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Literary

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  1. 7.7 hrs • 9/13/2016 • Unabridged

    When New Yorker staff writer Lauren Collins moves to Geneva, Switzerland, she decides to learn French—not just to be able to go about her day-to-day life, but in order to be closer to her French husband and his family. When in French is at once a hilarious and idiosyncratic memoir about the things we do for love, and an exploration across cultures and history into how we learn languages, and what they say about who we are. In her late twenties, Lauren Collins moved to London, and fell in love with, and married, Olivier, a handsome French mathematician. When he has to relocate to Geneva for his work, she decides to go with him. In Geneva, however, Lauren is lost for words, literally: not only can she not communicate to the local chimney-sweep when he visits, but, watching Olivier converse fluently in French every day, she is also made painfully aware that she has never really spoken to her husband in his own language. She can say, “au revoir” and “bonjour” but that’s about it. “Hello and goodbye were a pair of bookends,” she writes, “propping up a vast library of blank volumes, void almanacs, novels full of sentiment I couldn’t apprehend.” What will happen when she has children? she wonders. If they grow up speaking French, will they be stuck with a “Borat of a mother” who can’t properly understand them? So she embarks on a quest to learn French, and, in doing so, must tangle with the intricacies of French culture—which, it turns out, is a far cry from family life back home in North Carolina. Down the rabbit hole of French Collins hurtles; role-playing with her classmates at language school; coming to terms with antique French social customs; accidently writing explicit “thank you” notes to her French in-laws; and delving into the strange and wonderful history of humanity’s many forms of language. When in French is a moving, laugh-out-loud funny memoir about falling in love, learning another language, and living far from home, as well as a freewheeling history of language. Collins investigates, among other things, how children acquire speech, the history of the idea of “American” as its own language, and why we don’t trust people who adopt accents. (Her own father takes on a southern accent after moving to North Carolina, much to her mother’s chagrin.) Plumbing the depths of the mysteries of foreign languages, Collins confesses—with style, sparkling humor, and touching honesty—to the frustrations, pleasures, surprises, and, finally, satisfactions of learning French.

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    When in French

    7.7 hrs • 9/13/16 • Unabridged
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  2. 12.9 hrs • 9/13/2016 • Unabridged

    A spirited and revealing memoir by the most celebrated editor of his timeAfter editing The Columbia Review, staging plays at Cambridge, and a stint in the greeting-card department of Macy's, Robert Gottlieb stumbled into a job at Simon and Schuster. By the time he left to run Alfred A. Knopf a dozen years later, he was the editor in chief, having discovered and edited Catch-22 and The American Way of Death, among other bestsellers. At Knopf, Gottlieb edited an astonishing list of authors, including Toni Morrison, John Cheever, Doris Lessing, John le Carré, Michael Crichton, Lauren Bacall, Katharine Graham, Robert Caro, Nora Ephron, and Bill Clinton--not to mention Bruno Bettelheim and Miss Piggy. In Avid Reader, Gottlieb writes with wit and candor about succeeding William Shawn as the editor of The New Yorker, and the challenges and satisfactions of running America's preeminent magazine. Sixty years after joining Simon and Schuster, Gottlieb is still at it--editing, anthologizing, and, to his surprise, writing.But this account of a life founded upon reading is about more than the arc of a singular career--one that also includes a lifelong involvement with the world of dance. It's about transcendent friendships and collaborations, "elective affinities" and family, psychoanalysis and Bakelite purses, the alchemical relationship between writer and editor, the glory days of publishing, and--always--the sheer exhilaration of work.

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    Avid Reader

    12.9 hrs • 9/13/16 • Unabridged
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  3. 11.6 hrs • 9/6/2016 • Unabridged

    “Out of the secret world I once knew, I have tried to make a theater for the larger worlds we inhabit. First comes the imagining, then the search for reality. Then back to the imagining, and to the desk where I’m sitting now.” From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer that took him from war-torn Cambodia to Beirut on the cusp of the 1982 Israeli invasion to Russia before and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, John le Carré has always written from the heart of modern times. In this, his first memoir, le Carré is as funny as he is incisive, reading into the events he witnesses the same moral ambiguity with which he imbues his novels. Whether he’s writing about the parrot at a Beirut hotel that could perfectly mimic machine gun fire or the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth, visiting Rwanda’s museums of the unburied dead in the aftermath of the genocide, celebrating New Year’s Eve 1982 with Yasser Arafat and his high command, interviewing a German woman terrorist in her desert prison in the Negev, listening to the wisdom of the great physicist, dissident, and Nobel Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, meeting with two former heads of the KGB, watching Alec Guinness prepare for his role as George Smiley in the legendary BBC TV adaptations, or describing the female aid worker who inspired the main character in The Constant Gardener, le Carré endows each happening with vividness and humor, now making us laugh out loud, now inviting us to think anew about events and people we believed we understood. Best of all, le Carré gives us a glimpse of a writer’s journey over more than six decades and his own hunt for the human spark that has given so much life and heart to his fictional characters.

