Tag Archives: audiobook

In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran – Audiobook Review

I just completed the audio version of In The Pleasure Groove: Love Death and Duran Duran, narrated by John Taylor, bassist and co-founder of Duran Duran.

In The Pleasure GrooveThe band have long been one of my favorites. In fact, the very first record I ever bought with my own money was Seven And The Ragged Tiger. On cassette, of course.

I’ve been into Duran Duran’s music since I was 10 years old, because I like the sound: exotic, upbeat, futuristic, yet with an undeniable groove. It was an older female cousin who turned me onto them and I noticed that girls really liked the band – “those guys must be doing something right,” I thought, and I’ve been following their career and enjoying their music ever since the early ’80s.

John Taylor of Duran Duran

John Taylor of Duran Duran in the ’80s, living the dream. Photo: New York Times

Of course I’m biased as a fan and music lover, but I’ll still say this book was great overall. The initial description of Taylor’s upbringing and childhood seemed long at first, but it’s a relevant setting of context for the ensuing fame story, as we watch this lad from Birmingham navigate punk and disco into new wave and rock, all as a bassist and band member with artistic vision, along with those of his band mates who soon become heartthrobs, almost to their detriment.

Duran Duran Still Rocking

The guys are still at it, recording and touring to this day. Here they are at Coachella in 2011 performing their very first single, “Planet Earth,” and obviously enjoying the thrill. Taylor ends the book with a description of this very moment:

It’s an outdoor festival, so tour manager Craig will not get to give his usual cue to take the house lights down. Tonight, that’s one of God’s jobs. And what a job of it he’s doing. A glittering bauble of sunlight fights to stay above the horizon. A full moon appears – a late-coming VIP that takes a seat above the lighting gantry at 11 o’clock high. Nature presents for us a better light show than any human could ever have created.

My heart is pounding. There’s no better time than this, when I’m about to take stage and the future belongs to me. This is what the moment feels like as I walk out onto the stage one more time. Roger’s drums kick in. An eight-bar count and I’m in with him, the galloping groove that started it all for me. Thirty thousand California kids, eyes and teeth smiling, cameras and cell phones popping, a million tiny seductions all at once. And the music never sounded better.

I would recommend the book to anyone with a passing interest in what it’s like to be a working-class kid who falls in love with music, reaches the height of fame because of it, and handles the aftermath (good and bad) with grace.

What do you think? Ever read a book by a rock star? What were your impressions? Is there any music favorites from your youth the carryover to today? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Lost At Sea by Jon Ronson: A Review

Jon Ronson Lost At SeaI’ve just completed Lost At Sea by British writer Jon Ronson. This is a great compendium of idiosyncratic, engaging stories.

Ronson has appeared several times on This American Life, one of my favorite radio programs. Having already been a fan of Ronson’s stories there and his work elsewhere, and also only now getting into audiobooks, I wondered if I might find some of his work at audible.com. Sure enough, it’s there.

This book, published in 2012, is a collection of stories from the past decade or so, also representing Ronson’s reporting for The Guardian in the U.K. Ronson himself narrates the audio version, which I enjoy because I feel an author is the best narrator equipped to add appropriate emphasis when telling a story.

Stories covered here include: the mysterious case of a girl who disappeared from a Disney cruise; a look at altruistic organ donation; a look at a mismanaged château in France; and interviews with many other quirky yet fascinating characters, including celebrity psychic Sylvia Browne, and the co-founder of neuro-linguistic programming, Richard Bandler. All in all, it’s a fascinating and engaging compendium.

Through each of these stories, Ronson applies his journalistic style with a direct, yet avant-garde approach that keeps the listener hanging on until the next phrase. Since I’m not a fan of long-form novels or fiction writing in particular, opting for well-crafted bursts instead, I found this most enjoyable.

As for my thoughts on the topics here, I found this collection of true life short stories highly absorbing. It’s definitely worth your time if you’re into This American Life or investigative reporting from a personal angle.

