Tag Archives: Amy’s Audiobook Roundup

Amy’s Audiobook Roundup: New Nonfiction

Who reads nonfiction for fun? I do! Well, I often listen to nonfiction for fun, but either way, the results are the same – a head chock full of useless facts. Here are some of our newest and weirdest titles, for your listening pleasure.

The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum – It’s really the history of the early days of the New York City medical examiner’s office, but each chapter also teaches you about a specific poison.

The Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perry – Maurine Watkins, intrepid girl reporter and author of the play-turned-musical-turned-movie Chicago, learned that a pretty girl most certainly can get away with murder.

Blind Descent by James Tabor – Only the very brave (or foolhardy) participate in supercave exploration, which is a combination of mountain climbing, scuba diving, and camping – in complete darkness.

Share and enjoy!

– Amy

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Audio Libros!

Shiny and new!

 By popular demand, the Film & Audio Department now offers books on CD in Spanish. This small but growing collection features titles by authors such as Isabel Allende, Dan Brown, Malcolm Gladwell, Sue Monk Kidd, Eckhart Tolle, and more

(For some reason, I find the Spanish title of Who Moved My Cheese to be wildly entertaining. It’s ¿Quien Se Ha Llevado Mi Queso?

If you’d like to brush up on your Spanish but just can’t stand to conjugate any more verbs, check them out! 

– Amy


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Crazy Crazy Tantor Audiobooks

Some of my favorite nonfiction audiobooks come from a little company called Tantor, named for the elephant in Tarzan of the Apes. And why are they my favorites? Because they’re weird. Really weird. But in a really good way. For instance…


  • Want to learn how UFO sightings influenced the early days of the space race? Try A Ball, a Dog, and a Monkey.
  • Boston, gangsters, awesome! It’s The Brothers Bulger.
  • Charlatan will make you a) cringe, b) sympathize with goats, and c) want to send a thank you note to the FDA. This one is easily the weirdest of the lot!    


  • Building tunnels underwater was one of the challenges faced by the railroaders in Conquering Gotham.
  • The Food of a Younger Land tells you what eating was like in the days before highways and fast food.
  • And to finish it all off, see how The Ghost Map helped unravel the mysteries of cholera outbreaks.

There are hundreds of other Tantor titles to choose from in our catalog, both fiction and nonfiction, wacky and nonwacky. Don’t pass them by!

– Amy

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Historic, Mystery, Science Fiction

If you enjoy a good audio book now and then but just don’t feel like sorting through the 1,600 (really!) or so titles that we have in stock at any given time, check out our display of historic, mystery, and science fiction titles. Each of the books on these shelves is lovingly hand chosen by yours truly, using an exactingly scientific process and a roll of cheerfully colored stickers. And here’s how I do it.


Historic – To me, historic fiction is written in the present but set in the past, where the book’s time period is almost as important to the story as the plot and the characters. For example, although Suite Francaise is set during WWII it’s not historic, because that’s when it was written (it’s just a book that no one bothered to translate right away). But these books have made it into my historic fiction section.

  • Heyday by Kurt Andersen – America, gold rush, blah blah blah. It’s really really long and I couldn’t finish it. Definitely historic, though.
  • The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery – You get two fires in this book, which is about an American orphan in Kyoto in the mid 1800s.
  • The Good German by Joseph Kanon – Don’t misplace your mistress, especially in Berlin, especially in 1945.

Mystery – The easiest way to find a mystery is to look for dead people, or if you’re me, look for the word “mystery” on the CD case. Those who write mysteries tend to keep writing mysteries, so if you find yourself fancying a particular detective you’ll often have many titles to choose from.

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – Highlight the text between the brackets for a spoiler. (Everyone did it.)
  • Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith – You could argue that this one’s a western (due to the blatant use of cowboys) but it does say mystery right on the cover. So there you go (plus, I don’t have western stickers).
  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear – Okay, this one does border on historic since it’s set in the years after WWI. The main character is a charming female private investigator and former army nurse with a tragic love life, intriguing scar, and a sporty little car. What else could you want?

Science Fiction – If there are robots, spaceships, strange planets, hot green alien babes, stuff like that – you’ve got science fiction. Stay away from dragons, though, as that puts you into fantasy territory and I don’t have any fantasy stickers either.

