August 27, 2013


I discovered audiobooks in 2012.

But 2013 is the year when I took them into my life and made them part of the routine.

Now, I listen to audiobooks while running, walking, doing dishes, laundry, chores, driving.  You name it: if the MP3 player has batteries and I'm not otherwise intellectually engaged, I've probably got an audiobook in my ears.

So far this year, I've given audible a small fortune and listened my way through all of the titles in the following table.  I can honestly say that my life is better because of audiobooks.  I am better "read" and I think about ideas in a more cohesive manner because I have the option of exploring them in time periods when I otherwise would not be free.

Sure, they aren't a technological advance that one normally thinks of when considering how technology makes the world a better place.  But for me, that's trivial.  I once lamented that one of my biggest sorrows was that there was no way I could read every book ever written, so I had to make choices, and I was bound to make some wrong ones.  I feel like adding audiobooks to my life has given me additional minutes/hours/days in my life to make extra right (and wrong) decisions about books.

Just Kids
Patti Smith
A lifelong love story and a beautiful tale of the artistic lives of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.  Read in Patti's tell-tale raspy voice, with her New Jersey accent, this story was so enjoyable.  It's not just a history of their life together, it's also a history of American Culture at the time and the artistic culture of New York during the 60s and the 70s.
Blood, Bones, & Butter
Gabrielle Hamilton
The honest and riveting memoirs of the owner of NYC's Prune, starting with her French mother's meals and their family's parties and going through the years she was a dishwasher, line cook, waitress with a coke problem, multiple-time-college enrollee, catering chef, getting an MFA in lit, breaking up with her lesbian girlfriend, getting married into an Italian-Italian family, and growing into being a mother in a not-so-perfect marriage.
Under Their Thumb: How A Nice Kid From Brooklyn Got Mixed Up With the Rolling Stones and Lived To Tell About It
Bill German
A great insider tale from the author of Beggar's Banquet.
The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones
Stanley Booth
Epic.  Sad.  A great historical snapshot.
The Last Chinese Chef
Nicole Mones
Deep, textured insight into Chinese culture and food all shared in the envelope of a grieving widow, a Chinese mistress, a Chinese national food competition, and an unexpected love story.
Lost In Translation
Nicole Mones
The writing was not as mature as the Last Chinese Chef, but the speaker could actually pronounce the Mandarin.  There was much more actual Mandarin languge in this story than in the Chinese Chef, which made for a great study guide.  The story meandered at times and was a bit slow, but overall, it was an enjoyable insight into a foreign woman's experience in China, even with perfect Mandarin.
Laura Hillenbrandt
An amazing and awesome tale of survival.  12 lives in one man's very long lifetime.  An epic real-world story.
Let's pretend this never happened, a mostly true memoire.
Jenny Lawson
Autobiographical tales from Texas.  No doubt some tall tales.  But most relatable in their absurdity.  A very entertaining offering from the Blogess.
Dreaming in Chinese
Deborah Fallows
A linguist's tale of immersion in China.  How could I not love it.  Only one complaint, a narrator who could pronounce Mandarin properly would have made this infinitely better.
The Elephant to Hollywood
Michael Caine
Supremely enjoyable 2nd (Second!) autobiography from a hollywood workaholic who started in an outer-London Slum and made it to Hollywood.  As a result of his upbringing, he's a workaholic who's been in more movies than just about anyone.  I loved learning history through his personal stories.  It doesn't hurt that he's a great storyteller, an awesome impersonator (all the characters seemed to be speaking), and a big lover of life.  His laughter at his own puns and silly jokes was, for me, the best part of the audiobook.
Born Standing Up
Steve Martin
A parallel (but different) tale to Elephant to Hollywood.  Less slums, but more neurosis and family drama.  A great story of hard work, self-determination, and getting back up after falling down.
Golden Mountain
Irene Kai
