Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
When I was a kid, I got a big kick out of reading "Ripley's Believe it or Not" books. Published annually, they are collections of odd-but-true short stories and strange facts. My children show the same affection for "The Guinness Book of World Records." I'm waiting until they're of legal drinking age to tell them that the wise folks at Irish brewers Guinness, tired of 196 year's of bar brawls over who the tallest man was and if he was married to the world's tallest woman, published the first guide in 1955.
"You Might be a Zombie and Other Bad News" (2011) takes amazing, verified stories, a la Ripley's and Guinness; adds the erudite snarkiness of the satirical news "The Onion;" throws in the profanity of a World War II drill instructor; and makes lists. Grammatically correct, advanced vocabulary, easily read/listened to, funny lists. If I was trying to get a teenager interested in science, I'd hand over this book - but only after making sure the kid's parents were okay with their kid reading/listening to frequent references to sex and drugs (the references are completely apropos).
One of my favorite lists is, "The Six Most Terrifying Foods in the World" (Chapter 13 on Audible). I admit that's because I grew up eating Number 3, lutefisk, as a special treat at Christmas. The winter holidays were the only time you could find it at Lund's on Lake in Uptown Minneapolis. These days, Ikea carries it in the grocery section, in glass jars. I've never seen it on the otherwise true-to-Scandinavia, incredibly easy Christmas dinner that makes your Dad with Swedish grandparents happy. Who has time to make ostakaka anyway? Only folks who spend their time making the delicious cross between pudding and cheesecake, often served with Lingonberries, instead of putting together your new dresser or kitchen table.
Back to the lutefisk - it's in glass jars and served with wooden toothpicks because it's cod cured in lye. Yes, lye. I didn't realize how strange that really was until I listened to Cracked.com's "You Might be a Zombie". Other great chapters: "Five Ways Your Brain is Messing with Your Head" (Audible Chapter 21); "Five Stories the Media Doesn't Want You to Know About" (Audible Chapter 28); and "Four Great Women Buried by their Boobs" (Audible Chapter 32). The 'boobs list' alone could make four separate books. In fact, I've already read one of them, Brenda Maddox" "Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA" (2012).
Each chapter is 7 to 10 minutes long, the perfect length for a quick trip to the grocery store and back. Johnny Heller narrates. Heller, in this narration, is an audio doppelgänger of actor Martin Sheen. He was so close, I checked to make sure Heller wasn't a nom de oratorio for Sheen or his sons. Heller isn't, and he's narrated several other books I've loved. The only reason I'm not giving the narration a "5" is that I know some of the non-English words were mispronounced. I think we'd all be happier if I didn't know that.
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A year before I became the 'Ardent Audible Listener' from Monrovia, Audible Studios posted a free version of Samuel L. Jackson's narration of Adam Mansbach's "Go the F*ck to Sleep" (2011) on YouTube. I watched and listened over and over, and wished "Go the F*ck" had been published 10 years earlier when my youngest stayed up as long as she could, every night, so she didn't miss anything. It was a 4 minute story I'll never forget, and a Facebook topic among my friends for almost 10 days. And, as we all know, 10 days on FB is like a century in real life.
When I prepared to write this review, I discovered that Thandie Newton narrates a 'veddy, veddy uppercrust British version'; and George Lopez does a hysterical rendition En Español. It's probably even funnier to someone who actually speaks Spanish and exceeds my skill of ordering food at a Mexican restaurant that doesn't serve its food in a paper bag; navigating rural California by talking to people because Waze isn't getting a signal; and cursing at loud neighbors playing Ranchero music at 1 in the morning. Actually, anyone who can do the latter is going to love Lopez' vets.
The print book "Go the F*ck to Sleep" is beautifully illustrated. Its pictures echo the soothing, muted tones of Mira Ginsburg's 1982 "The Sun's Asleep Behind the Hill", illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky (1953 - present). Ricardo Cortés illustrations in "Go the F*ck" are almost an homage to Zelinsky. Samuel L. Jackson was the perfect, soothing, dryly witty American narrator for that book.
The title, "You've Got to F*cking Eat" (2014) really does speak for itself. Owen Bozeman illustrates "F*cking Eat", with livelier colors and scenes that call to a kid that's up and moving, not one just out of the tubby, wearing Pjs with feet, and laying in bed.
There's a good reason I'm talking about print illustrations in an Audible review: Audible Studios posted several Audio versions on YouTube, complete with illustrations from the print books.
Both of Mansbach's "F*ck" books are equally risable, but the meter in "F*cking Eat" is off. Bryan Cranston really doesn't work well as a narrator for this story. He doesn't have the droll sense of humor Jackson has cultivated, and Jackson's introduction to "Go the F*ck" alone is a finely crafted piece of parent humor. Cranston's narration of "F*cking Eat" comes across as overwrought and his reading of the essential profanity conveys anger. I feel Mansbach was going for overwhelmed and exasperated. British actor Stephen Fry's "F*cking Eat" narration hits the right tone with me, and it's laugh out loud funny. Unfortunately, It's either not on Audible yet, or US users don't see UK versions.
I'm looking forward to more Mansbach "children's books for adults." I'd really like to see a "Get the F*ck Out of Bed" addressing a tween/teen, narrated by Cranston. Or if it's really dark, David Morrissey, who's best known to Americans as 'The Governor' on producer Frank Darrabont's "The Walking Dead". That's the guy to get my eldest the f*ck out of bed and on his way high school.
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