Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
For a very long time, I hated Kurt Vonnegut. More specifically, I hated Slaughterhouse-Five. It was assigned to me during my first or second year of high school, so I was still doing debate and still in the throes of what I like to call “The Wombat Years”—a bad period spanning most of my adolescence that featured bangs, rabid femmephobia, and constant, quiet anger. That last one had a hair trigger, and Vonnegut tripped it by, in my memory, calling Billy’s daughter “a bitch”. (This may or may not actually happen in the book.) I finished the book, since it was for school, but I scowled more than usual all the way. I am no longer a wombat, but that loathing remained. I did know I’d have to revisit this eventually for Reading by Ear—I just didn’t read that much as a kid, y’all!—but I was expecting the worst. And all I’ve got to say is praise and hallejulah, the Wombat Years are behind us.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
read by Lenny Henry
Anansi Boys was one of the first novels I specifically went out and bought that wasn’t a Harry Potter book or a FoxTrot anthology. (Yes, that’s all I read as a child.) I’d already read and loved American Gods—that first chapter stunned wee Clare into a kind of reverent silence, which was not easy to do—and when I discovered Anansi Boys existed via an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I hied myself down to the Books-a-Million and bought myself a copy. I was so careful with books as a kid; I remember reading this only at night, right before bed, so I wouldn’t damage the gorgeous cover.
Wicked by Gregory Maguire
read by John McDonough
I’ve never seen The Wizard of Oz. Yes, that particular piece of Western pop culture and I have never crossed paths; I mean, I know most of it through cultural osmosis, but I never saw it as a child and, as an adult, I’m frankly not that interested. But the magical thing about L. Frank Baum’s creation is that it’s in the public domain, meaning that publishing The Wizard of Oz fanfiction is kosher. Which brings us to Wicked, one of my favorite books from high school, as well as one of my favorite examples of how fanfiction can deepen and correct a text. It’s a terrible shame that Gregory Maguire can never quite live up to his 1995 adult fiction debut—Son of a Witch is decent, but A Lion Among Men is just a frustrating detour from The Wicked Years’ main story. I’m still totally going to read Out of Oz when it comes out in November, though—I’ll just rent it instead of buying it.
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
read by Martin Jarvis
Good Omens is one of the first adult novels I bought for myself as a wee lass that I discovered through a recommendation of sorts. It was a favorite book of Sandra Fuhr, a web comic artist whom I still follow. My mother required me to read Silas Marner before I could read the much-anticipated novel; accordingly, I remember nothing about Silas Marner to this day. Good Omens, on the other hand, has become one of my favorite books, lovingly read, reread, and purchased for friends’ birthdays. Casting around for something for Reading by Ear, I saw the audiobook for Good Omens at my library and knew it was time to revisit this old favorite.