Living in such a spread-out city as Houston, in such a spread-out state as Texas, you kind of get used to the idea of driving everywhere. Usually this is a fine and beautiful thing: setting out on your own or with a loved one, nothing but adventure and leisure ahead of you (ah, the American-ness of it all!). On the other hand, when your magic American transporting machine becomes a prison carrying you to and from work at an excruciatingly slow pace -- not so lovely.
When I first started working in Houston, I drove an hour each way through some of the worst headache spots (I still can't see the numbers 610 or 45 without cringing), but I have recently been enjoying mass transit and I won't go back. For those of you who must brave the highways behind your own wheel every day, HPL offers you a solution in the way of audiobooks. With your MY Link card, you'll be able to check out titles from several services, including Axis 360, Hoopla and Overdrive, as well as borrowing CD sets from your local branch. Below is a quick list to get you started on your journey to peaceful commuting.
Now, I think of myself as a reluctant audiobook listener, but I could seriously listen to Jim Dale tell these stories over and over again. If the magical world of Harry Potter isn't enough to distract you from your traffic woes...well you have bigger problems than traffic, but at the very least Jim Dale's various voices and characters should help you out. My biggest criticism is his take on Hermione, who sounds too much like a wilting flower for my taste. Follow this up with any of the soundtracks and you'll be good to go!
While doing research for this blog post, I discovered the trick to loving both audiobooks and non-fiction: people reading their own books. Tina Fey is hilarious as she narrates her own memoir, and there is the added bonus of fun music as a backing track. The combination of Fey's sharp wit, her amazing stories and insights and the bright musical notes should take you far away from your commute.
This is another story that is brilliant enough to be enjoyed in any media or format. What makes this audiobook version so special is the narration by Sissy Spacek. I've loved her ever since Coal Miner's Daughter, and her distinctive twang suits Scout perfectly. Not simply her accent, but the bright tone of her voice lends itself well to a child's role. She sounds just as spunky as you'd expect Harper Lee's iconic character to sound.
I'm pretty sure I could listen to Tim Curry read anything. Audiobooks are so interesting, because even the best story can be made unbearable by a bad narrator. Luckily, the awesome saga of the Baudelaire children gets the Tim-Curry-can-do-anything treatment. There are also great sound effects and music tracks to add just a little bit more atmosphere to the story.
Oh, John Green. Even though I know your speaking voice is very fast and erratic, I think your narration is the only thing that could have made this audiobook experience better for me. For those mornings when you just want to slow down and be taken away by the power of words, Paper Towns will make you feel things. Even if it's (at times) anger it won't be directed at the terrible driver in front of you who just refuses to use their brakes responsibly, so in that way everyone wins.
If you've ever wondered how it would sound to have Walter White explain what living through the Vietnam War was like, The Things They Carried is the audiobook for you. My only caution is that Bryan Cranston's steady and strong voice may put you to sleep. Actually, this one may help with particularly bad traffic days, as listening to the horrors of war should give you some perspective. After all, traffic jams aren't exactly as bad as war zones.
I haven't read a lot of teen fiction since John Green, but Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has either won or been nominated for 7 literary awards and the audiobook version is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. That being said, this one is a safe bet and you need this poignant coming of age story to be part of your getting-to-work routine for a bit.
Full disclosure: I didn't realize until just now that Neil Gaiman was British. :0/ In any event, Fortunately, The Milk is a really fun audiobook narrated by the author himself that is sure to keep you entertained on your drive in. His accent is delightful (and I'm sure common knowledge) and this story full of tall tales has a great, upbeat tone. If you liked the book or the film adaption of Big Fish by Daniel Wallace, you'll want to give this one a listen.
If you love Anne Rice, the All Souls trilogy has been compared to the legendary storyteller's vampire novels but with a modern feel. Narrator Jennifer Ikeda is a stage actor and therefore makes light work of all the different characters and accents and ages in this series; listening to her is like listening to a whole group of amazing storytellers. Don't miss this rich and magical adventure full of witches and vampires and ancient libraries!
Once again, make sure you take advantage of all the wonderful services that come with your MY Link card: Overdrive, Hoopla, OneClickDigital and Axis360. Want to find something that matches your mood? Whichbook is a pretty cool website to find recommendations.
Be safe, Houston!