  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov – I will lose a little librarian street cred here by freely admitting that I’ve never read the book, but I’ve seen the movie.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert – Okay, I’m really bad at science fiction. You’ve got me. But Scott likes Dune. So you can go talk to him about it, right?
  • Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan – This one sort of veers into mystery territory, since the main character’s a UN investigator. But he’s also doing his detecting in a) the 25th century, and b) a replacement body. That covers the sci-fi requirements nicely.

And there you have it, the three genres that I’ve managed to label. I’m still campaigning for more stickers (Vampire Porn and Manly Adventure come to mind), but that may take a while. Until that glorious stickery day, you can always ask a librarian.

– Amy

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Simon Winchester: a man who gives his books excessively long titles*

And yet, I enjoy them all the same. Here’s a rundown of the ones that I’ve read or listened to over the years.

This island no longer exists, alas.

Krakatoa: the Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883 – The title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Sure, it starts out slowly with some insanely dense geology lessons, but it all pays off when the volcano erupts, levelling the island of Krakatoa and killing nearly 40,000 people. There’s a lot of neat colonial and scientific history here, along with first-hand accounts of the eruption. Available as a book or book on CD.

(Oh, and here’s an amazing article about the eruption from The Atlantic, published in September of 1884!)

It looks like a head but it's really an arch.

The Man Who Loved China: the Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom – The tale of a British biologist, happily married and minding his own business in Cambridge, who falls hopelessly in love with a Chinese exchange student. He then starts to wonder why China seems so scientifically backward compared to the West, and sets out to unearth the history of science in China, cranking out a definitive encyclopedia in the process. Available as a book or book on CD.

book jacket

"The Map That Just Hung There" wasn't as good a title.

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology – Our hero, the son of a blacksmith (and thus decidedly not among the upper class scientific elite) notices the patterns in layers of rock throughout England and Wales, produces a lovely map, and is promptly ripped off by the Geological Society. But fear not; happy endings prevail. I’ll admit that I didn’t find this book nearly as interesting as the others, but that may be because I was listening to it while trying to repair opera CDs. Available as a book or OverDrive downloadable audio book.

book jacket

They really knew how to grow beards back then.

The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary – An American surgeon goes rather batty during the Civil War and offs an unfortunate bloke while vacationing in London. He’s put into Broadmoor for his crime, where he spends many many many years contributing to the illustrious OED. Contains one particular scene that may cause you to drive off the road if you’re listening in your car. Available as a book or book on CD.

(Did you know that the OED is now only available electronically? You can access it in the library. We have an old print version, too!)

Well, that should keep you keep you busy for a while. And if you need more, check out Simon Winchester’s website or look up his other books in our catalog.

Remember kids, learning can be fun!

– Amy, from the land of Film & Audio

* Neither Simon Winchester nor HarperCollins bribed me to write this post; I just like unusual histories. But if they’d care to stop by and say howdy or throw a little blog traffic our way, that would be fine with us. Really.


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Brothels, Goats, and Napoleon

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you about the nonfiction books on CD that I’ve been enjoying lately.

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul, by Karen Abbot.

Welcome to the Everleigh Club, Gilded Age Chicago’s swankiest and priciest brothel. Learn all about the founding sisters and their invented past, the political bosses of Chicago, the best ways to drive puritanical reformers from your doorstep, the origin of drinking champagne from a shoe, and highly inappropriate parlor tricks that involve gold dollar coins.

book jacket

Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam, by Pope Brock.

Follow the path of “Doctor” John R. Brinkley as he rises from poor backwoods medicine show performer to multimillionaire “surgeon,” radio station owner, and Kansas gubernatorial candidate. Along the way you’ll learn about the invention of the sound truck, fly-by-night medical schools with unlikely degree requirements, the history of the American Medical Association, Mexican “border blaster” radio stations, and some uncomfortable and unlikely uses for goats.

book jacket

Mirage: Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt, by Nina Burleigh.

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte and a crew of soldiers, sailors, scientists, artists, and students set out on a three year voyage of exploration and conquest down the Nile river. They lost almost all of their supplies the week they arrived in Egypt, were repeatedly attacked by foreign enemies, wild dogs, and infectious diseases, and managed to offend almost everyone they met. On the other hand, they discovered the Rosetta stone, accurately measured the great pyramids, and produced a 20+ volume survey of Egypt complete with maps, paintings, drawings, and essays about everything they saw. Not as overtly wacky as the other two books, though it does feature some lively ostrich chasing.


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