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?

Sarah’s Picks

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Have you checked out our Facebook page lately? If not, you now have another reason to since Sarah has been reviewing her favorite reads. In case you missed them, four are published here for your enjoyment. Go Sarah go!

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

beingmortalcoverThe author has simple prose on a highly complex topic. As a surgeon and author, he looks at the successes of modern medicine, and how it can prolong life, and attempt to stave off the inevitable. As many Americans age, our health care system has morphed into something that wants to increase longevity, but at what expense to emotional and quality of life? Gawande illustrates the evolution of the nursing home, what their original developers intended, and how industry has taken over. What used to be assisted living in people’s own homes, with as little intervention as possible, has morphed into a complex, multi-billion dollar industry, where individual control and autonomy has been taken away. He looks at how we value our elders in this country, and what we can do to make sure our loved ones have their wishes fulfilled in the end. This is a hard look at a subject that most people want to avoid. But he gracefully documents evidence on how to make the unavoidable process of death more pleasurable. He draws on his own experience with his dying father that is both touching and sincere. A good book for anyone wanting to work on living wills or end of life conversations.

Missoula:Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

missoulacoverThis is a tough but important read. Krakauer examined years of mishandling of rape cases at the University of Montana. Various agencies veered from the proper channels, and did not adequately prosecute the cases. The university is home to a beloved football team, and when some of its players were accused of rape, the community was split. Victims were not treated well by police, and faced public humiliation and shame, while some of the accused walked free, without the cases being properly looked into. The entire fiasco got so out of hand that the Department of Justice was brought in to investigate. Krakauer does an excellent job looking at the root causes of what went wrong, and sheds light on the victim’s predicaments, as their cases are dismissed. This book reminds us that rape happens more than we think…and the majority of cases are not reported to authorities. I admire the strength these women had, in order to testify against their attackers. I only wish the authorities had done more to make sure the criminals were prosecuted at trial. This is Krakauer’s latest installment; he’s best known for ‘Into the Wild’ and ‘Into Thin Air.’

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

deliciousfoodscoverDelicious Foods by James Hannaham is a unique book where crack cocaine is almost a reliable narrator. The drug tells it like it is, and recaps the trials and tribulations of one of his biggest fans, Darlene. Darlene turned to crack after the murder of her activist husband, Nat. Their only child, Eddie, is left to fend for himself, as his mother becomes increasingly addicted and withdrawn. Darlene is picked up one day in a minivan, which promises her steady work and an even steadier supply of crack. Darlene is whisked away to Delicious Foods, a type of labor camp, where addicts toll and sweat away, in exchange for a constant high. Eddie is abandoned and attempts to locate his mom, and eventually ends up at Delicious as well. This book is reminiscent of the slave trade, human trafficking, and had elements of addiction, family dynamics, and greed. Difficult to digest at times, but a completely unique storyline with quite a remarkable cast of shady characters. I think this one might be seeing some awards in its future.

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

barbaracoverThis catchy title proves to be a worthy debut collection of short stories. Holmes’s voice is honest, and her tales of young relationships showcase her likeable and realistic characters. In “Pearl and the Swiss Guy Fall in Love,” a woman falls fast and madly in love. But her pet pit bull hates her new boyfriend.. As their relationship progresses, the novelty of him wears off and she finds herself increasingly irritated, while her dog warms up to his presence. “Desert Hearts” showcases a couple, recently graduated from law school living in San Francisco. The young man is hard working in a new firm, while the woman finds part-time work at a local sex toy store, and deals with the consequences from her friends and family. Barbara, in the title story, has set her sights on Princeton after high school graduation. She is able to ignore the taunts from her peers, and focuses on helping her autistic brother and her academic future. Holmes debut is fresh, relatable and easy to digest. A perfect quick read for the end of summer.