The Outlandish Companion, Volume I (revised edition): A Reading & Listening Guide

Revised edition of OCI, 2015

Revised edition of OCI, 2015

Last week, I posted a reading and listening guide for The Outlandish Companion, Volume II — and working my way backward, I’m now doing the same for Volume I of this essential reference book for Outlander fans.

First, a note on editions. The Outlandish Companion was originally published in 1999, providing all sorts of reference information on the first four books in the Outlander series (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn). This book has been a go-to resource for book fans ever since, who have (pretty much non-stop since 1999) never stopped asking for a volume two.

In 2015, fans finally got their wish, and more. Not only was The Outlandish Companion, Volume II published in October 2015, but earlier in the year, Diana Gabaldon also released a newly revised and updated edition of the Companion, Volume I.

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The 1999 edition

The new edition of The Outlandish Companion, Volume I includes most of the original, plus some additional essays on writing and being a writer, as well as a section on the Starz TV series. Although I already owned a copy of the original edition, I simply had to treat myself to the revised edition as well… and then immediately put it on my shelf once it arrived, figuring I’d page through it eventually.

But now, having listened to the OCII audiobook, I thought it would be only fair to give the OCI audiobook a listen as well. And, as a public service for anyone who’s interested, I’m here to share with you a guide to what’s inside the OCI revised edition, plus what’s on the audiobook and what’s not.

As I mentioned in my OCII review: What you get in the audiobook, which you don’t get in the hard copy, is the voice of Herself, our beloved author Diana Gabaldon. I actually can’t stress this enough: Most of the audiobook is narrated by Diana, and I’ll explain a bit further on why this really matters… and really, why this alone is worth the price of the audiobook, even if you already own the physical book.

[Note: Except where indicated, all sections of OCI are read by Diana Gabaldon on the audiobook.]

Without further ado, what follows is an overview of what’s in the book, what I especially enjoyed, and a few tips and comments for anyone thinking about listening to the audiobook, either instead of or in addition to getting a copy of the physical book.

 

What’s inside:

Prologue:

Well, it was all an accident, is what it was. I wasn’t trying to be published; I wasn’t even going to show it to anyone. I just wanted to write a book — any kind of book.

And with this opening, we’re off! Diana takes us through her background, explaining how Outlander was just supposed to be what she was writing “for practice” to learn how to write a novel, and how it grew from there. It’s funny and personal and a must-read, particularly if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of hearing Diana tell her own writing story.

Part One: Synopses:

This is a major chunk of the book, and well worth the investment for true fans. The synopses included — Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn  — are lengthy and incredibly detailed. The books’ plots are thoroughly summarized, start to finish, with plenty of passages directly from the original texts.

Lengths of synopses (hardcover edition):

Outlander: 10 pages
Dragonfly in Amber: 30 pages
Voyager: 34 pages
Drums of Autumn: 42 pages

Reading tip: If you find yourself picking up the series after a break and need a refresher on what’s already happened, these synopses are detailed enough to give you everything you need to keep going, if you just can’t spare the time for a complete re-read of the books themselves.

Listening note: On the audiobook, the synopses are read by the incomparable Davina Porter, who narrates all of the Outlander series audiobooks. Just listening to her read the synopses and the quoted passages is a total treat.

Part Two: Characters

This section starts with a lengthy essay entitled “Where Characters Come From: Mushrooms, Onions, and Hard Nuts”. Diana explains her approach to creating characters, how they talk to her, and where their names come from, as well as how she incorporates historical characters, and even which characters in her books have connections to people in her life.

The second section of Part Two is a Cast of Characters, which is an alphabetical index of all characters in the first four books, with a brief explanation for each, a notation of which book they appear in, and a marker for any who are historical figures. Beyond that, there is a list of various minor characters, named or not, who in general are part of a group but don’t particularly have roles of their own, including Dougal’s men, Monks at the Abbey of Ste. Anne de Beaupré, Lallybroch tenants, and more.

