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Ellen at Notre Dame

Audio Mysteries and the Power of Houses of Worship

Ellen at Notre DameWatching the spire of Notre Dame go up in flames and finally collapse left me gasping. Like many of us who have been fortunate enough to travel to Paris, I have gazed up in awe at that beautiful cathedral. When I was a student in Paris (many years ago), I would walk around Notre Dame every morning on my way to school. On our most recent visit, I climbed the steps to the top of the towers to be face to face with the gargoyles and peer down across the rooftops of this amazing city. While feeling heartbroken over this disaster, I’ve been encouraged to see the social media response reflecting the connection that people all over the world feel to Notre Dame.

Cathedrals, synagogues, mosques, and all houses of worship are so much more than bricks and mortar. They capture beliefs, spirits, faith, hope, fears, celebrations, and grief. They can provide sanctuary and they can divide. And they also inspire. Perhaps that is why they are at the center of so many mysteries and thrillers. Read more…

Small Animals

Audiobooks to Help You Survive Parenthood

Small AnimalsHow does anyone learn to be a parent? We not only can’t be told ahead of time how to do it, but we resist advice once we become parents and find out how hard it is. Many learning audiobooks say that part of the difficulty in the U.S. is a parenting culture that is too doctrinaire and unforgiving. Kim Brooks, the author of SMALL ANIMALS, describes how she was dragged into the legal system by a common parental mistake. She argues that too many parents have to defend their choices against the judgments of other parents and a growing number of institutional scrutinizers. Read more…

Blossoming cherry tree

To Dwell in the Wonder of the World

It’s spring! Yes, even if a snow-bomb cyclone dumped a foot of white stuff in your yard last week, Passover, Easter, and Earth Day are all right around the corner, followed by maypole dances. So let’s savor this froth of cherry tree blossoms as we consider the best new and classic celebrations of the natural and spiritual worlds.

Barbara Brown Taylor’s Earphones Award performance of her celebrated essay collection, AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD, is a listening experience to treasure, preferably while enjoying spring flowers. The theology professor and former Episcopal priest has a pleasant voice with a slight southern lilt that welcomes listeners like the smile so audible in her tone. In essays both personal and universal, she writes about encountering the sacred while living every day—talking a walk, ironing a shirt, waiting in line at the grocery store. As a non-churchgoer, I appreciated her broad view of God and her embrace of the holiness to be found in a garden, as well as in a cathedral or temple. Read more…

An Unconditional Freedom

Rescue Me! 5 Romance Audiobooks with Chases, Escapes, and Swoon-Worthy Rescues

An Unconditional FreedomRescue (verb): To free from confinement, danger, or evil (Merriam Webster). Some of my favorite romances ever involve a good old-fashioned rescue, and these days I’m an equal opportunity rescue junkie, savoring moments of deus ex machina involving characters of any gender. So here are five recent romances featuring memorable chases, escapes, and even verbal disentanglements for your listening pleasure.

Karen Chilton will knock you on your heels with her reading of Alyssa Cole’s Civil War adventures in AN UNCONDITIONAL FREEDOMIn this third installment of her spy series The Loyal League, Cole explores the psychology of slavery and the bravery of Northern spies through the intrepid adventures of Daniel Cumberland and Janeta Sanchez, agents on opposite sides of the war. Chilton’s narration maneuvers through Daniel’s anger and despair as well as Janeta’s increasing doubts about her loyalties. And she handles southern accents and Spanish phrases with ease.  Read more…

How To Love A Country

Poets & Audiobooks: The Interestingness of Connections

How To Love A CountryOne of the things I like best about doing my blog posts is the places I go. For the audiobooks I write about here, I follow a wide variety of breadcrumbs and chase bits of information to amplify the story of the audiobook with details about authors or the topics. This type of research—a bit of web surfing, a rabbit hole to check out, or the discovery of an archival tidbit—is a great pleasure. Today I’m looking at Richard Blanco, Maria Popova, and Leonard Cohen.

Richard Blanco is one of our most influential poets and storytellers. While he lives in Maine, he writes about the world, including his Cuban-American heritage, and invites conversation with all Americans. He was President Obama’s inaugural poet performing his poem, “One Today.” He has published six collections of poetry. The newly released collection HOW TO LOVE A COUNTRY  is a great listening experience. Jennifer Dowell writes in our review, “With a quiet but driving intensity, Richard Blanco delivers poems that speak to our times.”  Watch Richard working in the studio recording the collection—this gives a glimpse at what the full collection offers. Read more…