Sunday, April 5, 2009

Writers Reading Aloud

You listen to audio books in the car because you spend most of your reading time at home doing research for whatever book you’re currently writing, or enjoying articles from The New Yorker or The New York Times.

But in the car you love listening, and almost wish sometimes that you spent more time driving just so you could listen more (even though that wouldn’t be doing the environment any good).

You would imagine that most publishers of audio books wouldn’t want writers reading their own work because writers are writers, while good and experienced readers (who are often actors and actresses in real life) bring drama, humor, varying voices, and timing to the story. But you have come across some books where the writer read his own work and you thought he (You hope to get to Anne Lamott’s reading of Bird by Bird in your next blog) did such a wonderful job that it made the experience even better. For you, all these books had that rare “I never want this story to end” quality.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson is about growing up in Iowa in the 1950s and, for you, was absolutely drop dead hysterical. You’d like to know how today’s teens react to it, but since you grew up in the same decades as Bryson, and can relate to a lot of what he talks about, it was priceless.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, is about his experiences as a cook in various restaurants before he became a famous author and TV personality. You wouldn’t suggest it for anyone under the age of 16, but it too is funny and wonderfully read by the author.

The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Read by the author, it is a truly heart-wrenching and funny story of what it’s like to be an American Indian growing up on a reservation today. You’d guess it’s for grades 7 or 8 and up, and it’s about as griping and well-told a story as any YA you’ve ever read or listened to (Sorry, you HATE sounding like flap copy!).

You’d put The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian right up there with Feed, by M.T. Anderson, which also happens to be available as an audio book, although you haven’t listened to, but only read, it.

If you haven’t read Feed, here’s the first line, “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” Does that not equal Pynchon and Melville?

And of course you realize there are certainly hundreds more authors who’ve done a spectacular job of reading their own audio books. Perhaps someone out there will suggest a few?

Mr. Bill says, “If you think Bill Bryson is good, you should read Bill Bison!”

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