What to Read While You Wait for Becoming

As of this writing I’m number 28 in a holds queue of 38 for the most-requested book right now at EPL. Don’t worry–I’m not here to complain! I do believe that good things come to those who wait. But I also believe that waiting shouldn’t be boring. I want to share with you some other rad books out there that those of us waiting for Michelle Obama’s Becoming can read while we wait patiently somewhat patiently kinda impatiently–okay, totally impatiently but at least we’ll have fab reading material in line! There’s quite a mix of books and audio here, certain to help keep you busy and keep you satisfied while you wait just a teeny tiny bit longer for your copy to come in.

Audio that lets us listen to Michelle
First of all, if you would rather have Michelle read her book Becoming to you, you should get yourself in the holds queue for that. But while you wait you can still hear Michelle and other First Ladies give important speeches by listening to Great Speeches by First Ladies of the United States. In addition to Michelle you’ll also hear Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Laura Bush, and many more. There’s also Ibeyi’s Ash, in particular the track No Man is Big Enough for My Arms, which features clips from Michelle Obama’s speeches.

Two amazing books packed with photos of Michelle
Michelle Obama is one of my style icons. Not only does she always appear stylish and put together, but she often wears affordable, off-the-rack items that regular Janes like me can pick up. Chasing Light and the children’s adaptation Reach Higher are compilations of photos of Michelle taken by former official White House photographer Amanda Lucidon. You’ll catch Michelle tobogganing in China with a Secret Service agent, taking a selfie with a member of the armed forces, greeting heads of state (sometimes with her dogs Bo and Sunny), and harvesting vegetables from the White House Kitchen Garden. Yes, I’m inspired by her style, but I also love seeing how active and engaged she is with folks of all ages and from all walks of life.
   

Books that tell us more about Michelle
Biographies are popular, and as such we’ve got plenty stocked on the shelves to satisfy your need to know more about Michelle. Try one of these books that delve deep into her background, family history, and home life. You’ll also find books where other people talk about why they admire Michelle, and those are worth a read, too.

 

 

 

 

Books that show us how to be a leader
Want to be more like Michelle? One of my favorite types of books to read are books on leadership, especially ones that focus up on how leadership challenges can be very different for women and non-binary folks. These books each take a different track but all of them show you a way to grow your leadership skills and be the boss. There are also stories of women who succeeded despite the odds, and they inspire me every bit as much as Michelle Obama does.
      

One very special bonus book
When I’m missing someone my heart hurts. Like, really badly hurts. One remedy for heartache (even the good kind) is to curl up with a book that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. For me there’s no better pairing than the characters Heart and Brain, and Heart and Brain: Gut Instincts by Nick Seluk of The Awkward Yeti is one of the best compilations. Brain is the pragmatic character, the one who remembers deadlines and obligations. Heart, by contrast, is all about living in the moment and enjoying life. Together they bring together the qualities of common sense and empathy that I respect Michelle Obama for having in great quantity.

So what do you think? Can you get by a little while longer in the holds queue? I know I’ve got a full TBR and while I still very much want to read Becoming, I feel better knowing I have other satisfying reads to occupy my time in line.

Road Trip!

Is it just me or is summer flying by? It seems like only yesterday I was skipping through puddles and waiting for my rhododendrons to bloom. Now my lawn is a lovely crispy beige and the rhodies already have their blooms poised for next year. If you’re equally puzzled as to how we’re already in August, I’ve got a challenge for you: let’s get out of here and take a road trip! Sound good? Great! Here are the books we need to get us where we want to go.

If you don’t have the time or budget or love of road food, staying close to home probably appeals the most. That’s where Discovering Seattle Parks: a Local’s Guide by Linnea Westerlind steps in to help, taking you neighborhood by neighborhood through all the Seattle parks, big and small. Packed with maps and full-color photographs, this handy little book is full of detailed information to help you plan your day trip to one of Seattle’s parks. Whether you’re looking for trails or where to let your dog run free, you’ll find it here. There are also special call-outs for accessible access, which is so important when exploring an unknown locale. And if you’re looking for public art, gardens, or even spots of historical significance, you’ll be able to see just which parks best suit your needs.

