Eight books to help you escape for a while

November 24, 2016 • Posted in blindness, politics, radio, technology for people who are blind, Uncategorized by

When I woke up the day after the 2016 presidential election, I couldn’t hear out of my left ear. Days later the infection spread to my right ear as well. I couldn’t hear at all.

The timing was uncanny. Maybe it was a gift from the Gods. My ears plugged up the very day the drawn-out election was finally over. I couldn’t hear the radio. I couldn’t hear the television. I couldn’t hear my talking computer. Without my hearing, I could tune out politics completely. See no evil, hear no evil?

Seriously, though? I was miserable. So was Mike. The little candy-bar-sized contraption I use to listen to books eventually came to my rescue. If I turned the volume all the way up and held it right to my ear, I could listen to books. The Victor Reader Stream features buttons rather than a touch screen, and I’d already been pretty much connected to it before my hearing loss — books were my escape from the pre-election noise.

My sub-conscience must have taken over when selecting books — without intending it, every single book I downloaded the past month is written by an author from — or takes place in — a foreign country.

Understanding that some of you Safe & Sound blog readers may be looking for an escape from the news media, too, I’m sharing my recent book list.

  1. A Great Reckoning
    The characters from a tiny made-up town in Quebec come in and out of all of Louise Penny’s books: the gay couple who own the bistro, the cranky old poet named Ruth who swears a lot, the bookstore owner named Myrna, and so on. The Great Reckoning was just published this year, and if you choose to listen to it instead of reading the print version, you’re in for a treat — the narrator can even do a French-Canadian accent. The idyllic town of Three Pines is so far removed that there’s nary a mention of smart phones, tweets or texts. Bestseller. 2016.
  2. A Man Called Ove
    Ove is nearly sixty and the grumpiest man on the block. After losing his wife, his job, and his role as coobrienndominium president he decides to commit suicide. Enter a lively family of new neighbors and a stray cat, and Ove might just have a reason to keep living. First published in Swedish in 2012.
  3. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
    In the age of Rembrandt, artist Sara de Vos paints an image for the ages. In 1950s New York, a lawyer discovers that the painting he inherited has been replaced by a copy. Fifty years later, the lawyer, the forger, and the paintings are brought together.
  4. The Light between Oceans
    Western Australia, 1926. On an island one hundred miles from the mainland, lighthouse keepers Isabel and Tom Sherbourne discover a boat carrying a dead man and a crying baby. The decisions they make that day come back to haunt them several years later. Bestseller. 2012.
  5. Norwegian Wood
    Toru Watanabe is overcome by sadness when he hears the Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood.” It evokes the events of that long-ago autumn of 1969 when he fell in love in Japan with Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend. Written by Haruki Murakami.
  6. The Little Red Chairs
    Dr. Vladimir Dragan, a holistic healer from the Balkans, arrives one day in a small village in Ireland. Fidelma McBride begins an affair with Dragan. Written by Edna O’Brien. 2016.
  7. Country Girl
    Edna O’Brien’s book about growing up in Ireland — she reads the audio edition. Describes her childhood in County Clare, apprenticeship at a pharmacist’s shop in Dublin, and literary high life in London and New York in the 1960s. Bestseller. 2016.
  8. Mr. Strangelove: a biography of Peter Sellers
    Biographer explores the quirky comic genius of British actor Peter Sellers, who just happens to appear in two of my favorite movies: Dr. Strangelove and Being There.

My hearing is improving by the day, and for that I am very thankful. I’ll continue using it to read books, so if you have Any suggestions (by American authors or others) please leave them here in the comment section. I’m all ears!

ojdoherty On November 24, 2016 at 1:17 pm

I hope your hearing comes back to normal soon. That would totally freak me out! I have started listening to audiobooks again and was thinking about posting about what I’ve been reading. I would like to read some that you’ve mentioned here. Thanks for the recommendations.


bethfinke On November 25, 2016 at 11:41 am

Oh please do post what you’ve been reading –I’m looking for suggestions myself.


Carolina On November 24, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Happy Thanksgiving to my favorite Printers’ Rowers! Glad you are recovering, Beth!
May I add Maria Semple’s WHERE DID YOU
GO, BERNADETTE? Written by a former writer for Arrested Development, WHERE is a hilarious and endearing, daughter’s account of her genius architect mother’s wacky journey from
Seattle to the North Pole. Utterly unexpected
cast. Stick w it after first 2 slowish pages…
Xox Carolina
PS let us know if you are up to a choir concert at Jones n 2 weeks.

bethfinke On November 25, 2016 at 11:43 am

Very much appreciate the warning about the first couple of pages of Maria Semple’s book. I actually did start reading it and after a few pages, I quit! Also wonder if a lot of it is done in text message format or email? That can be tough in audio if narrator decides to read the words “Subject colon” and “To colon” out loud. Sometimes they do!


glivingston On November 28, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Where’d you go Bernadetter is written in a mixed form, with letters, emails etc. that would make the audio very difficult. Maria Semple has a new book out called This Day Will be Different that sounds very funny. I am not sure about the form of it though.

bethfinke On November 29, 2016 at 11:15 am

You know, I think I tried that “Where’d you Go?” book twice (so many book clubs were reading it!( and just couldn’t get through it. Your description here explains why. But eyebrows up! Maria Semple’s new book is available free of charge to those of us who are blind thanks to the Library of Congress Talking Book program — I’m downloading it as I type. Will send you a review once I’ve finished listening to it….


