One of my favorite things about reading is how it continually adapts and changes as life progresses. I've been a reader for almost 30 years now, and my reading still manages to delight me in unexpected ways.

About a year ago, I went back to work full time after a few years at home caring for a foster son and starting this blog. One of the toughest adjustments for me was getting up early every day. I am not one of those people who can shower in five minutes and head out the door with shoes in one hand and a granola bar in the other. I move sloooooowly in the mornings. And the dress code at my office is much more on the pantyhose and heels end of the spectrum than the holey yoga pants end where I'd been camping out. No matter how many times I remind myself to move faster, if I'm putting on business casuals and a full face of makeup, it takes me not one minute less than two hours to get ready in the mornings.

Needless to say, it bummed me out that I was spending that much time every day just to keep from scaring off the clientele. I've always been pretty practical (read: lazy) when it comes to my appearance, and every morning, those two hours felt like time I'd never get back.

Until audio books.

Now when I'm smudging my eyeliner or chomping my morning cereal, my brain is far, far away in the land of books. The time it takes me to straighten and spray my hair no longer fills me with existential dread. And because I can listen in the car during my commute, too, many mornings I experience a moment of disorientation when I arrive at my desk, suddenly remembering that, oh yeah, I have to actually work now, and all this preparation was leading up to a workday.

So far this year, I'm blowing through audio books almost as fast as print books. Audio books just fit so much better into my life right now—I can get so much done while listening. I won't be at all surprised if by the end of the year, 50% or more of my reading is in the audio format, even though my entire life up until this point I've read exclusively in print.

See what I mean? Reading just keeps beautifully adapting, no matter where I am in my life.

Here are some titles I've put in my ears lately.

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

A light, funny and feministy romp of a novel set in the early 1900s, in which headstrong Constance Kopp and her bevy of unmarried sisters take on a bully of a man who crashes his car into their buggy. What begins as a simple quest for just recompense turns into a new career for Constance, who eventually becomes one of the first-ever female deputy sheriffs. I love how Constance’s assertiveness is paired with a dry sense of humor—I chuckled aloud more than a few times—and the narrator absolutely nails her wry, businesslike tone.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Spoiler alert: Things are really bad in North Korea, and have been for many years, thanks to a string of dictators who have cultivated a society previously familiar to me only from dystopian fiction. Demick points out early on that even though she was able to get clearance to visit Pyongyang, in order to get truthful answers about what life in North Korea is really like, she had to talk to people who had escaped the regime, not those currently living under its threatening shadow. Her narrative-style portraits of the defectors she interviewed are personal and powerful, never more so than at the end of the book, when she tells how each one got out of the country that had literally starved them into submission.

Carol (first published as The Price of Salt) by Patricia Highsmith

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t read much older fiction. If it was published more than a year or two ago, I’m probably not interested in reading it unless it’s famous or won an award or something. I’ve found I enjoy following the publishing cycle each year and keeping up on new releases. So when Carol, published in 1952 (before my parents were born, to put that in perspective), was selected for my book club, I was more than a little skeptical. However, I have to admit Patricia Highsmith was a talented writer. I couldn’t believe how engrossed I was even when, plot-wise, nothing was happening. It was also interesting to compare the lesbian romance depicted in Carol with more modern ones I’ve read, like Sarah Waters’ novels (although now that I think about it, Waters writes primarily historical fiction, so it’s not a strictly apples-to-apples situation).

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AuthorTaryn Pierson