Update: Now with Author Comments

Many thanks to Jon, himself for checking out this post via Twitter:

What do you think? Have you ever heard of any of the stories represented here? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingI just finished the audiobook of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This book makes many interesting revelations by way of neuroscience (like another I just reviewed, Deep Survival), giving scientific insight into the myriad of reasons of why introverts and extroverts are the way they are.

I’ve always considered myself an ambivert – I have varying tendencies in different situations, so this detailed look at introversion was of particular interest to me. I’m not shy, and do enjoy public speaking, performing and experiencing the world – yet I’m very independently minded in my approach.

Much of Quiet seems to work at making introverts feel okay about who they are, which is understandable. But what I enjoyed more was how it made sense of the biological reasonings and structural evidence for this parallel of personalities. Consider this take on extroverts at dinner parties:

The ability to process a lot of short-term information at once without becoming distracted or overly stressed – this is just the sort of brain function extroverts tend to be well-suited for. In other words, extroverts are sociable because their brains are good at handling competing demands on their attention — which is just what dinner-party conversation involves. In contrast, introverts often feel repelled by social events that force them to attend to many people at once.

Compare this with the introvert perspective:

When introverts assume the observer role, as when they write novels, or contemplate unified field theory – or fall quiet at dinner parties – they’re not demonstrating a failure of will or lack of energy. They’re simply doing what they’re constitutionally suited for.

This is not to say that all introverts or  extroverts are the same categorically, and the book does stress this in several places. But that these are two different approaches due to a variety of factors, each valid in their own way, and each capable of benefitting by better understanding the other – a concept advanced by this book.

Introverts UNITE (separately)

This design available at printfection.com

Musical accompaniment – “Quiet” by the Smashing Pumpkins:

What do you think? Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert? Do you find advantages or disadvantages in either case? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why – My Review

Deep Survival by Laurence GonzalesIn the face of catastrophe, and beyond luck, survival is as much a factor of mental acuity than anything else.

I just finished Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It’s a compelling book, and I’d recommend it not only for the gripping true stories of survival and the advice these tales impart, but particularly for its examination of how our brains work. This is as much a study of psychology and introductory neuroscience as it is a dos-and-don’ts of how to handle being lost at sea, stranded in the wilderness, or any number of other life-and-death events.

Consider this passage:

The limited nature of working memory, attention, and the executive function, along with the shorthand work of mental models can cause surprising lapses in the way we process the world and make conscious or unconscious decisions.

This is an eloquent explanation of how we can become distracted and thrown off from basic logic, like following standard safety procedures – things that mountain climbers, for example, should do practically as second nature.

And on adaptability, this passage:

We all make powerful models of the future. The world we imagine seems as real as the ones we’ve experienced. We suffuse the model with the emotional values of past realities. And in the thrall of that vision, call it, “the plan, writ large,” we go forth and take action. If things don’t go according to the plan, revising such a robust model may be difficult. In an environment that has high objective hazards, the longer it takes to dislodge the imagined world in favor of the real one, the greater the risk. In nature, adaptation is important. The plan is not. It’s a Zen thing. We must plan, but we must be able to let go of the plan, too.

Phrasing like this – and applying Zen principles to survival concepts – kept me interested the whole way through.

Deep Survival

Click to hear a sample of the Deep Survival audio book at Audible.com (opens in new window)

This book’s subtitle in some versions is “True Stories of Miraculous Endurance and Sudden Death,” and while it certainly covers that, it explores far more – particularly in terms of how the mind handles itself in extraordinary situations.

I listened to the audiobook version from Audible.com, narrated in the authoritative yet friendly baritone of Stefan Rudnicki. Visit the Deep Survival page at Audible  to read other reviews and hear a sample.

What do you think? Have you ever survived a near-death encounter? Have you ever been lost at sea, stranded, or otherwise in great peril? Let us hear from you in the comments.