November 27, 2015

Audiobook Year in Review: Part 2

I might have an audiobook addiction.  The review of the first 10 books of the year is here

I've kept on pace and even sped up a bit, such that it looks like I'm averaging just short of an audiobook a week this year.  At around $12/book it's an expensive habit, but we don't have any entertainment subscriptions other than Netflix and Amazon Prime, so I tell myself it's okay, and that it's not quite as expensive as buying actual paper books (but, of course, not as reasonable as obtaining books from the library).

Truly, my quality of life is so improved by listening to audiobooks while doing chores like driving, folding laundry, walking/running/working out, cooking, and more.  Things I used to consider drudgery are now welcomed and even longed for.

So, in case you're wondering what could possibly convince me to spend so much time on them, here are audiobooks 11-40 that caught my fancy this year:



Title
Author
Review
11
The hypnotist's love story
More Australian accents.   A fun jaunt through the little lies we tell ourselves that sometimes overwhelm us.  Light fun rom-com.
12
One plus one
Jojo Moyes
Classic best-selling love story with all the classic sappy elements of love and romance and loss and hardship and redemption that make a chick-lit escape so wonderful.
13
MaddAdam
Margaret Atwood
I'd read Oryx and Crake in 2004, during law school, and The Year of the Flood in 2011.  I'd seen MaddAdam pop up regularly as recommended for me by Audible (who, if I'm honest, probably knows more about my reading predilections than anyone in the world thanks to the Amazon overlord).  This book is a classic example (as would be the others in the series, no doubt) of how different the experience of reading can be versus listening to an audiobook.  There is quite a bit of verse in this series.  I'd written about my enjoyment of it earlier, and how to me, it was reminiscent of Blake.  Reading it, there was an internal rhyme, meter, and voice that I developed for my own enjoyment which is likely similar to the internal voice I use for Blake.  This time, listening to the last book in the series as an audiobook, I was so surprised that the voice and cadence the professionals selected for the performance was so different than what I'd heard in my head in the previous 2 books' visual readings.
14
Tiny Beautiful Things
Cheryl Strayed
See http://bitingtongue.blogspot.com/2015/03/you-better-work.html
15
I'm with the band: confessions of a groupie
Pamela Des Barres
Recommended by Kim Gordon in Girl In A Band.  Fascinating memoirs and history of the early years of rock.
16
Take another little piece of my heart: a groupie grows up
Pamela Des Barres
2nd act in Pamelaa Des Barres' life.  The groupie grows up and lives life the best she can.  More historical Hollywood and music icon memoirs, but also just a good tale.
17
Let's spend the night together: Backstage Secrets of Rock 'n Roll Supergroupies
Pamela Des Barres
An investigative look into the many manifestations of groupie culture.  Fascinating.
18
Torch
Cheryl Strayed
Ms. Strayed has a recognizable written voice between Wild, Dear Sugar, and this book.  If you like her writing and perspective in either of her other two books, you will enjoy this one as well.  If you enjoy her reading performance, you will enjoy this one, too.  The focus on drama here is larger than it is Wild, but it's very well done and a good story.
19
Live Right and Find Happiness
Dave Barry
Classic Dave Barry.  Lighthearted.  Fun.
20
The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins
Good Thriller.  Well done.  The alcoholic unreliable female narrator is an interesting twist.
21
When to Rob a Bank
Steven Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
Excerpts from the Freakonomics blog.  Entertaining, but just okay.  I suspect this is one of those collections that is better visually read. 
22
Blue Nights
Joan Didion
Her unique introspective voice.  On aging, life, and revisiting the loss, again and again through all of life's losses, of her daughter.  Painful.  But beautiful. Poignant.
23
Going Off Script
Guiliana Rancic
I just needed something light and enjoyable after Blue Nights.  I had no idea who Giuliana Rancic was, but the description of the content and the audio-excerpt led me to believe this one would fit the bill.  The initial hours were exactly what the doctor ordered -- hilarious tales of the early years of Giuliana's life as an Italian immigrant in America, growing up in roughly the same era as mine.  By the end, Giuliana's story becomes much more complex and difficult than I originally expected, but she never loses her hilarious sense of humor or perspective.  Over all, I enjoyed this much more than I expected.
24
The Girl Who saved the King of Sweden
Jonas Jonasson
My audible wish-list at the moment is populated with serious, difficult, heavy works.  And, I do enjoy them.  But even with the laughter from my last selection, I just didn't feel up for any of them.  So, when I saw that the man who wrote The one hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared had written a new book, I was intrigued.  The reviews quickly assured me that the voice and style were in keeping with the last book, which I sincerely enjoyed.  So, I jumped right in, and it delivered, as promised.  A great tale of coincidence and talent leading to accidental participation in great historical events.  Comical and fun.
