Well Hello Bookworms!
I’m resurrecting another old post today that was devoured by the evil spirits of the internet. It’s ginormous and about audio books. I’ve updated it with the occasional aside in bold parentheses, because I simply cannot leave well enough alone.
If you’re anything like me the idea of a road trip is made more pleasant by the sheer joy of having so many uninterrupted reading hours. Unfortunately, that isn’t really an option if you happen to be the driver. Or is it? That’s right, my friends. Today we shall explore the glories of the audio book!
My BFF (we can use that terminology because we’ve been BFF since middle school) gave birth to one of the greatest human beings to ever grace the planet roughly 4 ½ years ago (UPDATE: Jack is now 7 ½. And he has a super cute baby sister named Junie who’s creeping up on 1 ½. I Seriously can’t even.) Unfortunately, my BFF has lived in a different state than I have for the past 15 years (Now 18. Holy smokes.) As an honorary aunt, I vowed I’d never miss one of Jack’s birthday parties (at least, until he’s old enough to decide he doesn’t want his weird Aunt Katie hanging around… At which point I’ll show up anyway and be EXCEPTIONALLY embarrassing. “Hey Jack, remember that time you accused me of pooping in your diaper? No?”) (<— That’s a true story, BTW.) And thus, every year around the Ides of March (I seriously never get tired of the Julius Caesar joke) I make the trek to… Whatever state or city Jack and Heather happen to be residing in.
The first couple of trips I made to visit Jack after he was born I made in the first vehicle I’d purchased for myself. A 2002 Oldsmobile Alero with crank windows and a broken radio. I fed my CD player hour after hour of music, but 5-7 hours of driving (each way), even with musical accompaniment, is tedious. Then I got smart. I had discovered that even on my 20 minute morning commute, I felt more alert listening to NPR than listening to morning music radio. I assumed the same principal- someone talking to me to keep my mind occupied- would hold true for road trips as well. I was right.
Do audio books count as reading? Umm, yeah they do! At least in my opinion. You hear the whole story, experience all of the description- it’s still theater of the mind. It’s just that you can safely drive while you enjoy it. I would also highly recommend audio books for anyone with a learning disability that makes it difficult to enjoy reading. Put a book on in the car instead of listening Rhianna. I can guarantee an audio book will make you smarter than Rhianna’s lyrics. (Still true.) Without further ado (Seriously 2012 Katie? That was so much ado. SO MUCH), I shall tell you a bit about the audio books I’ve enjoyed over my past several road trips…
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger was my first foray into road trip reading. I wanted to read it because I’d loved The Time Traveler’s Wife (book is infinitely superior to the movie, no matter how handsome Eric Bana is). Her Fearful Symmetry started out promising, but then started taking turns for the bizarre, and then the REALLY bizarre. Once the book ended I was really quite surprised it had gone the way it did. Part of what I’d loved about The Time Traveler’s Wife was that Niffenegger took an unbelievable situation and turned it into a realistic view of what life would be like to live with and love a man who could at any moment disappear into another time. Symmetry was the opposite- it started out with a realistic presence then steadily got stranger and stranger. And not in the way I like my strange.
Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant was my next selection. As I’ve previously professed, I adore historical fiction. I had read other Dunant novels (The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan) that were set in Renaissance Italy, and enjoyed them. Sacred Hearts was set in a convent during the same time period. It gave me more insight into the life of a Catholic nun in the Renaissance period, as well as insight into the few options available to women at the time. That part wasn’t exactly new to me (Hello, Women’s Studies Minor!) but I always like to read things that make situations come to life. This centered on a very reluctant novice who had been sent to the convent by her family to keep her from marrying an “inappropriate” suitor and the nun who took her under her wing. The supervisory nun was also the convent physician of sorts, so you’ll pick up all sorts of useful tidbits about old school diseases and treatments. Fascinating, if I do say so myself.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot was this year’s Jack-spedition selection. I really enjoyed this as an audio book, but I think it might be harder to get through reading in print. This book is non-fiction, and it is about the woman who (unwittingly) donated the first “immortal” human cells that could be used in laboratory work. I’m not nearly scientific enough to explain how that’s really possible, other than to say that Henrietta Lacks had a very unique and aggressive form of cervical cancer. The cancer ended her life, but took on a laboratory life of its own. The cells were so important that they were the basis of research for countless medical breakthroughs. What’s most interesting about this book is reading about the abject poverty of her descendents and their corner of Baltimore. It’s a long story, but I found it very interesting, and since I was listening as opposed to reading, I didn’t get too bogged down in the scientific jargon. I highly recommend this book. (I really need to come up with a ratings system). (No you don’t, 2012 Katie.)
I’ve since expanded my audio book indulgence to any road trip I take, not just the epic ones. This includes the 2 hour each way drive to visit my parents. I had been meaning to read Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland for years. It was one of the books handed out at the graduation party for my Women’s Studies group. (I got Pope Joan by Diana Woolfolk Cross, which may just merit its own entry *UPDATE* Pope Joan review HERE.) Anyway, I’d been meaning to read this for a long time, and finally decided to get on with it. The story follows a (fictional) Vermeer painting from the present day back through time to its inception. Throughout the ages the painting had a profound impact on a number of lives and went through many adventures itself. I’ve always had a soft spot for historical fiction that revolves around works of art (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Burning Bright, and The Virgin Blue all by Tracy Chevalier are worth mentioning) so this was right up by alley. (UPDATE: I made a list of Hist-Art-Ical Fiction. You can read it HERE.) I also learned more about the Netherlands that I’d ever known before, thanks to this book. I rather enjoyed that part, since, if the family lineage I’ve been told is accurate, I’m approximately 25% Dutch. Fun Fact: The Netherlands are mostly below sea level and flood a LOT. Also, horses can swim.
Finally! This has been an epic blog post. Last review, I promise. I just finished Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith in the car this morning. I’m technologically impaired, so I actually listened to the second half of the book before the first due to a downloading error, but aside from being a bit of a banana head, I enjoyed this book. I was shocked at how well researched this was. I mean, the vampire bits were obviously creative license, but the documented facts of Lincoln’s life and the chronology were spot on. I felt like I’d learned some useful American history by the end. A movie was just released. I will probably see it at some point, but I’m sure I won’t much care for it. What I liked most about this book was the historical accuracy and the filling in of life’s plot holes with fantastic farfetched theories. Judging by the movie’s trailer, it’s just a lot of Abe Lincoln killing vampires and crazy action sequences. I think there will be a lot lost in translation, but since I haven’t yet seen it, I can’t say for sure. (Who are we kidding? Of course I can say it for sure. The book is ALWAYS better than the movie!)
Congratulations for finishing this post, and many thanks. Until next time, my wormy worms!
Holy guacamole, 2012 Katie was VERY chatty, wasn’t she? I’m sorry, guys. I probably should have broken this post into pieces but I’m so very lazy. Also, if you buy anything from one of the 8 zillion links in this post, I’ll get a small commission. Yay for that.