The History of Audiobooks & Where to Find Them

A challenge that invites you to get in shape, explore our AMAZING Metroparks, listen to a great book AND win prizes — Who could resist?

I’m talking about our Walking Audiobook Challenge, which is also part of our Summer Reading Challenge (SRC). If you’re a reader (or in this case, a listener), I implore you to sign up for this fun and easy summer program. It’s a great opportunity for families to participate together, for book clubs, or for someone just looking for a little motivation.

Here’s how it works: Visit any Metroparks Toledo location — walk, run, rollerblade, bike, or hike while listening to one of our audiobooks — then log the minutes you listened (on our SRC page) and you’ll be entered to win a slew of fabulous prizes!

Fun Facts About Audiobooks:

  • Audiobooks have been around for more than a century.
  • In the United States, audiobooks were introduced in the 1930’s by the “Books for the Adult Blind” project after President Herbert Hoover signed into law the Pratt-Smoot Act, which granted funding to libraries for providing books to the blind.
  • The first audiobooks made available in the US included The Bible, The Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s Farewell Address, and selected works by Shakespeare.
  • At first, audiobooks were recorded on 12-inch phonograph records, but have also been offered on cassette tape and CD (compact disc). Now, they’re readily available to download or stream on any smart-device.
  • The first audiobooks recorded in the UK were Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon.

If you were ever lucky enough to have a teacher or a parent who read aloud to you as a child — you know how special it felt and how exciting it could be. Relive that feeling today! Did you know that many famous actors and authors have lent their voices to audiobooks?

Imagine The Office’s Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) reading Dr. Seuss’ What Pet Should I Get, or how about Captain Jack Sparrow narrating Keith Richard’s memoir Life? Or perhaps you’d enjoy hearing Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) read Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, or Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith) channel her inner poor woman in The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett?

More Celebrity-Narrated Audiobooks:

Meryl Streep narrating Nora Ephron’s Heartburn.

Sir Ben Kingsley narrating Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s List.

Sandra Oh narrating Han Kang’s Human Acts.

Lou Diamond Phillips narrating Billie Letts’ Shoot the Moon.

And finally, I would be remiss not to mention our official…

Walking Audiobook Challenge Recommended Listens:

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
hoopla I Overdrive

From the bestselling author of Kafka on the Shore comes this rich and revelatory memoir about writing and running and the integral impact both have made on his life. Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers Murakami’s four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon. Settings range from Tokyo, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston, among young women who outpace him. Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a cornucopia of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after age fifty, of having seen his race times improve and then fall back.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

In The Hidden Life of Trees Peter Wohlleben makes the case that the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death and regeneration he has observed in his woodland. A walk in the woods will never be the same again.

Following Atticus by Tom Ryan

Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship is the remarkable true story of a man and a dog embarking on the challenge of a lifetime. This is author Tom Ryan’s inspiring tale of how he and his miniature schnauzer companion, the “Little Buddha” Atticus M. Finch, attempted to scale all forty-eight of New Hampshire’s four thousand foot White Mountains twice in the dead of winter. It is a story of love, loss, and the resilience of the human and animal spirit that’s as thrilling as Into Thin Air and featuring the most endearing and unforgettable canine protagonist since Marley and Me.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald 
hoopla I Overdrive

When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer captivated by hawks since childhood, she’d never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators: the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral anger mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T. H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her journey into Mabel’s world. Both heartbreaking and hilarious, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement, a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, and the story of an eccentric falconer and legendary writer.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom lab; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work. Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf
hoopla I Overdrive

Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether climbing the highest volcanoes in the world or racing through anthrax-infested Siberia. He came up with a radical vision of nature, that it was a complex and interconnected global force and did not exist for man’s use alone. Now Andrea Wulf brings the man and his achievements into focus: his investigation of wild environments around the world; his discoveries of similarities between climate zones on different continents; his prediction of human-induced climate change; and his remarkable ability to fashion poetic narrative out of scientific observation.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World. Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

Reading to walk and listen? Sign up here!

Written by Toledo Lucas County Public Library blogger and Social Media Coordinator Heather H.

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