I’ve started listening to audiobooks I sit in traffic on the way to and from work. It has given me a chance to enjoy some great works of literature that I would never have found the time to sit down and read otherwise.
So far, I’ve listened to:
- The Call of Cthulu and At The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft: Both are awesomely verbose and dark. Their brevity made for quick listens and kept me from getting bogged down in the thick language. Lovecraft does such a great job of exploring the dangers of man’s curiosity.
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: I was really into the romance of Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley at first, but then I felt like it never really developed into a realistic relationship between two loving adults. I know that gender roles and expectations were different back then (and that masculinity is a virtue in any Hemingway story), but I’ve had deeper conversations with complete strangers than these two star-crossed lovers ever engaged in. It is a great story, and beautifully written. For about a week after finishing it, I obsessed over the idea of moving to Europe for the sole purpose of drinking too much and writing a few books. Then, my beautiful girlfriend explained to me the process of our Magic dog being quarantined for like weeks and weeks before being cleared to move about the continent and we both glumly agreed that it was a deal breaker.
- The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway: I cared much less for this audiobook. It featured a bizarre, overacted performance and lots of seagull sound effects. The story is pretty depressing as well. I guess we’re all struggling against nature and even our greatest conquests will be reclaimed over time as we dry up and become old men. Not exactly a premise I care to dwell on as I try to avoid the black hole of self-doubt that is being 25 years old and struggling to make ends meet while working two crappy jobs.
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac: I can see why this story inspired so many people to pull up their roots and become wanderers. The details of the plot made me sad, though. I feel like the era in which people could just jump in their cars and drive coast to coast, shirking all responsibility in search of adventure is over. Gas is too expensive. You’d have to have a pretty kick ass job to afford half of the things that these characters did. Most jobs that pay that well won’t let you go roaming for months at a time at the drop of a hat. Abandon your nagging practicality if you plan on reading this book.
- The Tell Tale Heart, A Cask of Amontillado, and The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe: These three tales were a BBC production, read by Christopher Lee and I’m convinced that if you aren’t reading Edgar Allen Poe in Saruman’s voice, you’re just doing it wrong. With a sprinkling of spooky sound effects and some creepy music before and after each story, these three performances were good old-fashioned fun. I really enjoyed the plots as well, even though I’m sure that there must have been something very, very, very wrong with Edgar Allen Poe for being able to embody madness and murder so acutely.
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: I’m convinced that no one has ever read this book. Every popular film adaptation that I’ve ever seen has been no more than 5% faithful. I kept patting myself on the back for knowing all of the big words used by the narrators of this tale, but then it got a bit old. It was as if the author always used the largest applicable word in her lexicon. It was pompous and the diction was supercilious (see I can do it too), and yes I know that people spoke differently back then, but it still made for drudgery in muddling through the story. I also found my inner action-movie fanatic enchanted by the concept of two mortal enemies bent on each other’s destruction in an eternal chase for vengeance. That is, of course, until they failed to punch each other in the face. A cool story, if exhaustingly told.
- American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis: The film adaptation with Christian Bale has always been in my top five favorite movies of all time. I had heard rumor that the novel’s Patrick Bateman was a far more sinister individual, so I had to check it out. At first, I hated the stream of conscious narration. I’m not a fashion/style guy, so hearing Patrick describing everyone he ever comes into contact with head to to by their clothes bored me silly. It feels extra tedious having it read to you. Eventually, I got used to it and came to the conclusion that stream of conscious writing takes on a deeper meaning when you listen to it in an audiobook. I literally had Patrick Bateman’s thoughts in my head. This made his bloodlust and perversion far more grotesque and disturbing than if I had the psychological distance of reading it on a page. The first person narration is enough to keep you up at night. On a side note, the titular character’s acts of violence against dogs disturbed me even more than his butchery of women. I guess that makes me a crazy person who likes animals more than people? Or maybe I’ve just been more desensitized to that kind of thing given my propensity for grisly horror movies.
- The Prince by Machiavelli: Aside from bringing to light my enormous ignorance of European history, this book made me realize that probably every power-hungry fictional character since its publication was based on the ideas of Machiavelli. It reads like Tywin Lannister’s love letters to Frank Underwood. I highly recommend it to all unconscionable, ambitious, aspiring rulers of the world.
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton: I still can’t believe that the author was only 16 when he wrote this story. It’s so freaking simple, but so freaking good. I listened to the ending while I was out running and almost choked up like a doofus as I sweated to death on the sidewalk. It’s a short little book. Go read it now.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: I freaking loved this book. The diction and syntax were the perfect balance of poise and restraint. It’s exactly what I aspire to (obviously to little avail). It’s fluffier than Hemingway, but not so verbose and pompous as Victorian lit. I’m undecided on whether or not I wish I had read this book prior to seeing the movie. Part of me wishes that I didn’t see the climax coming, but another part of me realizes the blood rage I would have been in had I fallen in love with this book prior to seeing Baz Luhrmann’s cartoonish adaptation. Nick Carraway’s narration has inspired within me a deep, broiling hatred for Tobey Maguire.
Next Up: The Stranger by Albert Camus, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Scott Thompson, The Catcher in the Rye by: J.D. Sallinger, and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.
Have any recommendations for great books that I’ll never have time to read that I should seek out in audiobooks?