Additional sections of Part Two are:

  • “I Get Letters”  – in which Diana describes some of the various and sundry gifts and items she receives from readers. This part includes a rather lengthy section on astrology, including astrological charts for Jamie and Claire, sent to Diana by a reader named Kathy Pigou. The full charts and explanations are included here, along with diagrams and a basic introduction to astrological methodology.
  • “Magic, Medicine, and White Ladies” – an overview of women’s roles as healers, the concept of white women, Claire’s medical background, and why WWII makes sense as a starting point for Claire’s medical experience.

Listening note: The essays in this part are included in full on the audiobook. The Cast of Characters is not included, being more or less a dictionary, which would make is not very useful to listen to. The astrology-related pieces are narrated by a woman whose name I didn’t catch — not Davina Porter, not Diana Gabaldon. As I have no interest in astrology, I ended up fast-forwarding this piece once I realized how long it was going to be.

Part Three: Family Trees

Includes background, family trees, and coats of arms for the Beauchamp, Randall, Fraser, and MacKenzie families.

“A Genealogical Note” is a section concerning the genealogy of Roger MacKenzie Wakefield, in which Diana breaks down the detailed explanation of just where Roger came from and addresses certain points that always seem to confuse readers. Includes Roger’s family tree.

Listening note: The section about Roger is on the audiobook. The rest of this part is not.

Part Four: Comprehensive Glossary and Pronunciation Guide

For those with an interest in linguistics, you’ll love this part. After a brief introduction in which Diana addresses the difficulty of including so many languages (especially languages she herself doesn’t speak!) in her books, she includes some very helpful reference pieces, including:

  • A Very Brief Guide To Gaelic Grammar by Iain MacKinnon Taylor — this includes the Gaidhlic alphabet, a pronunciation guide, grammar overview, and spelling notes.
  • Comprehensive Glossary of Foreign Terms (including British slang) — a mish-mosh of all sorts of phrases and words from the books, from Scots, Gaelic, English, Latin, French, Spanish, and more — even Kahnyen’kehaka (Mohawk).

Listening note: Unfortunately, not on the audiobook at all. While no one would want to hear a list of words and definitions, it might have been fun to get at least a bit of the Scottish pronunciations of some of the phrases used most frequently in the Outlander series.

Part Five: Research

This section is sure to be fascinating to readers, and I can’t help imagining that writers and aspiring writers will find it incredibly helpful and inspiring as well. Diana talks about methods of doing research for historical novels and what works for her, and then talks about resources and basic skills, such as using a library, working with a card catalog, reading for information, and locating sources.

As I mentioned for a similar section in OCII, Diana is incredibly generous with her insights and personal revelations here. She goes into quite a lot of detail on how she organizes her research, what she finds most effective and why, and offers such practical advice that if I were even thinking of writing historical fiction (I’m not), I’d both want to follow in her footsteps and to give her a hug, for making it all sound so doable.

She’s also just funny — for example, one section of this part is called “I’ve Done My Research, and Now You’re Going to Pay”, in which she cautions against falling into the trap of cramming in so much detail that the story itself gets lost.

Don’t forget that the purpose of research is to support the story; not the other way around.

A further section of Part Five is entitled “Botanical Medicine: Don’t Try This At Home” Here, Diana explains some of the plants and natural substances which are used in the Outlander books as medicines, how she researched these and some of the sources used, and the properties of certain herbs and their healing effects. She also includes a word of caution:

Well… I really hope no one would use antiquated medical treatments described in a time-travel novel (I mean, it does say FICTION on the spine, after all …. ) but what with the increasing interest in herbal therapies and alternative medicine in general, I do get frequent questions regarding my sources, or requests for recommendations. People want to know how I know all this stuff — am I an herbal practitioner myself? Am I a professional botanist?

Definitely not.

This section concludes with “Penicillin Online: A Writer’s Thread”, in which Diana shares a conversation generated by her query to one of her online communities about a passage concerning penicillin which she was writing for The Fiery Cross (book #5). It’s a lengthy conversation (20 pages), but very interesting for the back-and-forth sharing of information, insights, and ideas.

