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AudioFile's
Best Audiobooks of 2006

AudioFile's editors recommend 42 must-hear audiobooks of the past year. They'll entertain you, entrance you, involve you. Listen up--this is what audiobooks are all about.

AnchorTOP 12 FICTION

BETWEEN, GEORGIA Joshilyn Jackson
Read by Joshilyn Jackson (Hachette Audio/Books on Tape)
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CAN'T WAIT TO GET TO HEAVEN Fannie Flagg
Read by Fannie Flagg (Random House Audio)
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FORTUNATE SON Walter Mosley
Read by Lorraine Toussaint (Hachette Audio/Books on Tape)
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GENTLEMEN & PLAYERS Joanne Harris
Read by Steven Pacey (Harper Audio/BBC Audiobooks America)
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IMPERIUM Robert Harris
Read by Simon Jones (Simon & Schuster Audio)
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KAFKA ON THE SHORE Haruki Murakami
Read by Sean Barrett, Oliver Le Sueur (Naxos AudioBooks)
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ORDINARY HEROES Scott Turow
Read by Edward Herrmann (Random House Audio/Books on Tape)
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A SPOT OF BOTHER Mark Haddon
Read by Simon Vance (Random House Audio/Books on Tape)
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SUITE FRANCAISE Irene Nemirovsky
Read by Daniel Oreskes, Barbara Rosenblat (HighBridge Audio)
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TELEGRAPH DAYS Larry McMurtry
Read by Annie Potts (Simon & Schuster Audio/Recorded Books)
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WATER FOR ELEPHANTS Sara Gruen
Read by David LeDoux, John Randolph Jones (HighBridge Audio)
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WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN Lionel Shriver
Read by Barbara Rosenblat (Recorded Books)
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Lorraine Toussaint's narration of Walter Mosley's FORTUNATE SON enhances the text as only the best audio performances can--never mind that it was one of the first audiobooks she recorded. Lorraine's intuitive touch brings out the humanity of Mosley's characters but sidesteps melodrama. The parallel lives of two boys intrigue and involve listeners. Mosley's book in print, a piece unlike much of his other writing, did not get too much attention, but this rendition makes it extraordinary. And we hope to hear more from Lorraine!
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WATER FOR ELEPHANTS achieves something that only the audio medium can accomplish--two different actors telling the story of protagonist Jacob Jankowski, who becomes a vet in the Benzini Brothers Circus in the 1930s. We hear the young voice of Jacob by David LeDoux, and when Jacob is 90, we hear John Randolph Jones in performances rich in nuance and keen understanding of the characters. A love story, a circus story, a story about Rosie the elephant. Don't miss it.
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AnchorTOP 7 FAMILY LISTENING

BLUES JOURNEY Walter Dean Myers
Read by Richard Allen (Live Oak Media)
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COUNT KARLSTEIN Philip Pullman
Read by Joe Thurley, a Full Cast (Listening Library)
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THE MERCY WATSON COLLECTION: Vol. 1 Kate DiCamillo
Read by Ron McLarty (Listening Library)
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ONCE Morris Gleitzman
Read by Morris Gleitzman (Bolinda Audio)
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PETER AND THE SHADOW THIEVES Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson
Read by Jim Dale (Brilliance Audio)
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RABBIT EARS SERIES Various Authors
Read by Kathleen Turner, Glenn Close, et al. (Listening Library)
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THE SNOW SPIDER Jenny Nimmo
Read by John Keating (Scholastic Audio)
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We were thrilled when Listening Library relaunched the Rabbit Ears series of storybook recordings, which have been unavailable for years. Collected treasuries of fables, tall tales, world tales, and more are narrated by the likes of Denzel Washington and Kathleen Turner, all with musical accompaniment--perfect family listening. And the next time you stop in Starbucks for a latte, look for The Velveteen Rabbit (with a George Winston score) and The Night Before Christmas (featuring Christmas carols) book-and-CD sets, both read by Meryl Streep and available exclusively at Starbucks locations through the end of the year.
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AnchorTOP 5 NONFICTION

THE BIG OYSTER Mark Kurlansky
Read by Tom Stechschulte (Random House Audio)
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DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE Anderson Cooper
Read by Anderson Cooper (Harper Audio)
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KEYBOARD CONVERSATIONS Jeffrey Siegel
Read by Jeffrey Siegel (Random House Audio/Books on Tape)
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THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA Michael Pollan
Read by Scott Brick (Penguin Audio/Books on Tape)
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SMALL IS THE NEW BIG Seth Godin
Read by Seth Godin (HighBridge Audio)
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Pianist Jeffrey Siegel's Keyboard Conversations make innovative use of the audiobook form: Each program includes concert selections by Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, and others as well as Siegel's commentary. They're educational, entertaining, and uniquely suited to audio.
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AnchorTOP 6 BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY

