Tag Archives: audio

Baby, You Can Drive My Car (and listen to my book)

Let me be the umpteenth person to tell you that I’m so over this winter already.

I mean, I am done. 

Pittsburgh’s daily dose of snow-slush-slop atop Arctic Circle temperatures colder than my freezer has made for some interesting – and somewhat frustrating drives to work lately. One can only listen to the same litany of traffic delays and weather cancellations so many times.

What is a ‘Burgh commuter to do?

Put the pedal to the metal and press play on the audio books, baby.

Before we moved to Pittsburgh, I had a job where I drove two hours – each way! – to work.  Public transportation, sadly, wasn’t an option and nobody else was crazy enough to live nearly 80 miles away from the office, as I did.

So, do the math: four hours behind the wheel every day, multiplied by five days, buys you 20 hours of quality audio book time every week.

I did this for three years.  

That’s a lot of audio books.

Fortunately, here in Pittsburgh my commute is much shorter (and my weekly gas and coffee bills much less expensive), but my love for the audio book is just as strong. I find that listening to an audio book is calming and a nice bridge between work and home. There’s a sense of productivity, too; when I’ve read a chapter or two while languishing in yet another daily backup at Camp Horne Road on 79 or on the Vet’s Bridge, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

If you’re new to audio books or if it has been awhile since you’ve given them a try, these suggestions might be helpful:

This week I’m listening to Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal, by Melanie Warner, which – holy cow! – is this generation’s version of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

Here are a few others that I recently listened to and can recommend:

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted - CLP

Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show A Classic, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (read by Amy Landon, 11.5 hours). Fans of MTM and those who hold a certain nostalgia for television’s Golden Age of Comedy may enjoy this retrospective, which gives equal time – if not more – to the female writers and the cultural shifts that shaped “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

I'm Looking Through You - CLP

I’m Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted: A Memoir, by Jennifer Finney Boylan (read by the author, 9 hours, 30 minutes). A poignant memoir about identity and becoming one’s true self. The symbolism of growing up in a haunted house on Philadelphia’s Main Line is interwoven with Jennifer’s quest for acceptance of her personal ghosts and discovering herself.

Next to Love - CLP

Next to Love, by Ellen Feldman (read by Abby Craden, 11 hours, 23 minutes). A sweeping historical fiction World War II novel that follows three couples and their families through multiple changes, both in their personal lives and in society.

Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, by Erik Larson (read by Scott Brick, 14 hours, 30 minutes).  Set in the midst of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, this is a gripping tale of mystery and intrigue about a little-known part of America’s history.

Want more? On the CLP website, we’ve compiled lists of audio books.

So, while the winter weather may be putting a damper on our abilities to get from here to there, why not make the trip  more pleasant by bringing a book along for the ride?

Beep-beep, beep-beep, yeah!

~ Melissa F.


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What’s your story?

CLP StoryCorps

When I drive to work in the morning I listen to NPR,which means that every Friday at 8:30 am, I am going to cry. That’s when the weekly StoryCorps segment airs. As soon as I hear the intro music, I know my mascara is doomed.

In the StoryCorps recordings, everyday people conduct interviews with friends and family, resulting in intimate, honest conversations that express extraordinary humanity. It doesn’t matter how different the person’s experiences are or how long ago or far away they happened; the stories they tell are incredibly moving. Some that have recently started me sobbing are:

Did you know that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has its own StoryCorps archive?  As the page explains:

In 2006, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh partnered with DUQ 90.5 FM to become the first library to host a StoryCorps Mobile Booth recording studio. The StoryCorps oral history project allows everyday people to share and record their personal stories for posterity and is the largest oral history project ever undertaken. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was host location and received digital copies of these stories to share. These files are also archived at the Library of Congress. More than 150 local stories are available for your listening pleasure.

This is wonderful. Not only can I seek the same inspiration among my neighbors that I experience from the national radio interviews, but my inner nebby Pittsburgher can scan through the pages hoping to find someone I know.

Here are some of the CLP StoryCorps episodes I’ve enjoyed (interviews are listed alphabetically by the subject’s last name):

  • Lillian Allen talks about: Alaska, beauty shop, United Airlines, Bali, biography
  • Deborah Brooks talks about: bike riding, God nature, Adirondacks, self-taught painter
  • Ali A. Masalehdan talks about: Iran, Farsi, San Francisco, English, revolution
  • James A. Ryan talks about: spirituals, black history, parenthood, marriage, pastor

These interviews dedicate the time and attention to people close to us that we normally reserve for celebrities and cultural heroes. Listening to them reminds me to treat people with a little more compassion and to take a little more interest. Every person is walking around with a story inside that is rich in history and full of heart.



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New Poetry Audio: The Academy of American Poets Audio Archive

I am happy to say that the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh  has acquired, with the generous funding of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Audio Archive on compact disc for the International Poetry Collection housed at the Main branch.   All items circulate for 3 weeks and this collection, coming as it does from one of our most esteemed poetry organizations, is an outstanding representation of contemporary poetry performance.

There are 39 volumes in the collection, including one three disc sampler set, which gives a good general overview.

