Thursday, September 22, 2005

Short descriptions of mostly literary books ranked from 1 (worst) to 5 (best) stars (*). Few mysteries, page-turners, science fiction, romance, or abridged. Recently added Kindle Books. Source of audio books are mostly on-line downloads primarily from and secondarily from OverDrive and NetLibrary (no link to participating libraries -- check with your library to see if they offer). Some of the audio books have been converted to bookmarking iPod files --using guides at end of this blog -- from audio CD’s, mp3’s, or cassette tapes.

Recent update of books with some linked to book page.

Really Liked Hi-Quality Mostly Fiction Audio Books. X*=amazon review rating; K=avail on Kindle; ac=avail on *=recent additions.

Cutting for Stone 4+* K&ac by Abraham Verghese

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle 3* K&ac by David Wroblewski (read Hamlet or a summary of Hamlet to understand this story, especially the ending.)

The History of Love 4* K&ac, by Nicole Kraus

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close 4* K&ac & Everything Is Illuminated: A Novelby Jonathan Safran Foer (spouse of Nicole Kraus)

A Bend in the River 4* K by V.S. Naipual (Pulitzer winner for overall writing)

*Wallace Stegner: Crossing to Safety 4+* K &ac, Pulitzer winner Angle of Repose 4+* K&ac (two of my all time favorites) See also: Recapitulation 4+* paper only All the Little Live Things 4* K&ac, The Big Rock Candy Mountain (Peguin Classics) 4+* K&ac, Spectator Bird 4* K&ac, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Spring, 4+* non-fiction essays. paper only.

Out Stealing Horses 4* K&ac, by Per Petterson

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet 4* K&ac, by Jamie Ford

Home 4* K&ac, Gilead 4* K&ac (Pulitzer winner), & Housekeeping 4* K&ac 3 by Marilynne Robinson

Let the Great World Spin 4* K&ac (slow start; but excellent) by Colum McCann

The Master Butcher’s Singing Club 4* K&ac, The Painted Drum 4+* K&ac, & The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse 4+* K&ac, 3 by Louise Edrich

The Shadow of the Wind 4+* K&ac, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (world-wide best seller) One of my favorites.

Work Song 4* K&ac and The Whistling Season 4+* K&ac, 2 by Ivan Doig

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand 4+* K&ac by Helen Simonson (Serious fiction in the end)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society 4+* K&ac, by Schaffer and Barrows

Sarah’s Key 4* K&ac by Tatiana de Rosnay

Elegance of the Hedgehog 3+* K&ac, by Muriel Barbery

The Housekeeper and the Professor 4+* K, by Yoko Ogawa

The Yellow House 4* K, by Particia Falvey

A Painted House 4* K&ac, by John Grisham (literary fiction, not mystery genre)

The Camel Bookmobile 4* K, by Masha Hamilton

Mr. Pip 4* K&ac, by Lloyd Jones

Glass Castle 4+* K&ac, & Half Broke Horses 4+* K& ac, 2 Non-fiction by Jeannette Walls

Rules for Old Men Waiting 4+* K&ac by Peter Pouncey

The Book Thief 4+* K&ac by Marcus Zusak (a big favorite. Good for children & adults)

Reading Lolita in Tehran 3+* K&ac, by Azar Nafisi

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus 4+* K&ac (non-fiction) by Charles C. Mann (The Americas before 1491)

The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America 4+* K&ac, by Russell Shorto (non-fiction)

The Kite Runner 4+* K&ac by Khaled Hosseini

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress 4* ac by Dai Sijie (wonderful film version also)

Ireland: A Novel 4+* K&ac, by Frank Delaney (storyteller key character makes ac v)

The Namesake 4* K&ac & Interpreter of The Maladies (Pulitzer Prize) 4+* K&ac, 2 by Jhumpa Lahiri

Bee Season 3+* K&ac, by Myla Goldberg

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption 5* K&ac by Laura Hillenbrand

The Hangman's Daughter 4* K, by Pötzsch, Oliver, Chadeayne, Lee

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel 3+* K&ac (historic fiction)

Every Man Dies Alone 4+ K&ac, by Hans Fallada

The Good Earth 4+* K, by Pearl Buck (still fresh)

Red Hook Road 4* K&ac by Ayelet Waldman

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet 4* K&ac by Robert Harris

A Moveable Feast 4* K&ac, by Ernest Hemingway

The Lacuna 4* K&ac, & Poisonwood Bible 4* K&ac, 2 by Barbara Kingsolver

The Color of Lightning 4+* K&ac by Paulette Jiles

The Secret Scripture 4* K&ac by Sebastian Barry

East of the Mountains 3+* K, by David Guterson

The Potato Factory 5* ac, by Bryce Courtenay (historic fiction)

How the Irish Saved Civilization 3* K&ac, by Thomas Cahill (non-fiction)

Washington’s Crossing 5* K&ac, by David Hackett Fischer (non-fiction) reads like a novel. Excellent!

Wish You Well 4* K&ac, by David Baldacci (not his mystery genre)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time 4* K&ac, by Mark Haddon

A Fine Balance 4+* ac, by Rohinton Mistry

Their Eyes Were Watching God 4* K&ac by Zora Neale Hurston (At the height of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1930s, the preeminent black woman writer.)

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa 4+* K&ac, by Adam Hochschild (Non-fiction)

*Room: A Novel 4+* K&ac by Emma Donoghue

*The Tiger's Wife: A Novel 4* K&ac, by Téa Obreht

*The Heart is a Lonely Hunter 4* K&ac by Carson McCullers

*The Cider House Rules 4+* ac by John Irving.

*The Hours 4* K&ac, by Michael Cunningham

*Angela’s Ashes 4+* paper only, - Frank McCourt. Pulitzer Prize

*Pompeii: A Novel paper only, Robert Harris

*Wickett’s Remedy by Myla Goldberg

*Water For Elephants, Sara Gruen

*Follow Your Heart, Susanna Tamaro

*The Dew Breaker, Edwidge Danticat

*I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammanit

Several loved non-fiction:

  • Brunelleschi's Dome & Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King (non-fiction)
  • Alexander Hamilton UA Ron Chernow (non-fiction)
  • Founding Brothers, Joseph Ellis. (non-fiction)
  • The Killer Angels UA, Michael Shaara. Pulitzer Prize (1974) about the battle at Gettysburg.4+* non-fiction
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains. By Tracy Kidder non-fiction
  • Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester non-fiction
  • The Seashell on the Mountaintop UA 5:31 by Alan Cutler non-fiction
  • The Professor and the Madman. by Simon Winchester non-fiction
  • Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry
End of update _______________________________________________________________________

Grouped into the following sections (Now a mixture of Kindle and audio books):

1. Fun, light, good road-trip, listening-together audio books 4-5 stars. Mostly shorter audios.

2. Really Liked Hi-Quality Fiction Books (4-5 stars)
3. Really Liked Hi-Quality Non- Fiction Audio Books (4-5 stars)
4. The Books I Liked list (3 to 3.5 stars)
5. Good Children’s Books
6. The Never Finished and/or Didn't Like Books list

Newly listened-to audio books will be posted at iLounge audio book recommendation thread as single posts (click here to view and subscribe)

At end of post below, see links to guides on how to convert to bookmarking iPod files CDs, MP3s, Audio files, and ANY sound played on a computer.

I hope you will enjoy listening to these audio books as much as I did. Happy listening and cheers, Robert

1. Fun, light, good road-trip, listening-together audio books 4-5 stars. Mostly shorter audios.

5+*No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency UA Alexander McCall Smith. Enigmatic Botswana lady detective. Warm, clever, and fun.

5*Bel Canto UA Ann Patchett. 11:05 average rating:4.5. Opera's most revered soprano mesmerizes the guests with her singing at a party for a visiting Japanese dignitary. Perfect until terrorists take party. Love, great singing (Bel Canto), endurance, and surprise ending. I read this in print, but ran across it at audible. Excellent, fun, engrossing. Check the sample for narration as I have not.

