How Children Succeed by Paul Tough – Audiobook Review

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough, narrated by Dan John Miller
Published in audio by Tantor Media, published in print by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

A foremost New Yorker and New York Times journalist reverses three decades of thinking about what creates successful children, solving the mysteries of why some succeed and others fail – and of how to move individual children toward their full potential for success.

Thoughts on the text

Much of what Tough talks about in How Children Succeed – such as the need for strong attachments – is not new. However, combined with some of the newer and less-known research about non-cognitive skills, often referred to as character traits, such as curiosity and grit, these old Psych 101 ideas take on new life. Tough’s reporting is straightforward, informative, and interesting. Perhaps his greatest skill is his ability to explain his ideas across audiences. The average parent could absolutely pick up How Children Succeed and understand any and all of Tough’s theses and explanations, but he is not too simplistic for our household, with our education and education-reform backgrounds. That being said, much of the content in How Children Succeed that will appeal most to those interested in education reform. There is information for parents, but this is decidedly not a parenting book. Tough focuses primarily at students at the outsides of the socioeconomic divide: poor minority students and the children of the 1%. Still, there are things in here that parents can easily extrapolate for their own children.

As far as the issue of school reform goes, How Children Succeed reports ideas from some of the leading lights in today’s movement and comes up with some very interesting ideas, many of which do seem to have the potential to effect great change. If only the parents and caregivers of my old students on the South Side of Chicago had been given attachment therapy! Our school days might have been much different and more productive.

As a side note: having been a Teach for America teacher in Chicago I was familiar with many of the reformers Tough refers to, which may have increased for me the legitimacy of his arguments, I am clearly predisposed to agreeing with many of these people.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Dan John Miller does a great job keeping How Children Succeed interesting. Of course, Tough writes engagingly enough that the text itself is interesting, but Miller adds audible interest as well. When narrating conversations between Tough and some of the subjects of his investigations or direct quotes from some of the same people, Miller gives these people unique voices. The voices are fairly subtle, so it doesn’t matter that Miller isn’t exactly a credible high school girl. In addition, Miller seems just as passionate about the subject matter of How Children Succeed as Tough is himself, which gives Tough’s findings an increased feeling of importance to listeners.

Overall:

A fascinating look at the non-cognitive markers of success. Interesting for parents, but especially relevant for the school reform-minded out there. If you’re going to want to take notes, by all means you probably want to approach this in print, but if you want a general introduction to Tough’s arguments, Dan John Miller’s narration is a great choice.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Mad Women by Jane Maas – Audiobook Review

Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s and Beyond by Jane Maas, narrated by Colleen Marlo
Published in audio by Tantor Audio, published in print by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of Macmillan

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Synopsis:

America loves Mad Men, but was was it really like to be a woman on Madison Avenue  in the 1960s? Is Peggy’s story accurate? Joan’s? If anyone has the answers, it is Jane Maas. Maas was an advertising copywriter in the 1960s who grew to a great success within the industry, and she’s not afraid to tell it like it is (and was).

Thoughts on the story:

Here’s where I admit I never really got into Mad Men. I watched the first season, or most of it, on dvd, but was never really motivated to start the second season. Having watched the first season did give me a bit of background to what Maas discusses in Mad Women, but watching the show is not really a prerequisite to enjoying the book. Maas weaves feminist issues effortlessly together with advertising history and lore in an absolutely fascinating package. There’s quite a bit of sex, drugs, and alcohol in Mad Women, but it is in an attempt to set the scene and explain what was really going on, not in an attempt at being salacious, or gossip-mongering.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Colleen Marlo largely became Maas in her narration, she had the same mix of confidence and knowledge that comes across in Maas’s writing, making them a very good fit, and making the already interesting material all the more compelling.

Overall:

You don’t need to be a fan of Mad Men to find Mad Women intereting, but it will hold a special attraction for fans wondering, “was it really like that?” Although I’m sure it is still fascinating in print, Marlo’s narration is a great experience.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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GirlChild by Tupelo Hassman – Audiobook Review

Girl Child by Tupelo Hassman, narrated by Tupelo Hassman
Published in audio by Tantor Audio; published in print by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own. But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Uniforms, disposing of outgrown; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle: that is, the Calle de las Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.

Rory’s been told that she is one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the county and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social workers’ reports, half-recalled memories, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world even as she searches for the way out of it.

Thoughts on the story:

Hassman’s debut is both beautiful and tragic. Rory is an extremely endearing character, she is both old and young for her age, which is not terribly surprising, given everything she’s been through. GirlChild doesn’t have a traditional structure, Rory doesn’t tell her story in a strictly linear fashion, and it is often interspersed with the lessons she has learned from the Girl Scout Handbook. This structure works very well for the story, however, Hassman weaves the strands together beautifully, and these diversions may actually keep Rory’s life from seeming too brutally horrid, as they might if she told parts of it straight through.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Honestly, I wasn’t completely sure about Hassman’s narration initially. Her voice is reminiscent of Sarah Vowell’s, not exactly a typical narrator. There were three things that worked in Hassman’s favor, however. First, her voice and delivery fit her character very well, naive and too grown-up at the same time. Second, Hassman is highly connected with the characters and story she created and narrates with feeling and empathy. Third, although her voice is not that of a typical narrator, Hassman gives an incredibly professional performance, only the relative squeakiness of her voice tells the listener that she is likely not a professional narrator. Overall Hassman makes a great narrator for GirlChild.

