Each week I often “go down the rabbit hole” in pursuit of audiobooks for this blog post. Perhaps this week it’s a “foxhole,” as my topic is the World War I Centenary—the Great War Forum even has a discussion of when and where the term foxhole originated. We’ve collected a varied group of audiobooks about WWI. Solve editor Ellen Quint just posted Reflecting on Remembrance Day through WWI Mysteries, and Aurelia Scott’s post My Grandfather’s War offers a good group of fiction and nonfiction audiobooks. Aurelia includes THE WORLD REMADE: America in World War I by G.J. Meyer. Narrator Rob Shapiro made a compelling video for us noting how relevant Meyer’s history remains.
Contrasts—dark or light-hearted, subtle or intense, Russia or North Carolina. Going through our new reviews this week, I am struck by the variety of titles and how the audiobooks are often in stark contrast. Of course, books are written on a vast variety of subjects and with radically different points of view, and this gives a grand range of options for listening and reading.
In newly reviewed thrillers, I’ll contrast the cerebral and politically charged THE MIDDLEMAN by Olen Steinhauer withEAST OF INNOCENCE by David Thorne. Narrator Rupert Degas portrays a cast of hard-bitten characters with stunning emotional dimension in the latter. In the former, Ari Fliakos deftly takes listeners through “a snarl of idealism, cynicism, paranoia, and lies.” Read more…
Among our recent personal growth audios, quite a few focus on the specific things we can do to be happier and more satisfied with life. Being productive is one of those things, and in OFF THE CLOCK Laura Vanderkam says we’re going about it all wrong. She’s against obsessive time-management and instead offers a graceful invitation to stand back from our to-do lists and take a mindful look at how we can best engage with what needs to be done.
Another recent title, HOW WOMEN RISE, is about overcoming obstacles to personal effectiveness, another component of happiness. Lifted by the refreshing reading of voice pro Suzanne Toren, the audio describes how women can use their strengths to confront workplace gender bias instead of automatically capitulating to it. Read more…
Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.
This past weekend, narrators, producers, and the AudioFile staff gathered by the sea for a day of sunshine and perfectly cooked lobsters. One thing is for sure — we had a lot of fun talking audiobooks with a crowd of audiobook lovers!
Our summer staff picks this month include 6 audiobooks — both new and old favorites — that are compelling enough to keep you company along the journey to wherever you’re going, whether that’s driving up the coast, strolling around the block, or commuting to work. Read more…
Something I love about audiobooks set outside our current time and place is that the historical details make the listening experience so rich. We get a sense of the history of the time—1920s Bombay, the Soviet Union in 1958, colonial America—but also details of customs, costume, and conventions. Wrapping these in the storytelling medium of audiobooks is the perfect way to transport the listener. I’m reminded of a vivid passage in THE WATER DIVINER, the brilliant Australian audiobook about a father and his sons who are lost at Gallipoli in 1915. The father transports the boys with stories of the magic carpet of THE ARABIAN NIGHTS. Narrator Jack Thompson took me aboard as well, and I’ve always liked the episode as a perfect example of what the best historical fiction audiobooks can do. 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.
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.
Escape the present with crime fighters of the past
I was always a little smitten with history. I’m not exactly sure what originally ignited my fascination with the past—watching “Little House on the Prairie” as a small girl, reading GONE WITH THE WIND for the first time, having great teachers in school . . . probably a combination of all that—but it’s as strong today as ever. And I’m not even obsessed with a certain time period. The Roaring ’20s period in the U.S. is as intriguing to me as Ancient Rome. So it should come as no surprise that historical mysteries also captivate me.
Even though I’m not particular about time period, some folks are. But mystery can cover virtually any era on any point of the globe. And sometimes you might be surprised. You might think you don’t care for that period but then the mystery is so riveting, you find yourself looking up details to see what is fact and what is a little creative license on the part of the author.
David C. Taylor’s detective protagonist, Michael Cassidy, works in New York City in the mid-Twentieth Century. Don’t worry if that feels unfamiliar to you. By the time you finish hearing Keith Szarabajka’s killer narrations, you’ll feel like you lived it personally. Dark and gritty, historical police procedural at its finest. Read more…
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!
Baseball season may be over with the conclusion of the World Series, but it’s not too late to extend the season if you love baseball history. Joe Barrett’s snappy narration of ELECTRIC OCTOBER is perfect for stories from the Golden Age of Baseball. And—enjoy hearing the players’ names: Cookie Lavagetto, Burt Shotton, Snuffy Stirnweiss, and Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish (really!). Names are just not what they used to be!
With holiday travel coming up when many families will be hitting the road, now is a perfect time to plan your “are we there yet?” listening stash.
George Smiley, Malachy McCourt, and my favorite Aussie narrator
A week for old friends—that’s audiobook friends we’ve heard before, but we’re oh so glad to hear from them again. The newest John le Carré novel, A LEGACY OF SPIES, is a perfect example. Not only do I celebrate any new title from British master spy novelist le Carré, but LEGACY also brings back George Smiley. Ok, I admit it, I see actor Alec Guiness, but narrator Tom Hollander brings alive the Cold War spy masters and their craft. Le Carré, now in his 80s, read his memoir THE PIGEON TUNNELmagnificently just last year, but it seems right to hand the mic to Tom Hollander here.
Malachy McCourt brings back different sorts of memories, but his new memoir, DEATH NEED NOT BE FATAL, sounds like a lot of fun. He sings, he jokes, he talks about his life in Brooklyn and Ireland and his saintly mother, Angela, and his equally famous brother, Frank, who wrote ANGELA’S ASHES. I hope listeners are still discovering the great audiobook of Frank McCourt’s 1996 memoir. It is certainly an audiobook that “sold” many readers on the format 20+ years ago. Read more…