When the Audiobook of the Year nominees were announced, I was a little perturbed. Then, after finishing all of the Literary Fiction nominees, I listened to Beautiful Ruins. The review is forthcoming, but that experience was so incredible that it made me that much more irritated at the Audiobook of the Year category. As The End of the Affair was also a Literary Fiction title, I got to thinking that I’d now listened to half of the nominees. Why not listen to all four so that I will have fully earned the right to be righteously indignant with the APA. So that’s what I did. With two shiny new Audible credits, I purchased American Grown and Killing Kennedy. Here are my thoughts:
American Grown is a coffee table book written by Michelle Obama. It describes her personal history with gardening, the gardening efforts she’s made on the White House lawn, and provides discussion and information about personal gardening, community gardening, and preparing fresh fruits and vegetables. I found this book more interesting that I had expected, but I did skip the preachy sections on childhood obesity. Michelle Obama’s narration was not awful, but she at times sounded much like I would expect myself to sound as an audiobook narrator – stiff. The narrator who read much of Ms. Obama’s text had a similar sounding voice that matched well. Of the other cast members, many of whom were people quoted in the book, had varying degrees of ease reading out loud. The audiobook had a similar feel as a local cable channel show. I don’t mean that in a bad way necessarily. These were people who enjoy gardening and are passionate about the topic. They’re just not natural audiobook narrators. Although I’ve listened to worse audiobooks, were I to have read this book in any other circumstance, I would choose the print version without hesitation.
Killing Kennedy is narrative non-fiction about the years leading up to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Following both Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald in chronological order, the book was quite interesting. I didn’t have much knowledge of the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, or Lee Harvey Oswald’s personal history going into the book. It reminded me of how much I enjoy American history. Bill O’Reilly is a public figure who is well known for his news program on Fox News. He approached the audiobook in much the same way. News reporting does not equate to good audiobook narrating. I found it distracting. I could also tell when he’d been reading for a while because he’d speed through and words became a little slurred. He also had this habit of accentuating or emphasizing words that did not make any sense within the context of the sentence. The most memorable example was when he discussed Kennedy’s hypothyroidism. He said that word in the exact same manner as the principal in “Say Anything” when he talks about Diane Court and her study of Bi-O-Chemistry. Again, if I were to have picked this book up to read under any other circumstance, I would have chosen the print version.
I will be posting my complete review of Beautiful Ruins and my Audiobook of the Year wrap up post next week.