As editor and founder of AudioFile magazine, Robin Whitten comes across a LOT of audiobooks. She started AudioFile 25 years ago and was an avid listener even before that—so she knows the world of audiobooks! Every week in “Robin’s Roundup,” she recommends fresh titles that have caught her ear—the quirky, the trendy, and the most interesting new audiobooks of the week. Look for her posts each Friday on the blog to get your weekend listening picks!
Hello, universe, check out the spectacular listening in the Newbery and Odyssey Awards
In the midst of awards season, I’m always looking out for those that specifically celebrate audiobooks, like the Spoken Word Grammy (Carrie Fisher’s THE PRINCESS DIARIST) and The Odyssey Award (THE HATE U GIVE). Also, I love finding the audiobook companion of books that are being celebrated—the American Library Association awards announced this week offer a wealth of great listening. The Newbery Award, for example, given for the year’s “most outstanding contribution to literature,” honored HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly. We’ve talked about and celebrated the audiobook for months—check out narrator Ramon de Ocampo in one of our Behind the Mic videos telling us how swept up he was in this book. It’s thrilling to know that it has received the great Newbery honor. You’ll be hearing more about one of the Newbery Honor titles, Jason Reynolds’s LONG WAY DOWN—we have an exciting interview with Jason about recording his audiobooks for our upcoming print issue. (Look for it April 1.)Read more…
Pairs: two identical, similar, or corresponding things that are matched for use together
This week I noticed an impressive crop of nonfiction audiobooks reviewed. Thoughtful and powerful audiobooks on immigration, politics, abuse, and race give us the chance to listen to important and varied perspectives. We often see some of these complex topics handled in both nonfiction and fiction. Listeners usually have a specific preference—a factual account, or the same topic with imagined historical or emotional detail. Here are some thoughts on audiobook pairs from our recent reviews.
Russell Shorto’s new history REVOLUTION SONG takes a look at the American Revolution through the stories of six people. I’ll pair that with IT OCCURS TO ME THAT I AM AMERICA, a collection of short stories by Richard Russo, Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman, Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark, and thirty other contemporary authors.Read more…
Actor John Lithgow’s long career is studded with awards—Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Golden Globe—for his many roles as varied as the undercover extraterrestrial professor in “3rd Rock from the Sun” to Winston Churchill in “The Crown.” He is currently appearing on Broadway in his one-man show, STORIES BY HEART.
Lithgow puts a lot of heart into all his work, and as author and audiobook narrator he’s a consummate storyteller. Reviewed this week is a charming children’s audiobook, THEY ALL SAW A CAT. Lithgow has written for children and recorded other audio, including Dr. Seuss’s OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO! Ten years ago Lithgow’s memoir, DRAMA, was celebrated on the October/November 2011 AudioFile cover, and was one of the year’s Best Audiobooks. I love the interviewwe did with him, and he has an array of audiobooks to explore.Read more…
The Spiritual Journeys of Mountains and Mountaintops
Looking at some of the new audiobook reviews this week, I see a theme of personal journeys—some fictional and some biographical. In an original audio adaptation, Susan Trott’s THE HOLY MAN is transformed into a full cast performance as THE MAN ON THE MOUNTAINTOP. Headlining the cast of this pilgrims’ tale are British actor Toby Jones and Stanley Tucci, who said the project “blends parable, myth, and morality with powerful and thought-provoking storytelling.”
At first, I confused Trott’s mountaintop andTHE MOUNTAINTOP, the play by Katori Hall about Martin Luther King, Jr. This L.A. Theatre Works production is also an excellent listening experience, and a spiritual journey. A memoir of a slightly different type of journey, AN ODYSSEY: A Father, a Son, and an Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn, is also reviewed this week. Narrator Bronson Pinchot receives an Earphones Award for this memoir. Listening to even the briefest of sound clips lets you hear Bronson’s engaging style. Read more…
My Roundup this week was going to center on children’s audiobooks to bring some welcome counterpoint to the weather and news of the last few weeks. Instead, I share the sad news of the death of brilliant narrator Katherine Kellgren. Her wonderful performances are known and loved by listeners. Her work was celebrated with every audiobook award—Golden Voice, Earphones, Audie Awards, Odyssey, Voice of Choice, and more. Her kindness and indomitable spirit were loved and cherished by her colleagues and friends. We will miss her greatly. However, Katy leaves us with the enduring treasure of her audiobooks.
A New Year and the Real Meaning of Robin’s Roundup
2018 has roared into Maine with frigid temps and plenty of snow. This is great curl-up-and-read/listen weather.
Just what Danish author Meik Wiking suggests in his popular THE LITTLE BOOK OF HYGGE. His new audiobook, THE LITTLE BOOK OF LYKKE, offers encouragement for a happier year, and life that includes getting to know your neighbors and volunteering. Another new audiobook that offers thoughts along the lines of “fresh starts” for the new year is Oprah Winfrey’s audio collectionTHE WISDOM OF SUNDAYS: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations. I wasn’t initially sure about the title, but found that once I listened to the sample sound clip—that comes up with our review—I was eager to hear more. One activity I do in my neighborhood at the start of the new year reveals another meaning to Robin’s Roundup. My husband and I “roundup” Christmas trees for our garden—limbed up, the boughs make a terrific mulch!
When I meet people for the first time and tell them about AudioFile, they often ask, “Do you listen to all the books yourself?” What a thought! I don’t even want to calculate how many hours that might be—considering we clock in at almost 2,200 audiobook reviews published in 2017. The listening hours are spread among the ~85 AudioFile reviewers. Bless them all . . . for the many hours of work and listening pleasure, but also for the harder work of forming cogent, succinct reviews to enlighten all of us about each listening experience.
Christian Baskous talking about recording Richard Ford’s BETWEEN THEM; Mark Bramhall on Ron Chernow’s GRANT biography; Jonathan Yen giving us a wonderful teaser to explore A MIND AT PLAY and discover the man who is called the father of the information age, Claude Shannon; and Rob Shapiro talking about recording THE WORLD REMADE, a timely look at America in World War I.
If you are looking for audiobooks for Kids & Family listening or for a Teen in your life, our 2017 Best lists have great choices. Last week in my picks from the Nonfiction list, I singled out a couple of choices to inspire writers from John McPhee and Colum McCann. There’s a title for kids to add to this group—Jack Gantos’s WRITING RADAR: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories. Jack’s engaging style and involving ideas really connect with young writers.
Two audiobook choices on our list give another sort of inspiration. Chelsea Clinton’s SHE PERSISTED: 13 American Women Who Changed the World
aims at tiny feminists (ages 4-6), with mini-biographies of Nellie Bly, Helen Keller, Maria Tallchief, Sally Ride, and Sonia Sotomayor, among others. (Aren’t you curious who the other 8 women are?) Kwame Alexander’s THE PLAYBOOK: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life will appeal to audiences ages 10+. Kwame’s rules come from a variety of sources, particularly star athletes like LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Steph Curry, but the wisdom goes beyond the young athlete. Great family listening.