Lauren Martino: Welcome to Library Matters, I am Lauren Martino and I am here with my co-host David Payne.
David Payne: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And today we have a special episode on travel. I am here today with Assistant Director for Facilities and ADA Rita Gale.
Rita Gale: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And director of marketing for Visit Montgomery Cory Van Horn.
Cory Van Horn: Hi there, thank you for having me.
Lauren: So Rita is an avid traveler and has been to many places particularly national parks and soon she will be retiring and have lots and lots of time for new adventures. And Cory Van Horn is an authority on travel and particularly in our area and knows a lot about the tourism spots in Montgomery County that you really should know about, is that about accurate?
Cory: That’s pretty accurate, it is a choose your own adventure experience here at Montgomery County.
Lauren: Alright. So Rita, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and some of your traveling adventures?
Rita: Sure, I am a resident obviously of Maryland, Montgomery County, I live in Rockville. And I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. I got interested in actually traveling specifically to the national parks because I went to on a cruise to Alaska and visited Denali National Park which is one of the largest national parks in the country and that got me hooked on traveling in national parks. So I have visited many of the national parks. I will be taking a trip in September to the Utah parks which means that I will be visiting Bryce which is my favorite park in all the world. The Zion which I have only spent a day in and then Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef and will end in Monument Valley where we will see the Mittens and if we are there at the right time, we might see one reflected on the other.
David: Is that an organized tour or do you go individually and roam around?
Rita: No I go with my sister, she and I travel together and usually I plan the trips and we drive. So we don’t generally take tours.
Lauren: Is planning trips generally easier or harder than what you do from day to day, it sounds like you probably have a lot of skills that would transfer?
Rita: Well I would say that that is very true. Yes, actually planning is for me when I was working and am working, it is actually the hardest part is finding the time to do it, but I really enjoy planning and we obviously have great resources which we will be talking about shortly. And obviously the website, the national parks, service, etc., they are just great tools to use to actually plan trips to particularly national parks.
Lauren: What is it about National Parks that attracts you?
Rita: Well for me because I work long hours; going to a national park is partly just the serenity of being out in nature. And one of the great things for me for a national park, I don’t know that this is true for everybody is that once you go into a national park your cell phone doesn’t work, so literally you are sort of out there by yourself, you don’t hear what’s happening in the news, so literally you are disconnected and it is just great because nobody is walking around with their cell phones looking at things they are actually looking at nature, so.
Lauren: That’s amazing I didn’t know.
Rita: I find that very relaxing and I love seeing the variety of scenery that this country has in terms of the different kinds of national parks as well. So it’s a great experience to have with somebody else. I think it is great to travel with somebody when you are traveling to the national parks as well.
David: So it’s almost like a natural digital detox.
Rita: Yes, you are correct yes.
Lauren: Have you been to them all yet or are you trying to see them all?
Rita: No and there are more than gosh a 100 national parks. And I know that there are many people who actually make that their lives work to actually visit them all, I am just trying to get around to enough of them while I am still able to be mobile and everything to enjoy them. So I have visited mostly national parks on the west coast.
David: Well Cory from national parks to Visit Montgomery, you are making history today as our very first non-MCPL guest.
Cory: Wow, I feel so honored.
David: Representing Visit Montgomery, so tell us a bit about Visit Montgomery certainly the website is very well designed and informative. Do you have a tourism office, how are you set up, how do you work and basically what is --?
Cory: What is Visit Montgomery? Visit Montgomery is the official tourism office, tourism, it’ in the industry it’s known as a Destination Marketing Organization. So we are a non profit organization that our primary goal and mission is to bring visitors to Montgomery County and to celebrate all the amazing attractions and happenings that are going on around Montgomery County. We do have a tourism office we are actually co-sharing office suite with Economic Development and also Worksource Montgomery. So it is a lot of fun to have three different organizations, we all have some missions and our passion for Montgomery County, but have different you know audience per se. And it is just a lot of fun you know to kind of be creative with all them.
Lauren: So Cory there is a lot of small business owners in this area who kind of thrive off of individual restaurants and things, what would you be able to say to anybody with a business that would be of interest to tourists, some resources you have to promote what they do?
Cory: So small businesses have various opportunities, they can buy into a partnership program with us. And essentially what it does is it provides them with marketing expertise and promotional opportunities, networking events throughout the year. Hotels buy into the program as well because they want to connect with various groups and marketing efforts and it is a way to get listed in our website, be promoted through our social media channels and things like that. We find that particularly with small businesses, smaller attractions, restaurants of those types, they really find value in what we offer because not only are we providing support and services to a unique set of audience members, visitors, people who are not residents per se, but also because they have small to no marketing teams themselves and so they kind of view us as an extension of their marketing efforts.
David: So Rita as you head west to celebrate your retirement are there any particular resources that you are using to plan to journey and in addition to print travel guides are there any library resources that you might recommend for travel planning?
Rita: Well one of the things that I do for the national parks is I always visit the national park site. We also have travel guides in our collection and I usually check to see if the national park that I am interested has Informers guide, a Fodor’s guide, we also have Moon Handbooks as one of our guides or Lonely Planet. And there are standards for all of the national parks that I will look at for example Fodor’s is the complete guide to the national park of the west and there is also the geographic guide to national parks which has information about all of the parks in it.
In terms of electronics in addition to the website we have obviously electronic sources available through the Gale Virtual Reference Library. I found one this weekend when I was looking, when I was preparing for this that’s called DK Eyewitness Guides and Rough Guides which actually has information about various places to travel. And there are also e-Magazine is available on travel through RBdigital including Conde Nast Traveller, Lonely Planet Travel, and National Geographic Traveler; so we have tons of resources on travel.
David: There you have it, so lots of good resources on travel with MCPL.
Lauren: Do you have a favorite go to, for planning?
Rita: Well because we have a variety of different kinds of travel guides, I would probably mostly use the website, the national park website, but I do try to find at least one travel guide that focuses on a specific national park and Fodors, Informers, and Moon tend to do that more than the others. So I wouldn’t say I have one specific one because not all of those resources do all of the national parks.
David: And a sort of follow-up question for actually, possibly for you both, there are so many different publishers of travel guides and they all have their own style, what are the elements that would make up a perfect travel guide for you both?
Rita: Well for me usually I am going to a location that I haven’t been to before, so for me a travel guide that is all inclusive, that talks about okay what is the nearest airport that I fly into to get there, you know how do you get to the park, so is there rail travel or is it car travel. And then in national park what are the things to be seen there, is there lodging, some of the national parks have lodging within the park, some of them don’t. And quite a few the Frommers, Fodors do that do, but some of the guides that are out there are more about the experience of being in the park that they are about individuals who have been to a park and who talk about their experience. And I like to do that myself to actually have the experience so I am more about literally okay give me the facts so that I can plan the trip.
Lauren: You don’t want Bill Bryson’s take on it, before you go.
Cory: Which is interesting because I actually take an opposite stance on that where I look towards for planning and logistics more of the digital resources, because things change so quickly you know by the time a book gets printed, a restaurant could close or an attraction could be opened and things like that. I really look towards memoir as a way of being inspired by a location and it helps in terms of kind of seeing through their eyes and then being inspired to have similar, if not new experiences myself.
David: Great, thank you.
Lauren: So Cory I don’t know if there are a lot of memoirs about places in Montgomery County, but what are some of the most popular destinations right here that you would like to highlight?
Cory: In terms of attractions here at Montgomery County there are so many, I have mentioned this earlier in chatting that we really are a truly a choose your own adventure experience where you can have an downtown urban experience and then have a completely different up county, very country experience within 10 minutes, it’s really amazing. Our biggest attraction that locals don’t fully you know, know I think, but then also they know about it, but they don’t know is we have 93,000 acre Ag reserve. And not many people in the country can say that that we have that kind of resource and reserve. So people can go and go to Butler’s Orchard and pick your own fruits and they have various festivals throughout the year or go to Rocklands Farm and enjoy a wonderful glass of wine in the country or Waredaca and have a beautiful experience on a horse farm and drink some beer you know freshly brewed beer which is awesome, but then go down to Bethesda or the new Pike & Rose and have a very downtown urban experience all within the same day, so it’s amazing.