5*Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight UA 9:57 rating 4.5
Average Customer Rating Alexandra Fuller’s poignant and delightful autobiographical remembrance of her white-African childhood. Beautifully narrated and told with sharp insight into herself, family, Africa and the people who inhabit it, and dramatic changes occurring during transition from colonial to native rule.

5*The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time UA 6:02 Mark Haddon. Endearing and poignant glimpse, with heart-stirring grit of daily life, into the life of a 15 year old boy afflicted with an autism-like condition. Written from the boys viewpoint. Well narrated (same as Life of Pi). Pathos, humor, reality, and insight.

4+*Wish you Well UA 10:01 David Baldacci. Lovely story requiring modest suspension of credulity. Two young, urbane NYC children abruptly and tragically transferred to the Appalachian mountains of SW Virginia to join their great grandmother. Mountain farming without electricity and phone in the 40s. Average Customer Rating: 4.37 ( based on 98 vote(s) )Short Description: This is the story of Louisa May Cardinal, a precocious 12-year-old girl living in the hectic New York City of 1940 with her acclaimed but sadly underpaid writer father…

4+*Their Eyes Were Watching God UA 2:46 Zora Neale Hurston 2:46, Award-winning African American writer of early twentieth century.

4+*Skipping Christmas UA 4:00 John Grisham. Principal character decides that Christmas is too much and his family is going to skip Christmas to go on a cruise. Fun, and a delightful surprise ending.

4+*True Notebooks. UA 9:48 Audible rating 5* Mark Salzman (Lying Awake; Iron and Silk) takes on teaching creative writing in the Juvenile Justice Prison. Poignant true story of dead-end kids with unfulfilled and mostly unrealizeable promise and capacity. Avail audible

4+* The Lobster Chronicles - Non-fiction. OverDrive. Not avail audible. Linda Greenlaw, the real-life swordfish captain in The Perfect Storm, returns to native Maine Island to pursue simpler life of Lobster Boat Captain. Writing of her escapades she delightfully captures island life and lobstering. A great, fun listen.

4+* All Fishermen are Liars Linda Greenlaw. From the author of the delightful [i]Lobster Chronicles[/i], we have rousing afternoon of fishermen stories told in a seaside bar, in a lively narration by the author (real-life character in [i]The Perfect Storm[/i]). Holds together well. Fun, short, and interesting. Would be a great auto trip audio. Available OverDrive or CDs only...

4+*Lovely Bones UA Alice Sebold Average Customer Rating: 4.28 ( based on 117 vote(s) ) Short Description: It may be difficult to imagine a life-affirming book which begins with the main character, a 14-year-old girl, recounting her rape and murder, but Alice Sebold's debut novel is just such a book....

4+*The Secret Life of Bees UA 12:00 Sue Monk Kidd Average Customer Rating: 4.65 (based on 856 vote(s) ) Short Description: Lily Owens has shaped her entire life around … the day her mother was killed, when Lily was four. Since then, her only real companion has been the fierce-hearted black woman Rosaleen, who acts as her "stand-in-mother." When Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily knows it's time to spring them both free. When they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, ...

4+*Getting Mother’s Body UA 7:34, Suzan-Lori Parks. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright delivers a hilariously funny short novel.

4+*The Kalahari Typing School for Men: More from the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (UA 6:53, audible, NetLibrary) Author: Alexander McCall Smith. Beautifully narrated by Lisette Lecat.

Clever, fun, and light. Perfect road-trip audio for family or couple. As good as No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

Publisher’s Summary: International best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith delivers another delightful tale from his critically acclaimed No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.
Precious Ramotswe's comfortable existence as the only detective in Botswana is suddenly rattled when the Satisfaction Guaranteed Detective Agency opens, and its brochure proclaims, "Don't take any chances! Entrust your enquiries to a MAN!" As if the development isn't enough, Mma Ramotswe has also taken on two difficult cases, one of which hits close to home. But with wisdom on her side, Mma Ramotswe figures to crack both cases and upstage her competition.

4+Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, UA 3:54. Audible rating 4+. Alexander McCall Smith (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency) In this sequel to Portugese Irregular Verbs, welcome to the insane and rarified world of Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of the Institute of Romance Philology. Von Igelfeld is engaged in a quest - which frequently goes hilariously astray - to win the respect he feels he is due. The Professor is mistaken for a veterinarian and not wanting to call attention to the faux pas, performs veterinary surgery on a colleague’s dachshund to dramatic and unfortunate effect. He also transports relics for a schismatically challenged Coptic prelate, and is pursued by marriage-minded widows on board a Mediterranean cruise ship. Adapted From the Inside Flap .

4-Sunday Philosophy Club UA 8:07. Audible rating 3. Alexander McCall Smith (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency), begins a new series starring the irrepressibly curious Isabel Dalhousie. Isabel is fond of problems, and becomes interested in problems that are, quite frankly, none of her business. Isabel sees a young man plunge to his death from the upper circle of a concert hall in Edinburgh and is determined to find the truth–if indeed there is one–behind the man's death. Adapted from jacket.

4+*The Kalahari Typing School for Men: More from the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (U) 6:53 Alexander McCall Smith. Delightful, fun, and light sequel in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Ranks well above his Tears of the Giraffe.

4* Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan. OverDrive only. 17:38. Amazon readers rate 3* with very mixed reviews. Admittedly not as good as other Tan books, nonetheless a very enjoyable book. Based on a true event, it is an engrossing read until the wrap up stage. I felt the wrap up was not equal to the rest of the book. The editorial reviews give away entirely too much of the plot. Tan mixes in a bit of Accidental Tourist humor and irony. Her characters are all too believable. Impossible listening at faster speed.

4*Standing in the Rainbow UA Fannie Flagg 5 :13.Average Customer Rating: 3.94 ( based on 48 vote(s) ) Short Description: Good news! Fannie Flagg's back in town - and the town is among the leading characters in her new novel...

4*The Devil Wears Prada UA Lauren Weisberger 14:04 min.
Average Customer Rating: 3.95 ( based on 153 vote(s) ) Short Description: Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands the job a million girls would die for...

4*The Nanny Diaries UA Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus 10:02. Average Customer Rating: 4.14 ( based on 44 vote(s) ) Short Description: What do you do when you are a nanny to an obscenely rich Park Avenue matron named X? Mrs. X refuses to do anything for herself

4*I Capture the Castle UA 4:52 Dodie Smith Abridged only at audible: 4 hours and 52 min. Average Customer Rating: 2.67 ( based on 3 vote(s) ) Short Description: Seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family live in not-so-genteel poverty in the crumbling ruin of an old English castle...

4*Can You Keep a Secret? UA 10:38. Audible 4+. Sophie Kinsella Captivating, fun short read that is enlivened by an incredible narrator. Audio Length: 10 hours and 38 min. Average Customer Rating: 4.36 ( based on 110 vote(s) ) Short Description: Emma Corrigan is young, sweet, and has a long list of secrets; the kind of innocent secrets everyone has, one of which is that she is afraid of flying....

4*The Alchemist UA 4:00. Paulo Coelho Almost into "really liked" Short Description: This story, dazzling in its simplicity and wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of treasure.

4* Seabiscuit (unfortunately, only available Abridged) 6:00. UA Laura Hillenbrand Average Customer Rating: 4.47 ( based on 215 vote(s) ) Short Description: Seabiscuit was a rough-hewn, undersized horse with a sad little tail and knees that wouldn't straighten all the way. For two years, he fought his trainers and floundered at the lowest level of racing...

4--*Skinny Dip. Carl Hiassen Abridged version Highly recommended by friend for short, fun

2. Really Liked Hi-Quality Fiction Audio Books (4-5 stars)

5+ Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
5+ The Story of Edgar Sawtell by David Wroblewski
5 The History of Love by Nicole Kraus
4+Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (spouse of Nicole Kraus)

5+*Reading Lolita in Tehran UA 18:34 Azar Nafisi. Click here Interview with author A true account of seven young women gathering in authors home once a week as their lives intertwine with discussion of literary characters of forbidden Western literature.

