With that as my justification, I periodically deny myself the tactile and olfactory (tell me you don't love the smell of new or old books) experience of books in favor of the book on tape. Well the auditory experience is in some ways disappointing in comparison, there are books that I've never been inclined to read that I'll listen to. This has led me to some truths from books I've recently listened to that I want to share with you:
1. Dune was a really bad book. I know it's a classic of Sci Fi and I do appreciate the elements of Islam that Herbert integrated into the book, but by and large it's much harder to listen to than it was read.Okay so let's focus on the last and then I'll get to Harry Potter. I just finished Obama's Audacity of Hope. First I must make this confession, I've never read/listened to a politicians book before. I think I used a Warren Christopher book in a report on the Balkans in college but that's as close as I've come. So "like a virgin" I listened to Obama. Now the book was like most books of this ilk in that it was short of specifics and long on rhetoric.
2. Tolkien included way more elvish and poetry in the Lord of the Rings than I remember from reading it. I'm guessing I must have skipped those sections. They're much harder to skip when you're listening.
3. Terry Pratchett is one of the funniest pseudo-science fiction writers I've ever read. His Bromeliad was a wonderful kids book and I have yet to listen to a discworld book of his that I haven't liked.
4. You always pronounce proper and place names differently in your head than the way the "authorized" audio book pronounces them.
5. CS Lewis's (yes that's the correct way to make the possessive per Strunk & White) writing style is a lot of fluff with a periodic gem of wisdom that blows you away.
6. and lastly...If Barrack Obama is anything like his book he's got my vote.
Two things stood out though that make it noteworthy. The first is that it lacked the polemics one has come to expect in the modern American polis. Instead of vilification of the conservative Republicans, Obama makes the ghastly admission that they have gotten some things right over the years...I know I was surprised by this too. Indeed he spent the better part of several chapters discussing why the democratic approach to faith, education, and unions was lacking or just plain wrongheaded. I was amazed and found candor and sincerity moving.
It is this sincerity that stood out as the second noteworthy thing in his book. He comes off not as a pompous pontificator pointing proudly to the problems of political partisanship, but a reasoned problem solver willing to work with and listen to others.
Now this might be pure rhetoric for all I know. Certainly his book talked in high terms of all sorts of goals without giving specifics of achieving them, but its nice to have someone talk in high terms again, we haven't had anyone do that since....and this pains me, Reagan. (Stop yelling at the computer Dave, Clinton was hamstrung by the GOP hostility to him from the beginning.)
And onto Harry Potter. I finished the Deathly Hallows four days after it came out. Don't be impressed with that, it's actually very slow for me and that genre of books. I won't really say much here about it since some of you might not want the ending ruined. I can say that I was pleased in the ending and the beginning, she lost the pacing of it a bit in the middle but otherwise it was well written. It was nice to see a book series where the individuals actually changed over time. I can give you a list of a dozen or so other series where the characters never evolve, and the best that can be said of the protagonists is that they become caricatures of themselves. It was also nice to see a series where death was not always a bad thing...but that would give away the ending.
Now here's a video that I hope only took one take. This is from the band Low, their song Breaker.