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Extended Audio Sample The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History Audiobook, by Jonathan Franzen Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,890 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jonathan Franzen Narrator: Jonathan Franzen Publisher: Highbridge Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2006 ISBN: 9781598872798
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The Discomfort Zone is Franzen’s memoir of growth from his boyhood as a “small and fundamentally ridiculous person,” through an adolescence both excruciating and strangely happy, into an adult with embarrassing and unexpected passions. It’s also a portrait of a Midwestern middle-class family weathering the turbulence of the 1970s and a vivid personal history of an America turning its back on a certain idealism.

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Quotes & Awards

  • One of the 2006 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Inga | 2/3/2014

    " I love me some Franzen. These are broken into small digestible little essays chronicling his awkward youth into his awkward adulthood. He tries hard to sound self-deprecating but it sometimes belies a cooler-than-thou attitude (if you've read any recent memoirish stuff, or any blog, or hung around any of the irony lovers of our generation, you probably know what I mean.) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kevin | 2/1/2014

    " I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. I've felt a certain affinity with Jonathan Franzen ever since I read the Corrections and decided that he and I grew up such similar families that we must be blood brothers. These stories, all autobiographical, are much less dense and more easily readable than the Corrections. And after the whole Oprah blow-up where he came off looking like a pretentious ass, it's nice to see that he has a sense of humor about himself. "Then Joy Breaks Through," which recounts his high school years in a Christian youth group, is worth the price of the book alone. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dot | 12/29/2013

    " I enjoyed the novel "The Corrections" by this author so was interested to know more about his life as described in this memoir. It was both humourous and interesting ranging from descriptions of high school pranks to serious discussions of Rilke, Mann and Kafka. He also talks about his experiences as a birder and one gets the impression of a clever man with many interests, but perhaps somewhat self centered. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bookworm | 12/28/2013

    " This is Franzen's autobiography/memoir. The book is framed around the death of his mother. He writes about his nerdy youth and adolescence, his relationship with his family, his influences, love & divorce etc... Reading this book mostly reminded of what a shitty process growing up is, especially the horrors of junior high school. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa | 12/20/2013

    " I listened to this on tape during a road trip and found it engaging -- sometimes a little too close to home. I kept exchanging it for pop music, to get a break from Franzen's drill-down style of getting every single excruciating detail about events and relationships that are awkward, if not downright squirmy-to-painful. He is able to capture elusive stuff that rings so true when he brings it into focus. I do recommend it, in small doses. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jim | 12/12/2013

    " An interesting insight into the mind of Franzen as he details some of the events of his youth and development. Best parts were his antics during high school, but some portions were a bit too weighty, especially the last third, and I didn't like much his portrayal of others. Sadly, he does not really seem to have any affection for his parents. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kieran | 12/7/2013

    " This book is deeply, fundamentally melancholy, heartbreaking, and vulnerable. But a lot of the other reviews call it sad and I don't think that fits. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kimberly | 11/23/2013

    " WOW i love this guy's ability to bring common everyday minutiae interesting.....such a gifted man. He clears out his mom's house to sell it and you are gripped....WHat a great narrative device to discover about his family... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tess | 11/19/2013

    " Enjoyed the dry acerbic tone. It's not a chronological memoir of his life - but chapters on aspects of his life - his childhood memories of Christian camps, being a teenager, his university experience, relationship with his parents and his amusing 'affair with birds' of the feathered sort. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Margaret | 10/19/2013

    " Took me right back to high school - a lovely memoir "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Audrey | 10/13/2013

    " Franzen's memoir pulled me in right away and I enjoyed the mix of personal narrative and essay/op ed that most of these pieces featured. I've always avoided his novel, The Corrections, because of conflicting reviews I've read, but I may have to pick it up now. We'll see. :) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katherine | 7/31/2013

    " It's nice to hear about his various romantic entanglements, plus it reminds you: he's an actual person. One of the rare laugh out lou funny franzen works. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Summer | 2/27/2013

    " These essays are weaker than others of his I've read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elyssa | 9/16/2011

    " Interesting essays about the author's life from childhood to the present. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marjie | 5/22/2011

    " I read this right around the same time I read Elsewhere by Richard Russo. I'm glad these authors are both such good writers of fiction...because both their memoirs were awfully boring. I didn't really get a sense that either author's upbringing inspired their fiction. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kay | 4/24/2011

    " I am currently not finished reading this book, but from what I have read, I do not like. It has no point or meaning and drones on and on about subject matter that does not fit into the supposed story line. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janis | 3/13/2011

    " A lot more fun than I thought it would be. "

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

    " If you are not a true Franzen fan, you would be bored by a lot of this book, but being a fan myself, I really enjoyed his observations about our (tail-end baby boomers) generation. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Rianna | 3/5/2011

    " blach. Like someone trying to clean the floor swept up little piles around the room and never finished the job. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ka | 2/19/2011

    " Well written but his life was not that exciting. Perhaps that was the purpose - the sameness and conformity of the Midwest. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stephanie | 2/18/2011

    " Jonathan Franzen gives a short account of an uncomfortable adolescence (like all children going through puberty). It's an account of school, church groups, social interaction and being much too awkward for sex.

    It was one of those painfully true stories (but not true to my own life). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bcoghill | 2/7/2011

    " Zipped thru on a Sunday. I will be ready to read Freedom in about six months.
    The last part is about bird watching - my hobby. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Frank | 1/31/2011

    " Mi aspettavo un'altra cosa e invece è un'autobiografia bella e buona. Qualche aneddoto scolastico, un pò di vita americana, ma tutto sommato non un granchè.
    "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marge | 1/15/2011

    " My first book by Franzen, and I loved it. The first and last essays were particularly strong, but I was also very much taken with all of them, with Franzen's language and with his take on his and our world. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris | 1/11/2011

    " Decent, but unfortunately not as good as it could have been had the most interesting stories been spread throughout as opposed to all at the beginning followed by some fairly average stories "

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About the Author
Author Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen was previously known for his influential Harper’s essay, “Perchance to Dream.” He is now the author of several novels and multiple works of nonfiction, all receiving industry recognition. He splits his time between New York and Santa Cruz, California.