Audiobook: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

by Al Franken
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There are six f-bombs in one chapter, mostly because there are two in the title of something Franken wrote and he said it three  times. It’s in the biography section of the bookstore.

I suppose, if you don’t know who Al Franken is, you probably won’t have any interest in this book. That said, I knew who he was, but wasn’t a huge fan.  But, I’d heard enough good about it that I decided to download the audio book.

Franken is in his second term as the junior senator from Minnesota, a former writer for Saturday Night Life, and a very, very smart writer. This book is basically a memoir of his time at SNL, his family life, his first election, and his thoughts on being in the Senate as a whole.

It’s a very smart book. And while it’s not always hilarious, it IS very funny. And insightful. Be aware that Franken is a Democrat, and so there’s definitely a partisan flavor to it (he blames Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and Mitch McConnell for the current state of politics), but he also recognizes a need to work together, and has some good things to say about many Republicans (just not Ted Cruz). It’s insightful, interesting, and incredibly engaging.

And on audio? Very delightful. I loved listening to Franken read his words (I often enjoy celebrity memoirs more in audio) and thought it was a definite value-added to the book. He kept me engaged in the book, and I looked forward to turning it on whenever I got in the car.

A very, very good read.

Advertisements

Real Friends

by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
First sentence:
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It’s a pretty frank look at friendship and anxiety, and there are some uncomfortable parts. That said, it’s pretty great for 4-6th graders. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

I knew, before I even read this, that this was going to be good. It’s Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, after all. It’s not that they can do no wrong, just varying shades of right.

So, even though this is Shannon’s story (of sorts) of her elementary school years, of trying to figure out friendships and make a space for her in this world, of the ups and downs of anxiety and bullying (both an older sister who was somewhat abusive and with girls at school), this is a story for everyone, really. As the oldest in the family, I found myself focusing in on the older sister character, wondering how my younger siblings saw me. The mother in me wanted to give Shannon a hug and protect her from the awful, even though I know that I can’t. And, yeah, I cried.

Part of the reason I read this (I would have anyway!) is because I had school visits (and a small author event) scheduled with Shannon and LeUyen. And at the small author luncheon, they said something interesting: how this story, maybe because it’s so specific to Shannon, is universal. LeUyen found herself in it, even though her family were Vietnamese immigrants in California and not white Mormons in Utah. And there is a lot of truth to that. Shannon also mentioned that there’s a built-in happy ending: she, obviously, has turned out okay. She is happy, she is healthy, she has friends and a successful career. And, she said, that’s a message of hope to kids: you can, in fact, make it through.

I’ve passed it on to K, who loved it. And to C, who has been going through a rough patch of her own. And I do want to give this to every 4-6th grader I know.

As an aside: Shannon and LeUyen are as fantastic and delightful as I thought they would be.  It was wonderful being able to share them with kids and adults here.

Audio Book: Good Clean Fun

by Nick Offerman
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some mild swearing. It’s in the humor section (I think) of the bookstore.

This is, basically, Nick Offerman’s homage to Offerman Woodshop, his woodworker’s collective in L.A. It’s a portrait of the craftspeople who work there, as well as those people Nick has come across in his “career” (the acting just pays the bills) as a woodsmith.

So, no, it wasn’t the best book to 1) start reading Nick Offerman (I think I’m going to try Paddle Your Own Canoe next) or 2) listen to in audio. That said, Nick is delightful to listen to read a book (not as delightful as Neil Gaiman), and there were lots of delightful anecdotes about Nick’s colleagues, as well as his opinions about working with your hands (pro: I felt justified, since I really enjoy canning) and the joy of working with wood, specifically.

I do have to say that while listening to this, I kind of wanted to learn how to build things (not a new desire for me; I should have taken shop class). I enjoyed Offerman’s enthusiasm for the art of woodworking, and his sense of humor. Even though I wish it has more of a narrative, I still found it enjoyable to listen to.

Audiobook: The Princess Diarist

princessdiaristby Carrie Fisher
Read by the author and Billy Lourd
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s about a dozen f-bombs and other mild swearing, plus  some talk of sex (but nothing graphic). It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

I downloaded this to listen to on audio soon after Carrie Fisher died, thinking that I might as well find out what everyone’s been talking about (well, maybe not everyone, but people I trust) when it comes to her writing.

First of all, she’s a delightful narrator. She’s sardonic and funny (not just in the writing, but also READING the book), and I loved listening to her gravely voice reminisce about her experience in making Star Wars. And while the gossip (of sorts) about her and Harrison’s affair was interesting, it really wasn’t, for me, the highlight of the book. (In fact, the actual diaries, which Billy Lourd reads, were kind of, well, lame.) No, the highlight was Fisher. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book in print, but hearing her read this was like sitting in a room and listening to her reminisce. It was delightful and fun, and while not perfect, highly enjoyable.

