative Sounds of Korean Hip-Hop Through Our Spotify Singles Series HAN'

In February, we teamed up with Korea's HIPHOPPLAYA community to launch HAN, ...


EQUAL Ambassador INNA Is Ready To Show the World Why She's Romnia's Dance Queen

With numerous awards and a string of world tours under her belt, INNA is unquest...


Airbnb and Spotify Team Up During Thailand's Songkran Festival to Help Travelers Relax and Rejuvenate

As Thailand kicked off its new year and celebrated Songkran, we teamed up with A...


RADAR US Returns With the Soulful, Ever-Evolving Singer-Songwriter Q

It can often be difficult for a musician to develop a sound that is distinctly and uniquely their own, but Florida singer, songwriter, and producer Q Marsden, k...


Ya Salam,' the New Track Bringing Together the Best of Moroccan Beats and UK Drill

What do you get when you bring seven artists from countries across North Africa ...