Armchair BEA 2016: On Audiobooks & Book Clubs

I love audiobooks, but I have to admit that I was nervous to start listening to them. My concern was mostly that I wouldn’t pay attention and would miss a bunch of stuff as a result. However, I found that to be the exact opposite of my experience.

Still, my first foray into audiobooks started with me listening to a book I had already read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I figured that was a safe way to figure out if audiobooks were for me or not. Because, hey, if I found that I couldn’t pay attention, it wouldn’t really matter since I had already read the book.

Well, I paid attention, and I was hooked. In fact, listening to HP in the car is how I finally got my daughter into the books. We listened to the whole series as we did road trips over the course of about a year. We also make it a habit now to check out audiobooks before going on a road trip–whether we wind up listening to them or not.

Audiobooks are a great way to bond with children or other family members because you have a shared reading experience and someone else gets to read to you. So, here are five audiobooks that I recommend for family bonding, using me and my daughter as the foolproof sample:

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (read by Jim Dale) — I am not 100% in love with Jim Dale as a narrator, mostly because his Hermione and Luna Lovegood are both absolutely horrid. However, his overall narration is pretty good. Plus, the Stephen Fry version isn’t available Stateside. So we just gotta make do with what we got.

2. The Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park (read by Lana Quintal) — She is hilarious. Also, you can easily listen to multiple books in the series because they’re so short.

3. The Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look (read by LeUyen Pham) — Also hilarious. Also really short.

4. Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money by Christopher Paul Curtis (read by Joe Holt) — Super hilarious. Also, there is a sequel, but my library doesn’t have it in audio form which is the saddest sad to ever sad.

5. Witch Week and Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones (read by Gerard Doyle) — These were less funny and more completely engaging and enthralling. Also, there are more books in the Chrestomanci series, but those are the only two we listened to, so I can’t rec the whole series. Plus, the other books may have different narrators and Gerard Doyle is perfection.

I should also note that we listened to most of these books when my daughter was a teenager even though a lot of them are kiddie lit and not YA.

 

book club

 

I belong to two book clubs: one that meets during the school year and is full of awesome moms (The No Rules Book Club) and one that meets during the summer and is full of awesome grad students/academics (Children’s Lit Summer Reading Book Club). The school year one meets once a month from September – May and the summer one meets every week (give or take one or two) May – August.

The pros of being in a book club include getting together with awesome people to talk about books, eating delicious food, and being exposed to books I might not otherwise read. The biggest con to being in book club is assigned reading. Just like in school, sometimes I like the book and sometimes I don’t. And sometimes I’m fine with reading something that someone else has picked while other times I just want to read the book I want to read.

Unfortunately, I have a reputation in the No Rules club for not liking the books. However, it’s not that I don’t like them. It’s more that I’m just critical of them. I studied literature and creative writing. I don’t read like normal people.

And to prove that I don’t always hate the books, I have compiled a list of five book club books I dug that I would not have picked up on my own:

1. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty — I saw lots of people posting about this after I read it. But I still probably would have skipped it. Not YA and I don’t really care about stories focused on marriage.

2. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford — This was nowhere near on my radar.

3. One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern — See #2.

4. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd — See #2. Also, this is a book about slavery. I do NOT read books about slavery anymore.

5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (read by Edward Hermann) — A biography of a WWII vet? Absolutely not my thing. Also, I found this book completely boring when I tried to read it on paper, so I checked out the audiobook because sometimes the medium matters and wound up completely into it. Edward Hermann is FANTASTIC. I would listen to anything else he narrates. Plus also, I almost put this on the audiobook list above because my daughter listened to a little bit with me and was also intrigued (not enough to make me wait to listen to it with her, however, hence its exclusion from the list).

Bonus: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale — See #2. This is also now one of my favorite books of all time and therefore further proof that sometimes magic can happen in book club.

Okay, party people, tell me what audiobooks you recommend for family bonding and/or a book club pick someone else chose that you wound up digging.

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2 comments

  1. Haley

    I’ve never gotten into audiobooks, but I would really like to. I do remember listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks back when I was in middle school, and as far as I can remember, that was my only audiobook experience. One of my goals this summer is to begin listening to audiobooks, and I’m in the middle of listening to my first one now: The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial.

    Like

  2. Lory

    So glad you are mentioning Diana Wynne Jones! I have never seen a review from anyone who’s listened to her books on audio (nor have I listened to them myself). I’m glad you liked the ones you found. “Completely engaging and enthralling” is how I could describe her books!

    Like

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