25
Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One of the best stories I've enjoyed in a very long time.  Due to the varied African accents, this was one where I think the audiobook brings much more to my own enjoyment than visual reading would.  I couldn't bring a Nigerian accent to mind before listening to this book, and I can now, which is a wonderful thing.  The characters were complex, as were the topics (racism, the African Black american experience as opposed to the African American experience, and the return of an expatriate Nigerian to Nigeria, all wrapped up in a multi-decade complex love story).
26
Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour bookstore
Robin Sloan
So Enjoyable!  A true SF read in both senses: Science Fiction/Fantasy meets San Francisco.  I suspect it won't age super well due to its commitment to modern day trends like Googlers and the current state of technology, but boy was it fun right now.  If you liked Harry Potter or any other Fantasy or Sci-Fi series and you enjoy technology, design, and modern day life in the San Francisco world, you'll be thoroughly amused at how clever and well done this one is.
27
Lock-in
John Scalzi
I very much enjoyed this book.  When you stop to think about the story, it's clever, cohesive, and well thought out -- tons of work must have gone into making the world consistent. But when you're reading it, it's just a great story that's very plot driven with well built characters. Interestingly, the main character/narrator, Chris Shane, is never specified as male or female. There are two separate audiobooks, one narrated by Amber Benson and one by Wil Wheaton.  I listened to the Amber Benson version.
28
Anansi Boys
Niel Gaiman
The critically acclaimed tale of Fat Charlie and his brother, set in a similar world to that of American Gods, but taking place in London, Florida, St. Andrews and the otherworld.  Excellent reading performance by Lenny Henry -- so many different character voices, all done consistently well.  An enjoyable escape.
29
Crash and Burn
Artie Lange
A very honest, sometimes cringe-worthy tale of hedonism, dysfunction, and comedy.  This seems very self-enforcing to me -- if you are already an Artie Lange fan, you'll likely appreciate this book and like him more once you are done.  If you aren't, you may become one, or you may fall on the side of many who find his behavior and humor depressing and vile.
30
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry
Gabrielle Zevin
Like most books set in bookstores, this is a book for book people -- with references to classics woven throughout.  A slow moving book-heavy book.  If you love western literature you will likely love this too. 
31
I don’t care about your band
Julie Klausner
A fun pop culture romp through the memoirs of a young single woman being open and honest about her dating experiences in modern America (with a focus on New York).
32
The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Rachel Joyce
A lovely story of an older man who decides to make a pilgrimage for *something* and the chaos that ensues as well as the growth in his marriage as a result.
33
Modern Romance
Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg
Aziz is such a fucking nerd.  He decided to do some stand up about dating.  Then he got curious.  The next thing you know, he's hosting focus groups in major cities throughout the world and soliciting input from sociologists, anthropologists, and other impressively credentialed academics in relevant fields.  All, as far as I'm concerned, in an effort to string together an audiobook that fascinates me wth facts while making me laugh.  if you are interested in modern love culture, dating, and laughter, you will love this book.  Also, since it's read by Aziz, it's one of those instances where the audiobook, for me, is even better than the written book (even if I did miss out on the graphics as Aziz so often liked to point out).
34
Tokyo Vice
Jake Adelstein
I like to educate myself before and while traveling in a place.  I was headed back to Tokyo this November, so I picked this audiobook up and found myself completely enthralled.  Equal parts cultural observation and journalist/detective mystery it's very enjoyable if you are looking for something written by a Jewish boy from the American Midwest who ends up as a reporter in the crime bureau of one of the major Tokyo press offices.
35
Japan took the Jap out of me
Lisa Cook
