Tag Archives: audiobooks

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… To Listen to Audio Books

Welcome to the end of the year! You’ve made it… basically. There is really only one more day. For me, the past week has been filled with good food (I’m going to take credit for a lot of the baking), good company (I’m hilarious… and I love my family), and a lot of travel (in short, travel increases 23% during Christmas and the New Year). I do a lot of driving during the holidays, and my drives are normally around five hours long (on a good day) but can go as long as… I think 9 hours was the longest on a really bad day. That’s a long time to be alone in a car… or a long time to be with some family, too. I’ve started to download audio books to keep me company, and I’ve found that downloading can be easier than using books on CD, because I never have to switch to another CD and be distracted while driving. Audio books can be awesome, and it helps me start to dwindle my (200 and counting) TBR pile, but they can also be hard to listen to depending on the narrator. The following books I’ve enjoyed because of the story and the plot, but also because I can tolerate the narrator*.

Bone Gap

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby is a great fantasy/magical realism/mystery/young adult book. The story follows a young man who knows about gaps in the town that people can fall through. He believes a person who is important to him, Roza, has been kidnapped and taken through one of the gaps. The question is, can he prove this to a town that doesn’t believe, and can he find Roza before something worse happens to her? This was a book that I really looked forward to reading, and I was happy with the narration overall for the audio book. They did a good job of really giving the different characters voices.

say what you will

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern is a book about a boy who is struggling with OCD, and even admitting and figuring out what OCD is and entails, and a girl who has cerebral palsy. The book deals with a variety of issues that can be hard to read about, but I found overall that the book was good to listen to.

There are so many audio books out there and so many options. Some will be good and some will be bad, but if you find yourself traveling during the holiday season, it may be worth taking something to listen to.

-Abbey

*Full disclosure, not everyone will like the same type of narrator. I get really frustrated listening to narrators that are all breathy and whispery (it’s a word… I think), you know the type I mean. Some people may enjoy that type of narrator, and that’s awesome, but if you try an audio book and don’t like it at first, try and figure out if it’s the book or the narrator, and try other narrators before you dismiss audio books completely.

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Like a Brick to the Head?

Scott Brick is a super-prolific audiobook narrator and a favorite among Main library staff. He’s narrated books by just about everyone – people like Steve BerryTerry Brooks, Harlan Coben, Philip K. Dick, John GrishamFrank Herbert, Jon Krakauer, Erik Larson, and Brad Meltzer, to name a few (really, that’s the short list).

Most of those authors fall into the category of Manly Adventure, which really isn’t my thing. But I do quite enjoy alarming and/or depressing nonfiction, and Scott Brick does that, too. Here are a few examples!

In Cold Blood

I never noticed the eyes at the top before and now I’m all creeped out.

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote – Truman Capote set off the whole true-crime-genre thing with his account of the murder of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas and the flight, capture, trial, and execution of their killers. Whenever I can’t decide what to listen to next, I just grab this one – it’s hypnotic, in an occasionally creepy way.

Dead Wake

Just by looking at the cover, you can tell that this won’t end well.

Dead Wake, by Erik Larson – I’ve just finished listening to this book, which is about the sinking of the Lusitania. It was really interesting: Winston Churchill attempted to drive an old admiral batty, a German submarine had a litter of puppies, Woodrow Wilson tried to get some, and more! You’ll even learn the fate of the One Hot Dude That Everyone Remembered – apparently he was having a great time on the old Lusitania, up until that whole torpedo thing.

The Devil in the White City

Conserving electricity obviously wasn’t a thing back then.

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson – The book that every librarian is obliged to write about. It’s the story of the architect who designed the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and of the serial killer who stalked its grounds. You’ll probably end up fascinated by architecture. Or serial killers. Or both (I went with both).

Command and Control

Check out the print book for a handy diagram of a Titan II missile silo.

Command and Control, by Eric Schlosser – This super long audio book is a terrifying catalog of America’s near-misses with nuclear weapons accidents – everything from a dropped wrench that lead to a fuel tank explosion to the tale of a warhead (undetonated, obviously and thankfully) that’s still lost somewhere in North Carolina. It’s a great book for anyone who has fond memories of the Cold War (I rather miss the James Bond villians; they were better then) or who is just wondering what all the fuss was about.

