In my next life, I will be mathematically gifted, a natural athlete, pale with copper hair or mocha with corkscrew curls, able to carry a tune and tell a joke without ruining the punchline, and unafraid of roller-coasters. Until then, I’m spending time with folks who inspire me in this life, finding them in AudioFile’s picks for the five best memoirs of 2018. (Check out all of our 2018 Best Audiobooks in our media-rich E-Zine.)
Let’s begin with Michelle Obama, whose new memoir, BECOMING, lifts the spirits as it heartens. As I listened to her Earphones Award-winning performance, I admired her more than ever and felt I’d gained a new best friend. This is an audiobook that I’ll keep coming back to in order to savor Obama’s embracing voice and thoughtful, fierce, funny reminiscences about real life, both grand and humble.
I wish Ollie, my family’s handmade marionette, could have met Mr. Rogers. That was my first thought as I settled happily into LeVar Burton’s Earphones Award-winning performance of THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, the biography of Rogers by Maxwell King, published on Tuesday. Ollie, carved and clothed by my grandparents, was once part of their traveling marionette theater. But after years of entertaining children up and down the west coast with classic fairy tales, all the marionettes except Ollie were lost in a fire. I know that Mr. Rogers could have helped Ollie and the people who loved — and still love — him to cope with the loss. By the way, that’s me with my parents and Ollie in the picture. Read more…
As it’s the end of August and “Back to School” fever has taken over, I thought I would focus on Middle Grade and Young Adult offerings in the mystery/crime/horror category.
Strong female characters welcome! Jake Burt’s GREETINGS FROM WITNESS PROTECTION! features 13-year-old Nicki Demere—she’s feisty, smart, and self-reliant. She’s also a pickpocket (having been trained by her grandmother) and a kleptomaniac. Nicki is living in an orphanage and going in and out of foster care when she’s recruited by the U.S. Marshals Service to help protect a family going into Witness Protection. Narrator Tara Sands strikes the right balance with Nicki’s voice, tone, and attitude. She is joined by a group of narrators who complete the cast of villains and other adults. This was a fun and engaging listen, even for a geezer like me. Read more…
A mystery writer, audiobook reviewer and Audies judge. Ellen is currently the program chair of Sisters in Crime-NY and has published two crime short stories: Crossing the Line (Family Matters); Taking the Brooklyn Bridge Back (Where Crime Never Sleeps).
Each summer AudioFile celebrates audiobook narrators with a Maine clambake in Boothbay, Maine. Narrators come from across the country, and sometimes we even have an international guest. But it’s not just the usual suspects—each year a different and diverse group of narrators joins us. We greet old friends and make new ones!
We always have representation from AudioFile’s Golden Voices—this year Barbara Rosenblat and Robin Miles joined us. AudioFile Earphones Award winners and Audie Award winners also are well represented. And it’s a true delight just to get to put voices and faces together. Read more…
Ok, I’ll admit it—just looking at the covers of these “icy” audiobooks is helping me cool off! Even if air conditioning is keeping you cool, we all have to venture out into the recent hot weather. Here’s a bit of audiobook listening to beat the heat.
Anna Kavan’s ICE features an ice apocalypse and plummeting temperatures—a good start to cool me down. But before you grab it, it’s worth looking into this 1967 science fiction/fantasy/dystopian classic. Jonathan Lethem wrote recently about the work in The New York Times. In this new audio release, Nigel Patterson engages with a passionate performance. ELEMENTALS: ICE WOLVES is a fantasy for the younger set—good for middle grade listeners and family listening. Read more…
Today marks the official first day of summer — what better day to share our summer audiobook listening recommendations? AudioFile happens to be located in Maine, aka Vacationland (that’s our beautiful coastline above), so we know how to do summer! Our staff picks include fiction, nonfiction, and family audiobook recommendations for all of your road trips, camp-outs, evening strolls, and long weekends. Read more…
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…
Candace has found the perfect remedy for finding hygge on long winter nights
Tomorrow is the first day of winter and the promise of cold weather ahead for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. But there’s no need to fret: Remember that the solstice also marks the point when the days start to get longer.
