Thursday, June 20, 2019

6 Awesome Books Worth a Read AND a Listen!

Some people love reading a book, some groove to a good listen, and sometimes, when the planets align just right, you'll find a book that's worth your time to do both.

I discovered this quite by accident, but realized I could gain something unique and complimentary by both reading a book I loved AND later going back and listening to it (or, in some cases, alternating between both at the same time).

It started with Tina Fey and Steve Martin, both of whom had books out that I wanted so badly I actually bought in full-price hardback. The want was strong! And it was so worth the price. Then I thought, hmm, I bet it would be great to hear these funny performers read their own audiobooks (and it was!). So I bought that format, too. (I eventually bought them both in ebook format as well, making it easier to search and find interesting bits.)

In other instances I would hear rave reviews about the narration of a book I'd already read, so I'd get the audiobook, too. In one case, I'd already read a book on my own that later came up in my book club, and as a way to refresh my memory and still experience the book in a new way, I bought the highly touted audiobook. Which turned out to be worth every dime and minute.

If you're ready to roll (and read and listen!) here are six fabulous books, in no particular order, that you'll want to both read and listen to the audiobook version.

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Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants by Tina Fey 

Narrated by: Tina Fey
Tina Fey tells the story of her life, and how she got into showbiz, with characteristic wit. That life included her time at The Second City and Saturday Night Live, writing (and acting) in Mean Girls and 30 Rock, and much more.

To read it is to know her, and to hear her read it is to know her even better and feel like you're listening to a one-woman show. Or like you're chatting with a smart, funny friend over coffee. She even manages to drop some useful career advice. Bossypants also featured in my list of audiobooks to rock your road trip a few years back.

Book: 283 pages
Audio: 5 hours and 35 minutes
Great Line: Again, don't waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. ... Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Narrated by: Grover Gardner
This deeply moving and beautiful book follows Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd after the Civil War as he travels through Texas, reading from newspapers to paying audiences seeking a window to the world. The old man has fought in two wars and lost a wife, and now enjoys his rootless existence. When he's asked to deliver a young orphan who had been captured and raised by members of the Kiowa tribe to her only living relatives, he reluctantly agrees. The heart, understanding and courage he displays on the perilous journey is matched by the young girl's bravery and tenacity in the face of being torn from the only family she remembers.

I originally read and loved this book in print form (ebook, to be exact). Later it was a pick for a book club I attended, so I brought myself back up to speed and experienced the book in a whole new way by purchasing the audiobook. The narrator does a beautiful job, making the listening a distinctly new and rich experience. (Note: For an unknown reason, the audiobook is no longer on Audible, though if you already own it you'll still find it in your library. It is, however, available on

Book: 209 pages
Audio: 5 hours and 58 minutes
Great Line: Life was not safe and nothing could make it so, neither fashionable dresses nor bank accounts. The baseline of human life was courage.

Milkman by Anna Burns

Milkman by Anna Burns

Narrated by: Brid Brennan
We don't know the city or the characters' names in this book, though it appears to be set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. This winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize uses an original and striking style in a tale of an invisible girl in a world of invisible women, and what happens when she becomes visible to a dangerous man whose unwanted attentions nearly unravel her life. 

The reviews for the audiobook narration were so strong that I actually started this one as a listen, making use of an Audible credit. Later, while listening, the ebook I'd had on hold at the library came in. Thanks to Kindle whispersync, I easily switched back and forth between the two. I'd seen many reviewers say they tended to get lost in the somewhat stream-of-consciousness tale, but I didn't experience that. I think that was due to the stellar narration, which led me along with perfect timing and inflection. At times I felt I wanted to speed through more quickly, impatient to see what came next, and that's when I would switch to the ebook. It was a wonderful way to experience this engrossing book.

Book: 352 pages
Audio: 14 hours and 11 minutes
Great Line: People always said you'd better be careful. Though how, when things are out of your hands, when things were never really in your hands, when things are stacked against you, does a person - the little person down here on the earth - be that?

Calypso by David Sedaris
Calypso by David Sedaris
Narrated by: David Sedaris
This is the latest in a long line of books by Sedaris featuring essays that are both extremely funny and at times shockingly personal. Any one of them fits in the category of books that are worth both a read and a listen. Sedaris is a master at reading his own work, so much so he fills concert halls with eager fans.

The experience of reading it at your own pace, hearing it in your head in your own voice and with your own emphasis, is a fascinating departure from hearing the author read it. I love doing it both ways. Sometimes I'll read one of his books, then later go back and have a listen, and other times I'll turn on whispersync and let Sedaris read to me as I follow along. It's remarkable how each way of experiencing his work has a different feel. 

Book: 272 pages
Audio: 6 hours and 39 minutes

Great Line: Increasingly at Southern airports, instead of a “good-bye” or “thank-you,” cashiers are apt to say, “Have a blessed day.” This can make you feel like you’ve been sprayed against your will with God cologne.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Narrated by: Patti Smith
The writing is lushly poetic, and the story it tells of young artists finding their way in New York serves as a gritty, grungy fairy tale of sorts.

For Just Kids, I highly recommend you read it first and then listen to the audiobook, read by the author. You can really see Patti Smith's talent as a writer as you read, and I think there is a distinct difference reading it yourself than when she reads it to you. You get a different layer hearing her read, a contrasting experience, really. It's such a beautifully written piece, and reading it first lets you focus on the story and Smith's way with words.

Book: 318 pages
Audio: 9 hours and 50 minutes
Great Line: No one expected me. Everything awaited me.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Narrated by: Steve Martin
Steve Martin made his name in the '70s as a stand-up comic, going on to become an acclaimed actor and writer (his Shopgirl is one of my favorite books). Here he tells his life story, and it's been a hell of a life. I honestly think you'll find this book enjoyable even if you aren't a fan of his already. However, if you are a fan, this is next-level great.

Martin flexes his considerable writing muscles with this one, and then puts his admirable skills as a performer to work in the audio version. Both are very worth your time, in either order: read first, then listen, or vice versa. Doesn't matter; it's a treat to be savored either way. This one also featured in my list of audiobooks to rock your road trip. 

Book: 224 pages
Audio: 4 hours and 2 minutes
Great Line: Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on

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