LISTEN UP: Audio Books - The Other New Media You Need to Discover

This is the launch of a new column about non-fiction audio books worth a listen. Even in our multi-platform world, audio books can fill in the dark spaces of life with the light of entertainment, knowledge and true life stories. Read these reviews and then share your own thoughts

Making Book On Audio

I have become a huge fan of audio books in recent years and now I am launching a new series of columns to share with you my favorites

While many of the books have been reviewed as books, there are few places to find reviews of the audio version, which can be quite a different experience for the reader/listener.

My personal favorite is when a movie, TV or music star narrates their own true story, as is the case iin recent times with Brian Cranston, Burt Reynolds, Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez, Penny Marshall, Alec Baldwin, Trevor Noah and many more.

When it is the author reading, and the author is an actor, it can be especially meaningful to the reader/listener. They may be reading but they lived it and that comes through. Hearing Burt Reynolds share his story of reaching the highest heights, and then falling to very deep lows, but surviving, proves he is more than a pin up boy in Cosmo.

So, I am launching a new column that will appear on Block & Tackle.biz, and be featured on my Facebook page, with occasional bulletins, about audio that is special enough to me to want to share it with you.

Sometimes I will tell you about a hot new book but often I will share with you a book from past seasons, still well worth a listen.

My area of interest for years has been show business with a subset in politics. So, most of the recordings I review and spotlight will be non-fiction books in those areas, with an emphasis on biographies, because I love to hear how people got there, did it, overcame obstacles, met goals, suffered defeats and in the end, got somewhere.

I will also alert you to some recorded books that I found disappointing – sometimes from the biggest names in show biz - and tell you why. See if you agree with me that one of my favorite TV stars phoned it in with her book a couple years ago, which wasn't worth my time.

I will praise those that held my interest, from which I learned things, got insights, achieved a deeper understanding that has stayed with me.

I am posting the first group of five reviews simultaneously with this announcement, so you can see what I have to say and why I am doing this.

Why Audio books? That’s old fashioned, right?

Wrong.

They are as contemporary today as a brand-new book, article, play or story.

Audio books never go out of date because they are a genre, and provide a platform to deliver content. They did it on vinyl, plastic tape, cassettes, CD’s and today with digital and Blue Tooth the stories can come directly into your radio, stereo, phone or laptop.

Audio can be as contemporary as a brand new story, as up to date as today’s news, as cutting edge as the brilliance of the content.

And now the delivery is as easy as ordering online and waiting for it to show up on the book que in your phone, an IPhone 7 in my case.

In our multi-platform world of information and content, it seems text and video are the king and queen, but there is still a prince of a platform – audio.

What? Why bother with pure audio when we have so many dazzling media choices. For me the answer is that we need several of these to cover all of the opportunities to be entertained, informed, enlightened, educated and excited by the stimulation of new content.

So, while I have a pixelated big screen TV for my home, a computer full of images for my office, digital TV’s in the bedrooms, I will want and need audio, especially in my car, but also at leisure (sitting in a sunny back yard, at the beach, on a walk or a job or a bike ride, for instance).

I listen to books, articles, lectures, old radio shows, TED Talks and much more. The hours and miles on a long car trip melt away when I am absorbed in a great book as the miles fly by.

I love to listen to some kinds of radio in the dark. Close your eyes and listen to classic radio shows that hold up today such as The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke and Jack Benny, among many. As good as TV is, the imagination paints an even richer picture as you are back in that world for a bit.

The truth is my passion for audiobooks is really inspired by time in my car. I have AM and FM radio and access to satellite, but most of their music isn’t my music and the talk is so far to the right wing on most AM stations that they out-Fox the alt-right loving Fox News cable channel.

So, I listen to audiobooks and the trip goes quicker.

I used to have records, and then cassette tapes, and that gave way to CD’s easy to play at home or in the car - but nothing is more simple today than buying the book on Audible and then hitting refresh so it shows up in the cue in my phone. Audio is simple, portable, easy to play and replay.

So, I now regularly pre-load my smartphone drawing on the huge, varied selection of audio books available on Audible, a division of Amazon, which has provided me press access to some of their products. And is very convenient to use.

Recently, I have recently been listening to Along The Way: The Journey of a Father and Son, written by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.

Sheen is a truly fine man, with a great deal of wonderful information to impart, who has lived a studied and thoughtful life that has included amazing work as an actor, outstanding efforts as a humanitarian and activist, and a huge dedication as a dad to Emilio and his three other children (yes including Charlie Sheen).

Having Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez alternate reading the stories of their lives together, as a family and separately, as people and artists, though success and failure, has greatly enriched my grasp of the material and emotional response to all they have gone through.

Audio is also a wonderfully portable medium so you can bring your entertainment or information or program or speech or comedy routine along to enjoy in the dead spaces of life.

There are no interruptions, unless I want to be interrupted (or the phone rings on the car display). No commercials, no problem going back to listen to a favorite section again, opportunities to re-listen to entire books that I have fall in love with, that I have absorbed into my psyche and life.

When I am outside of my car, say in the waiting room of a garage where my car is being repaired, I have ear pods or headphones so I can listen where ever I go. So, what would could have been a bore leafing through old auto magazines while waiting for my tire to be fixed instead became a time filled with the joy of a wonderful book, which then carried right on with me back to my car and home.

It has never been easier to get the books either. Most of mine, as I mentioned, come from Audible, which is part of Amazon, and there is a vast selection of choices.

There are also free audio books at the LA Public Library and I am sure many others. There are free or low cost streaming services on the Internet, and lots of used CD copies of all things audio. There is a company on Facebook offering unlimited audio books each month for a flat fee. Check them all out.

I have come to enjoy even the process of shopping for the audio book that I want on audible. I like to see all the new hot titles, even if they don’t interest me enough to make a purchase. I write books so I also look to see how that book got published, promoted, distributed, and what users thought of it – all available on the site or online.

Then, I go through digital checkout in seconds and it is sent to me wirelessly via Blue tooth after the electronic sale closes.

I have the Audible App so it is soon in the que in my I-Phone 7s. I then can choose the right moment to download from the que. It is wonderfully convenient.

Remember I told you how nice it can be to listen in a dark room. That is what I have done before going to bed many nights, in a dark room, where the words feed a vivid imagining of the story. I especially love to do with when listening to old radio dramas and comedies and now find it is also a rewarding way to listen to all kinds of books.

The old radio dramas are a treasure of mystery shows, action, police, western, variety, drama and humor, but you have to try things out to find what works for you. I am always looking for great story telling, real drama, and a feeling it is all the truth – even when it is fiction.

I have always loved print books and have proudly written several, but the truth is as I get older, it is harder to read for long periods of time.

I can’t seem to get the light right, the book feels heavy to hold, the type is too small whatever my excuse, I have become enamored of having someone read to me with perfect meaning, crisp context and often, theatrical intonation.

I hope you will share your experiences with audio books, and comment with a list of your favorites, as a resource for all of us who love a good book enough to listen for a change.

Please share your own reviews or email them to me and I will post the most compelling ones to share with the world.

Watch for the first list of audio books you need to discover, and keep listening for more in the future.

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