Here’s some more good news: Winter is the perfect time to indulge in your favorite indoor hobby, whether that’s baking, knitting, woodcarving, painting, or crafting. And while you’re enjoying your creative endeavors, you can pretend you’re out in the elements by listening to a good audiobook.
Grab a cup of hot chocolate, settle in by the fireplace, and get ready to experience winter the easy way.
Even armchair travelers may feel the chill after listening to IN THE KINGDOM OF ICE by Hampton Sides, about an 1879 expedition to find the North Pole. Narrator Arthur Morey “maintains our rapt attention” as he places the explorers’ emotional and physical challenges front and center. This audiobook is history and true-life adventure at their best. Read more…
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” —Joseph Campbell
AF: What do you think a new generation might gain from being introduced to The Hero with a Thousand Faces?
TH: I hope they gain a new perspective on our history–not just of the Americas, but of humanity as a whole–a sense of the unity of humanity across cultures and societies. Chinese, Indian, African, American, European–look at this, guys! Look at all these wonderful stories we have in common!
AF: Did you have any connection to the book prior to your selection as director?
TH: There were two linkages. I first made Mr. Campbell’s acquaintance when I read Hero as part of one of my university classes. I was blown away. I watched this incredible dance of humanity spin before my eyes, and it was an awakening for me. Many years later, I directed an abridged version of the work–I wanted more, but at the time it was the best I could do. It was a wonderful experience, nonetheless. And then the third time, this time, was my personal charm. This time, I got to tell the whole magnificent story.
AF: Why three narrators?
TH: I think the three-voice structure was a brilliant way of helping listeners–as opposed to readers–keep track of what’s going on. Readers can always flip back a page and check out the story flow. Listeners can’t. So how do you keep things clear? In this case, you put Mr. Campbell’s narrative in one voice; then there are literal and psychological excursions that depart from the narrative, and those you give to a discreet voice to set them apart; finally, there are a number of first-person female narratives in the text, and/or text that I believe is more effectively expressed through a woman’s voice. I think the totality of those voices helps the book in its audio incarnation.
AF: What was your greatest challenge during the recording?
TH: First, identifying which text was to be read by which readers. I went back and forth on many sections of the book to apportion it to “the best” narrator. In the end, this whole process ultimately worked best when I stopped trying to figure out the book and let it tell me what to do. Linked to this, I had a four-page recording log to keep myself honest and make sure I actually recorded every word. The book was about a 250-piece jigsaw puzzle by the time I was done, and I had to be very careful not to lose a piece. Second, the work’s pronunciations. Many of which were ancient and/or arcane, and/or nearly impossible to track down. But I think that ultimately we got them all right. I thank my lucky stars for three really, really smart readers who already knew many of the words and allusions and could back up my homework. Related to this, consistency of pronunciation was also a challenge. Keeping hundreds of names straight through 400+ pages was often a daunting task.
AF: Anything else you’d like to share?
TH: I’ve always thought that four of the greatest words in the English language are: “Tell me a story.” And what I do, my vocation, my avocation, as it has been for so many years, is tell stories in the grand sweeping context of this wonderful, amazing thing we call The Oral Tradition. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to do what I do–and what I did here was to tell one of the grandest stories of all: us. And I told it by directing one of the greatest books ever written about us: THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. And reading the story are three of my favorite talents–Arthur Morey, John Lee, and Susan Denaker–with whom, cumulatively, I’ve probably recorded a hundred books over the years. How could it possibly get any better than that?
Narrator John Lee was AudioFile’s guest on GoodReads on Wed. & Thurs, Feb 15 & 16. Follow the conversation with John about his audiobooks in this discussion.