Again, in the interests of pre-travel education, I listened to this one with a goal of understanding the gaijin english teaching experience from the eyes of a Californian female.  I figured I would relate to her experience.  But actually, she's so self-identifying as a JAP (Jewish-American-Princess) that I found the whole book to be educational on both sides.  I listened to her do things I'd observed "JAPS" do in California with confusion, but she was in Japan, so then I listened to her explanations of why she was doing what she was doing and how it was received as so foreign in Japan.  Oddly, I think I learned more about the wealthy Jewish American female (Californian?) experience from listening to this book, than I did about Japan.  Regardless of the unexpected JAP education, there were several passages that really moved me -- in particular, I was so impressed that she took her time in Japan to speak out and educate about women's rights and teenage depression.  Specifically, there is a story of how she saw an old woman in the subway being verbally abused but her husband convinced her that they really couldn't do anything at the time (and she admitted he was right).  She was so upset that the next day, she replaced her senior female English class with an open discussion (where she cried) about the woman and her concerns about her students' self worth and how verbal and physical abuse is *never* okay and how they have to love themselves and walk away from abuse and know that they don't have to put up with it.  The response from the students (many of whom also cried), fellow teachers, and community to such a necessary message made it clear that while Americans are often brash, sometimes, we come strong to deliver important messages that are culturally difficult, but very important.  In case you couldn't tell, I very much enjoyed this one.
36
Tune In Tokyo
Tim Anderson
Yet another book in my "seek out cultural education on Japan" series.  Tim is a gay man from Raleigh, North Carolina.  He is a southerner first, and I could relate to many of his perspectives on the world because my husband is also a southerner.  His book was a hilarious summary of his experiences and a humorous take on Japanese cultural oddities, his *mistress* of Tokyo, Japanese gay culture (and wacky young female culture that is oddly parallel with gay culture in other areas of the world), food, language, music, and just general foreign hilarity was educational and enjoyable.
37
An Unwelcome Quest
Scott Meyer
I'm not sure what to say about this.  It was the 3rd book in the series and I accidentally read it after the 1st, but I didn't notice.  The reason I switched from physical books to audiobooks for this series is that E informed me he had no desire to read anymore in the series and physical books only make sense if I can share with others.  This series didn't make the cut for him, as he put it, because it was overwritten, oversimplified, too childish, and all sorts of other not-super-positive things.  And yet, I purchased this book, and ran my way happily through almost 12 hours of audio book.  What's more, I enjoyed it.  I even went back and got the audiobook for #2 that I'd skipped.  So clearly, there's something here that's enjoyable.
38
Spell or High Water
Scott Meyer
Same general comment as above.  I enjoy it, clearly, 'cause I came back for more.  There's time travel, and magic, and a reasonably well-constructed world.  There's gender and cultural awareness and sensitivity in a manner that is so out of line with the simplistic writing that it's a bit confusing.  But, overall, I enjoyed the almost 12 hours of this one as well (many good miles were run and walked).
39
Neverwhere
Niel Gaiman
This one had been on my to-read list for quite some time.  Very enjoyable.  Classic Gaiman in style.  Epic fantasy interleaved with real-world minutia and an unlikely hero protagonist.
40
Why Not Me
Mindy Kaling
Funny, thoughtful, introspective on feminism and race and success while cracking jokes, similar in tone to her first memoir.  If you liked the first one, you'll like this one as well.

6 comments:

Jen said...

Wow! That's an extensive list!! Have you ever borrowed audio books from the library? I don't know how it works in your county, but both Oakland and Hayward libraries use the Overdrive app to loan out E-books and audiobooks. The collection isn't comprehensive, and sometimes you have to wait a while, but it's free!

Re: Aziz Ansari - have you watched Master of None on Netflix yet? T and I loved it. Highly recommended.

Biting Tongue said...

@Jen -- I'll look into the library, thanks!

Re: Master of None -- we've watched 2 episodes and I can probably get E to watch one more before he makes the final call, but he's not really a fan. He feels that Aziz's sketch comedy is essentially different skits about Aziz being awkward. I see more variety within that genre, but generally speaking, he's not totally wrong.

Angela said...

Agree, I try not to think about what I spend on audiobooks, but on the other hand, they have IMMENSELY improved my quality of life, particularly commuting, and let me get to so many things I've really wanted to read but know I'll never get around to reading in hard copy. Thanks for the list!

Cathryn said...

How do you get audiobooks for $2? I'd love to listen to more - thanks for some great recommendations here!

bt said...

@cathryn, sadly, I don't. $12ish/book is the going rate on audible subscriptions.

Cathryn said...

Damn, I misread.