Audiobook Speed Dating

First of all, Happy Day After First World Book Night everyone! For everyone who participated… aren’t you counting down the days ’til the next World Book Night?!?! For everyone who didn’t participate… poor baby, my heart is crying for you.

So I’ve been wanting to write today’s post for a while. I am an audiobook nut girl, have been an Audible subscriber for a few years now, audiobooks have saved my brain during so many hours stuck in traffic, on the elliptical, or doing dishwashing/laundry chores, and for absolutely no good reason I have never written about them on the blog.

So we’re going to do a speed dating round-up on the blog today, and I’m going to give you guys the mini-est of reviews of everything in my audiobook library. Lock and load, it’s go time. Also, I’ll give grades like we’re in school. All right, let’s go for real now.

IMAGINE by Jonah Lehrer -Nonfiction about creativity. Midway through. So engaged. (A)

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher- Great premise, ditched halfway through, couldn’t get behind protagonists (C)

11-22-63 by Stephen King- Listened to first few hours, liked, put aside for no grand reason, I’ll come back to it, probs on a loooooong car trip (Grade Pending)

THE FLAME ALPHABET by Ben Marcus- This got so hyped and I got so excited. Writing was MFA good, but ultimately I just didn’t want to spend time in this world. (C+)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN by Lionel Shriver – ONE OF THE BEST AUDIOBOOKS I’VE LISTENED TO. This ish made me GASP like no one’s business. Get it did (A+)

THE FAMILY FANG by Kevin Wilson- This book was also AB FAB. It’s a novel about performance artists, not vampires, I didn’t pick it up for a while because I thought it was the latter (A)

THE SWERVE by Stephen Greenblatt- This got all kinds of accolades (including a recent Pulitzer), found a lot of merit, but was a dense listen for me, ultimately put it aside, but have not at all ruled out going back (Pulitzer is peer pressuring me to give it another listen) (Grade Pending)

BORN TO RUN by Christopher McDougall- This nonfiction exploration of running opened my mind to the possibilities of the human body/race. Equal parts riveting and enlightening. I was floored. (A+)

THE TABLE COMES FIRST by Adam Gopnik- The history of the restaurant. Have realized I like Gopnik memoirs more than Gopnik narrative nonfiction BUT I STILL LIKE GOPNIK (B+)

BLUE NIGHTS by Joan Didion- Again, not my favorite Didion, but it’s still Didion. I feel like this is more supplementary reading to YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING then a stand-alone, for me. (B)

IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME by Mindy Kaling- Girl can write conversation, girl can write jokes, really like the essay about BFF rules, ultimately more style than substance (B+)

A CLASH OF KINGSĀ  by George R.R. Martin- I made the mistake of thinking watching the first season of GAME OF THRONES on HBO could prep me for the second book on audiobook. I need to go back and read the first book and then tackle this ish (Grade pending)

THE MARRIAGE PLOT by Jeffrey Eugenides- I can’t remember the last time I was so underwhelmed by a book. I love VIRGIN SUICIDES and MIDDLESEX but THE MARRIAGE PLOT is boring plot (D)

THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt- This books is probably too long, I don’t care, this literary thriller about academia, secrets, and murders is the most delicious thing since fancy dessert (A)

IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY by Bill Bryson- Unlike Gopnik, I like Bryson’s narrative nonfiction better than his memoirs, and this Australia travelogue was fine but dragged (B-)

NAKED IN BAGHDAD by Anne Garrels – An American reporter’s account of the Iraq Invasion from the inside, interspersed with letters from her husband. I double-dog dare you not to cry all over the steering wheel/elliptical (A)

HERE COMES EVERYBODY by Clay Shirky- Solid nonfiction about social interaction and how it is being changed by technology. (B+)

WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR by Karl Marlantes- Vietnam memoir. Couldn’t get into it first time around, but I think The Book Lady will eat me alive Hannibal Lecter-style if I don’t give this another go, so another go it is (Grade pending)

JUST KIDS by Patti Smith- One of my favorite memoirs ever. You don’t have to like Patti Smith or her music. You just have to like good books. Also, fun fact, this was my World Book Night book!! (A+)

THE MAGICIAN KING by Lev Grossman- Sometimes there are too many knowing nods to fanboy culture in Grossman’s series for me, it feels a little too self aware and I just cannot deal with Quentin as a character. I still really like the world and enjoy reading (B)

RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles- This was such a Fitzgerald-cool 1920’s period piece for so much of the way and then the end falls apart. Drat you, end! (B)

THE LAST WEREWOLF by Glen Duncan- This is a stah-HEAMY werewolf novel. If you like good books and crazy sex… I think I just recommended this book to eighty-five percent of humanity (B)

AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman- It’s the Tenth Anniversary Full Cast Neil Gaiman put in basically everything he ever cut from the original book, so it’s LONG. Enjoyed, but I wasn’t IN LOVE. Haven’t read much of Gaiman, but my favorite thing of his to date is still that episode he wrote for Doctor Who (B-)

STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett- Love the writing, loved the plot less and less as it went on. I couldn’t buy anything that happened in the last hour of the book. Still, an enjoyable read (B)

THE CITY & THE CITY by China Mieville- A wonderful mindfuck of a detective novel. End doesn’t hold up, Mieville’s never do, you just accept this when you read him (A-)

BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER by Gabrielle Hamilton- This author should not have been allowed to narrate her own audiobook. Maybe will try to read this in print some day. But narration really killed this for me (D)

MOONWALKING WITH EINSTEIN by Joshua Foer- Entertaining and educational, what more could you ask of pop-nonfiction? (A-)

BOSSYPANTS by Tina Fey- I thought some of the childhood memories could have been cut, but ultimately a hilarious and enlightening memoir about being a modern working woman. (A)

THE TALIBAN SHUFFLE by Kim Barker- A girl cowboy reporter in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s pretty killer reading (A-)

A WIDOW’S STORY by Joyce Carol Oates- It’s a grief memoir, it’s effective, it’s not THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING but Oates isn’t Didion (B)

MUSICOPHILIA by Oliver Sacks- Oliver Sacks being smart about science, WHAT ELSE IS NEW? (A-)

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot- You guys, I thought this was alternately really interesting and really boring, I guess that’s a B-? (B-)

SO MUCH FOR THAT by Lionel Shriver- I just couldn’t deal with all the medical stuff, there was so much of it. But because I loved WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN so much, am inspired to retry (Grade pending)

FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen- Haters gone hate, I loved this as a book and a listen (A)

THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET by David Mitchell- I LOVE David Mitchell, I thought this book was, not the boringest, but very boring (C)

A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan- Super enjoyed, COMPLETELY missed the coolness of the Powerpoint presentation b/c was listening, not reading (A)

GAME CHANGE by John Heileman and Mark Halperin- Covering the 2008 presidential election like US Weekly. Well, maybe with more journalistic integrity. But with just as much fun (A)

MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS by Rhoda Jarsen- Just hated. (D)

GHENGIS KHAN AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD by Jack Weatherford- Good educational stuff. But in that way where you know you’re teacher is good but you still get antsy in your seat during particularly long lecture stretches (B)

THE EDGE OF PHYSICS by Anil Ananthswamy- This book is too smart for me, I couldn’t fit all the String Theory in my brain (F, not for the book, for myself)

LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN by Colum McCann- A solid period piece (B+)

NOTHING TO ENVY: ORDINARY LIVES IN NORTH KOREA by Barbara Demmick- My favorite audiobook ever (A+++)

TOO MUCH HAPPINESS by Alice Munro- The master of the short story, the queen of everything (A)


8 Comments on “Audiobook Speed Dating”

  1. Amelia says:

    This is a fabulous list! I can’t wait to read some of the titles I haven’t gotten to yet. I don’t read audiobooks but I think when I move three hours away from home for school I think they’ll come in handy!

  2. Alright, I just put Nothing To Envy on hold at my library. How could anyone resist listening to an audiobook someone rated A+++? I’ve only listened to a few on your list but I agree with your grades of them. I actually couldn’t make it through the American Gods audiobook the first time I tried it–still haven’t gone back to it.

  3. This list couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I just signed up for Audible today so I can try to listen to more audio books while exercising and whatnot (and be less dependent on my library’s small collection). I read THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS and also thought it was seriously boring. GAME CHANGE sounds like fun, when I’m not worn-out with politics. THE SECRET HISTORY sounds like fun too.

  4. Darla Sharp says:

    Excellent post! I’m sending this to my book club members asap–we’ve got a mixed group of audio/paper/e-readers and it’s always a challenge finding a title for all. Totally great read Kit!

  5. Dr. M says:

    Could we hear more about Nothing to Envy and why you loved it so much? Thanks for all the great suggestions! Will have to consider these when I’m done with The Poisonwood Bible.

  6. Nicola says:

    Great list! I must read Joan Didion.

  7. Melissa says:

    I love this freakin list. I’m an audiobook nut too and I have no idea why I never post about it. We Need to Talk About Kevin, Bossypants and A Visit From the Goon Squad. I loved Rules of Civility on audio right up until the ending. Seriously, crash and burn. Thank you for your quick ratings on these. I’ve just added a ton of them to my audio list!

  8. christinasr says:

    I have only just begun listening to audio books and so far, I’m not choosing any ‘serious books’. I’ve been listening to a couple of light fantasy novels and I’m not sure how I feel about the whole audio experience. I mean, I love that I can listening to a book while walking the dog or pulling weeds in the garden – but it doesn’t quite have the same feel to it that reading an actual book has. So I don’t count it as high and the audio books I read, don’t count towards my goal of reading 52 books this year. Do you feel the same way or is this just me being weird? Are the audiobook experience just as good as the old-fashioned way?


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