The Magic of Audio


One of the surprise benefits of driving 200 miles a day is getting the time to decompress in the privacy of your car and essentially do – or listen to – whatever you want. Until I started this commute, I hadn’t picked up a book in 10 years. And because I never had time to read the paper nor the patience for TV news, I had only the vaguest notion of what was going on in the world. (Can you relate?) Needless to say, book clubs weren’t an option for me. Cocktail parties made me anxious. And dinner conversation could only go so far.

Now I’m well-read and well-informed – thanks to the magic of audio books, radio and podcasts. There’s a big, fascinating world out there, and I LOVE listening to it.

Here’s what I’ve “read” and what I can’t wait to plug into on my next commute. Thank you, NHPR, OverDrive, Audible, Goodreads and SiriusXM Satellite Radio for making it all possible.


I love being read to. It’s one of the purest delights in life, instilled in us from early childhood. Thanks8765 to audio books and apps like Audible and OverDrive, the simple pleasure of being read to is no longer confined to the private domain of thumb-sucking three-year-olds. Here’s a small sampling of the audio books I’ve devoured this year, along with a short list of favorite authors (I  you, Nora Ephron) and voiceover artists.

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I love funny people. Who doesn’t, right? Lucky for all of us, some of the funniest people out there write books. Even better, they narrate them. Besides Nora Ephron, my favorite humorists include Tina Fey, Anthony Bourdain, Amy Poehler and David Sedaris, not necessarily in that order. I’ve also laughed out loud while listening to Ellen DeGeneres, Mindy Kaling and Betty White. Yes, Betty White. She’s a comedian. She wrote a book. And her name is Betty. What’s not to like?


SerialSerialConceived by the creators of This American Life and hosted by Sarah Koenig, Serial “tells one story – a true story – over the course of an entire season.” The current series delves into the plight of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. Army soldier held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan for five years. It’s storytelling and audio production at their chilling best. Prepare for multiple driveway moments.

DesignMattersDesign Matters with Debbie MillmanLed by author, educator, brand strategist and design luminary in her own right, Debbie Millman, this is a must for anyone interested in thought-provoking conversation about design and creative culture. Debbie’s guests have included Massimo Vignelli, Milton Glaser, Malcolm Gladwell, Barbara Kruger, Seth Godin, to name just a few. Design Matters made iTunes best podcast list in 2015.

TastTaste-Trekkers-Twitter-Icon-180x180-150x150e TrekkersTaste Trekkers is for foodies who love travel and travelers who love food. In each episode of Taste Trekkers’ Find Dining Podcast, founder and host Seth Resler explores a different city or region, discussing the local dining scene with a chef or culinary expert from the area. It’s a delicious way to research your next culinary adventure.

Corncorner_office_finer Office from Marketplace – If you love the wry, irreverant and mellifluous musings of Kai Ryssdal on NPR’s Marketplace (as I clearly do), you’ll love Conversations from the Corner Office. Each episode brings you “inside the room” with the business leaders transforming our economy, our culture and our daily lives. Kai leads the conversation as only Kai can.

Germany Pounds on the Horn

Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen America, reacts to being mobbed by the media after he apologized for the Volkswagen diesel scandal at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles
Photograph by Lucy Nicholson for Reuters

It appears the finger pointing at Volkswagen is only going to get nastier. Six months after the now-infamous diesel scandal broke, Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn has stepped down from his post. His departure comes amid mounting pressure from VW world headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, and stalled talks with the EPA on a fix for the emissions issue, which the company estimates will impact upwards of 600,000 vehicles worldwide.

The news sent shock waves through VWoA’s dealer community, which responded with outrage at the “mutual agreement” between the well-respected former CEO and German headquarters. Applauding the progress Horn has made since he took the reins in 2014, VW’s National Dealer Advisory Council labeled the decision yet another sign of “continued mismanagement” at the corporate helm and expressed serious concern about the change in leadership.

“This change in management can only serve to put the company at more risk, not less,” the dealer council said in a statement.

Here Comes the Dealer Backlash

Not surprisingly, US dealers have begun to revolt in the wIMG_3275ake of this sad new twist in the saga and the “culture of mistrust” it continues to perpetuate. VWoA’s national dealer council president, Alan Brown, says dealers have invested over $1 billion in showroom upgrades for the automaker and feel betrayed by its mishandling of the scandal.

“I’m telling you that the dealer network is becoming very, very, very frustrated very quickly,” Brown told USA Today.

And Now, the Justice Department

So Horn isn’t the only one taking a pounding, nor is headquarters the only office inflicting it. Two days ago, in another discouraging turn of events, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported the US Justice Department had issued subpoenas targeting VWoA for bank fraud. The investigation falls under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA), a civil law enacted in 1989 to extend the statute of limitations on financial fraud cases to 10 years.

These new allegations, according to WSJ, center around the question of whether lenders have “suffered damages from financing Volkswagen vehicles at an inflated price” since as far back as 2007. A similar claim on behalf of consumers may be close behind.

The case stands to only accelerate trouble for VW, which already faces fines of nearly $50 billion for violating the Clean Air Act. Unlike criminal cases, civil cases filed under FIRREA carry a lower burden of proof. In such cases, the “beyond a reasonable doubt” rule doesn’t apply. The Justice Department merely needs to prove the allegations are “more likely than not” true.

And Finally, My Own True Confessions

Does any of this really surprise you? I didn’t think so. In which case, this probably won’t either: Two weeks ago, my husband and I bought a Passat TDI sedan. A used Passat TDI sedan. And yes, it’s on THE LIST. And yes, we bought it because it was prime time to buy a used TDI. The original owner’s loss was our gain.


Wish I could say the same about the Golf TDI I bought brand-new three years ago. Like the owners in the upcoming consumer case, I paid a premium for it. But it was the car I wanted from a brand I’ve always loved – and still do. I also love the 42 mpg I’m getting on the highway and the crazy low prices I’m paying for diesel at the pump.

And so, with spring in the air and summer trips in our plans, we’ll continue to enjoy our fuel-efficient feats of German engineering (and software rigging) and try not to think too much about what we’re doing to the environment. (Pickup trucks, after all, are doing equal or worse damage, and sales have never been better.)

Instead, we’ll keep our faith that a fix will be found, the finger pointing will stop and truth and justice will prevail, leaving yet another beloved brand to the business of rebuilding trust and market share.