Boredom, Biltmore, & a Baffling Crime | September Nonfiction on Audio

Acuff, Jon. Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525499312. Read by the author.
Acuff shows chronic starters how to actually finish their goals in an age of bottomless distractions and endless opportunities. Acuff knows the reason why many writers’ novels go unfinished—it’s the same reason why gyms are filled in the first week of January, and empty by the end of the month, and why people stop learning a new language once they get past the easy parts. It’s not just that people lose momentum or get distracted. People give up on projects when they fail to live up to their own high expectations and decide that if they can’t do something perfectly they won’t do it at all. If you’re going to finish, you have to kill perfectionism.

Andersen, Kurt. Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525528159. Read by the author.
Over the course of five centuries—from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials—our peculiar love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we’ve never fully acknowledged.From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies—every citizen was free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. Little by little, and then more quickly in the last several decades, the American invent-your-own-reality legacy of the Enlightenment superseded its more sober, rational, and empirical parts.

Beck, Joseph Madison. My Father and Atticus Finch. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501948589. Read by Tom Stechschulte.
The story of Foster Beck, the author’s late father, whose defense of a black man accused of rape in 1930s Alabama foreshadowed the trial at the heart of To Kill a Mockingbird. As a child, Joseph Beck heard the stories—when other lawyers came up with excuses, his father courageously defended a black man charged with raping a white woman. Now a lawyer himself, Beck reconstructs his father’s role in State of Alabama v. Charles White, Alias, a trial that was much publicized when Harper Lee was 12 years old.

Blum, Ben. Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family, and an Inexplicable Crime. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780804166072. Read by Johnathan McClain.
Alex Blum was a good kid with one goal in life: to become a U.S. Army Ranger. In the first hours of his final leave before deployment to Iraq, Alex was supposed to fly home to see his family and beloved girlfriend. Instead, he got into his car with two fellow soldiers and two strangers, drove to a local bank in Tacoma, and committed armed robbery. At first, Alex insisted he thought the robbery was just another exercise in the famously daunting Ranger program. His attorney presented a case based on the theory that the Ranger indoctrination mirrored that of a cult. In the midst of his own personal crisis, and in the hopes of helping both Alex and his splintering family cope, Blum, Alex’s first cousin, delved into these mysteries, growing closer to Alex in the process.

Bouffard, Suzanne. The Most Important Year: Pre-Kindergarten and the Future of Our Children. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525498292. Read by Therese Plummer.
Bouffard takes us inside some of the country’s best pre-K classrooms to reveal the sometimes surprising ingredients that make them work—and to understand why some programs are doing the opposite of what is best for children. It also chronicles the stories of families and teachers from many backgrounds as they struggle to give their children a good start in school.

Brown, Brene. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage To Stand Alone. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525494904. Reader TBA.
Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other.

Dean, Josh. The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525499725. Read by Neil Hellegers.
A true tale of espionage and engineering set at the height of the Cold War—a mix between The Hunt for Red October and Argo—about how the CIA, the U.S. Navy, and America’s most eccentric mogul spent six years and nearly a billion dollars to steal the nuclear-armed Soviet submarine K-129 after it had sunk to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean; all while the Russians were watching.

Guillebeau, Chris. Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525498896. Read by the author.
What if we could quickly and easily create an additional stream of income without giving up the security of a full-time job? Enter the side hustle. Chris Guillebeau is no stranger to this world, having launched more than a dozen side hustles over his career. Here, he offers a step-by-step guide that takes you from idea to income in just 27 days. Designed for the busy and impatient, this detailed roadmap will show you how to select, launch, refine, and make money from your side hustle in under a month.

Hanson, Jason. Survive Like a Spy: Real CIA Operatives Reveal How They Stay Safe in a Dangerous World and How You Can Too. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525500667. Read by the author.
High-stakes techniques and survival secrets from real intelligence officers in life-or-death situations around the world. Everyone loves a good spy story, but most of the ones we hear are fictional. That’s because the most dangerous and important spycraft is done in secret, often hidden in plain sight. In this powerful new book, bestselling author and former CIA officer Hanson takes the reader deep inside the world of espionage, revealing true stories and expert tactics from real agents engaged in life-threatening missions around the world.

