Tuesday, August 11, 2015


When I'm healthy--unlike now, when I'm 5 weeks into a bout with bronchitis--I hop on my elliptical trainer each morning for 20 minutes before leaving for work.  I have to do something so I can say I exercise.

One of the difficulties, though, is that it's boring.  So I started listening to the radio.  But since my exercise time includes 6 o'clock, much time on the radio is spent in commercials and new show change-over.  Boring.

I tried reading.  Smithsonian Magazine has large enough print that it's not all that difficult to read while moving, but it is difficult to focus on the reading.  I was talking about this at work one day a couple years ago and a colleague asked if I'd considered audiobooks.  I had not, at least not until that moment.

I now love Audible.com, the Amazon site that sells audiobooks.  The program I'm on costs me $15/month, and for that $15 I get one "point".  I can buy a book for that point, even if the book costs more than $15.  Not bad.

I started with math and science books, but listening to such texts without having handy access to charts, pictures, and graphs (they're available, but certainly not handy) makes the experience less than ideal.  The plan came together when I switched to narrative books--in my case, history, social science, and now even fiction.

To give you the smallest peek into my mind, here are the audiobooks I've bought from Audible:

John Adams, by David McCullough
Longitude, by Dava Sobel
Augustus, by Anthony Everitt
The Plantagenets, by Dan Jones
A History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage
Civilization, by Niall Ferguson
The Golden Ratio, by Mario Livio (I made it most of the way through this)
Moment of Battle, by Williamson Murray and James Lacey
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, by John McWhorter
After America, by Mark Steyn
Catch22, by Joseph Heller (I only made it half-way through this one)
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
The Big Three In Economics, by Mark Skousen
The Ugly Renaissance, by Alexander Lee
The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson
The Martian, by Andy Weir
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt
Popular Economics, by John Tamny
Armada, by Ernest Cline
(I have no idea in what order my Kindle Fire organized these for me!)

Based on what's worked best for me, I've decided that my running time should be more "entertainment time" than "learning time" when it comes to books.  I'm not up to hitting the elliptical right now but tonight I finished The Righteous Mind and just started The Armada (narrated by Wil Wheaton).  Perhaps I can convert some driving time to "learning time".


Mr. W said...

Get the iheart radio app and listen to Bill Handel on KFI AM 640. He is local to southern CA. He is best from 6-7 when he does Handel on the news. KFI is very conservative for California, in fact if you really want to listen to some good radio listen to John & Ken from 4-7 pm. And it's all free on the iheart app. If you are up later, from 7-10 is Tim Conway Jr. I would say most of the radio personalities are libertarian than Republican.

Jean said...

I ought to give that a try sometime. I've never liked audiobooks because I can read much more quickly than I can hear, but I do like lectures. At the gym I usually read mysteries, which are easy to follow even while on an elliptical. But someday when I get a smartphone I ought to try Audible...

maxutils said...

Looked up the big three in econ, because I was curious to see if I had guessed correctly. I had. But, as you've digested that, it's somewhat important to know that two of them, Marx and Keynes, were completely wrong. Yet, kudos to Marx for pointing out an essential flaw in Capitalism, despite not being able to fix it. And to Keynes, for being the first to embrace the theory of macro economics … an arguable subject which has yet to be mastered by anyone, except for Friedman, who just took Smith's principles and put them on a larger scale … and he earned a Nobel for doing that.

Anonymous said...

Darren - Thanks for the reading list. Read "Longitude" a while back and found it fascinating, even for someone like myself who is mathematically illiterate - a great oxymoron. Keep up the great work. S/F Bob Nye

maxutils said...

Also … I don't know who read Catch-22, but having read it and loved it (It's in my all time top 10) I think it would make an absolutely terrible audio book -- the nuances of language and use of repetition as a tool would rob it of all it's sarcam. I urge you to give it another try, on actual paper.