– Don

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The Quest

Today, I will embark on a road trip to visit seven friends in seven days.  (Doesn’t that sound like the name of a boring memoir? Seven Friends in road3677296594_59af8b8f2eSeven Days: How I Saw Some Buddies and Discovered a Life Worth Living.)  I will pass through 7 states and cover roughly 1,547 miles.  Will I discover myself on this road trip?  Will I get into fist fights with locals at rural drinking establishments?  Will I kill a man, like Thelma and Louise did?  Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I find myself anxiously wondering which audio books I should listen to.  Should I listen to the latest bestseller?  No, kind readers, because you have all of them out right now.  Should I listen to a classic mystery?  An epic fantasy adventure? A self-help book about dating, finances, or my immortal soul?  It probably wouldn’t hurt–unless it’s boring and I take a little snooze and crash my car–then it would hurt.

I am very particular about my audio books: the prose can’t be too flowery or my mind wanders.  The narrator has to emphasize just the right words or the message won’t come across.  The plot can’t be too confusing, because I don’t have the luxury of flipping back a few pages to see if it was so and so that did such and such in the parlor.

I have compiled a list of  some of my favorites, along with some suggestions by other audio book aficionados:

I’ll let you know if I had any run-ins with the law when I get back.  Until then, what audio books have you loved?



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Upset at the Oscars? This Film Could Do It!

The Oscars are just around the corner and most of the nominees have already been reviewed, analyzed, examined and pored over in every conceivable way. But be on the lookout for one new upstart, just released last week, that could steal the show in the Short Film Category.
A recently released “biopic” of the Music Department at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is already garnering rave reviews. From Haydn to Hip Hop: Music at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Directed by David M. King, © 2009, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is sweeping the YouTube (and library) nation. Although not released in time for Sundance, the clever pacing, witty humor and cast of characters give this compelling film a good chance at a win.

First-time director David King is a natural storyteller. In just over nine minutes he manages to convey the entire story of two souls who turn to the library and discover a world of wonders. Wide-eyed Bonnie seems to marvel at every new discovery while sensible Wes already “had the scoop” on what libraries offer. Interspersing live musicians with the collection, King manages to both point out the connection that the library can make to the real world of music and musicians, but also the variety of resources this library offers.

This reviewer’s favorites include the “barcoded” opera singer and Tim the “whiz kid” librarian/drummer. Personalized information help is not lost, it seems to say, and don’t discount that librarian vs. the Internet!

In these days of economic troubles, it is a real service to remind the public of all the wonderful things made possible with “just” a library card. Would that we could encourage all people to get a card, to use it wisely, and to support an institution that really lives up to the idea of a social contract. Where else can you try out opera, rap, folk and jazz—as well as read up on the history of the blues? Or take up a new instrument? Or find the perfect song and arrangement for your special occasion?

This video reminds us of what libraries are all about—now go get your card today!

Rating: ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪



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Poetry Audio: In the Library and on the Web


In recent years, the Main Library has made a concerted effort to improve its audio poetry collection. A general search for poetry audio books on compact disc and tape brings up scores of items. A selection of personal favorites include:

The last item in the list, pictured above, is an oversized book with three compact discs that includes historic recordings of Tennyson, Browning, Whitman and Yeats up to modern classics such as Frank O’Hara, Etheridge Knight and Sylvia Plath.  This is truly an amazing collection of some of the best poetry ever recorded.  Also available from the library is the Naxos Streaming Spoken Word audio, which offers a number of audio poetry collections to kick back and listen to.

Besides the library collection, there are a number of excellent free websites of audio poetry worth knowing about.  PennSound at the University of Pennsylvania has a stellar collection of readings and lectures by the likes of William Carlos Williams, Amiri Baraka, John Ashbery, Lyn Hejinian, Albert Goldbarth, C. K. Williams, Anne Waldman, Jack Spicer and many, many more. 

There is a fine and ever-growing collection of audio called the Listening Booth at poets.org from the American Academy of Poetry.  Some select readings can be found by Louise Glück, Jack Gilbert, Terrance Hayes, Margaret Atwood, Lucille Clifton, Gerald Stern, and Billy Collins, with over 300 total and many more promised. 

Salon.com has a fairly large archive of audio dating back to 2000, with many of the items being excerpts of the “Voice of the Poet” audio series.  There are readings of individual poems by Charles Bukoswski, Henry Rollins, Quincy Troupe, Wanda Coleman and James Merrill among others.   

Ubuweb has a boatload of poetry audio, including selections from the legendary Dial-A-Poem Poets and Cocteau, Creeley, cummings and many modern and experimental poets.  The Writer’s Almanac Archive has realaudio readings of a poem everyday of the year, from early February 2001 to the present, with archival listings going back to 1993.  

The Poetry Foundation, too, has a gazillion poetry-related audios, with six separate podcast programs: Poetry Magazine Podcast, Poetry Off the Shelf, Poem of the Day, Poem Talk, Poetry Reader, and Avant-Garde All the Time.  Some of these are relatively new programs, some have deep archives, they are all interesting.  Obviously, they are putting to good use that massive $100,000,000 Ruth Lilly bequest they got a few years back. 

