"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 Audiobooks Round-up

My preferred way to consume a book is by listening to it as an audiobook and I try, time allowing, to listen to as many books as I can. It takes more time to listen to a book than it does to read the print edition. I dedicate my commute time to audiobook listening. The list of books I have here does not represent a "favorites list" because I will stop listening if I don't care for a particular book in this format. These books just represent books I can recommend to others without any hesitation.  You will notice that there are few YA books on this list. Why? My library doesn't purchase as many audiobooks for teens as they do for adults and, with a few rare exceptions, the library is my only source for them.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, read by David Pittu (Little, Brown and Company, 2013)- listening to this book took over 32 hours! I lived and breathed this book for weeks. I could have driven to LA and back in the time it took to listen to it. Even though it was such a long audiobook I was completely INTO this Pulitzer Prize winning book. It is very rare that a book captures me and my imagination the way this one did. David Pittu's narration was solid with only one slight irritation- when he read some of the female voices they sounded like Harvey Fierstein. Ha!

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, read by the author (Blackstone Audiobooks, 2013)- this book is partially set in Japan. Ozeki reads the Japanese words perfectly, ones I would have just skipped over if reading the print edition. She also read the Buddhist prayers with the pacing she wanted when writing the book. These parts were laugh out loud funny. When my book club met to discuss this book I was one of only a few women who liked the book. As the discussion progressed I realized that my listening experience enhanced the enjoyment of this book. I highly recommend it in this format.

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, read by Robert Ramirez (Recorded Books, 2004)- My favorite thing about audiobooks is the help the narrator give the listener with pronunciation. This book, set in New Mexico to a Spanish-speaking family, had lots of Spanish words and names. This isn't an easy book to read or to understand but the audiobook format really made it one of my favorite books of the year. Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding this audiobook.  It wasn't available at my public library, this version was out-of-print and only available on the secondary market. I just about gave up looking for it and then remembered that I had purchased a copy for my school library back when this book was used by the English classes.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, read by Jenna Larina and Adepero Oduye (Penguin Audio, 2014)- Books written in two (or more) voices really benefit from having more than one narrator as is the case with The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. The two main characters are Sarah Grimke and a slave girl, Hetty aka Handful. Set in South Carolina in the early 1800s. Sarah becomes a staunch feminist and abolitionist and her story is off-set with alternating chapters by Hetty and her experiences as a slave.  Sarah Grimke's chapters are read by Jenna Larina with a lovely, lilting southern accent. Hetty's chapters are masterfully read by Adepero Oduye. The two voices give balance to the story.

She's Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick, read by Anna Cannings (Orion, 2013)- It want to give this audiobook a shoutout. The main character, a teenager named Laureth Peak, goes on an adventure with her younger brother to find their father, who has gone missing. Laureth is blind. Readers are not only treated to a fine YA mystery with lots of exciting bits but also find out a lot of information of what it is like to navigate the world as a blind person. Amazingly the voice actor, Anna Cannings, is blind herself. Listeners are told this right up front and I felt it really enhanced my listening experience.

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson, read by the author (Random House Audio, 2013)- reading is a solitary activity but listening to audiobooks can be a community event. My husband and I have listened to several audio books together, enhancing the experience for both of us. This book, masterfully read by the author, is a fascinating look at all the people and things that happened in one year, 1927: Babe Ruth's home run record; Charles Lindbergh flying across the Atlantic; Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, and Henry Ford, etc. We are still talking about things we learned from listening to the book together.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, read by Jonathan Davis (Penguin Audio, 2004)- Set in Barcelona, the listener is treated to the unique accent from this region of Spain in the pronunciation of places and names. I word describe this book as a Mystery/Thriller made more atmospheric by little snippets of  music here and there. You know the type of music I am talking about, right? The kind that tells the listener that something creepy is just about to happen. I was really enthralled by this complicated plot and wanted to listen it the book even when I wasn't in the car driving to work or back.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters (#3 Daughter of Smoke and Bones series) by Laini Taylor, read by Khristine Hvam (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2014.) Reading books in a series can be a real treat. Listening to books in a series read by the same narrator can be like visiting an old friend. As soon as I heard Hvam's voice again I was transported back into the world created by Laini Taylor. I had the same experience with other series books: Allegiant (#3 Divergent series) by Veronica Roth, read by Emma Galvin and Aaron Stanford; Cress (#3 Lunar Chronicles series) by Marissa Meyer, read by Rebecca Stolar.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, read by John Lee (Blackstone Audio, 2014)- I admit it. I was terrified to read this book which has such a reputation for being a tough book to both read and to understand. The audiobook format took that fear out of the formula. I found the book approachable because John Lee was handling the pronunciations of the Spanish words and names for me AND I listened to it with my husband who has more experience reading classic literature than me. He was able to explain to me the symbolism and literary techniques used by the author. It ended up being an extremely pleasurable reading experience. "Reading" classic books in the audio format can enhance approachability.

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