What I’ve Been Listening To: aging, food, fairy tales, monkeys, comedians, and poets

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?

18 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Listening To: aging, food, fairy tales, monkeys, comedians, and poets

  1. Marcie McCauley says:

    Have you watched the Jim Gaffigan specials on NF? They’re hilarious. (Also, you don’t really have to watch-I didn’t, I just listened-if you download they are like mini audiobooks.) The Philippe book I really enjoyed, but I bet it’s an ever better listen. All the others sound good to me too. The word that Shelagh Rogers uses for GEC is exuberant. I feel like it’s perfect. Every time he opens his mouth.

    • Naomi says:

      I never quite know what they’re thinking. They don’t get hissy like some cats do when they see their reflection, but sometimes they look at themselves like they’re trying to figure it out. I’m in the mirror with them, which probably confuses them even more. 🙂

  2. lauratfrey says:

    “Africadian” okay I like the sounds of that! I guess when I go back to the office next month I’ll have some time to listen to audiobooks again, silver lining…

    • Naomi says:

      ha! That’s what I expected mine to do, too!

      One thing about my audiobook listening – it has been a wide variety! It depends on my mood and what I can get a hold of (since they’re all from the library).

  3. wadholloway says:

    I had a quick look to see what a Jim Gaffigan was. There was also a suggestion for ‘Jim Gaffigan wife’, but I passed. Does he reference her in his ‘clean’ comedy? Don’t ask me who does comedy in Australia, I have no idea.
    I’ve listened to my one Canadian book for the month, Midnight Robber, loved it! (Thanks for putting me in Posts I Liked, I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. I might add that widget to my blog.)

    • Naomi says:

      I’m not up on comedians, either. And Jim Gaffigan is American – his book just happened to be available to listen to from my library right when I wanted something entertaining. I will say that his comedy *is* clean. He relies on everyday things to make jokes about. Like food. He does reference his wife and kids a lot – probably because they’re a big part of his everyday life. (And I imagine they’re a big source of inspiration for his material!)

      I really have to try Nalo Hopkinson sometime. Despite the fact that I rarely read SF. I just might love her! 🙂
      (You’re more than welcome – it’s a good widget!)

  4. Rebecca Foster says:

    I knew of Disfigured because it was longlisted for the inaugural Barbellion Prize (for writing on disability and chronic illness).

    We don’t think our cat recognizes himself in a mirror, either. He seems curious about mirrors, but I don’t think he understands two- vs. three-dimensionality. There have been a lot of books recently or coming out later this year about animal senses and how we relate to them. I think I’ll go for Ed Yong’s.

    • Naomi says:

      Ed Yong’s looks like a good one – I’ll have to watch for it on audio!

      I tried the dog with a mirror, too, but he wasn’t at all interested – like he didn’t even see it was there.

  5. annelogan17 says:

    Wow Naomi – is that last picture your library at home? It’s beautiful!

    That book about food sounds hilarious! What a fun topic. I’ve heard really good things about the Leduc book too, I’m glad you got to it!

    • Naomi says:

      Yes, that’s part of it. My husband built the shelves for me. 🙂

      I’m not sure I would have gone for a comedian’s book if it hadn’t been about food. Ha!

  6. Laila@BigReadingLife says:

    Lately I’ve been back to podcasts – the BookRiot podcast, Maintenance Phase, In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt. When I have an audiobook on the go, it’s all audiobook, no podcasts. I’m waiting for the audio of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins for my Classics Club list.

    • Naomi says:

      At this point, I’m having a hard time imagining how I’d fit in audio books AND podcasts. If only my two ears could listen to two different things at once. Ha! Maybe the next time I’m between audio books I can try a podcast!

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