All of the links above point to books on CD in our catalog, but you can also find tons of downloadable Bricky goodness in our OverDrive collection – a simple search for his name pulls up 171 titles!

– Amy

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“You Want to Learn? Come!” – On Volunteering at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Did you know that April 12-18 is not only National Library Week, but it’s also National Volunteer Week? This bit of serendipity makes perfect sense to us, because the volunteers who help out in various roles across our system are such a big part of what makes the Library a special place.

One set of amazing volunteers are the folks who dedicate their time to narrating, recording, and editing audio books for the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. We sat down with volunteers Russ Kuba, Sister Jeremy Mahla, and Joe Farinacci to shine a spotlight on the special work they do.

Some background info: The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped loans recorded books and magazines, equipment to play the recordings, large print books, and described videos to patrons with visual or physical impairments. Many of the audio books we loan out are provided by the National Library Service, and are basically the same audio books available in the general Library collection. These volunteers, however, record and edit audio books based on local interest that might not be otherwise available in audio format; all the books they work on have some connection to Western Pennsylvania.

photo of volunteer Russ Kuba

Russ’s favorite thing about volunteering at the Library is learning something new!

What do you do at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped?

Sister Jeremy: I’m mostly an editor and I’ve been doing that for more than four years. I mostly fix up mistakes made in the recording process.

Russ: Mostly editing and monitoring recording, reading in braille. [Because I am visually impaired] I use special editing software that allows me to edit book computer files based on audio cues instead of visual cues. I’m all self-taught on using the software.

Joe:  I started as a narrator, but I do recording monitoring too.  I always say ‘What you need!’. If you need me, I’ll stay here as long as you’ll have me.

Why do you volunteer? What keeps you coming in?

Sister Jeremy: I enjoy it! I especially enjoy working with the people here and working with computers. It’s a very real learning experience. I always tell people ‘You want to learn? Come!’

Russ: I’ve been a patron here my whole life and I wanted to help others. It’s in my genes – my mother was a school librarian and I lived across the street from a library.  Maybe it’s a love of learning, but there’s always something new and interesting. The camaraderie is good and everyone gets along.

Joe:  I knew someone who was volunteering here and I had some experience with sound recording, plus my wife is slightly visually impaired and listens to audio books. I thought I would give it a try, and I loved it. I feel like I’m helping, plus I love the process. It’s an awesome service and a fantastic place to volunteer.

What’s your favorite book you have worked on?

Sister Jeremy:  One thing that’s fun about this work is you get to hear all different stories – all different kinds! I even worked on a book written by someone I went to school with.

Russ: Two great ones were Hatchet and Plow and Steel Ghosts.

Joe:  Hemlock Grove was a good story, and it was a fun challenge to do the different voices. I also liked Behind the Stage Door, which is about concert promoter Rich Engler. There’s all kinds of stories about concerts in Pittsburgh, including Joe Cocker, Paul McCartney, George Carlin, and Jimmy Buffett.

(Note: These special, volunteer-produced audio books are only available to LBPH patrons, so the links in this blog post will go to print copies in the general collection. If you or someone you know might qualify for service through LBPH, please call 412.687.2440.)

After our chat, Joe was kind enough to let us film him for a behind-the-scenes look at the recording process:

As a part of National Volunteer Week, we’re hosting tours and a service project at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Feel free to sign up if you’re interested in learning more about this extraordinary Library!

-Ginny

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Yet Another Best Of List

Because of a technical glitch, my selections for favorite books read in 2014 didn’t quite make it into the annual Stuff We Like edition of Eleventh Stack.

This just means now I get to tell you all about the great things I discovered this year in MY VERY OWN POST.

Funny how life works out that way.

History of the RainYou already know how much I loved History of the Rain, the Man Booker Prize nominated novel by Niall Williams. As we come to year’s end, this remains one of my favorite books I read in 2014. It has one of my favorite quotes as its second paragraph:

“We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling. That’s how it seems to me, being alive for a little while, the teller and the told.” (pg. 1) 

Glitter and Glue

Another book that I loved right away was Kelly Corrigan’s memoir Glitter and Glue.  Now, some may say I’m partial to Ms. Corrigan’s writing because, like me, she’s a Philly girl. That certainly helps, but the fact remains that she’s a damn good writer – and Glitter and Glue is a fantastic follow-up (actually, it’s somewhat of a prequel) to The Middle Place.

