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Road-trip reads: Listening to adventures on tape

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Summer is finally over, but I still have a road trip to anticipate. Reading while riding makes me nauseated, so I turn to services like Audible.com, where I can download books to my iPod or iPad and listen to a great “read.”

Listening to a book is very different from reading one in so many ways. For instance, the way words are emphasized can determine the meaning of the sentence. But the most crucial component is the voice.

I usually don’t turn to nonfiction for a laugh, but two of my favorite books read by authors are Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” (Reagan Arthur, 2011) and Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” (Anchor, 2006).

I realize that preferences in this arena are highly subjective, but I thought I’d share mine on the offhand chance that it might bring another soul the happy entertainment that I enjoyed listening to books read by these two authors. Books are not always read by the authors, but these two scribes are blessed with congruent (and hilarious) voices-in-their-head and voices-in-their-body.

Fey won an Emmy for her reading of “Bossypants.” She, of course, is a comedian by trade, so the book is like one long standup-comedy routine. She is best known for writing and acting on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.”

It may be true that “Bossypants” would have the greatest appeal to women, because Fey delivers some of the funniest stories I have ever heard on the rights-of-passage that punctuate many a young girl’s life. I especially enjoyed the first part of the book, devoted to the angst of childhood and adolescence. The rest of the book is about her life in show business, which is also very funny and provides a backroom view of what it’s really like writing, producing and acting at a television network.

Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” is another fabulously entertaining book. The book chronicles the author’s trek with his buddy, Katz, on the Appalachian Trail.

Unlike Cheryl Strayed’s current New York Times best-selling adventure “Wild” (Knopf, 2012), Bryson’s walk was not for self-actualization or spiritual enlightenment but merely a self-imposed challenge to conquer the wilderness, get reacquainted with America after living abroad and drop a few pounds.

“A Walk in the Woods” is also quite educational, as Bryson shares many details about the trail’s history and ecology. But the hilarity of events and personalities along the way provide bouts of laughter that reduced me to tears. I love Bryson’s voice and sense of humor. He has penned several travelogues, all of which I have listened to, but “A Walk in the Woods,” is by far the funniest.

There is indeed nothing like holding a hard copy of a great book and savoring the page-turning exercise that leads us deeper into the plot and characters. On the other hand, if you would like to make a new friend – someone who actually talks to you about his or her life and adventures, you might want to give a “listen.” I’m just saying … sometimes a relationship with a stranger can be very exciting.

Sharon Lennox-Infante, contributing editor for Book Buzz, is a Los Altos resident.

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