Millions of words have poured forth about man's trip to the moon, but until now few people have had a sense of the most engrossing side of the adventure: namely, what went on in the minds of the astronauts themselves - in space, on the moon, and even during certain odysseys on earth. It is this, the inner life of the astronauts, that Tom Wolfe describes with his almost uncanny empathetic powers that made The Right Stuff a classic.
Before cell phones, before personal computers, before the internet, astronauts and test pilots were competitive, swaggering hotshots, and some of them were geniuses. (Were astronauts the Tech Titans of yore? Discuss.) Tom Wolfe’s 1979 classic The Right Stuff—set in the 1960s—brings the space race to life through the characters of Gus Grissom, Chuck Yeager, John Glenn, and others. Dennis Quaid’s narration—he played Gordon “Gordo” Cooper in the film of the same name—warms up as the story progresses, and studs the audiobook with moments that are ironic and inspiring, often simultaneously. There’s no wrong time for The Right Stuff!
Following Jane from her childhood as an orphan in Northern England through her experience as a governess at Thornfield Hall, Charlotte Brontë's Gothic classic is an early exploration of women's independence in the mid-19th century and the pervasive societal challenges women had to endure. At Thornfield, Jane meets the complex and mysterious Mr. Rochester, with whom she shares a complicated relationship that ultimately forces her to reconcile the conflicting passions of romantic love and religious piety.
Jane Eyre is probably the book I’ve read the most times in my life. Though in full disclosure a handful of the re-reads were for English papers over the years, this classic and moodily dark romantic coming-of-age novel always seemed ready with a new insight to offer me as I was growing up. (And fun fact: I even included a passage from it in my wedding service!) Yet despite the number of times I’ve returned to Jane Eyre, I had never listened to it, and I’m so glad that I waited for this absolutely stunning performance. From her performance, it was obvious to me that Thandie Newton connects personally with the text, and the love and care she took with it elevated the experience for me.
The most powerful political tool of the modern presidency is control of the message and the image. In Republic of Spin - a vibrant history covering more than 100 years of politics - presidential historian David Greenberg recounts the rise of the White House spin machine, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama. His sweeping, startling narrative takes us behind the scenes to see how the tools and techniques of image making and message craft work.
I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who is hugely knowledgeable of political history or politics, in general – I hold an amount of built-in cynicism around the whole endeavor that I’m trying hard to overcome – but given the ubiquitous nature of America’s current presidential race and its oftentimes bizarre, "what-is-happening" moments, I found myself searching for how we got here. Greenberg’s book gives a fair, unbiased look at just that: how past presidents, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama, attempted to sell themselves through image making and message crafting. It’s a fascinating and enlightening listen, especially as we try to decipher which of today’s candidates seem a little too primped (à la Harry Truman, who benefited from a radio exec’s coaching) or too "off-the-cuff" (à la Nixon, whose attempt to appear authentic resulted in the exact opposite).
Golden Globe nominee Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Girl with a Pearl Earring) brings a palpable sense of joy and exuberance to her performance of Lewis Carroll's enduring classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The young and imaginative Alice grows weary of her storybook, one "without pictures or conversations", and follows a hasty hare underground - to come face to face with a host of strange and fantastic characters.
I've loved Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for as long as I can remember. As a child I adored the magic, the adventure, and the kooky characters. As an adult, I grew to love Carroll's imagery, symbolism (perhaps unintentional), and his ability to turn what seems like nonsense into an enduring children's tale. No matter how many times I've read this story and watched the movies, I feel like I can always return to the familiar and colorful place that is Wonderland. Scarlett Johansson brings such incredible depth and wonderment to this timeless tale, that this just may be my new favorite interpretation. Did I mention that her sister, veteran narrator Vanessa Johansson directed this performance? I guess talent runs in the family.