Headlee, Celeste. We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter. Blackstone. ISBN 9781538454503. Reader TBA.
Today most of us communicate from behind electronic screens, and studies show that Americans feel less connected and more divided than ever before. The blame for some of this disconnect can be attributed to our political landscape, but the erosion of our conversational skills as a society lies with us as individuals. And the only way forward, says Headlee, is to start talking to each other. She outlines strategies that have made her a better conversationalist—and offers simple tools that can improve anyone’s communication.

Kiernan, Denise. The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home. Brilliance. ISBN 9781501238253. Reader TBA.
Orphaned at a young age, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser claimed lineage from one of New York’s best known families. She grew up in Newport and Paris, and her engagement and marriage to George Vanderbilt was one of the most watched events of Gilded Age society. But none of this prepared her to be mistress of Biltmore House. Before their marriage, the wealthy and bookish Vanderbilt had dedicated his life to creating a spectacular European-style estate on 125,000 acres of North Carolina wilderness. Newlywed Edith was now mistress of an estate nearly three times the size of Washington, DC and benefactress of the village and surrounding rural area. The story of Biltmore spans World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton.

Markham, Lauren. The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525495765. Read by Cassandra Campbell.
Growing up in rural El Salvador in the wake of the civil war, Ernesto Flores had always had a fascination with the United States, the distant land of skyscrapers and Nikes, while his identical twin, Raul, never felt that northbound tug. But when Ernesto ends up on the wrong side of the region’s brutal gangs he is forced to flee the country, and Raul, because he looks just like his brother, follows close behind. Journalist Markham follows the 17-year-old Flores twins as they make their harrowing journey across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and from there to their estranged older brother’s custody in Oakland, CA. Soon these unaccompanied minors are navigating a new school in a new language, working to pay down their mounting coyote debt, and facing their day in immigration court, while also encountering the triumphs and pitfalls of life as American teenagers—girls, grades, Facebook—with only each other for support.

Markova, Dawna & Angie McArthur. Reconcilable Differences: Connecting in a Disconnected World. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525525417. Read by Ellen Archer.
You know what it feels like to be “at odds” with someone. Sometimes it seems like you are speaking completely different languages. Cognitive neuroscientist Markova and communication expert McArthur have spent years developing and implementing tools to help people find common ground. Here they provide the strategies you need to bridge the gap at the heart of your differences with others.

McGovern, Marion. Thriving in the Gig Economy. Blackstone. ISBN 9781536689334. Read by Teri Schnaubelt.
The new “gig economy” seems to constantly be in the news. But most of the media focus is on the low end of the skill spectrum; little attention is being paid to the best-in-class professionals who have chosen an independent path. New digital talent platforms are developing at a rapid clip with a wide variety of business models, many catering to very precise, high-value skill sets. This actionable guidebook outlines ways to maneuver in this new world to create a path that optimizes success.

McPhee, John. Draft No. 4. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501962554. Read by the author.
McPhee shares insights he’s gathered over his career and refined during his long-running course at Princeton University, where he has launched some of the most esteemed writers of several generations. He offers a definitive guide to the crucial decisions regarding structure, diction, and tone that shape nonfiction pieces, and presents extracts from some of his best-loved work, subjecting them to wry scrutiny.

Mendelsohn, Daniel. An Odyssey: A Father, a Song, and an Epic. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525500285. Read by Bronson Pinchot.
When81-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enroll in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar his son teaches at Bard College, the two find themselves on an adventure as profoundly emotional as it is intellectual. For Jay, a retired research scientist, this return to the classroom is his “one last chance” to learn the great literature he’d neglected in his youth—and, even more, a final opportunity to more fully understand his son, a writer and classicist. But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that the two men explore Homer’s great work together—first in the classroom, where Jay persistently challenges his son’s interpretations, and then during a surprise-filled Mediterranean journey retracing Odysseus’s famous voyages—it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too: Jay’s responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long-buried secrets that allow the son to understand his difficult father at last.

