AUDIOBOOKS: Words, books and politics

Words and the love of books are at the heart of two audiobooks this week, along with a deep delve into White House politics.

Words and the love of books are at the heart of two audiobooks this week, along with a deep delve into White House politics. All titles are available for sale or download at local libraries and bookshops. 

Bob Woodward; read by Robert Petkoff
Simon & Schuster Audioworks, 10 CDs, 12 hours and 20 minutes, $39.99/ download, $27.99

Depending on their political leanings, listeners are going to love or hate this audiobook, but Woodward is a consummate reporter who details the chaos and shenanigans that are now a daily part of the White House. What one most takes away from Woodward’s reporting is some insight into Trump’s mind and his inability to act presidential, responsible or fair. Even if taken with a grain of salt, Woodward’s reporting should, in fact, frighten even the most dedicated adherents of Trumpism. Petkoff reads with gravitas as needed, but underscores the entire production with energy. He comes across as approachable and conversational, which helps to somewhat tamp down the panic you may feel while listening to his words. This contains profanity. Grade: A 

The Library Book
Susan Orlean; read by the author
Simon & Schuster Audioworks, 10 CDs, 12 hours and nine minutes, $39.99/ download, $29.95

The fire that burned the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986 is at the heart of this delightful audiobook that is part memoir and part tribute to libraries and books. Orlean delves into the life of the charming drifter suspected of arson, but comes to her own conclusions about the spark that burned approximately 400,000 books. The best bits, however, are her chats with librarians and other book lovers. Sometimes she is a bit out there — the section in which she burns a book seemed a tad puerile — but she generally captures us with fine writing and subtle wit. Sounding very Midwestern and very young, Orlean takes some getting used to as a narrator, but her timing is impeccable and she does grow on one. Grade: A-minus

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries
Kory Stamper; read by the author
Random House Audio, nine hours and 48 minutes, $24.50, download

You do not have to be a word nerd to enjoy this audiobook, though it helps. Stamper writes and reads about the life of a lexicographer at the offices of the Merriam-Webster Company in Massachusetts. Though she has moved on to greener pastures, Stamper’s recollections of her 20 years writing dictionary entries and dealing with the public is funny, charming, occasionally profane, and educational. She does a commendable job for a first-time narrator, capturing her wonky humor as well as a sincere and deep love of words. Expect to learn the correct usage and weird, obscure meanings of words as well as getting into the minds of those who really, really care about such things. Grade: A-minus