Over the years, I have heard from readers who want their commutes to be longer. They want to get caught at red lights. And they'll circle the block even though they are already home. All to listen to the end of a segment on their captivating book-on-tape.
Any device that counters the wearing effect of commuting is fine with me, and with vacation time upon us, I offer some suggestions about audio books.
The first is to visit the local library, where they are free.
Here are the most popular titles of one of the biggest local companies, Recorded Books of Prince Frederick in Calvert County.
Top Nonfiction Titles
1. "1776" by David McCullough. The first year of the American Revolution from one of the country's best historians.
2. "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi. A memoir of living as a woman in Iran.
3. "The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America" by Russell
Shorto. A breathtaking history of early New York.
4. "His Excellency: George Washington" by Joseph J. Ellis. The award-winning author of "Founding Brothers" brings us the definitive biography of the first president.
5. "Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare" by Stephen Greenblatt. A new -- and definitive -- biography of William Shakespeare.
6. "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong" by James W. Loewen. An expose of the fallacies in many high school American history textbooks.
7. "The Reformation: A History" by Patrick Collinson. A concise overview of the ecumenical revolution of the late medieval and Renaissance periods.
8. "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions" by Ben Mezrich. The true story of how six students beat Vegas at its own game.
9. "The Great Fire of London: In That Apocalyptic Year, 1666" by Neil Hanson. A narrative history of a tragedy.
10. "Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World" by Margaret MacMillan. An award-winning narrative history of the Paris Peace Conference that followed World War I.
Top Fiction Titles
1. "In the Company of Cheerful Ladies" by Alexander McCall Smith. The sixth installment of the wildly popular No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.
2. "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. An Afghan immigrant must return to his homeland to save his friend's son.
3. "Saturday" by Ian McEwan. A neurosurgeon's normal day turns increasingly dangerous.
4. "The Serpent on the Crown" by Elizabeth Peters. Amelia Peabody must return a mysterious artifact to its tomb before it kills more people.
5. "Broken Prey" by John Sandford. Lucas Davenport is on the trail of a serial killer and a missing man.
6. "Hard Truth" by Nevada Barr. Anna Pigeon must find a missing girl in Rocky Mountain National Park.
7. "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton. A federal agent must stop an environmental group from causing widespread destruction to further its cause.
8. "Devil's Corner" by Lisa Scottoline. An assistant U.S. attorney tries to take down a notorious Philadelphia street gang.
9. "Locked Rooms" by Laurie R. King. Mary Russell returns home to dig into the mysteries of her childhood.
10. "The Rule of Four" by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. The lives of two Princeton seniors are jeopardized by their inquiry into a cryptic text.
For more information, call Recorded Books at 1-800-636-3399 or visit www.recordedbooks.com.
Another firm that offers audio books is the Teaching Company of Chantilly in Fairfax County, which advertises great courses presented by engaging professors. The sales catalogue includes "Great Presidents," "A History of Russia," "The Symphonies of Beethoven," "The Life and Work of Mark Twain" and "From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism."
This company offers CDs, DVDs, audiotapes and videotapes for sale. For more information, call 1-800-TEACH-12 or visit www.teach12.com.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers e-mails at firstname.lastname@example.org or faxes at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.