Story Editing, Manuscript Evaluations, Consultations
8 min read
My Ridiculous Audible Listening List
I sometimes refer to myself as a "bookworm," a term I am not crazy about, but if a bookworm reads books constantly - well, yeah, that's me. Mind you, I read manuscripts several days a week as well, in my role as an editor, so yeah, I guess you could say that I read quite a bit. Being an absolute junkie, I read books in any format, too. Audiobooks, Kindle, and of course, ye olde print book - all are fair game. I'm usually reading several books at once and have dozens of samples on my Kindle. I like to know what's going on. I'm terribly curious, I read voraciously, and it definitely helps me keep up as an editor when I know what's great and what's not so great out there in the world of books - in any format.
When I have time, which is less and less often these days, I write reviews of these books on GoodReads or Audible.com. But, unfortunately, I haven't been doing that so much lately. I'm awful busy writing up reviews and feedback for clients, so... it's not a big priority.
However, in the past few days, I realized that my Audible library is quite sprawling and startlingly varied. My tastes run from Russian novels to Audible sci-fi originals and everywhere in-between. Making this list was interesting for me; it shows how far and wide my interests range in black-and-white. I trace this variability back to my childhood, which was spent in a very (very) rural town (now prone to terrible wildfires), during which time my father had a "library" (the spare bedroom) filled with books. I had nothing else to do to. So I read whatever title was next on the shelf. This led me to read stuff like The Count of Monte Cristo at an early age, and my nerdiness only increased.
Many years later, I spent a few years working as a story analyst in Hollywood, and in this illustrious job, we lowly readers are not given a choice as to what we read, when, or why. All genres, all levels of writing, all due as of yesterday. I read work by William Goldman and by writers you've never heard of and writers you later did hear of. I read dusty old books and brand new books too. I had to be able to read whatever was given me, tout suite, and write up a synopsis and analysis of the work, including how expensive it might be to make, whether the writer was someone the agency should be in touch with for other work, whether actors might take an interest in any of the roles and if so, who. It was inglorious work, but it beats working in a shoe blacking factory.
The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I cannot stress enough how gorgeous this book is. I have found that the great Russian novels are, for me, much more enjoyable on Audible (if you have the right narrator, which goes for all audiobooks) because instead of getting a headache in one eye trying to read and pronounce long names in Russian, I can just relax and soak up the story itself. The Idiot is funny, wry, ironic, and a piercing study of human nature. I absolutely loved it. About three years ago, I went on a great Russian novel audiobook bender and listened to War & Peace, Anna Karenina, and Crime and Punishment. I never would have imagined my affinity for The Great Russian Novels but have The Brother's Karamasov queued up, and am considering learning to make my own vodka.
A Children's Bible, by Lydia Millet - I'm only about 25% of the way through this audiobook, but I am completely gobsmacked by Millet's outstanding writing - I mean, gobsmacked. The story is definitely as witty as it is dread-provoking, and I can't wait to finish it.
Troy, the Greek Myths Re-Imagined by Stephen Fry. First, I can never get enough Stephen Fry. His writing is clever, and his narration superb. That said, this book is better read on Kindle or as a hard copy, in my opinion, because these myths are pretty granular, and I keep needing to be refreshed. So I switched over to the Kindle version of this book, plus Heroes plus Mythos, so that I can enjoy dipping into them now and again.
Greenlights, by Matthew McConaughey. I must admit that I was disappointed by this book and didn't listen to more than three chapters or so. I love McConaughey, as kooky as he is, with his awesome Texan drawl, but his childhood was pretty dark, and his worldview wears thin real darn quick.
Harry Potter, Book One, narrated by Stephen Fry. I would listen to Fry narrate a phone book, for starters, but I will also admit to never having read the Harry Potter books, though I did see the first three films. It was cute. Not much more. I don't see what all the fuss is about.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce, narrated by Jim Broadbent. Broadbent is another actor that I would listen to if he read me his grocery list, but I'm afraid this book was a bit too twee for me, and I didn't finish it. I'm a big Wodehouse/Jeeves fan - or I was when I was much younger, and I was hoping for a shot of cozy British humor - which this book does deliver on - but not enough to keep me going.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, by Steve Busatte. I gave up on this audiobook in about 3 minutes flat because the narrator was terrible. Really bad. I got the book on Kindle because I am interested in dinosaurs and all that, but honestly, I got a bit weighted down by the density of the book. I would rather read this book as a #longread somewhere than a whole book, but perhaps I'll come back to it.