Rubin, Gretchen. The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too). Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525496281. Read by the author.
During her multibook investigation into understand human nature, Rubin realized that by asking the seemingly dry question “How do I respond to expectations?” we gain explosive self-knowledge. She discovered that based on their answer, people fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so using this framework allows us to make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress, and engage more effectively.

Rydahl, Malene. Happy as a Dane: 10 Secrets of the Happiest People in the World. Recorded Books. ISBN 9781501972485. Read by Hillary Huber.
For decades Denmark has ranked at the top of the world’s happiness surveys. How is it that these 5.6 million Danes are so content when they live in a country that is dark and cold nine months of the year and where income taxes are at almost 60 percent? At a time when talk across the Western world is focused on unemployment woes, government overreach, and anti-taxation lobbies, our Danish counterparts seem to breathe a healthier and fresher air. Interweaving anecdotes and research, Rydahl explores how the values of trust, education, and a healthy work-life balance with purpose contribute to a happy population.

Schreier, Jason. Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made. Blackstone. ISBN 9781538453933. Read by Ray Chase.
Developing video games—hero’s journey or fool’s errand? The creative and technical logistics that go into building today’s hottest games can be more harrowing and complex than the games themselves, often seeming like an endless maze or a bottomless abyss. Schreier takes listeners on a fascinating odyssey behind the scenes of video game development, where the creator may be a team of 600 overworked underdogs or a solitary geek genius. Exploring the artistic challenges, technical impossibilities, marketplace demands, and monkey wrenches thrown into the works by corporate, the work reveals how bringing any game to completion is more than Sisyphean—it’s nothing short of miraculous.

Sokolove, Michael. Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525589600. Read by Mark Deakins.
Why would the multimillionaire producer of Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon take his limo from Manhattan to the struggling former steel town of Levittown, PA, to see a high school production of Les Misérables? To see the show performed by the astoundingly successful theater company at Harry S Truman High School, run by its legendary director, Lou Volpe. Volpe’s students go on to become Emmy-winning producers, entertainment executives, newscasters, and community-theater founders.Sokolove, a Levittown native and former student of Volpe’s, chronicles the drama director’s last school years and follows a group of student actors as they work through riveting dramas both on and off the stage.

Thomas, Rosanne J. Excuse Me: The Survival Guide to Modern Business Etiquette. Blackstone. ISBN 9781536663280. Read by Teri Schnaubelt.
Blending different generations, genders, and cultures brings energy and fresh perspectives to the workplace. But the flip side is an environment ripe for confusion and social blunders. Mix in increasingly open-plan workplaces and constant connectivity, and the chance that we’ll unintentionally annoy or offend others increases exponentially. Exactly what are the rules these days? Merging classic rules of behavior with new realities of modern business, Thomas spotlights dozens of puzzling situations, with suggestions for bridging divides.

Zomorodi, Manoush. Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427287427. Read by the author.
Has your smartphone become your BFF? Do you feel bored when you’re not checking Facebook or Instagram? Do you feel that the constant ping of social networks is sapping your creativity and ability to think? In 2015, Note To Self podcast host Zomorodi led thousands of her listeners with the same problems through a week of experiments designed to help them rethink their technology habits, unplug for part of each week and jumpstart their creativity. Here she explains the connection between boredom and being unplugged and how that state of mind can ignite original thinking. Through interviews with scientists, famous artists, and regular people, Zomorodi explores why putting greater emphasis on “doing nothing” is vital in an age of constant notifications and digital distractions. She speaks with scientists who have researched the links between boredom and creativity. She also explores how we can harness boredom’s hidden benefits to become our most productive selves.

Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.

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