Got the time and cash to go further? You’ll want to pick up The Road Trip Book: 1001 Drives of a Lifetime. With glossy full-color pages and covering over 100 countries, it’s quite a hefty book. But if you want to explore somewhere you’ve never been before this is your go-to resource for trip planning. It’s not all international roads, however. In Washington alone, you can discover Chuckanut Drive from Burlington to Bellingham, Mountains to Sound from Ellensburg to Seattle, a loop around Mt. Rainier that starts and ends in Enumclaw, the Chinook Scenic Byway from Enumclaw to Naches, Lake Washington Shoreline Drive from Seward Park to Washington Park Arboretum (use in tandem with Discovering Seattle’s Parks for bonus points!), Spirit Lake Memorial Highway from Castle Rock to Johnston Ridge Observatory, and the Lewis and Clark Trial Highway from Clarkston to Cape Disappointment. If you really want to stay as close to home as possible, you’ll want to try the Cascade Loop that starts and ends right here in familiar yet beautiful Everett.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Carol! What about food? Isn’t one of the best things about road trips getting to cheat on your diet and explore local cuisines?” To which I say: you look perfect the way you are, and absolutely YES. Let Daym Drops in Eating Across America be your guide to deliciousness in every state. This book goes past where other American food books end. The first half of the book completely sells you on why you should give these small eateries a try. Food carts, food trucks (yes there’s a difference!), cheap eats, hole in the wall restaurants, and learning to trust your taste buds are all given due consideration. The second half maps and reviews the hell out of these tasty food stops and also gives you one dish to look for in each state; so you know you’re going to get an authentic local experience at every stop on your journey. For Washington it’s cedar plank salmon, which should really come as no surprise to locals. But if you weren’t from Washington would you know that this is the dish to try?

Of course, no road trip would be complete without something to keep you occupied between stops on your expedition. I’ve found that music can be extremely polarizing, and the more people you have in your vehicle the more difficult it is to agree on music. Books and podcasts, however, tend to bring everyone together. Your library creates podcasts regularly and I think everyone should at least try one episode of each: The Lone Reader, Mr. Neutron’s Record Closet, and The Treatment Film Reviews. On the second floor of the downtown library and on shelf at the Evergreen Branch you’ll find audiobooks on CD as well as Playways. And did you know that the fastest-growing format in popularity in the country is downloadable audiobooks? What’s more, you have access to literally thousands with your library card via OverDrive/Libby and cloudLibrary.

One really awesome local thing happening this summer you should have on your radar: the Washington Center for the Book is running A Passport to Washington Libraries. Once you register on the site, visit 5 Washington libraries, 2 of which must be 50+ miles from your home. Each visit you post a photo and put it on their map. This challenge runs through September 15th, after which they’ll draw winners for bookstore gift cards. I have only visited one non-EPL library so far (shout out to the awesome writing workshop I took at Mountlake Terrace Library last month!) but I plan to visit more. I’ve seen some really cool photos on the map from EPL, so I know some of you are already hip to this, but we could always use more passport photos!

So who’s with me? Let’s have one last hurrah before school starts, the weather cools, and we forget what it’s like to feel like a human baked potato roasting slowly in the heat.

Star-studded Audiobooks

Confession: I’ve only recently read To Kill a Mockingbird. I know, I know. It’s something I probably should have read in high school, but didn’t.

Second confession: I didn’t read it per se, but I did listen to it as an audiobook. While Harper Lee’s classic coming-of-age story of race and justice in a small southern town was compelling, the nuanced voice work of actress Sissy Spacek really pulled me into and through the story.

