It’s summertime and you know what that means: sunny skies, windows down, time to take a road trip! If you haven’t discovered the joys of audiobooks, summer road trips are the perfect time to dive into this medium. What could be better than having a book read to you? Have a talented, professional actor perform a book for you. The miles will fly by as you listen to a story come to life when presented by great voice talents. But if you are traveling this summer with your family, choosing an audiobook can become complicated. You want a book that will be of interest to everyone, no matter their age, but you also want to avoid embarrassing plot lines. The Hub is here to help you.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury read by Scott Brick
First published in 1950, this book is a “future history” of Mars. It is a set of connected short stories that together, tell of the people of Earth colonizing Mars and of how folks from Earth become Martians after a long enough time. It is beautifully written, as so many Bradbury works are, and it is hopeful yet grounded too. Scott Brick is an experienced and talented narrator whose smooth voice imparts all the drama and solemnity of humans making their way on an alien world. His voice trembles with rage and fear, soothes with velvet tones, and practically shouts with excitement when talking about rocket ships. These old fashioned tales are entertaining for all ages.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline read by Wil Wheaton
In the future, life is so terrible that most people escape into a virtual reality video game called OASIS. OASIS was created by a super rich, super smart techie who had a love of all things 80’s. This mastermind hid a puzzle inside the game. If players figure out the puzzle, they will inherit the game creator’s fortune! Needless to say, playing becomes vicious and potentially deadly. Actor Wil Wheaton, best known for his turn on Star Trek: The Next Generation performs Cline’s wonderfully kitschy dystopia with gleeful, nerdy energy. And I mean that in the best way. Families that enjoy pop culture and games and science fiction will get a kick out of this simultaneously futuristic and nostalgic novel.
Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen read by Kirby Heyborne
Hiaasen writes great, goofy, strong characters and it is delightful to hear narrator Heyborne having fun, bringing them to life with his performance. The story is set in the wilderness of Florida’s rivers, where 14 year old Richard teams up with wild man Skink to find and rescue Richard’s cousin Malley from a kidnapper. The amazing descriptions will make listeners feel they are in a swamp, while Heyborne’s performance of young girls, teen boys, concerned moms, old men, and 20-something lowlifes is a delight.
Pop by Gordon Korman read by Nick Pohdel
This is not the usual ‘sports story.’ Marcus moves to a new town, and finds friendship with an older man who used to be a linebacker for the NFL. They play football together in the town park, and Marcus just knows his skills are improving because of Charlie’s coaching. But Charlie’s family is not thrilled by his friendship with Marcus, and the family is hiding a big secret that may split up the two new pals. Korman writes with care and restraint about dementia; this is a tough subject, handled well. Narrator Pohdel also reads carefully, going from youthful voices to growly adults seamlessly. The text gently handled a rough subject, and the narrator is as adept as the words he’s reading.
Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen by Garth Nix read by Tim Curry
This is an older fantasy series, well worth seeking out. It takes place at the edge of two worlds, Ancelstierre, where technology works, and The Old Kingdom, where there is magic. The books cover several generations of people involved in protecting the world from evil spirits. Actor Tim Curry reads all three of the original books, and his performance is wonderful. Whether portraying a nervous young girl who has not come into her powers yet, a confident older magician, or a deliciously devious spirit trapped in the body of a small cat, Curry conjures up vivid images worthy of a movie.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham
(An Odyssey honor book)
Weaving together strands of Celtic mythology, Stiefvater has created a gripping, fantastical tale of a small island community where every November, boys race water horses or die trying. The horses literally come from the sea. They are demonically strong and do not want to be tamed or ridden. But the race is a tradition, and the winner becomes rich. The riders are traditionally male, but this year, driven by poverty, a girl enters for the first time. West and Hardingham alternate narration duties, and their take on the main characters is realistic, grounding this fantasy tale.
~ Geri Diorio, currently listening to Easy Street The Hard Way by Ron Perlman, read by Ron Perlman