Listening note: All of Part Five is included on the audiobook with the exception of the final section (“Penicillin Online”).

Part Six: Where Titles Come From (And Other Matters of General Interest)

Lots of terrific information on the crafting and shaping of the novels, with sections including:

  • Outlander vs. Cross Stitch — Discussing the main differences between the US and UK versions of the first book in the series, and some notes on foreign editions as well.
  • The Cannibal’s Art: Writing and Real Life — Diana talks about her writing life, and how she balances family, writing, and having a life. Amazing.
  • Book Touring for Beginners — Did you ever want to know what it’s like to experience a book tour. This very funny section gives us a pretty good idea.
  • A side bar section entitled “A Brief Disquisition on the Existence of Butt Cooties” — basically, Diana’s thoughts on the state of public restrooms, based on her extensive exposure to such as part of her book touring travels.
  • The Shape of Things — Quite a lovely piece on how thoughts turn into words on a page. I’ve heard a version of this before as part of a talk by Diana that I attended, but it’s really so amazing to read. She also explains how each of her books has a “shape”, and how that affects the overall tone and structure of the book.
  • The Gabaldon Theory of Time Travel — Exactly what it sounds like, and a must-read for devoted series readers, all of whom usually have theories of their own as to just how it all works.

Listening note: All of Part Six is included on the audiobook.

Part Seven: The View From Lallybroch: Objects of Vertue, Objects of Use

This section consists of passages from the various books that describe certain things (Claire’s pearls, her wedding bands, Jamie’s sword) and places (the stone circle, Lallybroch), interspersed with drawing and photos related to the objects described. It’s lovely to read and hear the descriptive passages and to admire how Diana paints a picture of these items and locations through her use of words.

Listening note: All of the text in included in the audiobook, but without the hardcopy book on hand, I did feel that I was missing something in this section. It definitely adds a great deal to have the physical book as a reference in order to see the illustrations that accompany the various quoted sections.

Part Eight: Frequently Asked Questions

Fascinating, of course. This section includes all sorts of questions related to the books, the characters, Diana’s personal experiences, and more, as well as some more esoteric questions such as why Jamie can’t blink and what ever happened to Claire’s pearls in Dragonfly in Amber. The answers are all thoughtful, amusing, and truly informative… and often quite tongue-in-cheek.

Listening note: This entire section is included on the audiobook.

Part Nine: Controversy

Diana discusses some of the topics about which she gets the most communication from readers, and shares with us some of her answers as well. Main topics include sex scenes, language (profanity/blasphemy/vulgarity), homosexuality, abortion, wife-beating (specific to the famous/infamous “strapping” scene in book 1), and other issues. The answers are all quite thought-provoking, and often funny too. (She’s a very funny woman, that Diana Gabaldon).

Also included in this section is the essay “Jamie and the Rule of Three”, which is also available via Diana’s website (or was, anyway, last time I looked for it). It’s a marvelous piece that explains why Outlander was constructed as it was, and why the terrible things that happen to Jamie had to happen for the sake of the story.

Listening note: This entire section is included on the audiobook.

Part Ten: From Book to Screen

A very interesting section on the making on the TV show, which explains how books in general get made (or not) into movies or other types of productions, and then goes into the background of the Starz TV series, from concept to production, including notes on the cast, the filming process, and Diana’s role as a consultant. Also included here are two blog entries she’d written on “My Brief Career As a TV Actor”, very funny pieces describing her days on-set filming a cameo appearance for one of the episodes.

Listening note: This entire section is included on the audiobook — and this is where the audiobook ends.

What’s left in the book? Well, the hard copy in my hands continues for another 125+ pages beyond this point! The remainder of the book is:

Annotated Bibliography

A lengthy listing of Diana’s sources and all sorts of reading material related to everything under the sun in her books.

Appendix I: Errata

As Diana says in the introductory paragraph to this section: “Well, look — nobody’s perfect.” This section includes all of the corrections to dates, language, and other minor facts (such as whether certain fruits would really be in season at the time they’re eaten in the books).

