car travelIt’s the American thing to do – despite the dismal state of the economy and the need to cut back, a lot of people hit the road each summer on vacation. Something about our vast collection of interstate highways, our love of cars, our need to explore – it’s all part of the American character. And seeing more of this beautiful country – mountains, plains, cities – keeps us going around “just one more” corner. Of course, there are stretches of road – Nebraska comes to mind as does, quite frankly, large chunks of Illinois – that you must get across just to get where you’re going. Thank goodness for that super-slick CD player, built right into the car – just the thing to keep you and everyone in the car happily occupied!

Now, what to feed it? Let’s turn to our own librarians for their recommendations.

Lynn reminds us that a lot depends on who’s on the car with you. If you’re traveling with multi-generations, you need to look for something that will engage the kids, but is interesting to adults too. She suggests The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, the classic (travel!) story of three pets separated from their family. A perilous journey with cute, smart animals and a happy ending – a winner for everyone. She also suggests West with the Night by Beryl Markham (another travel story!), an incredibly beautiful description of Markham’s life in Africa of the 20s and 30s. Although probably not of interest to children, Lynn also loved The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, a poignant story of love and loyalty.

According to Lynn, another thing to consider when choosing a book on tape is the narrator. A good reader can make a so-so book interesting, while a bad reader can ruin even a great book. For this reason she recommends anything read by Audie Award winner Barbara Rosenblat who has narrated a variety of titles including the Amanda Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters and mysteries by Nevada Barr and Lisa Scottoline. Jim Dale, beloved award winner reader of the Harry Potter series is another narrator that makes listening a pleasure.

Ann just listened to The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith, part of the No. 1 Ladies Detective series. Nothing terribly dramatic happens during the course of the book – read these stories for the evocative setting of Botswana, the various characters that you grow to love, the belief that kindness and politeness can improve any situation. This is a slow-paced book – sometimes almost too slow – but that’s also what makes it wonderful – calm and leisurely, leaving the reader/listener feeling the same.

Rita recommends the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlene Harris. They’re funny and fast-paced and you may find yourself believing that vampires really could be walking among us. She also liked Downhill Lie by Carl Hiaasen, a non-fiction account about returning to golf after a long absence. Read by the author, it’s filled with dry humor and great insights for fellow golfers.

Rita also reminds us that you there are hundreds of titles you can download from NetLibrary, a free service that allows you to transfer audio books to your MP3 player (which you can then hook up to the CD player in your car) Sign up for an account at either of the Davenport libraries, then access it from any computer, any time.

With so many great books to listen too, you might be tempted to take the long way home! What about you – do you have any favorite books-on-CD that you’d recommend for a long trip?