And then also it’s a very historic area our proximity to DC there is a lot of history involved with that. The C&O Canal, the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center which is currently under renovation right now, the center itself isn’t, but the canal is. And so I actually visited recently and it was all tore up, so we will have to revisit that one when it is finished, but I am sure it is going to be amazing. And then interesting enough in terms of the canal, you can actually stay, I don’t know if you know this you can actually stay in a lockhouse which is really cool. So there are several lockhouses I believe, there is eight or nine along the canal that are renovated within the period when the lockhouse was built, so to speak. So some of them are fairly primitive where there isn’t running water so some of them there are running water in facilities. And so it’s just a great way to experience history in a different way.
Lauren: Do they still have those boats that are like drawn by the donkeys?
Cory: They do actually and the main one here in the county is actually at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, they are not running it this year because of the refurbishment of the canal, but it is a very popular experience. I spoke with a park ranger and they said that last year we had more visitors for the canal than the Grand Canyon, so it’s super popular.
David: So Cory, this is a two part question from your marketing work, what are the trends that you are seeing in terms of travel, holidaying, leisure time and so on that help direct your marketing efforts. And secondly, can you give us a brief snap shot of the visitors that come to Montgomery County whether they come from what sort of profile would you give to them?
Cory: Absolutely, I have worked in travel marketing my whole career and the first thing that you do is you want to look at what the destination offers. And in this particular case again our proximity to DC and the fact that we have a Metro system that runs right through the county and connects you right into DC that’s a big factor and people are choosing Montgomery County to come visit, but what we are finding is that people tend to plan a trip to Washington DC, look around, they are a little nervous about the high energy that DC has, the big city experience so to speak.
Lauren: That’s one way of putting it.
Cory: And they are looking for a place that’s comfortable. And all the research that we do in terms of understanding our visitors that’s what they look for is, they look for a comfortable experience. So we find that visitors come here, they feel comfortable, you know they see the value and what Montgomery County offers and then they do the day trips into DC, they do all the fun stuffs and then once the Smithsonian close at 5 or 5:30, they come back here and have a good time, so it’s great.
In terms of trends, it’s culinary experiences anything where an experience relates to the localness of the community, food is the ultimate local experience, because it ties to memory you know it’s very relatable, it’s almost the universal language if you will. And that’s the beauty of Montgomery County is we are so diverse, we have over 1000 different restaurants and it is a great way to get that experience along the way. Weekend getaways is very popular, particularly people who are located within a three to four hour driving radius of Montgomery County so that takes you as far out as Pittsburgh up to New York City down to Richmond and then there is the direct flights from the three major airports we are perfectly positioned between PWI, Dallas and Reagan and those direct flights are coming out from Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, so it is a great easy weekend getaway experience.
David: Great, thank you.
Lauren: Rita do you look for these foods, for these memory when you are out, choosing your destination or is there something else that allows you to choose one national park over another, one destination over another?
Rita: Well I will say that in terms of food in the national parks, it is a little limited, because usually the national parks have a lodge and it has a restaurant in it. So I will say that Bryce which we are going to visit in September is one of the lodge there and the restaurant that they have there had some of the best food that I ever ate in a national park.
Lauren: Where is Bryce?
Rita: So Bryce is probably about 3 hours from Las Vegas in Utah. And it’s a park that you go down into that has what they call hoodoos which are spires made out of red sandstones so they are spectacular in the sunlight. And obviously it is a walking park or hiking park, but some of the parks are more either looking up in the case of Bryce you are looking down. But in terms of other food experiences because I do the national parks mostly, I have to say I don’t remember too much about other food experiences with them so.
David: That might say a lot.
Lauren: But is there is a reason you would choose one park over another or what do you look for when you are choosing a destination?
Rita: Well because I am primarily, I have to say that most of my vacations have been to the national parks, because I really love the concept of the national parks and I have already talked about you know the solitude, the fact that you can enjoy nature that you can actually have an experience, you can enjoy with somebody else. In terms of the national parks, we have gone mostly to the ones on the West Coast because of the scenery, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore we have been to. And so I don’t necessarily have a specific criteria for the national parks other than I am usually looking for, I happen to like mountain, valleys, wild flowers, that sort of thing, so nothing against the everglades, but that is not a park that I actually decided to go to, but I have been to certainly to Charleston and Fort Sumter, so for me it’s just the variation also that the national parks bring. So I will probably see many of them, but not necessarily all of them.
Lauren: Cory you also specialize in culinary tourism, is that correct?
Cory: It’s true, believe it or not I actually have a master’s degree in that yeah, so for me eating is a research.
Lauren: Is that really a fun degree to get?
Cory: It was absolutely, most of my friends are in software or in accounting and we are all getting our graduate degrees kind of around the same time and you know I just remember having conversations with them about, “Oh I have to do all these projects and you know what project are you doing?” I am like, “Well I have to eat at four different barbeque restaurants and write a paper on it,” it was a lot of fun so. My master’s degree is from Chatham University based in Pittsburgh and its part of their Falk School of Sustainability. And so it is a Masters in Food Studies and my research focus was culinary Tourism and Sustainable Community Development is what I focused on. So I actually have the credentials to eat. A big part of that was tourism development really looking and understanding what a community has to offer and developed either tours around it or various tourist attractions, so it was a lot of fun along the way.
Lauren: And what, do you have any special culinary experiences in Montgomery County you would like to share or think our audience should know about?
Cory: Well I think the brewery and winery scene here is really starting to flourish and it’s a very unique way to experience, it’s more than just you know drinking a beer, it’s the whole experience like Waredaca Brewing Company being on a horse farm and gathering together. And what is really interesting to me is, it is not just for adults like these are family type areas where you can bring your kids and you can have a picnic and just have a good time and just hang out. Those are very memorable, my favorite restaurant so far is I am fan of you know after work having a beverage and having appetizers, so I tend to go like Clyde’s at Tower Oaks Lodge.
Lauren: I love Clyde’s.
Cory: Yeah it’s a lot of fun. I have a regular go to server that I always happen to sit in their section, I don’t know if his real name is Phil, but I call him Phil, so it’s a lot of fun.
Lauren: Shout out to Phil.
Cory: Philip you are going to make my martinis, oh it’s a lot of fun. And all the various festivals that happen in downtown Silver Spring, the various food festivals, the Taste of Wheaton is a great memorable experience, so it is a lot of fun.
Lauren: And now a brief message about MCPL services and resources.
Lisa Navidi: Looking for a way to use that new Kindle or to check out a book without having to leave the house, look no further than MCPL’s e-books. All you need is a library card and you can read on your e-Reader, tablet, smart phone or a computer; the latest bestsellers, old classics, kids books, how-to manuals, travel guides and much more are available at the touch of your finger tips. And after three weeks they return themselves without you having to lift a finger. If you need help getting started ask one of our helpful librarians. We guarantee you will be enormously elated, you can find a link to MCPL’s e-book collections in this episode’s show notes.
Lauren: And now back to our program.
David: So Rita back to MCPL, can you tell us about some of the resources MCPL has for the traveler who might want to learn a language?
Rita: Certainly, so I am going to tell you what I know from our website and what I have learned having worked here. So we have books in nine world languages that include Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Farsi, Amharic, Russian, French and Bengali. We have three online resources Mango Languages, Muzzy Online and Rosetta Stone. And we have Conversation Clubs that we offer in a variety of different libraries in English, French, and Spanish and we have language learning videos from annenbergfoundationlearner.org. So those are our resources that the library system offers.
