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We asked Danielle Cohen, a professional audiobook narrator recently recognized as one of two “emerging talent” winners at this year’s Audio Publishers Association Conference (disclaimer - also our great friend), to recommend a few audiobooks for summer travels. We hope her list and the accompanying reviews help you find the perfect book for your next "listen". We thank Danielle for her help and believe this post provides a fitting ending for National Audiobook Month, or as some of us call it - June. We hope we can all find time to listen to a good story ASAP.
Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (2013), narrated by Juliet Stevenson - I decided to listen to this audiobook as Juliet Stevenson was the narrator and she didn’t disappoint, and nor did the novel. The story spans the life of Alma Whittaker which covers most of the 19th century. Alma is a curious, intelligent and fascinating woman whose passion for botany and evolution make her ahead of other women of the time. This is audiobook is almost 22 hours long and I mostly listened to it whilst driving. When I was done I had to pull over into a car park as I was crying so much. I felt that sad Alma and Juliet would no longer be accompanying me on my journeys! ~ Danielle Cohen, guest reviewer
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (2017), narrated by Gemma Whelan - Beth Reynolds, Children's Librarian at the Norwich Public Library, recommended this book to me and what a great recommendation it was. This middle school fiction novel, narrated by Gemma Whelan is full of wonderful characters, portrayed by Whelan with admirable skill. Morrigan Crow is a young girl who believes that she is cursed and doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. However, she is saved by the eccentric Jupiter North, who whisks Morrigan away to Nevermoor, where she has to pass various magical tests to become a member of the prestigious Wundrous Society. It did remind me somewhat of Harry Potter, but that’s not a bad thing! I can’t wait to listen to book 2. ~ Danielle Cohen, guest reviewer
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng (2017), narrated by Kivlighan de Montebello - This is a delightful audiobook; it’s extremely well produced with a full cast and great sound effects. It’s the story of space-loving Alex Petroski (read superbly by young actor, Kivlighan de Montebello) and his desire to launch his Golden iPod into space. The book is funny, sad, and heartwarming and we experience it all with Alex and the wonderful characters helping him along his journey. This is middle school fiction, but I listened to this with my whole family, including two teenage daughters and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. ~ Danielle Cohen, guest reviewer
The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz (2005), narrated by Alfred Molina - I recently listened to this biography of the Beatles and got completely immersed in it. It felt like I was listening to fiction rather than non fiction. The Beatles had already disbanded by the time I was born, but being a kid in the 70’s and 80’s of course I listened to their music; this biography taught me a lot about their rise to fame. And, it was well read by British actor Alfred Molina. My only issue was that the writer clearly didn’t like Yoko Ono, and I don’t think he was too keen on John Lennon either. That said, it seemed well researched and for me was well worth listening to. ~ Danielle Cohen, guest reviewer
Sourdough: Or Lois and Her Adventures in the Undergournd Market: A Novel by Robin Sloan (2017) narrated by Therese Plummer - This is a quirky novel and I really enjoyed the audio version. Therese Plummer is a great narrator, who totally brings this book to life. Lois Clary is a software engineer at robotics company in San Francisco, who “acquires” a sourdough starter which basically changes her life! There are many mentions of King Arthur Flour, plus a soupcon of magic. I went out and bought a sourdough starter as soon as I’d finished the book. One final thought, if you are from the San Francisco area apparently Plummer mispronounces some street names. I didn’t notice as I’m not familiar with them, but it may annoy you!! ~ Danielle Cohen, guest reviewer
Grads and Dads: the gift of books
State of the Union, A Marriage in Ten Parts by Nick Hornby (May 2019) - A husband and a wife walk into a bar, order a drink, and discuss their marriage before heading to their weekly therapy session - for ten weeks in a row. What comes of it?... This isn't the beginning of a joke. Rather, it's the premise of a brilliant, short-but-sweet and even funny 10 chapter novel. Topping out at 140 pages, master comedian and writer Nick Hornby (of "About a Boy," and "High Fidelity" fame) deftly and sensitively guides readers into the depths of a relationship that's in trouble. There are kids, there are infidelities, there is wine and beer being served, there are middle aged people feeling a little bit unsexy and even, obviously, a tad bit vulnerable. But this is the loveliness of this whipper-snapper smart novel composed almost entirely of dialogue. And it is this dialogue that made it ripe to be snatched up by Sundance TV which has now made it into a popular series. This may not seem like a Father's Day gift but it is. It's honest. It addresses the challenges men and women really face when parenting, working, and facing the (beautiful!) reality of middle age. It is a wonderful springboard for discussion. And it is a book that will be appreciated by all comers: Dads, Grads, Moms, Readers, Writers, Thinkers. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Tenth Anniversary Edition by Mark Bittman (2017) - It seems like we are all trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. With this cookbook, Mr. Bittman truly helps. Told in a style that assumes the reader is an amateur, without being at all patronizing, this ode to vegetable dishes is a great gift for graduates starting their cookbook library and fathers who may wish to add a few more vegetarian meals to their lives. For omnivores, Mr. Bittman's How to Cook Everything is also a perfect gift. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
Cooking From Scratch: 120 recipes for colorful seasonal food from PCC Community Markets by PCC Community Markets (2018) - This new cookbook makes a great gift for any gift giving occasion this summer. We had to look up PCC Community Markets - turns out it is the nation’s largest community-owned food market. Despite our initial ignorance, we love what we have seen in their cookbook. This Seattle based market organized this cookbook with recipes for every meal of the day, including many of their most popular dishes, such as Emerald City Salad. ~ Lisa Christie
