On road trips my husband and I always listen to audio books to pass the time. My husband enjoys non-fiction, so I make selections attempting to entertain us both. I’m usually successful and some of our favorites have made long trips seem much shorter. We both like U.S. social history and some of our favorites are:
The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough tells the tragic story of one of the worst disasters in U.S. history. The history behind the creation of the dam and its subsequent failure is typical of the excellence we have come to expect from McCullough. His research is comprehensive and his ability to tell a clear and coherent story is without equal.
The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan is another favorite. The book tells the story of Teddy Roosevelt and forester, Gifford Pinchot’s drive to create the National Parks Service. It vividly recreates the largest ever forest fire in the U.S. that destroyed and built on the groundwork they set.
On a trip with our then, 15 year old daughter in the back seat, we listened to The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. Thirteen years later she still recounts this as when we tried to bore her to death and performs a comedic routine reciting the OED definitions that head each chapter. Her dad and I enjoyed the book and don’t feel bad at all about listening to it. After all, she had her Walkman and her earphones.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson is the tale of the Chicago World’s Fair and the serial killer that blended into the excitement. Although this is true crime story the fascination lies in the work of the architects that designed the “White City.”
Three books we’ve listened to are laugh out loud funny:
I think most of us have wondered if we could ever hike the Appalachian Trail. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson almost convinces you it is not only doable but really not that hard. Lest I forget to mention, his companion on this hike is former college friend, Stephen Katz, who is clearly out of shape. Actually maybe it was harder than it seemed.
Have you ever been on a multi-generational road trip in an RV? If so you will want to listen to The Ride of Our Lives: Roadside Lessons of an American Family by Mike Leonard. The initial chapter’s description of the RV in the gas station hooked us immediately. As the family travels the U.S., their interactions and adventures greatly entertained us.
Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan is funnier on audio than the movie. If you have ever been around a dog with no manners but thought he was great anyway, you will love this book.
The library’s collection of fiction on CD, non-fiction on CD, Playaways, and downloadable Audio Books can help you enjoy getting to and from your destination.
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During the cooler months, there’s the summer that lives nostalgic in our minds. Thoughts of plump strawberries and wading pools swim about. Idealizing lazy days tending garden and nights of front porch sitting circle around a few times too.
At first when it comes, the summer is all that we’d hoped for. Strolling through parks with sandal covered feet we pass through May and then June comes too. The solstice is marked and July strikes. Now we’re pointed straight towards the sun whose heat feels like it's here to stay. The grasses turn from vibrant true greens into a crunchy yellowish brown as the air conditioner struggles to keep up. It’s just one ozone action day after the next.
If you are looking for a sympathy for having lost your spot in the shade and want to pick up a little hope you might check out a copy of Come on Rain by Karen Hesse and Jon J. Muth.
The prose captures the oppression of midsummer while singing one girl’s refrain for reprieve so well it makes you sweat as you read. You reach out for a glass of iced tea as an involuntary response to Jon Muth’s water colored pictures.
Mama lifts a listless vine and sighs.
Cats pant, heat wavers off tar patches in the broiling alleyway.
A creeper of hope circles ‘round my bones. “Come on rain!” I whisper.
Well, this is more like it.
If you find that you hear the sound of thunder when there isn't any as you carry a sloshing can of water towards your drooping plants or even wonder if it would be indecent to wear a swimsuit on your commute, you might share this with a child as you both cry out for rain.
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There comes a time in your life when you have to think about what is important to you and what happens when those things are jeopardized. In An Accidental Affair by Eric Jerome Dickey, the protagonist, James Thicke, finds himself in just such a situation. James is a screenwriter deeply in love with his wife, Regina Baptiste, an A-List Hollywood actress. Then he receives an email which rocks him to the core.
Included with the e-mail is a video clip of his wife and an actor, Johnny Bergs, in a compromising situation. James goes ballistic at first, attacking Johnny in front of cameras. Both the original video and the new footage of the fight are released on the Internet where they spread like wildfire.
James decides to distance himself from the situation by leaving Hollywood and the controversy behind. Down the road, in the small town of Downey, he takes up residence in a dilapidated apartment complex. The tenants James meets there, many of them women, have as many or more problems than he does. Before long, James finds himself entangled in the web of lust, deceit, and blackmail that envelope the neighborhood.
This book reminds me of many that I have read before, such as Mr. Dickey’s previous novel, Milk in My Coffee. I like his writing style because he makes you feel all of the emotions that the characters are feeling by the way he plays with words. If you are the type of person that likes to jump right in to the action of the story, this may not be the book for you.
The book was well written and if you like intrigue and intimacy there is enough of it here to last a lifetime. Mr. Dickey has done a good job with this one and if you get a chance to read it, I hope that you enjoy it.
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Or are you interested in finding out more about the songs or artists mentioned in your favorite novel?
Then you should check out our sister blog, LFPL's Music Corner!
There you will find:
• The current month's visual display of a music theme.
• Links to the the Library's catalog for browsing music by genre.
• A list of LFPL's New Sound Recordings.
• Links of interest about music.
• A staff pick of music selections or music-themed videos.
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“There is a light that never goes out.” – Morrissey and Johnny Marr
First and foremost, Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths by Simon Goddard is one of the most serious compendiums of pop music information that I’ve ever read that wasn’t simply a record guide. This work on the life of Steven Patrick Morrissey, former lead singer of The Smiths, is incredibly dense and comprehensive in its coverage of his life, works, influences, opinions on miscellaneous subjects, and cultural impact.
However, this is not a traditional biography. It is an encyclopedia and as such it is has the extra benefits that a biography lacks. While each entry has a kind of narrative, there is no running narrative for the entire work. Information is laid out in alphabetical order and cross-referential terms are in bold letters, allowing the reader to skip around the tome where his or her interest in a topic leads rather than hoping all will be revealed in the end.
Goddard has not written the entries in a typically boring academic manner. By which I mean a manner that lays out facts as if bones found at an archeological dig, bare and blanched in the sun. No, he is often trying to make those bones dance. As he writes in the prefacing section titled “Mozingredients,”
“Great art such as [Morrissey’s] defies dispassion and should never suffer the fate of fusty objective analysis.” (p. ix)
Take for instance, the matter of the song meanings. Goddard not only explores the lyrics themselves but also the impact that a song has on him personally. For example, when discussing the B-side, “There Speaks A True Friend,” he writes,
“Despite vain efforts to enliven it with guitar solos and a weird, abrupt ending (Morrissey’s idea as he didn’t like its original prolonged outro), it remains an inconsequential leftover.” (p.443)
Gems like this are sprinkled throughout asserting that Morrissey’s songs are witty, duplicitously simple story pieces with multiple layers of emotional truth. Some of the stories are well executed and resonant while others simply do not work out.
Mozipedia also includes sidebars of topics deemed particularly key to the reader’s understanding, a gallery of pictures, an extensive bibliography, and a full discography in chronological order of both The Smiths' and Morrissey’s solo releases. If there is any criticism to be given, other than on matters of taste in music, it is that the work is almost too much (as it spans over 500 pages). I have had to put it down for stretches of time in order to reasonably absorb what I have read. But like the light in this review’s epigraph, my interest in this book never seems to go out.
If you are interested in perusing Mozipedia, click here to reserve a copy.
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