5+*The Kite Runner UA 12:02 Khaled Hosseini. Novel about friendship and betrayal, redemption, the price of loyalty, and the bonds between fathers and sons. Set in recent Afghanistan.

5+*Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress UA 4:24 Dai Sijie. During Cultural Revolution, narrator and best friend exiled to the countryside for "re-education," find their meager distractions are a violin, the daughter of local tailor, and forbidden stash of classic literature. Surprise ending elevates the seamstress importance. The movie is great also. Chinese with English subtitles.

5+*The Shadow of the Wind UA 18:10 by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Audible) Zafón's European best-selling and long novel luxuriates in its Barcelona setting. A bit of a literary page turner as a young boy grows to young manhood searching for the story behind the author of a book he has come across and loves. The lives of the boy and the mysterious author begin to parallel in a plot full of surprises. The narration is puncuated with occasional piano music written by Zafón himself. Well translated and narrated.
The Washington Post says: ...anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really, you should.

Thanks to moriond: Carlos Ruiz Zafón's Shadow of the Wind was the subject of an author interview on KCRW's Bookworm (November 18, 2004)

5+* Life of Pi UA11:42 Yann Martel A realistic, rousing adventure and a classic meta-tale of survival. Winner of 2002 Booker Prize. Best book I read in 2003.

5+*The Otori Trilogy UA Lian Hearn, Books 1-3,: Across the Nightingale Floor, Bk 1 New York Times Notable Book of the Year, one of Book magazine’s best novels of the year, and one of School Library Journal’s Best Adult Books for High School Readers. Medieval Japan with magic thrown in. Brilliant! Finely developed characters and plot! The three books flow seamless from one to other, must begin with book one. Medieval Japan warlords fight and intrigue with a young contender. Modicum of magic and fantasy thrown in Grass for His Pillow, Bk2 Brilliance of the Moon: Tales of the Otori, Bk3 Book Browse Link to author Lian Hearn pseudonym of noted female Aussie playwright and author of children's books. Click here for a (Fascinating) Conversation With Lian Hearn (Alisa McCune)

5+ Ireland: A Novel, UA Frank Delaney. Young boy’s life is changed by an itinerant storyteller whose stories weave the oral traditions of Irish history, myths, memory, and writing, into the heart of this book. Listening to the stories and the underlying good novel about the relationships between the boy, his parents, and the storyteller is a superb historic fiction audio book listen.’

5+* Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky's classic 1866 novel was a forerunner of the movement from romanticism to modern realism (presenting life as it really is). Crime and Punishment describes investigative techniques and psychological characteristics of criminal mind that pre-date and anticipate Freud and modern criminal interrogation. The police investigating officer may remind you of a polished Peter Faulk's Columbo, or vice versa. .From the title and early descriptions of the main character's state of mind, the listener knows much of what will happen over the course of the book. In no way does this knowledge detract from the power of this novel as Dostoevsky examines the state of mind of the principal character and leads the reader through unpredictable twists and turns of the multi-hued characters and sub plots. Highly recommend for 25 hours of excellent listening. Narrator's voice does not lend itself to fast listen. See this excellent Cliffs Notes Introduction to this novel (click here). It may be helpful to view the list of Characters (here)

5* The Heart is a Lonely Hunter UA by Carson McCullers. This classic novel written in and of the 1930's is as fresh now as it was when the author wrote it at age 23. Wonderfully real characters, including the main 4, placed artfully in depression era GA mill town. Not for those looking for a page turner or all happiness. Highly recommend.

5*The Known World UA 14:13 Edward P. Jones, African American, first novel. 2004 Pulitzer Prize Fiction Winner. More than blacks owning blacks -- complex story of American slavery that involves good people, bad people, and wonderful and terrible things happen. "Property" are slaves. Well-developed, easy to identify with characters. Story line woven in elaborate time warps and beautiful language. Average Customer Rating: 3.4 ( based on 88 vote(s) ) Short Description: Henry Townsend, a black farmer, bootmaker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor.... An ambitious, luminously written novel that ranges seamlessly between the past and future and back again to the present, The Known World weaves together the lives of freed and enslaved blacks, whites, and Indians, and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.

5* A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul 10:41UA. Narrated by Simon Vance. 5*; 4.5* 54 reviews. Available, OverDrive. Listens very well at faster speed.
Naipaul is author of 25 books and winner of Nobel Prize for literature.________________________________________
New York Times Book Review (link you may wish to visit after you listen to the book)
In …”A Bend in the River," Naipaul struggles with the ordeals and absurdities of living in new "third world" countries… He is a tough-spirited writer, undeluded about the sleaziness of much contemporary history and not especially hopeful about its consequences.
… set in an unnamed East African country … Independence has been won, civil war concluded. "The Big Man," president for life, rules by rhetoric, guile, sorcery and a strong helping of terror. …
At the novel's center is Salim, a Muslim of Indian family … rutted in traditionalism. Both the narrative voice and dominant consciousness, Salim is a decent fellow, impressionable, thoughtful, not at all intellectual. … "Our way of life," Salim tells himself about the Indian settlement in Africa, "was antiquated and almost at an end… The country… has now entered modern history, or at least a coarse parody of it. ...

Complex and beautifully written fiction. Deep insight into the thoughts and feelings of, and impact upon, the ordinary colonial and native peoples of a now “free” African country.
An apparently knowledgeable reviewer says "The novel is set in the city of Kisangani, on the Congo River in Congo (formerly the Zaire river in Zaire)..."

5-* Gilgamesh: A New English Version (U) An unknown poet wrote this, the world's oldest known epic poem. (2 hours for story; 2 hours for interpretation and explanation by the editor.) Superbly narrated by George Guidall in what is undoubtedly the way most received the story in its time. Uniquely and appropriately audio. The narrative pace translates beautifully to an easy-to-listen-to story (publisher's notes say that earlier translations are stiff and academic). Fun and Enlightening -- not to worry if poetry puts you off -- this story flows beautifully. The interpretations and explanations of the editor, Stephen Mitchell, are worthwhile. I question his easy-to-ignore comparisons to very current events that can only be judged appropriately in the lens of history and speculations on a homoerotic relationship between the two main characters. Very worthwhile.

5* Pompeii: A Novel UA 10:01, Robert Harris. Historic Fiction about the eruption from viewpoint of the engineer of the aqueduct.

5*The Piano Tuner A 5:44 Daniel Mason. 18th century adventure of piano tuner going to Burma to tune a grand for an eccentric British Officer. I wish I had gotten UA.

5*Angela’s Ashes UA, - Frank McCourt. Pulitzer Prize-winning story of how Frank endured. Irish immigrant parents in US, later raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Well read by author5*Heart of Darkness UA dark Joseph Conrad classic.

5*The Bonesetters Daughter UA - Amy Tan. Mother and daughter discover themselves backward from modern San Francisco to mother's tumultuous times in a village in china.

5*John Adams UA David McCullough Audio Length: 29 hours 34 min.
Now in two volumes at audible. Average Customer Rating: 4.8
( based on 217 vote(s) ) Short Description: In this powerful, epic biography, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent

5*Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, Excellently narrated by John McDonough. An adult fantasy book with “… both idealism and cynicism in its discussion of social, religious, educational, and political issues present in Oz, and … in our day and time. The idealism is whimsical and engaging; the cynicism is biting. Sometimes the earthy language seems appropriate and adds to the sense of place; sometimes the four-letter words and sexual explicitness [but never graphic] distract from the charm of the tale. The multiple threads to the plot proceed … It is for good readers who like satire, and love exceedingly imaginative and clever fantasy.” Judy Sokoll, Fairfax County Public Library, VA – School Library Journal. Somewhat Tolkien-like in its appeal and complexity. Number 7 NYT Paperback Best Seller List.

