Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: So Love Goes

Uplifting Audiobooks About Love’s Complexities

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryWhen I was about seventeen, I read the obituary of a New York City matron that included her recipe for a happy marriage. She had recommended living as she and her husband did, in side-by-side brownstones with a connecting door that they never used before 10 AM. At the time, I thought that immensely clever. Now that I’ve been married forever, I wonder why have such a well-managed relationship, when instead you could walk the length of England in uncomfortable shoes to reach your beloved, as does the protagonist in Rachel Joyce’s THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY? Or when, as in Joyce’s companion novel, THE LOVE SONG OF MISS QUEENIE HENNESSEY, you could commit your heart as fiercely and nobly as the woman to whom Harold is limping? Jim Broadbent won an Earphones Award for Harold’s story and Celia Imre won the same for Queenie’s. I have read and listened to each more than once and can only say that the exquisite, quirky novels are so well narrated that it hurts, and that they present the truth of love in all its heartbreaking glory. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Have You Heard the One About My Cancer?

Funny Memoirs About the Not-Always-Funny

I'm Just A Person

One of my father’s favorite stories was about when he picked apricots from an orchard and barely managed to outrun a shovel-wielding farmer (and a cow that he mistook for a bull) before making it home to Mama and Papa. The telling reduced the family to gales of tearful laughter each time. And each time, after wiping his eyes, he’d conclude, “The fruit wasn’t ripe, but there was nothing else for it. It was all the food we had that night.”

I'm Just A PersonThe man who taught me to take control by laughing at adversity, at least after the fact, would have loved comedian Tig Notaro’s performance of I’M JUST A PERSON, her memoir about facing down cancer and other iniquities. Delivered in her trademark deadpan delivery, Notaro’s audiobook is one that cures pain while delivering sidesplitting guffaws. I know because my father didn’t make it out of his Big C treatment alive, so I listened, cried, and laughed for both of us to her fierce and funny tale. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: I Hereby Resolve

Audiobooks to Support One’s Best Intentions

Finish

I tend not to make resolutions because they remind me of raising my hand in fifth grade while praying Please don’t call on me, please don’t call on me. I wanted to be one of the kids who knew the answer, but rather than studying fractions or Latin declensions, I preferred to read novels about dreamy young women who become celebrated geniuses without appearing to labor.

FinishBut that only took me as far as being told, “You really could be a B student in this class, instead of a C, if only you would believe in your abilities and focus for the next 53 minutes.” An admonition that brings me to Jon Acuff’s engaging reading of his own START and FINISH. They’re motivating, often witty how-to books that assume you have a brain. Listening, I imagine him earnestly covered in chalk dust, as was Mrs. Samsell at the end of every math class.

Once begun on getting my act together, I seek the company of inspirational heroes. Nelson Mandela’s DARE NOT LINGER, beautifully performed by Adrian Lester, is a collection of speeches that comprise his second (and unfinished) memoir. They lift and encourage and dazzle so much that I’ve listened more than once. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

The Sound Stage in the Closet

What It Really Takes to Be an Audiobook Narrator

Xe Sands

As we close out our December celebration of the Best Audiobooks of 2017, I wanted to share some of our winning narrators’ lesser-known skills and challenges.

Xe Sands
Xe Sands, photo by Charles Tarnowski

These are tidbits of information that enhance my admiration for their ability and occasional bravery. Such as not panicking when a spider lands on your hand while you’re trapped in a recording booth voicing a romantic scene. Xe Sands, who read Helen Rappaport’s CAUGHT IN THE REVOLUTION, is officially terrified of eight-legged creatures. Yet professional that she is, she didn’t react until she’d finished her sentence, exited the booth, and closed the door. That’s when she screamed her head off. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

The Narrator Makes All the Difference

What Qualities Set the Best Audiobook Performances Apart?

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient ExpressAfter months of persuasion, my friend Dory finally listened to her first book during a nine-hour drive from Virginia to Maine last month. She chose Kenneth Branagh’s performance of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded when she arrived, as if I’d been keeping audiobooks a secret. “I’d never realized how witty Christie is until I heard it. And those amazing accents!” Then she uttered the classic line. “Listening to the performance made the story come alive.”

One more audiobook convert, all because of the narrator, which is how it should be. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: A Shout-out to Sonnets

Listening to Poetry Just Makes Life Better

The Great Poets: Walt Whitman“Focus on something. It’ll steady your nerves,” my mother advised. That’s why I stared fixedly at Mr. Potter the Latin teacher throughout my 6th grade recitation of “Oh Captain, My Captain” by Walt Whitman. Mr. Potter smiled benignly. And when my nerves settled, the words rose, heated, as they had not when I’d practiced, surprising me into passion. In the years since, I’ve found that whether in the midst of joy or sorrow, wistfulness or contentment, poetry speaks intimately to the heart and mind. It also demands to be spoken.

