Celebrating 25 years of AudioFile Magazine

Iconic 25: What makes an audiobook iconic?

AudioFile 25 Years

We’re celebrating AudioFile’s 25th anniversary this June (which also happens to be Audiobook Month!), and we’d love to have you join us! AudioFile started in 1992 as a source of audiobook reviews and recommendations. In our 25 years of reviewing over 40,000 titles, we have listened to many, many fabulous audiobooks.

To celebrate our 25 years of publishing and Audiobook Month, we are sponsoring the ICONIC 25 project. During the month of June, we’re posting “iconic” audiobooks daily on our Twitter account and asking followers to share their choices using #iconicaudio. Our list is 25 audiobooks long, and we know you’ll think of many more you’ll want to add!

What makes an audiobook iconic? When a friend says, “What audiobooks should I listen to?”, what do you say? We can define iconic different ways, but  Merriam-Webster has a good start: iconic audiobooks are “widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence.”

Their Eyes Were Watching GodOur #iconicaudio discussion will be happening all June on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, and we’d love to hear from you, too! We’ll be sharing a roundup of our – and your – iconic audiobooks here on the blog in July, but in the meantime, here’s what’s on our list so far!

The classic THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD was on top of our list – Ruby Dee’s narration is marvelous and stage-worthy as she switches between the roles, dialects, and voices of the cast of characters for a masterful one-woman performance. Immerse yourself in Zora Neale Hurston’s famous novel about South African-American culture in the 1930s.

There are many adaptations out there of the interstellar classic THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, but Stephen Fry has the spot on our list for his narration of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect’s capers throughout the universe – not to mention the slew of otherworldly weirdoes they encounter on their travels.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

John Lee provides a masterful performance of the award-winning A FINE BALANCE. Four people are thrust together as they struggle to survive in their tumultuous coastal Indian city. The story has a Dickensian mix of compassion and narrative sweep, and Lee’s narration colors the characters beautifully.

THE THIRTEENTH TALE, a gothic mystery, is stunningly narrated by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner. Jill, as the elderly and enigmatic Vida Winter, uses a hesitant and fragile voice in conversation which falls away to take on the power of a masterful storyteller as she recounts her life story to her biographer Margaret Lea. Bianca shows a respect for the power of the story and the written word as Margaret, who slowly unravels the facts of Ms. Winter’s life.

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, as performed by the author himself, allowed him to communicate his understanding of his own story from beginning to end. Listeners are carried along, entranced and intrigued, into the magical story of the graveyard community raising young Bod. Neil gives each specter a distinct voice, which he goes so far as to change over time with journeys abroad – and uses to dramatic effect when he reveals the villain.


What iconic audiobooks would make it onto your list? Tell us in the comments or hop onto Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads to let us know!

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Congratulations to the 2017 Audie Awards Winners!

The revolutionary HAMILTON is the Audiobook of the Year

The 22nd Audie Awards took place last night in New York City, and winners took home the prestigious audiobook award recognizing excellence in 29 categories. We wanted to give a hearty congratulations to all the winners, and we will be highlighting some of them in the coming week.

Audiobook of the Year
The winner of the Audiobook of the Year award is a behind-the-scenes look at HAMILTON, the musical that took Broadway by storm. It’s full of details of its run off and on Broadway, recording the cast album, and personal stories of writing, casting, composing, and choreographing what became a revolutionary tale of Alexander Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda himself narrates accompanying footnotes, while Mariska Hargitay acts as a warm documentarian narrating this essential audiobook for HAMILTON fans.

Hamilton

HAMILTON: The Revolution
by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter, read by Mariska Hargitay, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter [Intro]
Hachette Audio

Best Female Narrator
The award for Best Female Narrator went to Tavia Gilbert for her narration of BE FRANK WITH ME, a captivating story about Frank, a 9-year-old boy with Asperger’s; Mimi, his mother who is a reclusive author; and their new personal assistant, Alice. Tavia manages to instill Frank’s dialog with charm and innocence while still capturing his unique speech patterns. Listen to her outstanding narration and you may forget that there’s only one narrator, as she switches between perspectives so seamlessly. Read our interview with Tavia to learn more about her intensive system behind her narrations.

