What you pack to read while traveling is a matter of taste, state of mind and, of course, of how much you can carry. Downloading audiobooks solves the last problem. With luck, the others can be addressed by the following suggestions, each of which involves a journey of one sort or another to accompany you on your own travels. Here you will find far-flung places, visions of nature, the American past, glimpses of the mind’s outer reaches and a wry journey into self-knowledge.
(HighBridge) Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race In 2013, Lara Prior-Palmer, a 19-year-old Englishwoman, entered herself in the Mongol Derby, the world’s longest horse race, at 1,000 kilometers. The course follows that taken by Genghis Khan’s messengers some 800 years ago. Prior-Palmer’s account of this grueling trek on half-wild Mongolian horses has all the ingredients of a novel, including a villain (of sorts) in the person of another young rider, a 20-year-old American woman whose overbearing assertiveness serves as a goad to Lara — the first woman and youngest person ever to win the race. Though we know she will triumph, Lara’s trials are daunting as she makes her way across the Mongolian steppe — enduring miserable heat and rain, treacherous marshes, unfriendly dogs, obstinate horses and assorted other hazards. On the other hand, she receives great kindness and hospitality from nomadic families and beholds, with awe, pristine landscapes and spectacular, star-spangled night skies. Henrietta Meire delivers the narrative superbly with a fine command of accents and manner. (HighBridge, Unabridged, 7½ hours)
(Random House Audio) Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss Rajeev Balasubramanyam’s novel combines tart social satire with a journey of self-understanding. At its center is an Indian-born economist, Professor Chandra of Cambridge University. He is 69 and lonely, having alienated his children and lost his wife to another man — a laid-back American called Steve. After suffering a minor heart attack, Chandra seeks sunshine and secures a visiting teaching post in California, outside a town that “revealed itself to be a giant retail outlet with shops the size of airport terminals.” He travels to Colorado to see his daughter who’s living with her mother and Steve. After losing his cool and punching Steve in the nose, Chandra agrees to a three-day session at the Esalen Institute — a true concession for a man who considers yoga “the greatest evil of modern life” and believes that “meditation was best suited to those with less mind to be mindful of: sociologists, for example.” Ramon Tikaram narrates this vastly amusing, ultimately moving story in a superb medley of accents: British Indian, Northern English and West Coast American. (Random House Audio, Unabridged, 10 hours)
(HarperAudio) Outside Looking In In this lively novel, T.C. Boyle adds another figure to his motley pantheon of dodgy gurus: Timothy Leary. It is 1962, and Fitz Loney, a Harvard graduate student, is grinding away at his doctorate in psychology, living on savings and his wife’s wages as a clerical drudge. The couple have a teenage son, a junker of a car and desperate hopes that Fitz’s degree will bring a rosier future. His life goes astray when he comes under the spell of Timothy Leary, evangelist of LSD — from which, “really, there was no coming back once you’d been there.” Soon enough, Leary has led the Loney family and a small group of followers first to Mexico — from which they are expelled — and later to an estate in the Hudson Valley, where they organize their lives around acid trips with predictably unhappy, sometimes creepy results. Narrator Johnathan McClain delivers this tragicomic tale with a faintly sardonic torque and does a fine job conveying Leary’s messianic persona and the hold he exercised over his devoted “psychonauts.” (HarperAudio, Unabridged, 14⅓ hours)
(Tantor) A Florida State of Mind: An Unnatural History of Our Weirdest State James D. Wright has lived happily in Florida for 18 years, and it is quickly clear why: He is a connoisseur of the bizarre and the horrifying, and his acerbic, affectionate book salutes their many Floridian manifestations. One of the central facts about Florida is that much of what makes it so peculiar is not native. Only 36 percent of its human residents were born there, in part because of what Wright calls the “retirement phantasmagoria,” a leading industry. It has also become home to countless invasive species — some lethal and destructive, some merely annoying — among them he names Burmese pythons, giant African land snails, walking catfish and white Midwesterners. On the other hand, Florida is the birthplace of Tang pie and NASCAR and leads the nation in shark attacks and direct hurricane hits. Patrick Lawlor delivers this very entertaining grab-bag of history, anecdote and fact in a nice, friendly voice in which we hear his own pleasure in the curiosities he lays before us. (Tantor, Unabridged, 9¼ hours)
(Blackstone Audio) Life on the Mississippi There are at least half a dozen audiobook versions of Mark Twain’s greatest work of nonfiction, his account of his time on the Mississippi River as a riverboat apprentice and pilot, and, later, as a witness to change. Veteran narrator Grover Gardner, with his fine exuberant voice, comic pacing and sense of mordant irony, gives us the very best rendition. The book begins with its constant theme — the Mississippi’s lawless ways, its mobility and perversity — and goes on to its “discovery” by Europeans, paying caustic attention to the invaders’ appetite for other people’s land. From then on, the book rambles through Twain’s often chastening experiences, the rise and decline of steamship riverboating, and the manners, mores and eccentricities of river towns and people. Above all, this is a book about travel. Setting out as a young man, a high-spirited Sam Clemens feels the exhilaration of every traveler: “I became a new being, and the subject of my own admiration. I was a traveler! . . . and I was able to look down and pity the untraveled with a compassion that had hardly a trace of contempt in it.” (Blackstone, Unabridged, 13⅔ hours)
Katherine A. Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.
Comment s The Washington Post Bestsellers May 12 ? How are these calculated? The Post compiles its bestsellers lists by combining hard cover, paperback and ebook sales data from NPD Book and Amazon.com — including qualified borrows of books read through Amazon’s digital subscription program. The Post excludes non-narrative books at its sole discretion. Fiction Nonfiction 1 The 18th Abduction By James Patterson, Maxine Paetro 2 Blessing in Disguise By Danielle Steel 3 Redemption By David Baldacci 4 Sunset Beach By Mary Kay Andrews 5 Storm Cursed By Patricia Briggs View full list 1 Becoming By Michelle Obama 2 Educated By Tara Westover 3 The Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook By Gina Homolka 4 Girl, Stop Apologizing By Rachel Hollis 5 The Moment of Lift By Melinda Gates View full list D.C. Bestseller Lists Fiction Hardcover Paperback Nonfiction Hardcover Paperback Most Read on Amazon Charts May 12 ? How are these calculated? Amazon Most Read lists rank titles by the average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners each week. Categories not ranked on Most Read charts include dictionaries, encyclopedias, religious texts, daily devotionals and calendars. All data is supplied by Amazon Charts and not edited by The Washington Post. The Post has no editorial influence on these lists. Fiction Nonfiction Nation D.C. 1 A Game of Thrones By George R. R. Martin 2 Where the Crawdads Sing By Delia Owens 3 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix By J. K. Rowling 4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire By J. K. Rowling 5 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone By J. K. Rowling View full list 1 Where the Crawdads Sing By Delia Owens 2 A Game of Thrones By George R. R. Martin 3 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix By J. K. Rowling 4 Redemption By David Baldacci 5 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire By J. K. Rowling View full list 1 Becoming By Michelle Obama 2 Educated By Tara Westover 3 Can’t Hurt Me By David Goggins 4 Girl By Rachel Hollis 5 Sapiens By Yuval Noah Harari View full list 1 Becoming By Michelle Obama 2 Educated By Tara Westover 3 Sapiens By Yuval Noah Harari 4 Can’t Hurt Me By David Goggins 5 Bad Blood By John Carreyrou View full list Powered by Amazon More Washington Post Book Lists Best books of 2017 Best books of 2016 Best books of 2015 Best books of 2014 Best books of 2013
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