5*Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire, moderately well narrated by author. UA, 14:16. Average Customer Rating: 3.6 ( based on 11 votes). Maguire returns to the land of Oz. "Masterfully imaginative....Ten years after Wicked (which is still on Broadway [Tony Award winning]), fans will once again be clicking their heels with wonderment." (Publishers Weekly) "A tale that adroitly mixes drama, humor, and political satire into a well-knit examination of good and evil." (Library Journal). Number 9 NYT hardback bestseller list.

An interview with Gregory Maguire is included in the Son of a Witch audible version. Audible also offers the Gregory Maguire interview in a separate and free download. Maguire says that imploring letters from young girls prompted him to write the sequel.

Recommend listening to Wicked prior to Son of a Witch. Wicked is not available at, NetLibrary or OverDrive, so I bought a CD audiobook version.

5*Typhoon by Joseph Conrad This short (3:13) classic book retains its freshness with an entertaining account of a ship, its crew and "passengers," and their encounter with a typhoon. Great for short attention span youngsters, and fun for adults. Conrad's colorful pen brings special life to this story.

5*The March: A Novel (UA,, 11:00) by E.L. Doctorow. Narrator: Joe Morton.
Average Customer Rating: 4.4 (based on 9 votes) Historic fiction about Sherman’s great destructive and war-winning march through Georgia and the Carolinas during the Civil War. National Book Award Finalist, Fiction, 2005. "In this powerful novel, Doctorow gets deep inside the pillage, cruelty and destruction, as well as the care and burgeoning love that sprung up in their wake.... On reaching the novel's last pages, the reader feels wonder that this nation was ever able to heal after so brutal, and personal, a conflict." (Publishers Weekly)
"Epic in scope, unsparing yet tender, The March captures the brutal truth that war is fought and suffered by individual men, women, and children…" (National Book Award judges' citation).

Select other books by E. L. Doctorow:
Ragtime (1975)
World's Fair (1985)
Billy Bathgate (1989)
The Waterworks (1994)
City of God (2000)
The March (2005)

5*The Namesake UA Jhumpa Lahiri enriches the themes that made her Pulitzer Prize-winning Interpreter of The Maladies an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, poignantly, the tangled ties between

5*The Cider House Rules (UA) by John Irving. Audio Length: 24 hours and 11 min. Average Customer Rating: 5. "Gardner serves up the beautiful prose and fascinating characters with considerable aplomb." (AudioFile)

5* Gilead UA - Marilynne Robinson - 2005 Pulitzer Prize winning fiction, the 76 year old narrator is a preacher who has lived most of his life in Gilead, Iowa. In failing health, he is writing a letter to his almost seven-year-old son who will never really know him. It is a summing-up, an apologia, a consideration of his life. Robinson takes the story away from being simply the reminiscences of one man and moves it into the realm of a meditation on fathers and children, particularly sons, on faith, and on the imperfectability of man. Robinson's Beautiful prose slows the reader to the pace of an old man in Gilead, Iowa, in 1956. From Editorial Reviews
5*The Human Stain (UA, 14:30) Author: Philip Roth Narrators: Arliss Howard, Debra Winger Average Customer Rating: 4.04 ( based on 129 vote(s) ) Publisher’s Summary: In 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished his most virulent accuser.

Caution: After finding the audio version of Roth’s Pulitzer Prize winning American Pastoral disappointing, I read The Human Stain in print. Finding Roth’s character defining prose long and tedious, it was easy to fast read those portions in print. Having thusly enjoyed The Human Stain, I may return to an American Pastoral print version to see if the same reading technique improves it for me. Roth’s thorough character development is both a strength and weakness.

5* Bee Season UA by Myla Goldberg. NetLibrary, not available at Named a New York Times Notable Book in 2000 and made into a film.
Goldberg's first novel creates a dramatic and gripping unraveling of a family of fully-developed and realistic characters. 25 yo author narrates very effectively and gives a delightful interview at end of audio. The title does not do justice to the book. The totally unexpected spelling bee successes of the daughter are merely a vehicle for the story as each of the four principal characters search for greater meaning to thier lives.

4++*Wickett’s Remedy Written and narrated by Myla Goldberg 10:57. Ratings: Audible 4* 3 reviews; Amazon 4* 10 reviews -- Some don’t like the margin notes. Historic Fiction set in the midst of the devastating 1918 flu epidemic, Goldberg makes it come alive with realistic characters and an intriguing narration cast and sound effects that inserts the “voices” that appear in the margins of the printed edition of the book (Some reviewers object to the margin notes). Goldberg weaves an excellent story of invented characters participating in actual happenings. Goldberg's lead character Lydia displays courage, independence, and strength. This "Southie" of Boston moves beautifully through the novel as she struggles with the limitations of her background and the tough hand of cards which she is dealt.

Myla Goldberg (Bee Season & Wickett's Remedy) Lecture
Myla Goldberg lectured in captivating and entertaining fashion tonight at Agnes Scott [Women’s] College where she was the visiting author for the freshman class assigned English reading selection of her book Bee Season (NetLibrary only). The movie version is to be released Nov 11. Goldberg discussed writing in general, Bee Season, and her newest book, which revolves around the 1918 flu pandemic, Wickett's Remedy: A Novel (UA at Audible, 10:57) Average Customer Rating: 4 (based on 5 votes.) Short Description: In a multidimensional, intricately wrought narrative, Myla Goldberg leads us back to Boston in the early part of the twentieth century and into two completely captivating worlds....

Notable lecture quotes: “Each character [in Bee Season] is trying to escape the banality of every day life and it is about what it takes to become your own person in the world. In the end, Eliza becomes herself, says this is not my quest, she says no, this is not really her goal.” The latter was in response to a student expressing dismay about possible interpretations of the ending. Goldberg said that the reader owns fiction, and encouraged the student to put whatever interpretation on the ending that she wanted. In regard to Wickett’s Remedy, she responded to the question about how to read the integral notes in the margin as a second story and that the reader owned the story and could read it however the reader preferred. I learned that Goldberg’s audio narration intersperses the margin notes into the audio version in “different voices.” Goldberg’s narration of Bee Season is superb and Wickett’s Remedy is also well-done.
5*The Hours, UA 6:19. Author Michael Cunningham narrates. Winner 1999 Pulitzer Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Awards. Made into a movie. 4*, 510 reviews amazon. Audible 3+* Three parallel stories about three women:
Virginia Woolf is recuperating from one of her bouts of depression with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway.
Clarissa Vaughan and her beloved friend, Richard Brown, who is dying with AIDS. Clarissa is honoring Richard with a party because of his distinguished poetry award. It simplifies listening if you realize Brown has nicknamed Clarissa Mrs. Dalloway.
Laura Brown, who lives in a 1950's Los Angeles suburb and begins to feel the ever tightening constraints of a perfect family and home and the tugs of her constant need to read (she is reading all of Virginia Woolf’s books).
The novel nicely pulls the stories together in the end.
It is a little confusing on audio, but a quick look at the Spark Note Character List will help keep the story straight. Listens better at faster speed – Cunningham reads slowly.

5-*Cloud of Sparrows UA Takashi Matsuoka. Much like the Otori Trilogy w supernatural powers limited to visions of future.

5-* Water For Elephants, Sara Gruen. Jacob's life in the circus early 20th century. Touching, graphic and memorable characters.

4++*Follow Your Heart, Susanna Tamaro. Not audible. Death encroaching, Italian grandmother write letters of love, confession and advice to estranged granddaughter living in US. Relives past and reveals secrets.

