A good read. A good listen

I don’t read a lot of books. Now that is NOT to say I don’t read, or that I don’t complete a large number of books.  While I do READ magazines and newspapers, I LISTEN to books.  In fact, I am hooked on audio books. I have a couple of books on CD in my car, several downloaded to my mp3 player and even one on my smartphone.  And I highly recommend audio books to others.  Listening to a good audio book by a terrific reader makes sitting in traffic jams almost enjoyable, long road trips less tedious and lines at the Secretary of State nearly bearable.

I pick up many of the books from my local library that has a wide assortment of books, fiction and non-fiction.  Books on CD have allowed me to meet a lot of new authors and become reacquainted with several I hadn’t read since high school. I also subscribe to Audible.com. It’s a $14.95 per month luxury I allow myself despite being on a tight budget. Audible provides me access to some of the latest published works along with books that are available in the local audio library.

Some of the books I’ve come to enjoy because of the people reading them: George GuidellDavid Case (who also recorded as Frederick Davidson), Patrick Tull and Simon Vance. All could read phone books and make them sound interesting and manage to give a different voice with a distinct personality to each person in it.

I do read some good marketing books (I like those by David Meerman Scott) and recently listened to 50 Success Classics by Tom Butler-Bowdon, and while they may help me in my next job, they don’t fire the imagination. That’s where good fiction comes in.  And I’ve been lucky to come across some great fictional characters while looking for other things.

One of those characters is Richard Sharpe, a soldier who fought for England around the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Sharpe is a self-described “gutter rat,” an orphan who joined the service to escape poverty and fought his way up from private to command a regiment because of his bravery and daring and service to the Duke of Wellington, and despite not being a gentleman. I have have followed Sharpe, his Irish friend Patrick Harper and Sharpe’s Riflemen from Spain and Portugal to France and even to a battlefield in Belgium where the English beat Napoleon for the final time. And it because I chanced to pick up an audio book by Bernard Cornwell entitled Waterloo and thought it might tell me a little about that particular battle.

Little did I know that it introduced me to Richard Sharpe and I’ve been forever grateful. After completing that first book (which was about the last in the series), I listened to others in roughly chronological order. I’ve also listened to many of Cornwell’s other books of historical fiction and recommend them, especially when read by Case or Tull.  Whether Cornwell is writing about Vikings or English archers, he creates memorable characters, exciting plots and descriptions of battle,  and the readers do the words justice. By the way, Cornwell has also written books about the American Civil War and the Revolution but I have yet had the pleasure of listening to these books.

Two other, and probably more well-known, fictional characters are Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist from Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium series.” Although I keep up on the news and such, this series slipped under my radar until this past summer I read a review of the final movie in the series.  The series sounded interesting and I liked the fact all the books and movies were complete so I wouldn’t have to wait to read or view them. So I downloaded the three books and I can see why they became best sellers. I’m on the final book now and have come to root for the characters. I’ve seen the first two movies and while they do not do the books justice, they are still worth seeing.

There are others I’ve met and come to enjoy. Some like Hiro Protagonist appear in just one book. Some are part of longer series (Tarzan, Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes, Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys and even Tom, Dick and Susan). I know there are many more wonderful characters out there. And like a good paying job that is enjoyable and challenging, I aim to find them. What are some great fictional characters you’ve run across?

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