My Favorite Audiobooks Of 2019, Part Two
Updated: Nov 16, 2020
6. How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
While this book hasn't inspired me to seek out psychotropic drug therapy, it was a fascinating examination of brain chemistry and neurology that made me think about the benefits of meditation more seriously. I liked the author’s healthy dose of mystical skepticism, as it made the book feel more credible and scientifically-based than if the book had been less objective and disciplined.
Now, in 2020, I’m happy to say I practice meditation on the regular, due in part to my planning network, XY Planning Network, offering guided meditation for their members, as well as the influence of How to Change Your Mind. I have this book partially to thank for changing my mind about meditation, something I am grateful for every day.
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan. Narrated by Michael Pollan.
7. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
This book was the perfect companion piece to How to Change Your Mind. I’d never read any Tom Wolfe before and thought this would be a good place to start, being interested in the Merry Pranksters and having become a scholar of everything ‘60s.
Why didn’t anyone ever tell me how funny Tom Wolfe was? Or the Merry Pranksters for that matter? The story of the Pranksters crashing Timothy Leary’s Millbrook estate is hilarious, for example, with Leary cowering behind a locked door while the Pranksters wander through the Victorian mansion taking the stuffing out of the grand and pretentious setting that he and his followers had secluded themselves in.
While I will credit Luke Daniels with my "Narrator of the Year" award for his work on this book, the creativity of Wolfe’s writing and the playfulness of the Pranksters shines through this audiobook, with the narration bringing everything to life in a way that is commendable considering how many different voices are used.
Seriously, Luke Daniels needs a trophy for “Narrator of the Year” — right now.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. Narrated by Luke Daniels.
8. Never a Dull Moment: 1971 The Year That Rock Exploded
This is one where the author reads the audiobook, and okay, he doesn't win the “Narrator of the Year” award from me, but the book is very funny and he does do a good job of arguing that 1971 was THE year in music. The reason no one ever lists 1971 as the year that produced the most classic albums is because 1971 was such a period of transition, having come between the end of the ‘60s and the beginning of the ‘70s, that we don’t recognize how much great music came out during this liminal time.
Did you know that Joni Mitchell’s Blue album and Carol King’s Tapestry were recorded concurrently in the same studio, a few doors away from each other? Both albums are not only classics, but are also both definitive statements of the singer-songwriter movement, recorded at the same time with just a few feet between them. I love the synchronicity!
Never a Dull Moment: 1971 The Year That Rock Exploded. Written by David Hepworth. Narrated by David Hepworth.
9. Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the '80s Changed Hollywood Forever
A really fun book that takes a behind-the-scenes look into all the comedies that I watched as a kid growing up in the ‘80s, as well as all the movies that I wanted to watch but was too young to rent at the video store at the time. This book is one big movie trailer highlight reel and will make you want to rewatch all those favorite comedies again and stream all the ones that you missed. (I unfortunately can’t do anything to recreate that classic video store browsing experience for you, you’ll have to stare at the cover art on your streaming service for hours on end on your own.)
In a book filled with funny stories and memorable dialogue, my favorite story was the one concerning a young Eddie Murphy lip-syncing to a live Elvis Presley record as a kid in front of a mirror, honing his stage craft before there was even a stage to perform on. Guests to the Murphy household would ask “What are you practicing for Eddie?” so perplexed were they by Eddie’s pantomiming an Elvis routine for hours and hours on end in front of the mirror.
Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the '80s Changed Hollywood Forever by Nick de Semlyen. Narrated by Curtis Armstrong.
10. Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life
About another artist who, like Janis, was gone too soon and whose musical influence resonates through the decades that have followed, this book was a big part of my discovering a deep love for the music of Stax Records and Otis Redding in particular.
The book also challenged me to confront my assumptions about the history of race relations in America, as it provides a searing and intimate history of the experience of growing up as a Black person in the South, opening my eyes further to the history of cruelty that many Black Americans have endured. Partially because Otis died so young, and partially because he did so few interviews (which is unfortunately only partially due to Otis dying at such a young age), the work examines the experience of growing up in the South as a Black person as a way to bring perspective and context to Otis’s life.
After finishing the book, I did a deep dive into Otis Redding’s recorded output, as well as the Stax Records catalog. The music made such a deep and profound musical impression on my wife and I that we made a pilgrimage to Memphis last fall to visit the Rock 'n' Soul Museum and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. It was an honor to be in the city’s presence and an experience I will never forget.
Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life by Jonathan Gould. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
End of Part Two. Click here for Part One of my recommendations.