Lauren: So you mentioned some of the food festivals around in the area, do you have any other events that take place in Montgomery County that you really feel everyone should know about?
Cory: So in terms of events, both residents and visitors actually end going to our website, visitmontgomery.com, it’s the events pages are by far our most popular pages on our website. So it has really become one of our top resources for those types of events. Some of the popular events that are going one throughout the county, throughout the summer, there is a farm tour and harvest sale that happens throughout the county.
Lauren: Farm tour; what does that entail? What do you get on a farm tour?
Cory: So it is a self-guided tour where there are various farms that participate throughout the Ag reserve and you can actually go to our website and check it out. We have a blog post about it where you can visit various farms and you know learn about the tour, you know learn about the farm itself and purchase our products and all that fun stuff, but really the ultimate goal is to learn a little bit more about the Ag reserve and what the offerings are there. As I mentioned, the Taste of Wheaton is another event that is happening in July and also in June the Tiger Woods Foundation is having the Quicken Loans National Golf Tournament here at the end of June. So that is actually a very popular event that is happening here in the county, it is a great opportunity for people that like golf. I am not a golfer myself, but I would certainly have a blast, just hanging out and watching other people golf.
Lauren: Can you explain to us a little bit, you have mentioned this Ag reserve a few times, I am not quite sure what an Ag reserve is, can you tell us a little more about that?
Cory: Absolutely, people, you can actually visit the Office of Agriculture their website, they do a great description and explanation of what the Ag reserve is. Essentially what it’s, is 93,000 acres that’s reserved solely for agricultural use. So there are parameters around the reserve that limit the amount of development that occurs, one parameter is that you can only have one house or structure per 25 acres. And so the whole goal of it was that back in the day development was happening so quickly that we were very concerned about having all of our land used up for development. And so the county decided to reserve pretty much most of up county for agricultural use, so that way we still have that open space.
Lauren: So that’s why we still have all that farm land there, that makes a lot of sense. So this is a question for both of you, do you have any more favorite vacation destinations, you haven’t already planned Rita, because I know you have got a lot planned, that are still on your Bucket List that you are dying to experience?
Cory: I am actually, I am an avid traveler, I mean I feel that I am the type of person that basically turns my passion for food and travel into a job and so that’s actually been a lot of fun. So I spent a lot of time in the country exploring, I haven’t been to as many national parks as I want to so I am actually going to visit those resources that you just recommended. So I actually am kind of putting my focus more towards the international ground in terms of visiting. So I have been to Africa and explored Africa, but I want to check out South America, Brazil, I want to go to Iceland, Ireland, those are the places that I want to visit, right now they are top of my list. And at some point I will probably end up visiting Australia, but that is a long haul, that’s quite the commitment.
Cory: But on a local level I recently moved to Montgomery County, so I moved from Pittsburgh to Montgomery County back in September. And so it’s actually been fun to visit the county as a tourist, even though I market it, it has been fun.
Lauren: Do you have any staycation ideas besides the ones you have mentioned for those of us who aren’t going anywhere?
Cory: So if you consider yourself a shopaholic you can spend the day up in Clarksburg Premium Outlets.
Lauren: Rita is not in.
Cory: Oh Clarksburg Premium Outlets.
David: Yes yes.
Lauren: I am thinking, I keep driving past it, but I never actually stopped, it’s always where we go like on the way to Sugarloaf or whatever it is out there.
David: You can’t miss it.
Cory: Yeah you can’t miss it. I am a fan of bike riding so riding along the Capital Crescent Trail is actually a lot of fun and it’s just believe it or not I know this is probably going to surprise you, but I actually enjoy riding the Metro.
Lauren: I do too.
Cory: And you can actually do a pretty cool staycation just by riding the Metro and that’s what is so interesting and even here where we are located, you know where we recording this in Rockville, there is a Metro station just a 10 minute walk away, you can hop down and just randomly get off at a stop and --.
David: And it is a great way of seeing the very diverse parts of the area I am thinking.
Cory: Absolutely it really is. And then I also love hoping on the Metro and going in to DC for the day it’s a lot of fun and then I come back out here.
Lauren: We visited when I was five and the Metro was like the standout part of the trip besides the heat and the fact that we didn’t get to see the White House, the train was definitely what sticks with me from when I was five.
Lauren: How about you Rita is there any place that’s not a national park that you were dying to go to?
Rita: Well I have had the good fortune to go to Hawaii and I would like to go back again. We went to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park at that point and of course that is currently closed and Kīlauea is erupting, so we will have to wait to go back for that to settle. I have never done a Fall Color Tour and I have always wanted to do that, I haven’t been able to figure out exactly how to time it so that you are actually seeing the colors. And years and years ago I went to Disney World and I would like to go back I mean --.
Lauren: Disney World.
Rita: I am just, I guess a kid at heart so, but Epcot Center that kind of peace of Disney World. One thing that I do want to mention in terms of travel when you mentioned the Metro, I think that one of the things that people here forget in terms of staycations is that the museums down in Washington DC are all free and when you go anyplace else in the country, usually if you go to a museum you have to pay to go to it. And I think that is one of the important things to remember about this area that you actually can stay in this area and you can do it fairly inexpensively because most of the museums around here don’t charge large amounts of money to get into them.
Lauren: Not even the zoo charges, that just -- my mind.
Rita: Yes, yes.
David: And even actually a lot of the museum in Montgomery County they are either free or very, very low cost. You know the only one that I am really familiar with the charges is the National Capital Trolley Museum and it’s what like $4 or something --, and it’s a cute museum.
Lauren: Well worth your $4.
David: It’s well worth your time.
Cory: It has some great value there.
Lauren: Okay so Rita as you head off into the sunset into the great west and national parks, what are you going to miss most about working at MCPL?
Rita: Well I would say there are several things that I have loved working with a variety of people that I have had a chance to work with in terms of our staff and the branches, our managers. I have had the good fortune to have done many different things in my life here in Montgomery County to have a wide variety of experiences. I would say that the last 10 years working facilities has been my greatest joy, I have really loved doing the work for on our full scale renovations which were Gaithersburg and Olney, on the new construction that we did was Silver Spring and now with Wheaton. And you know my personal passion it is the Refresh Projects that we have introduced where we have actually been able to refurbish, refresh branches much faster than had we put them into the normal renovation cycles. So that has given me an opportunity to not only learn about design and construction, but you know to do the fun things like picking out carpet colors and paint colors. And you know the satisfaction of also delivering buildings to the community where the community really appreciates our facilities. Montgomery County has got individuals of our communities really loves libraries and our refresh projects were meant to be six month closers and even for six months our customers are really, from the day we close to the day we open, they are wanting to know when are we going to open again. And I think that is terrific and we certainly appreciate it a lot and it has been a great joy to work with the community that loves libraries that much.
Lauren: So Rita you have been involved in a lot of refreshes, a lot of new libraries, is there something you want to tell Cory about something you have done that makes Montgomery Library a destination that he should be telling his customers about?
Rita: Well I would say that our libraries are destinations simply because each one of them is very individualistic and very different. Probably one of my favorite renovation facilities is the Olney Library which really calls to people from the road. When we built that facility the community said that nobody could find that library because it was set back from the road. And so when we did that renovation the architect actually pulled that building to the road. And so it has a glass front. So the question was okay what is going to activate that, what’s going to make people see that building and I said, “Put the children’s room there because there is always something happening in the children’s room” and I can say that about most of our libraries, you know I have often thought that we should have a standard design for our facilities just like grocery stores do, but that has never happened with any of our buildings each of them are individualistic and in that respect they are unique experiences. And you have a variety of resources that you can see and we have branches that have painting displays, you know other kinds of displays. So there is a great variety of things that you can see in any of our facilities.