I won’t go into the contents of all of the rest of the appendices, as there are a whole bunch more — but they are:

Appendix II: Gaelic (Gaidhlig) Resources: A Writer’s Short Guide to Scottish Speech Patterns

Appendix III: Poems and Quotations

Appendix IV: Roots: A Brief Primer on Genealogical Research

Appendix V: A Brief Discography of Celtic Music

Appendix VI: Foreign Editions, Audiotapes, and Strange, Strange Covers

Appendix VII: The Methadone List (Diana’s recommended reading list — what she likes to read for fun and feels good about recommending!)

End papers: Several pages of photos from the Starz TV series.

 

What else do you need to know?

My wrap-up points and overall tips regarding the Outlandish Companion, Volume I are exactly the same as for OCII, so I’ll just re-post the main bits of my conclusion from that review:

Thanks to the audiobook, I spent much more time on [this book] than I might have if I’d only stuck to the physical copy. The hardcover edition is a beautiful physical specimen, but I don’t think it would have occurred to me to treat it as something to read from start to finish. By listening to the audiobook, I had the opportunity to slow down, pay attention, and really absorb all of the wonderful information contained in the book.

Highlights: What ended up really making this an extraordinary listen for me was the the narration by Diana Gabaldon herself. And I’ll tell you, I was skeptical at the start. Diana is not a professional audiobook narrator. For one thing, she is FAST. (Big tip: Use .75 speed if you can to listen to Diana’s sections — listening at regular speed is the equivalent of listening to any other audiobook at 1.5x!). It was an adjustment to get used to her speed and speech patterns, but once I got into the groove, I loved it! She shares so much of herself here, and hearing her deliver the content makes it an especially personal experience. Plus, in case you’ve never heard Diana Gabaldon give a talk before — she’s really funny. Listening to Diana narrate her own book lets us hear her emphases and inflections, and it becomes clear just what she finds funny about her content and where she’s being ironic or tongue-in-cheek.

Key advice:

The audiobook is a brilliant way to get a rich experience from [this book] — but it’s incomplete without the physical book at hand. My strongest advice for fans: Get them both.

If you’re a true fan of the Outlander series, then both volumes of the Outlandish Companion are essential books to have on  your shelves. I know I’ll be using mine, over and over again, every time a pesky question arises — such as “where have I seen that character before” or “how the heck is that even pronounced?” These books are about the same price as a standard hardcover novel, and I consider them really valuable investments for Outlander fans.

Interested in The Outlandish Companion, Volume II? See my reading and listening guide, here.

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The details:

Title: The Outlandish Companion, Volume I (revised edition)
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: March 31, 2015
Printed book length: 577 pages
Audiobook length: 13 hours, 48 minutes
Genre: Reference
Source: Purchased

The Outlandish Companion, Volume II: A Reading & Listening Guide

OCIIThe Outlandish Companion, volume II, is a reference book. Does it surprise you to hear that it was also one of the most enjoyable reading and listening experiences I’ve had in months?

First, some background: As anyone who even occasionally visits my blog surely knows by now, I’m a pretty dedicated fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. In 1999, Diana published The Outlandish Companion, a reference guide covering the first four books in the Outlander series (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn). And pretty much ever since, fans have been clamoring for a second volume to cover the rest of the books.

In March 2015, Diana Gabaldon published a new and revised edition of The Outlandish Companion, volume I, updated to include some additional commentary, especially regarding the Starz TV series. [Blogger note: I’m working a bit backwards here, I know. I’ll post a separate piece about volume I in the next week or so.] And in October of 2015, we finally got The Outlandish Companion, Volume II, and what a treat is is!

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The 1999 edition

I bought myself a hardcover edition of OCII as soon as it came out, but hadn’t done much with it beyond opening it at random and flipping through. When I saw that the audiobook had been released, it seemed like the perfect way for me to enjoy the contents of OCII in a laid-back, kind of mellow sort of way.

