Image courtesy audible.com

AUDIOBOOKS: Essays and ‘The Wizard of Oz’

This week we have a lovely collection of essays and a fact-based novel detailing the background for “The Wizard of Oz.”

This week we have a lovely collection of essays and a fact-based novel detailing the background for “The Wizard of Oz.”

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food
Ann Hood; read by Nina Alvamar
Recorded Books, six hours and 15 minutes, www.audible.com, $20.99

The only misstep in this collection of 27 essays is that it is not very interesting or useful to hear someone read a recipe. Otherwise, this is a touching account of a life as seen through favorite foods. Hood reveals that cooking and eating helped her through some very tough times. What delights is her complete lack of snobbery. She enjoys some very homey recipes that evoke her father, even though many of his meals were the opposite of “gourmet.” Let’s just say he and his daughter lack embarrassment over their use of American “cheese.” Alvamar has an easy, soothing manner, sussing out the emotion Hood attaches to her cooking. The result is relaxing and entertaining, though you may find yourself searching for Hood’s recipes online. Grade: B

Image courtesy audible.com

Finding Dorothy
Elizabeth Letts; read by Ann Marie Lee
Random House Audio, 14 hours, 11 CDS, $45/www.audible.com, $31.50

This historical fiction work explores the factual backdrop for the world created by L. Frank Baum as told through the eyes of his wife, the forward-thinking suffragette Maud Gage Baum. At times the writing is a bit simplistic and/or overwrought, but for the most part, this is an intriguing and entertaining diversion. Narrator Lee could have been reined in a bit, as she does this fiction no favor by emoting. Lee should have let the story speak for itself because it becomes rather overbearing whenever she is cringingly breathless or otherwise over the top. Grade: B

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The Body: A Guide for Occupants
Bill Bryson; read by the author
Random House Audio, 14 hours, 12 CDs, $45/www.audible.com, $31.50

Bryson has taken us through Australia, England, over the Appalachian Trail, around the universe and through the history of the English language. Turning inward to our bodies, he explains how everything works and why it is there, and does so in a cogent manner peppered with his delightful humor. He narrates slowly enough to allow information to settle before giving us more, and uses both his own life and intriguing anecdotes to illustrate each mini-lecture. While not quite as sparkling as his past work, it is highly informative and never dull, making it a perfect listen as we all have bodies and most of us can’t explain the reasons for most of our varied bits. Grade: A-minus