Get It Together

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Five Audiobooks that Will Put Your Life in Order

Spark Joy

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpSo how did your tax preparation go this year? Personally, I only cursed twice. First when I dropped the file of medical receipts. Second when I learned that despite what my husband and I had spent on doctors, it wasn’t enough to be deductible. I discovered that after adding it all up on a recalcitrant calculator.

That’s when, inspired by Marie Kondo’s runaway bestseller, THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, I shredded those useless receipts and resolved next year to keep only that which I truly need (in one pouch as she does). Emily Woo Zeller’s Earphones Award performance makes Kondo’s quirky, precise guide to living tidily endearing as well as helpful. (Watch Zeller’s delightful Behind the Mic chat about narrating the book – she too folds her shirts differently!)  Her friendly tone warms the exacting tea-ceremony aspect of Kondo’s approach and animates her appealing eccentricities, such as thanking her possessions. Then again, who’s calling whom eccentric?  I’ve always talked to my stuff. 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.

4 Audiobooks in Which Miracles Might be Possible

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Do You Believe?

Galore

GaloreI don’t come from a religious family, but during this week between the Roman and Orthodox Easters, I’m reminded of my one experience of church on Easter Sunday. In the children’s group, we discussed the resurrection of Jesus; hunted for chocolate eggs and jellybeans; patted visiting bunnies; and sang Puff the Magic Dragon. I embraced it all.

I’m still comforted by the possibility of miracles and magic, which is why I recommend GALORE, Michael Crummey’s allegorical saga about a man found inside a whale and the effect he has on generations of 19thcentury Newfoundland villagers. Not Jonah exactly, but close enough to be a story for the ages. It’s narrated by John Lee, whose warm embrace of a voice radiates wonder and seeps into your very marrow. 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.

Hit the Road

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Matching audiobooks to the drive improves the scenery

Last Bus to Wisdom

Last Bus to WisdomMy husband Bob and I recently drove from Maine to California and back just to listen to audiobooks. Okay, we also wanted to escape winter in the 23rd state. However we played lots of audiobooks along the way, choosing ones set more or less where we were going. Call them road-trip audiobooks.  That’s how we took the LAST BUS TO WISDOM, Ivan Doig’s heartfelt, comic paean to lighting out. Across the Great Plains we went with 12-year-old Donal, 70-something Herman-the-German, and the amazing narrator, Aaron David Baker. They rode the Dog Bus — think now, what bus line’s emblem is a hound? — while we drove a Subaru. But with a master author and narrator to guide us, we found wide-open spaces and quirky, worthwhile Americans. We survived robbery (Donal and Herman) and a blizzard on Donner Pass (Bob and me). And we replaced several meals with chocolate bars. 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: Before the Pulitzer Prize

Great Early Audiobooks from Famous Award Winners

Sag Harbor

I spent years believing, or was it hoping, that I was too special to read books found on bestseller lists. Then I became a writer. Now I’m grateful for readers. And I applaud those who turn a book, any book, into a bestseller. Way to go, readers! But it still makes me feel special, even astonishingly brilliant, to have savored a writer’s work before they became famous. Thus I offer five fine audiobooks by some of my favorite authors, written before they won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Underground Railroad
Sag Harbor

Colson Whitehead, for example, whose wondrous and experimental THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, took the 2017 award and rightly blew everyone away, including our reviewer, who turned cartwheels over Bahni Turpin’s performance. Well before that, Whitehead wrote the more straightforward SAG HARBOR, given an Earphones Award winning performance by Mirron Willis. It’s a funny, often entrancing coming-of-age memoir cast as a novel about a 15-year-old boy during one special summer in a Sag Harbor neighborhood where black families owned the beach houses. 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: My Frozen Toes

Audiobooks About Winter’s Joys and Terrors

Speed Kings

Speed KingsWhat I remember most about my childhood attempt to ski is cold feet. Mine were so painful that I whimpered. That’s why, after one frozen season on the slopes, and several ineffectual years trying to be Peggy-Fleming-figure-skating’s-darling, I designated winter as my spectator season. Thus the current Winter Olympics suit me perfectly. I can admire the athleticism free from the urge to try it myself.

Take bobsledding, which bears no resemblance to my start-and-stop progress down Heaton Hall Hill on a Flexible Flyer at age twelve. Instead, teams of two or four fling themselves onto a super-fast sled in order to plummet down a twisting ice-chute. Insane. Yet the sport is huge fun to watch, and in Eric Meyers’s gripping narration of SPEED KINGS: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World by Andy Bull, vicariously thrilling. 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: 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.