Benita Black On November 26, 2016 at 11:51 am

Antarctica, no? I thought the book was overrated. But that’s just me.

silvermansharon On November 24, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Thanks,Beth. Always looking for good reads. One of my all time favorites is The Amazing Kavalier Brothers by Michael Chabon.

I’m eager to read his new book Moonglow.


bethfinke On November 25, 2016 at 11:44 am

I did like Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Mchael Chebon….


Benita Black On November 26, 2016 at 11:50 am

Do you mean The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay? I liked it too.

judy roth On November 24, 2016 at 3:44 pm

if you want to keep busy reading for the next month, I recommend “Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. It’s the book the musical is based on and, in spite of it’s length, it’s well written and keeps your attention

bethfinke On November 25, 2016 at 11:46 am

Genius minds think alike. I read the audio version of the Chernow book before I went to “Hamilton the Musical.” It took 38 hours to read the audio version, but well worth it.


The Empty Pen On November 25, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Yikes! Beth, I’m sorry about your hearing…although, yes, it was good timing. I hope the infection clears up soon.

Have you listened to The Girl Before by Rena Olsen?

I also second Where’d You Go Bernadette.

bethfinke On November 25, 2016 at 12:55 pm

The Girl Before isn’t available free from the Library of Congress Talking book program yet — I’ll try audible.com Thanks for the suggestion!


Pat Miller On November 25, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Not American, but a really terrific book: “H is for Hawk” by Helen McDonald.

Also, I’ve pre-ordered the 20-hour audio book CDs of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography – read by the man himself! I’d be happy to lend them to you if you’re interested. The book has been getting great reviews. I think it will be 2-3 weeks before the CDs arrive.

I am so thrilled about Bruce getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He’s been one of my heroes since 1975 (and you know how obsessed I am about music). The last concert I went to with my sister 3 or 4 months ago (my 38th Springsteen concert, I think) was just amazing.

bethfinke On November 26, 2016 at 12:26 pm

I heard Terry Gross interview Bruce about his new memoir on Fresh Air and it dawned on me that he would b the ideal narrator of his own memoir. Delighted to hear he took the time to read the entire book himself, and thanks for the offer to lend me the CDs when you’re done listening –very generous!


Benita Black On November 26, 2016 at 11:54 am

Last week’s Book Review Section of the NYT devotes several pages to Audio Books, just fyi.

bethfinke On November 26, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Thanks for the heads up –I’ll give that article a listen.


glivingston On November 28, 2016 at 4:27 pm

I just finished Gustav Sonata in book form, but I think the audio would be good. Interesting story of relationship between two boys spanning decades–very touching (like a Man Called Ove in that regard). Ready to read News of the World, which sounds fascinating. And a while back I did the audio version of some of David Foster Wallace’s essays, which he reads on the audio. I highly recommend them. His voice is great and the essay on the lobster festival in Maine is quite amazing (and really about much more than lobsters). The collection is called Consider the Lobster.

bethfinke On November 29, 2016 at 11:11 am

Great suggestions, Gretchen! I especially like the idea of listening to David Foster Wallace read his own work — I’ve read some of his essays (the one about tennis is the most memorable) but find his longer works more difficult to take in. I bet hearing them in his voice will help a ton. Thanks for the recommendation.


Mel Theobald On November 29, 2016 at 1:24 am

Beth, I’m so happy that your ear infection is abating. Mike kept us informed. You know I’m into Russian culture and if you haven’t read it and it is available in audio, may I strongly recommend “Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov. It is one of the most important Russian books of the 20th Century and one of my favorites.

bethfinke On November 29, 2016 at 11:19 am

Thanks, Mel. Believe me, I’m happy my ear infection is abating as well! And guess what? Your book is indeed available from the Library of Congress Talking Book program — in English and in Russian. I think I’ll opt for the English version….thanks for the recommendation! PS to people with visual impairments interested in the audio version of this book, the call letters are DB37107


Mel Theobald On November 29, 2016 at 12:02 pm

That is great news. Please let me know what you think when you have finished it. I’d love to know. Brilliant decision to read it in English. LOL

bethfinke On November 30, 2016 at 4:59 pm

The audio version is 15 hours and 25 minutes long. But then again, that’s nothin compared to the biography of Alexander Hamilton!


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