Keeping My Brain From Turning To Mush With Audio Books

When I’m on the road, I spend a lot… and I mean A LOT of time driving by myself.  It can be anywhere from 6-10 hours a day in the car in between gigs.  I’ve always said they pay us to drive and we perform for free.

To keep me alert and engaged I listen to a ton of audio books.  Over the last two weeks I encountered some good ones and thought I’d share them with you.

Gang Leader For A Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
If you read Freakonomics, you probably ran across the section on street gang economics.  The data in that section came from Sudhir Venkatesh.  And those weren’t numbers he just popped up with after a few days work.  He spent 10 years getting in the good (and sometimes bad) graces of one of Chicago’s largest and most powerful street gangs.  This book is the story of how he did that.  The writing is engaging and the characters are classic.  It’s also interesting to see how he tries to come to his own conclusions about what sociology should be and what kind of practitioner he wants to be.  This whole book is a fascinating look into gang life and active sociology.

Myths Lies And Downright Stupidity by John Stossel
You may know John Stossel as the ‘Gimme a break” guy from 20/20.  This book promised to take a lot of conventional wisdom and ideas and flush them down the toilet.  I’m a contrarian by nature, so this appeals to instantly.  He attacks government, education, parenting, the sexes, health issues, law, experts, consumerism… It’s pretty wide ranging and a very entertaining read/listen.  Want to find out why chocolate is good for you?  How about why homeopathic medicine can’t possibly work?  Not to say that we should take everything this book says at face value.  I’m sure there’s plenty of facts for the other side too.  But it’s certainly fun to listen to. 🙂

Storming Las Vegas by John Huddy
In the late 1990’s, Las Vegas experienced a 16 month crime wave targeting some of the largest casino properties in town.  And the crooks took millions.  Sounds like an exciting story.  But with audio books, the performance of the voiceover actor is nearly as important as the writing.  And this guy didn’t cut it.  His voice is a little too monotone and his accents (for the characters) are weak.  His Cuban accent sounds more Russian.  I think I may try again with the print version of this book, but I only got through the 2nd CD on the audio version.

The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax
Normally I’m a nonfiction reader with few exceptions.  But this fiction novel has a musical angle and looked interesting.  It follows the story of Feliu Delargo as he makes his was from being a poor, but talented, child in a little town in Spain to a world renowned cellist.  Throughout his career he sees the highest of highs and lowest of lows.  Something every performing artist can relate to.  I’m only 2/3 of the way through this book.  And it starts a little slow, but gets going a few chapters in.  I’m very impressed with how in touch the author is with what happens in a performer’s mind.  How they relate to the audience, other players, the music, themselves, and the world at large.  Artists will love this story.  And anyone who would like to understand the artistic mind a little better will gain from it as well.

Coming Friday… Disney Expo updates!

Phil Johnson

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