Author: George R.R. Martin
Title: A Game of Thrones
Narrator: Roy Dotrice
Publication Info: [Santa Ana, Calif.] : Books on Tape, 2004
My wife has been reading A Song of Ice and Fire for years, including on our honeymoon, but I’ve always been intimidated by their length. Having binge-watched the television adaptation Game of Thrones, I figured it was time to give the books their due. The audiobook narration by Dotrice is a good way to enjoy the book because his gravely British accent makes me feel like I’m listening to an epic storyteller. The book does a great job of laying out the politics and intrigues among the seven kingdoms while simultaneously setting up for a graver confrontation with stories of the North beyond the wall, and the Targaryen’s in the East. Amazingly the first season of tv show remained faithful, if condensed, to this book. Worth the read/listen and I’ll be moving on to the second book.
Recommended books: Eragon by Christopher Paolini and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein.
Author: Alastair Bonnett
Title: Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies
Narrator: Derek Perkins
Publication Info: Tantor Media, 2014
Dr. Bonnet collects a compendium of curiosities in geography, places in the world at the borders, no-mans lands, enclaves, dead cities, floating islands, and ephemeral places.
- Sandy Island, marked on maps in the Indian Ocean for over a century despite the fact that it never existed.
- The historic Old Mecca, destroyed to make way for amenities for pilgrims.
- Alan Sonfist’s artistic creation of pre-colonial plantings in New York called Time Landscape.
- The lost Aral Sea, now the Aralqum Desert.
- Kijong-dong , the North Korean “Peace Village” along the DMZ with South Korea.
- Pripyat, the city abandoned due to the Cherynobyl disaster.
- The intriguingly named Archaeological Park of Sicilian Incompletion in Giarre.
- The interlocking Dutch and Belgian enclaves of Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog .
- The micronation of Sealand.
- Spray ice islands used for petroleum exploration in the Arctic
- The RV park in the LAX parking lot which serves as the permanent home for many air carrier personnel.
- Nowhere, the Burning Man-style art event in northeast Spain
Derek Perkins voice lends a curmudgeonly world explorer gruffness to the narration. A fun book and informative.
Recommended books: Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Self-Proclaimed Nations by John Ryan, Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places by John R. Stilgoe, and Lights Out for the Territory: 9 Excursions in the Secret History of London by Iain Sinclair
Author: Robin Sloan
Title: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Narrator: Ari Fliakos
Publication Info: Macmillan Audio (2012)
A young man named Clay is out-of-work in San Francisco and ends up taking a job at a bizarre book store with an eccentric owner. It turns out to be a front of a shadowy organization and Clay’s favorite fantasy book series is a key to its mysteries.. With the help of a girlfriend who works at Google, and a nerdy childhood friend who’s become wealthy as a game developer, Clay is able to advance well into the organization. I found this book moderately interesting, with a bit of mystery, some book lore, and a lot of product placement for Google.
“The suburban mind cannot comprehend the emergent complexity of a New York sidewalk.”
Recommended books: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Narrator: Alex Kingston
Title: The Angel’s Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery by
Publication Info: AudioGO (2013)
This book is a spin-off from the Doctor Who television show narrated by the character River Song in her guise as detective Melody Malone. It’s basically a pastiche to Raymond Chandler/Dashiell Hammet with Weeping Angels thrown in. The advantage of the audiobook is listening to Alex Kingston speak for a couple of hours. Other than that it is pretty forgettable.
Rating: * 1/2
Author: Dan Ariely
Title: The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty
Narrator: Simon Jones
Publication Info: Harper Collins, 2012
This book is a psychological and sociological investigation into lying, with the emphasis on the ways in which all humans more or less lie and cheat throughout their whole lives. Ariely notes that while big scandals like say Enron get headlines for their irrational amount of dishonesty, that these types of problems grow from the small actions of many people making cost-benefit analysis rather than high-level conspiracy. Interesting anecdotes about lying are backed-up by tests and studies. To be honest, I’ve allowed too much time from listening to this audiobook to writing about, so I’m now fuzzy on the details. But I do recall it is a fascinating book entertainingly performed by Simon Jones.
Author: Ayana Mathis
Title: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Narrators: Adam Lazarre-White, Bahni Turpin, and Adenrele Ojo
Publication Info: Books on Tape, 2012
Summary/Review: This somber novel tells the stories of a woman named Hattie who migrates from Georgia to Philadelphia in the 1920s, and her subsequent life and that of her children. The novel is a series of connected stories, each focusing on a different child from dates ranging from the 1920s to 1980s. The family perseveres against poverty, racism, mental illness and internal strife. I found it a well-written story that approaches family life and the African-American experience from different angles. The audiobook is also well-performed with different narrators reading stories from the different children’s perspectives.
Recommended books: Bailey’s Cafe by Gloria Naylor, Strivers Row by Kevin Baker, and Jazz by Toni Morrison
Author and Narrator: Bill Bryson
Title: One Summer: America 1927
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2013
Other books read by the same author:
Bill Bryson’s talent is to delve deep into a subject, find all the minute details, and then tie them together into a bigger story. For this work, the title explains it all: one summer in the United States when a remarkable number of historical events occurred, many with unexpected connections.
The main feature of this book is Charles Lindbergh and his historic flight from New York to Paris aboard the Spirit of St. Louis. And then there is the aftermath in which Lindbergh deals with his celebrity, a level of worldwide renown perhaps unprecedented in history. Other aviators who had hoped to contend for the Orteig Prize, are given their due as well, with descriptions of their less-famous flights (if they managed to get off the ground).
The book is balanced by the story of another hero, Babe Ruth. In the 1927, Ruth would break his own remarkable single-season home run record and be joined in a race by teammate Lou Gehrig. In fact, the entire Yankees’ lineup hit so well that they’re forever known as Murderers’ Row and one of the best teams in baseball history. Bryson cheats a lot, leaving the summer of 1927 to fill in the back stories of Lindbergh and Ruth and other figures, and occasionally even peeking ahead. But the meat of this book is stories of events from that summer, including:
- the sensational Snyder-Gray murder trial
- the apogee of Al Capone’s power as a mob boss
- the government poisoning alcohol at the behest of Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League
- the Federal Reserve makes decisions that sow the seeds of the 1929 stock market crash
- radio comes of age
- The Jazz Singer ushers in the talkie
- television created
- the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti
- carving of Mount Rushmore begins
- massive flooding of the Mississippi River
- the Bath School bombing
- Henry Ford transitions from the Model T to the Model A
- The Long Count fight between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey
The whole book is fascinating and full of interesting details of a transitional time in American history.