Audiobook fans know that the narrator of the book can make or break the reading/listening experience. Whether you’re new to audiobooks or a veteran listener, you pretty much can’t go wrong with any of these star-studded selections:

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, read by Reese Witherspoon. This is the long-awaited, controversial follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird. 

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, read by Colin Firth. That’s right, you too can have Colin Firth whisper in your ear as he reads this novel about a love triangle in World War II-era London.

If Homeland star Claire Danes is more to your liking, try The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham or The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Want something lighter? Try Heartburn by Nora Ephron, read by Meryl Streep.

For a pop culture romp of sci-fi fun, listen to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by the perfectly geeky Wil Wheaton.

If science is your thing, perhaps it’s time for The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, ready by Benedict Cumberbatch.

If you can’t settle for just one celeb reader, give Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders a listen. It’s read by an ensemble cast of 166 stars!

What’s your dream audiobook? What celebrity reader and book title combo would be sure to entice you?

Listening in the Rain

Looking up at the sky it is hard to deny that fall has arrived. While those who worship the sun may start to mourn, and those who secretly welcome the return of the big dark rejoice, one thing is certain: yard work abounds. The no longer dormant grass is making a comeback, trees and bushes are in need of trimming, and the weeds just keep coming. For me, one of the side benefits of spending all that time in the yard maintaining order is the added hours I have for listening to audiobooks. The only downside is that if the audiobook is really good, I find myself getting drenched as I stubbornly refuse to come in from the rain since I have to know what happens next.

The library still has a fine collection of audiobooks on CD, but I’ve been getting into the digital eAudiobooks lately. Basically it comes down to ease of use, a.k.a I’m lazy. The idea of actually having to put in another CD to continue listing seems like way too much work. This from a man who used to happily flip audio cassettes in his Walkman back in the day. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that the process for downloading eAudiobooks from the library has actually gotten much easier. Both cloudLibrary and OverDrive have apps that are pretty simple to download to your device. I usually use my phone to listen and I’ve found that OverDrive’s new Libby app works quite well.

So if you want to take the plunge and start listening to eAudiobooks, here are four that I have enjoyed and are well worth your listening time:

Malice by Keigo Higashino
While showing clear influences of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, featuring an impossible to explain murder of a man in a locked room no less, this mystery is in a class by itself. The how of the crime is important, but the why is what really piques the listener’s interest. It is essentially a game of cat and mouse between the suspect, author Osamu Nonoguchi, and intrepid police detective Kyochiro Kaga. The story is told from both men’s perspective and the narrator, Jeff Woodman, expertly gives each character a distinctive voice and tone.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Jason Dessen is content with his seemingly average life as a husband, father and physics professor at a small college in Chicago. One night he is kidnapped and drugged by a mysterious individual. He wakes up to find himself in a place that is familiar but just not quite right. Thus begins a long strange trip into the quantum multiverse, with alternative versions of the present and all that could have been. The one constant is Jason’s desperate attempt to get back to the wife and child he loves. The story is expertly narrated in a style akin to a film noir voiceover by Jon Lindstrom who draws you into the story and keeps you grounded.

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
While a book describing the elements of the periodical table might seem off-putting to some, you would be making a mistake to dismiss this work as a dry academic tome. Instead it is a series of curious, exciting and dangerous tales of the elements and those who discovered them. Give this eAudio a listen and you will hear stories about the manic quest for absolute zero, the dangerous fashion for ingesting mercury capsules, and why Godzilla was vanquished by a cadmium tipped missile. The narrator, Sean Runnette, brings all this rich scientific history to life with impeccable pronunciation and a nice dollop of irony.

The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey
Set in the same dystopian future as The Girl With All the Gifts, where a mutant fungus has turned most of the population of the United Kingdom into ‘hungries’, this novel is a prequel of sorts. It follows the trials and tribulations of the crew of the Rosalind Franklin, a mobile research vehicle, whose mission is to try to find a vaccine or cure for the dreaded disease plaguing humanity. While the plot may seem somewhat familiar, it is the character development that really stands out in this series. Each character is well crafted to the point where you actually care if a bite gets taken out of them. Finty Williams’ narration brings the characters to life (with their varying accents, ages and genders) and makes this work a great listening experience.