Last, but certainly not least, is the Library of Congress “Poetry Webcasts” page, which includes the Poet Vision (video) and The Poet and the Poem (audio) series.  Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, and Nick Flynn are among the many poets spotlighted in these historic collections.

Obviously, the above is just the tip of the iceberg for poetry audio, in both the library and on the web.  Let me leave you with one of my favorite audio performances, captured on video: Robert Hass bringing to life 9 haiku by the gentle haiku master, Issa.

Short, but, oh, so sweet.



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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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Being green is not for everyone; or why I love my car.

I have a confession to make. Well, it’s not really a confession per se, as it’s not a secret and I don’t feel guilty about it – but still, here goes:

My name is Amy, and I drive a car to work. Alone. Five days a week or more.

“Oh the horror!” you exclaim. “Surely in these days of global warming, economic crisis, and high gas prices, there must be something you can do!”

Well yes, I am doing a few things. My tires are properly inflated, I have taken all of the useless weight out of my car, and I tend to drive at the speed limit now (which is boring, but it does save gas). But all of those other enviromentally-trendy things? Here’s why they don’t work for me.

Hybrids: Sure, hybrids are neato. But I’ve finally paid off my non-gas-guzzling compact, and I really don’t want to be saddled with another car payment, not to mention the potential increase in my insurance. As long as my monthly gas bill is less than a new car payment, I’m not switching.

Walking: I live 15 miles away from this here library, so walking is right out. Though we do have more than one librarian here who walks to work most every day – and good for them, I say! Maybe offering them a ride now and then can be my way of atoning for my continued car ownership. Any takers?

Bicycling: Ah, the smug bicycle-riding public. Now don’t get me wrong, many of them are quite nice and I certainly don’t wish them any harm. But again, I must point out that “I live 15 miles away” thing – and that’s 15 miles straight and true on the parkway. There’s no way I’d survive bicycle + parkway, even if it were permitted. And I’m sure that the library would like me to reach work 1. alive, 2. presentable, and 3. vaguely on time. That’s not going to happen with a bicycle.

(Another thing that annoys me about bicycles – those who park in the same garage as I do sometimes complain about the bicycle facilities, and they don’t even pay for parking! Meanwhile, I lose a chunk of every paycheck for the privilege of parking where I work. So shove it, bicycle peeps.)

Carpools: Sharing a ride and saving money sounds like a great idea, but where am I going to find a carpool that will stick around until 6 or 8 PM to wait for me? The library has some odd hours, you know. And I doubt that I can find three other people willing to listen to my preferred books on CD.

Public transportation: Ah, the bus. Again, great if you live in the city, but not so great for those of us on the outer limits. In the city you can choose from any number of routes and stops, but out where I live, there is only. one. bus. that would take me anywhere useful – and I’d still have to drive ten minutes to the nearest bus stop.

(I used to take the bus now and then when I was an undergrad, until the fateful day when someone puked in the back. Imagine spending a 45-minute trip watching particolored chunks of vomit and soppy bile rolling up and down the grimy rubber floor mats of the bus as it climbs and descends the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania – all the while keeping your feet up on your seat and hoping that the driver doesn’t make any sudden turns or abrupt stops. Nearly poetic, eh? If that doesn’t put you off riding the bus, I’m not sure what will.)

Moving closer to work: Well, there’s the higher rent, the higher taxes, the higher cost of living, the higher insurance, and who knows what else. Heck, even gas is more expensive in the city, sometimes by as much as an extra ten cents per gallon! So sure, I could move closer, but I doubt I could afford it unless I defaulted on my student loans. I like my credit rating the way it is, thank you kindly.

And there you have it – why green transportation is not for me. So the next time you’re sitting in a bus sneering at the people in the cars beside you, stop and think – maybe this is the best they can do. As for me, I’ll turn up my stereo and relax, and I promise to look out for your bicycle.


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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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What a difference a day makes…

Every day’s a special day to someone, for some reason. Many authors, including Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, have used the chronological framework of one “normal” day to capture the incandescent moments that make up even the most ordinary of lives. Clarissa throws a party. Leopold goes for a walk. And yet, under the surface of these simple situations, the extraordinary is brewing.

If you’re having a hard time finding anything special about March 18th, keep in mind that any given day is usually somebody’s birthday.  In this particular instance, it’s a cake-and-candlefest for Queen Latifah, John Updike, and Grover Cleveland, to name just a few of the multiple celebrants. Why not bake a cake in somebody’s honor?

March 18th is also Flag Day in Aruba and National Biodiesel Day. On a chilly pre-spring day in Pittsburgh, who wouldn’t want to spend some time daydreaming about Aruba? And since biofuels are a timely topic, why not browse the catalog to learn more?

Twenty-four little hours can mean different things to different people, but regardless of what meaning you attach to it, you cannot help but find something wondrous in your day if you’ll only look. Don’t believe me? Flag down a reference librarian and ask for a peek at Chase’s Calendar of Events, the source of today’s trivia tidbits.  Better yet, keep your eyes open as you walk down the street, and expect a miracle. Who knows what could happen?

–Leigh Anne

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