I listen to a lot of audiobooks. They’re the most convenient way for me to get through books. I listen when I’m folding laundry, taking the dog for a walk, or running errands. I love listening to audiobooks and these are some of my favorites available on Hoopla Digital or Libby/Overdrive.
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
One of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters, the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, and drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story.
Professor James Murray was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors to the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, hand-written quotations from his home. On numerous occasions Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray’s offer was regularly, mysteriously, refused.
Finally, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray would finally learn the truth about Minor . . . that, in addition to being a masterly wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane – and locked up in Broadmoor, England’s harshest asylum for criminal lunatics.
The Professor and the Madman is an extraordinary tale of madness and genius, and the incredible obsessions of two men at the heart of the Oxford English Dictionary and literary history. Written with riveting insight and detail, Simon Winchester delivers a fascinating glimpse into one man’s tortured mind and his contribution to another man’s magnificent dictionary.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
When Chef Anthony Bourdain wrote “Don’t Eat Before You Read This” in The New Yorker, he spared no one’s appetite, revealing what goes on behind the kitchen door. In Kitchen Confidential, he expanded the appetizer into a deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet that lays out his twenty-five years of sex, drugs, and haute cuisine.
From his first oyster in Gironda to the kitchen of the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, from the restaurants of Tokyo to the drug dealers of the East Village, from the mobsters to the rats, Bourdain’s brilliantly written and wonderfully read, wild-but-true tales make the belly ache with laughter.
Educated by Tara Westover
Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Father Of American Conservationism: George Bird Grinnell: Adventurer, Activist, Author by Thom Hatch
Award-winning author Thom Hatch presents the definitive biography of George Bird Grinnell, who was recognized in his time as “The Father of American Conservation.” This book chronicles not only Grinnell’s life, but also offers a history of his accomplishments in saving the wildlife and natural resources of this country.
A remarkable man, Grinnell was known as a model of intellectual diversity, integrity, and professional dedication. He was a daring adventurer and explorer; crusading magazine publisher and editor (Forest and Stream, now Field and Stream); prolific author; accomplished outdoorsman; notable paleontologist, ethnologist, ornithologist, and anthropologist; presidential advisor; advocate for Native Americans; and this country’s first environmental activist, whose contributions in that arena are unparalleled in American history.
Grant by Ron Chernow
Ulysses S. Grant’s life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don’t come close to capturing him, as Chernow shows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency.
Before the Civil War, Grant was flailing. His business ventures had ended dismally, and despite distinguished service in the Mexican War he ended up resigning from the army in disgrace amid recurring accusations of drunkenness. But in war, Grant began to realize his remarkable potential, soaring through the ranks of the Union army, prevailing at the battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign, and ultimately defeating the legendary Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Along the way, Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort. Grant’s military fame translated into a two-term presidency, but one plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff members.
More important, he sought freedom and justice for black Americans, working to crush the Ku Klux Klan and earning the admiration of Frederick Douglass, who called him “the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race.” After his presidency, he was again brought low by a dashing young swindler on Wall Street, only to resuscitate his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs, which are recognized as a masterpiece of the genre.
With lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow finds the threads that bind these disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic… and yet the greatest hero.” Chernow’s probing portrait of Grant’s lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level. This is America’s greatest biographer, bringing movingly to life one of our finest but most underappreciated presidents. The definitive biography, Grant is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant’s life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.