So in the brief periods between rain showers, get out there and weed with a good eAudio book. Don’t be surprised if you end up getting wet though.

Narrators of Distinction

I’ve always found choosing a good audiobook to be complicated. Not only do I want the title to be interesting and compelling, there is also the added layer of the quality of the narration. It can be the greatest book in the world, but if I find the narrator’s delivery dull, grating or outright annoying I won’t touch it. On the flip side, if I discover a narrator I really like I will often give a book a listen even if the narrator is reading a title I wouldn’t normally touch with a ten foot pole. So clearly the narrator is key, but how exactly do you choose a good narrator?

One of the easier ways is to take a look at the Audie awards. The Audies are awarded annually by the Audio Publishers Association to titles deemed to have excellent narrators in a wide variety of categories. While this year’s awards won’t be until May 31st, the APA has just come out with all the titles that have been nominated. This list is an easy way to look for titles with potentially great narrators. Listed below is a partial list of the categories and titles that have been nominated for the 2017 awards. Feel free to look at the full list of all the titles and categories, via this link, as well.

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Autobiography/Memoir

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart, narrated by Hannah Hart and Judy Young

The Rainbow Comes and Goes written and narrated by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

Best Female Narrator

Another Brooklyn: A Novel by Jacqueline Woodson, narrated by Robin Miles

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien, narrated by Juliet Stevenson

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, narrated by Bahni Turpin

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Best Male Narrator

End of Watch by Stephen King, narrated by Will Patton

Jerusalem by Alan Moore, narrated by Simon Vance

Fantasy

The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Michael Kramer

Fiction

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, narrated by Cassandra Campbell

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes, narrated by Juliet Stevenson

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History/Biography

Paul McCartney: The Life by Philip Norman, narrated by Jonathan Keeble

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick, narrated by Scott Brick

Humor

The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy written and narrated by Rainn Wilson

Black Man, White House: An Oral History of the Obama Years by D.L. Hughley, narrated by Keith Szarabajka, John Reynolds, Fran Tunno, Cherise Boothe, Dan Woren, P.J. Ochlan, Gregory Itzin, Paula Jai Parker-Martin, Mia Barron, Ron Butler, and James Shippy

You’ll Grow out of It written and narrated by Jessi Klein

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Multi-Voiced Performance

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom, narrated by Mitch Albom, Roger McGuinn, Ingrid Michaelson, John Pizzarelli, Paul Stanley, George Guidall, and more

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, narrated by Audra McDonald, Cassandra Campbell and Ari Fliakos

Mystery

Crimson Shore by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, narrated by Rene Auberjonois

The Crossing by Michael Connelly, narrated by Titus Welliver

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny, narrated by Robert Bathurst

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Narration By The Author or Authors

Dear Mr. You written and narrated by Mary-Louise Parker

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo written and narrated by Amy Schumer

The View from the Cheap Seats written and narrated by Neil Gaiman

Non-Fiction

Hillbilly Elegy written and narrated by J.D. Vance

Romance

First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, narrated by Nicole Poole

The Obsession by Nora Roberts, narrated by Shannon McManus

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Science Fiction

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster, narrated by Marc Thompson

Thriller/Suspense

Cross Justice by James Patterson, narrated by Ruben Santiago Hudson and Jefferson Mays

Home by Harlan Coben, narrated by Steven Weber

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Young Adult

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, narrated by Carla Corvo, Steve West and various

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco and James Patterson, narrated by Nicola Barber

Winter by Marissa Meyer, narrated by Rebecca Soler

Audio for Every Occasion

I’m not sure why, but when it comes to reading vs. listening tastes, I’ve got a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde thing going on. When I look for a good audiobook I always end up choosing one that I probably wouldn’t give a second thought to if I was actually going to read it. It could be the activities I’m doing while listening require more distraction than my usual reading tastes provide. Or maybe I have a repressed desire for space opera, contemporary social issues, and 80s nostalgia that comes bubbling up to the surface when I select an audiobook. In any case, here are a few recent favorites paired with the activity that I’ve found matches them perfectly.

