Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer in the City, Pt. IV (Books)

One of the upsides to a long commute is that every day you have a couple of hours to yourself. No internet, no television, just you and the commute. In cities with comprehensive public transit, you can read on your commute, which I am jealous of daily. In L.A., the best I can do is audiobooks. I'd never read an audiobook before, and surprisingly it didn't take much getting used to. They are expensive though, so I think I'm going to have to start going to the library, which I always forget exists. If only the library worked like Netflix. So here's some books I've read recently -- some audio, some not:

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
I bought this on a whim, because Me and You and Everyone We Know, the movie July wrote and starred in, was so interesting, that I wanted to see what she'd done in short stories. This one was an audiobook, and July's voice was surprisingly perfect for every character. Almost all of them melancholy, she transformed to suit different genders and age brackets and levels of sanity, without really putting on different voices. The stories are strange, some are a bit vulgar, and there is a sense of humor and hope even in the sad scenes she depicts.

Always Looking Up: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox
I have loved Michael J. Fox for as long as I can remember. Family Ties, Teen Wolf, the Back to the Future trilogy. I had a crush on him before I knew what a crush was. In high school, I watched Spin City, and wept when he left the show to be replaced by Charlie Sheen. I read his first autobiography Lucky Man as if I were reading a loved one's diary. Always Looking Up is very different than Lucky Man, but a welcome sequel. It focuses primarily on Fox's advocacy for stem cell research and his work to find a cure for Parkinson's. It's an interesting look at his life's work, a calling clearly more fulfilling to him than acting. It's clear that celebrity is a big part of his life, but that he has completed the transition to who he will be remembered as, far more than an adorable Canadian teen actor. (Note: audiobook read by the author himself)

Blankets by Craig Thompson
A coworker recommended this graphic novel to me, and I really wish someone had told me about it when I was a few years younger. I definitely enjoyed Thomspon's skillfully illustrated memoir, and it would have really struck a chord with me when I was a teenager. As an autobiography, Thompson's story has been heard before. Lonely child grows up poor, in an oppressively religious home, and finds hope when he finds love as a teenager. But his salvation comes through his artwork, his break with Christianity, and his escape from Tinytown. But the drawings are so graceful, his pain and subsequent deliverance drip off the page.

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
To date, the only other Bryson book I've read is his Australian travelogue In a Sunburned Country, and as I am currently reading his Shakespeare biography, I am very eager to continue reading his ouevre. I've previously read and enjoyed Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World, and while Bryson's book covers much of the same information, it approaches it in a different way. Bryson opens the tome by explaining that while the world doesn't need another Shakespeare biography, his collection does. It's clear that Bryson is this curious genius, setting out to know what he can about our world and its history. And it's fun to have him explain what he's learned. Which in the world of Shakespeare, isn't much. The audiobook is read by Bryson himself, and it's like attending a teatime lecture by a friendly professor.

Next up, I've got Louisa May Alcott's classic Little Women on CD. I think for audiobooks, I'm going to be sticking to educational nonfiction and classics, as in all honesty, those would be the hardest for me to get through by reading the traditional method. Speaking of classics, I'm still reading Tolstoy's War and Peace which my boyfriend gave me for Christmas, and I am embarrassingly only about halfway through. I'm enjoying every bit of it, but it is simply not a page-turner.


Laura said...

Audiobooks sound like an interesting thing to delve into. Sounds intriguing.

Gretchen said...

I can't stand audiobooks (my mind wanders and suddenly I have no idea what's going on in the narrative), but they're really popular. I'm glad you're enjoying them on your commute. And yes, get thee to your local public library! Free books! Free audiobooks! Free movies!

By the way, Craig Thompson wrote and illustrated Good-bye, Chunky Rice before he did Blankets. You may enjoy it!