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. I liked this book a lot. It was part of a massive Greek/Trojan/Mediterranean/Myth bender I went on. Although given, I didn't like this book as much as I liked Ariadne (Jennifer Saint, which I read on Kindle) or The Song of Achilles and Circe (Madeline Miller), I read grumbly reviews on Kindle that Miller's newest novella, Galatea, was too short to warrant the $5.99 cost and I trusted that grumble.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Another person I would listen to reading absolutely anything. I listened to about half of this book, and I liked it and was glad to be refreshed by Norse myths, but I didn't make it through the whole thing. Books like this are good for reference or extended vacations in quiet places, I think.
The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig, narrated by Carey Mulligan. I love love love Carey Mulligan - ditto the phone book or grocery list measure of devotion. I listened to about 2/3 of this book and got bored of the premise. I was SO grabbed by the premise without any spoilers, but then the book began to seem really episodic to me, and I grew restless and quit listening. I might jump back in. I hear a movie is being made out of it, and that would be good. I promptly looked up and downloaded samples of other books by Matt Haig and have yet to read them.
The Diana Chronicles, by Tina Brown. All right, I've admitted it. I actually listened to part of this book. I don't know what got hold of me when I did that. Tina Brown narrates well, and Diana is, of course, endlessly fascinating and yet - I grew bored and disconnected all the same. So now this book sits, staring at me in my Audible library, and I await an extended vacation in a tranquil place to return to it. But I probably wouldn't, even then.
The Sea in the Sky, by Jackson Musker. I don't know what motivated me to listen to this book, perhaps because it is an Audible Original, thusly free, and yep, I do like me some sci-fi now and again. Surprise, surprise - I really really enjoyed the listen. So much so that I wrote a fan email to the writer, and we had a fun little correspondence.
The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter. I'm really letting my freak flag fly high by now, aren't I?! I loved this book. I love linguistics. I love McWhorter. BUT truth be told, I wound up listening to several lectures by McWhorter on Youtube and enjoyed them more than this book. That's the problem with an audiobook, you can't just casually leaf back a few pages, and for a book like this - you're gonna need to leaf back. Nonetheless, I find this topic deeply fascinating.
Blackwater, the Complete Saga by Michael McDowell, narrated by Matt Godfrey. Reader, I listened to the entire 30 hours of this audiobook and was completely - obviously - addicted. First, I just love Godfrey and listen to him narrate whenever I can. Second, this is some serious Southern Gothic, and thirdly, I had listened to McDowell's The Elementals a year or so earlier, and I adored it. McDowell apparently wrote Beetlejuice, which is a surprising factoid. Anyway, back to Blackwater, it has like 9,000 plot holes and unanswered questions in it, but it truly is written like a series - I couldn't stop listening and the central idea of a creepy river monster in the South - well - sign me up.
The Worldship Humility by R.R. Haywood, narrated by Colin Morgan. I ate this book up with a knife and spoon. This is another writer that I wound up emailing and having a lovely correspondence with. This writer - Haywood - is making a fine living from his writing, and he started off as a career policeman, so he's an indie writer's fantasy outcome. Plus, he's GOOD. His dialogue, in particular, is so very real and natural sounding - and funny.
Why Buddhism is True, by Robert Wright. I loved this book and found it so full of wisdom and comfort, and I immediately bought everything else Wright has written on the same topic. This is a go-to book when you're feeling overwhelmed by this crazy life.
Fellside, by M.R. Carey, narrated by Finty Williams. There are not enough words for how I love the narration of Finty Williams, who is, incidentally, Judy Dench's daughter. I went on a regular tear and listened to Finty narrate lots of stuff, Fellside being just one of many. Unfortunately, this book was not nearly as AMAZING as Carey's better-known book, also narrated by Finty Williams, The Girl With All the Gifts, to which I give ten out of five stars.
This is only a tiny percentage of the audiobooks I have listened to in the past year or so. I don't have the bandwidth to list the Kindle or print books I've also read, not to mention the New Yorkers, Atlantics and sundry other publications.
I'll be curious for your thoughts - what are your favorite titles here? What should I add to my upcoming list?