What book is in your ear buds?

Have you ever wondered what runners are listening to in their ear buds?

Probably most runners listen to power music to goose-up their pace. However, a significant number, including myself, are listening to audio books.

I don’t run. I’m too old and heavy for such a young man’s sport. But I walk. I’ve found that getting started at 5:30am allows me to transit my 5km (about 3.5 miles) circuit around Cypress Landing without interruption. If I wait until 8 or 9am, I am slowed by neighbors who enjoy talking more than walking.

An avid reader all my life, off and on that is, I’ve attempted to read some difficult tomes and have abandoned my share. So, my list of desirable reads has accumulated. Now that I have the time to read, my eyesight and patience have gone. As a remedy, I’ve found that listening to audio books allows me to plow through the to-do list while turning a boring walk into a pleasurable pastime.

I started using my iPod to listen to music and then audio books. I graduated to an iPhone and passed the iPod to a neighbor. On the small iPhone package, I use the Nike+ GPS app to track my walks, the iPod app to listen to music and books, and of course, I have the phone available for emergencies. The ear buds are comfortable and the iPhone fits neatly into my pocket.

My spring and summer reading list is without rhyme or order – just audio books that were available, cheap, and somewhat guided by past reading. Here’s my list.

I first chose “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. I tried to read the book several times in my youth, always giving up to the boredom of coping with the long, drawn-out monologues. The 1,200 page paperback was just too long. The 60-hour audio book, narrated by Scott Brick, provided a great listen for about 60 rounds of the neighborhood.

“The English American” (10 hours), by Alison Larkin, was my next choice. Alison reads her own book in a delightful British accent. Pippa, the story’s heroine, was born in America but adopted as an infant by British parents. She conducts a search for her birth parents, an adventure that takes her to live and cope with wild America. The book is simply hilarious and has a chick-lit ending.

“Eat, Pray, Love” (13 hours), by Elizabeth Gilbert, was another chick-lit book read by the author. Her search for a greater meaning in life leads her through three months each in Italy (cooking and food), India (convent life), and Bali (life with a guru). The story is funny, thoughtful, and revealing of human nature.

“The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (17 hours), by John Fowles, was a cheap read through a deal at Audible.com. Read by Paul Shelley, the book was entertaining and not as steamy as I remembered as a teenager.

“A Prayer for Owen Meany” (27 hours), by John Irving and read by Joe Barrett, was delightful. Joe did a marvelous job of Owen’s squeaky voice and the long read flowed away with miles of pavement. Owen Meany was a pint-sized boy with a man-sized intellect. As a pint-sized First Lieutenant during the Vietnam Conflict, he creates a giant-sized heroic ending.

“Safe Haven” (11 hours), by Nicholas Sparks, is the usual fluff for a multitude of readers made better by Rebecca Lowman’s narration of the novel. I thought this love story was more substantial than most and interesting in that it has a setting in Southport, North Carolina.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (16 hours), by Stieg Larsson and read by Simon Vance, is a Swedish translation adventure novel. What starts out as a simple story of the woes of a financial reporter becomes a family crime mystery on an isolated island. The heroine has lots of computer savvy and provides a surprise ending.

“The Rich Are Different” (29 hours), by Susan Howatch, was one of my summer beach reads a few years ago. I found the story of early 20th century high finance in New York and England intertwined with a love story compelling enough to listen to it again on an audio book read by Nadia May.

“Cataloochee” (12 hours), by Wayne Caldwell and read by Scott Sowers, is the delightful story of hardscrabble North Carolina mountain people having lives disrupted by federal confiscation of their land to create the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. The author visited Washington last year and presented a delightful talk about his book at the Turnage Theater.

So, my reading list is varied with little organization. It did, however, serve to pass almost 200 hours of walking — and I hope the loss of a pound or two. What do I listen to next?

Happy July 4th!


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