Road trip tip: Best audio books for a drive

Saturday’s road trip tip–how to stay awake while driving, listed listening to audio books as one technique.

The last audio book I listened to on a road trip (from New York City to Columbus, Ohio along I-80) was David Sedaris’s Live at Carnegie Hall. It isn’t an audio book per se, but a taped performance of Sedaris reading some of his essays. I was awake and laughing–hard.

This weekend, as I was leafing through a magazine (Better Homes and Gardens?) at a friend’s house in Wooster, Ohio, I came across a sidebar-type article on the 7 best audio books for the road. One of them is a fabulous choice because of its lovely language alone.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best novels written, in my opinion. The language is lush. Harper Lee , the author is the narrator.

Another author narrated suggesion was E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. This choice reminded me of another option that would appeal to children, but also resonates with adults. White is the narrator as well.

Here’s another one of my choices. The Velveteen Rabbit narrated by Meryl Streep is wonderful, particularly since George Winston’s piano accompaniment is woven in with Streep’s voice.

For another mix of music and narration for children, what about Peter and the Wolf? Here’s a version where David Bowie is the narrator. This one is a great way to brush up on your instrument knowledge.

Woolworth’s, the famous shopping icon, is closing its doors in the U.K.

“My cousin said that all the Woolworth’s in Britain are closing starting tomorrow,” my mother-in-law said today as she was driving me to run an errand outside of Cleveland where we’re visiting for a few days. “He’s very upset.”

Her cousin, who we visited a few years ago, lives in Cornwall. The economic downturn has meant curtains to this bargain shopping icon that was still making a go of it in Great Britain after the U.S. stores closed.

I remember going to the Woolworth’s in State College, Pennsylvania with my best friend when we were in the 5th grade. Those were in the days when it was considered safe for kids to ride their bicycles all over town. Our mission, mostly, was to get a Coke at the lunch counter and take our pictures in the automatic photo booth, the kind that spits out a long vertical strip of four.

When F. W. Woolworth, the company that was created in the U.S. in 1879, closed its doors in the U.S., I must have been living overseas because I only have a vague recollection of the news.

Now, that the 807 stores are closing across Great Britain starting tomorrow, including the one in the photo taken by Redvers in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, I feel a whiff of nostalgic sadness. Folks in Great Britain, according to this article posted at, feel the same.

Woolworths are friendlier than mega stores like Wal-mart and Target. The lunch counters say stay awhile. The goods always seemed like just the right amount of choices. Sure, it’s great to load up a cart at a big store, but the choices can be too many, and the cart can easily be overloaded with things we really don’t need by the time we reach the checkout counter.

Woolworth’s stores seem to evoke literary themes found in novels like To Kill a Mockingbird–the small town “How de dos.” Walmart greeters sure have a lot of pressure to make us feel welcome in the rush to find a bargain. Although Grant recently wrote about London not being as expensive as a place to buy gifts as he thought it would be, the options are decreasing. Too bad.

Thanks for the memories Woolworth’s.

Working for an airline can lead to a Pulitzer Prize

Which Pulitzer Prize winning author, who I credit as writing the most wonderful book of all time, once worked as a reservation clerk for Eastern Airlines and BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation)? Eventually, friends gave her a year’s salary so she could stop working in order to have time to write, and write she did.

Harper Lee’s birthday was April 28, and in the tradition of The Writer’s Almanac, she was honored by Garrison Keillor who told about this morsel of her life on Monday. So for my last post of April, hats off to Harper Lee who brought us To Kill a Mockingbird after her stint in the travel business.

Perhaps, one of the people who is checking your bags, or telling you that your flight is delayed, has a prize-winning novel percolating. With the way the airlines are going these days, I hope that if someone does have a novel in the works, he or she has a rich friend who can pay his or her salary for a year.

Lee won the Pultizer in 1961.