4++ The Dew Breaker, Edwidge Danticat. From a different viewpoint, each of nine interrelated story chapters reveals a US immigrant trying to escape his secret brutal Haitian past. Finalist, 2005 PEN/Faulkner Award

4.4*I'm Not Scared (UA) 6:10 by Niccolo Ammaniti Narrator: Paul Boehmer Audible Customer Rating: 4*. ratings: 4* 35 reviews – predominately good, but mixed, ratings. R movie -- Italian with subtitles -- released 2004 and now on DVD (which is excellent and powerful). Reads well at faster speed.
BookBrowse (A BB 2003 Favorite Book) says, “In this immensely powerful, lyrical and skillfully narrated novel, set in southern Italy, nine year-old Michele discovers a secret so momentous, so terrible, that he daren’t tell anyone about it.” The adult voice (don’t forget that to understand the full implications of an abrupt ending) of Michele brings everything alive and, in the end, Michele acts with outstanding courage. Combines loss of innocence, coming of age and gripping story line. Some classify as thriller. I found it more literary in the To Kill a Mockingbird tradition.

4++Father Joe, Tony Hendra. An endearing non-fiction tribute to the lifelong relationship between the author (former National Lampoon Editor) and a Benedictine monk. This unworldly monk provides advice and strength to the very worldly Hendra, among many others. Funny, sad, wise, heart-warming.

4++*Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell UA Susanna Clarke"Harry Potter" for adults is more Austen than Rowling, a witty social commentary and fantasy tale of good vs. evil. Clever, endlessly intriguing, rich, luxurious epic story of two unusual magicians with faux history of magic woven into 19th century England history has feel of being written (and narrated) 200 years ago. Large supporting cast of beguiling Dickens and Austen character types. -- Adapted from a review by Greg Changnon The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/26/04An engaging must-read, do not let its languorous beginning pace or 32 hour length discourage you -- it eventually unfolds briskly.

4++The Time Traveller’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger. A funny and poignant story of man meets girl. His genetic clock resets periodically and he is misplaced to times of emotional gravity in his past and future. Spontaneous disappearances result in harrowing and amusing experiences. Original and imaginative, novel puts the stress of time travel into the framework of an enduring relationship with a love story subtle enough for the guys. A 2003 BookBrowse Favorite Book.

4++ *Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel, Jonathan Safran Foer’s first novel contains a book the fictional Jewish hero writes alongside the story about the search and discovery of the hero’s Lithuanian roots. Humor, pathos, tragedy (holocaust), and extremely interesting and well-developed characters permeate the story-within-a-story book. One of the main characters speaks English with fascinatingly humorous choices of words. To be a movie in Sept 05. 11:36 UA NetLibrary and Audible.Reviews are mixed on this book, with quite a few negative ones, so check it out carefully to be sure it is your cup of tea.

4++*State of Fear UA by Michael Crichton Narrator: George Wilson
18:07. Average Customer Rating: 3.08 (based on 440 vote(s) )
Short Description: …master of the techno-thriller has written this riveting, entertaining, and informative, book about the pseudo science of global warming with implausible conspiracy thrown in. First Chapter of the audio book and a separate interview with Crichton available free at

4+*Empress Orchid UA Anchee Min. Historic Fiction about how the last and dowager empress of China acceded to power. Narrator has an annoying habit - Listen to the sample. For a historical perspective on the events surrounding the book read: Ch'ing China, (click here) for Richard Hooker’s short monographs from the Manchus to the Boxer Rebellion.

4+*The Lady and the Unicorn. Paralleling 3.5*Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier has woven clever and unpredictable fiction around
the breathtaking tapestries now hanging in the Paris Musée de Cluny. Even having seen the tapestries, re-visiting them at this site during their descriptions in the audiobook added enjoyment to the audio. Male narrator is weak; Female narrator fine.

4+*The Birth of Venus UA Sarah Dunant. Story of a young woman’s suppressed bright intellect and artistic talent in Florence, Italy, during time of Medicis. Click here for source of the title of the Book .

4+*Lolita (UA) by Vladimir Nabokov and Narrated by Jeremy Irons 11:30 Release Date: 04-26-2005 Average Customer Rating: 4.83 ( based on 12 votes) and 4.5 ( based on 423 reviews). Short Description: When it was published in 1955, Lolita immediately became a cause celebre because of the freedom and sophistication with which it handled the unusual erotic predilections of its protagonist

4+*Master and Commder: Aubrey/Maturin Series, Book 1 UA 16:39 Patrick OBrian. Lively story of British navy captain and his exploits in the early 1800s. See Movie Website page, first stop on the map for sail descriptions.

4+*A Painted House UA John Grisham Arkansas cotton farming family battle of survival-- from viewpoint of the young son.

4+The Great Gatsby UA Scott Fitzgerald. Under 5 hours (great for trip for two). Average Customer Rating: 4.56 ( based on 27 vote(s) ) Short Description: … Fitzgerald's portrait of the Jazz Age in all its decadence and excess, is, as editor Maxwell Perkins praised it in 1924, "a wonder"....

4+*Drowning Ruth UA Christina Schwarz Complex plot, fully developed, realistic characters reveal effectively in gradual and unexpected manner with penultimate sacrifice at the end. Intwined and unpredictable story focuses on two women and two children over twenty-years.

4+*The Memory of Running UA, Ron McLarty. Very slow first 30 minutes and some of the first half is uneven. Second half redeems. Author/Narrator (actor, playwright) narrates many books, but is sonorous -- Listened at iPod faster speed. Persevered and enjoyed the book overall. Book originally published as audio, now avail in hardback and soon to be a movie. Reminiscent of Confederacy of Dunces.

4 Confessions of Max Tivoli, Andrew Sean Greer. A story of Max, who falls in love with Alice, ages backwards and is thereby given the chance to love her three different times when she takes him for a stranger.

4*Anna Karenina (A) Leo Tolstoy [Classic Russian Novel]

4* Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac. This classic novel written in the late 19th century is regarded by many as Balzac's finest. The writing is superb, but the dreary circumstances and fickle human relations conveyed in the novel create a melancholy mind-set. All-in-all, I much preferred reading about people reading Balzac than reading Balzac (the excellent Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie)

4*Lord of the Flies UA, William Golding. A Classic about boys surviving without adults on an island. Well narrated by the author with interesting foreword and afterword.

4* Waterborne by Bruce Murkoff. Net Library, but not audible. First novel and an evocative historic fiction about three people as their lives converge on the building of Hoover Dam. This is not a story of the building of the dam, but of what becomes the entertwined lives of fictional participants in the building. It takes half the book to actually get to the Hoover dam. Murkoff very nearly achieves a prose level of Wallace Stegner or Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain). While the characters are exceptionally well developed, some readers have found them unrealisticly so - caveat emptor. With the exception of an over-the-edge ending, I found the book engaging, fun to listen to, and hard to put down.

4*Tis (Abridged) Frank McCourt read by author. Sequel to Angela’s Ashes. Story of McCort's return to the US. Abridged may be better in this lesser of his works.

4-*The Castle UA, Franz Kafka. A Classic literature version of Catch 22 -- you will understand the meaning of "Kafkaesque" well before finishing this book.

3. Really Liked Hi-Quality Non- Fiction Audio Books (4-5 stars)

5+*Washington’s Crossing UA 18:07 David Hackett Fischer. National Book Award nominee. Non-fiction reads like excellent novel. Follows Washington and the Continental Army’s increasing competence and effectiveness in the first crucial year of Revolutionary War. Newly discovered material brings understanding to many of institutions and practices developed then and now taken for granted.

5* Brunelleschi's Dome Ross King no longer avail

5* Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling UA Ross King. 7 hours and 29 Average Customer Rating: 4.18 ( based on 17 vote(s) ) Short Description: In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo …

5*The 9-11 Commission Report - National Commission Final Report. 10:01 "We Have Some Planes" Chapter accounts for every step of the four hijacked planes -- gripping and, in and of itself, worth the price. Goes on to describe the organization of the plot. Non-fiction surpassing most suspense writing. Well-written and narrated. Fitting and permanent reminder of those who were lost. free m4b file at and in pdf at -- includes maps and end notes.

