What I’ve Been Listening To: Women’s Stories, Living in the Woods, MS, Missing Youth, and a Self-Help Journey

Inspired by Eva’s post, I decided to finally give audio books a try. I started with non-fiction and have continued with it since I had very bad luck with the one fiction title I tried listening to. And it’s a great way to fit more nonfiction into my reading. To my great delight, I have found that I have more time to listen to books than I thought – I listen while walking the dog at night and while doing the dishes. I had no idea I spent so much time doing dishes!

I got off to a bit of a rocky start, but then started to find my groove: I went from reading about vaginas and unhappy women to hermits, multiple sclerosis, seven missing children, and the power (or not) of self help.

The Vagina Bible by Jen Gunter: I started with The Vagina Bible – it’s been on my list since reading Anne’s review. It probably wasn’t the best one to begin with… I would say this book works better as a reference book. There is a lot of information in here that doesn’t need to be read until it needs to be read, and I even skipped a few chapters because I was so anxious to move on to another book. However, it’s a great book to have on hand, especially for young’uns who are encountering everything for the first time. Her second book is out now – The Menopause Manifesto – I will be sure to check that one out, but maybe not on audio.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo: I think this was another book I read about on Anne’s blog, but I was also seeing it all over the place. The backstory behind this book is interesting (this interview gives a good idea of Taddeo and her book), and the women’s stories are certainly compelling (and graphic!) and hard to stop listening to, but I also found their stories really depressing. Maggie is abused by her teacher and suffers for it while her teacher gets acquitted of the charges. Lina is so desperate to be loved and wanted that she puts herself at huge emotional risk. Sloane’s story was the hardest for me to understand – all I know is that she doesn’t sound like a happy person. None of them sounded happy. Which was kind of depressing. I would still recommend this book, but know that it’s pretty heavy – you might want to have something lighter on the go at the same time.

Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel: I have wanted to read this book for a while – I love reading about hermits or people who are isolated in some way. And I wanted to know how this guy got away with it for 27 years! And why would someone want to live as a hermit with no other human contact for so long? Or forever. He said if he hadn’t been caught, he would have lived in his camp until the day he died. I feel sorry for him now as he is being forced to live in the real world. My favourite parts were learning how he put together his camp, and his daily, nightly, and seasonal habits. It blows my mind that he 1) never built fires to keep himself warm in the winter (!!) for fear of detection, 2) had such a crappy diet of everyone else’s non-perishable cottage food, and 3) that he broke into people’s houses so many times over the years without getting caught.

Just Jen by Jen Powley: Jen Powley is from Alberta and has been living in Halifax most of her adult life, and has also been living with multiple sclerosis since being diagnosed at the age of fifteen. She is smart and creative and brave and funny. Her memoir gives a really good sense of who she is as a person and everything she has overcome and accomplished so far in her extraordinary life. Just Jen was the winner of the 2017 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for Nonfiction. Author spotlight at the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia.

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga: This book is huge here in Canada and I am so happy to have finally read it – I’m ready to join in the conversation. It won the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize and was a finalist for the 2018 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. (CBC Books) Between 2000 and 2011, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Talaga looks closely into these tragedies from all angles and investigates the history and circumstances surrounding the deaths. Hearing all the ways in which these issues (and issues reaching far beyond Thunder Bay) are ignored or explained away or pushed to the back burner (the one that doesn’t work) is shocking and infuriating. Echoing what many have already said, this is a must-read for Canadians. Taking a quote from Marcie’s review: ” “The north may stretch out over a huge, underpopulated geological land mass of boreal forest, but the people who live there are all connected. They are connected through the land and the rivers and each other.” So, when a student disappeared, Indigenous people from hundreds of miles away, from other bands, came south, to the northern city of Thunder Bay, to organize search parties.”

Help Me! by Marianne Power: Rebecca introduced me to this one and I’m glad I had it on my radar as I scrolled through the library audio books. I needed something a little lighter after Seven Falling Feathers, and this was just the thing. Listening to the narrator read this book was so much fun. Marianne is in a rut and feels like a failure, so she embarks on a self-help project; she plans to take on one self-help book a month for a year with the goal of becoming a kinder, smarter, savvier, more adventurous, less anxious Marianne. Her project doesn’t quite work out as planned–she has many falling-apart moments–but also has some fun and learns some lessons along the way. Bonus: Marianne’s Mom pops in from time to time to impart advice (or not). If there weren’t so many other books to listen to, I think I would listen to this one again!

Have any of you been listening to books? Do you have recommendations for me?

23 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Listening To: Women’s Stories, Living in the Woods, MS, Missing Youth, and a Self-Help Journey

  1. Rebecca Foster says:

    I don’t know if you follow Simon Savidge of Savidge Reads (mostly on social media and BookTube rather than his blog anymore), but I think he listens to exclusively nonfiction on audio — it’s interesting that it seems to work better than fiction. I can’t comment as I’ve still never listened to an audiobook! I’m glad you enjoyed Help Me. It was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? I’m friends with Marianne on Facebook and she’s been nothing but lovely. I couldn’t get through Three Women, but I’m very interested in Stranger in the Woods.