Be Frank With Me

BE FRANK WITH ME
by Julia Claiborne Johnson, read by Tavia Gilbert
Harper Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award

Best Male Narrator
Simon Vance
won the award for Best Male Narrator for his narration of the epic fantasy JERUSALEM. In Simon’s capable hands, Alan Moore’s vivid prose becomes an absorbing audiobook recounting 200 years of impoverishment in Northampton, England, over the course of 60 hours. You can learn more about Simon’s narration of JERUSALEM and his journey to meet Alan and see Northampton firsthand in his AudiOpinion piece.

To put it simply, I just read the words and allow them to take me on a journey . . . and this one, I soon knew, was unlike any other—Narrator Simon Vance

Simon has been recognized for his talents as a narrator in the past for titles ranging from THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO to BRING UP THE BODIES. Read more about his narration of hundreds of audiobooks in his interviews on our site.

Jerusalem

JERUSALEM
by Alan Moore, read by Simon Vance
Recorded Books
AudioFile Earphones Award

Check back in next week to read more about the winners of this year’s Audie Awards – and in the meantime, peruse the whole list and listen to sound clips here!

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The Handmaid’s Tale Revisited—Audiobook Edition Updated

Listen for new insights into the beloved—and prescient—dystopian classic

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood‘s 1985 classic dystopian novel THE HANDMAID’S TALE debuts April 2017 as a streaming series on Hulu.com. The book has been a bestseller for decades, but has had a resurgence in the months since the 2016 election. The New Yorker calls her “the Prophet of Dystopia,” and the title is fitting. Her story of Offred, a Handmaid who is enslaved to bear children for a government leader and his wife, studies the role of women in a society that has slowly and quietly stripped them of their rights. The tale remains chilling today.

Atwood and the team at Audible have created a special new audiobook edition, adding new content from Atwood to the sparkling performance by Claire Danes released in 2012. Back then, AudioFile reviewer Leslie Fine gave the performance an Earphones Award—you can read her review of the “timeless and timely” audiobook here.

We reached out to Leslie to see what she had to say about the new content:

The Special Edition audiobook of Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE offers some thought-provoking new material, outlined below.

Questions and Answers
The original novel ends with a keynote lecture from the “12th Symposium on Gileadean Studies,” framing Offred’s disturbing story as a curiosity from the past and ending with the eerie “Are there any questions?” Atwood uses this Special Edition as an opportunity to ask and answer those questions, with an eye for current events in the United States. A full cast performs this section, and for the most part, the performances here are fine, with the keynote speaker assuming a lofty, supremely erudite tone that suits the content. The questions culminate in the ultimate one: “What sort of political climate do you think could potentially break apart our current stasis and deliver us back in time, so to speak?” Listeners may indeed be interested in that response.

Afterword
The Special Edition audiobook gives listeners insights into the author’s purpose, thanks to the new afterword by Atwood herself. The author’s measured reading of her essay calmly offers a brief history of the novel’s origins and reflects on its historical and social context. Her pacing is such that the listener has time to absorb her words without feeling pressed. Perhaps best of all, Atwood mentions questions readers have posed over the years and offers her thoughts on the answers. Listeners can almost feel like confidantes of an active, imaginative, perpetually-prescient mind.

Essay
Following Atwood’s excellent afterword is an additional critical essay by Valerie Martin, the content of which is quite thoughtful and enlightening as it explores the role of THE HANDMAID’S TALE in our culture since its publication. The listener is offered only “Essay” as a preface, and the pacing here is much more hasty, which does detract somewhat from the experience. However, the ideas themselves are worth hearing. On another production note, this section would benefit from a more distinct separation from the Atwood piece, one that would include the author’s name at the outset, rather than leaving Martin’s name until the end.

If you haven’t yet read THE HANDMAID’S TALE, this audiobook is an excellent way to challenge your mind and perceptions. If you are already a fan of this novel, this Special Edition will offer you even more to think about.—Leslie Fine

What are your favorite book-to-screen adaptations? Share yours in the comments!

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How Families Can Explore the Immigrant Experience With Audiobooks

How do you teach your children to develop empathy for others? Our family found that part of the answer lies in audiobooks.

My daughter is one to ask a million questions. She is three, and precocious, and we find ourselves having deep discussions about how the human body works, Pete Seeger’s life, why Fritz breaks Clara’s Nutcracker, and more recently, why we help others who are here as refugees and asylum seekers.

Here in Portland, Maine, we have a growing community of immigrants and refugees who have come from countries where their lives are at risk, their homes are destroyed, and they and their children have experienced things no person should. How do I explain that to my three-year-old without making her frightened?

