Some Great Adult Listening Books

I live in a city and haven’t driven in a million years so I only began listening to books when I figured out that I could do so while running. While slow of foot I’m a speedy reader and have discovered that certain books work better than others listening-wise. I think one reason is that I can’t skim, can’t dash through it as I usually do when reading, and so if the book doesn’t grab me at the sentence level I drift and stop paying attention. Another important element is the narrator and I now understand when people talk with avid enthusiasm about individuals they like.Finally, a well-realized setting and a tantalizing plot (mysteries seem especially appealing in this form) also work well for me.  That said, here are a few adult titles that I’ve found especially pleasurable. Hope you add your own recommendations in the comments.

  • Charles Portis’s True Grit. Excellent. Donna Tartt’s narration and essay (written originally as an introduction to a 2005 edition) are also both terrific. Thanks to the Coen brothers and the various recent articles on Portis for drawing my attention to the book. I think because I was so NOT a John Wayne fan back when the earlier movie came out nor, especially, a Western fan, I somehow missed this book completely.
  • John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces.  I read this many years ago and decided to revisit it after being in New Orleans in June, this time by listening to it. It was SUPERB. In fact, I think I appreciated the sentence level writing even more today than I did years ago. The way Toole uses language is outstanding. And for me, Ignatius J. Reilly, is one of the all-time great characters in literature. I can only imagine what he’d have to say about such IM speech as OMG.
  • Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.  I’m a huge Dickens fan, but had avoided this title because I didn’t think I wanted to read about the French Revolution.  Boy, was I wrong.  I was sobbing so much at “It is a far better thing I do…” part that I had to stop running and sit on a bench till it was over.  (I’ve listened to a bunch of Dickens’ titles and they are pretty much always excellent. The only one I’ve taken a break from and I do plan to finish it eventually is Dombey and Son.)
  • Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone.  Surprisingly wonderful. After listening to it I wrote:  “I believe it is the ur-country-house-British-mystery. I loved the different narrators, I loved the plotting, the settings, the characters — tremendous all around.” I also recommend for listening The Woman in White.
  • Graham Moore’s The Sherlockian.  Since I’m part of a literary sub-culture (Carrollians) that overlaps those who love Holmes, I totally got this book. Moore captures the intensity of literary society types very well and generally created an entertaining story.  Went on to listen to a bunch of the original stories, including A Study in Scarlet (which I inadvertently began with the second part and was mighty puzzled about all the Mormon stuff until I figured out my error).

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Some Great Adult Listening Books

  1. I just listened to S.E. Hinton’s classic “The Outsiders,” on a road trip—wonderful. It’s YA but a crossover by my reading standards—I prefer YA, middle grade. They stick to the story. Less digression :-)

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    • Since most of my reading is children’s and YA I purposely go for adult titles when I listen. Of kids, I’ve only listened to a handful, but one of my all-time favorites was the all-cast audio recording of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

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  2. I’ve been wanting to revisit Holmes lately and just haven’t had time. An audio revisit sounds perfect!

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