Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Dear Audible: Love Letter from Kobie Pretorius

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P1030789Kobie Pretorius lives a Nashville life to the fullest.  Urban chickens in the backyard?  Yes!  Tennis skirts in the closet?  Yes!  Lots of volunteer work at University School of Nashville and elsewhere, two great kids growing up fast, a husband to enjoy wine with while he fires up the grill…“our Nashville adventure continues and we love it!” she says.  Kobie is a glorious woman with a joyful heart.

Kobie and Mias moved from Pretoria, South Africa, to Nashville so he could continue his studies at Vanderbilt.  They told their families they’d be back in four years.  Eighteen years later, it hasn’t quite worked out that way!  Kobie grew up with three younger brothers in “a smallish town called Ermelo in an Afrikaans-speaking farming community in South Africa, under the widest and bluest sky,” she says.  She went to college at the University of Pretoria in the late eighties, when black students were not allowed to enroll in “white” universities.  “By the time I finished college, Nelson Mandela had been released from prison and South Africans were talking their first tentative steps away from Apartheid toward a new South Africa.  A lot was changing, and it was changing fast.  It was a time to shake off old fears and philosophies and look toward the future with hope,” she says.  Kobie gets back to South Africa as often as she can, and she organizes all the events for the South African community in town: “Nothing makes me more happy than new arrivals finding their feet and thriving in our city.”

She “found her feet” in Nashville through her love of tennis.  “I could not speak English very well, I did not know one person, but all I had to do was show up at the tennis courts and I instantly had a group who welcomed me as a friend.  I’ve traveled and discovered many new places because of the game.”  Kobie won’t brag about how good she is, but other people will tell you.

296898_10150285049015897_746605896_7640555_7324867_nKobie will play “any game until blood or tears are shed.”  She relaxes by watching her dear chickens.  That being said, she loves Game of Thrones and would consider trading a few chickens for one or two dragons.  Today, she reveals her passionate love affair … with Audible.

From Kobie:

When I first visited the beautiful, newly opened Parnassus Bookstore in Green Hills, it was with a lot of anticipation.  Staring at the high, bright shelves, I was completely lost.  Where do you even start?  I wished for a way to chip away at my growing list of must-read-but-never-will titles.  I wanted to be one of those girls who could say, “Oh, I loooved the book much better than the movie!”  A few days later my wish came true when a friend mentioned Audible, a service where someone else actually reads a book out loud for you.  Well, hmmm.  I took the bait.  She warned me that it was addicting.  I had my doubts.  It felt and sounded like a betrayal!  I gave it a shot anyway.

Unknown-7My Audible love affair started right away with Shantaram, the daunting 900-page brick of a book by Gregory David Roberts.  It suddenly looked very doable as a 43-hour audio version expertly read by Humphrey Bower.  Since this was my first (and free) Audible download, I did not know that Mr. Bower was something of a superstar in the world of narration.  From the very first paragraph he created magic with a book that is probably slightly tedious to actually read.  His brilliant narration through multiple, flawless accents made even the most forgettable of characters come to life.  My slow Nashville commute on West End Avenue suddenly became the hustle and bustle of the streets of Bombay, and I found myself not wanting to reach my destination.

I was convinced that Audible and I were a match made in digital heaven.  I signed up for the Audible membership at www.Audible.com.  One click and you will read that Audible’s mission is To Unleash the Power of the Spoken Word.  It’s true.  You enter a whole new world where the narrator is the star of the production, complete with annual Best Narrator awards, much like the Oscars.  Audible is owned by Amazon with currently over 150,000 books available in audio version.*  With the next click I found many payment options suitable for various budgets and needs.  Most of my downloads range between $12 and $18.  I had some initial questions and their 24/7 Customer Care Helpline actually helps with a real and very patient person on the other side of the line.

Unknown-6From the start I was interested in finding books friendly for all ears, especially my teenagers who spend countless hours in the car with me.  Nothing wrong with Taylor Swift but a little variation was much needed.  Without protest we quickly worked our way through Katniss and Peeta’s adventures in the Hunger Games series, the Divergent books and The Fault in our Stars.  Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning book describing her life-changing ordeal with the Taliban kept the kids occupied all the way from Nashville to Florida.  Our all time family favorite is Farm City by Novella Carpenter.  Our own stint as illegal suburban chicken farmers paled in comparison to Novella’s urban farming adventures.  After hearing Farm City for a third time, the kids tried hard to convince me that two turkeys, a few rabbits and maybe a hog would fare great in the backwoods of West Meade.

