1 2

Staff Picks Format: Audiobook

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande [, , ]

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

As the title implies, this book is for everyone, everyone who is mortal. With the subject matter, one might expect a very depressing tome. Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and a staff writer for the New Yorker, is an amazing story-teller. In the end, there is hope for making the world, and the end of life, better. He frankly addresses the failings of a medical system that tries to fix everything, when that might not be the right choice. He takes us through the very personal lives, and deaths, of many people, including the very personal story of his own father, as well as sharing his research into how we got where we are. Yes, it is good to live in a world that no longer has poor houses, but in some cases, we haven’t done much better.

Reading this book will hopefully encourage you to start the difficult but important conversations with your relatives and loved ones. Do you want to spend the end of your life living with parakeets? Will you be happy if you can eat chocolate ice cream and watch football?

[This was also very good on audio, but might make you cry a little while you are driving…]

Tagged: , , , ,

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds []

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

Award winning author Jason Reynolds is a masterful storyteller. Through his book, When I Was the Greatest, Reynolds shows us something of the nuances of family life in an urban African American community and exposes the spaces where love, family, and community are strong. Ali’s family is not typical, but there is no typical family. Ali lives in Bed Stuy, New York with his mother, Doris and his sister, Jazz. Jazz is famous for giving nicknames and she gave Ali his name after Muhommad Ali. Jazz also named Ali’s best friends and neighbors Needles and Noodles. Ali grapples with the complexities of life in Bed Stuy and knows he needs to keep on track and stay out of trouble because his mother Doris makes that very clear. This book is so engaging and authentic it will hook even the most reluctant teen reader.

Tagged: , , , ,

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan []

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

Negin Farsad is playful and intentional in her reading of this beautifully tragic love story by Sara Farizan. Sahar and her best friend Nasrin have grown up together in a world where homosexuality is a crime. They know they are in love, but they must hide their romance from everyone in their lives. Their romantic feelings for one another become even more dangerous when Nasrin is engaged to marry a man. Sahar must deal with Nasrin’s engagement and the loss of their own romantic relationship, but this is not easy for her. The feelings she has are so strong and there is no safe way for her to talk about them or express them. Sahar makes a drastic decision that she hopes will save her relationship with Nasrin, but how far will she go to be with the woman she loves? Will she ever get over her first love? What’s more, how will she continue to pursue her career goals and take care of her father while being true to herself?

Tagged: , , , , , ,

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky []

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

Johnny Heller narrates exactly the way you imaged Charlie’s voice while reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Charlie’s matter-of-fact tone and use of direct language juxtaposes with the intensity of his experiences and the sometimes stunning depth of his observations. Anyone who has been 15 knows that navigating friends, family, and high school can run the gambit from terrifying to exhilarating. Charlie is figuring out how to be a person in the world. He is called a freak, he experiences pain and love and every emotion in between. I highly recommend both the print book and the audio book to adult and teen readers. And while I’m at it, the movie is pretty great too!

Tagged: , , , , ,

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume []

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

Peter, because he’s the oldest, must deal with Fudgie’s disgusting cuteness, his constant meddling with Peter’s stuff, and other grave offenses, one of which is almost too much to bear. All these incidents are presented with the unfailing ear and big-hearted humor of the masterful Judy Blume.

Tagged: , ,

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon []

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

Ron McLarty narrates this bizarre and wonderfully entertaining crime novel by Thomas Pynchon. Infusing the perfect hippie bravado to our central character Doc Sportello, McLarty transports us to this far out time.

Filled with film and music references, original music (sung a capella by McLarty on the audiobook), hilarious dialog and a gritty tone, Pynchon creates a unique take on the detective novel. Doc, who is a long haired, stoner private-eye in Los Angeles at the close of the 1960’s, is on the case to find a missing ex-girlfriend. Along the way, he has run ins with colorful characters in this backdrop of groovy pads, surf music and drug culture.

Flower power is over and something darker is on the horizon.

Tagged: ,

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz []

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

The audiobook is read by the author, Junot Diaz, to wonderful effect. We follow the life and romantic misadventures of Yunior, from the time his family immigrated from the Dominican Republic to his life as a professor in Cambridge — although not in a straight chronology. Diaz’s language is in turns brash and lyrical, peppered with slang. Yunior is not always an easy guy to like, and that he becomes a sympathetic character at all is due to Diaz’s genius (as further evidenced by his being named a MacArthur Fellow in 2012). The version of the audiobook I listened to was further interspersed with latin music, helping to set the mood and carry me away.