What you get in the audiobook, which you don’t get in the hard copy, is the voice of Herself, our beloved author Diana Gabaldon. I actually can’t stress this enough: Large portions of the audiobook are narrated by Diana, and I’ll explain a bit further on why this really matters… and really, why this alone is worth the price of the audiobook, even if you already own the physical book.

Revised edition of OCI, 2015

Revised edition of OCI, 2015

An added bonus for those who’ve listened to the audiobooks of the Outlander series and the spin-off Lord John books is the participation of the books’ narrators. Davina Porter — marvelous Davina Porter — narrates all of the Outlander book synopses in OCII, and Jeff Woodman, who does such a fantastic job as the honorable and wryly funny Lord John Grey, narrates the synopses for all of the Lord John pieces.

Without further ado, what follows is an overview of what’s in the book, what I especially enjoyed, and a few tips and comments for anyone thinking about listening to the audiobook, either instead of or in addition to getting a copy of the physical book.

 

What’s inside:

Introduction

Yes, this matters! Diana’s introduction is as funny and smart as you’d expect, explaining how the revised OCI and the new OCII came about. It’s also a great intro to her style throughout the book, which is liberally sprinkled with footnotes, often humorous and tongue-in-cheek, and sure to include at least a few nuggets of odd but interesting little known facts.

Part One: Chronology

Identifying and explaining the chronology of all the parts in the story — so if you’re wondering what to read when, and just where all those novellas fit in, this will tell you.

Part Two: Synopses:

This is the longest part of the book — in my hardcover edition, the synopses start on page 15 and end on page 245. On the audiobook, we’re talking hours and hours. (Sorry, I can’t be more specific… but if I had to guess, at last 8 – 10 hours out of the whole.)

The synopses for the four Outlander books — The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood  — are lengthy and incredibly detailed. The books’ plots are thoroughly summarized, start to finish, with plenty of passages directly from the original texts.

Lengths of synopses (hardcover edition):

The Fiery Cross: 30 pages
A Breath of Snow and Ashes: 66 pages
An Echo In the Bone: 30 pages
Written In My Own Heart’s Blood: 80 pages

Reading tip: If you’re midway through the series, or perhaps took a break in between volumes, these synopses are so detailed that you could easily read these as prep before moving on to the next novel. Although, in my humble opinion, it’s never a waste of time to do a re-read of the books themselves!

After the four Outlander books, we come to the synopses of the Lord John books and novellas. These are much less detailed, with simple plot overviews, not much in the way of spoilers, and no details on the mysteries or their solutions. This section is useful as a refresher, but doesn’t provide enough information if you’re looking for a full-blown recap.

Part Three: Cast of Characters

As the introductory paragraph states:

This list includes all the characters from the second four novels and from the Lord John books, with brief notes as to which book each character is introduced in, who they are, their role in the story, and whether they’re fictional or real historical persons.

This is simply invaluable. Arranged alphabetically, this 118-page section is a must-have for series readers, providing instant access to the who’s who necessary to keep straight the huge number of people who come and go in the books.

Part Four: Sex and Violence (subtitle: Spanking, Beating, Flogging, and Other Interesting Topics Involving Physical Interactions of a Non-Consensual Sort)

Now here’s where it gets truly interesting! Up to now, the OCII is largely reference material. Finally, in Part Four, we get Diana’s insight into her characters and their actions, and it is absolutely fascinating.  She spends quite a bit of time on some of the more controversial elements in the books — the spanking scene in Outlander, the occurrence of rape in the plot and whether it’s too much, the historical context of rape in the Highlands, Black Jack Randall’s sadism — and for those with an opinion on any of these, or who’ve read or participated in any of the heated debates that seem to crop up among readers, it’s enlightening to hear the author’s take on the issues and understand the thought processes behind her writing of these elements.

Part Five: History and Historical Fiction: Organizing the Past

If I had to pick one section to recommend above all others as a resource for writers, this would be it. Whether or not you read the Outlander books, I think this marvelous section would be inspiring to anyone who ever dreamed of writing their own novel.

