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Audie Awards 2019: Audiobook of the Year & More Great Listening

In the pink glow of stage lighting, the 2019 Audie Awards Gala, hosted by Tan France, Queer Eye fashion expert, dazzled a capacity crowd. The AudioFile editorial team—Jennifer Dowell, Emily Connelly, Francisca Goldsmith, Jo Reed, and me, along with numerous AudioFile reviewers, met and chatted with guests LeVar Burton, Euan Morton, Elizabeth Acevedo, and the dozens of narrators we write about every day. The 24th annual Audie Awards selected the best audiobooks in 24 categories, including Audiobook of the Year. This year the prestigious award went to Tomi Adeyemi’s CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE, narrated by Bahni Turpin and published by Macmillan Audio.

Narrators Julia Whelan and Edoardo Ballerini were honored in the Best Female and Best Male narrator categories. Julia won for her performance of Tara Westover’s EDUCATED, which also won in the Best Autobiography/Memoir category. In the year since the memoir was published, Julia’s narration has taken award after award. Be sure to check our our new AudioFile podcast interview with Julia.

Julia Whelan and Edoardo Ballerini
Julia Whelan and Edoardo Ballerini

Edoardo has been “in our ears” lately, as his recording of Adriana Trigiani’s TONY’S WIFE is featured on the cover of our February/March issue, and he’s recently narrated audiobooks by a diverse group of authors such as The Dalai Lama, Paul Theroux, and Italo Calvino. He took the Male Narrator honor with Dean Koontz’s WATCHERS—just another example of Edoardo’s skill and range.

There was definitely a Commonwealth invasion sweeping through the Audies winners with the authors, narrators, and producers in the limelight. THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: Hexagonal Phase by Eoin Colfer and Douglas Adams won the Science Fiction Audie. The Hitchhiker’s series—Tertiary, Quandary, and Quintessential Phases—were all Audie winners in 2006 and 2007, including Audiobook of the Year (2006). Should the collaborators go for Heptagonal? British publisher Big Finish Productions took home the Audie for Audio Drama with THE MARTIAN INVASION OF EARTH by H.G. Wells, dramatized by Nicholas Briggs. UK productions took the Faith-Based Fiction & Non-Fiction Audie with THE MAN ON THE MOUNTAINTOP by Susan Trott as well as the win in Literary Fiction for BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens, narrated by Miriam Margolyes. THE PERFECTIONISTS, written and narrated by Simon Winchester, won the Non-Fiction Audie. English author Lucy Strange won the Narration by Author category with THE SECRET OF NIGHTINGALE WOOD. The Fiction category was captured by Australian author Heather Morris and British narrator Richard Armitage for THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ. The mystery and suspense categories were also dominated by British voices.

With a break for some humor—Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally took home the Humor Audie for their THE GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER TOLD.  Rumplestilskin himself took home two Audies—for SPIN, a musical adaptation of the tale, and SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik. Both are wonderfully original productions. Odyssey Award winner SADIE by Courtney Summers, performed by a full cast, led the young people’s categories, taking the Young Adult Audie. Jason Reynolds’s SUNNY, narrated by Guy Lockard, took home the Middle Grade Audie, and Live Oak Media’s multi-voice performance of BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET by Lesa Cline-Ransome was the Young Listeners winner.

Greatest Love Story Ever Told
Before She Was Harriet

A judging panel of Ron Charles (Book Critic for The Washington Post), Linda Holmes (Host of NPR‘s Pop Culture Happy Hour), and Lisa Lucas (Executive Director of the National Book Foundation) made the final selections for the Audiobook of the Year. Ron Charles’s praise of Bahni Turpin’s narration goes to the heart of why we love audiobooks so much. Charles said, “There’s something magical about the timbre of Turpin’s voice that’s perfectly tuned to the fantastical nature of this novel. I felt transported into the world of CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE. Turpin’s superb accents allow us to visualize each character distinctly. Her dramatic pacing builds suspense and then explodes in moments of crisis. When she cries out in agony or despair, I pretty much stopped breathing. This is world-building entirely through the spoken word and the audiobook succeeds on the power of Turpin’s dramatic performance.”

Lisa Lucas at the 2019 Audie Awards

And, adding a nerdy architecture footnote—Guastavino’s, the Audies Gala location this year, features gorgeous soaring vaults of tile under the 59th Street Queensboro Bridge. The vaults and arches are “Guastavino” vaults designed by Rafael Guastavino, an architect from Barcelona, Spain. Ok, New Yorkers, think —Grand Central Terminal’s Oyster Bar, Ellis Island’s Registry Hall, Riverside Church. There are over 200 Guastavino-designed spaces in Manhattan. The Boston Public Library was the company’s first American project. Read more at the Palaces for People website sponsored by MIT. Thanks to my architect husband, Rob, who always shares fabulously obscure architectural tidbits.

Photos by Max Flatow

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