Need a jolt of Sinatra Speak? How about a little Rat Pack philosophy to get you through your day? "The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin' " by Bill Zehme is a bible of ring-a-ding lingo and nightclub etiquette even feminist chicks can view fondly from a 40-year distance. (Blackstone Audio, unabridged nonfiction read by Brian Emerson; four cassettes; six hours; $32.95 to buy, $9.95 to rent;  729-2665.)
It's all here: Sinatra on style and on how to treat the ladies ("You have to gift them"), his personal history (including a romantic rundown) and his rigid, macho code of ethics. It's just too bad Blackstone didn't find someone livelier to read Zehme's zesty, lighthearted writing.
Just turn a deaf ear to "Sinatra: A Tribute," a quickie released soon after Sinatra passed on to that big nightclub in the sky. This one was written and read by Geoffrey Giuliano, the man behind other, similarly cheesy bios of pop culture icons. (Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio, original audio material; two cassettes; two hours; $16.99).
Bordering on creepy, Giuliano sounds like a cross between a lounge lizard and a game show host. He gives us a cursory rundown on Sinatra's life before introducing bits of interviews with the singer's friends and distant relatives. The second tape consists mainly of an interview before the Nevada Gaming Commission on Feb. 20, 1981. Sinatra had applied for a license and was being grilled on his alleged Mafia connections.
Most of the interviews are dated and fuzzy with static. There are a few intriguing nuggets, but much of this information can be found elsewhere. Unless you are desperate to hear Sinatra speak for himself, leave this one on your bookstore's shelves.
Lorna Luft, Judy Garland's "other daughter" and Liza Minnelli's little sister, tells of her talented but addiction-riddled family in "Me and My Shadows." (Simon & Schuster; abridged autobiography read by the author; four cassettes; four hours and 30 minutes; $25).
Luft's prose is a little precious, though less so as she gets into the more harrowing aspects of life with a pill-popping mother. Actually, she deserves credit for not sinking her story with self-pity: Luft overcame a truly tragic childhood to become the chief caregiver in her household. She discusses her mother's addictions--and her own--honestly, but without embarrassing detail.
A stage and screen actress with a well-modulated voice, Luft is more emotionally compelling as a narrator than as a writer. Her tremulous description of her mother's funeral is heartbreaking, and one cannot miss the bitterness as she describes disloyal and dangerous sycophants.
Though this abridgment leaves out some family background, most of Luft's story remains intact. (The printed version, however, is peppered with family photographs as revealing as the text.)
My hopes were not high when I started "Still Me." I expected Christopher Reeve's audio memoir to be maudlin and depressing--and, in fact, he does sound frail and sad, his ventilator wheezing faintly in the background. But by the end of these tapes, his physical problems fade next to his spunky optimism. And his clear actor's diction and sense of timing remain undiminished. (Random House Audiobooks; abridged autobiography read by the author; two cassettes; three hours; $18.95.)
Reeve wrote this as both an autobiography and as an explanation of his paralysis, caused by a horseback riding accident in 1995. Once a man with no medical knowledge to speak of, he has become an encyclopedia of techniques and research. That resilience is one of the things that makes his story worthwhile, and it's a story he tells concisely, if a bit hygienically.
Many of the childhood memories included in the printed text were excised for the audio, which focuses on Reeve's injuries and his current life as a director and advocate for people with spinal cord injuries.
Rochelle O'Gorman Flynn reviews audio books every other Sunday. Next week: Dick Lochte on mysteries.