Engaging Methuen Readers

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How I Learned to Love the Classics

Audiobook, Tablet, Touch Screen, ReadOur paperback edition of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath is 436 pages of tiny print.  It’s on a regional school’s summer reading list and I am under no obligation to read it myself.   Yet, I am “reading” it, or more accurately listening to it for pleasure.  I had picked up the book before and put it back down.  There was no way I would actually read this dense novel, even though it was a Pulitzer-prize winning classic and nominated as one of America’s Best-Loved Novels in PBS’s “Great American Read“.  Then I had an idea.  I have gotten used to listening to audiobooks in my car during my commute to and from work, so why not just give “The Grapes of Wrath” a chance in audio format?

I am now on the 13th of 17 cd’s in the audio edition narrated by actor Dylan Baker – and I am enjoying it immensely!  Baker’s narration hits all the right notes: an authentic country vernacular spoken with dignity and lyrical cadence, using unique voices for different characters. Baker’s outstanding performance really gives meaning to Steinbeck’s words and thoughts.  To be honest, I think that if I had picked up the book and read it, I probably would have skimmed or skipped the more pastoral or sermonizing parts of the narrative which alternate with the Joad family’s desperate trek to California.  That would have been a shame, because I would have missed out on much of the haunting history of the uprooted farmers in their great migration West during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930’s.  Baker deftly handles these potentially preachy passages in a manner that both augments and blends into the Joads’ plight.

In truth, I may not have the same attention-span that I used to have.  Unfortunately,  I often can’t sit down and read for long periods of time without getting restless… or chomping on the bit for more plot right away!  Yet the audio book format prevents me from skipping ahead.  I stay with it for the whole ride, figuratively and literally, when I listen to an audiobook in the car.  Plus, I enjoy my commute more.  What used to be a boring ride has become a wonderful school for the classics.



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Bookish Confessions: Reducing Stess through Audiobooks

Well, here it is, my annual stressor, the “holidays”. Between the reduction in light and the advance of the cold…not to mention the state of the country and its leaders, I’m feeling a little on edge right about now.

How to take the stress down a notch and save a little of myself for my family? For me the answer has been the audiobook. I’ve turned off the news, stopped listening to the same songs over and over whether on the radio or my playlist. I’m using my commute, which can range from twenty minutes to 70 minutes depending on day and time and whether they’ve decided it’s a good night to do some construction, to go somewhere else through the auspices of a good book. Drive time is now a pleasure, if not a pleasure at least not as much of a drag.

Most times I download a book to my phone through Axis 360 (an eBook provider through the Mass eCollection) and listen to it through the speakers in the car. I’ve tried science fiction, fantasy, true crime, historical fiction, and they all allow me to have that break and come home refreshed instead of tense. To be sure I have been tempted to drive around the block a time or two when the story has me really intrigued…but don’t tell my husband!

Here are a few of my favorite listens:

The TerraCover image for Master Thievesnauts by T. C. BoyleCover image for The Underground Railroad

Master Thieves by Stephen Kurkjian

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon


∼ Kirsten