Come Playaway with Me

I have a reputation at the library. I am a picky reader. But when you look deeper you will see I’m even worse than that. And what’s worse than a picky reader? That’s right. I’m an even pickier listener. I turn up my nose at most audiobooks, preferring a very few types to experience: humor and memoirs, or even better, humorous memoirs. And almost all the ones I enjoy are read by the author.

Usually I prefer to check out a book-on-CD to listen to on my commute. However, there are certain times, cleaning the house or working on a special project at the library, where I prefer to take my story with me. And that’s where a Playaway shines.

A Playaway is a pre-loaded audio player. The only thing required to listen is an AAA battery and earphones. That’s it. No downloading, switching CDs or tapes, or lugging extra equipment around. A Playaway will fit into your pocket or through a loop in a lanyard around your neck. Convenient? Oh yes. And the audio quality is as good as the earbuds you use.

Have I gotten your attention yet? Are you intrigued by what Playaway has to offer? Then let me tell you about my shameless self-promotion. The Everett Public Library, your hometown library and mine, has a shot at winning $10,000 in a national display contest sponsored by Playaway. Please vote for our displays here. Share it on Facebook, tweet it, shout it from the rooftops. Voting ends December 17th and the winners will be announced early next year.

Here are a few of my most favorite Playaways. Check one out, pop in a battery, and experience the convenience first-hand.

Listening to the author read her first memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, I was swept away by Haven Kimmel’s depiction of her childhood in the late 1960s. Born in a tiny town in Indiana, population 300, Kimmel relates anecdotes from her early childhood that brought a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. I ended up buying a copy of the book for myself and I pick it up any time I feel homesick for my own tiny Midwestern hometown. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to check out other titles by Haven Kimmel, including the memoir’s sequel, She Got Up Off the Couch.  

When I picked up the Worst-Case Scenario Survial Handbook : Travel Playaway, I have to admit I was not particularly interested in the topics. Neither book was a memoir. What caught my eye, however, were the narrators for these two books in one: Burt Reynolds and Penn Jillette. If you know anything about the Worst Case Scenario series, you know not to take these books too seriously. They’re tongue-in-cheek at best, riotous at worst, and always hit the comedy mark. Listening to two of my most favorite voices read how to survive a shark attack and stop a runaway train was music to my ears.

When my mom visited me last spring, she introduced me to Craig Ferguson. The man is hilarious. Anyone who watches his late-night talk show knows that almost nothing he says or does on his show is scripted. All that comedy gold comes from Mr. Ferguson himself. So when I saw he had written a book called American On Purpose : The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot I was immediately intrigued. Here would be that gem of an audiobook that is my most favorite sub-genre: humorous memoir. Right? Wrong.

Oh sure, it’s peppered with Ferguson’s signature self-depreciating wit. But his was a life that was extraordinary, and not often in a good way. Throughout the book Ferguson, who narrates, draws a parallel between his personal struggles with drugs, jobs, women, and freedom with the struggle of all American immigrants. Again, if you watch his show you already know that he has become an American citizen, so you know how the book will end. But along the way you will be constantly amazed at the deep sensitivity (and sometimes deep insensitivity) of the man who always wanted to become an American. On purpose.