Audiobooks and Literacy: Literacy Fitness Program

It’s time to wake up your listening skills

Sister Outsider

If you are an educated adult who likes to read, this post may surprise you. Our literacy skills, as research has shown repeatedly and in international as well as American studies, aren’t stable across our adult life spans.

Sister Outsider

Kids’ “summer slide” has been well publicized, but less well known is evidence that adult literacy requires practice in order to persist through life, and not just seasonally. No matter your level of education, advancing age can lead to deterioration of literacy skill sets. Even bookworms can lose their literacy edge if their reading habits stop requiring or inspiring the need to reflect, question critically, or acquire new information. Unfortunately, this becomes the case with many adults in middle age.

These “literacy losses” are actually critical thinking losses. Once we have basic literacy skills (typically achieved in third grade), literacy isn’t about decoding individual words but collecting and absorbing meaning from whole paragraphs, texts, and complex directions. Adult losses in these skill areas impact our abilities to sort information, follow technical directions, and experience empathy. From a practical perspective, these losses mean we feel unsure about where stated fact ends and opinion begins, we may struggle to make sense of the programmable thermostat, and our world may shrink to include only those who share our cultural identity. Read more…

Francisca Goldsmith
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: My Grandfather’s War

Revisiting WWI through Fiction and Nonfiction Audiobooks

The World RemadeAt age twenty-two, my grandfather looked a hero in his WWI pilot’s uniform. Peaked cap at a rakish angle, hand on his father’s shoulder, arm around his mother, he smiled broadly for the Brownie camera. Only the bulge of a service revolver beneath his jacket hinted at upcoming danger.

In this 100th anniversary year of America’s entry into the war, I wish I’d been able to hear about his experiences. He died when I was young, though, so I was never able to ask how the French battlefields looked from his biplane’s cockpit, how the rat-a-tat-tat of aerial combat really sounded, and frivolously, why didn’t he wear a silk scarf in the photo? Or did that sartorial flourish belong only to Snoopy’s Red Baron?

The Guns of August

Instead, I’ve found a vicarious experience of my grandfather’s war in books and film, beginning with Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the war’s start, THE GUNS OF AUGUST. I read it as a teenager, and recently listened to the Earphones Award-winning performance by one of my favorite narrators, Nadia May (also known as Wanda McCaddon). That’s two prizes for one compulsively readable account of the dares and double-dares that caused so much bravery and death. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Self: The “Special Sauce” in Personal Growth Audios

Four audiobooks with stellar narrations that urge you to take steps toward a better life

Gretchen Rubin

From cleaning house to searching for meaning, the personal growth audios I listened to this month spoke to me as they always do: “There’s always room for improvement, Tom!” This is especially true now that I have more years behind me than in front of me and feel some urgency to do more with the blessings I’ve been given.

Gretchen Rubin, photo by Michael Weschler

What continues to impress me about personal growth audios is how they bring together the power of the human voice with insights that speak to us about our lives and opportunities. Someone speaking to us, whether in person or on a recording, offers us the speaker’s heritage and character as well as the experience and ideas that they believe have values for us. When listening to an author like Agapi Stassinopoulos, we of course hear the substance of her insights and advice. But we also get a connection with her based on what we hear in her voice, her vocal personality.

Gretchen Rubin, who is much loved by fans of her Happier podcast, narrates her latest audiobook, THE FOUR TENDENCIES, with a casual, friendly style that feels like welcome advice shared by a friend over coffee. This is what’s unique about learning from audiobooks—this “special sauce” of someone’s voice may be more powerful in some audiobooks than others, but it always gets my attention. When it’s there, something happens that awakens the desire to commit, to live more intentionally, and to take the steps needed to have a better life.

The Four Tendencies

THE FOUR TENDENCIES: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)
written and read by Gretchen Rubin
Random House Audio/Books On Tape

Gretchen Rubin dives into a thorough examination of how and why we make our daily choices. She conveys her well-researched, home-grown four-tendencies matrix conversationally, using changes in pitch and speed to help differentiate the many anecdotes sprinkled throughout her book. She narrates her exploration of rebels, obligers, upholders, and questioners with obvious excitement, in a welcome and engaging manner. Read more…

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Robin’s Roundup: September 8 New Audiobook Reviews

What’s Cooking in the Audiobook Kitchen?

Salt Fat Acid HeatChef memoirs and “foodie” books seem to come in waves . . . we’re in the kitchen with Marcus Samuelsson or Ruth Reichl and then the cupboard is bare for months. Happily this week we have three terrific cuisine-related audiobooks. Alice Waters, visionary chef and owner of Berkeley, California’s Chez Panisse invites listeners right to her table to hear her memoir COMING TO MY SENSES. She shares her passion for food, the story of finding her own voice as a chef, and a scattering of recipes. If you’ve checked out the beautifully illustrated cookbook SALT, FAT, ACID HEAT, it might be hard to imagine the audiobook edition. Yet author Samin Nosrat pulls it off, bringing this innovative cooking guide to listeners with engaging, conversational style . . . but you may still want to have the hardcover text on your shelf for the recipe details and techniques. Read more…

Robin Whitten
Robin is the Founder & Editor of AudioFile Magazine. The AudioFile Blog is her newest project to offer new voices and recommendations for audiobooks.

