I live about an hours drive from work so I spend at least two hours a day in my car. I own a 20 Gb iPod (one of the best gadgets ever…). And I have found a way to make those tedious drives something to look forward to every day. I love reading but end up having little time for it so now I listen to books. I download them via¬†Audible.com where I have subscribed to the premium listener program which gives me two books a month for 19.95 $. This might not seem like much but a 1000 page book translates into over 40 hours of listening so it’s quite sufficient for the amount of time I have. The book choice is very large and they’re usually read by actors though sometimes they’re read by the author’s themselves (Hillary Clinton reading her own autobiography gives quite an added dimension to the experience). It all makes for very good entertainment. I’ve been a member for some years now but two recent books really stand out : The Memory of Running by Ron Mclarty and the three books that to date comprise The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.

Let’s start with The Memory of Running. This book is an audiobook only. That is, it has never existed as a book. It’s read by the author who is an actor. It tells the story of a fat average american who loses his parents and sister in a very short interval and goes on something of a quest to retrieve himself whilst cycling across America. Nothing of his quest is intended. Everything sorts of happens to him but ends being at times funny, poignant, often touching, and we learn to love him, his sister and parents while he finds himself and love across America. America itself is portrayed both beautiful and harsh, warm and cruel, full of paradoxes. It’s a great story, heartwarming and fantastically told. The movie rights have apparently been sold and I really hope to see it one day as a movie.

Next, The Song of Ice and Fire by George R;R. Martin. To date three books have been published in this series: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. It’s a great fantasy epic telling of the battles and politics in a medieval kingdom split by civil war. I have read many such fantasy series (Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Anne McKinley etc…) but this one really stands out. Each chapter tells the story from a characters point of view and over a dozen characters give us the whole picture. From book to book we follow these characters (with some dying and new ones appearing) through the politics, the battles, the travels, their loves and hates and we experience this civil war from many angles preventing us from taking sides but not from caring. The actor who reads here, Roy Dotrice, adopts a different accent and voice for each character and really brings everything to life. After somewhere near 160 hours in the company of these characters and nearing the end, I acn honestly say that I will miss them and that I greatly look forward to the next installment in the series.