Activity: Yard work, yard work and more yard work
Preferred audio genre: Science fiction adventures

I love science fiction, but I normally watch it rather than read it. That all changes when it comes to selecting audiobook titles for working in the yard.

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
This one has a grand plot involving dueling space ships, teen romance, weaponized infectious disease and a rogue AI to boot. The story is ingeniously told through a series of found documents that lends itself well to audio format. A large voice cast brings the characters to life with the female lead Kady and the disturbed but sympathetic AI, AIDAN, being standouts. This is definitely a YA novel, with lots of adolescent angst, but it maintains a great sense of humor and will definitely make the weed pulling pass by quickly.

Alien: Out of the Shadows
Sadly, this one is not available via the library, being an ‘Audible Original Drama’, but I couldn’t resist mentioning it. It is based on a book by Tim LeBron but this version is a radio drama with a full audio cast, including Rutger Hauer no less.  Admittedly this is fan boy stuff, continuing the story of Ellen Ripley after her encounter with the Alien in the first film, but it was really fun and a great listen. So fire up the flame thrower, pay heed to the motion tracker and whatever you do, do not place your face directly over a large leathery egg as it slowly opens.

Activity: Exercise
Preferred audio genre: Social injustice

I usually avoid reading about contemporary political issues like the plague, but I’ve found that the outrage produced by a well-crafted audio book can not only make the time fly by while I exercise, but probably gets my heart pumping faster as my rage increases.

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Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
Ostensibly this work is about the murder of eighteen year old Bryant Tennelle in South Los Angeles and the subsequent police investigation. The author does definitely follow the case, which provides a good narrative structure and drama, but in fact this book is a searing indictment of society’s long indifference to urban enclaves where crimes against primarily African American men are criminally neglected and rarely result in a conviction. The audiobook is expertly narrated by Rebecca Lowman who makes every word count.

Missoula by Jon Krakauer
This work is an impassioned, rage-inducing examination of a disturbingly large number of rapes at the University of Montana in Missoula from 2010 to 2012 and the police’s and university’s response to them. Krakauer meticulously documents the events and creates a great deal of suspense as you follow the individual cases. This is top quality non-fiction that draws you in and keeps your attention even when you want to look away. The narration is expertly done by Mozhan Marno who brings the often disturbing material to life.

Activity: Long car trips
Preferred Audio Genre: 80s entertainment nostalgia

It is probably because my traveling companion is ‘of a certain age’ like me, but memoirs of entertainment figures from the 80s are always a big hit on our long distance road trips.

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As You Wish by Cary Elwes
If you have even the smallest desire to learn more about the creation of the film The Princess Bride, this is the audiobook for you. Written and narrated by Cary Elwes, you get a blow by blow account of the creation, filming and reception of this iconic film. Elwes also enlists an all-star cast, including Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal and Mandy Patinkin, who narrate their own accounts of filming. It really is a fun listen, if for no other reason than finding out the origins of all the catch phrases that the movie produced. Inconceivable!

So That Happened by Jon Cryer
Cryer has had some notable hits, including Pretty in Pink and Two and Half Men, but the fun of this audiobook is in how he details some of his less successful projects (Superman IV anyone?). He narrates the audiobook and has great sense of humor about himself and the nature of his work. Best of all, he isn’t afraid to ‘go negative’ at times. Do you want to know what it is actually like to work with both Molly Ringwald and Charlie Sheen? Of course you do.

So I still don’t know why there is such a big difference between what I choose to read and what I choose to listen to. Perhaps it’s just best to accept my dual nature. It worked for Dr. Jekyll right?

