The best audiobooks provide something readers could not create on their own through reading the text from a page. Narrators create worlds with their voices, crafting performances that leave us sitting in our parked cars, hesitant to stop listening. For your next road trip, check out some of these books on CD or downloadable audio to make the miles fly by. Or, make exercise or housework more bearable by entertaining your ears with a good story. (Book descriptions courtesy of their publishers.)
“All the Old Knives” by Olen Steinhauer (read by Ari Fliakos and Juliana Francis Kelly)
Available on CD and downloadable audio
Nine years ago, terrorists hijacked a plane in Vienna. Somehow, a rescue attempt staged from the inside went terribly wrong and everyone on board was killed.Members of the CIA stationed in Vienna during that time were witness to this terrible tragedy, gathering intel from their sources during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground with a series of texts coming from one of their agents inside the plane. Had their agent been compromised, and how?
“Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson (read by Scott Brick)
Available on CD and downloadable audio
This 100th-anniversary chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania discusses the factors that led to the tragedy and the contributions of such figures as President Wilson, bookseller Charles Lauriat and architect Theodate Pope Riddle. A dramatic narration brings the details of this tragedy to crisp light.
“The Knockoff” by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza (read by Katherine Kellgren)
Available on CD
The story of Imogen Tate, editor in chief of Glossy magazine, who finds her twentysomething former assistant Eve Morton plotting to knock Imogen off her pedestal, take over her job and reduce the magazine, famous for its lavish 768-page September issue, into an app. Kellgren expertly captures both Imogen’s elegant tone and Eve’s more fast-paced millennial-speak.
“What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” by Randall Munroe (read by Wil Wheaton)
Available on CD, downloadable audio and playaway
What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last? In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, and Wheaton’s humorous tone matches the content perfectly.
While I’ll recommend the work of a rascal if that rascal’s work is great enough, there are enough brilliant and kind writers out there that I’ve rarely had to resort to that. How do I know if they’re kind? The same way you find out if anyone is kind – you google them, show a picture of them to your neighbor’s hounds, and then carefully observe the hounds’ reactions. With this month’s recommendation, I needn’t confirm the internet’s verdict with a hound test. Arthur Bradford’s gentlemanly nature shows in the big-hearted way he renders his characters and because the good sir is dedicated to helping people. In addition to some film work and two incredible collections of short stories, he’s worked at the Texas School for the Blind, been a co-director for Camp Jabberwocky (a camp for people with disabilities), and he’s currently working in a juvenile detention center. He’s not your typical literary superstar who spends all his time eating figs, drinking brandy and bidding for antique typewriters on eBay.
Bradford writes without the sort of fanciful verbiage, flowery descriptions and unnecessary addenda that this immaculately groomed (wearing the casual cummerbund, because it’s Friday) gentleman so vigorously gravitates toward. His sentences are direct, and they’re hilarious. His characters make mistakes, sometimes constantly, but they’re not trying to hurt anyone, and they’re often trying to help someone.
“Turtleface and Beyond” is his most recent collection of short stories, and it’s awesome. The titular Turtleface is an unfortunate young man who, after drunkenly deciding to dive from a cliff to impress his canoeing companions, dives face first into a turtle. Both he and the turtle are in bad shape, but Georgie (the soft-hearted narrator of the entire collection) decides to slap some duct tape on the turtle and nurse it back to health.
There’s a story about an under-dressed man travelling with friend to a wedding. They find a man ailing at the side of the road. He’s been bitten by a snake. He convinces Georgie to suck the poison from his leg. George reluctantly attempts it and ruins an outfit that was already insufficiently formal. There’s one where a reluctant Georgie is cajoled into assisting a boss’s decline into total depravity. There’s one called “The LSD and the Baby.”
When “The Gentleman Recommends” blog post series was first conceived, my primary intent was to highlight books that I like, but I also wanted to further the agenda of the gentleman. That agenda: constant politeness, regular charity, enough hat-tipping/doffing to cause calluses on the fingers you use to tip/doff your hat, always bowing when introduced to someone or when someone you know does something worthy of a bow, and regular snack breaks. I didn’t know that what I really wanted was to recommend a writer who had written a story called “The LSD and the Baby.”