Solve: Canadian Crime

Recognizing excellent and essential Canadian crime authors

This October, the world mystery convention, Bouchercon, is going to take place in Toronto. That got me thinking about Canadian crime fiction and Canadian writers of crime fiction. They offer a significant contribution to the genre; after all, it’s hard to imagine the mystery aisle at the bookstore without Louise Penny’s beloved Three Pines series or the heart-racing thrillers from Linwood Barclay.

Never Let You GoMy teenage niece has taken an interest in mysteries recently, and one of her favorites is Canadian author Chevy Stevens. Have you listened to her new thriller, NEVER LET YOU GO? Now that lady knows how to write creepy stories. Do you think the cold climates have anything to do with that?

Some Canadian authors I was already well aware of. Sean Chercover is one of my favorites, and he just released the final installment in his Daniel Byrne trilogy. Marriage brought Hilary Davidson to the U.S., but the author of the Lily Moore series is still very strongly tied to Canada. And of course, Alan Bradley won the Debut Dagger award with his first Flavia de Luce story, THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE.

Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

The Download: 6 Picks for the End-of-Summer Road Trip

Some favorite audiobooks to take on the road

Travels With CharleySummer is a time to hit the road, and a good audiobook can go a long way towards making car trips not just bearable, but enjoyable. Some are actually stories about road trips.

Join Robin Whitten and Jo Reed as they discuss their picks for summer road trip listening. And before you declare summer to be over, remember that you may well have a road trip ahead of you this Labor Day weekend!

Listening to audiobooks about road trips while making your own way on the road can enhance your travel experience and make the miles speed by, whether you’re making a trek across the country or making your way into the woods for your last summer camping trip with the family.

“Whether you’re heading out in a car, in the train, or on the bus, nothing beats a good audiobook.”—Jo Reed

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We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!

Solve: Always listen in order! (Or don’t.)

Do you follow your favorite sleuth’s every move or jump into each new series on a whim?

Glass HousesI have a confession to make. I sometimes listen to series out of order on audiobook. As a matter of fact, I recently finished Louise Penny’s GLASS HOUSES—but I haven’t listened to the previous two installments in the series. I know some of you are gasping in horror. There was a time I would have done the same thing. As I started doing more and more reviewing, my list of absolutely-must-listen-in-order started to get shorter and shorter.

I still adore Louise Penny’s Three Pines series, which seems to grow better with each book. And starting a new one is like visiting old friends. But my schedule—especially in August—doesn’t always permit me a lot of extra time for books and audios I’m not assigned to review. So I’ve ended up reading some out of order. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Solve: Crimes With Color

Colorful and criminally good audiobook mysteries

Long, Black VeilIt’s back-to-school time, and August is National Crayon Collection Month. I didn’t know about this until I started researching blog topics—don’t ask, my mind works in scary ways sometimes. Anyway, there’s this cool non-profit organization aptly named Crayon Collection that gathers gently used crayons and distributes them to schools in high-poverty areas. This does two things: keeps perfectly good crayons out of landfills and puts them in the hands of children to encourage their creativity. Who knows, they may be the masterminds writing our mysteries of tomorrow!

Based on titles in the genre, our past and current scribes were likely influenced by the wax art supplies of their childhoods. Although they don’t get quite as creative as the marketing gurus at Crayola—laser lemon?—crime writers (and their publishers) make use of color frequently in titles. John D. MacDonald started the themed series fad using color names for his Travis McGee titles (THE DEEP BLUE GOOD-BY, A PURPLE PLACE FOR DYING, etc.). David Handler followed suit with his Berger and Mitry mysteries (THE COLD BLUE BLOOD, HOT PINK FARMHOUSE), while many other crime writers had single titles featuring a veritable rainbow of color names.

Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Solve: Friends in Crime Fiction

Celebrating National Friendship Day with famous friends on audio

Yesterday (August 6th ) was National Friendship Day, and Wednesday (August 9th) is National Book Lover’s Day. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to recognize great friendships in crime fiction audiobooks!

Of course classic mysteries offer friends working together to discover whodunit, such as Sherlock and Watson or Nero and Archie. These characters influenced other writers, who in turn influenced the next generations and on and on, and thus the tradition of crime-fighting pals exists almost everywhere.

James Lee Burke The Glass Rainbow

The lone wolf protagonist is certainly a common trope, but even some of crime fiction’s most dysfunctional characters manage to hang on to good friends. James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux struggles to keep the women in his life breathing, but Clete Purcell is as dedicated as they come in the friend category.

Sometimes the pairings are a bit unusual. Caleb Carr’s THE ALIENIST features a newspaper reporter and a psychologist taking on the role of investigators. And John D. MacDonald’s “salvage consultant” Travis McGee works with his best friend Meyer, a respected economist. Numbers can be a mystery to us all. Read more…

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Humor Is the Best Medicine

When the going gets tough, get laughing with some well-chosen audiobooks

A Spot Of Bother

The summer before my mother died, I repainted our front porch. Neither she nor I wanted me in constant attendance. So, in between visits to her bedside, I scraped, painted, and laughed hysterically to Mark Haddon’s A SPOT OF BOTHER, given an Earphones Award-winning performance by Simon Vance. This startled passersby, but given the chance to blend my weeping with tears of laughter, I didn’t care about the spectacle I was making. The audiobook is nominally about an estranged English family arranging for a wedding. For Haddon, whose THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME found humor and profundity in a character’s coping with Asperger’s Syndrome, a family wedding (like a family death) gives rise to just about every behavior, some of it bizarre, much of it transcendent. And in my hour of need, it was transformative.

Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.