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    The Pigeon Tunnel

    11.6 hrs • 9/6/16 • Unabridged
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  4. 7.2 hrs • 9/6/2016 • Unabridged
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    The Letters of Roald Dahl

    7.2 hrs • 9/6/16 • Unabridged
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  5. 11.4 hrs • 8/2/2016 • Unabridged

    A memoir of mothers and daughters—and mothers as daughters—traced through four generations, from Paris to New York and back again. For a long time, Nadja Spiegelman believed her mother was a fairy. More than her famous father, Maus creator Art Spiegelman, and even more than most mothers, hers—French-born New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly—exerted a force over reality that was both dazzling and daunting. As Nadja’s body changed and “began to whisper to the adults around me in a language I did not understand,” their relationship grew tense. Unwittingly, they were replaying a drama from her mother’s past, a drama Nadja sensed but had never been told. Then, after college, her mother suddenly opened up to her. Françoise recounted her turbulent adolescence caught between a volatile mother and a playboy father, one of the first plastic surgeons in France. The weight of the difficult stories she told her daughter shifted the balance between them. It had taken an ocean to allow Françoise the distance to become her own person. At about the same age, Nadja made the journey in reverse, moving to Paris, determined to get to know the woman her mother had fled. Her grandmother’s memories contradicted her mother’s at nearly every turn, but beneath them lay a difficult history of her own. Nadja emerged with a deeper understanding of how each generation reshapes the past in order forge ahead, their narratives both weapon and defense, eternally in conflict. Every reader will recognize herself and her family in this gorgeous and heartbreaking memoir, which helps us to see why sometimes those who love us best hurt us most.

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  6. 7.8 hrs • 7/5/2016 • Unabridged

    A vivid narrative that recreates the life of Gaius Valerius Catullus, Rome’s first “modern” poet, and follows a young man’s journey through a world filled with all the indulgences and sexual excesses of the time—an accessible, appealing look at one of history’s greatest poets. Born to one of Verona’s leading families, Catullus spent most of his young adulthood in Rome, mingling with the likes of Caesar and Cicero and chronicling his life through his poetry. Famed for his lyrical and subversive voice, his poems about his friends were jocular, often obscenely funny, while those who crossed him found themselves skewered in raunchy verse, sudden objects of hilarity and ridicule. These bawdy poems were disseminated widely throughout Rome. Many of his poems recall his secret longstanding affair with the seductive Clodia, an older woman who would eventually be plunged into scandal following the suspicious death of her aristocratic husband. While Catullus and Clodia made love in the shadows, the whole of Italy was quaking as Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus forged a doomed alliance for power. During these tumultuous years, Catullus increasingly turned to darker subject matter, and he finally composed his greatest work of all—a poem about the decoration on a bedspread—which forms the heart of this biography, a work of beauty that will achieve immortality and make Catullus a legend.

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    Catullus’ Bedspread by Daisy Dunn

    Catullus’ Bedspread

    7.8 hrs • 7/5/16 • Unabridged
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  7. 9.2 hrs • 6/28/2016 • Unabridged
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    My Father Before Me

    9.2 hrs • 6/28/16 • Unabridged
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  8. 12.2 hrs • 6/14/2016 • Unabridged

    Baby Boy Fisher was raised in institutions from the moment of his birth in prison to a single mother. He ultimately came to live with a foster family, where he endured near-constant verbal and physical abuse. In his mid-teens he escaped and enlisted in the navy, where he became a man of the world, raised by the family he created for himself. Finding Fish shows how, out of this unlikely mix of deprivation and hope, an artist was born—first as the child who painted the feelings his words dared not speak, then as a poet and storyteller who would eventually become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after screenwriters. A tumultuous and ultimately gratifying tale of self-discovery written in Fisher’s gritty yet melodic literary voice, Finding Fish is an unforgettable listening experience.

