One of the things I like best about doing my blog posts is the places I go. For the audiobooks I write about here, I follow a wide variety of breadcrumbs and chase bits of information to amplify the story of the audiobook with details about authors or the topics. This type of research—a bit of web surfing, a rabbit hole to check out, or the discovery of an archival tidbit—is a great pleasure. Today I’m looking at Richard Blanco, Maria Popova, and Leonard Cohen.
Richard Blanco is one of our most influential poets and storytellers. While he lives in Maine, he writes about the world, including his Cuban-American heritage, and invites conversation with all Americans. He was President Obama’s inaugural poet performing his poem, “One Today.” He has published six collections of poetry. The newly released collection HOW TO LOVE A COUNTRY is a great listening experience. Jennifer Dowell writes in our review, “With a quiet but driving intensity, Richard Blanco delivers poems that speak to our times.” Watch Richard working in the studio recording the collection—this gives a glimpse at what the full collection offers. Read more…
For fans of history, culture, and poetry, this will be a title that lingers on the playlist to return to time and again. Author Ha Jin explores the life of eighth-century Chinese poet Li Bai in THE BANISHED IMMORTAL, and narrator David Shih’s gentle, compassionate delivery keeps listeners engaged. Journey back in time with Shih to discover the life and work of poet Li Bai.
“Li Bai led a truly remarkable life, and I think this book really does a beautiful job of telling his life story against the backdrop of his poems.”—Narrator David Shih
The 2019 Audie Awards are joining awards season early this year with Audie nominations announced this week and winners to be announced March 4 at the New York Gala. QUEER EYE fashion expert Tan France will host the New York City event, presiding over the makeover of timing and format. The 2019 panel of more than 208 judges, including Ron Charles, Book Critic for The Washington Post; Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation; and Linda Holmes, Host of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, have designatedAudie Finalists in 24 categories. Listen to samples of all the Finalists here. Read more…
It turns out that “May you live in interesting times” was probably not an ancient Chinese curse, but I mutter it to myself anyway, because, hey, are these interesting times or what? In between muttering, I have turned to AudioFile’s selection of the best histories and biographies of the year. They offer perspective, inspiration, and occasional comfort. I figure that folks have already lived what’s described in the books, so today has got to be manageable. Read more…
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.
As our national celebration of family and pie approaches, I’m reminded of the Thanksgiving when our gorgeously brown turkey slid off the serving platter and across the none-too-clean kitchen floor. After a stunned silence, my mother called out, “Julia Child!” We took up the cheer, “Yes, yes, Julia Child!” And with that paean to the woman who showed America how to cook and cope cheerfully with culinary setbacks, we plopped the bird back on the platter and headed into the dining room to brave my uncle’s divergent political opinions. (For more on the indomitable American cook, I recommend Wanda McCaddon’s reading of APPETITE FOR LIFE: THE BIOGRAPHY OF JULIA CHILD.)
Weighted with food calamities, family contretemps, and expectations of perfection, November Togetherness Day can be tense. As Joe Barrett’s fine performance of Richard Ford’s THE LAY OF THE LAND reveals, it can also be joyous. Selected as an AudioFile Best Audiobook of 2007, the novel drops us into the amusing and angst-ridden tribulations of Frank Bascombe, Ford’s everyman hero, as he faces Thanksgiving with friends and family. Read more…
Dark or bright? Are you looking for real-world challenges or a fantasy escape?
My choices from this week’s new audiobook reviews seem to have a yin and yang approach. The dark and the light. We have history and biography that stare hard challenges straight in the face, like HUE 1968, Mark Bowden’s extensively researched account of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. I like reviewer Bob Grundfest’s comment on narrator Joe Barrett: “He sounds like an old boot and offers no quarter when detailing the battle’s ravages, both in terms of men and American strategy.” If you are planning on watching Ken Burns’s PBS documentary or listening to the audiobook edition, THE VIETNAM WAR, Bowden’s work is an excellent companion. The biography of Israel’s former prime minister, Shimon Peres, NO ROOM FOR SMALL DREAMS, covers important decades of Israeli history. Narrator Mark Bramhall clearly gets into the author’s voice and brings listeners a direct and inspiring reflection. For another type of challenge, the biography of English cardiologist and surgeon Dr. Stephen Westaby looks at his career and many high-risk surgeries in OPEN HEART.
To counterbalance the nonfiction choices, what about a little fantasy? M.T. Anderson is a master of the invented world, and LANDSCAPE WITH INVISIBLE HAND is his newest young adult novel. Hearing about the aliens called “vuvv” may actually be easier than encountering the words repeatedly in the text—an unexpected bonus of audiobook listening. Anderson narrates the audiobook himself as he did with his celebrated SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD. While I’m on words that might be easier to hear rather than read, how about NYXIA, a sci-fi thriller by Scott Reintgen. The North Carolina teacher offers his novel for the “front-row sleepers and back-row dreamers of his classrooms.” That should be enough to pique your interest, but narrator Sullivan Jones delivers with action and emotion for the teens in a competition aboard a spaceship.
Is your approach to listening this week dark, or bright?
On a more serious historical note, WHEN THE WORLD STOPPED TO LISTEN caught my eye—first from the title, since I always like a title about listening, and then the subtitle, “Van Cliburn’s Cold War Triumph and Its Aftermath,” which got me watching the newsreel from the 1958 concert given by pianist Van Cliburn at the height of the Cold War. “History is made at the keyboard,” the newscaster intones. Now I want to get the whole story.
The 100-year anniversary of the start of Russian Revolution was the catalyst for LENIN ON THE TRAIN. The sealed train that took Lenin from Zurich through Germany to Russia has always fascinated me. With this work, I can get all the details. And John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., have been the subject of plenty of titles, but Steven Levingston’s KENNEDY AND KING: The President, The Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights takes a look at their relationship in the early ’60s and how the two men influenced each other.