Audiobooks and Literacy: Purposeful Performances

6 audiobooks with narrations that will thrill you, comfort you, and send you off to bed

Every day we read, listen to, or watch a variety of media with specific purposes in mind: to gather information, find entertainment, explore a new culture, or participate in our own. Each should vary in delivery if we are to satisfy our goal: to learn, to relax, or to share in a sense of community. There is no one-size-fits-all presentation for a certain kind of content, and no one way of engaging with that content that will work for everyone.

Manhattan BeachAnd so it is when you choose audiobooks for yourself or for children. Beyond content, what sort of performance might best fit the material and help listeners satisfy their immediate needs? Luckily, the audiobooks available to us today continue to show growth the in diversity of their expressive styles as well as their range of content, both for adults and children. Some performance styles particularly enhance and expand the particular kind of content you seek on audio.

Looking for a satisfying escape through story? Certainly the acting performance of a skillful narrator—or multiple narrators, like in MANHATTAN BEACH—can move a thriller or a cozy mystery or a celebrity biography from page to sound, with highly enhanced entertainment value. Read more…

Francisca Goldsmith
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Audiobooks and Literacy: When Reader Fatigue Strikes

Audiobooks that can lift reading fatigue

The SlaveStress plays havoc with our emotions and our capacity to think clearly—even the good stress (I got married! I have a new puppy! I earned a raise!) and certainly the bad (I’ve been sued. My children have been sick for a month. I can’t figure out what this teacher wants.). All stress undermines our sense of balance, and we look to a variety of substances and activities for relief, from potato chips to weeping. Yet our tried and true remedies may fail when the stress is chronic: We lose interest in favorite pastimes, we can’t concentrate on what ordinarily engages us, and we can’t seem to break through a resistance to righting our inner world.

We are living through a civic era in which news and opinion sources blast a constant high-pressure stream of information, misinformation, guesswork, and prognosticating. Because this flood comes to us through the same activities that many of us employ as stress reducers—reading, listening, conversing—we know that we are not alone in suffering communication and expression fatigue. But how do we find a way to reboot our connections to well-chosen and artfully expressed words? How can we get back to a better sense of balance, and relief from the crumbling attributes of stress? Read more…

Francisca Goldsmith
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Audiobooks and Literacy: Literacy Fitness Program

It’s time to wake up your listening skills

If you are an educated adult who likes to read, this post may surprise you. Our literacy skills, as research has shown repeatedly and in international as well as American studies, aren’t stable across our adult life spans.

Sister Outsider

Kids’ “summer slide” has been well publicized, but less well known is evidence that adult literacy requires practice in order to persist through life, and not just seasonally. No matter your level of education, advancing age can lead to deterioration of literacy skill sets. Even bookworms can lose their literacy edge if their reading habits stop requiring or inspiring the need to reflect, question critically, or acquire new information. Unfortunately, this becomes the case with many adults in middle age.

These “literacy losses” are actually critical thinking losses. Once we have basic literacy skills (typically achieved in third grade), literacy isn’t about decoding individual words but collecting and absorbing meaning from whole paragraphs, texts, and complex directions. Adult losses in these skill areas impact our abilities to sort information, follow technical directions, and experience empathy. From a practical perspective, these losses mean we feel unsure about where stated fact ends and opinion begins, we may struggle to make sense of the programmable thermostat, and our world may shrink to include only those who share our cultural identity. Read more…

Francisca Goldsmith
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Audiobooks and Literacy: Own Voices

Inclusivity in children’s books and audiobooks

The JumbiesThe lack of diversity in children’s books has been noted by many parents, teachers, librarians, and children who seek more new books that reflect experiences that are more inclusive than the traditional reflection of white middle-and upper-class characters and concerns.

Children’s authors, publishers, librarians, and book bloggers have written extensively through social media and editorials about the disconnect between available children’s books and potential audiences whose experiences were under-represented. Two movements, We Need Diverse Books (#WNDB) and #OwnVoices, were born.

While the We Need Diverse Books movement’s goal is to increase inclusivity overall, #OwnVoices specifically focuses on story creators. The message? Telling stories from marginalized experiences requires authenticity, and the storytellers who live outside the empowered culture are the ones whose voices need to be heard.

Read more…

Francisca Goldsmith
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Our Website Leads the Way to Great Listening

A treasure trove of audiobooks is just a click away

Since 1992, AudioFile Magazine audiobook reviewers have applied critical listening skills to evaluate so many hours of audiobooks that it would take 65 years of endless audiobook listening (yup, 24/7) for one person to hear them all! Needless to say, that means our database of reviews has more than just one something for everyone. And we add reviews of about 200 new audiobooks every month.

For the past year, AudioFile‘s publisher and staff have been working to increase the ease with which you, our website users, audiobook fans, and anyone else wanting stellar critical review coverage of audiobook publishing can browse and dig deep into our stores of resources. Along the way, we’ve changed a name or two of our featured access points, and also boosted our online and social media publishing presence. To help you discover parts of this treasure trove you may not have realized are at your fingertips, here’s a quick overview from our home page.

Newest reviews iconOur Newest Reviews can be reached right from this icon. They can be searched according to any of 17 thematic areas, from Audio Theater to Young Adult titles. New reviews are added so frequently that you may find something new here on each visit.