The answer, in our case, came in part through reading. There are many beautiful and moving picture and chapter books for learning about the experiences of immigrants and refugees with content that is approachable for children and helps facilitate discussions at their level. These titles are excellent, as well, for helping children who have come to America as immigrants and refugees see a mirror of their own lived experiences.

Through a wonderful initiative developed in Maine called I’m Your Neighbor, we found a beautiful collection of books to give children windows into the lives of others and to help them see their own experiences reflected back to them. Dive in and see what amazing resources you can find!

We’ve selected six audiobooks to help your children, or the children in your life, understand and reflect on what it means to be new to a country and to leave everything you knew behind. There are audiobooks appropriate for kids as young as three to ages ten and older.

I'm New Here

I’M NEW HERE
by Anne Sibley O’Brien, read by Frankie Corzo, Ariana Delawari, Ramon De Ocampo, Ruth Livier, Anne Sibley O’Brien
Live Oak Media, Ages 4-6
Young, vibrant narrators voice heartfelt concerns as students from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia are each welcomed into new classrooms in a new country. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

We Are America

WE ARE AMERICAA Tribute from the Heart
by Walter Dean Myers, read by Macleod Andrews, Olivia DuFord, Dion Graham, Lizann Mitchell, Christopher Myers, Walter Dean Myers, Johanna Parker, Adriana Sananes, Kaipo Schwab, et al.
Live Oak Media, Ages 6+
A chorus of voices welcomes listeners to this meditation on what it is to be American. Poems and quotes are delivered by a talented cast of narrators that reflect the diversity of the United States. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

Save Me a Seat

SAVE ME A SEAT
by Sarah Weeks, Gita Varadarajan, read by Josh Hurley, Vikas Adam
Scholastic Audiobooks, Ages 8+
Using two narrators is the perfect way to deliver this story, told as the alternating first-person recollections of two fifth-grade boys. Vikas Adam is the voice of Ravi, a recent immigrant from India, and Josh Hurley is the voice of Joe, a boy with auditory processing disorder (APD).  Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

The Red Pencil

THE RED PENCIL
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, read by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Hachette Audio, Ages 8+
Pinkney performs her novel in free verse, which features Amira, a girl listeners meet when she’s living a happy life with her family in the South Darfur region of Sudan. Everything changes when her family is forced to flee. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

A Crack in the Sea

A CRACK IN THE SEA
by H.M. Bouwman, read by Bahni Turpin, H.M. Bouwman [Afterword]
Listening Library, Ages 10+
Bouwman weaves a fascinating story of brothers and sisters, history and fantasy in this incredible tale. Narrator Bahni Turpin is extraordinary in bringing this fantasy world and its characters to life. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

Brooklyn Bridge

BROOKLYN BRIDGE
by Karen Hesse, read by Fred Berman
Macmillan Audio, Ages 10+
Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse’s deeply moving story concerns Russian immigrants in 1903 Brooklyn. Fred Berman beautifully captures 14-year-old Joseph’s electric excitement to participate in the life of the city around him. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.

Have you listened to a family audiobook on this topic? Please share about it below!

Don’t miss our interviews with Ramon de Ocampo, one of the narrators of I’M NEW HERE, and a two-fer interview with Josh Hurley and Vikas Adam narrators of SAVE ME A SEAT— both part of our ongoing Behind the Mic series!

Find more great audiobooks here: Audiobooks for Kids & Teens. AudioFile’s dynamic lists come complete with age ranges.

 

A former wildlife biologist, avid reader, and parent to two book-loving kids, Emily is excited to be jumping into the world of literature, and happy to be working with AudioFile’s wonderful team of reviewers.

20 Exceptional Audiobooks to Kick-start Your Family Listening

Start here with audiobook listening for the whole family. AudioFile’s recommendations give you so many stories to share.

Audiobooks and kids make a great match. Intimate and exciting performances from dynamic voices can help bring the stories to life in new ways. We’ve made some great matches for you, pairing up newer titles along with well-loved classics that all share a similar theme or idea.

There are misfit girls, journeys to self-discovery, battles against injustice, and opportunities to learn about cultures and experiences that may be different from our own. There’s sure to be something that will appeal to every young listener in your life—and will be fun for you to listen to right along with them!

Fantastic Worlds
37006.jpg

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
by Lewis Carroll, read by Jim Dale
Listening Library

If you like Wonderland, you might like . . .