Cory: Well it is actually true, I couldn’t agree more in terms of libraries. I mean when I travel 9 times out of 10 I end up going to even just a bookstore, right, just to check it out. And I feel libraries are so much more than just the book right, it’s a community space, it’s a third place, if you will where you have a chance. Especially people travelers who are looking for a local experience or they want to meet with the locals, the place to be is in the library you really get to experience what a local life is like.
David: So we usually close each episode by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are currently reading, perhaps something other than the travel guide, so I will start with you Rita.
Rita: Well as I have said I am retiring so I can’t read because literally I don’t have the time, but what I will tell you is I have a couple of books that I am anxious to read, one is Madeleine L'Engle' Wrinkle in Time because of the movie that just has come out which is a fabulous movie and as a result of that I want to go back to actually re-read that book, which I read when I was in high school. So I want to see whether or not it is still resonates with me. I just saw Camelot at the Shakespeare Theatre over the weekend and so T.H. White’s Once and Future King is a huge book, but I thought and I think I would like to go back and read that as well. And then years ago I saw Wicked at the National Theatre and Gregory Maguire has a series of books on that theme and so that’s one of the other ones that I want to read.
Lauren: Happy reading Rita, you have earned it.
David: How about you Cory?
Cory: For me my go to a book as I said before I tend to lean on the memoir particular food memoir is Blood Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, it is by far my favorite go to book, she is such a beautiful writer based in New York. And so that right now actually what I am reading is David Sedaris’s new book Calypso, it is really good, a little different than what he has written in the past, but that’s the top of my list. And believe it or not you will actually probably see me more in the periodical section than you would in the book section actually. I read a lot of magazines, Afar Magazine is high on my list, I read Bethesda Magazine actually quite a bit, because it’s a great way to just know what is happening in the area. You know the Condé Nast Traveller all those type, you know Saveur, got to get my recipes. So that’s probably where you will see me the most.
David: Well Rita and Cory thank you very much for sharing your travel interest with us, it has been great having you. And we have certainly learnt a lot today and wish you happy travels.
Rita: Thank you very much.
Cory: Thank you so much.
David: Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Podcast on the new Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcast. Also please review and rate us on our Apple podcast, we love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.
Summary: Retiring MCPL Assistant Director Rita Gale and Visit Montgomery Marketing Director Cory Van Horn talk about travel and tourism. Rita shares her enthusiasm for America's National Parks and highlights MCPL's travel resources. Cory discusses the incredibly diverse array things to do and see right here in Montgomery County, from the vibrant energy and restaurants of urban centers like Silver Spring and Bethesda Row, to the history and beauty of the C & O Canal. Looking for a brewery on a horse farm? Yeah, we've got one of those. You'll find years worth of local and national travel ideas in this episode.
Recording Date: June 6, 2018
Guests: Rita Gale is MCPL's Assistant Director for Facilities and ADA. She has been with MCPL for over 30 years and will soon be retiring. Cory Van Horn is the Director of Marketing for Visit Montgomery, the official Conference and Visitors bureau of Montgomery County, MD.
Featured MCPL Resource: E-books. Customer can download popular fiction and non-fiction titles from two e-book collections, cloudLibrary and Maryland's Digital eLibrary Consortium (Overdrive). Our Gale Virtual Reference Library includes DK Eyewitness Travel and Pocket Rough Guides that you can read in your browser. See our E-Library Page for a complete list of MCPL e-book collections.
What Our Guests Are Reading (or Will Be Once Their Retire!):
Cory Van Horn: Calypso by David Sedaris. Cory also loves the book Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton. He can often be found among the magazines reading Afar, Bethesda, Conde Nast Traveler (available through the RBDigital e-magazine collection), and Saveur.
MCPL Resources Mentioned During this Episode:
Fodor's The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West by Shelley Arenas, et al.
Guide to the National Parks of the United States (various editions)
RBDigital: Travel magazines available through this online e-magazine collection include Backpacker, Conde Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet Traveler, and National Geographic Traveler.
Destinations Near and Far Mentioned During This Episode:
(Destinations in or near Montgomery County are marked local)
Bethesda Row (local)
Butler's Orchard (local)
C & O Canal (local)
Canal Quarters (local) - Spend a night in a C & O Canal lockhouse.
Capital Crescent Trail (local)
Clarksburg Premium Outlets (local)
Clydes at Tower Oaks Lodge (local)
Metrorail, AKA the Metro (local)
Montgomery County Farm Tour (local): Saturday, 7/28 - 7/29
National Trolley Museum (local)
Pike and Rose (local)
Taste of Wheaton (local)
Waredaca Brewing Company (local)
Other Items of Interest:
Bill Bryson: Well regarded humorous travel writer.
Lauren Martino: Hello. Welcome to Library Matters. My name is Lauren Martino and I’m here with a wonderful group of library staff who are crazy about audiobooks. With me today is Vincent Mui – hi, Vincent.
Vincent Mui: Hello.
Lauren Martino: And Barbara Shansby. Welcome to the show, Barbara.
Barbara Shansby: Thank you
Lauren Martino: And Maranda Schoppert.
Maranda Schoppert: Hi, guys.
Lauren Martino: Thank you so much for coming. So I’m going to start with Barbara. Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start listening to audiobooks and like how frequent an audiobook listener are you.
Barbara Shansby: Well, I figured I’ve probably been listening to audiobooks for close to 30 years. I started when they were books on tape, literal cassette tapes that you put in the machine and push the play button, and rewind, and the whole thing. I got kind of hooked because a friend had suggested to me when I needed dental work to listen to music and I thought, “Well, I’m not so much a music person, but I love reading, so maybe if I listen to a book on tape that would distract me enough from the dental torture that I would be okay, and it was great. And I was completely hooked. And now, I always have a book in my car to listen to. I probably listen to about four or five, six a year or something like that. It takes me a long time because I don’t drive that much, and that’s the primary time I listened to but –
Lauren Martino: Or go to the dentist that much.
Barbara Shansby: Right. I’m thinking this. I’m finished with that for now. But I really do enjoy them. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to read more and to do it in a kind of a different way.
Lauren Martino: Thanks, Barbara. How about you, Vincent, what gets you into audiobooks?
Vincent Mui: So, at one of my previous jobs, I had a long commute, it was maybe an hour and a half in the afternoons, 45 minutes in the morning, and I was going a bit crazy listening to the radio because you can only handle so much of the same personality day in and day out.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: So, I started listening and then I go through phases between podcast, audiobooks, music, but more recently when I started at the library in June this year, I admittedly did not have a library card until I started because I didn’t see a reason to at the time, but now I see all the resources available to me. And my wife being a librarian gave me a really hard time about not having a library card to the –
Lauren Martino: As she should, yes.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah.
Vincent Mui: So I regret my decision, but I’ve been listening to many, many books over the past year and I’ve – it’s been incorporated into my routine actually. Besides my driving, I listen to it while I’m cooking or doing yard work or at the gym as well.
Lauren Martino: Just to clarify a little bit, Vincent’s a graphic designer so that’s why he can be excused for not having a library card; although, being married to a librarian, Vincent, really?
Vincent Mui: I found it very ironic.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, yeah, but we’re glad you have one now.
Vincent Mui: Yes.
Lauren Martino: You’ve discovered the lovely audiobooks available to you now. How about you, Maranda?
Maranda Schoppert: Well, I’m a little bit like Barbara. I don’t listen to music. I only listen to my audiobooks in the car, like you said, cooking, Vincent. I probably go for go through about 1 a week, depending on how long they are. I’m in the middle of a 32-hour one right now and that’s not going to be done in a week.
Vincent Mui: Goodness.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Maranda Schoppert: But just like you guys, I sort of started with listening to audiobooks when I started commuting and that was it, I’m involved. Audiobooks and me, we’re involved now.
Lauren Martino: Where you’re a thing.
Maranda Schoppert: Yup.
