You might think literary heavyweight Marcel Proust has nothing to say to you, but French author Alain de Botton wants you to experience How Proust Can Change Your Life. This book is a unique animal, blending wit, literary biography, and self-help to illustrate the power of reading and life experiences. The short chapters have pithy titles including “How to Be a Good Friend,” “How to Suffer Successfully,” and “How to Be Happy in Love.” The audiobook format best allows you to appreciate the humor, with narrator Nicholas Bell easily bringing out the lightness in the anecdotes and observations. Change your life with one of the books we are reading along with our friends in Sèvres, France.
Check It Out
The PEN American Center, the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, has announced the winners of the 2013 PEN Literary Awards. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, one of the most decorated books of 2012, added yet another well-deserved accolade in the John Kenneth Gailbraith Award for Nonfiction. Additional highlights include
Literary Science Writing Award: Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow
Award for Literary Sports Writing: Like Any Normal Day: A Story of Devotion by Mark Kram, Jr.
Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing: Frank Deford
Award for Biography: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
Open Book Award: Gun Dealers’ Daughter by Gina Apostol
Translation Prize: The Island of Second Sight by Albert Vigoleis Thelen, translated from the German by Donald O. White
National Book Award winner The Round House is an iron fist in a velvet glove. In this intimate stunner, Joe is a thirteen-year-old living with his parents on a North Dakota reservation. When his mother is raped, he cannot bear to watch her waste away in a self-imposed prison of silence and suffering. Instead, he determines to do what he can to bring peace to his family, even as he struggles with understanding his own place in a complicated intersection of worlds. This powerful tale gains even greater impact in the measured pacing and authentic cadence of performer Gary Farmer. With an eye for detail and an ear for language, author Louise Erdrich masterfully crafts a layered, thoughtful narrative that exposes both beauty and truth.
Celebrate June is Audiobook Month by turning a ready ear to the brand new winners of the 2013 Audie Awards. Whether on a sunny walk, a cross-country road trip, or even a daily commute, you will find the journey to be all the better in the company of an expert story. Audiobook listeners can also earn chances for prizes in MPPL’s summer reading program, Have Book, Will Travel, so why not start with one of these?
Science Fiction: The Age of Miracles (Walker) – read by Emily Rankin
Literary Fiction: Bring Up the Bodies (Mantel) – read by Simon Vance
Mystery: The Beautiful Mystery (Penny) – read by Ralph Cosham
Romance: The Witness (Roberts) – read by Julia Whelan
Solo Narration – Female: Katherine Kellgren for The Boy in the Suitcase (Kaaberbøl and Friis)
Solo Narration – Male: Edoardo Ballerini for Beautiful Ruins (Walter)
Teens: The Fault in Our Stars (Green) – read by Kate Rudd
Children’s Title for Ages 8-12: Same Sun Here – written and read by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
Children’s Titles for Ages Up to 8: The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case (McCall Smith) – read by Adjoa Andoh
The U.S. book world uttered a collective sigh of relief when the 2013 Pulitzer committee actually named a Fiction winner. Still reeling from the unpopular decision to withhold the 2012 Prize, readers have even more reason to celebrate The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, the worthy recipient of this year’s honor. Lauded as “an exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart,” The Orphan Master’s Son was selected over fellow finalists What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander and The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. The Prize is given annually to a work of distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.
Canadian series Slings & Arrows is must-viewing for anyone with a weakness for theater. Each season showcases the staging of a Shakespeare play that finds its themes oddly paralleled in the current cast’s shenanigans. An entertaining blend of broad comedy and poignant life lessons played by a masterful cast.
Twelve days before Hurricane Katrina lands in Bois Savage, Mississippi, we meet 14-year-old Esch Batiste, a most unlikely heroine. Living in dire poverty with three brothers and her oft-drunken father, her attention is divided between a hidden pregnancy and a new litter of pit bull puppies. Winner of the National Book Award, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward is an evocative story of an already-embattled family faced with incomprehensible forces of nature. Narrator Cherise Boothe fascinates as the heartbreaking Esch, a girl used by boys since she was twelve but who dreams of being the strong women of mythic tales. Under Boothe’s skill, what might otherwise be a difficult story to hear is transformed into a lyrical narrative with universal resonance.
In Cold War-era Britain, compulsive reader Serena Frome is unexpectedly recruited by MI5. Her big chance comes with the launch of Operation Sweet Tooth, one designed to fight Communist propaganda by secretly supporting writers with the right ideals. Serena’s beauty and interest in books puts her in an ideal position to befriend rising author Tom Haley. From the first paragraph of Ian McEwan’s latest, we already know that the mission doesn’t end well, but it’s easy to be distracted by the earnest narration of actress Juliet Stevenson. Through her voice, Serena feels her way through perception, deception, and manipulation. Exposure is imminent, but who, by whom, and how? Just wait for the final reveal, one that will especially gratify fans of Atonement.
“Water, water, everywhere; Nor any drop to drink.” This line from Coleridge’s memorable poem may have been an all-too-prescient glimpse into the havoc we have since wreaked on our natural resources. Nick Hayes certainly thinks so, and he has crafted a visually stunning work in The Rime of the Modern Mariner. Exquisite woodcut-inspired illustrations translate the story into a mesmerizing tale of environmental disaster, but one that is anchored by the actions (or inaction) of two primary characters: a sailor with a fantastic tale to tell and a jaded businessman cornered on the day his divorce becomes final. The text itself is spare, just a few words per page, effectively allowing the rhythm and rhyme to carry the reader along the waves of story. Savor both the poignant beauty and the timely message.
It is a gifted writer who can compose sentences that remind you of haunting melodies. Kazuo Ishiguro is one such author, and his collection Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall boasts charms that will soothe the savage breast. Set in different cities worldwide, each story is shared from the perspective of a single musician, all struggling to balance the idealism of music’s promise with the colder realities of making one’s way in the world. A sense of humor lightens many of the characters’ exploits, especially in the title story, in which an aging jazz musician undergoes plastic surgery to improve his image. Narrators Mark Bramhall, Simon Vance, Kirby Heyborne, and Lincoln Hoppe each take their turns at the podium to orchestrate Ishiguro’s symphony in words.