In the early 90’s I discovered books-on-tape. It started as a great way to ‘read’ books I didn’t have time to get to, and help time pass while driving or exercising. In 2002, I ran the New York City Marathon with four cassette tapes in my pockets. Somewhere around mile 18 when I put the third tape in I discovered that one of the reels had become dislodge and I have to skip ahead 90 minutes in the book or stop listening.
It was at that moment that I decided to get an iPod. Several months later I discovered Audible.com. 12 years and 300 plus books later I am still a fan. I was so impressed I even bought stock in the company.
All that brings me to a discussion I had recently with a friend who just started commuting over 2 hour a day. He asked for my recommendations on the best books to listen to. So I thought Id’ share my Top 20 Fiction audio books list. This list is actually well over 20 books because I have several series on the list.
19. Primary Colors by Joe Klein
Not all my fiction choices are political or historical fiction (almost all my non-fiction is political, histories or biographies), but number 19 is… It is by Joe Klein.
I didn’t listen to this book during the heyday of the book or movie. In fact, I had seen the movie several times and have to admit I pictured John Travolta and Emma Thompson while listening to it.
The book is even more clearly inspired by a certain ex-president and I have to admit it left me wondering how much is complete fiction, how much is exaggerated and how much really happened?
As someone who has work in a lot of campaigns I think Klein does a good job of capturing the feel of a campaign and the types of characters attracted to political campaigns.
It’s a fun read, but I recommend not spending too much time worrying over what “real” and what’s not. Just enjoy the ride!
If you REALLY enjoy this you also might want to check out Klein’s sort of sequel “The Running Mate.”
Editors Description of “Primary Colors”:
Primary Colors is the riveting story of a governor-from-a-small-state’s quest for the presidency, and a jaded Beltway insider’s search for a leader to believe in. Spending nearly a year on the New York Times bestseller list, this blockbuster novel has sold well over one million copies.
Primary Colors offers a richly detailed look at life on the political stump. As former congressional aide Henry Burton is dazzled and lured into presidential hopeful Jack Stanton’s fledgling campaign, he becomes a cog in Stanton’s unstoppable political machine. Burton illuminates, through his actions and observations, the sometimes seamy, sometimes steamy and sometimes surprisingly noble ascent to the presidency.
Filled with spin doctors, power brokers, and loyal followers, this story of a presidential race spans the spectrum from bedroom farce to high moral drama. Narrated with commanding presence by Peter Francis James, Primary Colors paints such an authentic picture of national politics that it’s become one of the most talked-about political novels.
20. The Company: A Novel of the CIA by Robert Littell
I have been a fan of spy novels since I discovered Tom Clancy and Jack Ryan, but this book seems more “real.” The featured characters are all fictional, but they live in a world of real-life historical figures.
This is book spans over 40 years and takes place from just after World War II through the Reagan/Bush years.
I enjoyed the more real world aspects of The Company as well as the long-term story telling as opposed to a Dan Brown book that takes place over hours or at most a few days.
I have never bought an audio book just because of the narrator, but I own a lot of Scott Brick books and he is one of my favorites.
Publishers Weekly on “The Company”
This impressive doorstopper of a book is like a family historical saga, except that the family is the American intelligence community. It has all the appropriate characters and tracks them over 40 years: a rogue uncle, the Sorcerer, a heavy-drinking chief of the Berlin office in the early Cold War days; a dashing hero, Jack McAuliffe, who ages gracefully and never loses his edge; a dastardly turncoat, who for the sake of the reader will not be identified here, but who dies nobly; a dark genius, the real-life James Jesus Angleton, who after the disclosure that an old buddy, British spy Kim Philby, had been a Russian agent all along, became a model of paranoia; a Russian exchange student who starts out with our heroes at Yale but then works for “the other side”; and endless assorted ladyfolk, wives, girlfriends and gutsy daughters who are not portrayed with anything like the gritty relish of the men.
Littell, an old hand at the genre (he wrote the classic The Defection of A.J. Lewinter) keeps it all moving well, and there are convincing set pieces: the fall of Budapest, the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba and an eerily prescient episode in Afghanistan, in which a character obviously modeled on Osama bin Laden appears, accompanied by a sidekick whose duty is to slay him instantly if his capture by the West seems imminent. It’s gung-ho, hard-drinking, table-turning fun, even if a little old-fashioned now that we have so many other problems to worry about than the Russians but it brings back vividly a time when they seemed a real threat. There are some breathtaking real-life moments with the Kennedy brothers, and with a bumbling Reagan, and with Vladimir Putin, now the leader of Russia, who is here given a background that is extremely shady. (Apr.)
Forecast: The Afghanistan element will lend itself to handselling, but that will be only icing on the cake of Overlook’s full-tilt publicity campaign, which will include national ad/promo, a TV/radio satellite tour and an author tour. Along with Littell’s reputation among critics and spy-lit cognescenti, it should all add up to a breakout book with serious bestseller potential. And Overlook’s planned reprinting in hardcover of all of Littell’s work, beginning with The Defection of A.J. Lewinter, should keep Littell’s name in readers’ minds for years to come.