Lauren Martino: So, Maranda, what are qualities that you look for in an audiobook? What makes it something you’re going to choose even if, oh, it’s 32 hours? Wow. Apparently, length is not a – not a matter to turn –
Maranda Schoppert: Nope. Life doesn’t deter me. I listen to the whole Outlander series on audio. And, goodness, that is a long one. For me, the performer is definitely the most important. They need to be able to bring the book to life without trying too hard.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Maranda Schoppert: You know, there’s been a couple of audiobooks where you just, you know, that voice isn’t working. It isn’t working for you. But one of the important things also for me is sound quality. I have a really hard time when the volume in the audiobooks go up and down. The one I’m current currently listening to right now, I have to – depending on the narrator – I have to turn the volume up or turn the volume down. All of a sudden, someone’s screaming at me so –
Lauren Martino: Oh, that’s no good.
Maranda Schoppert: No.
Lauren Martino: So, Vincent, what do you look for when choosing an audiobook?
Vincent Mui: When looking for an audiobook, the story is really important to me. In the beginning of the year – I’m sorry, the beginning of when I first started here, I was more focused on self-improvement, self-help books, but then I decided to change towards more sequential books where – oh, well, I’m sorry, like young adult novels. For example, I guess, the Percy Jackson series, I was listening to that because the storyline is more of very, I guess, kind of viscerally primal, like I have to save the world. It’s a lot of action base so it makes me feel good when the heroes finally saved the day at the end. And then the narrator will be kind of second there.
Lauren Martino: So the plot really drives before you.
Vincent Mui: Yes, the plot is the – that’s that – I guess, that’s how I describe it.
Lauren Martino: Would you say like go on kicks like, you know, okay, it’s time to read all the Percy Jackson books and then.
Vincent Mui: Preferably, I would like to listen to all the books in order. However, if a particular series is a bit heavy, I will have to switch back and forth. I like more lighthearted tone stuff. I was listening to also Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I’m on the fourth book now but I can’t listen to them in order because I’m pretty sure in every book so far, he’s gotten really close to death or beaten up horribly and –
Lauren Martino: And Percy Jackson doesn’t?
Vincent Mui: Well, not the way it’s – since it’s a young adult, it’s not as bad Jim Butcher –
Lauren Martino: Yeah, it’s lighter.
Vincent Mui: Yeah, it’s more adult-oriented, so there’s a lot more. He describes getting beat up very well and there’s a lot of it involved.
Lauren Martino: Realistically?
Vincent Mui: Yes. He’s constantly bruised, bleeding. But Percy Jackson, it’s more he got cut, he’s not doing really well. So there’s less, I guess, detail there but it’s just –
Lauren Martino: He’s making stupid comments about it.
Vincent Mui: Yeah. Yeah, I need to switch between a bit more lighthearted or I guess maybe because young adult stuff is – it doesn’t really go into describing rather just pacing and narrating the action going on and more action – yeah, there’s – they are doing more rather than describing what they are thinking what they are doing.
Lauren Martino: How about you, Barbara? What’s the deciding factor for you in choosing an audiobook?
Barbara Shansby: Well, I do try to – when I was thinking about the question I was like, “Oh, it’s a good writing. That’s what I’m really looking for,” but, you know, that’s – is that true? Probably not. And I didn’t realize until I heard you talking, Vincent, that I do the same thing. I switch around. So I really don’t like to read two mysteries in a row or two biographies in a row. So I guess that drives me a lot. And the other thing, which is I’m not entirely sure why I’m so obsessed about this, but I really only want new books to listen to.
Lauren Martino: New books?
Barbara Shansby: Yeah, new. I don’t know.
Lauren Martino: Like what you haven’t listened to before or like new –
Barbara Shansby: No. I mean, new after 2016 or something.
Lauren Martino: Really?
Barbara Shansby: When I pick it up, it says 2013, no, I can’t read it. I don’t know. I just – I feel like I have to know the hot new things even though, like, it doesn’t really matter but I do –
Lauren Martino: Like librarian pressure?
Barbara Shansby: Library – yes. You know, that’s it.
Lauren Martino: After ending up on the latest stuff?
Barbara Shansby: Exactly, exactly. If I don’t know the new things, I am just – it’s just this serious problem, so.
Lauren Martino: You know, I won’t tell anybody if you happen to find something from 2009 that you – really strikes your fancy.
Barbara Shansby: I worry.
Lauren Martino: Do any of you find yourself choosing audiobooks that you wouldn’t read in print or vice versa?
Barbara Shansby: Yeah, absolutely. I read – I listened to a lot of nonfiction. I hardly ever read it. I also listen to a lot more mysteries than I read. Again, I agree with Vincent that it’s easier to listen to something that’s a little bit lighter. It’s – I love a good thick book where that’s a bit heavy, although, I don’t read them all the time but I’ll sit down and read it. But to sit and listen, I’m not as willing to do that. And I have to say, I admire you, Maranda, because I also am not willing to take on those big fat ones. It just intimidates me. I’m just like, “No, I can’t do it.”
Maranda Schoppert: I generally don’t realize there that long until after I’ve already started and then it’s too late.
Lauren Martino: You’re already into it?
Maranda Schoppert: I’m a little bit different though. I normally – well, I’m a big fiction girl. For me, listening to the audiobooks, it’s mostly a matter of availability. If the book I want to read is not on the shelf but I can get it in audio or vice versa, that’s what I’ll do. If I’ve started a series in audio, I must finish it in audio. But the one genre that I don’t read that I will occasionally listen to is biographies.
Lauren Martino: Well, what is it about listening biography that makes it okay?
Maranda Schoppert: I actually will only listen to the biographies that are narrated by the person.
Lauren Martino: Oh.
Maranda Schoppert: So, Anna Kendrick’s “Scrappy Little Nobody”. She narrated that one. Felicia Day, she narrated “You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)”. Those were really entertaining and I don’t think they would have been done as well by an outside narrator.
Vincent Mui: I’ve only listened to one biography so far narrated by the author which is “Crazy is My Superpower” by A.J. Lee. I’m a wrestling –
Maranda Schoppert: What a great title.
Vincent Mui: Yeah. I’m a wrestling fan and her life is – she used to be a wrestler but she had to retire. However, just hearing it from them is much more personable and you can understand – you can understand the intricacies of it but you pick up on more intricacies on how they’re telling you. And there’s one part where I think she got very emotional and it kind of – you will not get that necessary from a narrator because it did not go through her life. So that’s why if I were to listen to more biographies, it would probably – I would prefer books narrated by the author.
Lauren Martino: So aside from biographies, do you guys prefer books narrated by the author or does it make a difference to you or –
Vincent Mui: I think you have to have a good voice because if it – there is another book I listened to called “The Four Tendencies” by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a great book but her voice I’m not fond of and I feel bad now that I’m saying it out loud. But it’s a great book so I was able to listen through it.
Maranda Schoppert: I don’t want an author to narrate my fiction.
Lauren Martino: No?
Maranda Schoppert: I’m not going to lie. I want the professionals to do it. I hate to say that but –
Barbara Shansby: Right. Yeah. I kind of agree. I think they’re usually better if an actor does them but I – just a month or two ago, I listened to Elizabeth Berg, The Story of Arthur Truluv and she narrated it herself, and I don’t know that she has any acting experience, and it was really lovely. She wasn’t the best narrator that I’ve ever listened to but it absolutely worked and it was really wonderful book.
Lauren Martino: I tend to exclude Neil Gaiman from any kind of – like Neil Gaiman can narrate anything, I’m sorry.
Barbara Shansby: Right, right. Yeah.
Lauren Martino: He’s got the duo tap [Phonetic] [0:12:33].
Maranda Schoppert: All right, she’s the exception.
Lauren Martino: He is the exception. He can –
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. What was that The Graveyard Book? Oh, my God, that was wonderful. Oh, that was so wonderful.
Lauren Martino: And Coraline, did you listen to Coraline?
Barbara Shansby: No. Coraline, I read and I really, really did not like it.
Lauren Martino: Really?
Barbara Shansby: So I bet if I had listened to it, it would have been a lot better.
Lauren Martino: The rat’s singing, it’s the scariest thing ever.
Barbara Shansby: I thought it was a pretty disturbing book.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. Also Jason Reynolds, I think, did really well. Like he did – one of his – I think he did Ghost, which was – sorry – children’s librarian. But, yeah, that was a good one. Do you tend to prefer famous actors or do you think, you know, your standard, you know, “I’m a voice actor and that’s what I do” is better or adequate?
Maranda Schoppert: You know what? I will say it’s not 100% true because I love Edward Herrmann who – the grandfather on Gilmore Girls for –
Lauren Martino: Right, right, he – yeah. He’s very good.
Maranda Schoppert: He’s an actor and, yet, he did pass away late 2014 but he narrated The Boys in the Boat and Unbroken and he’s done a bunch of other non-fiction that’s really great.
Barbara Shansby: Yes, I’ve heard him too.
Maranda Schoppert: So I think it depends on the actor. There are some voice actors out there. My personal –
Barbara Shansby: Brendan Fraser.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah.
Barbara Shansby: Sorry
Maranda Schoppert: – that can’t do – you can’t, you know, just you need that body, you need that interaction between, you know, someone else. And then there are some actors that can do both.
Barbara Shansby: Well, I have to make a comment, which is that when I thought about this question, I realized how many times I love a narrator and then I look on the back of the CD case to see who it was and I’ve never heard of this person. And I read their credits and I would say about 90% of the time that person was in Law & Order. Why is that?
Maranda Schoppert: Everyone Law in Order.
Barbara Shansby: I just –
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Barbara Shansby: I don’t know why. It’s like is that a requirement for reading a book or I don’t know.
Maranda Schoppert: Writing a passage.
Vincent Mui: I –
Lauren Martino: That’s wild.
Barbara Shansby: Isn’t that funny?
Vincent Mui: Listening to the Dresden Files, I didn’t know James Marsters was on Buffy until I looked him up.
Lauren Martino: Wow.
Vincent Mui: He’s played Spike. And then I looked up his age and then it made me realize how old I am because Buffy still feels new to me but it was over 10 years ago at this point.
Lauren Martino: I hate to tell you.
Vincent Mui: But his voice is perfect for the main character and people actually complained when he switched one of the books he did not narrate and people were very – kind of angry about him not being, because you need that consistent voice and did a great job.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: I was also pleasantly surprised when I was reading – listening to Ready Player One and Will Wheaton is the narrator, and that made perfect sense.
Lauren Martino: Oh yeah.
Vincent Mui: On top of that, there’s a joke in there about Will Wheaton and I’m just chuckling to myself. I’m thinking, “What?” I wonder what he’s feeling right now reading that part.
Barbara Shansby: Now, I have to listen to that one. I read it but now I have to listen to it.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. He did Redshirts too. Are you familiar with Redshirts?
Vincent Mui: No, I’m not.
Lauren Martino: It’s basically – it’s this book long, like, making fun of Star Trek.
Maranda Schoppert: Oh, wow.
Vincent Mui: That’s great.
Lauren Martino: Yeah. And it – but it’s like Will Wheaton was the perfect, perfect choice. I mean, he’s got this kind of second career. It’s like he’s not really an actor anymore, he’s kind of a personality and – but I think audiobook narration works well.
Vincent Mui: Yeah. He’s really had a second resurgence in terms of fame with his board gaming stuff and also his podcasting as well.
Lauren Martino: Have you ever had to give up a book entirely after listening to some of it because the narrator was so grating.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: I definitely have.
Barbara Shansby: I am very picky. I mean, I think I’m really picky about reading in general. I pick up a book or read a chapter, I’m like, “No, I don’t – it doesn’t – it’s not doing it for me.” But audiobooks I think it’s even harder because you have to like the voice, you have to like – you have to find it captivating. I will sometimes listen to like three minutes of something and just pop it out and take it back, start over.
Maranda Schoppert: Not me. No.
Lauren Martino: No?
Maranda Schoppert: If I start a book, if I start an audiobook, as torturous as it is, I will finish it.
Barbara Shansby: Really?
Maranda Schoppert: The only book I have ever not finished after I started was Moby Dick.
Barbara Shansby: Wow.
Maranda Schoppert: And, yes, it gets painful.
Lauren Martino: You’re stuck with it that long, huh.
Maranda Schoppert: You are, especially if you’re not into – if it’s a boring audiobook and you have a boring narrator, I mean –
Barbara Shansby: There’s no saving to that.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. I kind of just find myself spacing out in the car a little bit while I’m listening.
Vincent Mui: I had one book. The only time I had to stop was because the narrator was narrating an evil character. His voice got so creepy. I personally got very uncomfortable and I had to stop and I’m not going to name the book just because I was so crept out by his voice.
Maranda Schoppert: Will you tell me later?
Vincent Mui: Yes, I can tell you that later.
Lauren Martino: Can we put it on the show notes?
Vincent Mui: I don’t remember – I don’t know if the library actually has it.
Lauren Martino: Okay, I mean –
Vincent Mui: Yeah, that’s why I didn’t want to bring it up.
Lauren Martino: Oh, okay. But, yeah, that one is too good.
Maranda Schoppert: I love creepy.
Lauren Martino: She had you on for a horror episode. So, Barbara, can you tell us a little bit about MCPL’s resources for audiobooks. What do we have available for just ways of delivering audiobooks to people?
Barbara Shansby: You can get CD books. We have a lot available from many years past. We have them in – we have adult books, fiction and nonfiction, as we said. We have children’s books. We have books for young adults. We also have a series that I wanted to mention, The Teaching Company does courses that are on CD that you can check out and those are really interesting to listen to. We also have a lot of ebook – e-audiobooks available through a few of our – excuse me, digital subscriptions. You can get them through OverDrive, The Maryland Library Consortium. You can get them from a new subscription that we have called RBdigital. They can be downloaded or listen to remotely. All right, and also they do have, again, fiction, nonfiction, adult, children, teen books, all kinds of resources.
Maranda Schoppert: Other resources that the library has for audio or different resources like Project Gutenberg. You can listen to free audiobooks on there. They have a collection. There’s also a couple of different ones on there. Tumble Books for kids. You can listen to different languages.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, I forgot about that. That’s a great resource.
Lauren Martino: So you mentioned Tumble Books. Can you tell us a little bit more about that resource?
Maranda Schoppert: Tumble Books is geared toward the kids. Basically, they’re – it’s animated ebooks that you can check out on the computers that kids can, you know, follow along with the story as well as listen to it. Plus, you might see a little bunny jumping on the screen depending on the book. So it’s really a way to get at the kids in all different directions. You can – they’re reading, they’re watching, they’re doing the screen time, they’re also listening. So you’re sort of helping them get with their literacy, you know, get that early literacy in there in a way that this generation of children can really relate to, I think.
Barbara Shansby: It’s kind of like Reading Rainbow for today’s kids.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah, definitely. That’s a good – that’s a good one.
Lauren Martino: And my daughter suddenly got into Reading Rainbow, it makes me so happy. I got the old episodes on Amazon. She’s like, “Can we read it again?” I’m like, “Yes. Yes, we can, darling.”
Narrator: And now a brief message about MCPL Services and Resources.
Female Narrator: Hey, if you’re not doing anything Saturday night, June 9th, come and listen to an award-winning author talk about his inspiring work. Ethiopian American author, Dinaw Mengestu will speak about his novel “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears”, about an Ethiopian immigrant who runs a failing convenience store in Washington D.C. This book is the pick for the 2018 Big Read Montgomery sponsored by National Endowment for the Arts. The event will be held Saturday June 9th at 7:30 at the Silver Spring Library. You must register online. You can find more information about this event in this episode’s show notes.
