One hundred postings, that is, of my two-minute-long podcast book essays.
In honor of this milestone, I annotate my five favorite Lone Readers. You can hear them, and many more, at the Lone Reader Podcast page.
Secretariat as a pup.
Endgame by Frank Brady.
The story of World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer’s descent into paranoia and madness. To indicate his breaking point, I used a sound file of a phonographic needle scraping across a vinyl record. An excerpt from Orff’s Carmina Burana provided the perfect backdrop to a story of a man whose demons overwhelm his genius.
Secretariat by William Nack.
One of my sports heroes, the equine monster that won horseracing’s Triple Crown in 1973, rolling up the competition by thirty-one lengths in a racehorse-devouring Belmont Stakes. Along with confirming Secretariat’s hunk-horse status, I tried to emphasize the culture and grandeur of horseracing. The rousing allegro of Beethoven’s violin concerto seemed a grand enough background.
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.
During the Vietnam War no one wanted to publish this sci-fi story of an 1,800-year-long space-war where half of the battle survivors go insane. The settings and attitude are awesome: high-tech warriors entering time portals through collapsing stars, surprising the enemy freaks and caulking the buggers right. “Full Metal Jacket” in outer space. The rhythm of the narration in this little production seemed to mesh perfectly with Collision Process’s grating rock theme.
Secretariat wins the Belmont! Sad nags in deep background are race participants.
Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost.
This scalding account of travel in the new China tracks a China-travel newbie as he learns the ropes in this ferociously alien country. Our hero starts his China journey by being shouldered aside by three-and-a-half-foot tall grandmothers. By the time he leaves, he’s ripping the head off live squid and devouring them. Onaka’s bling-bling techno-fusion theme pierced with shards of distortion just seemed right.
Let’s Put the Future Behind Us by Jack Womack.
One of my favorite authors. A brutally dark and funny parody of life in newly capitalist Russia, “where corruption and bribery are the new trickle down.” William Gibson once said that characters in Gibson’s own books wouldn’t last five minutes in Womack’s world. Hard to musically capture Womack’s edge, but Farago’s sly bassoon piece expresses the book’s irony perfectly.
I’ve noticed a handful of new books with titles that begin The Girl Who. With no further ado, here’s a “who’s who” of these girls who stop swimming, chase the moon, fall from the sky, play with fire, and what have you.
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming (2008) by Joshilyn Jackson
Laurel’s happy suburban life is torn apart when a ghost appears and leads her to the dead body of a girl floating in the backyard swimming pool. This book will appeal to the reader who enjoys southern gothic storytelling, rich ghost stories, and family drama.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon (2010) by Sarah Addison Allen
Teenager Emily wants to learn more about her elusive mother, Dulcie, and is disappointed that her grandfather won’t help her. But Dulcie’s high school rival, Julia—on her own unlikely quest to find a daughter given up for adoption—takes an interest in Emily. This book is recommended for readers who love family secrets, romantic intrigue, and magical realism.
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (2010) by Heidi Durrow
Rachel is the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. As the sole survivor of a family tragedy, she moves with her grandmother to a black community where her light skin and blue eyes attract unwanted attention. This autobiographical novel of racial identity, grief, and coming of age is recommended for those who enjoyed The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2010) by Stieg Larsson
These are the second and third books in the late Stieg Larsson’s wildly popular Swedish thriller series. (The first book is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.) Fans of this series can’t get enough of Lisbeth Salander, the 24-year-old tattooed genius hacker at the heart of these mysteries. (Be sure to listen to The Lone Reader’s review of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo if you haven’t already!)
It’s not just the girls who are featured in new book titles. There are also a handful of interesting new books featuring “boys who” too: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2009) by William Kamkwamba, The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To (2010) by D.C. Pierson, and The Boy Who Loved Tornadoes (2010) by Randi Davenport.
There are so many girls who and boys who, I bet you’ll want to read about one or two.
It used to be that librarians just didn’t tell our library users what we thought about books. Revealing our opinions might cause people to avoid us for our “bias.”
In the new millennium, librarians are getting bolder. Sometimes we come out from behind our service desks, mount our horses, and tell people what we think. Hence Everett Public Library’s “Lone Reader” vocal book essays.
Voice files are a fine way to introduce readers to books. The human voice has mesmerized people since alpha cavemen used it to snow their colleagues around Neolithic campfires. The voice is an intimate medium that creates pictures in people’s heads. Professional-quality, low-cost digital recorders make beautiful vocal files. But resonant sound is just a beginning. You also need something interesting to say, and you don’t want “uhhhs,” or throat clearings, or tongue trips.
I write a script and record the sound file, then use sound editing software to edit out all the vocal trash. The software allows me to bring in separate audio tracks for music, sound effects, and our opening and closing intro snippets. I bring it all into a session and tinker until I’m satisfied. I try to make the pieces entertaining. But you be the judge of that.
Lone Reader essays are about two minutes long. Why two minutes? Because some people think that’s about as long as anyone will listen to speech about a book.
Music helps set the mood. But music can’t just be grabbed and used. Grab Madonna’s “Die Another Day” and you’ll be lassoed and hogtied by Interpol or Warner Brothers, or maybe even by Madonna herself! With copyright concerns, you need to find music you can use.
The books I talk about are just ones I read. I don’t read books just to talk about them.
Why’s it called the Lone Reader? Truth is, there was no escaping that name.