Diana is incredibly generous with her insights and personal revelations here. She discusses the challenges and pleasures of historical research, and just what’s involved in writing historical fiction, using documentary evidence to enhance and ground her fiction. Not only that, but she also shares her own organization and tracking methods for her research — everything from how she organizes her bookshelves to her computer files’ naming systems.

If I were a writer (and I’m not), I think I’d be incredibly uplifted by Diana’s no-nonsense approach to writing. You want to write? Then write. Don’t delay because you haven’t finished your research yet, or because you need a dedicated space, or until your kids are out of the house, or any of a thousand other reasons. She repeatedly stresses that she began writing Outlander for practice, just to see if she could. I’m simplifying things quite a bit here, but the bottom line is that this is a section that should be read and shared and appreciated. (Also, see Part Seven)

Part Six: A Comprehensive Scottish Language Glossary and Pronunciation Guide – by Adhamh O Broin

Comprehensive is right! 77 pages worth of Scottish phrases, with a guide to pronunciation, origin, use in the books, and meaning, written by the esteemed Adhamh O Broin, who is the official Gaelic (Gaidhlig) consultant for the Outlander TV series.

Part Seven: Writing, and Other Games You Play By Yourself

Along with Part Five, this is simply indispensable knowledge and advice for writers. Diana talks about her own writing processes, and digs deeply into “Mind Games” — the many ways that people’s minds get in the way of their writing. If you’re even thinking about maybe someday starting to write, read this section. Not kidding.

But wait, there’s more! A fabulous part of this section of the book is “A Coda in Three-Two Time” (Annotated). “A Coda in Three-Two Time” is an amazing section of Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, showcasing the wedding night experiences of three couples. It’s intimate, sexy, personal, and even funny — and here, Diana’s annotates the scene to explain the linguistic and stylistic elements behind the writing. The thought and craft that go into the creation of “Coda” is beautiful to learn about.

Also in Part Seven is a section called “One Word Speaks Volumes”, in which Diana explains that she has one word that for her sums up the theme of each novel. From Outlander (love) to The Fiery Cross (community) to A Breath of Snow and Ashes (loyalty) and beyond, the meaning behind the theme is explained and supported. As with so much in the OCII, it’s fascinating.

Finally, Part Seven includes Recipes — I’m not sure exactly why this fits in the writing section, but here it is. Diana shares some favorites recipes, with explanations about her family’s experiences with the dishes included and detailed instructions on cooking and serving them.

Part Eight: The Invisible Talent

As Diana states in the introduction to this section:

“Talent” is what publicists, producers, and agents call the people who provide the visible face of entertainment — actors, for the most part. But anyone who is even temporarily appearing in his or own persona is “talent” — even me. But what about the people who give so much to the TV show and the world of Outlander, who normally don’t show their faces and talk about what they do?

I asked a few of the many, many talented people who create the world of the TV show (and other aspects of the ever increasing world of Outlander) to give us a brief glimpse of what they do and how they do it.

Included are essays by four behind-the-scenes, exceptionally talented individuals:

Terry Dresbach, the show’s brilliantly gifted costume designer, writes about just what it takes to design and produce costumes for a production of this magnitude, and includes several of her sketches for outfits for Claire and Jamie.

[Listening note: The narrator for this section (whose name I didn’t catch) does a fine job, except she mispronounces a couple of character names — most notably, Jamie’s last name! It’s FRASER, not FRASIER. Seems like something that should have been corrected during the production.]

Bear McCreary, the show’s composer, talks about his love of Scottish music (especially bagpipes!) and the reasons for the types of music we hear throughout the episodes. While some of his information is rather technical, it’s presented in such a way that even a non-musical person like me could understand and appreciate it.

Dr. Claire MacKay: Dr. MacKay is an herbalist with expertise in the historical use of herbal medicine. She provides a really interesting overview of the history of herbal medicine in the  Highlands, as well as explaining nine herbs from Claire’s medicine kit, their traditional and modern uses, and their use in the Outlander books.

