AUDIOBOOKS: Nonfiction titles

This is a good week for audiobooks, as each of these nonfiction titles are well worth hearing.

This is a good week for audiobooks, as each of these nonfiction titles are well worth hearing.

Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things
Amy Dickinson; read by Amy Dickinson
Hachette Audio, seven CDs, nine hours; $30/ download, $28.50

After listening to Dickinson’s memoir, you may find yourself wishing she were your neighbor because she is funny, wise and sort of adorable. Best known for her advice column “Ask Amy” and appearances on NPR’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” Dickinson gets personal with the story of her years as a single mom, a late-in-life romance, and the death of her mother. Though this is her second memoir, it stands alone. She has a warm and comfortable style that brings you into her life without getting overly familiar. This woman knows where to draw the line, but can still make you laugh out loud or shed the occasional tear. Grade: A

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating
Alan Alda; read by the author
Random House Audio, five CDs, six hours, $32/ download, $12.99

Though known as an actor, wit and political activist, Alda is also a science nerd: a big one. He hosted 81 episodes of “Scientific American Frontiers” and spent decades researching communication, putting together seminars and asking countless questions. The result is easy to understand, surprisingly compelling and should leave you with a better understanding of how to better engage with others. He teaches us to read others’ faces, and to avoid missteps that keep us from being really heard. And then there is his voice: well-worn, familiar, comfortable. He reads with ease and has a natural manner and comic delivery that will keep you interested and entertained. Grade: A-minus 

The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women
Elizabeth Norton; read by Jennifer Dixon
HighBridge Audio, 10 CDs, 12 hours and 30 minutes, $39.99/ download, $29.95

History nerds rejoice: This well-researched account of the ladies who lived between 1485 and 1603 is accessible and surprisingly entertaining. Norton, a well-known historian in England, has published over a dozen books and knows her stuff. That she can write in a relatable manner makes her a gem as she details the lives of peasants, blue bloods and everyone in between, covering everything from makeup to murder. Dixon is less successful, as she sounds monotonous in the beginning; and her pace is a bit slow, though she becomes more relaxed as the stories unfold. It is too bad that the producer did not find a narrator to match Norton’s vibrant and informative writing style. Grade: B-plus 

The Gift of Anger: And Other Lessons from my Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi
Arun Gandhi; read by the author
Simon & Schuster Audio, seven hours, $29.99/ download, $20.99

Gandhi has put together an unusual audiobook that is part memoir, part self-help manual. His style is informative and his manner is gentle as he explains how he tries to overcome his own anger issues with the help of his grandfather’s wisdom. Though there is some repetition, one feels relaxed, informed and better able to arm oneself with kindness by the time this plays out. One does wish, however, a professional narrator had been hired, as Gandhi’s diction is less than clear in spots and his accent is quite thick. Still, hearing him discuss his own foibles and flaws gives this production a rather endearing quality. Grade: B