The heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins (hnRNPs) are a diverse family of RNA binding proteins that function in most stages of RNA metabolism. The prototypical member, hnRNP A1, is composed of three major domains; tandem N-terminal RNA Recognition Motifs (RRMs) and a C-terminal mostly intrinsically disordered region. HnRNP A1 is broadly implicated in basic cellular RNA processing events such as splicing, stability, nuclear export and translation. Due to its ubiquity and abundance, hnRNP A1 is also frequently usurped to control viral gene expression. Deregulation of the RNA metabolism functions of hnRNP A1 in neuronal cells contributes to several neurodegenerative disorders. Because of these roles in human pathologies, the study of hnRNP A1 provides opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics, with disruption of its RNA binding capabilities being the most promising target. The functional diversity of hnRNP A1 is reflected in the complex nature by which it interacts with various RNA targets. Indeed, hnRNP A1 binds both structured and unstructured RNAs with binding affinities that span several magnitudes. Available structures of hnRNP A1-RNA complexes also suggest a degree of plasticity in molecular recognition. Given the reinvigoration in hnRNP A1, the goal of this review is to use the available structural biochemical developments as a framework to interpret its wide-range of RNA functions.