Tagged: , ,

The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde [, ]

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

This latest entry in the Thursday Next series of genre-bending literary absurdist fantasy adventure novels is immensely satisfying.  Fforde doesn’t miss a chance for a farcical or pun-driven punchline; the twists and knots and mobius strips in the overlapping plot lines make perfect sense in the impossible logic of his alternate world, despite (or because of) which, they still provide surprises.  Thursday has been pushed into semi-retirement but nevertheless manages to be at the center of the action, valiantly trying to save the world from Goliath Corporation (mission statement: to own everything and control everybody), the smitings of a wrathful deity, asteroid collisions, overdue library books, and genetically engineered fake versions of herself.  The reader on this Recorded Books version has done a brilliant job of voicing the many characters and pacing the reading with a deadpan nonchalance.

Tagged: , , ,

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde []

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

The first title in the Thursday Next series, takes us to a slightly different version of Great Britain, around 1985, where time travel is routine, and people have cloned dodo birds has pets. Thursday is a member of Special Operations 27, the literary detective division. Her father is a member of the Chronoguard, and her uncle invents all kinds of interesting devices. Thursday is involved when original manuscripts get stolen, and the story line starts changing. Jane Eyre is kidnapped and Thursday has to enter the novel to try to track down the villain before any lasting harm occurs to the storyline. A love of literature and some acquaintance with Jane Eyre suggested. Surreal and funny with wonderful characters.
Susan Duerden was an engaging reader. 10 discs, 12 hours 15 minutes

Tagged: , , ,

Old Jews Telling Jokes by Sam Hoffman ; with Eric Spiegelman []

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

This project started as a website, still going strong at oldjewstellingjokes.com. A couple of guys and their dads started rounding up all their “aunts and uncles, wise-cracking attorneys and periodontists,” as the web site says. Each clip is a couple of minutes of one person telling a joke. These are not professional comedians, they are ordinary people from the culture that created the Marx Brothers, the Catskill circuit, and Mel Brooks. Some of the stories have been around a long time, but nearly all of them land between amusing and hilarious on the laugh-o-meter. You’ll find ironic, raunchy, and self-deprecating bits as well as some marvelous timing and delivery. The narrator I could do without. Still, it beats therapy.

Tagged: ,

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon []

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

Michael Chabon’s mastery of language alone is enough to recommend anything he writes.  But the characters in Telegraph Avenue provide much more to enjoy. The story centers around two friends in Oakland, California who own a used record store that is “nearly the last of its kind.” Archy is black, Nat is Jewish, and their wives are also partners in a midwifery practice.  All of them are beleaguered by cultural and economic realities that endanger their livelihoods, but they keep doing what they believe in.  Meanwhile their children have their own troubles which are drawn sympathetically yet realistically.  The neighborhood, customers, relatives, friends and enemies are portrayed with a warts-and-all detail that makes them very multi-dimensional, believable and relatable.  The story unfolds at a deliberate pace but the humanness of the characters and the joy of Chabon’s writing will draw you in.  For music buffs, there’s an extra nostalgic delight in vintage vinyl.  Clarke Peters reads for Recorded Books in a rich, deep voice, delivering Chabon’s metaphors and dialogue with the power, humor and sly intelligence they deserve.

Tagged: ,

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver []

book-jacket

view/request in library catalog

Barbara Kingsolver reads her ambitious 2009 novel in a soft and expressive voice with deliberate pacing. The story unfolds over three decades in Mexico and the U.S., and each character has a particular voice within the author’s reading. It centers on the young man Harrison Shepherd whose parents (American father and Mexican mother) are marginal to the picture, and who keeps diaries in which he is a third-person narrator of his own life. Though he holds himself as a perpetual outsider, his life is in the middle of some serious action: as a teenager he gets a job as a plasterer and then a cook for Diego Rivera, living with the painter, his artist wife Frida Kahlo and the exiled Leon Trotsky for whom Shepherd does clerical work. Later, he moves to South Carolina on his own and becomes a successful novelist, until he is targeted by Joe McCarthy’s HUAC. The fictionalized descriptions of these larger-than-life figures and the historical events surrounding them are the focus of the novel, with the main character acting as quiet observer and chronicler, adding his own wry take on the proceedings. It’s an unusual device that creates an inside view of epic times through distant eyes that could be your own. Which is not to say there’s no emotion in it–there’s more than enough passion in the cast of characters, and plenty of historical context to arouse the reader’s.

Tagged: , ,