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Extended Audio Sample How to Read the Air Audiobook, by Dinaw Mengestu Click for printable size audiobook cover
2.75 out of 52.75 out of 52.75 out of 52.75 out of 52.75 out of 5 2.75 (28 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Dinaw Mengestu Narrator: Corey Allen Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2010 ISBN: 9781449840259
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One early September afternoon, Yosef and Mariam, young Ethiopian immigrants who have spent all but their first year of marriage apart, set off on a road trip from their new home in Peoria, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee, in search of a new identity as an American couple. Soon, their son, Jonas, will be born in Illinois.

Thirty years later, Yosef has died, and Jonas needs to make sense of the volatile generational and cultural ties that have forged him. How can he envision his future without knowing what has come before? Leaving behind his marriage and job in New York, Jonas sets out to retrace his mother and father’s trip and weave together a family history that will take him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents’ youth to his life in the America of today, a story, real or invented, that holds the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Beautifully written…The book lingers in the mind.” 

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Mengestu draws a haunting psychological portrait of recent immigrants to America, insecure and alienated, striving to fit in while mourning the loss of their cultural heritage and social status. Mengestu’s precise and nuanced prose evokes characters, scenes, and emotions with an invigorating and unparalleled clarity.” 

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “This is a poetic story, written by young Ethiopian writer who is already being hailed as a literary master.” 

    AudioFile

  • “A sometimes somber, always searching novel of love, loss and the immigrant experience by Ethiopia-born writer Mengestu…Elegant, confident prose brings this tale to life.” 

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Selected for the October 2010 Indie Next List
  • A 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book
  • A 2010 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laura | 2/18/2014

    " Pure, deep poetry. How to Read the Air was my first taste of Mengestu's writing; can't wait for the full course. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Rashida | 1/12/2014

    " I think it is clear that Dinaw Mengestu is brilliant and has important things to say about the American experience. But I wonder what expectations were put on him after his stunning debut, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. Because at all points, this book felt forced. The central story was interesting, but this novel felt like a short story or, at most, novella that had been stretched and tortured into a 350 page novel. That does not make for a pleasant reading experience, and destroys any interest that the central narrative holds. I felt as though there was some force behind Mengestu saying, "you turn such a beautiful phrase, don't stop at one, give me ten!" This magnification of the narrative only served to highlight its issues, so instead of bonding with our narrator over shared feelings of marginalization, I began to pity him his self induced isolation. Instead of sympathizing with the myriad slights of missed social interactions, I sucked my teeth at his continued incompetence. Instead of feeling understanding for the struggles of his mother and father, I resented all of the guesswork and speculation that seemed to just bloat the air that our narrator engaged in while trying to reconstruct their journey. Rendered differently, I think this could have been quite an affecting read. And I remain sure that I will read more from Mengestu, should he supply us with it. But I remain disappointed in this effort. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Linnet | 1/10/2014

    " Jonas reflects on the end of his marriage as he retraces the honeymoon trip his parents made that ended theirs. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Janet | 1/3/2014

    " Disappointing. Bleak and depressing story of two marriages. So unlike his first book in every way. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marsha | 12/30/2013

    " I didn't like this as much as I liked The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. But it was still pretty good. Read it immediately after Open City and it was interesting to do that. I like this one better. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Laila | 12/27/2013

    " This book made me want to stop reading books by authors with MFAs in creative writing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joanna | 12/24/2013

    " Everyone in this book was miserable the entire time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark Owens | 12/23/2013

    " If I could give it 2 1/2 I would. The book just left me wanting it to be better, richer, fuller. It had it's moments but I found it somewhat dry. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joanne | 12/7/2013

    " I can see that this book is well-written, but it is one of those books that is all about silences between people: silences between the narrator's parents, and silences between the narrator and his wife. And, as you might imagine, all the silence makes for a pretty stultifying read. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sharon | 10/25/2013

    " Could not relate to any of the characters, probably because I saw none of them as characters with any integrity. They were constantly changing, lying, shifting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nedduh Simonson | 10/23/2013

    " Like Gilles Peterson asked mulatu astatke: "how is it possible anyone can not like this?" "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Louise | 6/5/2013

    " Beautiful prose but the story didn't really grab me. I'd give the writing 4 stars but the story only 2 stars, so I'm averaging it out to 3 stars. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Erika | 11/18/2012

    " I enjoyed this book, but not nearly as much as Mengestu's first novel. Despite not caring about the characters much, I did want to finish the book and I'm glad I did. The writing is eloquent and beautiful at times and that is what saved this book! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tayla | 8/30/2012

    " A universal story about the ties that bind families together. Even when you'd rather they not. Beautifully written. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Julie | 8/9/2012

    " A sad story with some good tales included in the writing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bemilly | 7/23/2012

    " I have not been reading much lately, so I was happy to just to read a book again. This was a good story. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kate | 3/29/2012

    " I must have missed something here. Heard so many good things about this book but it just didn't catch me and I couldn't care about the characters. Disappointing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julie Jones | 2/18/2012

    " This book is quirky. Very well written, but perhaps a little too autobiographical and consequently, a little too narcissistic. Jonas delves into his own head too often for my liking. Nothing that crazy happens, yet he turns out to be a complete nut. Maybe I just couldn't identify with him. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cj | 5/2/2011

    " This is a beautifully written/crafted book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Tara | 4/19/2011

    " This book was interesting in the beginning an then became increasingly more difficult to read. It is a book about nothing in particular and it seems like the writer went off on tangents that were inconsistent with the stoy line. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tarrant | 4/11/2011

    " Slow reading, a lot of back and forth and time and no real resolution. Not bad, but not stunning, especially with the air of the untrustworthy narrator. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Zanne | 4/5/2011

    " As much as I loved his first book, "The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears", I was very disappointed in this book. Couldn't care much about the main characters' travails and let down by the ending. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathychristoffel | 4/4/2011

    " Themes and images in this novel are like layers of phyllo dough: thin, fragile, delicious. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joni | 3/21/2011

    " I much preferred Mengestu's first book, "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears." Although this book is beautifully written and I could "see" everything he wrote about, I was never engaged with either the story or the characters. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kirsten | 3/14/2011

    " All the ingredients of a compelling story, and yet... cold, unemotional, distant. Ho-hum. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Khalekan | 3/9/2011

    " Very well written but ultimately disappointing story.

    It seemed the writer didn't know in which era to base the tale.



    "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 M.Baradi | 3/6/2011

    " Wow. The plot is ok, but the prose is another matter, which, to me, glitters like something I haven't seen before. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenny | 2/28/2011

    " This book is well-written, but I just didn't love the story. It lyrical but also very slow. "

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About the Author
Author Dinaw Mengestu

Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1978. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a fellowship in fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. He was also named a “20 under 40” writer to watch by the New Yorker. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Harper’s, Granta, and other publications. He lives with his family in Washington, DC.

About the Narrator

Corey Allen has been labeled by artistic collaborators as a “journeyman” and “chameleon-like” actor, relentless in his pursuit of truth and transformation in his work. As a voiceover artist, his talents have been heard in sound plays, commercial copy, industrial and documentary films, and more than two dozen audiobooks. Allen is based in New York City and is a founding member of Coyote REP. He holds a BA from the University of California–Irvine, and an MFA from the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign.