Books & Podcast Recommendations for the Easily Distracted Parent

In the six years since I first became a parent, I’ve discovered that my attention span is exactly the length of two Paw Patrol episodes. But due to a recent surgery, a broken wrist and seven (yes, count them: SEVEN) weeks of suffering through various head colds and the flu, I found a newly redeveloped talent: the ability to sit still and pay attention to printed words. However, I realize that not every parent has the luxury of sitting on their couch for hours on end, so the following recommendations can be enjoyed in snippets, too!

Books:

Act Like It When I received the iBooks email with the phrase “free books” in it, I didn’t know I was going down a rabbit hole of romance novels, but this book is well-written and a good read, which I discovered after two shout-outs, one on Book Riot and one on my favorite podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour. After reading this, I’ve read a lot of BAD romance novels and I’ll tell you, this one is rare: good, an interesting plot with real-life characters. Trust me.

Dumplin’ If you enjoyed Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, you will like this book. It’s YA fiction at its best: it doesn’t insult your intelligence and portrays teenage characters in a realistic way.

Hag-Seed Totally and completely different than the previous two recommendations, this is a highly entertaining book by Margaret Atwood. It’s her reinterpretation of The Tempest and you don’t have to remember the original (or even have read) to enjoy it.

We Live in Water I don’t usually enjoy short story collections, but this one by Jess Walter is so, so good. The first story is probably my favorite – it’s gut-punching, magnificent writing and the PWN is lucky to have such a talented writer.

And if you’re not in the mood for books right now, here are a few podcasts I’ve been enjoying lately:

Podcasts:

Crimetown Go behind the scenes of organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island, with this fascinating look at a larger-than-life mayor and the mob. After each episode, you’ll marvel that this is a true story.

Missing Richard Simmons I didn’t even know Richard Simmons was missing, but that doesn’t matter. Why did he disappear? Why haven’t his closest friends heard from him? And will the mystery be solved by the end of the season? I need answers. NOW.

Serial

Need something incredibly addicting to listen to? Download the Serial podcast and prepare to be mesmerized. I’m a little late jumping on the bandwagon but it’s not too late to catch up. If you like This American Life and true crime stories, this podcast is for you.

Listening to podcasts and audiobooks is one of the only things I’m looking forward to when I go back to work next month.

How About Now?

“How about now? How about right now?” 

Tig Notaro is an inspiration. I listened to her interview with Chris Hardwick only knowing that she was the comedian who got cancer around the same time her mother died. I had never heard her comedy but was laughing and almost crying during this interview. 

You should listen to it for yourself, for sure. One of my favorite things about this interview was when Tig told the story about how she’s always been the “How about now?” type of person – if she drives by a bowling alley at 10 a.m., why not bowl if she feels like it? Her perspective is amazing and even more inspiring considering the year she had in 2012. 

You can listen to more of her story at This American Life and The Moth, two of my favorite podcasts. 

In the last few days, after listening to her interview with Chris, I’ve been asking myself, “How about now? How about right now?” It’s amazing what this perspective brings to daily life, even if for me it’s meant going to sleep at 9:30 p.m., letting my child vacuum endlessly and doing sit ups. I’m hoping this perspective translates into something more meaningful. 

How to Avoid Commuter Rage

I’ve mentioned before that I have a terrible commute. I live 26 miles from work, a commute that can take up to an hour and a half on a bad day.

It took me a couple months to figure out that the only way to stay sane is to listen to something interesting enough to keep my mind engaged. At first it was NPR. But then I got bored. I’m not a news junkie and my commute coincided with boring programs.

As I’ve talked about before, podcasts and audiobooks became my salvation. Through friends, I discovered the Nerdist and Pop Culture Happy Hour (I want Linda Holmes’ job. Damn it, she was even a lawyer once!!!). I found The Moth and continued listening to Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! I even tried Dan Savage’s podcast, but it’s um…a bit much.

I’ve discovered the key to quelching commuter rage (I’m sure I have some form of it!). Choose a book or podcast that is so interesting you don’t want the commute to end. Most recently, it’s been The Art of Fielding and Night Music by way of books. I’ve recently enjoyed the Nerdist interviews with Nick Offerman and Steve Carell and The Moth’s Elna Baker.

Tonight I was listening to The Informationist. It’s not the type of book I would normally read but that’s what’s so great about actually browsing a physical library’s shelves. The cover looked interesting and description captivated me. And tonight I just wanted to keep driving and driving.

Audiobooks and/or Podcasts

I have a long commute to work. Forty minutes to an hour and a half, depending on traffic. It’s awful. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I was listening to audiobooks, but since I refuse to buy them, I am limited by what my library is offering, and the offering is rather limited.

So far I’ve listened to: Andy Cohen’s Most Talkative, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Tiny Fey’s Bossypants and Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot. I prefer to listen to autobiographies or memoirs rather than fiction, but for whatever reason The Marriage Plot really worked as an audiobook. 

In the podcast arena, my favorites are: Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, Pop Culture Happy Hour and Nerdist

Do you have any recommendations?