Tuesday, June 14, 2011
June is Audio Book Month, part deux
Most of the audio books that I listen to on my daily commute (and longer drives, too, when I take them) are fiction. I need a strong narrative to pull me in and keep me interested, but as with so many other things in my life, Bill Bryson is an exception to that rule. Bill Bryson is my hero. I adore his books, to be sure, but I adore his audio books even more. (If you'd like to read about the wonderful day that I got to meet Mr. Bryson himself, check out this blog post from last fall.) My first encounter with his books was the audio version of A Walk in the Woods, his wondrously engaging tale of hiking the Appalachian Trail, and after that I was smitten enough to seek out the rest of his published works.
Bryson happens to read his own audiobooks. I do not usually condone the author's reading of his or her own work, as I find it more often than not disastrous (cue: Toni Morrison reading anything). But he is simply wonderful--he hits all the right notes ranging from wry humor to righteous outrage and everything in between. Moreover, he is as enlightening as he is entertaining. I'm constantly amazed at the random factual tidbits that I am able to work into conversation, of which his books are the source of my knowledge.
For longer trips, I tend to prefer Bryson's material that has a stronger internal narrative, which would be all of his travel books, but his most recent work, At Home, is great for shorter drives like my daily commute. I'm hard-pressed to choose between the aforementioned Walk and his book about Australia called In a Sunburned Country, as my favorite. I've listened to both of them multiple times and am, in fact, currently listening to Sunburned again this week.
I think if there were one writer whose style I'd most like to emulate, it would be Bryson's. It's the perfect blend of humor, information, and personal anecdote, with both understatement and overstatement used to great effect. His audio books are even better. You come away smarter and more thoughtful about the world than you were before, and you feel as if you've somehow made a friend along the way.