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By Sunday, Mar 24, 2019 Arts & Entertainment 1

Travelers play a major part in each of the four audiobooks on the agenda this month. All titles are available to download from www.audible.com. 

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Bill Bryson; read by Rob McQuay
Random House Audio; downloaded from www.audible.com; nine hours and 47 minutes; $31.50

This was a dilemma. Random House released an abridged version of this funny, insightful audiobook, read by the author, to coincide with the release of the movie a few years ago. Bryson has a funny, weird accent—half British, half American—and anything he narrates is always punched up by his sharp humor and perfect timing. However, one hates to miss out on almost half the original material, so opt for this downloadable version, which describes Bryson’s hike along the Appalachian Trail in the 1990s with his crude, out-of-shape, ill-prepared friend and all-around good sport Steven Katz. The material veers between wildly funny and deeply introspective. It is well worth a revisit if you’ve heard it before and don’t mind some cussing. It’s not Bryson, but McQuay is just fine as a narrator. Grade: A 

In the Unlikely Event
Judy Blume; read by Kathleen McInerney
Random House Audio; 11 CDs; 14 hours; $45/www.audible.com download, $31.50

Known for breaking taboo subjects with her material for young adults, Blume tackles her first adult novel by delving into the three plane crashes that rattled residents of her hometown, Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the early 1950s. These crashes killed residents, destroyed lives and left deep psychological scars. Blume conveys the emotional agony of these events with fictionalized characters, but uses so many points of view that the listener gets lost and eventually starts to wander away. Narrator McInerney does an admirable job of capturing the myriad of voices and various points of view, flexing her voice to include youngsters, elderly men and middle-aged women. Grade: B-plus

The Rocks
Peter Nichols; read by Steve West
Random House Audio; 12 CDs; 15 hours; $45/www.audible.com download, $31.50

Beginning in 2005 and reaching back to 1948, this novel retraces and explains the “inciting incident” that leads to the tragedy with which the novel opens. Two elderly former spouses living on the island of Mallorca attack each other so violently they tumble down a cliff to their deaths. Because the story travels back through time, the material can be a bit confusing. However the scenery sounds lovely, the characters are interesting and the sex is candid, as is some of the language. With a lovely British accent and an ease with Spanish words, West brings a graceful energy to the material. Grade: B-plus 

Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific
Tim Flannery; read by Noah Michael Levine
Audible Studios; downloadable only; 6.5 hours, $19.95

Tim Flannery is now a world-renowned scientist credited with discovering more species than Darwin. But 25 years ago, he was an unknown Australian making discoveries on the weird and sometimes terrifying islands off New Guinea. He looks back at this adventure with a narrative that is part travelogue, part scientific expedition. The results vary, as some sections are exciting (and occasionally disgusting), but the material is dated and sometimes rather dull, which is not helped by Levine’s mundane narration. American, not Australian, his diction is clear and crisp, but his overall, Middle-America demeanor is bland and one-note. Grade: B-minus

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  1. Emily says:

    I read “A Walk in the Woods” when it originally came out and it was hilarious. Highly recommended.

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