Help! Looking for Good Listening

I’m sure you’ll all be thrilled to know I’ve finally decided to drive my carcass to Bouchercon next week, if only because the footnote mutterings about seven-hour midnight Amtrak layovers and my sincere disgust of airline policies and prices will stop for a while.

Rocinante has been pronounced drivable by my mechanic,* windshield replacement has been scheduled for this Friday, and I’ve collected nearly enough change from the couch cushions to pay for gas.**

So now, all I have to do is figure out how to keep myself awake during the nine-hour drive without risking caffeine poisoning or an extra hour of potty breaks by ramping up my already borderline diet Pepsi habit.

Music works for shorter trips but there’s only so long I can tolerate my own singing, so I’m thinking audio books.

I don’t often get to listen to books in the car, as three-fourths of the mileage on my odometer was achieved in the presence of my children who don’t care to listen to stories without pictures or video and will not tolerate being ignored*** for five minutes until Mommy finds out why the vicar hid the antimacassar in the old tree stump by the abandoned manse,^ thus neatly framing himself for the murder of the choir director.

While I know what I like to read—pretty much everything except the sports page—good print doesn’t always translate into good listening.

I’m looking for stories likely to keep me interested enough to stay awake but not so engrossed I blow through the toll booths or ignore exits in favor of plot twists.   Falling in love with the reader’s voice is totally optional, though I certainly wouldn’t mind.

I’m not sure if I’ll have a working MP3 transmitter by then—Rocinante predates standard vehicle USB connectors—so I’ll need CDs  instead of downloads and I’m hoping to get them at the library, which is the point of mentioning all this now instead of next week when I’ll be too busy trying to pack for forty years in the desert instead of four days in a major city that most likely has a store or two that sells stuff for forgetful travelers.

Having said all this, anyone have any suggestions?


*Both ways, if I can find an eBay buyer for the stunning amount of Barbie accessories I also collected.

*At least to Cleveland and back, after which I need to think seriously about sparks and struts replacement costs  versus the trade-in value on a 2005 Honda Civic with less than 52,000 miles (pre-Cleveland) but several cosmetic eccentricities—plus the current financial advisability of a car payment.  Being a responsible adult really bites sometimes . . . And you can expect many more footnote mutterings on that topic well into the foreseeable future.

**They don’t mind ignoring me, especially when I ask them about homework or e-mails sent to my work account from their teachers during the school day, but that’s a completely different post.

***Because of the purple-spotted badgers told him to—the head of the altar guild found out he’d been at the sacramental wine and put in an herbal emetic that didn’t work the way she thought it would.

No, not really.  But that’s the kind of thing I’d ignore my kids to hear.

30 thoughts on “Help! Looking for Good Listening

  1. Free to Be, You and Me with Marlo Thomas. It’ll put you in the perfect state of mind. Just make sure it’s the original one, not the sequel, which is still good but nothing like the archetype

  2. Ah, now this is where I may be of some help.

    The Language of Bees by Laurie King (It’s on audio and is, I suppose, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes fan fiction) I’m picking it up today, going in reverse and having listened to The God of the Hive which is the sequel to the above-mentioned. I really enjoyed it.

    Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney. Oh my goodness how I loved this story, read by the author.

    I’m early into The Red House by Mark Haddon. The writing is more disjointed, but the language is gorgeous.

    • I love Laurie King’s series—she’s attending Bouchercon, too, so that’s a great fit, Lisa.

      I had to look up Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show and The Red House but both sound like they’d keep me awake!

        • I skipped lunch to see her debate her books with the author of a Sherlock Holmes encyclopedia. And spoke to her, too—she’s very personable and holy cow brilliant.

          I found out later, she has followers who actually follower her around, like the Grateful Dead!

          And in one of her panels, she commandeered Joseph Finder’s beer. She’s great.

  3. I will be watching this list as it grows, because I too am generally not very audio-book friendly, but it would come in handy on long car rides.

    And YAY to the Cleveland visit!! I hope the conference is productive for you. I can’t remember the exact dates but I believe I’m leaving for my writing residency in Illinois around the same time…but hit me up for Cleveland suggestions/advice as needed. 🙂

  4. If you want something light, amusing, and with no message, I’d suggest “The Cat That Came in From the Cold.” To show you how old it is, I listened to it on audio cassette in a car that had an audio cassette player. Maybe that only shows how old I am.

  5. Yay! You’re coming to Ohio. I hope you enjoy your visit and your conference. You won’t be surprised to hear that my family was listening to Hank the Cowdog on audio (our son’s request) as we drove to meet friends in West Virginia. We were two hours deeper into W. VA than we should have been because we were so engrossed in the story, we missed a turn. You are wise to plan ahead for this. I’m sorry I have no suggestions for audio at this time, but have a safe trip!

  6. Choices, choices.
    For espionage/adventure, James Rollins is always good. If you want Epic stories, The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherford is compelling. Another entertaining “listen” is Kate Mosse’s Sepulchre.
    I also discovered the Thursday Next Series by Jasper Fforde, and found it to be suitable for driving/listening.

    I also owned Free to Be, You and Me. Listened to that record *ahem* countless times. Parts of the TV special are on Youtube.

    Have a safe trip.

    • You know, I’ve always wanted to try Jasper Fforde and this might be the perfect opportunity. Thanks, John!

      (instead of old, let’s agree to be ‘part of a nobler generation’ together, shall we?)

  7. oh dear lord, how i love a solo road trip. really, truly, seriously…i LOVE being alone in my car for long stretches across miles. just me and music and coffee (from whatever coffee shop i can find at the nearest exit).

    so here’s my favorite thing to listen to in the car:

    It’s NPR’s radiolab archive–you can download as many as you want for free. once, my husband and i listened to EIGHT HOURS straight of shows, and when we pulled into the driveway of the lakehouse we were renting in SC, after being in the car for those 8-hours, we stayed in the car for another seven minutes to hear the end of the show were listening to. we had to. it was way to interesting to give up on just b/c we’d been in a car for the length of a full work day.

    if you’re not as nerdy as i am and want something more literary than geeky, my recommendations are anything read by:
    david sedaris
    sarah vowell
    david rackoff

    i also enjoy marc maron’s WTF? (also free, downloadable podcasts) i loved the episodes w/:
    louis ck
    chris rock
    jon hamm (did you know he was an english major? i was melting the entire interview)

  8. On long car trips, I’m a big fan of The New Yorkers podcasts of short stories. We listened to them all the way to NY. My husband uploaded them to his Ipod and we were off.
    Now, on the other side of the spectrum, one of my dearest friends drove from NY to Michigan with her husband, not a reader. They listened to the Harry Potter series on audio and she said after all that time in the car he wanted to stay in there, in his mom’s driveway, to see how it ended.
    You should check with Teri. She is queen of the audiobook!

  9. I have tried audiobooks several times, and sadly, just can’t do them. I always want to skip ahead or rewind, and that’s just too damn dangerous while I’m driving and doing my makeup and eating breakfast.

    If it’s not too late to offer music suggestions, I’d offer these as some of my favorite roadtrip songs:
    “America” by Simon and Garfunkel, “Born to Run” by Springsteen, “500 Miles” by the Proclaimers (just picture David Tennant and the Doctor Who cast and crew), “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson, and of course “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf.

    I’ve really dated myself with these, haven’t I?

    • Well, I dated to some of these songs, so we’re in the same boat, Sherry (you bail, I’m too tired . . . )

      I have “500 Miles,” already because I’ve loved the Proclaimers forever, and “Born to be Wild,” because, um, reasons.

      Thanks, Sherry! 🙂

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