2014 Audio Book Recommended books

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield (Audio Book)

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth Source: Library

Five words from the blurb: astronaut, training, success, survival, think

Chris Hadfield is an inspirational man! I don’t remember how I first heard of him, but I do know that every piece of media that features him leaves me feeling empowered. Last year I saw that he was coming to the UK to promote his photo book, You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes, and so booked tickets to see him live. He had the entire room in the palm of his hand and is easily the best public speaker I’ve ever seen. I immediately went home and reserved a copy of his audiobook from the library. It is every bit as good as I hoped it would be and I urge you to go and get a copy.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is basically an autobiography, explaining how Hadfield became an astronaut. But he also uses the book to show how everyone can benefit from the things he learnt along the way. He reinforces his belief that you should use every spare moment to become a better person – making small changes every day to improve your chances of achieving whatever you want:

Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.

He also believes that being independent is the key to happiness. Knowing that you have the ability to fix anything around you gives you more confidence. His passion almost persuaded me to take a course in plumbing – but I predict trying to fix a broken pipe would lead to much more stress in my life as I’m not very good at practical tasks!

Hadfield mixes these life-building plans with entertaining anecdotes about his experiences. It was fascinating to learn how problems are dealt with in space and I thought he managed to strike exactly the right balance between technical information and humour. I especially loved hearing about how he coped with becoming blind whilst on a space walk and what landing a Soyuz is like.

The audio is read by the author; further injecting his passion into every word. It’s probably amazing in print, but I highly recommend the audio version.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth gives the reader a slightly different perspective of the world, showing how we can all work together to make things better. It highlights the fragility and beauty of our planet, but also how powerful individual people can be when they work towards a goal. If you only buy one self-help book in your life, this should be the one you get.



2014 Audio Book Recommended books Science Fiction Uncategorized

The Martian by Andy Weir (Audio Book)

The Martian

Five words from the blurb: Mars, astronaut, alone, survival, rescue

The Martian was on the “Best of 2014” list of many bloggers I trust, so I bought the audio version. I’m so pleased that I did as it is one of the most entertaining stories I’ve ever listened to. It is basically a survival story, but combines the tension of a man living in daily fear for his life with the mundane reality of being an astronaut for an extended period of time. It also shows how complex science can solve problems and combines this with well researched technical information about Mars. I was gripped throughout and found myself laughing and amazed in equal measure.

Mark Watney is one of the first astronauts to visit Mars, but just hours after touching down on the surface there is an accident and the rest of the crew evacuate, sure that Watney has perished. He regains consciousness and discovers that he is alone on Mars. He must use every ounce of his training and intelligence to find a way to survive until he can be rescued. The majority of the book is made up of Mark Watney’s daily log entries where he records everything that happens each day, including his thoughts and frustrations. Some people might find the language a bit harsh, but I thought it was appropriate and realistic given the situation he was placed in:

Log Entry: SOL 118
My conversation with NASA about the water reclaimer was boring and riddled with technical details. So I’ll paraphrase for you:
Me: “This is obviously a clog. How about I take it apart and check the internal tubing?”
NASA: (After about 5 hours of deliberation) “No. You’ll fuck it up and die.”
So I took it apart.

Watney is one of the best characters I’ve ever come across. His flaws and strengths were given equal attention and by the end of the book I felt as though I knew him. I loved his attitude to life and think many people could learn from his reactions to adversity. The book also raised interesting questions about how much one life is worth and whether we should ever gamble with the lives of others in order to save someone else.

The Martian works particularly well on audio. R.C. Bray is the perfect narrator – making the wry humor spring to life, but maintaining the tension when serious problems arise.

Overall I can’t fault this book. I was transported into the mind of an astronaut whilst being thoroughly entertained. I learnt many new things and admired the way technical information was integrated into the gripping plot. It’s the best book I’ve read in a long time.

Highly recommended.


2015 Audio Book

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis (Audio book)

Lost & Found

Narrated by : Helen Walsh, Nicolette McKenzie and Nigel Carrington 

Five words from the blurb: girl, journey, discover, death, hope

Two trends seem to have dominated the fiction market recently:

  • Old people discovering the joys of life and doing adventurous/dangerous things
  • Child narrators, particularly those having a tough life.

Lost and Found manages to combine the two in a charming, but poignant way.

Millie is a seven-year-old girl who is abandoned by her mother after the death of her father. She is discovered by Agatha and Karl, two elderly people with their own set of issues. The trio embark on a journey across Australia in an attempt to reunite Millie with her mother. Lost and Found manages to combine the heartbreaking pain of a neglected child with the issues facing the elderly – wrapping it all together with warmth and gentle humor.

I started off reading a proof copy of this book, but when I was about a third of the way through the publishers contacted me, mentioning the audio version. I requested an audio download and switched to listening instead. This was definitely the right thing to do as the narrators were fantastic. They brought the jokes to life and the entire thing felt much more entertaining. The Australian humor benefited from being read aloud and I think this enabled me to pick up on many of the more subtle references.

