Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Art Happens While Listening.

In this kind of work, one spends long hours sitting in one place, focused on one thing. If you love to read, like I do, the lack of time for books can be frustrating. So, in my first year of drawing comics, I began to devour audiobooks, first on cassette and later on CD. I used to rent them from this cool little store near the studio called Bookears, but with the advent of downloadable content, they went out of business. Nowadays, I download two books a month from Audible.com for about 20 bucks.*

Anyway, here are some examples from my Audible library. You'll notice that I lean in the non-fiction direction:

1776 and Truman, both by David McCullough. Titles are pretty self-explanatory, but McCullough's voice is so elegant and both books are really engaging.

No Ordinary Time, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which examines the importance of the Roosevelt White House and the relationship between FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold, by Frank Rich. A look at the trail of fictions that led us into the Iraq War.

Kiss And Make-Up, Gene Simmons' memoir. Interesting, if a bit arrogant (as you'd expect from Simmons)

Manhunt, by James L. Swanson. A gripping account of the hunt for John Wilkes Booth, written almost in the style of a thriller.

Gasping For Airtime, Jay Mohr's memoir of his time as a cast member on SNL. Funny, entertaining, and pathetically self-involved.

109 East Palace, by Jennet Connant, about Dorothy McKibbin, a widow who ran a front for the Manhattan Project.

The Cell, by John Miller, Michael Stone, & Chris Mitchell. A handful of FBI agents, New York cops, and journalists on the trail of Osama bin Laden in the years leading up to 9/11. Fascinating stuff.

Broken Government and Conservatives Without Conscience, both by former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean. In the first book, he traces the decline of the federal government, starting with the Nixon Administration; in the second, he examines neo-conservatives' authoritarian leanings, and posits that they have run amok, throwing American political discourse into chaos. Agree or not, it's a very interesting book.

The Godfather, by Mario Puzo. If you haven't heard of it, something's wrong with you.

A Ball, A Dog, And A Monkey, by Michael D'Antonio. The first year of the Space Race, 1957-58, was pretty nutty, believe it or not. Worth a read/listen.

Walt Disney, by Neal Gabler. Very thorough and balanced biography of a guy who really was a brilliant and deeply flawed person.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, by Peter Biskind. Scorsese, Coppola , Spielberg, Lucas, Bogdanovich, et al.... the Hollywood generation that defined cinema in the 70's and 80's. You'll slap your forehead at some of the craziness.

Band Of Brothers and The Wild Blue, both by Stephen Ambrose. The first is the definitive account of Easy Co, 101st Airborne, 506th PIR, which you'll remember was made into a great mini-series for HBO. Some of the material was repurposed for Ambrose's other books, D-Day and Citizen Soldiers, but this is the one you should read. The second book is about the boys who flew the B-24's. It focuses on George McGovern, a hero of 35 missions and later a U.S. Senator, who still later ran for President. Love this book.

Born Standing Up, Steve Martin's memoir. Funny, affecting, and very real.

The Last Campaign, by Thurston Clarke. A pretty absorbing look into Robert Kennedy's transformation from ruthless political operative to inspiring voice for change, his run for the presidency, and his tragic death.

AC/DC, by Tom McNichol. No, not the band. It's about the fight over how electricity would be transmitted, and how Thomas Edison lost control of what would eventually become General Electric.

All The President's Men. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward won a Pulitzer for the investigation of the Watergate scandal, and this book was made into an excellent film. Both are worthwhile.

America (The Book), by Jon Stewart & The Writers of The Daily Show. Need I say more?


*This is a legacy deal, though, as I'm a longtime customer. I do believe it's slightly more expensive now.

1 comment:

Benno said...

I only listen to audiobooks in the car and I find they have to have a very strong through line to keep me from drifting off into my own thoughts. I like Stephen Ambrose, but only have listened to the "repurposed" pair you mentioned. Generally, though, I listen to books I would be unlikely to read otherwise or which I know will be a bit of adreneline. That means lots of pulpy kind of stuff like Jonathan Kellerman, Stephen King, James Lee Burke, Lawrence Block etc. A great nonfiction book I think I already recommended to you would be "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakaur. It might make you even less likely to vote for Mitt Romney if that is possible.