White men who died long ago wrote most of the poetry I learned in school. I still turn to it because the guys, including Whitman, really could write. Naxos AudioBooks’ Great Poets series has a fine collection, including Garrick Hagon’s Earphones Award performance of Whitman’s best known poems in THE GREAT POETS: WALT WHITMAN. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Do You Even Like Pumpkin Pie?

Audiobooks to See You Through Thanksgiving

Appetite For LifeAs our national celebration of family and pie approaches, I’m reminded of the Thanksgiving when our gorgeously brown turkey slid off the serving platter and across the none-too-clean kitchen floor. After a stunned silence, my mother called out, “Julia Child!” We took up the cheer, “Yes, yes, Julia Child!” And with that paean to the woman who showed America how to cook and cope cheerfully with culinary setbacks, we plopped the bird back on the platter and headed into the dining room to brave my uncle’s divergent political opinions. (For more on the indomitable American cook, I recommend Wanda McCaddon’s reading of APPETITE FOR LIFE: THE BIOGRAPHY OF JULIA CHILD.)

The Lay of the Land

Weighted with food calamities, family contretemps, and expectations of perfection, November Togetherness Day can be tense. As Joe Barrett’s fine performance of Richard Ford’s THE LAY OF THE LAND reveals, it can also be joyous. Selected as an AudioFile Best Audiobook of 2007, the novel drops us into the amusing and angst-ridden tribulations of Frank Bascombe, Ford’s everyman hero, as he faces Thanksgiving with friends and family. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: The Stars are Out Tonight

Great actors who can also deliver great audiobook performances

The Testament of Mary

Asked to read a telephone book, Meryl Streep could find subtext even in the X’s. Hand her a novel and she’s la crème de la crème. That cannot be said about most celebrities who’ve narrated audiobooks. Unfortunately, mega stardom doesn’t guarantee a mega audiobook performance. So let’s celebrate three stage and screen superstars who also are able to deliver splendid listening.

The Testament of Mary

Streep can do serious, as evidenced by her performance of Colm Tóibín’s THE TESTAMENT OF MARY — a blazing commentary by the mother of Jesus on her son’s fate. She channels Mary, making the audiobook one for every faith or none. It’s a performance of a lifetime that I’ve pressed on many who weren’t sure and who came away convinced. Streep can also do funny, and her comedic timing is beautifully displayed in Nora Ephron’s fictionalized memoir, HEARTBURN. Both performances won Earphones Awards. Then there are her characterizations, vividly apparent in several narrations for children. For the kids in your life, or just for yourself, listen and savor THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, or three stories in an audio collection called RABBIT EARS STORIES BY BEATRIX POTTER. Rarely has Peter Rabbit sounded so inveterately tempted by Mr. MacGregor’s garden. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Sherlock Holmes Anniversary

My Man Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock HolmesIt began with “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” which is arguably Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous short story. I was 11 years old and at odds with the world when my mother thrust a heavy volume into my hands. Still complaining, I retired to my room. Within a page, I’d been offered a wonderful new nineteenth-century identity as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson’s invisible sidekick. One who knew that only a dog cart throws up mud on a person’s sleeve in that way. “And then,” as Holmes explained, “only when you sit on the left-hand side of the driver.” Soon thereafter, we discovered the snake in the wall, that is, the speckled band, and I was hooked for life.

The Sherlock Holmes canon—four novels and 56 short stories—has remained in print since publication of the first novel, A STUDY IN SCARLET, in 1887. It’s inspired hundreds of screen adaptations (beginning with a silent film in 1900), radio and stage plays, and new Holmes novels and short stories by other writers. Luckily for us, that wealth has produced an equal richness of audiobooks. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Growing Up with the Vietnam War

Audiobooks that offer perspective on a long war and turbulent time

The Vietnam WarSoldiers lunged muddy, exhausted, and wide-eyed across our kitchen table most evenings when I was a teenager. It was the Vietnam War, in all its fear and confusion, playing in black-and-white on the nightly news. I wish we’d had Ken Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward’s audiobook, THE VIETNAM WAR: AN INTIMATE HISTORY, to support our viewing, as it’s every bit as informative and wide-ranging as their recent PBS documentary. Though the audiobook is abridged, Burns won an Earphones Award for his clear and serious narration, which helped me concentrate on the hard story without turning away.

You see, in 1969, while waiting for my ride outside the San Francisco airport, I did look away when a soldier dropped a bulging duffle at his feet, and said, “I’m just back from Vietnam.” Such were my muddled emotions that to my eternal regret, I couldn’t even manage a “Welcome home.” Between them, Steve Sheinkin’s MOST DANGEROUS: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE VIETNAM WAR, read by Ray Porter, and Howard Means’s 67 SHOTS: KENT STATE AND THE END OF AMERICAN INNOCENCE, read by Alan Sklar, help explain the mess we were in during those tumultuous times. They don’t absolve my rudeness to that soldier, but they put my reaction in context. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.