THE BIG BAM Leigh Montville
Read by Scott Brick (Books on Tape)
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MAYFLOWER Nathaniel Philbrick
Read by George Guidall (Penguin Audio/Recorded Books)
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AN ORDINARY MAN Paul Rusesabagina, Tom Zoellner
Read by Dominic Hoffman (Penguin Audio/Books on Tape)
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SOUND AND FURY Dave Kindred
Read by Dick Hill (Blackstone Audiobooks)
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TEN HOURS UNTIL DAWN Michael J. Tougias
Read by Joe Barrett (Blackstone Audiobooks)
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THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING Joan Didion
Read by Barbara Caruso (HighBridge Audio)
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For most Americans, the grim detail of life in the Plymouth colony of the 1600s has fallen prey to popular history notions of Pilgrims and a Thanksgiving feast. InMAYFLOWER, National Book Award winner Philbrick brings a factual account of not just the hardships, but the complex community relations and ensuing war. Golden Voice George Guidall makes this history even more accessible through his keen understanding of Philbrick's style and intent, not to mention his facility with dozens of Native American names.
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AnchorTOP 4 CLASSICS

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS Ernest Hemingway
Read by Campbell Scott (Simon & Schuster Audio/Recorded Books)
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IN COLD BLOOD Truman Capote
Read by Scott Brick (Random House Audio/Books on Tape)
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MOBY-DICK Herman Melville
Read by William Hootkins (Naxos AudioBooks)
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A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
James Joyce Read by Jim Norton (Naxos AudioBooks)
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This year, Simon & Schuster Audio began releasing new unabridged recordings of Hemingway's major works, including FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. AudioFile's review calls Campbell Scott's narration layered and subtle: "With Hemingway, less is always more, and Scott's presentation succeeds like no other could." The audio experience brings this classic into the spotlight again and makes it accessible to a new generation of readers, highlighting "the understated intensity of Hemingway's prose and his simple yet powerful diction." Other winning performances include James Naughton reading A MOVEABLE FEAST and Will Patton reading TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT. Library editions are available from Recorded Books.
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AnchorTOP 8 MYSTERY & SUSPENSE

THE ART OF DETECTION Laurie R. King
Read by Alyssa Bresnahan, Robert Ian Mackenzie (Recorded Books)
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THE DEAD YARD Adrian McKinty
Read by Gerard Doyle (Blackstone Audiobooks)
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THE BOOK OF FATE Brad Meltzer
Read by Scott Brick (Hachette Audio/Recorded Books)
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END IN TEARS Ruth Rendell
Read by John Lee (Books on Tape)
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THE 5TH HORSEMAN James Patterson
Read by Carolyn McCormick (Hachette Audio/Books on Tape)
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THE KEEP Jennifer Egan
Read by Jeff Gurner, Geneva Carr (Audio Partners/BBC Audiobooks America)
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TOMB OF THE GOLDEN BIRD Elizabeth Peters
Read by Barbara Rosenblat (Harper Audio/Recorded Books)
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TWELVE SHARP Janet Evanovich
Read by Lorelei King (Audio Renaissance/BBC Audiobooks America)
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Longtime audiobook collaborators Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Rosenblat somehow manage to keep each new Amelia Peabody adventure fresh, funny, and thoroughly entertaining, and TOMB OF THE GOLDEN BIRD is no exception. The centerpiece of Egyptian archaeology--the discovery of King Tut's tomb--provides this episode with further historical detail, and colorful characters abound. AudioFile's review affirms, "The Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Rosenblat audio enterprise seems to gain panache with each outing." This perfect balance of author and narrator showcases the audiobook medium in all its glory. The pair even appear occasionally at live events--talk about a dynamic duo!
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Janet Evanovich's series rolls on (check out www.evanovich.com for sound clips, monthly contests, and more). While several narrators have recorded her work, author Evanovich and narrator Lorelei King are becoming a standout pair in the audiobook world. In each outing, King is called upon to portray dozens of characters of varying wackiness: New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, her men--fellow bail bondsman Ranger and Vice cop Joe Morelli, her sometimes-partner Lula, and the incomparable Grandma Mazur--and those are the good guys (more or less). In TWELVE SHARP, King also takes on a stalker, a stranger, and a parade of miscreants in an episode darker than most. With enough restraint to keep listeners involved but not exhausted by the characters, King manages a brilliant balancing act. It's a sure bet that #13 will be lucky in these hands.
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AnchorUN = Unabridged   AB = Abridged   AUD = Audio program

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