Lis­ten to this: 5 tales to soak up

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUMMER BOOKS - BY KATHER­INE A. POW­ERS book­world@wash­ Kather­ine A. Pow­ers re­views au­dio­books for The Washington Post.


By David McCullough Si­mon& Schuster. Unabridged, 10 hours

Keep in mind, as you travel aloft, that what is so dis­mis­sively re­ferred to as “fly-over coun­try” is the birthplace of the me­chan­i­cal ge­niuses who made the term pos­si­ble. David McCullough reads his bi­og­ra­phy of the Mid­west­ern Wright broth­ers in a wise, New Eng­land-tinc­tured voice, bring­ing both a flair for en­gi­neer­ing de­tail and a gen­eros­ity with anec­dote. We can hear his quiet rel­ish as he de­scribes how the suc­cess at Kitty Hawk was ini­tially ig­nored by the press, its at­ten­tion fixed on Sa­muel Pier­pont Langley’s gov­ern­ment-spon­sored “Aero­drome” and its prat­falls and plunges into the Po­tomac. McCullough points out, among count­less won­der­ful par­tic­u­lars, that it was left to Amos Root, editor of Gleanings in Bee Cul­ture to break the news— to fur­ther gen­eral dis­re­gard. When what the Wrights had achieved fi­nally sank in, the world went mad, and the prodi­gies be­came the pop­u­lar he­roes they soon wearied of be­ing.

THE TRAIN TO CRYS­TAL CITY FDR’s Se­cret Pris­oner Ex­change Pro­gram and Amer­ica’s Only Fam­ily In­tern­ment Camp

Dur­ing World War II

By Jan Jar­boe Rus­sell Recorded Books. Unabridged, 14 ½ hours

Most of us have a fond­ness for trains, yet they have been the chief means of dis­lo­ca­tion dur­ing wartime even in our own coun­try. An­drea Gallo reads Rus­sell’s rev­e­la­tory ac­count of a lit­tle-known as­pect of the in­tern­ment of Ja­panese, Ger­man and Ital­ian civil­ians in the United States dur­ing World War II. Hun­dreds of fam­i­lies— some Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, some de­ported from Latin Amer­ica— were shipped in se­cret, closed trains to Crys­tal City, Tex., wives and chil­dren hav­ing “vol­un­teered” to ac­com­pany the men. That is shock­ing enough and well known, but Rus­sell shows that these peo­ple in fact were hostages, stock­piled for use in pris­oner ex­changes with the Axis pow­ers. Rus­sell fol­lows the fates of a few in­di­vid­u­als who were caught up in the scheme, in­clud­ing a Jewish fam­ily and a Ger­man Amer­i­can fam­ily sent back into war-rav­aged Ger­many. The book is re­plete with quo­ta­tions from letters and re­ports, which Gallo, who­has a deco­rous, clear voice, ably dis­tin­guishes from the gen­eral nar­ra­tive by changes of in­flec­tion.


By Chigozie Obioma

Ha­chette. Unabridged, 10 hours

Nige­rian-born Chuk­wudi Iwuji de­liv­ers a mag­nif­i­cent read­ing of Obioma’s story of a fa­tal prophecy. Set in Akure, Nige­ria, the tale is told by Ben Agwu, who, with his broth­ers, goes fish­ing in a for­bid­den river. Iwuji gives youth to the boys’ voices and a thump of com­mand to their fa­ther a she de­liv­ers his stric­tures: “Ev­ery word,” Ben tells us, was “tacked nine-inches deep into the beams of our minds.” Alas, they don’t heed him, and, at the river, Ikenna, the old­est boy, ridicules the lo­cal mad man, who is­sues an ob­scure pre­dic­tion, con­vinc­ing Ikenna that one of his broth­ers will kill him. Iwuji’s clipped Nige­rian ac­cent evokes the novel’s African set­ting and a vil­lage sto­ry­teller’s im­pi­ous wit. Inits printed form, the book in­cludes mor­dantly funny draw­ings, which are pro­vided as a PDF with the au­dio down­load.


By M.J. Carter

High Bridge. Unabridged, 10 ¾ hours

Set in In­dia in 1837, Carter’s novel is a story of in­trigue and treach­ery, and a fine his­tor­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cre­ation of a use­ful myth. En­sign Wil­liam A very has been sent off by the East In­dia Com­pany with a can­tan­ker­ous, opium-ad­dicted English­man to dis­cover the where­abouts of a fa­mous writer named Xavier Mountstu­art, “the very acme of By­ronic man­hood.” Alarm­ingly, Mountstu­art van­ished while study­ing the Thugs, re­put­edly devo­tees of the god­dess Kali who in­gra­ti­ate them­selves with trav­el­ers and then stran­gle them. Nar­ra­tor Alex Wyn­d­ham is bril­liant at sum­mon­ing up the per­son­al­i­ties in this ex­otic, ex­cit­ing tale— from Avery’s ini­tial peev­ish­ness, to his com­rade’s fes­tive burr, to the Bri­tish of­fi­cers’ snooti­ness.


By Tim John­ston

High Bridge. Unabridged, 11 ½ hours

John­ston’s novel about one fam­ily’s travel night­mare should ame­lio­rate your own. The Court­land fam­ily takes a trip to the Colorado Rock­ies so that Caitlin, en­ter­ing col­lege in the fall on an ath­letic schol­ar­ship, can train at high al­ti­tudes. In­stead, she is ab­ducted and her brother badly in­jured by a ter­ri­fy­ing man with yel­low-lensed glasses. The exquisitely sus­pense­ful novel is de­liv­ered by Xe Sands, whose in­ti­mate, an­guished voice sup­plies Caitlin’s and her mother’s points of view, and R.C. Bray, who gives us the her brother and fa­ther in gritty tones. The story moves from voice to voice, the ten­sion ris­ing at each hand-over, mak­ing this the novel to lis­ten to for short­en­ing a tire­some jour­ney.

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