Narrator: Now back to our program.
Lauren Martino: So we all agree audiobooks are amazing. Are there any downsides to listening to something on audiobook or any reason you’d avoid audiobook versus like the print version of something?
Vincent Mui: So, my main disadvantage with audiobooks is that I would get into them too much. I was listening to – I don’t remember what portion it was but it was something funny and I was at the gym and there was a heavyweight over me and it almost – I could have hurt myself seriously because I started laughing in the gym and I had to really put the weight down. And when you’re lifting higher weights, it’s a little bit dangerous. And I – actually, I had two incidents where the weight fell on me. I rolled it off when I was bench pressing.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, no.
Vincent Mui: I was fine. It just I had to be more aware. Maybe I should not listen to something funny while I’m lifting something heavy over my head.
Lauren Martino: Do you think there’s – I’m sorry. That’s not funny. You’re –
Vincent Mui: No, no it is funny. I love telling the story. Audiobooks can seriously injure you.
Barbara Shansby: Right. Beware.
Lauren Martino: Is there anything you wanted to talk about the evils and dangers of audiobooks, Barbara?
Barbara Shansby: Well, it can’t match –
Lauren Martino: Corrupted youth.
Barbara Shansby: Absolutely, it can’t match Vincent’s story, but I was just going to say that I realized that when you’re listening to a book, you’re listening to every word; whereas, when you read a book, you can just skip over certain things. So, sometimes they’ll have a list of whatever. And in an audiobook, they have to read every single thing on the list.
Lauren Martino: Oh, gosh.
Barbara Shansby: Right? If you were sitting there in your chair at home with the actual book, you would just turn the pages. About two weeks ago, I was listening to a book called Seven Days of Us, which was really fun and it was written as a series of letters and emails and notes and – so, every email that was in the book she read – the narrator read out the entire address. Mary underscore Wilson at, you know, Maryland dot Library dot U.S. dot – like, I’m like what?
Lauren Martino: Just glance at it and not even paying that much attention, yeah.
Barbara Shansby: So that was kind of annoying but it was a good enough book that I kept listening.
Maranda Schoppert: You do sometimes miss out on certain things unless you look at the accompanying material. A lot of audiobooks will have, check out this PDF afterwards. So like Dan Brown’s Origin, same thing, you’re missing all these kind of like symbol images and whatnot, part of the symbolism of the story that you either have to go back and look in the book or see if they have that, you know, PDF copy in – with it.
Lauren Martino: That’s kind of like the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” audios, I’ve never actually listened to one but I’m like, “Why? Why?” Or, yeah, I think I listen to a Stephen Hawking book once like the Brief History of Time and it’s like, “I need a diagram for this. I do not understand what’s going on.”
Barbara Shansby: Well, I don’t know. I listen to Curious Incident of a Dog which apparently had a lot of illustrations and I thought it was fantastic, amazing on audio, and I loved it. And I didn’t miss those illustrations or whatever or diagrams that they included in the book but I didn’t care, you know. I had a different experience.
Lauren Martino: Yeah, sometimes a narrator is good enough to make up for it. All right, so here’s your chance, gush about any favorite audiobooks, any favorite narrators, anything that sticks out in your mind as memorable.
Maranda Schoppert: Well, I’m going to gush about a book for a second. But first, I will say that one of my favorite narrators is Fiona Hardingham. She does a lot of Y.A. Sometimes I don’t even know it’s her until the end and I’m like, “That’s why I love this book. It’s Fiona Hardingham.”
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Maranda Schoppert: She narrates some Maggie Stiefvater, Sabaa Tahir “An Ember in the Ashes”, Sophie Kingsley, Kiersten White. And she just had such a diverse voice. I mean, you go to – you go and look at her bio, she’s got pages and pages of audiobooks that she does. Primarily Y.A., so she does a really good job with that. But I’m going to gush over Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It’s one of my favorite books and I think it’s more for the plot rather than the narrator. The narrator has a very thick accent that was really hard to get over in the beginning, but then I’m like – I probably listened to this audiobook like three times already, so – and I’ve read the book twice. So, there are definitely are some that you can just, “It’s different every time you listen to it.”
Lauren Martino: Sometimes the plot just takes over and you don’t care what the – right – what the narrator sounds like.
Maranda Schoppert: Yup. Absolutely.
Lauren Martino: How about you, Vincent?
Vincent Mui: I just want to give a shout out to the narrator of the Percy Jackson series only because there’s a Pegasus in the book and he tries to talk like a horse.
Lauren Martino: That’s awesome.
Vincent Mui: I think that’s what caused me to almost hurt myself at the gym now that I think about it, because he talked like Mister Ed and I had to give him props, like the effort. He actually went to create a new character voice for him. I was very – that was a great moment for me.
Lauren Martino: So you’re not discriminating against the horse characters?
Vincent Mui: Nope.
Lauren Martino: I love it.
Barbara Shansby: Okay. So I have to say when I started listening to audiobooks, there were probably about 20 actors who read – who consistently read books, and so everybody have their favorites, and now it’s wonderful because I don’t even know who I like. I just listen to the book. There are so many different readers but I do have a weakness for British accents, so any –
Vincent Mui: I think everybody does.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. Any book that’s takes place in England or whatever, that’s a good book. And I guess three that I really, really enjoyed were among my most memorable. I listen to the sequel to Peter Pan called Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean and it was so much fun on audio. I really loved it. And then I went back and listened to the original Peter Pan just to –
Lauren Martino: Jim Dale?
Barbara Shansby: And that’s Jim Dale.
Lauren Martino: Oh, yeah.
Barbara Shansby: Which, I mean, he was amazing on Harry Potter but I think I got a little tired of him somehow but it was totally different. Peter Pan was terrific. And then the other audiobook that I really want to mention because it was just so much fun was Martin Short did an autobiography called I Must Say and he sang on it and he tells his stories that are so funny. Actually, I started listening to it and then I decided it was too funny I have to save it for a trip so my husband can listen to it too.
Lauren Martino: Oh, for when you’re weightlifting.
Barbara Shansby: And then for my weightlifting, so I get it. I just loved it. And that’s – also Steve Martin did an autobiography.
Lauren Martino: Oh, boy.
Barbara Shansby: Right. Which again so funny, with another one that I listen to with my husband on a long trip.
Lauren Martino: Was he playing the banjo.
Barbara Shansby: I don’t think he did.
Lauren Martino: No?
Barbara Shansby: Maybe at the beginning, maybe the entrance. So, and now I’m listening to a book, although that’s going to be your last question what book are you listening to, right? I’m listening to a book about a lady’s choir, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and they have some choir singing for a few of the hymns that they talk about, so that’s pretty neat.
Lauren Martino: Oh, that’s cool.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah. I remember listening to a book about Marian Anderson and I’m just like, “You got to put –” like, it’s probably in the public domain, Marian Anderson. You could probably have stuck her in there.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: So I know some people feel very, very strongly about a single narrator versus full cast. Where do you guys stand on that?
Maranda Schoppert: I prefer a single narrator. It’s not the end of the world if there are multiple narrators but I just think a good narrator can achieve the same thing by doing it by themselves rather than having a cast of narrators. I don’t know. That’s just me. I’m also not a big fan of having sound effects in my audiobooks.
Vincent Mui: Oh.
Maranda Schoppert: For children’s books, yes, because I think that helps.
Barbara Shansby: Sure, why not.
Maranda Schoppert: But I want the narrator to be entirely on the narrator, but that’s just – that’s just me.
Lauren Martino: It can be distracting.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah. It can be a little distracting and I almost find – sometimes find it a little cheesy. Like, you know, the drums are beating and then you hear drums in the background and you’re like, “Really? Like, okay.”
Lauren Martino: I could have inferred that.
Maranda Schoppert: Yeah.
