This week is Audiobook Week, hosted by Jen (Devourer of Books). Today’s discussion topic is “Audiobooks for the Uninitiated” — “Whether you just started listening or have a long history with audiobooks, you probably have some suggestions for those new to audio whether for narrators, titles, or ways to experience the medium. Write a post, make a list, get creative.”
It was a dark and stormy night. The wind was howling and the sky was dark, even though the June day had started out lovely. I was alone in my car on one of those stretches of freeway that seems to go on forever. Just me, the road, and a mountaineering adventure story so intense I found myself yelling at my Camry’s speakers like a crazy person. Thank goodness it was too dark for anyone else to see.
This is how I listen to audio books. Alone, making the long car drive between Madison and the Twin Cities. It’s about a 4.5 hour drive, give or take, which means I can finish about 9 hours of an audiobook over the course of a trip. I’ve tried listening to audiobooks at home while doing chores or even while commuting to and from work, but I’ve found that audiobooks work best for me when I can absorb them in long, uninterrupted pieces.
I’ve learned that there are three main qualities that make an audi book work for me during these long road trips:
- They must be well-narrated. Almost five hours listening to someone annoying will just not do.
- They must have forward momentum. I’m driving and I’m bored; I need a book with some “umph” to keep me going.
- They must not be too think-y. I like to take notes and argue with my nonfiction, which is hard to do in a car. I need the book to be more narrative than explanative.
I usually grab my audiobooks for these trips from the library because my car doesn’t have a hook-up for an iPod, and I’m usually too cheap to buy them as CDs. I don’t usually request anything ahead of time, which puts me at the mercy of whatever is in at the library at the time. Consequently, I’ve grabbed plenty of “meh” audiobooks among the gems and learned what works for me.
So what have been some of my favorite road trip audio books? Here are four:
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer — This is the mountaineering adventure alluded to in the opening of this post. The book is narrated by the author, and it’s superb. Between the too-awful-to-believe story and Krakauer’s emotional narration, this is an audiobook I highly recommend.
- Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman — This is another adventure story (narrated by the author) that I found myself yelling about while alone in the car. The book has a satisfying mix of levity and danger, with just enough “WTF!” moments near the end to keep me on the edge of the driver’s seat.
- The Lost City of Z by David Grann — Clearly, adventure tales are the way to go. In this, an Amazonian adventurer makes his way into the jungle searching for signs of a lost civilizations. The terrible things that can happen to you in the jungle are not for the faint-of-heart to listen to.
- Unhooked by Laura Sessions Stepp — This is a little bit different from the rest; it’s a look at the culture of “hooking up” that’s become prevalent among young women (high school through college-ish). I think I loved this one so much because it gave me a lot to personally reflect on as I drove.
I’ve also grabbed some stinkers. One that sticks out to me was an audio of New Moon by Stephanie Meyer, the second book in the Twilight saga. I had listened to Twilight, mostly just to see what all the fuss was about, and thought it was fine. The writing is terrible and the characters are annoying, but the plot at least keeps things moving along. And on audio, it’s easier to just let the horrible slip on by.
But New Moon… my gosh, how awful. I listened to the whining and moping and general discontent for about a half hour, then gave up with disgust. Angsty teenagers are not good for road trips.
Do you have any favorite road trip audiobooks? Or, audiobook recommendations for short listening spans that I could try?