The Books That Choose You

A LitHub-recommended long read reminds me that one of the intrinsic pleasures of making audiobooks is that I don’t choose what I’m reading next. Instead, the book chooses you.

Strictly speaking, what really happens is that the studio director chooses you to read the book. But the effect is the same: I don’t pick the books I’ll spend hours reading aloud, word for word, cover to cover. Unlike my home library, these projects don’t say anything about my intentions to be or know or feel something—or do they?

Thanks to working at a studio with a blessedly quirky contract to record material for the Library of Congress, the books that “choose me” are a potpourri of fiction and nonfiction, books I’ve seen elsewhere and plenty I haven’t, things I might otherwise choose to read and, yes, sometimes, things I wouldn’t.

Like the rest of life’s happenstances, sometimes this works out quite nicely. Recently I narrated these three works of nonfiction over a few weeks: a book about sea otters, one about a man who spent his days and nights living as a wild turkey, then an encyclopedic account of connections between sci-fi and pop music in the 1970s.

The result: I know more than I did before (with no interest in running with the turkeys), and I’m a grateful omnivore.

Expiating at Length

…is a good way to describe the narrative effort of my current project: the recollections (fictional) of an escaped slave in Henry David Thoreau’s company. There are some wonderfully uncommon words here—words I know I’ve never spoken out loud like phenakistoscope and phalanstery— as well as the characters of Emerson, Hawthorne and a sprinkling of other Transcendentalists. As an erstwhile English major, I say 👍🏼.

Mrs. Fletcher

Her kid’s off to college and …

One of the good reads I read last year was Tom Perrotta’s coming-of-age(s) tale Mrs. Fletcher. If you’re an NLS patron, you’ll find it here.

In brief: a single mother takes her son off to college. He flexes his teenage masculinity (ewww …). She explores the freedoms in her newly empty nest (hmmm …). One year later, they’re not quite the same characters they were before.

The Accidents

True crime in Colorado

Caleb Hannan’s The Accidents tells the true story of one man twice widowed under mysterious circumstances in Colorado. Read the excerpt from Rolling Stone here, grab the Kindle single, or listen to the audiobook from

Rocky Mountain National Park features quite significantly in The Accidents. We took a day trip there last fall—somehow my very first after more than 40 years in the neighborhood—and shortly after that I narrated this book. It’s a compelling read, but let me also say the serrated edge of those mountains will not look the same again.