Listen to This!: Audiobooks worth paying attention to

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By LYNDSEY RUNYAN
CONFESSIONS OF AN ACTUAL LIBRARIAN

Living in Vermont can mean a lot of driving; even more so in the summer with road trips to swimming holes and tubing spots. I try to take advantage of my time in the car to listen to podcasts, news and now audiobooks. As the warm weather approaches, I am looking for the best things to listen to on my road trips.

It turns out I’m kind of a bad listener. I have to rewind (do you even call it that anymore with iPods?) about 10 times an hour because I get distracted by the beautiful scenery or stray thoughts. I find audiobooks hard to pay attention to and often forget they’re even there — so I need the reader to have a distinctive voice and conversational style (lecture-style makes me zone out). Something that took me a minute to figure out is that all audiobooks are not created equal. Some are absolutely horrible. It really depends on the narrator and whether or not the book is abridged.

This week, I want to tell you about some of the best audio books produced in the last couple of years. All (except one) are available at the library or on listenupvermont.org. (Check out the library’s instructions on how to get digital audiobooks on your device.)

My ongoing favorite is “Bossypants” by Tina Fey. She is the narrator and does a fabulous job. I listened to this audiobook while I was moving to Vermont from Seattle. It literally kept me from falling asleep on the road many times on that trip. Another plus is that because it’s a series of stories, I could stop paying attention and pick it back up five minutes later without having to constantly rewind. The best part was definitely her honeymoon cruise. It is available in CD form at the library and digitally at Listen Up! Vermont.

Another audiobook that gets rave reviews from everyone who has listened is the “His Dark Materials” trilogy by Phillip Pullman. The first book is “The Golden Compass,” which is read by a variety of talents, including the author. The reading is richly done and had me engaged the entire time, including when I should have been paying attention to a complicated intersection. This title is also available at the library and digitally.

I tend to gravitate to nonfiction audiobooks and podcasts. “This American Life” is my personal favorite so I am always looking for something else in that vein. David Sedaris narrates most of his own audiobooks and he is brilliant. I recommend starting with “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” This book is hilarious and definitely will keep you awake as the author recounts many of his stories that have been featured in The New Yorker, Esquire and on NPR. Available at the library and digitally.

I almost never suggest a book that you can’t get through the library, but “The End of the Affair” by Graham Greene is narrated by Colin Firth! That’s right, Mr. Darcy. Unfortunately, the only way you can get access to this perfect audiobook is by buying it from Audible.com. This is how Firth is described: “Colin Firth’s performance is truly exceptional. Colin captures the story’s intensity in his delivery — the emotion in each sentence is nearly tangible — yet he doesn’t over-do it.”

For a totally different experience, try “The Scorpio Races” by Maggie Stiefvater. Puck Connolly is about to be the first girl to take part in the annual Scorpio Races, a dangerous race across compelling waters atop capaill uisce — flesh-eating water horses attracted to the sea. The book is told in alternating voices by a male and female narrator. It won an Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults award and I can see why — the production is fantastic. Currently, this one is only available digitally.

Happy Reading, Rutland.

Lyndsey Runyan is the adult services librarian at the Rutland Free Library. Contact her at lyndseyrun@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @dearlyndsey.