4++* Alexander Hamilton UA Ron Chernow. Provides thorough insight into the life and times of Hamilton. Hamilton’s difficult childhood, his prodigious intellectual writings and incredible accomplishments, and all his many shortcomings are fluidly described in 37 hours of captivating audio. Chernow demonstrates how Hamilton, particularly in partnership with Washington, is father to many of the institutions practices and ideals that make our country great and how Hamilton’s temperament held him back from accomplishing more. Eliza Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, and Adams loom large in this book. Though I was grateful for the faster listening speed of my 4G iPod, I think that opting for the abridged version would not be wise. Chernow himself said that the abridged version is a very different book. Chernow did not fall into the trap of lionizing his biography’s subject, treating Hamilton with well-balanced affection and honesty.

4++Founding Brothers, Joseph Ellis. Lively and engaging recounting of the intertwined lives of the founders of the American republic--John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington come together to define the new republic and direct its course for the coming centuries. Focuses on The Hamilton-Burr duel, the secret Hamilton/Jefferson/Madison dinner, Franklin's petition to end slavery, Washington’s Farewell Address, and Adam's and Jefferson’s post-presidential correspondence.
4++*The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan (UA) 14:56 by Russell Shorto. Narrator: L.J. Ganser. Average Customer Rating: 4.07, based on 14 votes
Adapted from Publishers description: After decades of painstaking translation, 12,000 pages discovered Nearly 40 years ago by a New York State Library archivist from the original Dutch colony on Manhattan became the primary source for this breathtaking history of early New York.
Before there were 13 colonies, there was New Netherland. Founded by the Dutch, this tiny community ... supported a staggering array of Norwegians, Germans, Italians, free and slave Africans, Jews, Bohemians, Mohawk Indians, and more. Surrounded by intolerant Puritans, New Netherland took its cues from Amsterdam, Europe's most liberal city. Inevitably the Dutch and the English clashed, and a new nation was born.

This well told and previously unheralded history makes for fascinating listening. Quite a change from the anglo-centric history we all learned.

4++*1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann Narrator: Peter Johnson 11:16 Audible Rating 4*
What the Critics Say:
"Johnson renders this thoroughly researched, well-written history of early North and South American Indian populations in a strong, clear voice, with excellent intonation. His diction is almost too perfect." (Publishers Weekly)
"Mann's 1491 vividly compels us to re-examine how we teach the ancient history of the Americas and how we live with the environmental consequences of colonization." (Washington Post Book World)
Publisher's Summary: ...takes us on an enthralling journey of scientific exploration. We learn that the Indian development of modern corn was one of the most complex feats of genetic engineering ever performed. That the Great Plains are a third smaller today than they were in 1700 because the Indians who maintained them by burning died. And that the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact. Compelling and eye-opening...

4+*Hannibal: One Man Against Rome UA 10:55 Harold Lamb Non-fiction. Maps to follow Hannibal’s campaign: (click on the thumbnail maps to get readable size). Hannibal Website: Average Customer Rating: 4.37 ( based on 144 vote(s) ) Short Description: This is the breathtaking adventure of the great Carthaginian general who shook the foundations of Rome...

4++*1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
What the Critics Say:
"Johnson renders this thoroughly researched, well-written history of early North and South American Indian populations in a strong, clear voice, with excellent intonation. His diction is almost too perfect." (Publishers Weekly)
"Mann's 1491 vividly compels us to re-examine how we teach the ancient history of the Americas and how we live with the environmental consequences of colonization." (Washington Post Book World)
Publisher's Summary: ...takes us on an enthralling journey of scientific exploration. We learn that the Indian development of modern corn was one of the most complex feats of genetic engineering ever performed. That the Great Plains are a third smaller today than they were in 1700 because the Indians who maintained them by burning died. And that the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact. Compelling and eye-opening...

4+*The Killer Angels UA, Michael Shaara. Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (1974) about the battle at Gettysburg.4+*State of Fear UA Michael Crichton. Modern-day thriller and thought-provoking discourse on Global Warming and eco-thought. Not for the politically correct. 20 minute interview with author at end.

4+* Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order UA by Robert Kagan Narrator: Robertson Dean. 2 hours and 47 min. Average Customer Rating: 4.2 ( based on 20 vote(s) ). Describes and explains the differences between US and European foreign policy from a conservative viewpoint.

4+* Mountains Beyond Mountains. Tracy Kidder's true story about a remarkable doctor fighting poverty and TB in Haiti and other parts of the world. Inspiring and interesting. Avail Audible. Was made more interesting to have recently listened to The Dew Breaker and its Haiti roots.

4+ Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded UA - Simon Winchester, Soun Vannithone Average Customer Rating: 3.94 ( based on 85 vote(s) ) Short Description: The legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa (the name has since become a by-word for a cataclysmic disaster) was followed by an immense tsunami....

4+ The Seashell on the Mountaintop UA 5:31 by Alan Cutler Average Customer Rating: 4.29 ( based on 31 vote(s) ) This is the story of a seventeenth-century scientist-turned-priest who forever changed our understanding of the Earth and created a new field of science...

4+The Professor and the Madman. UA Simon Winchester. True story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of the monumental creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon and Civil War veteran, was a remarkably prolific contributor to the OED, but had still never traveled from his home. A puzzled Murray set out to visit him to learn that Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane--and locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics. Adapted from the book jacket.Robert's Audible Audio Recommendations

4*Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry, Narrator: Barry Grizzard. Audio avail only in Abridged version: 4:48. Listens well at faster speed. Audible Customer Rating: 4.2* Non-Fiction.
The title says it all. All includes social, racial, economic, engineering, power, vision, poor decision making, politicizing and engineering, vision and absence thereof, all the consequences and glimpses of what might have been (when blacks are forced labor on the levees, and in Greenville in one instance the blacks successfully argued for a volunteer effort that worked for a while), the making of Herbert Hoover and expansion of government into relief. In the aftermath of Katrina, it all comes alive with deja vou. The paper back is 528 pages and it is difficult to know what the abridged audio version leaves out, but it appears to seamlessly capture the important elements of the book.

4-*Shadow Divers, 16:10 UA Robert Kurson. First two hours slowly begin the book, this well-done fascinating true adventure story of deep-wreck divers exploring and identifying a sunken German U-Boat. The danger and difficulty of deep-wreck diving and U-Boat service is brought home with accounts of the actions and lives of the divers and U-Boat crew.

4-*Churchill UA by Roy Jenkins 37:31 NYT’s review (click here - free subscription required) – overly favorable review, IMHO
Francis J. Mcinerney (Top 50 Amazon reviewer with 21,159 helpful votes) gives
4* in a very thorough review in which he says: “If a reader were to select this work by Jenkins they would not gain a complete insight into the legendary figure that Sir Winston Spencer Churchill is… The primary differences between the two books I mention are of style and completeness. Martin Gilbert in an accomplished historian, while Mr. Jenkins writes from a perspective of a man who sat in the House of Commons, witnessed Churchill in action, and documents his life primarily as a politician. There are formative episodes that are not included at all, which in the end prevents this very fine work from being a well-rounded documentary …” and suggests “Sir Martin Gilbert's single volume work [Churchill: A Life – not available NL, OD, or audible] remains the standard.” See Mcinerney’s full review (click here) , currently second down in reader reviews at amazon.

3.5* Claudius UA Robert Graves (Narrator doesn't swallow, sounds pompus, but I got used to him.) No longer avail Amazon Book Description: Considered an idiot because of his physical infirmities, Claudius survived the intrigues and poisonings of the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and the Mad Caligula to become emperor in 41 A.D. A masterpiece.

3.5*The Crisis of Islam (Bernard Lewis Author and Narrator who reads with laryngitis -- listen to sample before you buy) Short Description: Bernard Lewis examines the historical roots of the frustrations and resentments that dominate the Islamic world today and that are increasingly being expressed in acts of terrorism. He looks at the theological origins of political Islam and tells us what the Islamic doctrine of jihad has meant at different times in history. And he takes us … through the rise of militant Islam in Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, examining the impact of radical Wahabi proselytizing and Saudi oil money on the rest of the Islamic world. ...

3.5* Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea (Unabridged) 7:35 Thomas Cahill non-fiction Average Customer Rating: 3.57 ( based on 14 vote(s) ) Short Description: Best selling history writer Thomas Cahill continues his series on the roots of Western civilization with this volume about the contributions of ancient Greece...

