AUDIO REVIEW: Authors reading their own works
Sometimes you just want to hear an author read his or her own audiobook. For the most part, the following four authors draw us into their work.
Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions
Russell Brand; read by the author
Macmillan Audiobooks; six CDs; eight hours; $29.99/www.audible.com download; $20.99
Buckle up because, once you plop this CD into your player, you are going on a hell of a ride. Brand is recovering from several addictions and wants—no, needs—to help the listener. Twelve-step programs are what helped him and he reinterprets those programs in a language peppered with many curses, much metaphor and a lot of very smart humor. He is verbose, loves descriptive adjectives and doesn’t shy from confessing his past misdeeds. Brand also makes a lot of sense and is one fine writer who reads quickly with a manic energy that is infectious. Listening to this may be the best way to start the new year for many audiophiles. Grade: A
Uncommon Type: Some Stories
Tom Hanks; read by the author and several actors
Random House Audio; eight CDs; 10 hours; $40/www.audible.com download; $28.
A collector of typewriters, Hanks turned his obsession into an engrossing series of stories that each include his favorite machine. Not all are gems, but several stories are memorable for their humor or poignancy. He gives us time travel, unhappy marriages and, in one stand-out, a slacker begins an exhausting and hilarious three-week affair with an old friend. Veterans, an illegal alien and a homesick actress all make appearances, as well as a full-cast production with well-known actors for the last entry. Sentimentality is sometimes spread too thickly, but Hanks is a fine narrator, using several voices and accents that make the best of humor served with a small side of snarkiness. Grade: A-minus
It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree
A.J. Jacobs, read by the author
Simon & Schuster Audio; seven CDs; eight hours; $29.99/www.audible.com download; $20.99.
Jacobs, who has made a living out of writing about his year-long endeavors (“The Year of Living Biblically”) has jumped on the genealogy bandwagon with his quest to stage the world’s largest family reunion. While informative and mildly humorous, this is also repetitive and just a tad underwhelming. Jacobs is at his best when having a meal with a retired U.S. president (a distant, distant cousin) and dealing with black sheep one may not actually want at a reunion. Amid all of his humor and escapades is quite a bit of knowledge, which home genealogists should find useful. He narrates with enthusiasm and conviction that never flags—ever. Grade B
Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook
Alice Waters; read by the author
Random House Audio; eight CDs; nine hours; $35/www.audible.com download; $20.99.
Waters, a revolutionary at heart, completely changed the way Americans looked at food when she opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971. She is one of the main reasons many of us eat local and organic fare. It is just too bad someone else did not write—and read—her story. She tells us from the get-go that she is not a reflective person, and much of what she reveals is banal—ditto for her writing style. Some listeners may be thrilled to hear about her discovery of mesclun salad in France, but she does go on and on—and it is just lettuce. Her narration is heartfelt but uneven, hampered by a less-than-pleasant, quavering voice. Grade: C-plus