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    Finding Fish

    12.2 hrs • 6/14/16 • Unabridged
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  9. 10.3 hrs • 5/31/2016 • Unabridged

    The acclaimed, award-winning novelist takes us on some of his most memorable journeys in this revelatory collection of travel essays that spans the globe, from the Caribbean to Scotland to the Himalayas. Now in his mid-seventies, Russell Banks has indulged his wanderlust for more than half a century. “Since childhood, I’ve longed for escape, for rejuvenation, for wealth untold, for erotic and narcotic and sybaritic fresh starts, for high romance, mystery, and intrigue,” he writes in this compelling anthology. The longing for escape has taken him from the “bright green islands and turquoise seas” of the Caribbean islands to peaks in the Himalayas, the Andes, and beyond. In Voyager, Russell Banks, a lifelong explorer, shares highlights from his travels: interviewing Fidel Castro in Cuba; motoring to a hippie reunion with college friends in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; eloping to Edinburgh with his fourth wife, Chase; driving a sunset orange metallic Hummer down Alaska’s Seward Highway. In each of these remarkable essays, Banks considers his life and the world. In Everglades National Park, this “perfect place to time-travel,” he traces his own timeline. “I keep going back, and with increasing clarity I see more of the place and more of my past selves. And more of the past of the planet as well.” Recalling his trips to the Caribbean in the title essay, “Voyager,” Banks dissects his relationships with the four women who would become his wives. In the Himalayas, he embarks on a different quest of self-discovery. “One climbs a mountain not to conquer it, but to be lifted like this away from the earth up into the sky,” he explains. Pensive, frank, beautiful, and engaging, Voyager brings together the social, the personal, and the historical, opening a path into the heart and soul of this revered writer.

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    Voyager by Russell Banks

    Voyager

    10.3 hrs • 5/31/16 • Unabridged
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  10. 3.3 hrs • 5/17/2016 • Unabridged

    From New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, the story of the discovery of Joe Gould's long-lost manuscript, "The Oral History of Our Time," and of the violence, betrayals, and madness that led to its concealment. When Joseph Mitchell published his profile of Joseph Gould in the December 1942 issue of The New Yorker, he deemed Gould's purportedly masterful but rarely seen Oral History project, which allegedly consisted of nine million words detailing everything anyone ever said to him, "the longest unpublished work in existence."      But Mitchell, in fact, hadn't read more than a few pages of the Oral History. The manuscript seemed to have gone missing, along with other of Gould's possessions--his hair, his sight, his teeth--as he began to sink deeper into poverty, drink, and destitution. And as Gould neared the end of his life, lying pathologically, begging for money from friends and strangers alike, and deflecting publishers' requests to read his work, Mitchell couldn't help but wonder: Had the Oral History ever existed? After Gould's death in 1957, Mitchell wrote a second profile in which he insisted that it did not. Was Mitchell wrong?     Joe Gould's Teeth is a literary investigation of this enigmatic figure of the early twentieth century, who, despite doubts surrounding his sanity, captured the imaginations of the most prominent writers and artists of the time. Renowned master of historical storytelling Jill Lepore carefully unravels the riddle of Joe Gould and his missing manuscript, probing deeply into our collective self-conscious, the nature of art, and how we define our reality for the future. Complete with appearances from the likes of E. E. Cummings, Ezra Pound, and Augusta Savage and set against the backdrop of inter-war and post-war New York's glamour and grime, Joe Gould's Teeth is not only the portrait of one man's mind, but also a profound meditation on the limits of how well one ever knows another person.From the Hardcover edition.

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    Joe Gould's Teeth

    3.3 hrs • 5/17/16 • Unabridged
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  11. 8.2 hrs • 5/10/2016 • Unabridged

    A beautiful, raw, and compassionate memoir about identity, love, and understanding. The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality. When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized twelve-step program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness. By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heart-breaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.

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    Boy Erased

    8.2 hrs • 5/10/16 • Unabridged
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  12. 8.8 hrs • 5/3/2016 • Unabridged

    A fifty-year-old Bridge game provides an unexpected way to cross the generational divide between a daughter and her mother. Betsy Lerner takes us on a powerfully personal literary journey, where we learn a little about Bridge and a lot about life. After a lifetime defining herself in contrast to her mother’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” generation, Lerner finds herself back in her childhood home, not five miles from the mother she spent decades avoiding. When Roz needs help after surgery, it falls to Betsy to take care of her. She expected a week of tense civility; what she got instead were the Bridge Ladies. Impressed by their loyalty, she saw something her generation lacked. Facebook was great, but it wouldn’t deliver a pot roast. Tentatively at first, Betsy becomes a regular at her mother’s Monday Bridge club. Through her friendships with the ladies, she is finally able to face years of misunderstandings and family tragedy, the Bridge table becoming the common ground she and Roz never had. By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies is the unforgettable story of a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter.