3.5*The Bounty'(A) by Caroline Alexander. Not avail audible, loaded a gift cd onto iPod.Non-fiction. Interesting, if not gripping.

2.5*Cod: A biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky. This 7:37 audio book is interesting enough as it describes how cod had an economic, political, and social impact upon the world. However, it eventually is overwhelmed by the same sort of filler described in the huge number of recipes for preparing cod. Like potatos in the recipes, the recipes themselves become an extender for the book, giving it length but not substance. Substance is used up about half way through. However, like Germs, Guns, and Steel, this book provides insight into how overlooked factors often strongly influence peace, politics, and economics.

4. The Audio Books I Liked list (Over 3 stars):

3.7*Girl with a Pearl Earring UA Tracy Chevalier Average Customer Rating: 4.32
( based on 57 vote(s) ) Short Description: History and fiction merge seamlessly in Tracy Chevalier's luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Through the eyes of 16-year-old Griet, the world of 1660s Holland comes dazzlingly alive in this richly imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer's most celebrated paintings...

3.5*A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry Short Description: With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall masters from Balzac to Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption... more ...

3.5*Family Matters (UA) Rohinton Mistry No longer avail Set during the 1990s in an overcrowded and politically corrupt Bombay, Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters depicts a family being torn apart by lies, love, and its unresolved demons of the past.

3.5*Middlesex (UA) Jeffrey Eugenides. Short Description: In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry-blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them - along with Callie's failure to develop physically - leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls.

3.5*Far from the Madding Crowd (A) Thomas Hardy Short Description: In a remote corner of early Victorian England, where traditional practices remain untouched by time, Bathsheba Everdene stands out as a beacon of feminine independence...

3.5*Blessings (UA) Anna Quindlen Short Description: This powerful new novel by the best selling author of A Short Guide to a Happy Life begins when a teenage couple drives up, late at night, headlights out, to Blessings, the estate owned by Lydia Blessing. They leave a box and drive away, and in this instant, the world of Blessings is changed forever. ...

3.5*Ender's Game A Orson Scott Card (First Sci Fi book I have read in years and years) Average Customer Rating: 4.68 ( based on 1708 vote(s) ) Short Description: Andrew "Ender" Wiggin thinks he is playing computer-simulated war games at the Battle School; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. Ender is the result of decades of genetic experimentation, Earth's attempt to make the military genius that the planet needs in its all-out war with an alien enemy. Is Ender the general Earth needs? ...

3.5 The Company Robert Littell Historic Fiction about CIA. (40 hours; probably better if you are old enough to place book inside your own memory of history -- ie, Bay of Pigs, Hungarian Uprising, Yeltsin's snatching victory from jaws of defeat, etc. In some ways a spy novel, in some ways a reading of world shaking.shaping events.

3.5*Atlas Shrugged (A)by Ayn Rand. Even though I am an economic conservative and somewhat agree with Ayn Rand's philosophy, I found the extreme caricatures, dated language and social mores, unrealistic hyperbole relative to political systems in a 1940's vision of a 1955 US in Vol 1 of 3 of audible's unabridged Atlas Shrugged, tedious. So, I bought a new cassette tape version of the abridged version on e-bay for little less than the two remaining volumes cost at audible and converted the cassettes into iPod files (see Guide 2 and supplement) to finish listening. I usually avoid abridged versions, but was pleased that I had left the UA version. As a transparent vehicle for Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, the plot and characters were thin but not totally off-putting. I found Ayn Rand a lesser Margaret Atwood. One must keep in mind that Atlas Shrugged was written in the late 40's by an author who had experienced first hand the excesses of communism/socialism and appears to have extrapolated those experiences into a vision of the future with this novel as a vehicle for expressing her philosophy. The radio address given by John Gault (at one hour to completion in the abridged version) sums up her philosophy nicely. The audio book version was released in 1951 and the audio quality is poor. However, my tape conversion to iPod bookmarking file was very satisfactory audio quality. I will soon offer for resale on ebay the audio cassette set along with a cd of bookmarking iPod files (5 hour segements, of course, since even longer mp3 bookmarking files skipped out of the audio and lost my bookmark).Many others clearly disagree with my assessment since this audio is one of's best sellers.

3.5 *The Five People You Meet in Heaven UA Mitch Albom Average Customer Rating: 3.51 based on 177 vote(s) ) Short Description: On his 83rd birthday, Eddie, a lonely war veteran, dies in a tragic accident trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. With his final breath, he feels two small hands in his - and then nothing. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people who were in it.....

3.5* Tears of the Giraffe: More from the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (UA) 7:54 Alexander McCall Smith Good, but not like No. 1. Drags a bit and not as robust in conte Average Customer Rating: 4.57 ( based on 51 vote(s) ) Short Description In this thoroughly entertaining book, the … author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency continues the story of Mma "Precious" Ramotswe, the clever proprietor of the only detective agency in all of Botswana. Now engaged to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, Mma Ramotswe must contend with the hostility of her fiancé’s unscrupulous maid, who quickly begins plotting the disintegration of the arrangement. Then an American woman asks for help to learn the truth behind her son's disappearance in Africa, and Mma Ramotswe has all the troubles she can handle. Part detective story, part comedy of manners and part African travelogue, Tears of the Giraffe is an indisputable joy. ...

3.2*My Dream of You A Nuala O'Faolain Short Description: Kathleen de Burca is a travel writer based in London. The office is the nearest thing she has to a home. When a quick series of blows strips away the props of her life she is faced with the frightening imperative of change. In her crisis she decides to investigate a true story about a relationship so passionate that it burned its way across the barriers of class and culture - a scandalous affair between the wife of an English landlord and an Irish servant during the devastation of Ireland's potato famine.

3*L'Affaire (UA), Diane Johnson Short Description: Young dot-com executive sets off for Europe to find culture, her roots, and maybe a cause to devote her considerable fortune to…

3*Sharpe's Regiment (UA) Bernard Cornwell Short Description: features a corrupt political enemy who is determined to disband the South Essex Regiment, and to destroy the life of Major Richard Sharpe. Sharpe returns to England and discovers an illegal recruiting ring that sells soldiers like cattle to other divisions.

3*The Corrections UA Jonathan Franzen Short Description: After almost 50 years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease...

3*The Emperor of Ocean Park UA Stephen L. Carter Short Description: An extraordinary fiction debut: a large, stirring novel of suspense that is, at the same time, a work of brilliantly astute social observation … set in two privileged worlds: the upper crust African American society of the eastern seaboard - old families who summer on Martha's Vineyard - and the inner circle of an Ivy League law school. It tells the story of a complex family with a single, seductive link to the shadowlands of crime....

3*Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton Phillip Kerr Short Description: In 1696, young Christopher Ellis is sent to the Tower of London, but not as a prisoner. . Though Ellis is notoriously hotheaded and was caught fighting an illegal duel, he arrives at the Tower as assistant to the renowned scientist Sir Isaac Newton. Newton has accepted an appointment from the King of England and Parliament to investigate and prosecute counterfeiters whose false coins threaten to bring down the shaky, war-weakened economy…

3* A Walk in the Woods UA Bill Bryson Average Customer Rating: 4.45 ( based on 236 vote(s) ) Short Description "Not long after I moved with my family to a small town in New Hampshire, I happened upon a path that vanished into a wood on the edge of town." So begins Bill Bryson's hilarious book, A Walk in the Woods. … Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail… The AT, as it's affectionately known to thousands of hikers, offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes - and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to test his own powers of ineptitude, and to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.....

3* Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins. This long (16:48) audio does not live up to its seductive title. If you like my 4/5 recommendations, you probably will not like this book. Irreverent, flippant, sometimes offensive, perpetually young-man-of-the-world with an axe to grind, in-your-face, CIA operative embarks on a journey that will possibly entertain, bore, fascinate, offend, or confuse you with highly colorful, frequently redundant, imaginative prose that fizzles out in a weak ending. Robbins fans love this book, but make certain you share their enthusiasm before embarking on any of his books.

