Out of the darkness

I love Christmas, but most of the things I love about it probably originated in the celebration of the solstice. Sure, I appreciate super-religious and very old carols (“Fall on your knees! O  hear the angel voices!”), but for me, really, it’s mostly about having a real tree in my living room that’s all covered in lights and sparkly things, and the fact that the world will begin, finally, slowly, to get lighter and lighter.

So I’m not a believer, but it was still an interesting time of year to listen to Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, which focuses intensely on the story of one woman who just happens to be the mother of Jesus Christ. This short novel is narrated by Meryl Streep, who is a magnificent reader, and the experience of listening to it was vivid and intimate. This Mary is a person who has lived through real anguish and is unwilling to put up with any nonsense. The novel is set several years after the crucifixion, and she is being cared for, or perhaps held by, some of the disciples, men who are hard at work making Jesus into a myth. She has no patience for them. For their part, they want her to cooperate or else to just shut up. The human aspects of the story, which are everything to Mary, don't interest them at all.

I listened to this because I was charmed by the author's By the Book column in the New York Times. Tóibín's a voracious reader, and I liked the warmth, humor, and wide embrace of life that came through as he spoke about books he’s loved.

Here’s a list of audiobooks that, like this one, are read by extraordinary readers. I wish you all a season of glorious reading while these long winter nights and rainy days continue, and let me know if I can help with some suggestions.

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