While I enjoyed the audiobooks I listened to for the 2016 Armchair Audies as a whole much better this year than any other year in the history of this challenge, there were two audiobooks that I just couldn’t finish. There was also one I wished I had DNFd but didn’t. Giving myself the “permission” to DNF an Armchair Audies title has been freeing, especially when I hold those titles I’m less sure about toward the end of the category (and hopefully after already listening to the winner). That being said, I love how the Armchair Audies has prompted me to expand my horizons. I like to give them all a try. Unfortunately, a try was all the following audiobooks were worth for me.
Of all of the 2016 Audie Nominees I attempted to listen to this season, The Courage to Act was the one farthest outside of my wheelhouse. I have little interest in finance and a memoir about someone who is passionate about the subject didn’t appeal to me from the start. This audiobook had two things going for it. First, it is narrated by Grover Gardner. He has such a rich voice. I can imagine worse things than having him read me the Finance section of the paper for 23 hours. Second, I cannot express how happy I was that my local public library had an audiobook copy available. It really would have hurt me to use an Audible credit on it. Despite my lack of interest, I went into this 18 disc audiobook hoping to learn about how our economy works and how we overcame a recent crisis. Reader, I listened to the first two and then bailed on it. Gardner’s level of performance was that of his work on Mark Twain’s Autobiography, but there was just no way that I could listen to Bernake’s story for 16 more discs. His early childhood was interesting, but when he went into excruciating detail about the layout and make up of his first Federal Reserve meeting, I knew this audiobook wasn’t going to be my pick in the Autobiography/Memoir category. It was very clear to me that I wasn’t even distantly related to the target audience for this book.
I have never previously met any Michael Crichton’s novels, but with ER and Jurassic Park he entertained me quite a bit in my 20s. Knowing nothing more about him or what Travels was about, I went into this audiobook anticipating a travel memoir. From the very first section, where he discusses dissecting a human cadaver in much more detail than I’d care to hear so shortly after breakfast, I realized this was a memoir of his life beginning with medical school. Crichton’s experiences there and his view of the medical establishment were interesting if not compelling. Something started to feel funny to me when he began describing his work with a young female psychiatric patient, but I looked past it as his writing took him away from medicine and to Los Angeles. What I learned before I bailed on this audiobook was that Hollywood ruined Crichton. His perspective and the way he framed his story of that time was self-serving. When, while traveling abroad, he just short of ridiculed a woman from another culture for her way of life in her own country, I’d had enough of him. Now I don’t see myself reading any more of his work until this nasty taste washes out of my mouth. Christopher Lee’s pot smoking performance was enjoyable, but otherwise the material didn’t lend itself to leaving a lasting impression.
At just 7 discs long, Go Set a Watchman doesn’t require much of a commitment from its readers. Still, by the time I finished disc 2, I was ready to call DNF. I originally had no intentions of reading this book at all. I had a good idea of what was coming based on reviews I’ve read and Twitter commentary following the novel’s initial publication. When it was nominated for the Audiobook of the Year, I decided to give it a try. I’d already listened to two of the other titles, so why not judge a third category? By the end of disc 2, none of that had happened. I was simply bored to tears. In the end, I didn’t want to leave Harper Lee’s work bored and continued. Almost immediately I knew I’d made a mistake. Once the Atticus bubble popped, there was no longer any good reason to stop. I was hoping for a redemption that really never came. I didn’t care for the characters in this incarnation. There was none of the magic contained within To Kill a Mockingbird. Scenes didn’t feel fleshed out. They were rushed and as a result scenes that should have torn my heart out for Jean Louise made me impatient for the book to end. Reese Witherspoon’s narration was okay but inconsistent for me. There were certain characters she voiced well and certain passages that she nailed. On the other hand, her male characters especially needed work and there were periods of time where I could almost reach out and feel her boredom. In short, if there ever was a book I wished I’d never read, it was this one.