3+* The Great Fire (Unabridged) by Shirley Hazzard. "A subtle romance." Winner of 2003 National Book Award -- Mixed reader reviews -- from rave to one star. Warning: Includes unconsummated romance between older man and 17 yo. Post WWII setting. Word, words, words, used beautifully in a gracefully slow-moving book.

3*The Amateur Marriage (Unabridged) -- Anne Tyler May need to be over 40 (book may be about your grandparents) to appreciate and like this book.

3+*The Red Tent. Anita Diamant. Fictional story about Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph. Was glad to have 4G faster speed for the first half, but the second half rescued the story. Maybe a guy-gal, especially the first half.

3*Brick Lane. Monica Ali. Book Browse: deeply moving story of [a] woman born in a Bangladeshi village and transported to London at age eighteen to enter into an arranged marriage. Slow beginning that picks up speed.

3--*The Portrait of a Lady (A) Henry James. Audible has only the abridged version. Feeling that I needed to re-read two confusing key scenes, I found the complete book on-line and read two entire chapters: That confirmed to me that the abridged version does not do the book justice. Amazon has only unabridged version in cassette tape. The hardback is 680 pages long. That would make it about a 24 hour book.

3-Agnes of God John Pielmeier Audible Short Description: In this contemporary murder mystery, set within the confines of a convent, Agnes is a devout, innocent young nun accused of infanticide...

3-Pigs in Heaven Barbara Kingsolver No longer available at

3-Three Junes (Unabridged) Julia Glass Average Customer Rating: 3.58
( based on 235 vote(s) ) Short Description A Good Morning America "Read This" selection, Three Junes is a vividly textured symphonic novel set on both sides of the Atlantic during three fateful summers in the lives of a Scottish family. ...

3-*The Blind Assassin, UA Average Customer Rating: 3.93 ( based on 99 vote(s) ) Short Description: … The novel opens with …: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister's death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as you expect to settle into Laura's story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When you return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist....

3-*I Know This Much Is True Wally Lamb No longer available at

3-*Dreamcatcher Stephen King (glad I got abridged on this one) Average Customer Rating: 4.13 ( based on 483 vote(s) ) Short Description: A dark and sweeping adventure, Dreamcatcher is set in the haunted city of Derry - the site of Stephen King's It and Insomnia. In it, four young boys stand together and do a brave, good thing, an act that changes them in ways that they hardly understand. A quarter-century later ...

2.7*The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy UA 5:51. Audible 4+. by Douglas Adams. An outrageously clever and amusing, although frequently only mildly so, satire/caricature/parody of science fiction. Reminiscent of, but nowhere near the quality of Joseph Heller’s satire in Catch 22. Fun for a while, but wears thin. I didn't mind finishing it. Well-narrated, sci-fi satire.

2 Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. Almost put in my didn't like category. I just don't find him funny. Couple of good laughs, but that was all. Probably a generational thing.

2*The Jane Austen Book Club UA by Karen Joy Fowler Lacking in substance, coherence, and character development. The plot and characters are paper-thin, leading to an unsatisfactory listen. Unlike other reviewers, the narrator was not a problem for me, but the shallowness of the book was. In sharp contrast to the excellent "Reading Lolita in Tehran," Jane Austen Book Club was all the more deficient. Unlike Lolita -- don't expect much Austen insight.

5. Good Children’s Books:

Charlotte's Web E.B.White

The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien

Stuart Little

Alice in Wonderland A little rough on audio quality, difficult to understand in the car. I need to download in format 4 to see if sound quality improves.

Harry Potter books. See ebay for deals and go to iLounge on how to convert to bookmarking iPod files.

The Wee Free Men (UA 7:10) by Terry Pratchett. Narrator: Stephen Briggs
Audible 4.8 stars, 93 reviews. Breaking my self-imposed rules of commenting only on books I have read and not engaging in name dropping: This book is highly recommended by my friend Marsha Norman (1993 Pulitzer Prize winner for 'Night, Mother and playright for The Color Purple) who said "btw - if you have any young girl listeners on your list - my daughter (age 13) and I absolutely loved WEE FREE MEN, by Terry Pratchett. The reader, Simon Briggs, is nothing short of genius, doing all the Scottish voices. I laughed out loud, a lot. We've just bought the next book in the series, A Hat Full of Sky, and are planning to listen to it..." There is a similar statement in a review at in which the girl listening is 9 years old.

Publisher's Summary: "Armed only with a frying pan and her common sense, Tiffany Aching, a young [9 years old] witch-to-be, is all that stands between the monsters of Fairyland and the warm, green Chalk country that is her home..."

6. The Never Finished and/or Didn't Like Audio Books list:

1*American Pastoral (Unabridged) Philip Roth. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is no longer avail at I believe that this book reads in print better than it listens. This may be true of all of Roth’s books. He so fully develops characters, that not being able to skim some of that can be frustrating. I am going to try this one in print.

1+*Atonement Ian McEwan Badly written and read. Average Customer Rating: 4.24 ( based on 38 vote(s) ) Short Description: … three children lose their innocence, as the sweltering summer heat bears down on the hottest day in 1935, and their lives are changed forever. Cecilia Tallis is of England's priviledged class; Robbie Turner is the housekeeper's son. In their moment of intimate surrender, they are interrupted by Cecilia's hyperimaginative and scheming 13-year-old sister, Briony. ... And to show what little I know, other opinions: four stars, but with lots of twos and threes. Mixed reactions.
NY Times: 'Atonement' Wins Book Critics Award
February 27, 2003, Thursday
By DINITIA SMITH (NYT); ''Atonement,'' Ian McEwan's novel about the destructive powers of the imagination and the lifelong repercussions of a single childhood lie, has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Michiko Kakutani, in a review in The New York Times last year, called ''Atonement'' ''a tour de force,'' and...

1*Running with Scissors (Unabridged) Augusten Burr. Average Customer Rating: 3.65 ( based on 68 vote(s) ) Short Description: Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of being Anne Sexton) gave him away...

Always listen to the sample (click the sample button just under the cover illustration on to see if you like narrator and also to get a feel for book content and writing style.


Helpful Links for creating Bookmarking iPod files from various sources (Hover cursor over guide and click):

Guide: Converting audio book files,CDs,and mp3s with iTunes5+ to Bookmarking iPod files
Link to Doug Adams Mac Scripting to make Selected Tracks Bookmarkable with iTunes 5.0+

Avoid playback probs: with possible exception of nano, convert all homemade files in stereo; limit files to max 5 hours duration. Color (Photo) iPods, with exception of nano, lock up on podcasts and m4b converted files -- Use mp3 bookmarking solution for Color iPods until Apple fixes lock up bug.

Guide: MarkAble Shareware. EZ merges/converts CD/MP3/WAV to bookmarking files, adds to iTunes, and deletes temp files using MarkAble $15 PC Shareware

Guide 4. Audio CDs to bookmarking iPod files-All iTunes solution (Mac adaptable)

Guide 1. Audio mp3 files to bookmarking iPod files (mac adaptable)

Guide 2. Audio CassetteTapes, ANY sound file played, vinyl LPs and CDs to bookmarking iPod files And Supplement: Guides to convert ANY sound played with any computer software or Line-in (Audio Cassettes, LP’s, etc) to MP3 files ready for conversion to Bookmarking iPod Files - Audacity Free, $12 Total Recorder, 30 Euro PolderbitS

Guide 3. Copy Audio CDs into fewer iPod files using freeware and additional stepsandtime

Guide 5. Burn audible books to CD iTunes (mac adaptable) or AM (Best!PC only)

Guide 6. Convert mono m4b files to Stereo to avoid 4G+ and Mini Lockup AND keep iTrip out of 4G+ Shuffle (Convert files for color (photo) iPods using mp3 bookmarking to avoid lockup.