HATCHED
by Bruce Coville, read by Matthew Frow, Jeremy Gumbs, and a Full Cast

Listening Library, Ages 8+

BAKER’S MAGIC
by Diane Zahler, read by Tavia Gilbert, Michael Crouch, and a Full Cast
Live Oak Media, Ages 8+

THE HIDDEN ORACLE
by Rick Riordan, read by Robbie Daymond
Listening Library, Ages 10+

Other Times & Cultures
When the Sea Turned to Silver

WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER
by Grace Lin, read by Kim Mai Guest,
Hachette Audio, Ages 8+

If you like learning about cultures from around the world, you might like . . .

ONE HALF FROM THE EAST
by Nadia Hashimi, read by Ariana Delawari

Harper Audio, Ages 8+

THE RED PENCIL
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Shane W. Evans, read by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Hachette Audio, Ages 8+

A CRACK IN THE SEA
by H.M. Bouwman, read by Bahni Turpin

Listening Library, Ages 8+

The Battle Against Injustice
The Giver

THE GIVER
by Lois Lowry, read by Ron Rifkin,
Listening Library, Ages 12+

If you liked uncovering the world of THE GIVER, you might like . . .

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, read by Carolyn McCormick
Scholastic Audiobooks, Ages 12+

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

by Kelly Barnhill, read by Christina Moore
Recorded Books, Ages 10+

THE INQUISITOR’S TALE
by Adam Gidwitz, read by Adam Gidwitz, Vikas Adam, Mark Bramhall, Jonathan Cowley , Kimberly Farr, Ann Marie Lee, Bruce Mann, John H. Mayer, Benjamin Bagby, Arthur Morey
Listening Library, Ages 10+

Discovering the Magic Within
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE
by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale
Listening Library, Ages 8+

If you wish you could learn at Hogwarts, you might like one of these . . .

THE GOLDEN COMPASS
by Philip Pullman, read by a Full Cast

Listening Library, Ages 12+

GRAYLING’S SONG
by Karen Cushman, read by Katherine Kellgren
Recorded Books, Ages 10+

HOODOO
by Ronald L. Smith, read by Ron Butler
Dreamscape, Ages 10+
Keep your eye out for our Behind the Mic visit with narrator Ron Butler!

Family & Community
Because of Winn-Dixie

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE
by Kate DiCamillo, read by Cherry Jones
Listening Library, Ages 8+

If you shared Opal’s family with yours, you might like . . .

THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE
by Jacqueline Kelly, read by Natalie Ross,
Brilliance Audio, Ages 12+

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET
by Matt de la Peña, read by Lizan Mitchell,
Recorded Books, Ages 4-6

BROWN GIRL DREAMING
by Jacqueline Woodson, read by Jacqueline Woodson,
Listening Library, Ages 10+

What audiobooks have you listened to with your kids that you would recommend for someone who loves Harry Potter? What audiobook have they loved that helped teach them more about valuing family and community? Share your favorites in the comments!

Find more great audiobooks here, Audiobooks for Kids & Teens. AudioFile’s dynamic lists come complete with with age ranges.

We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!

Outspoken Women

Gloria Steinem, Tina Fey, Brené Brown, Malala Yousafzai, Amanda Palmer, Janis Ian . . .these women speak out — in their audiobooks.

Celebrating Women’s History

This March we celebrate audiobooks about the women who inspire us—women who lead, who inspire, who change the world. Since we’re in the world of sound, let’s hear from these six Outspoken Women through their audiobooks.

SOCIETY’S CHILD
by Janis Ian, read by Janis Ian
Audible Inc/Brilliance Audio

Grammy Award winner Janis Ian shares her journey as an American singer-songwriter who first entered the music scene in the mid-1960s. Read AudioFile’s full review here.

I AM MALALA
by Malala Yousafzai, read by Archie Panjabi
Hachette Audio
Earphones Award Winner

Narrator Archie Panjabi is an excellent choice to deliver this memoir of the Pakistani girl who stood up to the Taliban. Read AudioFile’s full review here.

BOSSYPANTS
by Tina Fey, read by Tina Fey
Hachette Audio
Earphones Award Winner

Part personal story, part comedy, and part career advice, Tina Fey’s memoir  is full of her signature smart and self-deprecating humor. Read AudioFile’s full review here.

RISING STRONG
by Brené Brown, read by Brené Brown
Random House Audio/Books on Tape

Highly personal stories and Brené Brown’s gut-wrenching honesty contribute to the intensity and work well to illustrate her step-by-step formula for rising above shame and hurt. Read AudioFile’s full review here.