Gabriel

I read a lot of poetry this year, and much of what I read was by poets who were new-t0-me. My favorite poetry book is actually a single poem in book-length form.  Edward Hirsch’s work was among my favorites before 2014, which made Gabriel: A Poem a highly-anticipated read.  A tribute to and reflection on his loss of his son, Mr. Hirsch’s heartbreak cracks your heart open with the grief on every line he writes.

Love Life

Finally, this was the year of the audiobook – at least for me.  I listened to a total of 20, mostly during my commute to and from my job here at the Library.  (Those minutes sitting in traffic on the Vet’s Bridge really do add up. Who knew?)  Among those who kept me awake was none other than Rob Lowe, who filled my car with long-ago tales of debauchery, a tearjerker about sending his son off to college, and a female co-star who had a difficult time kissing him. (Note to Rob: if you ever find yourself in such a predicament again, drop me a note and I’ll help you out.) Now, celebrity memoirs by people who don’t even need their name on the book cover are usually not my thing, but if you grew up in the ’80s as I did, you might find Love Life irresistible.

What books, music and movies did you find irresistible in 2014?

~ Melissa F.

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Great SF eAudiobooks for Your Commute

If I could read in moving vehicles without experiencing that delightful form of nausea known as car sickness, I would be able to read so many comics in the time I spend on the bus commuting to and from work every day.

Thankfully, humans invented the audiobook, and eCLP lets me download these miraculous spoken books directly to the tiny computer I carry around in my pocket (you might know it better as a smartphone).

The Library adds newly released titles all the time, but one of my favorite facets of the collection is the classic science fiction available for the listening. Over the past few years, I’ve been reading some new-to-me Big Names of SF as well as old favorites.

Here are some of the titles I’ve enjoyed the most, alphabetical by author’s last name:

Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot
irobotBefore reading this collection of linked short stories, I’d only read a random sampling of Asimov’s short fiction, including the short story “Nightfall” that inspired the novel of the same name (and a movie adaptation). This book inspired a movie too, but from what I know of the movie, it’s nothing like the book. For one, the book’s main character is a female robot psychologist, and the robots are never allowed on earth. They malfunction, have emotions, read minds, kill people, and serve as metaphors for many things, but it all happens in space or on other planets. Asimov does touch lightly on sexism, as the main character butts heads with some of the male scientists in some of the stories, and she usually comes out on top, while the men look foolish.

Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles
martianchroniclesA haunting collection of loosely connected tales, Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles essentially re-tells the story of Europe invading the New World, but with a twist at the end that I won’t reveal here. The coming of men to Mars spells doom for the Martians, who are wiped out by diseases the humans carry. Men build new cities that look like their cities back on Earth, but things do not go the way they might hope. The spirit and soul of Mars is not so easily corrupted or overcome. The only thing that gave me pause about this book was the fact that all the women are relegated to domestic roles, when they’re included at all. Perhaps I shouldn’t expect much more from a book published in 1950, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Octavia E. Butler’s Fledgling
fledglingThe last novel written before her death in 2006, Fledgling explores themes of memory, race, sexuality and belonging. It’s a vampire novel, but not a traditional vampire novel. The vampires in this book, known as Ina, bond with humans and only feed from the humans they’ve bonded with. They do not murder people, and live in tightly knit family groups that include their bonded humans. If an Ina dies, his or her bonded humans will die as well because of how strong their bond is. The plot revolves around Shori, who has lost her memory and her family, and wakes up not knowing that she’s a vampire. This is, unfortunately, the only Octavia Butler novel available as an eAudio book. I’ll have to stick to paper for the rest of her award-winning work.

Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
moonThis wasn’t my first audiobook foray into Heinlein, but it’s my favorite of his novels that I’ve read so far (the others being Starship Troopers and Citizen of the Galaxy). This book tested the skills of the narrator, as he had to speak in a Russian accent for much of the time, and he managed to do so without being annoying or sounding fake. The plot follows an intelligent supercomputer and his repairman as the lunar colony attempts to break away from the tyrannical rule of earth. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is more fun than the other two Heinlein novels I’ve read. It features more humor, and the characters are more likeable, so it’s a more enjoyable read.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed
dispossessedLe Guin is my all-time absolute favorite author in the universe, and I wish the Library had more of her work in eAudio. The Dispossessed, however, is worth listening to over and over. It follows the story of Shevek, a brilliant physicist who has made an important discovery and is invited to live on a neighboring planet for a time. Shevek’s world and the neighboring world follow different economic and political systems, and through Shevek’s eyes, the novel looks at the differences between the two and asks which is better, or if there’s a better way yet to be explored. Don’t let the high-minded themes of the book deter you, though. Shevek and his family ground the book in characters with real emotions, desires and needs—the things that make for a good novel.

-Kelly

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A Few Words About Audio Books and Readers

Audio books are great for providing entertainment for those weary of just sitting in traffic and listening to the woes of the world on news radio, bored with the nattering talking heads mouthing the same opinions over and over; or crazy from the popular songs that you just can’t get out of your head because that’s all the radio is playing these days. Audio books fill the bill and are especially great if you are on a long car trip, alone or with your family. Over the years a reader’s voice can become like an old friend.

Oakland Marker 376

Not going anywhere for a while? Try an audio book!
Image © Andy Field, 2002

Professional book readers can make or break a story. Most readers are actors, some very well-known film and TV performers, and others from the stage and regional theater. Some have made quite a lucrative profession out of reading books and are just plain excellent. Oft-lauded readers include Jim Dale, who has read the whole Harry Potter series, and Simon Vance, who brought the Swedish characters in Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy to life. They excel at providing just the right voices to match the various characters.

I recently had to return a CD to the library without finishing it. I could not get into the Kate Burton version of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, as she just could not portray the characters as distinctly as Kate Reading’s interpretation of the voices of Kay, Benson, Lucy and Marino. It was making me crazy because I could never tell which character was speaking. So, listeners, be warned! Sometimes there are two different versions of the same book from different audio producers and with different readers. Also, be sure to choose the unabridged version of the audio book or you won’t get the full story.

Another audio book problem can be the author’s deciding to read her/his own novels. Some are better than others, and some much worse. One of my all-time favorite authors is Harlan Coben. He decided to read his comeback novel in the Myron Bolitar series, Promise Me, and it was such a disappointment. He just could not give voice to his great characters–Myron, Win, and Esperanza–the way that Jonathan Marosz, Scott Brick, or Steven Weber have done for other titles in this series.

When I recently found out Jane Green was reading her own story, Another Piece of My Heart, my own heart sank. Green’s chick-lit has morphed over her last few books into women’s fiction about more serious subjects. This story is about the joys and sorrows of a stepmother who wants a child of her own, but must make the best of it with her husband’s children from a previous marriage. However, the teenage daughter just hates her. Listening, at first, it was hard to adjust to Green’s very British accent speaking for a very American family. But she pulled it off! Without doing voices per se, she knew the characters so well that she imbued each with personality and passion. A job well done for an author/reader.

Sometimes a story is just confusing on its own, and the best of readers can have problems. An example of this is The Expats, by Chris Pavone. Reader Mozhan Marno portrays the story of a young couple who moves to Europe when the husband accepts a position as a bank security guru, and the wife leaves behind her secret career as a CIA spy/assassin. Her suspicious nature leads her to doubt every aspect of their lives together. I told my friend, who recommended this audio version, that the book was like Pavone wrote the story on index cards and tossed them up in the air. Time shifts constantly: to the distant past, the recent past, days ago, and now. People, locations, and events are in flux, and it is almost impossible to hear from the reader’s tone where we are in this complex tale. I stuck with it, though, and was happy I did.

Here are three other recent audio books I heartily recommend that would be great for a road trip. The readers are excellent and keep these very different stories moving along.

