If I’m being honest, working out has always been a chore for me – cardio in particular is a grind. I don’t have a short attention span, but I still find myself getting caught up in the monotony of whatever torturous machine I’ve perched myself on for the afternoon. I hate cardio; I see little point to running unless something really deadly is chasing me. Plus, it’s mind-numbingly monotonous. I need a distraction, and while music can certainly get the job done to an extent, audiobooks have proven to be just the sort of escape I need to get through my workout.
Pick the right book and the time on treadmill just flies by. In fact, on more than a few occasions, I’ve found myself adding a chunk of time here or there just to give myself a little more listening time. Here are some recent(ish) favorites that will help make your gym experience a bit more enjoyable and get you closer to those ever-elusive (for me at least…) fitness goals.
If you only know Gillian Flynn through Gone Girl or its hit adaptation, you’re missing out. Flynn has a rare talent for weaving darkly intricate mysteries built on unreliable narration and a macabre sense of foreboding. In short, they’re just the sort of thing to keep you glued to the elliptical until a chapter’s end. Dark Placescenters on Libby Day, a woman whose mother and sisters were murdered when she was only seven. She long believed her brother, in prison for the murders, to be the killer. When his guilt is called into question, Libby’s world is turned upside down.
You’d be hard pressed to find a nonfiction writer funnier or more astute than Bill Bryson. His travelogues are legendary and if you haven’t read one of his histories of the English language (The Mother Tongue and Made in America), stop reading this and go find one. For my money, though, his memoir might be his most hilarious work. It recounts his childhood in 1950’s Des Moines in hysterical fashion with more than a few of his particularly keen insights into life in general.
The first in Stephen King’s Bill Hodge Trilogy is one of my personal favorites of King’s recent work and definitely kept me on the bike for longer than usual. It’s read by Will Patton (a frequent narrator for King’s audiobooks) who dips seamlessly into the grizzled, whiskey-soaked voice of retired detective Bill Hodges. It’s a brilliant game of cat-and-mouse between a past-his-prime detective at the end of his rope and the brutal mass-killer he failed to catch.
The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
This true crime tale centers on the haunting murder mystery that essentially made the FBI the organization we know today. In the early 1900’s, oil was discovered on the lands of the Osage Indian Nation. As a result, the members of the Osage Nation became some of the richest people per capita in the world. In the 1920s, a disturbing number of them were systematically murdered. The FBI, under a young J. Edgar Hoover, stepped in to investigate what would prove to be one of the most chilling conspiracies in U.S. history.
This Pulitzer Prize winner might just be Michael Chabon’s best novel, which is saying something. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a swashbuckling, imaginative achievement in storytelling buoyed by Chabon’s inimitable grasp of language. Beginning in New York City circa 1939, the novel follows the escape artist Joe Kavalier and his cousin Sammy Clay as they break into the nascent world of comic books and begin an adventure that spans continents, decades, and the shadow of World War II. It’s hard to fully describe the brilliant imagination and storytelling on display here, but just trust me and give it a listen.
Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Daniel James Brown
If you’re going to be working out, what better inspiration than an under-dog sports tale? And if it happens to be a true story, all the better. The Boys in the Boat chronicles the improbable rise of the 1936 United States Crew (Rowing team) in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The team – comprised of the sons of loggers, farmers, and shipyard workers from the University of Washington – was a long-shot from the start and not expected to compete with elite teams on the east coast, let alone those from Great Britain. But, they did, and did so on their way to shocking the world and Hitler’s German rowing team. It’s an extraordinary story of grit and determination sure to get your blood pumping.
Josh Malerman showed off his considerable literary chops with his 2014 post-apocalyptic thriller, Birdbox. With Unbury Carol, he brings an intricate, haunting and weird story of love, betrayal, and redemption set against the backdrop of the American West. Unbury Carol centers on a woman named Carol who is stricken with a malady that forces her into death-like comas for days at a time. Her husband, one of two people who know of her condition, capitalizes on one of her comas to bury and declare her dead to obtain her fortune. However, Carol’s lost love, an outlaw named James Moxie, sets out to save her from her unnatural fate. All the while, Carol – fully aware despite being outwardly catatonic – struggles to survive in crushing darkness. This one is a page-turner unlike anything else you’re likely to read, or listen to, this year.
Carrie Fisher was unquestionably one-of-a-kind, and her razor sharp, take-no-prisoners, internal-filter-be-damned wit was legendary. With The Princess Diarist, Fisher takes readers not only deep behind the scenes of the filming of the original “Star Wars”, but gives a remarkably candid view of her own state of mind and surprising vulnerability during the production. Culled from the journals she kept at the time, The Princess Diarist is a fascinating, endlessly quotable, and completely hilarious view into the inimitable Carrie Fisher.
I recently discovered the delightfully absurd world of Carl Hiassen’s Florida-set crime fiction and I’ve been chastising myself since for not doing so sooner. Hiaasen has a very particular gift for blending laugh-out-loud humor, intricate mysteries, and truly bizarre situations into his own genre of crime fiction. Take Bad Monkey for instance: It involves, in no particular order, a voodoo curse, a sex crazed priestess, a shady real estate deal, a severed arm caught by a fisherman, a monkey who may have starred in “The Pirates of the Carribean,” a medicare fraud, and a former detective turned food inspector. Describing the plot of a Hiaasen yarn is really an exercise in futile absurdity. You’re just going to have to trust me and give this page-turner a listen. You’ll thank me later.
Poker, Beef Jerky and Death
In 2011, Grantland gave Colson Whitehead $10,000 to play in the World Series of Poker in Vegas and write about the experience. There was a slight problem, though – Whitehead had never actually played in a casino tournament before. Thus begins a journey that carries Whitehead from Atlantic City to learn the ropes of high-stakes Texas Hold’em to Vegas for a multi-million dollar tournament against larger-than-life veterans and a new generation of players raised on internet gambling. It’s a story that is hilarious, oddly profound, and unquestionably entertaining. This is a tough one to put down – or, in this case, stop listening to.