Book ’em

I am a book lover. But I'm cheap. Well, hardly flush with cash. That's the main thing. If I had tons of money to toss around I'd buy hardbacks left and right. But my general M.O. is this:

Hear of book.
Find book in library.
Reserve book.
Tap foot.
Get book.
Read book.
Love book? –> Get hardback.
Like book? –> Return. Consider paperback some other time. Maybe read again.
Hate book? –> Return. Wash from memory.

Nowhere in there does "buy original hardback, unread" tend to fall in. I just can't spend upwards of $30 to get the best version of a book. And if I really like a book, I want something that lasts.

This all led up to the fact that I'm actually listening to my very first audio book, and it's a story I never would have picked up in print form. First of all, I'm really not a fan in theory of audio books. Reading is not the same as listening. And I'm generally not a fan of the pulp crime books that seem to come out by the dozens written by men with bold Anglo-Saxon names: James Patterson, Ed McBain, Brad Meltzer. But: Tell me something's free, and I'll take a sniff.

That's how I ended up listening to Brad Meltzer's "The Millionaires." Boing Boing said it was free on iTunes, so off I went. Hey, if I hate it, there's not even a book to find a new home for. I just delete.

Listening to a book this long (technically it's my second audio book; I'd read Stephen King's "The Mist" years ago, then listened to it on an audio book later on, but that's a novella and I had read the darn thing first) is an odd sensation. It's one man's voice — Tony Goldwyn — doing all the voices, and all the narration. And he has a rich, pointed tone that is the equivalent of drinking too much Evian — nice at first, then suddenly too, too much. The voice reminds me of those guys who do voice-overs for movies: A lot of drama, a lot of intonation, a lot of emphasis. And a lot of accents.

The two main characters, Oliver and Charlie, are brothers who conspire to steal $3 million from the private bank they work for. Suffice it to say, everything goes horribly wrong. But I wonder if, had I been reading it, if Charlie would be as goddamned obnoxious as he appears to be in hearing it. I imagine Meltzer wrote him to be endearingly charming; read by Hicks he's on my last nerve.

It's an oddly intimate experience, too, having this one person's voice in your head so much. I listen on the way to work and on the way home, so that's about an hour or so each day, bouncing around up there. I'm picturing it as I listen, so it's as if the whole thing was a play taking place on the subway. But it's more than that — I'm plunged into the story more closely than I ever have been reading. I do read a lot, which means I read fast, which means I don't read every word. Here, you have no choice.

I'm still not sure that I'm sold on audio books; I'm certainly not going to pony a lot of money up for them. But then again, I haven't finished "The Millionaires." More when that happens.

In other book-related news, the New York Times says these five books are the best novels of the year. I've decided to be ambitious and read them. At first, I thought, "Maybe I'll try and read them before the end of the year!" Then I saw how many people were in line ahead of me (see the far column).

In the case of "Then We Came to the End," I think the title will refer to the end of 2008 in terms of when I will likely get a hold of that book.


  1. mikecap on 11/29/07 at 3:10 pm

    Brad’s a reasonably hot writer in the comic book world right now.

  2. Armchair News on 11/29/07 at 3:27 pm

    Comic books? Really? Huh.

    I guess I could see some of this particular text translate into a graphic novel….

  3. LeendaDLL on 11/29/07 at 5:41 pm

    I used to commute 70miles, one way, to work each day and started checking out audio books. They provided double benefits – distracted me so I didn’t feel the need to kill other drivers, and let me hear stories I know I never would have  found time to read.

    I’ve found a lot of variety on my responses (HATED David Sedaris, couldn’t follow The Illiad, varying degrees of enjoyed others). I SUPER-INCREDI-HIGHLY recommend ANYTHING read by Steve Martin. “The Pleasure of My Company” is OUTSTANDING. Everyone I’ve loaned it to, and myself, has immediately listened to it a second time.

    I just finished listening to “Born Standing Up”, Steve Martin’s autobiography of his life as a stand up comedian (doesn’t go into his life in movies, being an author, musician or art collector) and loved it too. There’s something about his voice that soothes me.

    Which reminds me – avoid “The Notebook” on audio. It’s read by Barry Bostwick. All fine and dandy till he’s reading a flashback section, where the character is supposed to be in late teens and having a sexual experience with a girl of the same age. Hearing Barry’s much-older-than-19 voice describe the girl’s naked body, and what they did, was grossly perv-ie. I’ve never been able to wash that out of my brain.

  4. LeendaDLL on 11/29/07 at 5:44 pm

    You might want to try posting requests for these books on Or check and see if anyone has “set them free” near you. The last time I looked, there seemed to be a large amount of reading circles developing – where people would exchange books by mail. You might check those out too.

  5. Cameron G Rose on 11/29/07 at 6:40 pm

    That’s one thing Seattle has ALL OVER NYC. Our public library system is extraordinarily well funded, Seattle reads more books per capita (an average of 16 books per person per year) than any other city in the nation.


    But it’s a numbers game. There are 800,000 people in Seattle proper.

  6. Armchair News on 11/30/07 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for all those tips! And you know, the minute you said Sedaris, I remembered that the whole thing’s been a lie because I’ve listened to him as much as I’ve read him — unlike you I find him more hilarious in person/in voice than on the page, though!

    I guess Meltzer is just my first fictional book on MP3, then.

    As for the advice on FreeCycle: I love FC but I hate posting requests, they seem so needy. But it’s worth scanning the list to see if anyone’s giving them up, so thanks much. I’ve never seen a book set free near me, unless it counts being in a box left for the trash (which PAINS me no end).

  7. Armchair News on 11/30/07 at 8:37 am

    I would absolutely leave my life savings to libraries once I get around to writing up a will or something like that. SRSLY!

  8. Cameron G Rose on 11/30/07 at 9:48 am

    if I won the lottery tomorrow libraries would get a HUGE chunk of cash. When I found out Brooke Astor saved NYPL from bankruptcy by donating huge sums of cash it made me hate her son Tony so much!

  9. LeendaDLL on 11/30/07 at 2:07 pm

    Go to BookCrossings and check the “Hunt” link (left side). You can then pick your country, region, city… and see if anything has been set free near you. I checked it yesterday – found 3 books recently set free near my office, and 29 in my home city. But, unfortunately, none that I actually expected to be able to find. I once hunted one at the local PetSmart – details said it was released in the cat carrier section – but couldn’t find it. I stumbled upon one at a local college admissions table but quickly set it free again – some 100 miles away – never to be heard from again (whoever found it didn’t register it – despite me leaving it next to a free public-use internet PC).

  10. gunderson bee on 12/02/07 at 8:55 am is a nice book exchange site. You give a book, get a book. :) 

  11. Armchair News on 12/02/07 at 7:18 pm

    Cute! I’ll check it out!