Lately I’ve been nostalgic for books. It feels like forever and an age since I got to curl up on the couch and sink into a book, and so I’ve been pining for the days of new parenthood, when weirdly I read more consistently than I do now. Ah, for that twilight haze of chaos and anxiety, punctuated by the books read during frustrated nursing sessions!
I jest. But only sort of. While things are only getting better and better with Blueberry over here (talking! jumping off stools! insisting that she do everything herself!), it’s hard to find toddler-free downtime that’s not taken up by laundry, dishes, adulting, laundry, dishes, or plain old exhaustion. (Did I mention the laundry and the dishes?)
So instead I’ve resorted to audiobooks. I’ve been a fan since childhood, when they still came on cassette tapes and my sister and I would listen to the Ramona Quimby series (narrated impeccably by Stockard Channing) and Superfudge books on repeat until we could repeat segments from memory. Books on tape became the soundtrack to our block-building sessions and imaginary play, and later they accompanied us to school and back each day. During my first teaching job, I’d pop a long fantasy epic into my car’s CD player to give my brain something interesting to think about on the 45-minute drive. While my commutes are now more of the chauffeuring-Blueberry-around-town variety, it’s still absolutely lovely to turn on a story for 20 minutes. It feels a little like I’m carving adult time out of nothing.
It’s not just about an enjoyable story, though; good narrators can make all the difference. A reader who imbues characters’ thoughts and dialogue with emotion can pull me into a story even more fully than words on a page could. When I was listening to Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game, for example, narrator Imogen Church embodied the main character so well that I almost felt as though I was living the story. That’s when audiobooks become an art form of their own, rather than simply a replacement for a hard copy of the text.
Of course, there are a few things to consider. Sometimes Blueberry insists on music, so we listen to the Irish Rovers on repeat. And now that she’s learning what seems like 30 words a day, I’m a lot more careful about the types of books I listen to. Limited cursing, gentler mysteries (of the sanitized Agatha Christie genre), and more family-friendly themes are my preferred choices, at least when she can hear. I usually have another book loaded up on my iPod for long walks with Blueberry, and I’m much less discriminating with those choices.
Here are a few titles I’ve enjoyed lately, if you’re interested:
The Lying Game and The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. More intense thrillers that fit the bill before I knew Blueberry was picking up everything she heard. Ware has been called the Agatha Christie of our time, and while I wouldn’t go that far, she crafts some fun, twisty thrillers.
Once and for All by Sarah Dessen. Dessen writes perfect summer books, and this one didn’t disappoint. I could almost pretend for a moment that warm weather was actually on the way. This one’s set in the perfectionist world of wedding planning, but with a more diverse cast than Dessen’s previous books.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. An iPod choice thanks to some rough war themes. My sister and my agent both recommended it, and it was the best kind of historical novel: linked stories connecting strong women in both world wars, spies, and a mystery that changed and evolved as the story unfolded.
The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller. Another book recommended by my agent. Perfect escapist fiction about a Boston baker who runs away to Vermont and bakes many, many delicious-sounding pies.
And of course, the ever-present BBC Radio 4 dramatized Agatha Christies: A Caribbean Mystery and Death in the Clouds. While they’re shorter than full-length narrations, I turn to these dramatizations when I really want to sink into a story, as the sound effects, music, and high-quality casts always make me feel like I’m living in an English village.
And that’s it from me. Any recommendations to share?