The Juneau libraries’ collection of nonfiction on audiobook is smaller than its collection of fiction, but no less well-used. You’ll find memoirs, adventures, self-help and much more on CD at all public libraries.
“Quiet,” by Susan Cain, read by Kathe Mazur.
By now, many readers have heard of this feel-good book for introverts, but now it’s finally available as an audiobook. Listening to nonfiction isn’t always easy, but Mazur’s reading makes it easy to follow Cain’s discussion of the pros and cons of introversion. From the opening quiz that will help you (should you be uncertain) identify your own tendencies, to the profiles of famous introverts, who include Rosa Parks, Mozart, and Steve Wozniak, Cain keeps the focus squarely on those who get their energy from solitude. She gives examples of regular people who have learned to turn their introversions to strengths, for instance, the salesman who uses his good listening skills to encourage sales. And she reassures readers of all persuasions that there’s nothing wrong with peace and quiet and interior monologue even though we currently live in a world that wants everyone to speak up.
“Midnight in Peking,” by Paul French, read by Erik Singer.
It’s the end of an era: the Japanese have surrounded Peking and tensions are ratcheting up day by day. Now, the brutal murder of a foreigner, 19-year-old Pamela Werner, threatens to set the city on fire. Her body has been found at the foot of a watchtower haunted by fox spirits, but the spirits are only one set of suspects. The tower is on the edge of a neighborhood called The Badlands, an area controlled by foreigners, where anything can be had for a price. Together, ex-Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Richard Dennis and Chinese detective Colonel Han Shih-Ching, work to untangle the mystery of the killer. Suspects include rogue Japanese soldiers, European ne’er do-wells, and Pamela’s own step-father, the reclusive and antagonistic Edward Werner. French sets this compelling true crime firmly in its era with cultural, historical, and political details, and Singer’s reading allows the story to shine.
“The Elephant Whisperer,” by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence, read by Simon Vance.
Ignore the somewhat overused title and plunge in — this is worth it! South African conservationist Anthony had an elephant-less game reserve for years, until he was asked to take a troublesome herd of elephants in. He was their last hope: they’d already metaphorically burned their bridges on other reserves by shorting out electric fences and escaping — and if he didn’t take them in, they would all be killed. Anthony is presented with a herd of seven elephants who were dangerous and unpredictable even before their matriarch and her baby were shot (the “troublemakers,” according to their former owner). Now, it’s up to Anthony to try to habituate them to humans so the herd can be assured a place to live, without actually domesticating them. Here, he documents his efforts to understand their needs and moods and help them understand their changed world. Vance reads smoothly, with no hesitation over the non-English vocabulary.
“Code Talker,” by Chester Nez and Judith Schiess Avilla, read by David Colacci.
This is Nez’s life story, from his childhood on a Navajo reservation, education in a boarding school, and eventual enlistment in the U.S. Army at a time when the Native Americans weren’t even allowed to vote. Throughout its existence, the military had used codes based on languages with limited numbers of speakers, and for World War II they devised a code based on Navajo. Despite his “white” schooling, during which speaking Navajo was actively discouraged, Nez was still a fluent speaker and when he joined the military, he became one of twenty-nine Code Talkers. Assigned in pairs to a unit, the Talkers were vital, and ultimately unbreakable links, in battle. Colacci reads Nez’s spare language with dignity and strength, allowing listeners to imagine themselves in the presence of a master storyteller.
Upcoming events at the public libraries start with this month’s TEDtalk on magic at the Downtown Library at 6 p.m. tonight, Oct. 24.
Come hear what author, artist, and natural science fiend Ray Troll has been up to in the 10 years since the publication of “Sharkabet” at the Downtown Library on Friday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m.
For information about upcoming programs, or to place a hold, visit www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.