When you figure out that you can order best sellers from your local library, for free, you are a step ahead of the crowd. You can pick up their monthly Book Page newsletter at any branch and choose from a wide range of reviewed selections. The next step? I called my librarian to walk through the process of getting a PIN number and then ordered my unabridged “spoken recordings” via their website: http://catalog.colapl.org/.
When your book is available it will be sent to your local branch and a notice is mailed to you. (That’s a bit of a catch. Sometimes I wait two weeks to two months, so, I always select at least three different books at a time.)
When you discover the pleasure of having a book read to you on that long commute across our valley or the next one, at night instead of watching TV, and old-fashioned page turning puts you to sleep – you may have found the secret to how to get through so many great books.
So when is the time? Now:
Elizabeth Gilbert, read by the author, Eat, Pray, Love: Midlife crisis happens at thirty-one for Gilbert. In a cathartic moment crying on her floor for no apparent reason, she realizes that her happy marriage isn’t really defining her as a person. Her publishers agree to her spending a year abroad doing a “Travel” book. Gilbert first visits Rome to embrace the unparalled food and romance language. When she moves into an ashram in India, plans to see more of the country is abandoned as she struggles to settle into a spiritual lifestyle. Finally traveling to Bali, for the last section, Love, she finds it first among the people and then, remarkably for non-fiction, with a future husband. Lots of characters that you are grateful to find are real. Good for anyone in mid-life crisis, divorce and/or spiritual leanings. Some people felt it a long read; not so in audio.
Sue Monk Kidd, read by Jenna Lamia, The Secret Life of Bees: It’s the US in 1964, when the rich southern accent of Lamia takes us to South Carolina and introduces 14 year-old Lily. Lily has run away from the abusive father that she believes blames her for the death of her mother and chooses instead to be enveloped in the care of the family servant, Rosaleen. Their journey allows Lily (and the listener) a coming of age with a new family, an understanding of Black Madonna Honey, civil rights and how we all must “find the mother” in ourselves. Her next book, The Mermaid Chair, I didn’t enjoy as much but if you are a romantic, I would steer you in that direction.
Khaled Hosseini, read by the author, The Kite Runner: Hosseini reads his life-spanning book of “Af-wan” boys running kite races in Afghanistan to immigrant men working swap meets in America. Here, too, is a journey story that allows the listener a freer imagination to envision how a single horrific childhood event can challenge us through to adulthood. And how it might not be too late to save the next Afghan boy from an even worse Taliban-ruled fate. His new book, on my bookshelf patiently waiting to be read, A Thousand Splendid Suns, is on the current bestseller list.
Jack London, read by Frank Muller, The Call of the Wild: The hero of this classic is Buck, a dog-napped family pet from California and sold for mush, literally, during the Gold Rush. After listening to his abuse and search for food and warmth, you will hear how Buck adjusts and is rewarded, finally, with a loving owner. And then we can see the kind of loyalty, and strength, that not even his family in California saw. First love shown through his tender deeds and thoughts never sounded so honest to my ears!
Louis de Bernieres, read by John Lee, Birds without Wings: Greeks, Turks, Armenians, both Muslim and Christian, are friends and lovers, in the same town in Turkey until war starts. This epic story (The longer the book the nicer it is to have it read to you.) will take you further from home than any of the others I’ve recommended. The story telling, inhabitants and language will transport you in time. The same holds for de Bernieres Corelli’s Mandolin; the film’s saving grace is the cast, the book’s saving grace is actually a more stellar one.
David McCullough, read by Edward Hermann, The Path Between The Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914 First and foremost, anyone can enjoy some remarkable history by having it read to us! Secondly, it won the National Book Award! Thirdly, it can make the time pass for a couple driving to Vegas. Many men died building the Panama Canal. The climate simply bred mosquitoes carrying deadly disease. It was more dreaded to go to the hospital because so many didn’t survive there. (It was thought that standing the legs of the hospital beds in cups of water would keep crawling insects off of the beds, but instead allowed the mosquitoes a weakened captive audience.) Several men of different caliber took on the leadership of the building. Plans continually changed as the mud continued to ebb and flow over the years. Nicaragua could have finally been put on the map, instead of Panama, leading traders and travelers to their destinations in new speeds.
Suze Orman, read by the author (like she’d let anyone else choose where her inflections should be), Women & Money I have a composition book half filled with where our investments are “just in case”. Orman would approve as most women have a fictional relationship with their finances, relying on marriage, home or social security benefits. It is a simple wake up call we can all handle. So do it. Or at least get the video and watch it. It makes a new year’s resolution to know more about money very easy.
And just for fun, when the kiddies are in the car or even when they’re not: Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express, read by William Hurt, Dr Seuss, Horton Hears a Who, read by Billy Crystal, and Laura Numeroff, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, read by Carol Kane Just to hear these three actors lend their unique recognizable voices to a child’s story is compelling for any age. They themselves might have kids, they might have needed the work, who cares? They put their earnestness into their storytelling! They are usually accompanied by the book for your child to follow along with. But I’m not telling you the stories if you don’t already know them, it’s my gift. But I will tell you this: A few years back a co-worker of mine was having a tough time with a boyfriend. I lent her my cassette of Polar Express. She kept it. Uses it for therapy when needed. Try this after reading Suze Ormon to calm down.