Probably much like Ms. Fisher herself. (I imagine anyway.)

Audio book: Wild

wildby Cheryl Strayed
Read by Bernadette Dunne
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: Drug use, sex, drinking, yeah: it’s all in here. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

I was wandering around, looking for a new audio book, and stumbled on this one. I figured so many people have raved about it that it couldn’t be terrible. So, I picked it up.

If you’ve been under a rock, it’s Cheryl’s personal story of her redemption, of sorts, after her mother died and her marriage fell apart (due to her infidelities and drug addiction). She decides that what she needs to do is hike the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Washington (actually, Oregon came later, after she discovered that the Sierras were snowed in) alone. She has no experience, she has no idea what’s in store for her. And yet, you have to admire her for going through with it, even when — especially when — the going gets hard.

But I couldn’t get past the “poor me” vibe that I felt was under the whole book. Maybe it’s because Cheryl didn’t narrate her own book and I never really got past that. Or maybe I’m just too judgmental (which I am, unfortunately). But while I really enjoyed the moments when Cheryl was battling against the trail, and mostly succeeding, I didn’t have much patience for Cheryl herself. (Now that I write this, it sounds really judgmental. Maybe it’s just wrong time wrong book?) I was talking to someone who had a similar experience with Eat, Pray, Love (which I really liked). Perhaps we’re more apt to judge women who travel because their lives are broken than those (men?) who just up and leave (I’m looking at you, Bill Bryson) to go experience the world.

I don’t know. I just know that I didn’t connect with this one as much as I hoped it would.

Audiobook: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

youreneverweirdby Felicia Day
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some mild swearing and a couple of f-bombs until you get to the second-to-last chapter, where she talks about Gamer Gate and trolls on the internet,  and then there’s a LOT. It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

I am not a huge fan of Felicia Day. Don’t get me wrong: I know who she is, I’ve seen some of what she’s done, and I like her. But fan? Not really. And yet, this book appealed to me from the moment I saw the cover (and heard the title). A memoir of an awkward, anxiety-riddled, gamer girl who happens to be a semi-famous actor? Count me in.

And it, as read by Day, was absolutely charming. (I’m sure it was charming in print form, too, but I’d definitely recommend listening to this one.) Day writes about her interesting childhood (homeschooled for “hippie reasons not God reasons”), starting college at 16 (double majoring in math and violin performance), heading to LA and trying to break into the acting business, playing World of Warcraft, and finally, creating her own web show ages before anyone knew what a web show was.

It’s a fascinating journey, and while she has “coffee mug” nuggets of wisdom along the way (I wish I wrote them down; they were pretty great), the best part, for me, was just listening to Day be honest about anxiety, depression, and figuring out how to be the best and most honest person she can be.

She sounds like a delightful person, one I’d happily invite to that dinner party with famous people I’d love to have. And this is an absolutely delightful book.

Between You & Me

Confessions of a Comma Queen
by Mary Norris
First sentence: “Let’s get one thing straight right from the beginning: I didn’t set out to be a comma queen.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s a passage with about four F-words, and then a whole chapter on swearing. It’s in the Literary Reference section of the bookstore.

I am not an expert grammarian. I didn’t really pay attention in school when it came to the parts of a sentence or how things are ordered, or when to use (or not use) commas (which I use much too abundantly). But, a good book on grammar? I love that. I don’t know what it is, why I adore learning about this obnoxious language of ours, but I do.

And Between You & Me is a great book on grammar. (Which means I adored it.)

Mary Norris has been a copy-editor at the New Yorker magazine for the past thirty years, so she has some credibility. But, what she also has is a terrific voice. It’s not only readable, she has a snarky streak that is just endearing. She recounts a bit of the history of her time at the magazine, their style differences with the New York Times, and a little bit about how she ended up as a copy-editor. All of which is fascinating.

But what I really enjoyed was a refresher on grammar. Her chapter on commas (where she took on both Melville and Dickens). Or a whole one on apostrophes. (Where she came up with this: “If you are going to put a sign with your family’s name on it in front of your house, as if to say ‘Our House,’ then you wan the plural possessive: The Volts’. And if your name ends in an s you still want the plural, even if it looks terrible: The Norrises’. And if you don’t like it, simply refrain from putting a sign with your name on it in front of your house.” I almost stood up and cheered.) And even the chapter on cursing was entertaining.

I could go on, but i won’t. I’ll just say this: read it. You won’t regret it.