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?
The summer before my mother died, I repainted our front porch. Neither she nor I wanted me in constant attendance. So, in between visits to her bedside, I scraped, painted, and laughed hysterically to Mark Haddon’s A SPOT OF BOTHER, given an Earphones Award-winning performance by Simon Vance. This startled passersby, but given the chance to blend my weeping with tears of laughter, I didn’t care about the spectacle I was making. The audiobook is nominally about an estranged English family arranging for a wedding. For Haddon, whose THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME found humor and profundity in a character’s coping with Asperger’s Syndrome, a family wedding (like a family death) gives rise to just about every behavior, some of it bizarre, much of it transcendent. And in my hour of need, it was transformative.
Ray Porter is an amazing performer, and his strong voice is never more convincing than in the narration of a crime audiobook. Covering some of the grittiest crime novels from the likes of Don Winslow and Jonathan Maberry, he brings the dark atmosphere and constant threats with a subtlety that chills readers to their core. So when I learned he would be giving voice to Steve Hamilton’s new series featuring Nick Mason, a man released from prison but indebted to a criminal kingpin, it seemed a natural choice.
Porter proved that he was indeed the right narrator in the first book of the series, THE SECOND LIFE OF NICK MASON, which earned him an Earphones Award. Now he’s returned for Hamilton’s high-octane follow-up, EXIT STRATEGY, where Mason is tasked with infiltrating the federal witness protection program while trying to dodge an assassin who has Mason in his sights.
If you haven’t checked this series out yet, now’s the time. With only the second book published, you’ll get in on the ground floor of an intense, fresh crime series from one of the genre’s greats. Fans of Hamilton’s Alex McKnight series or his Edgar Award-winning standalone, THE LOCK ARTIST, already know the man’s got serious writing chops. But those unfamiliar with his work are sure to be pleasantly surprised by this action-packed series.
Porter and Hamilton make an excellent team on this audiobook series. Here’s hoping there will be plenty more to follow.