MY LIFE ON THE ROAD
by Gloria Steinem, read by Debra Winger, Gloria Steinem
Random House Audio/ Books on Tape

Gloria Steinem recounts the struggles and joys she found in her literal and metaphorical journeys as a feminist leader and journalist. Read AudioFile’s full review here.

THE ART OF ASKING
by Amanda Palmer, read by Amanda Palmer
Hachette Audio
Earphones Award Winner

Amanda Palmer’s resonant yet intimate reading is captivating—but in a way that keeps listeners wondering whether it’s her wisdom about emotional connections or her outspoken self-promotion that makes this audio so powerful. Read AudioFile’s full review here.

This is just a sample of audiobooks by and about inspiring women. Explore many more in AudioFile’s biography & memoir reviews.

Leave us a comment with YOUR favorite audiobook by or about an outspoken woman.

Solve: Audiobook Round-up for Black History Month

In recognition of Black History Month, 5 audiobooks featuring African-American themes, protagonists and/or authors

February is Black History Month in the United States. A time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Americans. In recognition of the men and women who have played a central role in U.S. history—as well as the country’s future—I’ve put together a round-up of mystery and thriller audiobooks that have African-American themes, protagonists, and/or authors.

Recent research indicates that when we read fiction, we’re able to identify with the characters, regardless of our similarities or differences, and ultimately improve our capacity for empathy. So take a look at today’s list and find a dynamic character to slip into with your next audiobook.

Underground Airlines
UNDERGROUND AIRLINES

by Ben H. Winters, read by William DeMerritt
Hachette Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award

Ben H. Winters’s alternate history about a United States that never experienced Abraham Lincoln as its president, never had a Civil War, and never completely abolished slavery is brilliantly narrated by William DeMeritt. DeMeritt’s efforts on this audiobook are being recognized with a 2017 Audie nomination for best male narrator.

Darktown

DARKTOWN
by Thomas Mullen, read by André Holland
Simon & Schuster Audio

While Winters looked at a hypothetical world if history had been different, Thomas Mullen fictionalizes actual American history with the first black officers to serve on the Atlanta, Georgia, police force. André Holland also turns in an Audie-nomination-worthy performance for this powerful audiobook.

IQ

IQ
by Joe Ide, read by Sulllivan Jones
Hachette Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award

Joe Ide delves into the world of a young, genius black man who takes on a Sherlock Holmes-type role in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood. Sullivan Jones gives voice to the myriad facets of this fascinating new character in crime fiction. Another 2017 Audie nominee, IQ is an all-around winner.

Charcoal Joe

CHARCOAL JOE
by Walter Mosley, read by Michael Boatman
Random House Audio/Books on Tape
AudioFile Earphones Award

A list recognizing African-American crime fiction would never be complete without Walter Mosely and his beloved investigator, Easy Rawlins. Longtime series narrator Michael Boatman brings this newest installment to life as Easy works to clear a black man accused of murdering a white man in 1960s Los Angeles. His efforts earned him a place on AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2016 list.

pleasantville

PLEASANTVILLE
by Attica Locke, read by JD Jackson
Harper Audio/ Blackstone Audio

JD Jackson narrates Attica Locke’s second audiobook featuring her Houston lawyer protagonist, Jay Porter. PLEASANTVILLE delves into the issues confronting race in politics as Porter takes on a high-profile murder case. Locke was awarded the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction for PLEASANTVILLE.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in African-American crime fiction. Help us continue this list by sharing some of your favorites in the comments.

Browse more audiobook titles by authors WALTER MOSLEY, THOMAS MULLEN, BEN WINTERS, and ATTICA LOCKE

 

A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!

Essential Listening: Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches and sermons

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day—a collectable and essential program for listeners

Martin Luther King Jr.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: THE ESSENTIAL BOX SET
by Martin Luther King, Jr., Clayborne Carson, Kris Shepard, Peter Holloran [Eds.],
read by Martin Luther King, Jr., Keith David, Jay Gregory, et al.
Hachette Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award

Many of us listen to digital audiobooks for our on-the-go lives, but this CD set should be on every listener’s shelf. Originally released as A CALL TO CONSCIENCE and A KNOCK AT MIDNIGHT, the speeches and recordings are introduced by ministers, activists, and world leaders, providing historical context and balance to the live sound recordings of Dr. King. The box set is more than the disks with photos, quotes and liner notes. Hear a sound clip and read our full review here.

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