What audio book would you want if you were stuck in a hospital bed?
November 11, 2012 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Help me pick the perfect audio book to get my friend through hospital awfulness.

Very close friend very far away in very serious condition in a hospital.

He's already been there for 3 weeks and condition is not improving.I am starting to worry mostly for his state of mind. He is showing signs of being emotionally exhausted to the point of losing hope.

Obviously this isn't something I can fix with fiction. But I have limited agency here and know he would welcome a few audio books.

-he can't read but can listen to iPod so has to be short-ish novels good for listening.
-he's already listened to a bazillion TED talks and thousands of other podcasts
-2 authors I know he regards highly are Peter Carey and Lorrie Moore.
-book I know he liked was "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann
-my suggestion was Life of Pi, but he's already read that.
-I know he wouldn't want inspirational-type books..like Tuesdays with Morrie or that type of thing.

Looking for suggestions in particular that will really get his mind out of the hospital and possibly help bring hope back into the picture.
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Bill Bryson is good for folks in hospital; he's funny, and both the travel things and the historical stuff are interesting and educational.
posted by The otter lady at 8:44 AM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Two thoughts immediately jumped into my mind:

1) Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" - it's wonderful, it's read well, and it's unabridged.

2) Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin Series - this series made me realize how great audiobooks can be. It's fantastically performed storytelling. And if your friend likes the first book, there are many, many more books that can follow.

For the latter, it's either the Patrick Tull or the Simon Vance reading that's truly excellent. I'm sorry that I can't remember which is the better of the two off-hand.
posted by grudgebgon at 9:02 AM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Does he already know RadioLab? They do hour-long chunks of wittily produced, well-investigated, creatively interconnected non-fiction with a scientific bent. Lots of phone calls to original researchers, edited for clarity and humor. The show sometimes goes to dark existential places (including people lying in hospital beds in comas, in case you want to screen for that), but its after-effect is always fascinated wonder.

No continuity between episodes, but great stuff if you want him to listen for an hour at a time and then drift into a reverie while his body knits itself back together.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:14 AM on November 11, 2012

(metafilter's own) John Hodgman's That is All is now out as an unabridged 16.5 hour audiobook, available via iTunes. If absurdist end-times falsehoods, narrated by Hodgman, Dick Cavett, Rachel Maddow, Brooke Shields, Jon Hamm and others, is the sort of thing your friend might want to listen to, there's an awful lot of it to be enjoyed there.
posted by mumkin at 9:25 AM on November 11, 2012

I have two--both short novels:

1. The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson: It's one of the best things I read in 2011.

2. Mr. Toppit, by Charles Elton: I love the contracting and expanding scope of the novel, in addition to some very smart plotting.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:58 AM on November 11, 2012

I'm going to have to counter the That Is All recommendation... while I love Hodgman's audiobooks, I think maybe listening to a bunch of stuff about the apocalypse while stuck in a hospital bed in bad condition might... not be so great. Or maybe that's just what your friend needs! But be forewarned.
posted by whitneyarner at 10:09 AM on November 11, 2012

I know you asked for audio book suggestions, and you've gotten some good ones. I have another suggestion, based on my long stay in the hospital last year. I wasn't really able to concentrate well enough to read books and find that my mind tends to wander while listening, but I was able to watch many hours of good television using Netflix and my iphone. I watched Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, and a few other series. I really looked forward to each episode and even though they can be a bit soapy at times, watching OTHER people deal with problems did not make me feel bad about my own ongoing issues.
If he already has a smart phone or an ipad, a subscription to Netflix streaming is so cheap and good for more hours of entertainment than you could possibly use. There are all kinds of threads on Metafilter about good tv shows to watch on Netflix.
posted by jvilter at 10:53 AM on November 11, 2012

I've been enjoying How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell, both in the print and the audiobook form.
posted by Lexica at 11:13 AM on November 11, 2012

I recently (though not in hospital) enjoyed the audiobook of David Fry's The Liar.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:12 PM on November 11, 2012

It's the Tull version of the Patrick O'Brian books that's the outstanding one. The full series is quite hard to find on CD or Audible (last time I looked), especially HMS Surprise. There's a well-seeded torrent around but the same applies. Caveat downloador, naturally.
posted by cromagnon at 1:59 PM on November 11, 2012

From my partner:

Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel: S. J. Watson I don't know that it will give this person any hope about their own situation but it will certainly take them right out of the current moment. I was unable to put that book down.
posted by maxwelton at 2:05 PM on November 11, 2012

From your description, I'm reading a lot into the fact that he wouldn't like "Tuesday with Morrie" - which I really didn't like - so without regard to length or genre, I'm going to list some of the audiobooks that I like. Also, you will probably save a lot of money by checking for audiobooks at your local public library.