Very Good Lives by JK Rowling (2015) Ms. Rowling's 2008 Harvard commencement speech lovingly illustrated in this book offers the perfect place to insert the check you were planning to give your god-daughter or grandson or son or niece on their graduation. Or, it is the perfect gift on its own for your favorite neighbor or babysitter upon his graduation. Ms. Rowling hits on failure and responsibility and of course imagaination. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
Calypso by David Sedaris (2018) - Mr. Sedaris’s latest collection of essays tackles the “not-so-joyful” aspects of reaching middle age. Perhaps because of this, this collection is not as laugh-out-loud funny as his previous collections. That said, it is impossible for me to read Mr. Sedaris’s work without hearing his distinctive voice in my head, making his wry insights even funnier than they initially appear on the page. And honestly, his perceptive commentary about life’s mundane and heartbreaking moments is superb no matter the level of humor. Give this as a great gift or pick this up and enjoy it yourself! ~ Lisa Christie (seconded by Lisa Cadow)
Manhood for Amateurs: The pleasures, regrets of a husband, father and son by Michael Chabon (2009) - This collection is older but we have a hard time thinking of a better look at life as a father/man in America. As IndieNext said in their review, "The subjects are varied, but the writing is consistently sharp, poignant, humorous, and a pure joy to read.” And, it's a perfect gift for any dad. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
Finding the Help We All Need
May is Mental Health Month in the USA so we thought we would use the last post of the month to highlight mental health issues. To do so, we have reviewed one excellent new book by a therapist about her own therapy journey and her work with some of her more memorable patients. We also shared instagram and website links to another woman's ongoing mental health journey. To finish, we highlighted some direct links to mental health services. At this point, we think it goes without saying that as book bloggers, we would also argue that reading is great medicine for our collective mental health. So, let's all take a collective break from the news and read a book or two this week.
We hope in some small way this post helps us all take better care of ourselves, and show a bit more understanding for the struggles of others.
And as today is Memorial Day, we also remember the veterans we honor today (and their families).
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb (2019) -- I loved every page of this expansive memoir of the author's life as a therapist and as someone in therapy. Ms. Gottlieb's honesty about her own mental health needs -- begun by a strong need for help recovering from the unexpected ending of her engagement, but definitely not ending there - intertwined with tales of her clients really allows you to look at your own mental health and what can be done to help (even if you are fine, or think you are fine). ~ Lisa Christie and strongly seconded by Lisa Cadow who adds: As someone headed back to school in the fall to pursue a masters in counseling, I found this book to be a jump start into better understanding the therapeutic process. Gottlieb is whipper-snapper smart, funny, and a great story-teller. Lucky for us, she is also an excellent educator and she uses this book as a way to explain techniques, theory, and the history of psychology. Not surprisingly, given her choice of career path, she has fantastic insight into the human condition. You will wish you could find a therapist like her.
For those of us who would like more tales of mental health journeys, or who need help identifying your own mental health needs, or for anyone needing direct avenues to help, we have a few more resources for you.
First, if you are the type who is inspired by watching others' lives, our friend and neighbor Kate Speer has been so brave and honest about her own mental health journey. In doing so, she (and her dog Waffle) is helping and inspiring so, so, so many along the way. You can find her TED talk story here. You can find her website here. If you are on instrgram, you can find her here and her dog Waffle here. Finally, if you need help branding you can find Kate's day job here.
Secondly, both the MAYO Clinic and the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses have tips for helping to find the right mental health services for you.
Finally, for those of you who think mental health services are out of reach financially, NBC news highlighted some ways to afford the care you need.
May we all find the peace we need.
And now, one final note: Here is a moment of full disclosure in the spirit of our belief that, if - and only if - you are comfortable airing your own issues, discussing mental health with candor and compassion can help others. We are hoping that frank discussions about our own mental health take away some stigmas. (And that some of the stories and resources we highlight here today help as well.)
So, to continue, a change awhile back in my family situation (this is Lisa Christie typing) led me to a mental health crisis of my own; one which I am still struggling through with help from a very compassionate and learned therapist, and for awhile with help from a couples therapist. In posting today, I want to make it clear we at the Book Jam are not offering quick resolution or claiming to be experts. I for one, am clearly not a case where a mental health crisis meant immediate "cures"; honestly, it has actually created (or perhaps better said - unearthed) more than a few additional issues. However, I would argue that crisis and the therapy it led me to has meant many things I needed to address for my own good are finally being upended (even if not always with grace, poise, immediate gratitude, or honestly easy solutions). Thus, even if it is not always pleasant (it's often downright painful for me and others - sorry family), I firmly believe my improved mental health ultimately benefits many (please). I also believe if one's mental health improves, one's body and the rest of one's life benefit as well. So, may all our journeys lead to great places, even if the path itself is difficult. And with that, we end today's post.