I started making quick work of book club favorites like The Goldfinch, Big Little Lies, The Invisible Bridge, Me Before You, The Book Thief and The Invention of Wings, all while folding laundry, stuffing Christmas Cards, feeding the chickens and walking the dog.  I loved listening to Edward Hermann reading Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat.  At this point, my husband decided to join the fun for an Audible threesome.  Since we share the same Amazon account, he could just jump right in, no questions or credit card asked.

Speaking of threesomes!  The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters combines Downton Abbey and a disaster as epic as the 2014 Tennessee Titans.  This is the recipe for a mystery that woke me up at 2 a.m., feeling for my ear buds.  That of course is another added benefit of audiobooks: I did not have to turn on a lamp or book light!  The hubby could sleep while I “read.”

My immigrant and African heart loved Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie. If you ever have 15 minutes free, watch her brilliant Ted Talk: The Danger of a Single Story http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

Unknown-4The other great love of my life is Bill Bryson.  Over the years I have read most of his books.  Now I listened to his book At Home, narrated by Mr. Bryson himself.  What a treat to hear his voice.  I also discovered another cool trick.  You can actually speed up the narration with the push of a button.  No offense to the other love of my life, but Mr. Bryson needed a little speeding up!

My most embarrassing Audible moment came while going through the Panera drive-through.  I was happily listening to We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Fowler while placing my order.  The line was slow and Rosemary and Fern had just enough time for their emotional reunion to get me to the pick-up window.  By now I was a middle-aged mess of dripping mascara.  The concerned lady at the cash register was kind enough to pass me a few extra napkins along with my order.

Thanks to Audible I have found myself listening for the heartbeat of a spider in the exquisite The Art of Hearing Heartbeats and I’ve been a blind girl feeling my way through Paris in All the Light We Cannot See.  I have fought battles and dug trenches in the Publix parking lot, and laughed out loud in A La Mod by Ian Moore while waiting in carline at school.  I fear that without the help of Audible, I would still be lost somewhere in India, trying to work my way through Shantaram.

*    *    *

*A quick google-search (audiobook-websites.no1reviews.com) will tell you that Audible, iTunes and Simply Audiobooks are the most popular places to buy audiobooks, with Audible sitting rather comfortably in the #1 spot.  I also hear that you can find free audiobooks at the public library (www.overdrive.com).  One thing to remember is that Audible’s new releases are a few months behind the actual book release.  You might find yourself disappointed that the newest New York Times Bestsellers are not on audio yet.  I see it as a great opportunity to catch up on last year’s list.

Books mentioned in this post:

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts narrated by Humphrey Bower
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins narrated by Carolyn McCormick
Divergent Series by Veronica Roth narrated by Emma Galvin
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai narrated by Archie Panjabi
The Fault in our Stars by John Green narrated by Kate Rudd
Farm City by Novella Carpenter narrated by Karen White
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty narrated by Caroline Lee
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand narrated by Edward Hermann
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak narrated by Allan Corduner
The Invention of Wings by Sue Kidd narrated by Jenna Lamia
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown narrated by Edward Hermann
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer narrated by Arthur Morey
The Goldfinch by Donna Tart narrated by David Pittu
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes narrated by Susan Lyons
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters narrated by Juliet Stevenson
Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie, narrated by Adjoa Andoh
At Home by Bill Bryson, narrated by Bill Bryson
We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Fowler narrated by Orlagh Cassidy
The Art of Hearing Heart Beats by Jan-Phillip Sendker narrated by Cassandra Campbell
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr narrated by Zach Appelman
A La Mod by Ian Moore narrated by Ian Moore

31 Comments

  1. I discovered Audible in 2009 and I have never looked back. I end up listening to the book and then buying the hardcover copy. Now that I have a Kindle Fire, I’m a triple threat to my bank account, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Audible has an app called WhisperSync where you can buy the Kindle version of the book and your Ipod or phone or tablet bookmarks where you are in the book and you can then pick up and continue reading where you left off. I am currently knee deep in The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. What a fabulous read! Recent favorites include Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, all the Inspector Gamache novels by Louise Penny and as to Bill Bryson, one of his best is The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. We laughed all the way to St George Island one year.