It wasn’t great literature, but there were many original concepts that made me stop and think, particularly those involving the innocent logic of a child:

The start date and the end date are always the important bits on the gravestones, written in big letters. The dash between is always so small you can barely see it. Surely the dash should be big and bright and amazing, or not, depending on how you had lived…..Did Errol ever know that his life would be just a dash on a gravestone? That everything he did and all the food he ate and all the car trips he took and the kisses he gave would end up as a line on a rock?

Everything was much larger than life and the reader has to suspend their disbelief on many occasions, but I didn’t mind as it all added to the adventure. If you coped with The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson then this will seem almost plausible!

There were some points in the middle of the book where the story lost a little momentum and I occasionally became frustrated by Agatha’s aggressive rants at the world, but overall this was an entertaining read and it may well go on to win my mythical “ending of the year” award.

Recommended for those looking for an amusing distraction from conventional fiction.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

…there’s an undercurrent of mischievous delight and black humour that stops it from being sentimental or emotionally manipulative. Reading Matters

Nothing in the book was really believable enough to allow me to engage with it properly. Stephen Lemon Good Reads Reviewer

 It might be a “light” novel, but it’s not a prosaic or formulaic one. Whispering Gums

Audio Book Other

Three Things You Should Listen to This Weekend

I haven’t read much recently because nothing on the page seems to live up to the quality of the podcasts I’ve discovered. Listening to great stories has the added benefit of being able to do something else whilst enjoying them – perfect for enabling me to continue to sort out my house!

Rather than keep my discoveries secret I thought I’d share them with you. All three are so good – you really should try listening this weekend!

Not My Father's Son: A Family Memoir

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

This week BBC Radio 4 have serialised Alan Cumming’s emotionally charged memoir. Not My Father’s Son is available to download for the next 4 weeks – I highly recommend you give it a try! 

Note: I think the free download might only be available to those in the UK so others might have to settle for reading it in print.

The Moth: This Is a True Story

The Moth

Last month I raved about The Moth: 50 Extraordinary True Stories. I’ve since discovered that The Moth has a website which contains lots of amazing short stories for you to listen to. There is also a podcast which includes the best stories from each week.





Serial is a Twitter phenomenon. It is an investigation into a murder that happened in 1999. The evidence gathered is presented in a podcast and the audience is encouraged to help solve the crime. I was sceptical at first, but the continuous Twitter chat finally persuaded me to give it a try. It is a unique concept and so compelling. I can’t wait for the next episode!

Have you listened to any of these? Did you enjoy them as much as I did?

1910s Audio Book Classics Novella

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (Audio Book)

The Metamorphosis

Five words from the blurb: salesman, transformed, insect, trapped, room

The Metamorphosis is a book I’d always avoided as I suspected it would be disturbing and/or impenetrable. I’m pleased I decided to give it a try as neither of these preconceptions were true. The Metamorphosis is actually easy to read and isn’t very dark at all – in fact it is quite funny in places. 

The book begins with Gregor, a travelling salesman, waking up to discover that he’s been transformed into a giant insect. It is one of those rare cases where an author manages to take a fairly unrealistic concept and make it feel real. I loved Gregor’s confusion and the way he slowly learnt what life as an insect felt like. 

….when he lifted his head a little he could see his dome-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.

It is a short book (just two discs in the audio version) and the plot is very simple, but I was entertained throughout. Martin Jarvis’ narration was excellent and I recommend this book to anyone looking for something a bit different.


2013 Audio Book Chunkster Thriller

Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Audio Book)

Night Film

Five words from the blurb: journalist, director, disorientating, mystery, reality

Night Film is an unusual thriller. It follows Scott McGrath, a journalist investigating strange events linked to the famous, but illusive Cordova family. Stanislas Cordova is a cult horror film director and his daughter recently committed suicide. Their lives are packed with secrets, many of which involve dark magic. McGrath’s investigations lead him into some very strange situations and the line between reality and imagination was often blurred.  Some scenes were a bit weird, but I loved not knowing what would happen next!

I began listening to the audio version of this book, but quickly realised that I was missing something. The first few chapters were packed with photographs, Internet pages and other images and this meant I wasn’t understanding subtler aspects of the plot. In order to fully appreciate the book I got the hardback version from the library and was impressed by the visual content, but found that it was poorly written and couldn’t hold my attention. I switched back to the audio and noticed that the dialogue-led writing worked far better in this medium – all my issues with writing quality were resolved and I was gripped!

The story was long and meandering, but I loved the twists and turns. I thought it was well paced and some aspects were very cleverly thought out.  It wasn’t great literature, but it was entertaining and original. 

I was slightly worried that I’d find the horror film aspects of this book disturbing, but I didn’t find that to be the case. I guess that some people might have issues the darker scenes, but I found that descriptions were toned down to the right level for me. There was no gore or gratuitous violence and most of the scary sections involved psychological fear, mainly of the unknown.

Overall this was a memorable mystery and I recommend the audio version to anyone looking for something a little bit different.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

I read this book not once, but twice, unable to cut the ties that bind me to its brilliance. Jenn’s Bookshelves

…in a few places the novel veered into territory that was a little unnecessarily weird for me. The Book Project

It is overwritten and could have been edited down to about half its size… Caribousmom