Over the past few months it has seemed that reviews of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine have been just about everywhere in the book blogging world. I was stuck on a hold queue for the audiobook at the LA Library for well over a month before getting access to the book in August, shortly before my trip home to Milan. I had just finished Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall in audiobook, which was an absolutely engrossing and rewarding experience (listen to it rather than read it if you haven’t yet!), so my expectations with regards to audiobooks were extremely high.
If you’re traipsing around Milan eating gelato but keep finding yourself thinking back to that audiobook waiting for you at home at the end of the day, that’s a good sign. I avidly finished listening to Eleanor’s story in just a few days. Despite being a much simpler and shorter experience than the lengthy historical tome that preceded it, within a couple chapters, I was completely captivated by Eleanor. I would rank Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine up there as one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I think it would make my Top 100 of all time if I ever sat dawn to draw it up one day. I couldn’t believe it when I read that this is author Gail Honeyman’s debut novel! That’s truly astounding because her characters are so compelling, fully-formed and sympathetic. Sign me up to read anything else she may publish in the future.
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I’ve had my fare share of trials and tribulations with audiobooks. I must have started at least 10 that I’ve decided to stop listening to within the first few chapters. Typically the issue was either a narrator whose voice really grated on my nerves, or a story that was not captivating enough in audiobook format. I typically listen to audiobooks on my morning commute, so they have to be really engaging or I’ll end up getting distracted by traffic or my thoughts on the day ahead.
Enter Wolf Hall. From the first few sentences I knew I had found my audiobook holy grail. Apparently, what really works for me is an amazing British actor narrating a tale full of passion, subterfuge, politics and inner turmoil that reminded me of the TV series The Tudors (which I loved) only honestly much much better. Where The Tudors feels superficial and glamorized, Wolf Hall is gritty and relatable despite its scope. Mantel’s novel has also been turned into a TV mini-series itself – starring Mark Rylance as Cromwell and Damian Lewis as Henry VIII – but after watching half of an episode a year or so ago, it just didn’t capture my attention. I may have to give it another shot after how much I loved this book.
If you’ve been struggling to find an audiobook that will hold your attention, I would recommend that you give Wolf Hall a try.
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A few weeks ago, after attending the Women’s March in LA, I put together a book list of books about Feminism that I wanted to read to provide a stronger educational framework for my understanding of feminism from a historical and intellectual perspective. Caitlin Moran’s hilarious book How To Be A Woman was featured on that list, and when the audiobook became available from my library holds list, I decided to start listening to it during my commutes. I was laughing out loud in my car from the start.
Moran has the gift of bringing a sensitive topic like that of feminism to the masses in a very accessible and down-to-earth way, but for those who are very sophisticated in their feminist views, it may seem simplistic. I think that in How To Be A Woman, Moran wasn’t trying to provide some kind of definitive ideological treatise about feminism, but wanted to share her experience growing up as a woman and a feminist, in a way that I, and I think many other women, will find relatable. Don’t expect statistics and valid historical commentary, but rather humorous anecdotes from Moran’s life that tie into feminist themes.
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I think by now I’ve made my love for medical nonfiction abundantly clear on this blog. You can refer to my book list of my favorite scientific nonfiction books here for proof, as many of them are medical nonfiction titles.
When I heard about Working Stiff, I knew that it was going to be exactly my kind of ideal mix between instructive and gory. I read Mary Roach’s Stiff a few years ago and I therefore knew I didn’t have a problem reading about what happens to the body after death. I’m not really squeamish in that way, and to be honest post-death physical changes, rituals and techniques actually fascinate me rather than gross me out.
While in Stiff, Mary Roach explores the different ways in which your body can be used or disposed of after death, in Working Stiff, Dr. Melinek (in collaboration with her husband) discusses her life as a forensic pathologist and more specifically how autopsies are carried out when necessary to determine cause of death for legal or insurance purposes. If you’re like me and reading about decomposition sounds like a great way to spend a few hours, make sure to check out both.
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