    • I love your recommendations and will add it to my list. The addiction is real!

      • Kobie, I started reading Shantaram several years ago and just couldn’t do it. Totally forgot about it until today and now it’s next after The Bone Clocks. Thanks to Jennifer and you for such a great post today.
        🙂 mary coleman

    • Hi! I love your book choices! Great to know about WhisperSync. Thank you for sharing all this great info with Bacon readers and with me!! xo

  2. Great post! I love Kobie! You can add creative hostess and cook to her list of many gifts. And “joyful” describes her well. I’m thankful for her list of books that have good narrators.
    I keep two audiobooks going at all times– the one I listen to with my husband when we’re driving together, and the one I listen to with earbuds like Kobie. Our all time favorite audiobooks, as far as story and narrator go, are Middlesex and the Power of One.

    • Everyone who knows Kobie loves her! I’m glad to know about these other excellent choices on Audible. I told Kobie I am committed to the printed page, but she has convinced me that I need to at least give Audible a try…you are encouraging me to do the same! Thanks, Judy. xo

    • Thanks Judy, if you have not read Farm City yet, I know you will love it. I can’t wait to chip away at your recommendations. I love that we share a love for books and chickens!

      • Kobie, I loved Farm City. I listened to it on Overdrive through the NPL. The only problem with audiobooks, is you can’t underline the parts you want to come back to. I would frequently have to pull the car over, and send myself an email with a great quote or gardening tidbit I wanted to remember!

  3. Wonderful story. Downloadable books are the hottest items at the library. Your local library will most likely offer thousands at no charge.

  4. Oh wow, so much to say here. First, I also love you, Kobie! So much energy and joy, and interests in everything! As for Audible, I don’t actually use it as I’m cheap and try to get those books from the library first, but I’m also an audio book addict. What used to be dreary driving as a carpool mom is now so much fun. I find myself looking forward to leaving the house and finding out what happens next. My favorite right now is People of the Book – the narration is excellent, also full of great accents that are all done to perfection. Someone mentioned Power of One – one of my alltime favorite books, though I haven’t heard the audio version. Maybe should give that a try for the next road trip so kids can listen. Along that vein, has anyone read “Twenty Chickens for a Saddle?” Great Africa memoir too. I could go on and on but I’ll stop now. Jennifer – thanks for including the list at the bottom of the post, that was very helpful, as I found myself wanting to jot down all the ones I hadn’t read yet!

  5. Great post (of course!). Jennifer, don’t you think Pepper would like to try Audible also? 😉

  6. I love Kobie!!! From the first time we met (on the tennis court) I knew we would instantly be friends! Beautiful woman and I love how she is just thriving in Nashville! I’m going to have to try audible!
    kendall boggs

  7. Kobie, you deserve all the accolades you are getting here! I haven’t tried audible, but I will now. (As well as good book recommendations). Mind you, I’m afraid it will take me back to my childhood where Mum would read to me until I fell asleep! That wouldn’t be good. Kobie, when we met your English wasn’t great, (& my Afrikaans was none existent), but you made this Aussie chick feel very welcome in deepest, darkest Africa & I’m so pleased we became such great mates. I think that is one of the reasons you have been embraced in the US so well, you empathise with people, you have a heart of gold and you are an all round gorgeous woman.

  8. Great post Kobie! I adore Audible too. It’s what got me back into enjoying long books AND long walks with my dog. I’m going to try some of your picks for sure. Thank you for the great suggestions.

  9. The book recommendations are great, and I also know and love Kobie! I will try Shantaram on audio next time I take a long drive. As many rave reviews as that book has received, I am never confident that I could finish it before it’s due back at the library.

  10. Twenty Chickens For A Saddle is my all time favourite book!! It will appeal to most – but especially those with African blood coursing through their veins 🙂

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