Friday, March 21, 2014

Listening to History: Audio Books

By Jeff Burns

I have a very short commute, thankfully, only 5-10 minutes one way.  Nevertheless, I’ve developed the habit of keeping some audio book or course in my car stereo.   So whenever I’m in my car, I have the option of learning some history. 

There are a number of great podcasts available, and that might be a future blog topic.  However, I want to talk about two great sources of audio lectures.  You’re sure to find something of interest in these collections.

First up is the Portable Professor series from Barnes and Noble.  These are full courses taught by well-known authors and historians.  Each package consists of 14 35-minute lectures and includes a guidebook.   I own Masters of Enterprise:  How the Titans of American Business Shaped the US Economy by H.W. Brands, To Lead A Nation: The Presidency in the 20th Century by Robert Dallek, Shaping justice:  Landmark cases of the US Supreme Court by Kermit Hall, and Everything You’ve Been Taught Is Wrong:  Fact, Fiction, and Lies in American History by James W. Loewen.  Each one is engaging, challenging, and insightful. 

They’re relatively inexpensive, especially if, like me, you find them  in the clearance section of the Barnes and Noble Store.  You can also find them on the Barnes and Noble website, ebay, libraries, and used book stores.

Another great source is The Great Courses.  They record first rate lectures on just about any subject imaginable by some of the greatest university lecturers and package them thorough outlines or guidebooks to follow along.  So far, I’ve enjoyed The Skeptic’s Guide to American History by Mark Stoler, Books That Have Made History by J. Rufus Fears, and The American Identity by Patrick Allitt.  They’ve all been terrific.  The individual lectures a bit longer than Portable Professor, 45-50 minutes each, but each lecture is extremely interesting.

While the full retail price on the website can be pretty high, the Great Courses Company often runs sales and has special offers.  I purchased mine through ebay, and again, you can find them in libraries and second hand markets for a more affordable price.

Jump right in and listen to history as you drive, work out, craft, or whatever. 

1 comment:

  1. The Great Courses are on Audible so if you get a subscription you can get them for less than $10 each. You can, of course, get great audio books there too. Among my favorites are The Big Burn by Timothy Egan and the books by David McCullough and Erik Larson. If you like shorter stuff, there are a lot of podcasts you can subscribe to for free.