If I Knew Then by Jann Arden
“Being the age I am–that so many women are–is just the best time of my life.”
Jann Arden talks about aging, but she also talks about growing up, life with her parents, and her struggle with alcohol. She makes aging sound appealing, which is never a bad thing.
Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
“As a young child I’d see people eating a salad and think, THEY MUST BE DYING OR, EVEN WORSE, TRAINING FOR A MARATHON OR SOMETHING.”
I think I decided to listen to this because it was about food. And it paid off, mostly. Jokes about food are fun to listen to, and I recommended it to my son who LOVES food. I especially enjoyed hearing about his family and the foods he ate when on tour. (When in Canada he tried out the Tim Hortons!)
Disfigured by Amanda LeDuc
In fairy tales, happy endings are the norm—as long as you’re beautiful and walk on two legs. After all, the ogre never gets the princess. And since fairy tales are the foundational myths of our culture, how can a girl with a disability ever think she’ll have a happy ending?
I wasn’t sure what I would think about this one, because I’m not a big fairy tale fan, but I was fascinated by LeDuc’s research and perspective. All the stuff you don’t notice–because it seems so “normal”–until someone points it out to you. So interesting – I would definitely listen to this one again!
The Age of Empathy by Frans de Waal
Do we have an instinct for compassion? Or are we, as is often assumed, only on earth to serve our own survival and interests? In this book, the author examines how empathy comes naturally to a great variety of animals, including humans.
I chose to listen to this one because I wanted something science-y with a focus on biology. The book mainly focuses on empathy in humans and animals, and the types of experiments used with the animals to determine their levels of consciousness and empathy. There were lots of animal stories (which I liked), but I also thought the book was a little long. My favourite part was learning which animals are aware of themselves when they look in a mirror. My cats haven’t quite gotten to that point… We’re working on it!
Sure, I’ll Be Your Black Friend by Ben Phillips
In an era in which “I have many black friends” is often a medal of Wokeness, Ben hilariously chronicles the experience of being on the receiving end of those fist bumps. He takes us through his immigrant childhood, from wanting nothing more than friends to sit with at lunch, to his awkward teenage years, to college in the age of Obama, and adulthood in the Trump administration—two sides of the same American coin.
A fun and funny way to learn about white privilege and micro-aggressions. Phillips was born in Haiti, grew up in Canada, and has spent many of his adult years in the US. He uses his own experiences to highlight the different experiences for a Black man in each country. He has an interesting family, and reading about his school years and adult years is entertaining as well as enlightening.
Where Beauty Survived by George Elliott Clarke
A vibrant, revealing memoir about the cultural and familial pressures that shaped George Elliott Clarke’s early life in the Black Canadian community that he calls Africadia, centred in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I had so much fun listening to this book. I don’t know if it’s because of the way the author narrates it, or if it’s because I’m familiar with many of the settings and some aspects of his life already, so it was especially interesting to fill in the gaps. Or maybe it’s because of the family history he includes in his book that encompasses so much African Nova Scotia history. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about George Elliott’s childhood homes, his experiences at school as one of the smart kids, detailed examinations of both parents and their families, and how he came to be a well-known Canadian poet. I was smiling and giggling to myself throughout, mostly, I think, for the passionate narration and the self-deprecating remarks. The only problem is that the audiobook doesn’t include photos – be sure to check out the physical book from the library so you can see the pictures!
What have you been listening to lately?