I get my reading done in several ways. I’m not one of those that proclaim ebooks as the only way to go these days or one of those who insist on having a real paper book in their hands. I do it all, including audio, because they each offer their own conveniences. Long car trips call for audiobooks, especially if I’m driving. But I also like to listen while I do the laundry or clean the house or take a walk. You would be surprised how much time there is to read if you take advantage of every opportunity.
Narrators, the Good and the Bad
The quality of audiobooks vary, but I get mine from the library so I don’t mind giving up on them if I don’t care for either the book itself or the narration. Recently I gave up on one because I liked neither. The narrator was so sing-song sweet it made me nauseous. I dislike when the narrator swallows loudly on tape or forgets which character he is voicing and gets it mixed up. Just my own personal pet peeves.
However, some are wonderful. Like Fannie Flagg. Oh. My. Goodness. You have to listen to her and her southern drawl. Another author narrator I thought did an excellent job is James Rubart. Some folks just have the voice for it. (Not me!)
I have listened to enough Irish books that I began to recognize the narrator. She has just enough Irish lilt to her voice to add flavor but not so much that we Americans can’t understand her. Her name is Sile Bermingham (Sile is pronounced Sheila.) She narrated Bog Child by Siobhan Dowdand some Maeve Binchy books.
I think Adam Verner does a wonderful job with Stephen Lawhead’s novels. He’s done other work too, but Lawhead is my experience with him. Nice, non irritating voice. Want to have a listen?
Top Honors: My Favorite Narration So Far
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Different voices for different characters. It was like listening to a play. Of course, it’s a wonderful book as well.
But wait, might there be more than six novels genbuffs will enjoy?
First, don’t shoot the messenger. There are surely more than six novels someone researching their genealogy will enjoy, but these are some that come to mind for me, and in case you haven’t read them, I hope I’ll be introducing you to some new reading enjoyment. And go ahead and suggest more in the comments section! (These are in no particular order.)
1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Not only will the reader come away with a sense of time and space so accurate because the writer lived it, but he/she will also embrace this coming of age story because of course all our ancestors had to face growing up. Some themes are universal and this novel helps us realize that struggles and disadvantages can be learned from and moved past.
2. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
Because so many Americans had ancestors who came through Ellis Island, some having to stay for a while like the character in this novel. Because some lessons are learned over and over again. Susan’s novel explores that concept by using a parallel modern story relating to 9-11 in New York City.
3. Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers
Because we are a product of our genes and upbringing, not doomed to be shackled but destined to grow through our disadvantages and become our own. Rivers explores this theme with an immigrant main character who is determined to fulfill her mother’s hope for her without repeating what she sees as her mother’s faults. Only the strong survive, and she’s determined to make sure her own daughter realizes this. A powerful message of what our ancestors probably experienced a the effect this determination had on their children.
4. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
This is another generation story illustrating the divide between the immigrant parents and their children who grew up in America. It also examines the prejudices prevalent during WWII on the west coast.
5. Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly
Because millions of Americans have ancestors who migrated from Ireland during the Potato Famine. This is the fictionalized story of Kelly’s ancestors, but it could be yours.
6. When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt
Because I know many of you have Italian roots and will love this story. While it’s another story of struggle (our ancestors surely did overcome obstacles) it explores the American-Italian culture in the Midwest and explores how friendships could become family. The character finds her purpose in the end, and that’s what we all want, isn’t it?
We need each other, and it’s a good thing to be with your friends and family and to meet new people. But I believe it’s good sometimes to be alone. That’s a really, really hard thing to accomplish today. Even if no one is about, if you have the internet, you are not alone.
That’s why when I read this today on www.sacredspace.ie, I tried to image what this is like. I’ve written about Skellig Michael before here and here and here. What do you think? Is it easier to find God alone or with others? My thought is that it depends on your personality. But even extroverts can benefit from some quiet time.
Solitude and Mystery
Several times I acted as a tourist guide on a tooth-shaped rock off the south-west coast of Ireland. Called Sceilg Michael, St Michael’s Rock, it towers 800 feet above the sea, is 13 miles from the mainland, and can be accessed by boat only on calm days.
From about the 6th to the 12th century it was the home of a small colony of monks, perhaps no more than twelve at a time. Their austere Rule has not survived. Removed from nearly all the secondary issues which preoccupy us, they spent their days in reciting the Divine Office, in personal prayer and in eking out a frugal existence from a small garden and a turbulent sea. Surely also they found God in contemplating the waves and the birds, the moon and the stars. A few names survive, seven or eight over six centuries. The few graves are unnamed. What these anonymous men underwent, in order to pray for all humankind – including ourselves – is beyond our imaginings.
It was exhilarating to live in so improbable a place. Solitude brought me into a sense of wonder at the beauty of nature by day and night. I found myself very alive there, and grateful, even when conditions were impossible. I experienced no great revelation. I met my old self, with its old feelings and follies. Surely the monks did too. Yet we both met Mystery there, they under one form and I under another, and I often crave to return.