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Tired of the book queue? Try an audiobook | Librarian's Desk


August 24, 2018

George Saunders' "Lincoln in the Bardo" won the Man Booker Prize in 2017.

As summer draws to a close and – whether we fit in that one last road trip or begin the inevitable fall ritual of our daily school and work commutes – I want to share the idea of the audiobook as companion in your journey.

I have a couple of specific audio titles that have created some cherished readingand learning moments for me while traveling, running or doing house chores.

First, did you know the Edmonds Library has checked out over 8,000 audiobooks since the beginning of the year, accounting for about 5 percent of total checkouts? As a system, year-to-date Sno-Isle Libraries has already checked out over 100,000 audiobooks.

It is a popular, growing format.

I did want to share a librarian tip on ways to help alleviate sometimes long hold queues for physical formats. There are two downloadable digital resources that offer audiobook titles that customers don’t fully utilize or don’t know about.

An added bonus is you can check out this format wherever you have internet connectivity, and on the majority of devices.

The first is Overdrive, which provides downloadable e-books and audiobooks to Sno-Isle Libraries in addition to 40,000 other schools and libraries. There is the easy to use Libby app that works on both iOS and android devices.

Overdrive currently provides over 27,000 titles in the audiobook format.

To prove my point about titles being more available in nontraditional formats, the top two most popular 2018 library titles that have no hold queue currently in Overdrive (but do in hard copy format) include the children’s graphic novel by Dav Pilkey called “Dog Man and Cat Kid” and “Rooster Bar” by John Grisham.

Fregal is better known as the library’s downloadable and streaming music service. It also does have a small collection of audiobooks subject to the same rules for music downloads of three per week and three hours of streaming per day.

Each book chapter is considered one music download, and typical titles run over 10 hours on average, so you’ll need to be in a frame of mind to finish an audiobook in a slow and steady manner.

Fregal still has a decent niche collection of classics and biographies that are always available, from “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen to the lives of Madonna or Peter Sellers.

As for recommendations, my favorite fiction book I’ve listened to this year is “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders, who won the Man Booker prize for this long-anticipated first novel.

This historical fiction is based on President Lincoln’s visit to the crypt of his 11-year-old son Willie, who had recently died from typhoid. “Bardo” is a Tibetan term for the in-between state of life and death, analogous to purgatory.

It is a wonderfully poignant, complex story with universal themes of love and loss, father and son relations, and good and evil.

Saunders deconstructs this factual, historical event to create a fantastical narrative of what Willie and other souls in the cemetery might say and think during the night the president visits his son’s grave.

As an audiobook, what is particularly innovative is the strict dialog employing over 166 voice actors – including Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Carrie Brownstein and Ben Stiller – that drive the narrative. It is cutting edge where you’ll need to be receptive to experience it like a play more than text reading of a traditional novel.

And yes, Hollywood will make this into a feature film, so listen to it before the hold queue builds.

Speaking of audio, my teenage daughter and I visited Rome this spring. Besides reading travel books, I wanted to prepare her for the historical scale and significance of famous sites and places we were about to experience.

It lead to us sharing a wonderful nonfiction choice called “SPQR” by classicist Mary Beard.

The title is Rome’s famous motto in Latin, and an acronym for “The Senate and People of Rome.” This audiobook was released earlier this year based on the 2015 bestselling hardcover release.

Beard starts with the founding of Rome (753 BCE), weaves her way around the major events and famous Romans like Julius Caesar, Nero and Trajan, and ends with a minor emperor in 217 CE considered the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire.

Her storytelling is accessible made for the layperson, utilizing new historical research based on the day-to-day lives of everyday Romans, rather than on just the famous people.

I learned quite a bit, and though the names could be overwhelming, the storytelling and different viewpoints gave context to the ancient sites.

A bonus piece on the audiobook is the narrator sounds like Judi Dench, making it that much more engaging and interesting listen.

I hope this encourages you to try an audiobook if you haven’t already.

Remember that if you have questions on formats, how to download or other suggestions, please reach out to me or one of our other wonderful librarian staff.


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