Listen Up!

Let’s be honest.  One lifetime isn’t enough to read all the good books out there.  But I’ve found a way to cheat Father Time — audio books.  Letting someone else do the reading while I’m cleaning my bathroom or driving around town allowed me to enjoy an extra four books this summer.  Here’s a quick run down of these entertaining titles.

Post Format: Quick Reviews

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Grisham has been in the news lately because of his 2017 best seller, Camino Island.  But he’s been churning out good reads for decades.  This 2013 title is proof of that. Narrator Micheal Beck brings this story set in rural Mississippi alive.  I’m a Southerner and can recall only a handful of actors that truly nail the accent.  Beck does it superbly in this twisting, turning courtroom thriller.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Anybody own a charm bracelet? I do. That’s why I was drawn to this 2016 tale of a widower who discovers his late wife’s charm bracelet while going through a box. He’d never seen it before.  He goes on a journey to learn about the exotic charms and the women he thought he knew.  Narrator James Langton does a good job with this British tale except when he’s doing the voice of a teenage character.  That dialogue just sounded dorky.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This book was first published in 1988 but the publisher dropped it because of slow sales.  Harper Collins republished it in 1993, and it became a world wide best seller.  I can see why.  I fell in love with this story about a shepherd boy on a journey to find his personal legend.  It was both profound and entertaining thanks in large part to the amazing narrator, Jeremy Irons.

Still Life by Louise Penny

Making small talk at parties can be tedious.  Thankfully, the conversation at a recent gathering I attended turned to books.  This author and her mystery series set in the Canadian province of Quebec came highly recommended.  I was told to start with the first in the series, this 2005 title.  The plot is captivating and the characters are plentiful and colorful. Narrator Ralph Cosham does a great job with the English and French required for the bilingual setting.


I didn’t buy any of these audio books.  As a library patron, I borrowed them through Hoopla.  Hoopla is a free site that allows you to download or stream all kinds of media.  Check it out here.

A Challenging Read

I took a challenge recently, and it paid off.  READING WITHOUT WALLS  is a worldwide call to all readers that’s pretty simple.  Just read a book out of your comfort zone and see where it takes you.  My chosen book took me to Mars.  The Martian is a 2014 book written by Andy Weir.  Here’s more about this amazing tale and the challenge that inspired me to try it.

READING WITHOUT WALLS has three parts:

1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look or act like you:  Mark Whatney, the main character in The Martian fills this bill.  He’s male. I’m female. He’s in his 20’s.  I’m…well, let’s just say I have a few years on him.  He’s a botanist, an engineer, and an astronaut.  I’m an English major who works in a school library.  As different as we are, I grew to love this character.  Long story short, Mark is stranded on Mars after an aborted space mission.  His training, his intellect and his “never give up attitude” helps him survive the unforgiving planet for more than a year.  But his final rescue comes about through the herculean efforts of his fellow man.  Their actions fill him with pride and love for the human race.

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search.  If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood.  If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies.  This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception.  Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care.  But they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”


I took the READING WITHOUT WALLS challenge. Will you?

2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about:  Space travel, NASA, EVA suits, chemistry…I know little of these subjects.  But I learned about them and so much more.  Heck, I now know the basics of making water (mix two parts hydrogen with one part oxygen.)  Weir’s clear writing and humor make the science clear and even entertaining.


3. Read a book in a format you don’t normally read for fun (a chapter book, a picture book, poetry, or an audio book): I fell somewhat short in this regard.  The Martian is a novel which is my go-to format for pleasure reading.  It is, however, a genre I rarely grab–science fiction.  This challenge reminded that a good story is a good story, no matter how, where, or why it is written.

READING WITHOUT WALLS is the brainchild of Gene Luen Yang and the Children’s Book Council.  Go here to learn more.

BONUS BIT: Three other book’s I’ve read that challenged me and opened my eyes:

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, 2008:  This sweeping novel taught me about Afghanistan and its history.   I can now associate real places and people with this country that is so often in the news.  Plus Hosseini’s storytelling is superb.


Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive by Stephen Buchmann, 2010: This non-fiction book kindled a passion in me for honey bees and the food they produce.   I now keep a jar of honey in my pantry at all times.

Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin, 2012: This book detailing the build up to the atomic bomb was fascinating.  It’s a real-life story that reads like a movie script.  Hollywood take note.

QUESTION:  Care to share anything you’ve read that was out of the ordinary?  I’d love to hear!