Arts & Entertainment

Summer Listening: Audio books

Stephen FryTiger WoodsBBCHaruki Murakami

This summer, as you're taking that long road trip or lying out on the surface of your choice — sandy beach, hammock, lounge chair — you can keep up on your reading without ever cracking open a book. Let your ears do the work in the heat.

René Auberjonois provides a thrilling rendering of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's "Fever Dream" (Hachette: $44.98) — the tale of a special agent involved in a cold case that hits very close to home — while C.J. Critt has enough smart-alecky attitude to give life to Janet Evanovich's "Hero at Large" (HarperAudio: $14.99), a funny story about how love can begin with a broken arm. There's also Tiger Woods himself discussing "How I Play Golf" (Hachette: $17.98), though I'd probably have added "from the center of a tabloid whirlwind" to that title. You can find plenty of other offerings at HarperAudio (http://www.harpercollins.com), Hachette (http://www.hachettebookgroup.com) or MacMillan (http://us.macmillan.com).

Not all summer listening has to be light or escapist: BBC Audio's (http://www.bbcaudiobooksamerica.com) selections include Jennifer Egan's novel about rock 'n' roll and idealism, "A Visit from the Goon Squad" ($29.95), while Stephen Fry continues his funny explorations of language in "Fry's English Delight: Series Two" ($24.95). The two I'm looking forward to listening to this summer come from Naxos (http://www.naxosaudiobooks.com): Haruki Murakami's "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" ($62.98) and "Francesco Petrarch" ($14.98). Murakami's fourth novel patches together two seemingly unrelated stories — a man on a strange quest within a vague bureaucracy, and another encountering a surreal town in a pastoral landscape. Naxos has done a smart thing, giving each strand to a different speaker so that each has its own character and tone.

Tone is just right in Anton Lesser's performance of Petrarch's love sonnets, as is the choice of Joseph Auslander's beautiful 1932 translation. Some readers are bound to roll their eyes. You want me to listen to Petrarch on summer vacation? A 14th century Italian poet? Wait, I say, just imagine this scene: A smitten youth, poolside, spies his own Laura emerging from the resort's jacuzzi. As the suntan lotion drips into his eyes, a voice intones in his ears:

Tears, bitter tears, fall in a bitter rain,

And my heart trembles with a storm of sighs

When on your beauty bend my burning eyes,

For whose sole sake the world seems flat and vain.

That's really not so out of place, is it?

Owchar is deputy books editor of The Times.

nick.owchar@latimes.com

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