New listens at the library

Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2010

There are plenty of new non-fiction audiobooks on CD at the Juneau Public Libraries.

Bright-Sided, by Barbara Ehrenreich, read by Kate Reading.

Ehrenreich takes on a new, quintessentially American topic in her newest book: the cult of positive thinking. Being optimistic isn't necessarily bad, but going overboard with it can lead to missed warning signs, lost opportunities, and crushed lives. Ehrenreich argues that critical thinking needs to take precedence over positivity for societies and individuals to function healthily. With examples taken from her own life as well as from recent national and international events, this is a fascinating and well-written book, and as read by Reading, will make listeners think hard about their lives and attitudes.

Satchel, by Larry Tye, read by Dominic Hoffman.

Satchel Paige is surrounded by a lifetime's worth of legends (most of them happily self-perpetuated) and Tye makes a valiant attempt to cut through them to the man underneath. The result is an in-depth look at one of baseball's greatest pitchers and storytellers, who did his best to be the first black baseball player to crack through the Jim Crow laws to play in the major leagues, but who ended up coming in second. Along the way, he played in the Caribbean and in South America, where he was welcomed with open arms, and with white players in barnstormer leagues, where he amazed and beguiled fans, journalists, and his fellow players alike. Tye places Paige's life and career in a societal context and Hoffman reads his story to life.

The Last Stand, by Nathaniel Philbrick, read by George Guidall.

Books about historical events have a way of shifting points of view as the decades pass. Finally, we seem to have reached a point where the story of Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn can be seen as a result of the complex interactions of individuals and their governing bodies, rather than as a massacre by savages or an attack by murderers. Philbrick's even hand and far-ranging eye take listeners back to 1876, when the Plains Indians refused to be moved from the Black Hills and the U.S. sent George Armstrong Custer in to deal with the problem. To the astonishment of most, the Sioux and Cheyenne routed Custer and his men. Listeners will be captivated by this engrossing history as well as narrator Guidall's characteristic energy.

The Wolf in the Parlor, by Jon Franklin, read by George K. Wilson.

When Franklin first welcomed a dog into his life, he had reservations. He'd gotten to adulthood without owning or being much involved with dogs, and stories he'd heard from dog-loving friends didn't make him really want one. But here was Charlie, the puppy his wife brought home, and Franklin was won over. There was an emotional dimension he hadn't expected in his relationship with a dog, and as a science journalist, it intrigued him. His explorations into the (in some ways) symbiotic relationship between humans and dogs is science-based, but is seasoned with anecdotes from Franklin's life with Charlie. Wilson's reading is calmly focused and smoothes out little hiccups in the text, making this a wonderful read for those who love dogs and wonder how they came to be in our lives.

The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances, by Mark Millhone, read by Ray Porter.

It would be easy to make this memoir really, really depressing, but somehow, it isn't. Millhone writes openly about a year in which the family dog bites his oldest son in the face and they have to put the dog down, his second son becomes seriously ill after birth and nearly dies, his father is diagnosed with cancer, his mother dies suddenly, and Millhone finds his own marriage on the rocks. His reaction to all that stress rocks the marriage boat even more: he bids on and wins his dream car, only to discover that he's responsible for getting across the country to pick the car up. With his father along for the ride, the two head off on a road trip that reestablishes bonds, revives old stories, and reignites Millhone's desire to mend his marriage. Laugh-out-loud funny in places, this is also a warm reminder of the importance of family.

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