It’s hot and humid, and the LibraryReads recommendations list for July is dripping with twisty, suspenseful and sometimes genre-blending thrillers! Kidnapping, murder on a cruise ship, a mysterious death in an Amish community and a reality show gone seriously awry – there are so many good stories to stow in your beach bag. Here are the top 10 titles publishing next month that librarians across the country love.
“Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch
“Once on the fast-track to academic stardom, Jason Dessen finds his quiet family life and career upended when a stranger kidnaps him. Suddenly Jason’s idle “what-ifs” become panicked “what-nows,” as the humble quantum physics professor from a small Chicago college gets to explore the roads not taken with a mind-bending invention that opens doors to other worlds. This fun science fiction thriller is also a thoughtful page-turner with heart that should appeal to fans of Harlan Coben.” – Elizabeth Eastin, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton, NY
“The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware
“An intruder in the middle of the night leaves Lo Blacklock feeling vulnerable. Trying to shake off her fears, she hopes her big break of covering the maiden voyage of the luxury cruise ship, the Aurora, will help. The first night of the voyage changes everything. What did she really see in the water and who was the woman in the cabin next door? The claustrophobic feeling of being on a ship and the twists and turns of who, and what, to believe keep you on the edge of your seat. Count on this being one of the hot reads this summer!” – Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH
“The Last One” by Alexandra Oliva
“The Last One tells the story of twelve contestants who are sent to the wilderness in a Survivor-like reality show. But while they’re away, the world changes completely and what is real and what is not begins to blur. It’s post-apocalyptic literary fiction at it’s best. With a fast pace and a wry sense of humor, this is the kind of book that will appeal to readers of literary fiction and genre fiction alike. It points out the absurdity of reality television without feeling condescending. As the readers wake up to the realities of a new world, it becomes difficult to put down.” – Leah White, Ela Area Public Library, Lake Zurich, IL
Here is the rest of the July list for your holds-placing pleasure:
- “Among the Wicked: A Kate Burkholder Novel” by Linda Castillo
- “The Unseen World” by Liz Moore
- “Truly Madly Guilty” by Liane Moriarty
- “All Is Not Forgotten” by Wendy Walker
- “The Hopefuls” by Jennifer Close
- “Siracusa” by Delia Ephron
- “Nine Women, One Dress” by Jane L. Rosen
I find that the first step in a new challenge for me is often to understand how someone else did it. When I wanted to start running (on purpose!), I didn’t consult a training plan. Instead, I read Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” for inspiration. Similarly, when I wanted to cook at home more often, I didn’t check out a cookbook. I read “A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table” by Molly Wizenberg. Sometimes the inspiration works the other way – I read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver because it was a One Read finalist in 2008. It motivated me to eat locally-produced, healthful food more often.
Other times, memoirs help me understand an experience that I hope to never have. Sonali Deraniyagala’s “Wave” recounts the deaths of her parents, husband and children in Sri Lanka during the 2004 tsunami. It is unfathomable to me (and probably to most people) how one could survive such loss, and I have recalled Deraniyagala’s strength many times since I read her memoir. Jean-Dominique Bauby fell into a coma following a stroke, and when he awoke, he found that he suffered from locked-in syndrome. He composed “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death” by blinking his left eyelid – the only body part he could move.
Not all memoirs are about such serious topics. A.J. Jacobs has made a career out of undergoing challenges and then writing humorously about such challenges. Jacobs has followed the proscriptions and tenets of the Bible (“The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible”), implemented rigorous health routines (“Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection”), volunteered as a subject of science (“The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as An Experiment”) and attempted to improve his intellect (“The Know-it-all: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World”).
There are plenty of memoirs to help you meet your life challenges – whether self-imposed or circumstantial – at your library. These are just a few.