Bacon on the Bookshelf

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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

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