Genre: Non-Fiction, Science
Where I Got It: Downloaded it from Audible
Why I Read It: Love that cover! Plus I was curious how Jonathan’s little brother writes
My Rating: 4.5 stars
Brief Description: Participatory journalism at its best, Joshua Foer (brother to novelist Jonathan Safran Foer) explores the world of mnemonists (memory experts to you and me) who can quickly memorize long lists of numbers, words, passages of poetry and more. Foer goes from covering the U.S. Memory Championships for a magazine article to competing in it, and along the way explores how memory works, what tricks and techniques mnemonists use, what role memory plays in our lives and many more little side passages that were always fascinating and interesting.
My Thoughts: This book is just fascinating. It held my attention throughout and had me mourning its end. After listening, I was compelled to try building a memory palace of my own … and damn if it didn’t work! More than 9 months after getting a list of 15 random words from Mr. Jenners and BB, I can still remember the list IN ORDER. If you’re looking for an interesting, amusing and educational non-fiction book, this would be an excellent choice.
About the Narration: Mike Chamberlain was the narrator, and his voice was the perfect fit for Foer’s book and personality. (His voice had a bit of a nerdy flavor to it that seemed appropriate.) Because the book is written in the first person, his narration made the book really come alive. In my mind, Joshua Foer talks exactly like Mike Chamberlain—whether he likes it or not.
The Art of Fielding written by Chad Harbach and read by Holter Graham
Genre: Fiction, Literary
Where I Got It: Downloaded it from Audible
Why I Read It: I kept seeing rave reviews and wanted to see if it lived up to the hype
My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Description: Set on the campus of a (fictional) small liberal arts college in the Midwest, The Art of Fielding follows a year in the life of four different people, all of whom are at a crossroads in their lives: Henry Skrimshander, a soft-spoken baseball prodigy whose entire life revolves around the game; Mike Schwartz, the charismatic, hard-working jock/leader who tries for greatness in sports but finds it more in inspiring and guiding others; Guert Affenlight, the college president who is experiencing a love affair that leaves him feeling dizzy and dangerous; and Pella Affenlight, Guert’s estranged daughter who returns to the campus after fleeing her marriage and is trying to find out just who she really is. Intertwined with the four main characters is Owen Dunne, a self-assured and confident student.
My Thoughts: I wasn’t going to read this book because of the whole baseball thing (which isn’t of interest to me in the slightest). But after reading a few positive reviews that said “Don’t worry about the baseball stuff,” I plunged into it and I’m so glad I did. This isn’t really a baseball book (although baseball plays an important role in it). It is really more about identity, friendship, family, facing your fears, finding your true voice, and figuring out your path in life. In a way, it is five-way coming of age story (even for the “old” guy.) The narration rotates between Henry, Mike, Guert and Pella, and Harbach does a great job of giving them each a unique voice. His decision not to give Owen his own voice was interesting, and I think it worked—even though Owen became one of the most intriguing and interesting characters and I was dying to get inside his head. Despite the plot veering off to “ridiculous” land near the end, I was always involved in the story and it even, maybe a teeny tiny itty bitty little bit, made me appreciate the game of baseball.
About The Narration: Holter Graham was the narrator, and he did a top-notch job. He gave each character a unique voice (making it easy to switch from one to the other without getting confused) and made the words come alive rather than feeling like they were being “read aloud.” It was easy to fall into the story, and I think his narration elevated the book for me—making it even more special than it might have been just reading it in print. If you’re looking for an audiobook, this would be well-worth your time (even if you hate baseball like me. HA!)
The Odds written by Stewart O’Nan and read by Boyd Gaines
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Where I Got It: Downloaded it from audio
Why I Read It: It was all over book blogs for a while and I got interested in it
My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Description: Art and Marion are on the brink of disaster—not only is their house being threatened with foreclosure but their marriage is a bit rickety as well. In a last-ditch attempt to salvage things, they take a Valentine’s Day trip to Niagara Falls (the site of their long-ago honeymoon) with the remainder of their life savings to risk it all on one big gamble for their future.
My Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I’m not even 100% sure why I didn’t like it. I think O’Nan captured all the details and nuances of a long marriage. Everything felt lived in and real. Perhaps that was the problem though. Art and Marion are in a rut. They are not “in love” anymore and can often barely tolerate each other’s company. This made for a difficult listen because I just didn’t look forward to spending time with them. Also, the ending felt abrupt and wrong. Still, I’d read another of O’Nan’s books because it is obvious he can write. I guess I just want to read about someone besides Art and Marion! I did enjoy “the odds” that started each chapter, which often foreshadowed what was to come. I also wanted to try Art’s roulette system. Too bad I couldn’t remember it when I was in Vegas in May!
About the Narration: Boyd Gaines was the narrator and although he did a good job capturing the frustration and worry and nuance in the characters, I still wasn’t captivated by the story. Also his deep voice just wasn’t well-suited for Marion. I think it would have worked better if a female had narrated Marion’s sections.