I’m Going on a Car Trip and I’m Taking…

5315332489_da1eaf57df_bPerhaps you know the car game that is similar to the one called “I’m Going on a Picnic” where the first person says something starting with the letter “A” and the second person says the thing starting with “A” and something starting with the letter “B”. On it goes in alphabetical order until someone forgets or you get to the last letter.

Well, we’re going on a twelve-hour car trip with two young girls, ages two and four, for our family vacation this labor day and I am reminded of that game as I set about packing and checking out items from the library in preparation for the long day’s drive. Here’s my alphabetical library packing list.

indexI’m going on a long drive and I’m taking an Audio Book. It needs to be one that the whole family will enjoy and so that means a kid’s story. I will probably end up with Hank the Cowdog. Hank thinks that he’s in charge of a ranch in Texas and has a lot of responsibilities that he tries to get his side kick Drover to do. Drover can’t because his leg hurts! We love listening to Hank’s adventures and you’re in luck if you do also, because there are lots of Hank books.

index (1)I’m going on a long drive and I’m taking a regular old Book. I’ll need it for reading by the pool in the bright sunlight. I’ll limit myself to one and take Shadows in the Vineyard. The subtitle is: the true story of the plot to poison the world’s greatest wine. I love reading about things that really have happened and Parisian detectives, small towns in France and wine. I’ll have to drink a glass while reading, non? Besides, I just love the feel of our quick pick books: soft and literary, or so it seems.

index (2)I’m driving twelve hours to Idaho and I’m taking lots of Children’s CD’s. We always take my favorite Cowboy Playground, but this time we hope to also take Laurie Berkner’s new one called Superhero. This much-anticipated album is her first of original titles since 2008. We are always enchanted by her imaginative and empowering lyrics. I’m excited to listen to this new CD because I’m sure there will be some great songs for storytime song and dance.

index (3)We’re driving to Idaho and taking some DVD’s from the library. We probably won’t have Hello, My Name is Doris yet because we’re down the hold list but will take London Has Fallen (which is one big chase scene) or Eddie the Eagle. It’s about an unlikely but courageous British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself, even as an entire nation was counting him out. I want to watch this ‘delightfully feel-good’ movie while on vacation.

index (4)I’m driving to Idaho and I’m taking an Ebook. It’ll probably be an audio ebook as I know I’ll be driving the long stretches while everyone else is napping. I love that kind of straight driving without interruptions like tailgaters or traffic of any sort, but you need some distraction. How about something by Bill Bryson like A Walk in the Woods? It’s funny and the author reads it to you and it’s about a wild adventure. Besides, the book is always better than the movie, right?

So, I’ll spare you the whole alphabet and skip F G H I J K and go to L, because I’ll be sure to pack my Library Card. My husband once flew to Idaho with only his library card as identification (back in the day when we had photos on them). Long story, but the point is you need your card to check out ebooks and magazines or to access expensive databases that are free with your library card. Or to board a plane. Don’t leave home without it!

index (1)I’m driving to Idaho and I know the way but still want to take Maps. The Idaho Atlas & Gazetteer is awesome if you love topographical maps and don’t want to miss that beautiful lake that is just out of sight. (I’ll never forgive myself for the time we missed Hoover Dam because I was so anxious to get out of Las Vegas!) The atlas notes all of the historic sites, the unique natural features, good hiking, and national forests.

 

indexI’m going on vacation and I’m taking a Novel! I just found Invincible Summer by Alice Adams waiting for me on the hold shelf. Spanning two decades, Adams presents the interwoven lives of four friends as they leave college and embark on the unclear waters of adulthood. It has a nice, summery cover (which the previous borrower sprinkled with sand–a nice touch). I’ll give it a go and let you know what I think after the trip.

 

It’s such a big job packing for an adventure like this that I’d better gather these things now and finish this game when we’re on our way. Road trip!