Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

March 2009

by Jonathan Lowe

The Lost City of Z by David Grann Looking for a true story of adventure, mystery, and horror (in the form of malaria-laden mosquitos, poisonous snakes, and a lost city of gold)? If so, you're in for an exciting destination that's best read (or heard) about rather than visited. When New Yorker magazine staff writer David Grann stumbled upon the diaries of British explorer Percy Fawcett, he had in his hands the framework needed for a book on the subject of what's been called "the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century." The date was 1925 when Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett set out to find the site of a legendary Amazonian civilization reputed to hide the golden kingdom of El Dorado. Fawcett dubbed it THE LOST CITY OF Z, and from the start the expedition was a descent into hell. He writes of "days of toil, nights of torture" in his diaries, which are filled with notes about the various insects which plagued him. Not only did the pack animals suffer, but colleagues succumbed to strange tropical diseases that manifested as festering sores that attracted leeches and vampire bats. What will men do to discover gold? Fawcett's obsession offers a vivid example, although he himself seems to have been blessed with an extraordinary physical constitution. As the author takes up the mantle to explore the Amazon himself, seeking the truth about what happened to Fawcett, he becomes involved in an adventure of all his own. Actor Mark Deakins narrates this fascinating tale, maintaining the air of fresh discovery throughout. (Random House Audio; 10 hours unabridged)
No Survivors by Tom Cain In NO SURVIVORS, a book that rivals—even surpasses—the Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum, novelist Tom Cain continues to develop the character of Samuel Carver, a hired assassin who makes accidents happen, and who, like Jason, lies—at the beginning—a broken man unsure of his past. When his Russian spy girlfriend is forced to leave him, Carver escapes the sanitarium in which he's imprisoned only to be hired by a man who wants to get his hands on some deadly missing Russian suitcase nukes. Add a Texas billionaire who hopes to finance Armageddon by blowing up Jerusalem, and what you have is a 007ish take on nuclear terror circa today. Is Cain the new Clancy? Time will tell, but in the meantime John Lee is definitely a great choice as narrator for a suspense set mainly in Europe, and whose accent is no accident. Lee won an award reading Cain's previous novel, The Accident Man, while Tom Cain is the pseudonym of British journalist David Thomas (a name that perhaps sounds more appropriate for someone reading poetry on Walton's mountain). Now let's just hope that there isn't as much missing nuclear material out there as Cain postulates, Because if there is, we are all in deep, deep trouble. (Penguin Audio; 11 hours unabridged)
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister Next, Erica Bauermeister's first novel, THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS, is not merely about the pleasures of culinary indulgence. Like scientist Jonah Lehrer, her character Lillian has been exploring the mysteries of taste for a long time, and also looking beyond recipes or menus to discover the hidden truths which arise from those mysteries. Her weekly restaurant cooking classes provide her with an audience on which to crystalize her thoughts on food, life, and love. But this is only a springboard from which the lives of her students add spice to the mix. Their stories within Lillian's main story serve as poignant taste variations added to a subtle base stock. As narrated by actor Cassandra Campbell, this short yet delicious novel becomes a delicacy to be savored as sentence by sentence the hope of those yearning to learn the truths of their lives play out on the chopping block. (Penguin Audio; 6 hours unabridged)
Yes! by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin, and Robert B. Cialdini While there are many things you should say "no way" to, when it comes to persuasion what you want is for your clients or potential employers to say YES! Getting them to overcome any reluctance is a matter of psychology, as authors Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin, and Robert B. Cialdini emphasize in their new audiobook, subtitled 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive. Goldstein is on the faculty of UCLA's Anderson School of Management, Martin is managing director of Influence at Work in the UK, and Cialdini is president of that organization, a professor of psychology and marketing, and the most cited social psychologist in the field. What is most interesting about their research is how seemingly subtle variations in the wording of advertising or interpersonal dialogue can affect outcomes. For example, if you are talking to someone whose background is more collectivist than individualistic (like the culture of Japan), you will receive much more favorable results if you point to what others of their group have chosen in the past, rather than what their own choice should be. Also covered are why hiring someone to tout your merits is better than touting them yourself (even if that person is known to be paid by you!), how mirroring a person's gestures or style creates a bond with them, and why placement of mirrors to reduce theft or littering actually works. Some of these findings have been outlined in other business psychology books, but there's a appeal to the wide ranging and entertaining aspect here, with an attention to not getting too bogged down in lecture. This is primarily a book for sales people, but the useful psychological tips cross over into all aspects of daily life. The conclusion you come to after listening is that we are not always the rational beings we imagine ourselves to be, and are instead influenced by what our peers are doing (watching sports on TV), how scarce something is claimed to be (making us want it more, as in "only available for a limited time!"), or just the relentless breaking down of our wills through repetition. You are even more likely to buy this audiobook because I listed the qualifications of the authors above, as one of their case studies involves a doctor who had little success advising his patients to choose healthier diets until he posted his academic credentials in plain view. (Simon & Schuster Audio; 5 1/2 hours unabridged)
Chapterhouse Dune by Frank Herbert Finally, Frank Herbert's last epic novel gets a new production in CHAPTERHOUSE DUNE, as narrated by Euan Morton, Katherine Kellgren, Scott Brick, and Simon Vance. In this final installment written by Herbert (Sr.) before his death, Dune (Arrakis) has been destroyed, and its heirs to power (the Bene Gesserit) have colonized another world, and are slowly turning it into a desert planet. With fine performances by a talented cast, (including the "Making Of" video included on the final disk), the audiobook is a must-have for all Dune fans, although those unfamiliar with the series should start with the original Dune audiobook, or else they will quickly become as clueless to what's happening as new viewers to the TV show LOST. (MacMillan Audio; 16 1/2 hours unabridged)
Yes! by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin, and Robert B. Cialdini Also recommended: One of the greatest novels of all time, MOBY DICK, now gets a stunning new interpretation by actor Anthony Heald, and is available on Mp3 disk too for quick download to iPod. Join Ishmael and Captain Ahab as narrated by one of our favorite readers, who was nominated for several Tony awards and won an Obie for his theater work. (Blackstone Audio; 24 hours unabridged)

2009 Past Columns

© MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.