Theresa Carle-Sanders, author of the upcoming cookbook Outlander Kitchen, writes about “The Diet and Cookery of Eighteenth-Century Highlanders”, explaining not just what types of foods were eaten, but what this diet meant in terms of health, mobility, and class distinctions.

Part Nine: Maps and Floor Plans

Oh, what a treat! If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of mental energy trying to figure out just what’s where, and now we know! Included are floor plans for Lallybroch and the Big House on Fraser’s Ridge, as well as maps of the Lallybroch estate and the layout of the Fraser’s Ridge houses and cabins. Also included are maps of the American Colonies circa 1775, the British Isles, the city of Philadelphia, and the battlefields of Culloden and Saratoga.

Part Ten: The Methadone List

Diana’s fans are familiar with the concept of “The Methadone List”. Outlander is, after all, an addiction for its devoted readers — yet even the most devoted sometimes need to read something else. Diana shares this list in response to the question she’s always asked about what ELSE to read. “The Methadone List” is a list of some of her favorite books and writers, with brief plot descriptions and in some cases, excerpts from the books themselves.

Part Eleven: Bibliography

No explanation needed, right?

End papers: Several pages of photos conclude the OCII, include pictures of Castle Leod (seat of Clan MacKenzie) and a few behind-the-scenes photos from the TV production. The front and back inside covers are a detailed family tree (which you can download here as a PDF).

Listening tips:

Thanks to the audiobook, I spent much more time on the OCII than I might have if I’d only stuck to the physical copy. The hardcover edition is a beautiful physical specimen, but I don’t think it would have occurred to me to treat it as something to read from start to finish. By listening to the audiobook, I had the opportunity to slow down, pay attention, and really absorb all of the wonderful information contained in the book.

Highlights: What ended up really making this an extraordinary listen for me was the the narration by Diana Gabaldon herself. And I’ll tell you, I was skeptical at the start. Diana is not a professional audiobook narrator. For one thing, she is FAST. (Big tip: Use .75 speed if you can to listen to Diana’s sections — listening at regular speed is the equivalent of listening to any other audiobook at 1.5x!). It was an adjustment to get used to her speed and speech patterns, but once I got into the groove, I loved it! She shares so much of herself here, and hearing her deliver the content makes it an especially personal experience. Plus, in case you’ve never heard Diana Gabaldon give a talk before — she’s really funny. Listening to Diana narrate her own book lets us hear her emphases and inflections, and it becomes clear just what she finds funny about her content and where she’s being ironic or tongue-in-cheek.

As I mentioned earlier, getting another opportunity to listen to Davina Porter and Jeff Woodman is delightful. I’ve listened to the audiobooks of the entire Outlander series and Lord John books, and spending time with the narrators again here is like hanging out with old friends.

What’s missing: It may go without saying, but listeners should be aware that there are some elements of a reference book that just can’t be provided via audio. The OCII audiobook does not include the character guide, Scottish language glossary, maps and floor plans, or bibliography. And obviously, no illustrations.

Further tips:

Recipes and Methadone List — you can listen to these sections with the audiobook, but if you actually want to make use of them, whether to try the recipes or to track down books to read, you’ll need to refer to the hard copy.

Key advice:

The audiobook is a brilliant way to get a rich experience from the OCII — but it’s incomplete without the physical book at hand. My strongest advice for fans: Get them both.

If you’re a true fan of the Outlander series, then this is an essential and worthwhile investment! I know I’ll be referring to this book over and over again, whether it’s to look up a random character, check out a battlefield, or get some inspiration for my non-Outlander reading.

Blogger’s note: As I mentioned, I’m going about this backwards! Having listened to the OCII audiobook, I’m now going back and listening to the OCI audiobook as well. This is the longest piece I’ve ever posted, and I’m exhausted!! — but if I have the energy, I’ll write up a reading and listening guide to OCI once I finish.

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The details:

Title: The Outlandish Companion, Volume II
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: October 27, 2015
Printed book length: 656 pages
Audiobook length: 21 hours, 17 minutes
Genre: Reference
Source: Purchased