Folks can derive much comfort from listening to audiobooks during these uncertain and stressful times of social distancing. Here, with suggested titles, are five reasons to plug into good audiobook right now.
To restore calm
Australian author Kate James’ even, soothing reading of her “Create Calm” does exactly that, gently and lovingly coaxing the listener toward love and acceptance for themselves and others. British author and Northwest transplant David Whyte’s insightful meditations on poetry and life are intoned with an easy, flowing resonance that is both stimulating and reassuring. I suggest his “Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words,” in which Whyte invites us to face and contemplate our fears of loss, loneliness and the unknown. Both voices are ideal to ease the unquiet mind, and perhaps to gently lower you into sleep.
To honor our heroes
Christie Watson’s “The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story” brings a novelist’s observational skill to the memoir of an idealistic young Londoner’s entry into the profession of caregiving. The author herself eloquently relates vivid details gleaned over her two decades of work as a pediatric and mental-health nurse, revealing the beauty and mystery at the heart of her time-honored yet often overlooked profession. In “I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse,” Lee Gutkind gathers the revealing and moving testaments of 20 nurses, conveyed with empathy and humor by narrator Tavia Gilbert. Here are the real feelings and impressions of those anonymous, irreplaceable lifesavers whose heroism looms so large in our current crisis, helping us all to better understand and appreciate why they do what they do, and at what cost.
To rise to the challenge
Bainbridge Island-based journalist Jon Mooallem’s inspiring story of grit and resilience, “This is Chance!: The Shaking of an All-American City, A Voice That Held it Together,” could not be better suited to our current moment. As narrator Ray Porter warns in his rich, plainspoken baritone “… there are moments when the world we take for granted instantaneously changes; when reality is abruptly upended and the unimaginable overwhelms real life,” we cannot help but agree. A seasoned reader of suspenseful fiction, Porter is the perfect choice to relate the dramatic, larger-than-life story of the 9.2 magnitude earthquake that leveled Anchorage in March 1964, and the everyday heroism of radio journalist Genie Chance, whose reassuring nonstop broadcasts helped draw her devastated community back together.
The awakened communal spirit of those Alaskans is echoed in experiences from a world away, in Mungi Ngomane’s thoughtful and compassionate “Everyday Ubuntu: Living Better Together, the African Way.” The granddaughter of Bishop Desmond Tutu, Ngomane lays out 14 lessons for building bridges and fostering reconciliation, wisdom hard won during South Africa’s journey out of apartheid, and convincingly narrated by Tutu’s daughter, Nontombi Naomi Tutu. Here is potent medicine to cure our country’s disharmony, rancor and despair, more corrosive than any virus. Ngomane calls on the better angels of our nature to help us find our way forward to a brighter future. We find similar guidance in the writings of the late Canadian indigenous author Richard Wagamese, whose final unfinished title “One Drum: Stories and Ceremonies for a Planet” features traditional Ojibwe teachings promoting humility, honesty and courage, persuasively brought to life by reader Christian Baskous. Wagamese’s earlier essay collection “One Story, One Song” is also beautifully narrated by Baskous with an easy, unforced grace that captures the author’s wisdom and wit, strengthened by pain and adversity into a stirring call to hope, healing and reconciliation.
To envision a future
Viral pandemic, global economic collapse, natural disasters, and a terrorist takedown of the power grid: Things have pretty well hit rock bottom at the start of Kimi Eisele’s novel “The Lightest Object in the Universe.” With seemingly nothing to lose, East Coaster Carson Waller decides to hit the road — hitchhiking, by bike, on foot — to reunite with his online crush, Beatrix, who is working to rebuild her community on the far side of the country. Unlike Cormac McCarthy’s bleak “The Road,” Eisele’s postapocalyptic road trip highlights humanity’s resilient capacity to transcend self and to work together in the face of seemingly overwhelming challenges. The tentative, world-weary optimism of Gabra Zackman’s narration lends credence to the book’s hopeful message, one no doubt reinforced by examples of grit and goodwill that we see around us each day as we weather this pandemic.
Audible.com has made hundreds of children’s audiobooks available for free during school closures. Many public libraries have also upped the limit on their digital offerings at this time, and some have offered ways for eligible patrons without a card to register online — check with your local system to see what’s available.