Don't touch that dial. Of the many contributors to the well-loved Public Radio International program This American Life who have recently leaped into print, David Rakoff leaps highest. Combining journalistic tenacity, literary smarts, and a talent for gut-busting one-liners, Rakoff reports on his wilted salad days as a publishing assistant, his soggy soap-opera acting stint, and the stunning hypocrisies of a Buddhist retreat led by Exit Wounds holy man Steven Seagal. Rakoff may be a terminal urbanite with his BS detector set on high, but he's also open to the elemental charms of say, wilderness survival school in Asbury, N. J., where he learned to skin an animal and start a fire with a bow drill. His blend of withering wit and self-effacing humor makes these essays soar.