AUDIO BOOK REVIEWS
by Jonathan Lowe
is a popular physicist whose PBS series and book "The
Elegant Universe" was a hit with geeks. I suppose the
word "geek" offends some, but having written for
astronomy publications myself, I'm telling myself not to take
offense. . . especially since what being a "geek"
means, in fact, is that you actually read books instead of
watching "Dancing with the Stars" or "American
Idol" on the boob tube while slurping 64 oz. sodas. (Sidebar:
Was The Fonz a geek? If so, what was he doing at Book Expo?
I turned around from Larry King, and almost bumped into him.)
Anyway, Greene's new book THE HIDDEN REALITY is narrated by
the author on audio, who is an excellent reader. What is Brian
talking about here? Oh, not much, just the biggest questions
in the universe. (Hint: that's NOT about the outcome of some
playoff game, either.) What he's exploring is the possibility
that there may in fact be multiple universes. . . (perhaps,
in one universe, Sarah Palin even wins the Presidency). Does
this all sound like fiction to you? Well, guess again. Mathematics
actually points in this direction. Greene covers a range of
theories about parallel worlds in this intriguing and mind
opening exercise of the imagination. It's cogent, concise,
and stranger than anything in science fiction. As a professor
of physics and math at Columbia, and having worked at Cornell
after graduating from Harvard and Oxford, does Brian even
look like a geek? Maybe we need to redefine the word, considering
the world's youngest billionaire is also a geek, as are Sergey
Brin and Larry Page.
What part did the riff raff of society play in forming our
country? A very large part, says author Thaddeus Russell.
A RENEGADE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES is narrated by Paul
Boehmer. This fascinating alternative to conventional history
textbooks shows how prostitutes rather than feminists won
liberation for women, and how rock and roll brought down the
Berlin wall. While some of his logic may seem a stretch, Russell
makes a serious case explaining the influences that ordinary
citizens--particularly criminals--made in forging the freedoms
we enjoy today. Narrator Boehmer is convincing in his own
way, too, with these fun (and hitherto suppressed) facts about
slavery, the founding fathers, and various political radicals.
Next, one of the most listenable of narrators, Richard Poe
reads CHARLIE ST. CLOUD, by Ben Sherwood, which seems to combine
story elements from "Field of Dreams" and "The
Five People You Meet in Heaven" to follow one brother
who--after a near death experience--plays ball with his death
brother, who never ages and is stuck in time and frozen love.
Can Charlie move on, released from the past, with his beautiful
Tess? Poe is perfect to keep the sentimentality here in place,
while never losing the engagement of the listener. An afterward
read by the author describes Woodlawn cemetery in the Bronx,
with his commentary on the film adaptation's choice to use
a fake cemetery.
Finally, while reporting on desperate women defecting from
North Korea at the Chinese border, Laura Ling and a colleague
were captured by soldiers and interrogated, then imprisoned
for five months. Only with the help of Laura's sister Lisa
(former host of The View), whose contacts on Capitol Hill
aided her, was their release negotiated. Laura, exhausted
and grateful, co-wrote and co-narrates their engaging memoir,
SOMEWHERE INSIDE, which needs little vocal dramatization to
maintain suspense. Since their voices sound similar, a brief
musical interlude separates their alternating accounts, aided
by the shift in locale, and the audiobook confirms the sisters'
bond to each other while revealing the fear behind the words.