For more on the audio production, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

There are many points when GirlChild verges on devastating, but it is always worthwhile, whether in print or audio.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Zombiestan by Mainak Dhari – Audiobook Review

Zombiestan by Mainak Dhari, narrated by John Lee
Published in audio by Tantor Media, published in print by TK

Synopsis:

It begins with an airstrike on a Taliban compound where new biological weapons are being stored. The initial response to the strike is unabashed joy, finally the US military has taken out some of the top members of the Taliban, certainly now that the leadership is dead, the group will fall apart. Soon, though, the allegedly dead Taliban are ravishing villages, storming US military compounds. Shooting them does nothing, nor does attempting to blow them up, and anyone they bite or scratch gets terribly sick and begins acting in the same mad way. Thanks to the soldiers who are on their way home, and the ones who are taken out of country for medical care, the epidemic begins to spread throughout the world, although it seems to be worst in the Middle East.

It is against this backdrop that our unlikely band of protagonists comes together in India. They include a Navy SEAL, an aging romance author, a teenage boy who has lost his family, and a teenage girl with her toddler brother in tow. During an attack by the “biters,” as they are being called, it becomes evident that the young boy is somehow immune to these strange zombies, a discovery that provides hope to survivors and enrages the creatures at the same time. Suddenly, there is more at stake that minute-to-minute survival, the fate of the human race may lie with a little boy obsessed with Disney.

Thoughts on the story:

With Zombiestan, Dhar introduces a new an interesting twist to the classic zombie story. Unlike most zombies, Dhar’s biters move quickly, possess rudimentary group memories from the original Taliban victims, and even seem capable of learning. These deviations from classic zombie lore kept Zombiestan fresh, aided by the quick pace and the engaging plot. The men were better developed than the women as characters, but the women still formed an integral part of the plot, and were able to play a significant role in the group’s quest to get to someone who could do something with the possibility of immunity. Zombiestan is very engaging, and incredibly easy to get caught up in.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Ah, John Lee. I haven’t listened to very many things he has narrated, so I tend to forget just how amazing he is; after all, he did manage to keep me grounded during The City & The City. In Zombiestan, he shows his exceptional talent with accents. Lee himself is British, and narrated the book as such, which works for something set in the Middle East and India. However, he had a variety of accents to cover among the different characters, primarily Indian and American. The main characters occasionally came into contact with others from the region, and Lee managed to switch voices and accents with a seemingly effortless flair.

Overall:

Zombiestan is a captivating and unique zombie story, which is truly brought to its fullest potential by John Lee’s expert narration. Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau – Audiobook Review

The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau, narrated by Simon Vance
Published in audio by Tantor Audio; published in print by Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin

Synopsis:

After the destruction of his home and death of his family by a rogue U.S. military operation, Jonas leaves his unnamed Muslim country to start a new life in the United States. Only fifteen when he first moves, Jonas has a fair amount of anxiety stemming both from trying to adjust to living in a new place, and from what he went through in the time immediately after the attack. Mandated by his school to see a counselor, after beating up another boy who was giving him a hard time, Jonas begins to open up, although slowly. A story comes to light about a soldier, Christopher, who saved his life after the attack, a soldier who never made it home and whose body was never found. After Jonas spends time with Christopher’s mother, a woman who has created a support group for families of missing soldiers, the reality of what happened begins to fester inside him, until he cannot help but let it out.

Thoughts on the story:

The story Dau is telling is particularly affecting. Interestingly, Jonas, the main character, is held at somewhat more a reserve than Christopher, whose words come to us only from a journal he left. Jonas is clearly damaged by what happened to him before he was brought to the United States as a refugee, it shows in his behavior both in high school and college and with his girlfriend. Christopher, too, was damaged by his time in the war. His journal shows a man who knows that much of what he has done is wrong, but can’t see that he might have acted any other way, due to the psychological pressures of dealing with an unhappy occupied populace. Their damage and experiences make their time together after the attack particularly unusual and poignant.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I tend to really enjoy Simon Vance’s narration, but I’m not entirely sure that The Book of Jonas was his best work. For one thing, he seemed to rush the story a bit, many sections would have been better served had he simply slowed down, and the American characters were not always easy to distinguish from one another. Of course, Vance being not at the top of his game is still much better than many narrators, but I did find his performance slightly disappointing because I felt that he could have done better. An additional hurdle for the audiobook listener is the addition of what I believe was Christopher’s journal woven throughout the story. Although Vance’s narration of Christopher’s point of view is easily recognized, it isn’t entirely clear for much of the book where this perspective is coming from, which may bother some (although certainly not all) listeners.

Overall:

This is definitely a book worth experiencing. It may be a bit more challenging in audio than it is in print because of the challenges conveying some of the book’s structure orally, but it can definitely work either way.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2012