Becoming

This book was a joy to read. I’ve been a fan of Michelle Obama for quite some time. I’ve always liked her strength, her passion to help others, her positive outlook and her strong devotion to her family and this book just made me appreciate her even more.

WPL has Becoming in three formats: hardcover, large print and recorded book (CD). I listened to the CD and found Michelle Obama to be an engaging narrator who allowed her warmth, humour, compassion and honesty shine through. She is the Michelle Obama you’ve seen in interviews and with Becoming, she brings readers into her personal triumphs, losses, insecurities and struggles from her early days as a young Black girl growing up in the south side area of Chicago, to her love of education and her years at Princeton, to meeting a fellow lawyer with a ‘weird name’ and her eventual role as First Lady of the United States. Readers are privy to the Obama’s early years as a couple, Barack’s increasing involvement in politics, parenting two daughters together, his run for the presidency of the USA and their eight years living in the fish bowl that is the White House.

Michelle Obama has always seemed like a regular kinda gal to me. She’s a mom, wife and daughter who just happens to be living an extraordinary life. As FLOTUS, she has lived under public scrutiny trying to balance family life with the daunting workload that she bore as First Lady. She wanted to give their children a reasonably normal childhood and use her role as First Lady to make positive changes in the country she so clearly loves. She gives readers a bird’s eye look at her life in the White House – the unique experiences made available to her as well as the limitations to her freedom and I appreciate that she doesn’t hold back on her opinions on some of the issues that have plagued and still plague the US.

Throughout the book Michelle Obama is well-spoken, genuine and she comes off as relatable and often inspirational as she shares personal anecdotes that show her fears, loves, struggles and accomplishments. Some of her anecdotes had me grinning, relating to her thoughts as a wife and mother, while several caused me to tear up as I listened to her speak about the devastation and loss her country has faced.

This is a moving, powerful and reflective book that readers, especially women and those who have ever felt unseen and ignored, will appreciate. You don’t have to be a Democrat (or even an American – says this proud Canadian) to enjoy this book. If you weren’t a fan of Michelle Obama’s before, you will be after reading Becoming.

— Laurie P.

For the love of audiobooks

Here’s the thing: LeVar Burton has a new podcast where he performs short stories. I think that this is lovely, exciting, reminiscent of the Reading Rainbow (which I loved so, so much) and I adore LeVar Burton because he is Geordi La Forge, was Kunta Kinte, and continues to be a champion of literacy. But we have our own ‘podcast’ of stories being read to us by world-class actors and it is available to us 24 hours a day in the downloadLibrary so I’m left a little cold by the news of this cool new podcast. Podcast? Who needs it? We never have to wait for the next episode of anything to be released and can just search for the story or topic that interests us. I think that this is so much better than any podcast, and, did you know that LeVar Burton reads more than one title available to us on the downloadLibrary? He reads a beautiful children’s book and the autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. There you go.

With the downloadLibrary you can ask yourself “am I in the mood for romance?” and search the database with a result of over 650 of them to choose from. How about looking for something truly hilarious to listen to as you commute into work? We have it right here for you – you will find more than 450 of those titles available through the downloadLibrary. Tina Fey reads her own autobiography and it is sensational – I’ve listened to it more than once. And, if you have a particular voice that you would like to hear you can search using that actor’s name. Benedict Cumberbatch has recorded audiobooks. So have Patrick Stewart and Stephen Fry. Now those are voices to listen to any time of the day. Annette Benning, and Anne Hathaway have all recorded audiobooks. Amazing voices reading incredible stories to you, just like when you were a kid. Does it get any better than this?

So many Broadway stars have chosen to lend their voices to the world of audiobooks that it is hard to imagine they have any time at all to perform on the stage. Alan Cumming has, of course, recorded his own autobiography as have many other actors, but he has also recorded Scott Westerfeld’s entire Leviathan series for us and that is a treat that the whole family can enjoy. Many actors have chosen to stay with a series through all of the books allowing for a sense of continuity that is so satisfying. You have a real sense of character when you hear that voice throughout a series and it is just amazing when you hear one actor play fifteen or twenty people so beautifully.

A recent bestseller, Lincoln in the Bardo, was one of the most interesting books I have ever read and a superb audiobook. It was popular with every reviewer and they all claimed it to be ‘remarkable’ and ‘extraordinary’, praising George Saunders for his brilliance in telling the story of Abraham Lincoln and his son on the night after Willie’s death. It features the voices and stories of the many ghosts that Willie meets in the graveyard where he is freshly buried. It was a strange and beautiful story with each peculiar personality introducing themselves to the little ghost/boy one by one. I enjoyed reading them in the ‘voice’ in my head but it became so much more real when I heard the audiobook because the author, George Saunders, and 164 other people recorded the voice of each character individually. Saunders tapped some friends, like the actor Nick Offerman, to participate and then they asked their friends to be a part of the book so the whole thing is like a fantastic radio drama. It’s outstanding. It is so worth a listen, in your car, kitchen, at the cottage.

And that’s the thing about audiobooks. You can listen to them while you drive, walk or bike and they are available for you to rewind if you miss something or play again because you were laughing so hard (as you might with Tina Fey’s memoir). I enjoy listening to them while I am working on an ambitious baking project or during a particularly long day of cleaning. I can play a novel from my phone and carry it around with me in my apron pocket. And, truly, is there anything more delicious than listening to a favourite children’s book again as an adult? Did you know that E. B. White recorded the entire text of Charlotte’s Web himself? He starts off the reading of his book by saying “this is the story of a barn. I wrote it for children and and to amuse myself. It is called Charlotte’s Web and I will read it to you.” I don’t think I will ever get tired of hearing those words in that voice. We have choices galore through our downloadLibrary ‘podcast’ – Romance, Mystery, Science Fiction, Non-Fiction, even the voices Broadway stars – it is absolutely magical. The kind of magic that you can only get at a library, I think.

-Penny M.