I love the prospect of LUCY AND DESI: The Legendary Love Story of Television’s Most Famous Couple—Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It’s a wonderful throwback to 1950s television and will get you searching for “I Love Lucy ” reruns. With all the interest in superheroes, what about Catwoman? Batman’s enemy/love interest gets a “biography” chronicling her first appearance in 1940 through today in THE MANY LIVES OF CATWOMAN.
On a more serious historical note, WHEN THE WORLD STOPPED TO LISTEN caught my eye—first from the title, since I always like a title about listening, and then the subtitle, “Van Cliburn’s Cold War Triumph and Its Aftermath,” which got me watching the newsreel from the 1958 concert given by pianist Van Cliburn at the height of the Cold War. “History is made at the keyboard,” the newscaster intones. Now I want to get the whole story.
The 100-year anniversary of the start of Russian Revolution was the catalyst for LENIN ON THE TRAIN. The sealed train that took Lenin from Zurich through Germany to Russia has always fascinated me. With this work, I can get all the details. And John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., have been the subject of plenty of titles, but Steven Levingston’s KENNEDY AND KING: The President, The Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights takes a look at their relationship in the early ’60s and how the two men influenced each other.
Mixing romance and humor can be a tricky balance — and finding a narrator to dish out zany dialogue or ironic quips with droll aplomb is not as easy as it sounds. Often when I’m listening, I find myself surprised into unexpected laughter because the narrator snuck up on me with a covert zinger. Here are a few of my favorite humorous romances. These narrators have great senses of humor, pacing, timing and delivery. Add your own favorites in the comments!
by Jennifer Crusie, read by Deanna Hurst
If I were limited to one title, this would be it. Legendary in romance circles for the awkward encounters between Min and Cal as they fight a bad first date and the cat from hell, as well as for the memorable cherries on the heroine’s shoes, BET ME stands out as a romance sparking with verbal chemistry. Narrator Deanna Hurst has a voice low enough to score realism points for Cal and a humor that rolls out expressively through changes in pitch and pacing. Not to be missed.
Recently I took a trip to Central Virginia to visit a friend who moved there. She waited for me to arrive before heading out to her new library so she could sign up for a card and investigate this cherished repository of stories. It’s a lovely, modern building that includes a front porch and—no joke—rocking chairs. But what really caught my attention was this sign they had hanging on one of the bookshelves:
Having worked as a high school English teacher, I cannot understand the mindset that audiobooks are cheating. Don’t misunderstand—I believe literacy is vital in our society, but reading the words printed on the pages of a book is at the bottom of Bloom’s taxonomy. Where the true value of good stories comes into play is in the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of characters, plot, theme, sometimes setting, symbols, etc. And when we listen to audiobooks, we’re still wholly responsible for that role. Read more…
AudioFile Magazine goes Behind the Mic with Brian Nishii to hear more about his narration of THE GREAT PASSAGE by Shion Miura. Brian gives a delightful entrée to listeners to delve into this Japanese story of the creation of a dictionary. Did you ever stop to think about what goes into the making of a dictionary?
“How do you decide what words make it into the dictionary and what words don’t? What words are relevant? What words are changing?”—Narrator Brian Nishii
THE GREAT PASSAGE
by Shion Miura, Juliet Winters Carpenter [Trans.],
read by Brian Nishii
AudioFile Earphones Award
Brian was born and raised in Tokyo and grew up in a fully bilingual environment. He’s a perfect choice for this audiobook as his facility with Japanese names and words keeps listeners from getting hung up on unfamiliar phrases or word choices. We can really get the Japanese spirit of the work and of the Japanese business environment. Come on, word-lovers, this one’s for you! Listen to a sound clip, and read AudioFile’s full review here.
THE GREAT PASSAGE garners Brian’s first Earphones Award, but listeners can explore Brian’s other audiobooks, including a YA title that chronicles samurai warrior Minamoto Yoshitsune in SAMURAI RISING.
A couple of the audiobooks in this week’s new reviews have European provenance. THE SECRET DIARY OF HENDRIK GROEN: 83 1/4 Years Old by Hendrik Groen is a Dutch bestseller published in 2014. The brilliant Derek Jacobi performs pseudonymous author Groen’s diary as a listener’s delight, delivering the emotional beats and subtle layers of humor.
For listeners who relish Swedish noir mystery, Anders de La Motte may be an author to check out. MEMORANDOM follows his successful GAME trilogy. Narrator Peter Noble does a great job leading listeners into an intriguing thriller that reflects the clear authenticity of de la Motte’s law enforcement background.
Being in the midst of summer, I would think we’d be seeing more baseball audiobooks. THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES sounds like a real nostalgia piece, and will take many listeners back to 1942 with the story of Lou Gehrig and the making of the Gary Cooper movie. The season is long, so more choices for baseball may come along.
We do seem to be in love with book covers with dogs . . .and COLLARED is no exception. Of course, it’s not just the cover—David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series is owned by narrator Grover Gardner. An Earphones Award here, but definitely not the duo’s first. I love this comment from AudioFile reviewer Brian Price: “Gardner’s wonderful combination of the rhythms of Sam Spade and the irreverent tones of Mark Twain make this diverting whodunit a listening treasure.” That’s my listening for this week.
What’s in your headphones?