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Looking for audiobook reviews for children’s and teen titles? Searching Audiobooks for Kids & Teens can help you to find reviews written with the listening needs and interests of kids  and families in mind.  Seven age groups can be searched separately.

AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award iconOne reason our Earphones Award for “exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text” sets the standard for narrators and audiobook publishers is because we’ve been evaluating audiobooks critically for so long–38,000 and counting, to date. Dip into this search for guaranteed excellent listening.

Golden Voices icon GIFIn addition to audiobook reviews, we also give you quick access to information about dozens of award-winning Narrators. Check out our Golden Voices for those who have achieved narrator hall of fame status.

Wherever your audiobook listening happens, we can be there to help you find exactly what to hear next. Pack your earphones and join us!

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Want a regular email about new audiobooks to love? You can subscribe our free e-newsletter at the E-news icon! 

 

Francisca Goldsmith
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Poets Aloud

Celebrating poetry on audio

Silhouette of head with headphone-wearing reader holding open book in area of brain
April is National Poetry Month, and poetry is a form of language and literature that begs to be
heard. In short, it’s a great time to call attention to poetry and poets we can meet in the medium they deserve, thanks to audiobooks. Poetry paints with rhythm and imagery what visual artists may use paint or other material to convey.

CHILDE HAROLD'S PILGRIMAGE audiobook cover

As with any fine work of art—as well as with our first exposures to spoken language—form and the moment may be more engaging than the effort to understand the how and why of meaning. Lord Byron’s CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE, as brought to our ears in Jamie Parker’s performance, doesn’t demand that we act as students investigating meaning or the workings underlying its form in order to enjoy its flow.

SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY audiobook cover

Caroline Kennedy, an experienced and sensitive editor, has compiled SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems as a way of offering the guidance of the art of poetry to the winding path many women’s lives can take. Sandra Cisneros, Gertrude Stein, and Sharon Olds are among the poets whose words come to us through performances by Jane Alexander, John Bedford Lloyd, Hope Davis, Campbell Scott, and Kennedy herself. The range of selections here is broad as well as well chosen: e.e. cummings, Anne Bradstreet, Gregory Corso, and Vikram Seth, as well as Mary Oliver and William Blake. In short, if anything is stinting here, its the direction the title might suggest that this be for women only; look beyond that title, just as, for centuries, women had to assume that “man” was inclusive of all humans.

HERE IN HARLEM audiobook cover

Our tradition of poetry in America is diverse and makes imaginative use of the past as well as the poets’ own present. Walter Dean Myers’s HERE IN HARLEM, recorded by a full cast including Patricia R. Floyd, Kevin R. Free, Dion Graham, Robin Miles, and Lizan Mitchell, is itself an homage to Edgar Lee Masters’s now century-old SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY. Marilyn Singer’s FOLLOW FOLLOW, which she performs with Joe Morton, looks to folktales for initial spark and then turns what we think we know as the narrative upside down, the play of words when reversed or performed in tones that alter their habitually expected meaning.

 

Audiobooks and poetry offer a natural combination for enjoyment of both. You can find more of them to explore in our newest reviews.

 

 

Francisca Goldsmith
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.

Drop Everything And Listen

Celebrating iconic children’s author Beverly Cleary

THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE by Beverly Cleary audiobook coverApril 12 marks iconic American children’s author Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday. It’s been nearly 70 years since her writing career began, and her books, made instantly popular for the very ordinariness of her fictional people, have become touchstones for readers and writers interested in the compelling nature of ordinary concerns of many children.

RAMONA FOREVER by Beverly Cleary audiobook cover

Mrs. Cleary’s storytelling found a voice precisely because she saw a disconnection between the kids who were coming to her library and the then-stocked books available to them. Her dedication to connecting the dots between potential reader and stories in which familiar childhood experiences and feelings evoke a sense of identification and comfort. This approach delighted young readers for a few generations and continues to serve as instructive to more contemporary authors who write today. This sense of making satisfaction discoverable through story in a book also has inspired a birthday celebration of decades’ standing in Mrs. Cleary’s honor. Drop Everything And Read—or DEAR Day—becomes an occasion for community members to visit school classes simply to read aloud to students for 20 minutes or so, with no pressure beyond listening to a good book.

AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award for Exceptional AudioMrs. Cleary’s books seem to have arrived primed for listening enjoyment. Even when read with the eyes, cadences and character tones are clear. A variety of excellent narrators have performed many of them. In particular, B.D. Wong’s aural celebration of Ralph S. Mouse, who appears in THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE, as well as a couple of sequels, and Stockard Channing’s Ramona performances, including her Earphones Award-winning RAMONA FOREVER, can leave listeners peering into their audiobook players to see how Mrs. Cleary’s characters could have set up housekeeping there.

FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo audiobook coverMrs. Cleary’s influence on other writers, both for children and as children, has furthered the riches available to us as reading and listening choices.  Judy Blume, Kate DiCamillo, Sara PennypackerAmy Poehler, and Eric A. Kimmel are among many authors she inspired when they read her earlier in their lives, and they, too, are well represented in audiobook choices. It seems a Drop Everything And Listen occasion might be an event with which we listeners would happily DEAL. So grab an audiobook by Beverly Cleary, or by someone who names her as inspiration, and expand your own experience with how extraordinarily engaging and satisfying the ordinary world can sound.

25065_tHappy birthday, Beverly Cleary, 100 times!

 

Francisca Goldsmith
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.