Just over 20 years ago, Robert Fulghum told us Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. His gentle wit and commonsense wisdom struck a chord, and that book, and six subsequent others, hit the bestseller lists big-time, its title becoming part of our language, used over and over again to attribute what's learned to everything from dogs to daytime TV. What on Earth Have I Done? Stories, Observations and Affirmations, which Fulghum reads in his very recognizable, amused and comforting baritone, is his latest foray into finding the uncommon in the common and into asking questions that prod us, good-naturedly, to consider who we are, where we've been and where we're going. He's traveling now, spending time in Moab, Utah, and in a village in Crete. This makes for many good stories and makes him even more aware of small things with big meanings. Fulghum's touch is light; his humility and humor season all the bits, pieces and commentaries he's chosen to share with us. Keep this audio in mind when you make your holiday gift lists it's a natural.

What do you get when you cross well-done chick lit with Contemporary Saudi Society 101? You get The Girls of Riyadh, Rajaa Alsanea's debut novel, an instant super-selling sensation when it was released in Arabic and banned in her homeland, Saudi Arabia. Each Friday afternoon, an unknown source sends an e-mail to a wildly growing Internet audience, revealing the stories of her four girlfriends in Riyadh as they search for love and romance in their prim, prying, male-dominated world. The girls are members of society's velvet class, a Riyadh elite whose behavior is usually kept well hidden from all but themselves. Sex in the City it's not these wealthy, educated 20-somethings may yearn for liberation Western-style, but they settle for arranged marriages, courting by cell phone (one carries on a two-year phone-affair without seeing the object of her affection in the flesh) and the always hovering possibility that even if Mr. Right turns up, his mother can turn them down. This Saudi soap opera is fascinating fun, a chance to get under the abbayah (the full-length black covering women must wear in public) and look at life today in a strongly traditional Islamic country. Kate Reading's performance is fabulous as always.

When Dave Robicheaux's Vietnam nightmares recur, he tells himself that he will never again have to witness the widescale suffering of innocent civilians, nor the betrayal and abandonment of our countrymen when they need us most. In The Tin Roof Blowdown, James Lee Burke's 16th, best yet Dave Robicheaux novel, Dave's deep in that horror again as he searches the devastation of post-Katrina New Orleans for two serial rapists, the vigilante who may have shot one of them and for his dear friend Jude LeBlanc, a morphine-addicted priest. Burke has conjured up Southern Louisiana in previous books, but never as vividly and with so much brokenhearted love as here; you're in the midst of flooded, lawless chaos; you see the bodies, smell the stink, feel the heat and helplessness, agonize with Dave as he tries to fight injustice and curb his own rage at the government that let his beloved country down. And you're immersed in gripping, intricately tangled subplots, in the greed and evil that surfaced along with the heroism and humanity. Will Patton, Burke's audio interpreter par excellence, offers us another pitch-perfect performance.

To mark the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac's iconic Beat classic, don't miss the audio presentation of On the Road performed by Matt Dillon.

comments powered by Disqus