    • Naomi says:

      I was wondering if it was just me that felt the misery of those three women just went on and on… (not that I didn’t think it was an interesting concept or that many parts of it were well-done, but so depressing!)
      I do follow Simon on Twitter (and his blog), but I didn’t know that. For me, I think it’s that I can’t stand to miss a single word when I read fiction and sometimes re-read sentences and paragraphs if I feel I zoned out for a few seconds. But it doesn’t seem like as big of a deal to miss small amounts in nonfiction. I don’t know why… But this is important for me, because I’m often interrupted by one or more people while doing the dishes. And because my hands are wet, it’s easier to just quickly listen to them than stop and dry my hands to press pause every time someone wants something! Lol
      Help Me was so much fun!

  2. buriedinprint says:

    Thanks for linking to my review of Tanya Talaga’s book: it’s so well done. I’m glad she’s beginning to be recognized for her journalism and hope she gains even more readers as time passes. That would be a great one for Bill’s project, eh?

    I’ve been super into podcasts lately and not-so-much into audiobooks as a result. The last non-fiction listen I can think of, that I don’t think I’ve already rec’d to you, is Amy Schumer’s book The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo. I didn’t have any expectations and was surprised just how many topics she covered and she did make me laugh quite a few times! Also, did you say you were listening to the Jonathan van Ness memoir?

    • Naomi says:

      I haven’t seen Jonathan’s memoir on the library audios yet, but I did get the book for child #3 to read. She devoured it.
      Maybe once I’ve read all the best audio books at the library, I’ll move on to podcasts! 🙂

  3. wadholloway says:

    I listen to audiobooks all the time I’m working, in stretches of two or three hours. I can’t imagine how books would go if constantly interrupted. I rarely pick up non-fiction, partly because I’m not interested and partly because my local libraries don’t have much. Though over the years I’ve listened to and enjoyed the history of Abba, troop movements prior to Waterloo, and various biographies. The weakness of audibooks is that every word is read, which you would know to skip over if reading yourself (email addresses for instance).

    • Naomi says:

      I admire your ability to listen while driving. I feel like I would go off the road – concentrating more on the book and less on driving.
      It’s partly because of all the interruptions I get that I stick to nonfiction – it doesn’t feel as jarring. I rarely read nonfiction, so this is a nice chance for me to catch up on some of it!

  4. Karissa says:

    I got The Vagina Bible from the library last year and found it worked best as a book to skim through. I could see it being tricky on audio. The Stranger in the Woods sounds fascinating too; I read the original article by the author and there is something so compelling about it all. Plus, the cover photo was actually taken in the forest near where I live! Seven Fallen Feathers is another one I really need to read.

    • Naomi says:

      I’m wondering if The Menopause Manifesto will be the same way… If my library gets a copy, maybe I’ll have a look through it first.
      There’s something about Hermits that’s fascinating, isn’t there? That’s funny about the cover photo… I wonder why so far away from where it takes place?

      • Karissa says:

        I’ll probably wait a few years before I check out Menopause Manifesto but I’m glad to know it’s out there!

        I have no idea why that’s the photo. I guess it was available for use and evoked the right image? The photos I saw of the man’s actual site were pretty interesting in their own right.

  5. Liz Dexter says:

    How interesting and I’m glad you found they worked for you. I don’t take in information aurally very well, and I fall asleep listening to fiction audio books (even radio plays send me off) so I dread to think what will happen if I lose my vision, although I’m sure we’re all more adaptable than we think. Some good books here, too.

    • Naomi says:

      I have often wondered what I’d do if I lost my vision! But now I feel somewhat comforted by the audio book boom. If I had to, I could probably adapt to fiction on audio as well – I would probably just need to sit still and listen!

  6. annelogan17 says:

    Thank you for the shout-outs! I actually just finished reading Lisa Taddeo’s second book-it’s a work of fiction, also very dark.

    I was sent Help Me for review years ago, and never got around to it, so I gave it away-now I’m thinking I may have missed out, your review wants me to have a go at it! hah

    • Naomi says:

      Well, now you could listen to it instead! I loved the narrator (I can’t remember who it was, though – maybe the author?).

      I’m curious about Taddeo’s new book – I will watch for your review! (It might even be up now – I am very behind…)

  7. Laila@BigReadingLife says:

    I loved The Stranger in the Woods! I was absolutely fascinated.

    I’m so addicted to podcasts that I don’t listen to very many audiobooks, but you know my recommendation already I think: Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights! So entertaining. I have Seth Rogen’s book on hold through Libby. I’ve heard that’s good.

    • Naomi says:

      Oh, I’ve been wondering about Rogen’s book, too…

      We only get 2 weeks to borrow audio books, which is not necessarily long enough if you’re listening to one that’s 12+ hours long. Is it the same for you?

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