Vincent Mui: I don’t think I’ve listened to any audiobooks with more than one narrator. However, I do like narrators that have a lot of range, particularly if it’s – if they’re narrating the main character and then women, if there’s – some of them can do a good female voice, some of them can’t.
Barbara Shansby: Not so much.
Vincent Mui: And I do actually appreciate some music in the background but very subtle. I think I was listening to the Thrawn novel and he would have ambient space noise, which really suited the – oh, actually, now that I think about it, there were laser blasts but it’s a Star Wars novel, so I was okay with it. But his range was really good in terms of engrossing me into the book.
Barbara Shansby: Yes. So, I was thinking that that’s another thing that maybe has changed somewhat over time. Seems to me when I started listening to audiobooks, it was more likely to be a full cast kind of thing with different narrators. And I think it just depends on the book for me, sometimes that’s – that enriches the experience. I listened to, what’s it called, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, and they had different readers for the different characters and it was really good. And then I was just thinking that I have listened to a book like that in a long time and this one that I’m – this Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is a cast and it has different characters narrated by different actors and it’s great. So, but I think the trend is much, much more to a single narrator. And I kind of agree with Maranda on the whole, if you asked me which I prefer, usually that’s kind of makes it more like the reading experience, it’s a little bit more seamless.
Lauren Martino: So we’ve heard what Barbara’s reading. Vincent What are you reading right now or listening to that you’d like to talk to us about.
Vincent Mui: I am actually listening to the Divergent series by Veronica Roth and it’s very different because it’s – the target demographic for the Divergent series is young women. So the writing style is different and there’s a lot more description about physical closeness.
Maranda Schoppert: Huh.
Vincent Mui: And –
Lauren Martino: That’s a teen book for you.
Vincent Mui: Yes. It’s a teen book but gears toward young women. So I’m having a bit of trouble because I feel awkward listening to her describe a kiss or her physical closeness to the male character that she is attracted to and I get a little uncomfortable a bit. I was with my wife in the car on our way back from New York City. I drive back and forth occasionally and I like to listen to audiobooks. I started – she – I don’t think she tolerated me very well because of my reactions to listening to the scenes of, yeah, I don’t – yeah, that’s –
Barbara Shansby: Were you giggling?
Vincent Mui: No, I was – I was more like, “Are you serious?” How many times do I have to listen to her describe, like, feeling electric or shivering or her heart beating, pounding through her ears, and it’s just – I got uncomfortable because the protagonist is 16.
Lauren Martino: Oh, God.
Barbara Shansby: Yeah.
Lauren Martino: Like, hon, you’re too young.
Vincent Mui: I am twice her age and a guy and married and it’s just – I can’t relate. I just wanted more of the action but –
Lauren Martino: You should probably not listen to Twilight.
Vincent Mui: Oh, no, no, not even going to – hmm.
Maranda Schoppert: Well, Vincent, you might like listening to what the series I’m currently listening to. I’m listening to the fourth and I will say hopefully final book in the Red Rising series, Iron Gold, by Pierce Brown. The first three books are fantastic and the third book actually I was completely like the ending ended perfectly, there should not be a fourth book but there is a fourth book and so far it’s okay. It’s one of those 23 plus hour ones though.
Vincent Mui: Oh, goodness.
Barbara Shansby: Wow.
Maranda Schoppert: But it’s definitely got a lot of action. There are some, you know, basically like lightsabers type of fighting with these – yeah.
Vincent Mui: Oh, okay, I’m down for this.
Maranda Schoppert: And it takes place through space and everything like that, so that one’s got a lot of action and it’s actually an example of one with multiple narrators that, like, I’m kind of like, “Hmm,” because the first three books only had one narrator.
Vincent Mui: Oh.
Maranda Schoppert: And now this fourth one has three.
Vincent Mui: Yeah, that’s a bit jarring when the narrator changes in the middle of a series because they say things slightly different.
Barbara Shansby: Oh, yeah.
Vincent Mui: So, the Percy Jackson series had one narrator then the Heroes of Olympus, which came afterwards, was a different narrator and he was saying their names differently.
Maranda Schoppert: Oh, gosh, drives me crazy.
Lauren Martino: Yeah.
Vincent Mui: And I was – and I was screaming in my mind saying, “You’re not seeing it right. The other guy didn’t say it this way. Why are you saying it that way?” I got over it eventually.
Maranda Schoppert: Or like sometimes when you read a book and then it’s so good you decide you listen to it but the way you said the characters names in your head is not the way the narrator says it and you’re like, “Oh, man. Either you’re like I’m wrong or you’re mad because it should be a different way.”
Barbara Shansby: Right, right. That happened to me with that Alexander McCall Smith, his #1 Ladies which I read as a book and then I listened to one of them, the mysteries and I wasn’t even close to getting the names of any of these African people. But I really was glad to hear how they’re supposed to sound.
Lauren Martino: Well, thank you so much for joining us, Barbara, Vincent, and Maranda. And thank you for listening to our podcast and taking time out of your busy audiobook’ listening schedule to listen to our podcast. Make sure to put whatever you like on hold because people will be asking for it all summer long as they are getting ready for vacation, so we wish you a very happy listening on any drive or – you may be taking or while mowing the lawn. And please keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on the new Apple podcast app Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please rate us on Apple Podcasts. We’d love to know what you think. Thanks for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.
Summary: Audiobook enthusiasts and MCPL staff members Vincent Mui, Maranda Schoppert, and Barbara Shansby share their love for audiobooks; talk about the advantages, disadvantages, and hazards of audiobooks; and recommend titles that will be music to your ears.
Recording Date: May 9, 2018
Host: Lauren Martino
Featured MCPL Resource: Award-winning author and MacArthur Foundation Fellow Dinaw Mengestu will speak about the inspiration for his book The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears and his experiences as an Ethiopian immigrant. Silver Spring Library, Saturday, June 9, 2018 at 7:30 PM. Registration required.
What Our Guests Are Reading:
Books Mentioned During this Episode:
#1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Narrated by Lisette Lecat.
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. Narrated by Steve Martin.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. Narrated by Michael Jackson.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Narrated by Neil Gaiman.
Crazy Is My Superpower by A.J. Mendez. Narrated by A.J. Mendez.
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon. Narrated by Jeff Woodman.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo.
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. Narrated by Gretchen Rubin.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Narrated by Guy Lockard.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Narrated by Neil Gaiman.
I Must Say by Martin Short. Narrated by Martin Short.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Narrated by Rob Inglis.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Narrators vary.
My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Narrated by an ensemble cast.
Origin by Dan Brown. Narrated by Paul Michael.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series) by Rick Riordan. Narrated by Jesse Bernstein.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Narrators vary.
Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean. Narrated by Tim Curry.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Narrated by Will Wheaton.
Redshirts by John Scalzi. Narrated by Will Wheaton.
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick. Narrated by Anna Kendrick.
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak. Narrated by Jilly Bond.
Thrawn by Timothy Zahn. Narrated by Marc Thompson.
Uprooted by Naomi Novak. Narrated by Julia Emelin.
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. Narrated by Felicia Day.
Other Items of Interest Mentioned During this Episode:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Popular American supernatural television series which featured noted audiobook narrator James Marsters as Spike.
The Great Courses by The Teaching Company: A popular series of academic lectures in audio or video format covering a vast array of topics, from Victorian Britain to Cybersecurity.
Law & Order: Popular American police procedural that anecdotally has featured many people who have also narrated audiobooks.
Project Gutenberg: A vast collection of free ebooks and audiobooks. The audiobooks are mostly out-of-copyright titles read by volunteers.
Reading Rainbow: A PBS educational television series that ran from 1983 to 2006. Each episode focused on a topic from a book or children's literature and included reading recommendations.
Tumblebooks: An online collection of animated, talking picture books. Includes story books, chapter books, nonfiction, videos, and more.