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!
Narrator Simon Vance is a man of many voices, in both contemporary fiction and classic literature, and he’s won dozens of awards for his audiobooks. In our interview on The Download, Simon shares reflections about many books he’s narrated—starting off with children’s classics likeTHE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, he takes us through details of his process to create his distinct “vocal wizardry.”
“Sitting in my little box, I do my own thing—I am free to let my creativity roam far and wide.”—Narrator Simon Vance
Former First Lady Barbara Bush loved audiobooks. When I spoke with her in 2004 about her narrating her own memoirs, REFLECTIONS and BARBARA BUSH: A Memoir, she told me that audiobooks were among her “travel essentials.” She shared what she was listening to with friends—biographies like David McCullough’s TRUMAN, Kathryn Stockett’s THE HELP—even recently Mrs. Bush always had her iPad and headphones handy and ready to play whatever audiobook she was listening to at the time, especially for car rides or when she was home needlepointing. And if she ever couldn’t decide what to listen to next, she never got tired of her classic favorite, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Read our full interview with Mrs. Bush. Read more…
“Poetry lives everywhere,” said Tracy K. Smith, teacher and writer and America’s Poet Laureate, as she kicked off April’s National Poetry Month a few weeks ago. As a listener—to audiobooks, poetry, podcasts, and even the eloquence of a speaker—I love that we celebrate all of these in sound.
Short stories have often gotten the short straw in audiobooks. With audio publishers producing more titles each season, and podcasts gaining more and more listeners, short story collections may be getting more attention. Eight new collections, just reviewed, are worth your listening time. I’ve split them into essays (nonfiction) and fiction stories.
Ramona Ausubel’s AWAYLAND showcases the voices of a dozen narrators in a collection that’s both fantastical and familiar. Scott O’Connor’s stories in A PERFECT UNIVERSE are all set in California. Two narrators, Bronson Pinchot and Thérèse Plummer, take us outside the bright lights of Hollywood with very human and complex characters, and pick up an Earphones Award for their performances. Read more…
VISIONARY WOMEN is made up of four mini biographies of women who changed the way we look at our world. As I thought about this interesting group—Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters—I realized that essays by each of them are also available on audio. Several preserve the voices of the authors themselves.
Chef, food activist, and founder of Chez Panisse, Alice Waters recorded her memoir COMING TO MY SENSES last fall. I love what our reviewer said: “Alice Waters’s narration is so approachable that it’s as if she walks up to your table wearing an apron, carrying an enticing plate of food, and says, ‘Eat this while I tell you my story.'” Jane Goodall has written and read several volumes on conversation, botany, and animals many years after her pioneering work with chimpanzees. Her last volume, SEEDS OF HOPE, did not record Jane’s voice, but in her mid-70s she did record HOPE FOR ANIMALS AND THEIR WORLD. Read more…
How do children’s audiobooks catch my attention? Sometimes it’s a visual
pop from the cover, sometimes it’s wanting to hear a narrator I love, and sometimes it’s the Earphones Award a reviewer recommends.
The cover of Junot Díaz’s ISLANDBORN immediately grabbed me, and the Earphones-worthy performance by the author sealed it. The unlikely appearance of a Swedish children’s series from the 1940s, Pelle No-Tail, is another that made me curious. Master narrator Rupert Degas is one of my favorites, and his performance ofTHE ADVENTURES OF PELLE NO-TAIL sealed the deal. Rupert’s performance in THE GOLDEN COMPASS is one I hold dear, and his SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT series was a marvel.
Robin’s Roundup: New Audiobook Reviews for March 23
When I see a dazzling cast in films like Murder on the Orient Express, it reminds me how much I appreciate the dramatized programs that come to our audiobook ears. An audio drama brings the sound and lights into your personal soundspace. Whether it’s the footsteps behind you on a dark night, the tinkling of glasses as your heroine mixes a drink, or the bioengineered cat’s meow sound, effects and aural detail amplify the experience.
We are still in the chill of winter here in Maine, so these new Scandinavian suspense titles seem right in line. Audiobooks are the perfect medium for Scandi-crime for several reasons, but having the narrators do the heavy lifting with the impenetrable names is a top one for me. Even the authors I’m about to mention— Indriðason, Sigurðardóttir, Sjöwall & Wahlöö—slow me down, and we haven’t even gotten to the characters’ names yet! Simon Vancehas been showered with awards for his narrations of The Millennium Trilogy, and now the continuing Lisbeth Salander saga with THE GIRL WHO TAKES AN EYE FOR AN EYE. Simon completely removes any barrier to staying within the story with his smooth delivery of every Scandinavian name. Read more…
As you might guess, Women’s History is big this month at AudioFile! Each month we brainstorm about audiobook titles that we can recommend around themes, holidays, or current events—think Women’s History, Groundhog Day, or immigration. Our newsletters, Twitter posts, and website use the titles to suggest listening. I’m also excited about using the “playlist” option of our Soundcloud channel. We have 16 clips from, and about, Outspoken Women and will be adding more each week through the month. I love the fact that this is an ongoing project, so we keep adding new voices. Read more…
Take comfort from series continuity, and then add a change-up challenge
If you are a listener who loves series, one of the worst moments is when a new episode arrives and the long-time narrator is replaced. It’s a little like losing old friends . . . not only the narrator’s voice but the way he or she creates all the recurring characters. We do survive . . . think Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, where we lost beloved narrator Ralph Cosham. Luckily, the new narrator, Robert Bathurst, has turned out to be just as much of a delight. In one case of the same narrator remaining at the helm, Jan Karon’s Mitford series started with AT HOME IN MITFORD in 1994, and narrator John McDonough introduced me to this lovely slice of small-town America (nearly 25 years ago!). Read more…