Category Archives: audiobooks

Vacation Reading



We are enjoying a beautiful, early June vacation, and early June is such a beautiful time to travel! While teaching, early June would be filled with end-of-the-school year fun and stress, busy as could possibly be. Field trips, testing, finishing units and projects, report cards, and tenderheared goodbyes. In my old school district, there are still 8.5 days of school left! But now retired, we are able to enjoy traveling at a time when temperatures are mild, hillsides are lush green, and roads not yet jammed with traveling families. Ah…the joys of retirement.

So I brought my Kindle along on the trip, and my earphones for listening to my audiobooks. I’m enjoying my traveling reading and listening, relaxing over beautiful scenery and distances with these books:








Early Morning Cocoon


I’ve always been an early riser, but one of the pleasures of retirement?… I’ve replaced that early morning get-ready-for-work rush with my quiet cocoon of beauty — filled with words and yarn. Knitting while listening to an audiobook. What an enjoyable way to start a day! This morning I started a new knitting project with this silk yarn (a gift for a beautiful friend) while listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s gorgeous writing in The Poisonwood Bible.

When Books Went to War

My Dad, fourth from the left...

My Dad, fourth from the left…

My Mom told me that during World War II, my Dad always carried a paperback book in his pocket. Although I knew my Dad was an avid reader, I had no idea what that book in his pocket really meant until I read Molly Guptill Manning‘s, When Books Went to War.  It is a well-researched book and a very interesting story. From the publisher’s description:

When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned over 100 million books and caused fearful citizens to hide or destroy many more. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraordinary program: 120 million small, lightweight paperbacks, for troops to carry in their pockets and their rucksacks, in every theater of war.

The A.S.E. (Armed Service Editions) became a highly successful program, and the story of what those books meant to the troops is quite fascinating. Anyone who loves books will be interested in this story and especially interested in the list of books published as ASEs.


Photo from Molly Guptill Manning’s website. Click on the photo to visit her “museum” of photos.


Not My Father’s Son, A Memoir


Alan Cumming’s memoir, Not My Father’s Son, is an important book. Mr. Cumming grew up with a cruel and abusive father, certainly a difficult subject to write about, and one that is often difficult to read. But he wrote it with honesty, courage, compassion, and fairness. And as I listened to the audiobook, which he narrated himself, I found myself admiring Alan Cumming more and more for the way he has dealt with such a dark childhood. He is a good, caring, and sensitive human being, (as well as a gifted actor!) and I appreciate him for sharing his difficult story with the world.

Reading Nevil Shute

A portrait of Nevil Shute Norway from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation website...

A portrait of Nevil Shute Norway from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation website. Click on the portrait to visit that website.

Some authors, over time, weave themselves into your reading life! When I was in high school, I read a book by Nevil Shute called On the Beach, a story about nuclear war. I remember only a few details of the story after so many years, but I vividly remember the powerful emotional impact it had on me. Then, years later, when my children were young, the Hubby and I enjoyed watching a series on Masterpiece Theatre called A Town Like Alice, based on a book by Nevil Shute. Again, it had a powerful emotional impact on me and I still consider it one of my favorites from many years of stories we’ve watched on Masterpiece Theatre.

Last month, I discovered the audiobook of A Town Like Alice was available through Audible. I downloaded it and enjoyed listening to it while knitting, and was delighted to discover how much I enjoy Nevil Shute’s writing and storytelling. This was an amazing story of love, survival, resilience, and hope during and after World War II. When I finished it, I didn’t want to leave his storytelling presence, so I downloaded another of his books. Pied Piper, the story of a 70-year-old Englishman who was able to lead 7 young children to safety during World War II, also captured my heart and I had a hard time taking off the earphones, listening to it in record time!

So over my lifetime of reading, Nevil Shute has “visited” me numerous times. Each time, I have appreciated that he tells his stories with honesty and emotional integrity; that his characters are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times and who meet those challenges with courage and kindness. He reminds me that one person can make a difference.

I look forward to reading my next book by Nevil Shute, and welcome his stories of good and caring people into the fabric of my reading life.



The Housekeeper and the Professor


In The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa, a gifted mathematics professor suffered brain damage in an accident that left him with only 80 minutes of working short-term memory. He had been cared for over the years since the accident by housekeepers who ran his household and watched over him. They came and were replaced frequently.

The new housekeeper, however, is different from the others who had looked after the professor before her. A very caring and intuitive person, she (and her young son) become close to him, and their kindness and caring ways bring out the best in all of them. They become a kind of family, sharing a love of mathematics and of baseball, and taking care of each other. But each day, when the housekeeper returns, the professor doesn’t remember the events and interactions of the day before.