Always Looking Up - Michael J. Fox (inspirational and who doesn't love Michael J. Fox)
The Ancestor's Tale - Richard Dawkins (biology - super interesting)
Band of Brothers - Stephen E. Ambrose (history and good even if you've seen the HBO show)
The Blind Watchmaker - Richard Dawkins (biology)
Blink - Malcom Gladwell (social psychology / pop psychology - this one is quite long but good)
Bossypants - Tina Fey (funny)
Consider the Lobster - David Foster Wallace (interesting and sometimes funny in a weird kind of way)
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams (Dirk Gently is even better than Hitchhiker's Guide in my opinion)
The End of Faith - Sam Harris (atheism)
The Godfather - Mario Puzo (the classic mob book)
The Greatest Show on Earth - Richard Dawkins (biology)
Helmet for My Pillow - Robert Leckie (history - not as interesting as Band of Brothers, but I still liked it - They based part of the HBO show The Pacific on this book)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (the first in this series that I love)
The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (I liked both the BBC radio adaptation and the unabridged)
Holidays on Ice - David Sedaris (funny and seasonal)
JPod - Douglas Coupland (funny, but weird)
Kiss Me Like a Stranger - Gene Wilder (biographical)
Last Chance to See - Douglas Adams (biology)
The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul - Douglas Adams (Another Dirk Gently)
Lucky Man - Michael J. Fox (The first of his three biographical books)
Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris (funny anecdotes about living in France while learning French)
The Moral Landscape - Sam Harris (ethics - this is my favorite Sam Harris)
Mostly Harmless - Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide)
Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell (Short but more Malcom Gladwell goodness)
The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson (funny and super interesting)
Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide - A trilogy in 5 parts)
The Salmon of Doubt - Douglas Adams (This is great if you like Douglas Adams -- lots of incomplete short stories or beginnings of stories)
The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins (biology - a must read for the thinking person)
So Long and Thanks for All the Fish (Hitchhiker's Guide Series)
Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics (also highly recommend the podcast)
The Tipping Point - Malcom Gladwell (Another classic Gladwell)
posted by jeffmilner at 3:08 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

David Sedaris's audiobooks are all great - he read them himself. Plus they are all vignettes/essays so there is no long storyline to follow.
posted by radioamy at 5:10 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Liar is by Stephen Fry, and is excellent.

Patrick Tull reading the Aubrey/Maturing series is a joy. It's also 20 long books, so can keep a person occupied for quite a while.

Simon Vance is not as good with Aubrey/Maturin but is fantastic with the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson.

Finally, The audio versions of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman are great. They are full-cast recordings do they sound more like radio theatre than audio books.
posted by bluejayway at 7:38 PM on November 11, 2012

In my most recent question about audiobooks, several people strongly recommended Ready Player One, and that is indeed a great audiobook. One of its main characters is escaping a crummy daily existence, and in fact determinedly earning his way out of that poverty, via an online quest. If your friend likes the internet and video games, it is perfect.
posted by slidell at 9:49 PM on November 11, 2012

By the way, really check out the Audible reviews for a book. The narration makes a huge difference. A great novel can be an awful audiobook. Also, their rating system seems inflated, so whereas i am happy to watch a movie that got 3.4 stars on Netflix, I wouldn't choose an audiobook unless it has 4 stars or more on Audible.
posted by slidell at 9:54 PM on November 11, 2012

I've been dealing with some more minor health issues that have left me largely confined to a chair and having trouble sleeping for a couple of weeks. I've been (obsessively) listening to audiobooks. I find I can't concentrate on heavier stuff (1Q84) but Sherlock Holmes has been fitting the bill. I've listened to The Sign of Four (4 hrs) , The Hound of Baskervilles (6hr ), The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (11 hrs) and half of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. It works particularly well because it is broken into short chapter/stories so it is easy to put down.
My favorite has been B.J. Harrison's narration of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Stephen Fry's narration of The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favorite audiobooks of all time.
The Big Year by Mark Obmascik is also surprisingly entertaining and engaging.
posted by LittleMy at 8:21 AM on November 13, 2012

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