Sophie Kinsella’s laugh-out-loud I’ve Got Your Number, read by a gravelly-voiced, expressive Jayne Entwistle, is the story of a bride-to-be who appropriates an abandoned cell phone when hers is stolen, so she can continue to plan her wedding. She soon insinuates herself into the life of a handsome, successful businessman and his corporate shenanigans.

Lisa Gardner’s Catch Me is read by steady Kirsten Potter. It’s the latest in the D.D. Warren series where the Boston PD detective is Catch Meapproached for help by a woman convinced that she will be murdered in four days. As the clock ticks on this suspenseful story, the women desperately try to identify the potential killer.

Rolins Devil ColonyFinally, for those who love complex thrillers with a historical twist, try James Rollins’s The Devil Colony, read by Peter Jay Fernandez. Here the expressive reader sustains the plot’s actions that jump from location to location and–incredibly–concern the Great Seal of the United States, the Anasazi Indians, the lost tribes of Israel, Mormon settlers in the west, and nanotechnology! It’s a typical roller coaster of a story in Rollins’s excellent Sigma Force series.

Some final hints about audio book readers: if you listen to a reader you like, you can always check the catalog under their names as a keyword search (editor’s note: an author search works too). Sometimes you will stumble across other great stories that they have read. Or you can check out what readers have won the annual Audie awards, And remember, audio books come in several different formats: CDs, downloadable e-audio, and Playaways. Some older stories are still available as cassette tapes as well (a different editor’s note: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh no longer carries cassettes, but we can borrow them from other libraries for you). Choose the version that best suits your needs.

–Sheila

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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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Hey there, iPod users!

Have we got news for you – Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh now offers iPod compatible downloadable audio books! And there was much rejoicing!

To see what’s available, start at our downloadable audio books page, and choose either OverDrive or NetLibrary

Some of OverDrive’s new MP3 titles are listed at the top of their page – there’s also a handy link that you can click to see a complete list. Right now, we have 123 MP3 titles for your listening pleasure!

Lost Boys     Killshot     His Illegal Self     Kafka On The Shore     Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up

The NetLibrary titles are a little trickier to find. Once you’ve logged in to the site, click on the Advanced Search link that’s just below the drop-down menu for the basic search. When you reach the advanced search page, scroll down to the Format section, check eAudiobooks and select MP3 from the drop-down menu. It’s worth the effort though, as you’ll find a list of 753 different MP3 titles that are available to anyone at any time!

Book Cover     Book Cover     Book Cover     Book Cover     Book Cover

As you can see, the NetLibrary covers are not as exciting as the OverDrive covers. But we still love them anyway.

All of our downloadable audio books are completely free to anyone who has a valid Allegheny county library card. If you have any questions or problems, just email us at eaudio@carnegielibrary.org and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. We promise.

Happy listening!

– Amy

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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.

Don

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Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go

Once the clocks changed last month, I suddenly realized that it was going to be time to go back to Two Wheels, Not Four on my daily commute.  Biking is my method of choice for getting to and from work every day, as long as the weather cooperates for me; and for a city as hilly as Pittsburgh, there are a heck of a lot of us out there with our helmets on and the breeze in our faces.  Bike Pittsburgh and Free Ride are just two advocacy organizations that can help you get on this carbon-footprint-free, healthy, economical bandwagon, by offering safe riding tips, a DIY repair shop with expert help, and low-cost bikes.

Of course, another alternative to car commuting is walking.  Did you know that Pittsburgh was ranked among the top 10 most walkable cities in the U.S.?  In my mind, that fact combines perfectly with our status in the top 10 most literate cities — walk and read at the same time!!  Use one of our eAudio services, or if you don’t have an mp3 player, borrow a playaway!  Gone are the days of an extra pound of equipment and multiple CDs per book, although if you really are stuck with the car commute, we have plenty of those, as well.  (It doesn’t particularly relate to commuting, but you can calculate your neighborhood’s walkability at walkscore.com.)

One more obvious choice in car-free commuting is public transportation, again with the distinct advantage of being able to get in some quality reading time.  But there are other options as well, which you can learn about at commuteinfo.org, a website for commuters and employers by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission

So whether you cycle, hoof it, bus, carpool, or drive, just remember to watch out for each other and be safe!

-Kaarin

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