It’s a fascinating kind of story. It didn’t have big action or lots of drama, but it stays with you long after you finish the book. I loved the relationships, the math that was explained by this gifted teacher, and the baseball. I read it for Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge 8, and it was a lovely choice. I look forward to reading more of Yoko Ogawa’s work.


I’m Dancing!


Things change. That’s for sure. The husband and I are are coming up soon on the one-year anniversary of our retirement, and retirement is the biggest change we’ve made in many a year, with plenty of adjustments to make and challenges to face, but it has been very positive for us, I’m happy to say.

If I admit to being retirement age, then I must admit, also, to some of the changes that are inevitable as I move into that age/stage. In my case, it’s hearing loss and getting hearing aids. As any teacher knows, and any hearing specialist will confirm, spending 27 years in a classroom can be hard on the ears. My classroom for most of those 27 years was particularly bad because it had metal walls. So lots of voices, and ventilation systems noise, and bells ringing loudly, have finally taken their toll. (I should probably add into the mix those very loud concerts I used to enjoy — including Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin!) The sum total is that I now need hearing aids.

But I’m really jazzed about them because all of a sudden I can hear nuances again! I can hear my daughter’s quiet voice without having her repeat everything she says to me! My husband no longer mumbles. And, I decided that since I need hearing aids, I deserve some special stuff to go along with them. So along with the hearing aids, I ordered a bluetooth “streamer” so that I can listen to audiobooks (or music) through my hearing aids. Sweet! I’m going to enjoy many, many audiobooks with such a nice system!

So, yes, big changes in my life, but that’s okay. I’ll be enjoying my audiobooks more than ever, and I will keep foremost in my mind something very wise that Alan Watts said about change:

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

The Once and Future King, Part 2


The second book of The Once and Future King, by T.H. White, is called Queen of Air and Darkness and it is, indeed, a much darker part of this story. Unlike the first book, The Sword in the Stone, this section is not a story for children. It is full of the brutality and evil of the Medieval world young King Arthur enters as he begins his reign.

Everything is set into motion in this section. The idealistic and innocent youth become a man, and we watch his development as both leader and philosopher as he experiences his power as king and comes to understand what that power means and how it can be used for Right.

At the same time, the ultimate tragedy of King Arthur and his dream is set in motion by a sinful, though unknowing, act. Using trickery and witchcraft, Queen Morgause seduces Arthur (her half-brother). His son, Mordred, is conceived…

It is why Sir Thomas Malory called his very long book the Death of Arthur….It is the tragedy…of sin coming home to roost . That is why we have to take note of the parentage of Arthur’s son Mordred, and to remember, when the time comes, that the king had slept with his own sister. He did not know he was doing so, and perhaps it may have been due to her, but it seems, in tragedy, that innocence is not enough.

In this book, I found the brutality of Morgause and her sons quite disturbing. It was a stark contrast to the upbringing and education of Arthur, and I had trouble with the images Mr. White painted. I also had trouble with how often he inserted his own opinions, and the happenings of his own time period, into the story. Perhaps, if I just wanted the story of King Arthur without editorializing, I should have been reading Le Morte d’Arthur!

At any rate, it’s a complex story, not one that can be ready lightly or quickly. Although there were humorous elements in this section, it was overall a very dark book. So now I’m on to the next section: The Ill-Made Knight.


Queen Guinevere, by William Morris

I am reading this book for Carl V’s annual Once Upon a Time-VIII reading challenge.


The Once and Future King, part 1


Painting by Alan Lee…

The stories of King Arthur have long captured my imagination. I’ve read many different versions and enjoyed each one. Many years ago, (to be truthful, it’s been 41 years!), I read T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. I loved it! So for Carl V’s annual Once Upon a Time reading challenge this year, I decided to listen to the audiobook version of this wonderful classic, and revisit an old friend, so to speak.

It’s a very long book, divided into four parts which were written and published at different times. The Sword in the Stone tells of the boyhood of Arthur, called “Wart” by his family, and of his education by the wizard, Merlin. And what a wonderful education! –full of nature and folklore and imagination! It was a very enjoyable “listen,” and, if I were still teaching 6th grade, I would consider reading it aloud to my students as a stand-alone book.

The Sword in the Stone is very much about learning and about the relationship between this special student and his teacher. I retired last year after 27 years of teaching, and one reason I chose to become a teacher in the first place was because I love to learn, so this quote from the book speaks a particular truth for me about the joy of becoming a lifelong learner.

“The best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your moneys to a monster, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then–to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the poor mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

Other hidden pleasures in this section of the book were the many quotes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and also the inclusion of Robin Hood in the story. What fun! This part of The Once and Future King was written for the child in all of us.


Painting by N.C. Wyeth…