Summer is here and family road trip season has officially begun. For me that brings up memories of endless hours of boredom, begging to stop at McDonald’s Playland, and incessant pestering from my older brother. If only my parents had thought to bring along an audiobook or two.
You can keep your family entertained and occupied with one of my suggestions or, even better, get everybody involved in picking out some audiobooks that the whole family will enjoy.
Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
In 1960, at age 58, John Steinbeck set out with his French poodle, Charley, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years. Together they crossed America from the northernmost tip of Maine to California’s Monterey peninsula, stopping to smell the grass, to see the lights, and to hear the speech of the real America. Steinbeck dined with truckers, encountered bears at Yellowstone, and reflected on the American character, racial hostility, and the unexpected kindness of strangers.
The Story Of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
No one loves and understands animals like the eccentric physician Dr. Dolittle-who masters animal language with the help of Polynesia, his parrot. After his human patients desert him, the kind-hearted doctor finds his calling in practicing animal medicine, and his fame spreads far and wide. When a terrible epidemic breaks out among monkeys in Africa, Dr. Dolittle sets out to save them, accompanied by some of his favorite pets. Thus begins the amusing, whimsical adventures of Dr. Dolittle and the animal kingdom.
Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal
What separates your mind from an animal’s? Maybe you think it’s your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future―all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the planet’s preeminent species. But in recent decades, these claims have been eroded by a revolution in the study of animal cognition. Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools; elephants that classify humans by age, gender, and language; or Ayumu, the young chimpanzee whose memory puts that of humans to shame. Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are-and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long. People often assume a cognitive ladder, from lower to higher forms, with our own intelligence at the top. But what if it is more like a bush, with cognition taking different, often incomparable, forms? Would you presume yourself dumber than a squirrel because you’re less adept at recalling the locations of hundreds of buried acorns? Or would you judge your perception of your surroundings as more sophisticated than that of a echolocating bat? De Waal reviews the rise and fall of the mechanistic view of animals and opens our minds to the idea that animal minds are far more intricate and complex than we have assumed. De Waal’s landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal―and human―intelligence.
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic ‘xkcd’ comes this hilarious and informative book of answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask. Fans of ‘xkcd’ ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent of the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there were a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last? In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess. Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.