Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Books not in black and white

Reading isn't a given for everyone. Visual impairments, busy schedules, ease of access are all part of that equation, and some people prefer to absorb a book differently, maybe even multi-task a little.
Podcasts are a way to catch modern writing and innovative narrations. They are contemporary and revolve around fresh topics, short stories, poetry, life experiences. A friend grabbed my phone one day and installed podcasts on it—This American Life, PRI (Public Radio International) Selected Shorts, The Moth Radio Hour and something called Dear Sugar, which seems to be offering wedding advice lately, not something I care about.
Anyway, podcasts are great for the gym, and make great bedtime listening (about the only time I settle down enough to listen). They keep building up in my phone, and I have to catch up soon and delete a few. Too much of the time, either I don't think to listen or I lack earphones but need them. I'm determined to go through more of them, though; they're relaxing and great for insomnia. You don't have to use earphones, either. They come through well on the phone speakers.
Brenda Yates of the Full Court Press Book Group in Sutton says a lot of podcasts are available.
"The New Yorker Radio Hour is a very interesting podcast that is very similar to the magazine," she said. "It has literary reviews, author interviews, music reviews, and interesting stories. A new podcast is released every week and they are all interesting."
Along the same vein are audio books, available at libraries and bookstores. "They make great company while driving," said Yates.
I checked out several for a recent road trip. Always bring a few more than you'll listen to. There may be one or two that everyone in the vehicle will like (that's the only glitch I've encountered; they're better for solo trips). Audio tapes are a great way to pass the miles and stay alert while driving.
The voice can make the book, so check who's narrating too. Jeannette Walls narrates her own autobiography, "The Glass Castle." If you haven't read it in awhile—or missed it—you may enjoy this engrossing story of well-meant but dreadfully neglectful parents. Even the kids may enjoy another: actor Tim Curry's narration of a Lemony Snicket story, "A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning." Another fine actor, Edward Hermann, narrates David McCullough's wonderful biography, "John Adams." Two others with excellent narration: Toni Morrison reads her own novel, "Song of Solomon" and Betty White is sure to provide laughter in her autobiography, "Here We Go Again."
Said Yates, of the Sutton group: "One audio book that I thoroughly enjoyed is '1776' by David McCullough. He reads the book himself and the history of New England is very interesting, even for a non-history buff like myself."
The web site Slate offers an audio book club you can find at (click on podcasts). It stays on top of current book club favorites and contains book reviews as well.
Author and others offer free podcasts. Do a little searching around online and you'll find more.
Playaway is another new gizmo that provides a way to "read" while on the go: Libraries now offer this tiny, lightweight audio book. You simply attach headphones to this very small cube and turn it on. I tried it; the process is simple. Selection was a bit limited, but ask your library about them. I also had difficulty maneuvering back and forth through the book, though I think more familiarity will ease that problem.
Finally, don't forget the Audio Book Club in Worcester, Listeners may call in to Speaking Volumes, 508-752-0557, to join the 8 p.m. monthly discussion. Up for July 5 is "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt.


"Classic" book suggestion:
Full Court Press Book Group in Sutton recommends "Far from the Madding Crowd" by Thomas Hardy. "We liked it very much. The recent movie made from the book is very well done too.
Another personal favorite—though it might not be a classic, it's an uplifting read—is "Travels with Charley" by John Steinbeck, which chronicles his adventures touring the United States with his dog."
Send your group's suggestion for a great classical read to