Wonderful memoire of a 15-yr-old immigrant to New York from Hong Kong and her cultural and personal growth throughout her life until she returns to her childhood home 36 years after leaving.
Maya's Notebook
Isabelle Allende
Told in two time-tables, one a memory of the last year-plus of delinquency, and another a year-plus of moving to a desolate island off of Chile -- this is a glorious tale.  It may be one of Allende's best.  She claims to have listened to her grandchildren to hone her control of Maya's voice, and it is convincing.  The narrator is capricious, hormonal, flighty, and naive in an unaware way that makes you believe you are truly reading the words of an intelligent, but youthful girl.  I may go back and read it on paper just to enjoy it again in a different form.  Definitely my favorite book so far this year.
Seriously...I'm Kidding (Unabridged)
Ellen DeGeneres
Okay.  Just Okay.
My Mother Was Nuts (Unabridged)
Penny Marshall
Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir
Amanda Knox
Interesting.  Clear and detailed.  Ms. Knox is still developing her writing voice.
Then Again (Unabridged)
Diane Keaton
The Reversal: Harry Bosch, Book 16 (Mickey Haller, Book 3)
Michael Connelly
Third in the addictive legal thriller series.
The Brass Verdict: A Novel
Michael Connelly
Second in the addictive legal thriller series.  Sucked me in.
The Lincoln Lawyer
Michael Connelly
First in the addictive legal thriller series.  Sucked me in.
Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
Michael Pollan
Very academic.  Literary references strewn throughout.  It reads as if trying so, so hard.  But it's a great compilation of useful thoughts on gardening, and interesting to see where Mr. Pollan's fascination originally began.
Is everyone hanging out without me?
Mindy Kaling
Light and breezy autobiographical book by one of the producers of the office.
Life on the Mississippi
Mark Twain
Mark Twain is such a great writer than he can rope you in and enthrall you with hours upon hours of descriptions of a river you've never seen and a time you never will see, filled with steamships and more.  I've never felt bored by a topic but so thrilled by the words, that I just had to keep listening/reading.
Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
This book was described to me, mid-way through as "a terrible tale of horrid, miserable people."  I thought I understood what the speaker meant.  But, no.  It took me 'til the very end to understand.  And there was no exaggeration.  But it was very well written and kept me engaged and hoping for a sudden turn 'til the very end.
The Fifth Witness
Michael Connelly
The latest in the Mickey Haller books.  A great, fun, suspenseful tale.  He gets the law about 80% right, which is fun to watch.
The Bedwetter
Sarah Silverman
Fun and fascinating tales from the Jewish American comediene featuring hilarious perspectives on Americans, juvenile humor, and, of course, the fascination that everyone except Sarah seems to have with her Jewish ancestry and how it must be so important to her identity and actions.
Stories I Only Tell My Friends
Rob Lowe
It must be difficult to be so pretty and also so smart.  I never knew Rob Lowe was such a cerebral, thoughtful, and complex dude.  (I suppose that's probably true of many from Hollywood.)  This audiobook entertained me with stories and frank openness about some unique life experiences (which I expected), but it also introduced me to Mr. Lowe's prowess at impersonation, character voices, and, of course, the surprising (to me) fact that he's a great writer and a brilliant businessman (He's behind the fund that bought out Miramax!  Way to go pretty boy.)


Jen said...

I need to bookmark this! I've been thinking about making the leap to audiobooks, but I'm afraid of how much it's going to cost me.

Not that you asked, but I really enjoyed Open by Andre Agassi. I had a similar reaction to yours re: Rob Lowe's book -- i.e., came away very impressed and surprised.

bt said...

Thanks, Jen. I'm always looking for new book recommendations. Yes, the audiobook habit has been a bit expensive, but I don't pay for cable or any other content except netflix, so that's how I justify it to myself.

bt said...

Jen -- also, I haven't tried it, but a friend swears by the NorCal digital library:

Angela Knotts said...

Completely agree. I subscribed to Audible in February in order to use my commute for something useful, & it's, like, quintupled the number of books I get through. Thanks for all the notes!