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    The Bridge Ladies

    8.8 hrs • 5/3/16 • Unabridged
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  13. 16.6 hrs • 4/19/2016 • Unabridged

    From Richard Zacks, bestselling author of The Pirate Hunter and Island of Vice, a rich and lively account of Mark Twain’s late-life adventures abroad In 1895, at age sixty, Mark Twain was dead broke and miserable—his recent novels had been critical and commercial failures, and he was bankrupted by his inexplicable decision to run a publishing company. His wife made him promise to pay every debt back in full, so Twain embarked on an around-the-world comedy lecture tour that would take him from the dusty small towns of the American West to the faraway lands of India, South Africa, Australia, and beyond. Richard Zacks’ rich and entertaining narrative provides a portrait of Twain as complicated, vibrant individual, and showcases the biting wit and skeptical observation that made him one of the greatest of all American writers. Twain remained abroad for five years, a time of struggle and wild experiences—and ultimately redemption, as he rediscovered his voice as a writer and humorist, and returned, wiser and celebrated. As he said in his famous reply to an article about his demise, “the report of my death is an exaggeration.” Weaving together a trove of sources, including newspaper accounts, correspondence, and unpublished material from Berkeley’s ongoing Twain Project, Zacks chronicles a chapter of Twain’s life as complex as the author himself, full of foolishness and bad choices, but also humor, self-discovery, and triumph.

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    Chasing the Last Laugh

    16.6 hrs • 4/19/16 • Unabridged
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  14. 0 reviews 0 5 4 4 out of 5 stars 4/5
    6.7 hrs • 2/9/2016 • Unabridged

    A darkly funny, intense memoir of addiction and recovery, memory and storytelling, from an acclaimed novelist. When Rob Roberge learns that he’s likely to have developed a progressive memory-eroding disease from years of hard living and frequent concussions, he is terrified by the prospect of losing the essence of who he is. He sets out to (somewhat faithfully) record the most formative moments of his life—ranging from the brutal murder of his childhood girlfriend, to opening for famed indie band Yo La Tengo at the Fillmore in San Francisco—in a desperate attempt to preserve his identity. Over the course of this list-making and soul-searching, Roberge wrings the blackest of comedy from absurdity and tackles the creative and destructive forces that fuel us, asking why we choose to live, even in the midst of so much unrelenting pain. Into this fabric of his own experiences he weaves short takes of the historic events that have contributed to his understanding of the world, moments that allow him to further investigate the distorting chasm that exists between the facts and the emotional truth of our lives. Through the mining of Roberge’s deep personal struggle and the twisted journey that facilitates his survival, Liar reminds us of the fallibility of memory and the importance of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

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    Liar

    6.7 hrs • 2/9/16 • Unabridged
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  15. 7.8 hrs • 2/5/2016 • Unabridged

    On the Road to Find Out is a thought provoking memory emoting read for a generation that lived it and for those younger and wise enough to want to discover what it was like to live in the moment. It is rooted in the time period of 1967 to 1974 and unfolds mainly in the seaside resort town of Wildwood New Jersey. It’s a story of heartbreak and discovery. It’s a wild ride through America as seen through the eyes of this young Canadian, as he digs deep inside his self, in the hopes of recapturing the one thing he lost and means everything to him, true love. The people and situations in it are real and unfolded as I and others remembered them. Though it reads like fiction, the story is true in every sense. It is a photographic memory of a special time and place that screamed to be documented.

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    On the Road to Find Out

    7.8 hrs • 2/5/16 • Unabridged
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  16. 4.0 hrs • 1/26/2016 • Unabridged

    It's the summer of 1936, and the writer Stefan Zweig is in crisis. His German publisher no longer wants him, his marriage is collapsing, and his home in Austria has been seized. He's been dreaming of Ostend, the Belgian beach town. So he journeys there with his new lover, Lotte Altmann, and reunites with his semi-estranged fellow writer and close friend Joseph Roth. For a moment, they create a fragile paradise. But as Europe begins to crumble around them, the writers find themselves trapped on vacation, in exile, watching the world burn. In Ostend, Volker Weidermann lyrically recounts the summer before the dark, when a group of found themselves in limbo while Europe teetered on the edge of fascism and total war.

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    Ostend

    Translated by Carol Janeway
    4.0 hrs • 1/26/16 • Unabridged
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