Sharing five excellent audiobooks and five insightful questions with a veteran narrator
I don’t know why I always associate veteran narrator Grover Gardner with nonfiction, because although he does indeed narrate history, biography, and theology, he has worked on a full range of genres, everything from horror to light kids’ stories. While I’m not likely to listen to Grover’s Earphones Award–winning performance of THE STAND (I think it might be too spooky for me), I enjoy listening to his “charming voice” on much tamer audiobooks.
Grover has narrated hundreds of titles (no exaggeration), so it was just a little difficult to pick only five to show off his work. The titles featured today reflect my own tastes: These are audiobooks I recommend or that are on my personal to-be-listened-to wish list. 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.
There I was in the visitors’ gallery of the Old Bailey (London’s famed criminal courthouse made famous by Rumpole of the Bailey). The male and female barristers were indeed dressed in black robes with white collars and wigs of various shades of off-white, with tight rolls of curls and little ponytails down the back. The prosecuting barrister, with his elegant British accent, was reading the testimony of a young gang member accused of murder, with every third word being “like” (just as young folks do in the U.S.) and saying the “F” word with emphasis every other sentence.
The situation made me realize how a charming, easy on the ears accent can really enhance the listening experience by capturing and projecting the right vibe for the characters and the story. But the intriguing thing is that it doesn’t necessarily mean the narrator’s accent has to match the location.
For example, I’LL KEEP YOU SAFE, the most recent in Peter May’s Lewis series, takes place on a Scottish island and is narrated by Peter Forbes with a strong but very easy to listen to and understand Scottish accent. Forbes ALSO narrates the recent re-recording of May’s THE FIREMAKER, the Chinese Thriller series which takes place in Beijing. In an Audible Sessions interview with May and Forbes, author May comments that he has come to view Forbes as his voice. May says that it doesn’t matter if the narrator is Scottish, Chinese, American, or English, it is the way the narrator is able to make the subtle changes in character that does the book justice. For the listener, this allows for a wonderfully engaging listening experience. 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).
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…
See the yellowed pages in my copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE? That’s to prove that I am a true Janeite.
Bona fides established, let me tell you about the literary mashup PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, by Seth Grahame-Smith, in which the basic P&P plot line and tone are intercut with zombies roaming the 19th-century English countryside. Yes, Jane and zombies are ridiculous, but I listened during one of those complicated family summers, and its occasionally gruesome silliness was a magic diversion. Author Steve Hockensmith has written two subsequent mashups of the mashup, which are also crazy funny: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES: DAWN OF THE DREADFULS and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES: DREADFULLY EVER AFTER. Most importantly for us, all three were narrated by the amazing Katy Kellgren, who won an Earphones Award for the second volume.
Congressional hearings are a process of information gathering—both orally and aurally. Hearings might be called for democracy-threatening political disagreements, huge calamities with manmade elements, or the approval of candidates for important non-elected offices. This formal, often public, investigatory medium, with its spoken and heard nuances as important as the words transmitted, is very friendly to audiobook publishing and listening. Hearings have been recorded in sound media, as well as in transcript form, for over a century now. These recordings, as they relate to events included in audiobooks, may be in the form of archival clips, re-enactments, or elements of wholly fictional drama.
Among the past century of such Congressional hearings, events ranging from disaster at sea to dubious secret intelligence programs have given rise to such hearings. And the hearings have given rise to audiobooks for a variety of ages and in a variety of narrative styles. You can choose your concern or choose your genre to get a taste of listening to how hearings are realized by professional narrators and actors. Read more…
Francisca Goldsmith has worked with teens, collections, and administering branch services in public, school, and academic libraries in the U.S. and Canada. Connecting communities to information and supporting new Americans in learning both language and culture are her passions. To those ends, she’s worked with audiobooks and listeners for the past 20 years.
Jazz is on my mind. Just a few weeks ago, I attended the tribute to the 2018 NEA Jazz Masters—Todd Barkan, Joanne Brackeen, Pat Metheny, and Dianne Reeves—at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. It was such a treat—first listening to podcasts from the NEA, “Art Works,” about each musician, and then getting to be part of the tribute celebration—you can actually watch it in full:
When I got home, I looked up which audiobooks about jazz and jazz musicians we could recommend. Jazz books, and audiobooks, are a bit scarce—perhaps we listen to jazz more than we read about jazz. And in many cases, actual music is not included in audiobook programs. Nevertheless, I’ve put together a list of 15 audiobooks that explore and celebrate Jazz in America. There are some biographies and memoirs of jazz greats; a few histories on the culture and music of jazz; and, not to be overlooked, engaging jazz stories for young listeners and families.
Let’s start with an iconic audiobook: MILES by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe. For many listeners, the brilliant performance by Dion Graham epitomizes the way that an audio experience can engulf you. WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? offers a different approach to a life portrait with Alan Light’s carefully researched biography. Yet Adenrele Ojo’s performance is no less riveting. Read more…
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…
Today, on Earth Day, I’ll be taking my kids out to pick up trash around the neighborhood — something I remember doing with my friends and family growing up in rural Vermont. Every year, after the snow melted and all the accumulated garbage started appearing along with the crocuses, we would have our “green-up day” and go along the roads and in the woods picking up the trash we found. In my memories, we could trade in our full bags for donuts at the general store, which was a pretty magical experience.
In the spirit of Earth Day, I’ve found some conservation-themed audiobooks that celebrate protecting the magic of the earth — and the ocean — for everyone from four-year-olds to your David Attenborough-loving mom.
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.
Narrator Feodor Chin takes AudioFile listeners Behind the Mic to learn about THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY — and much like Feodor, we don’t remember much of high school physics, but are glad to hear that Michio Kaku’s audiobook is accessible for all levels of interested listeners.
“Dr. Kaku takes complex, scientific ideas and makes them totally accessible, easily understandable, and even pretty exciting.”—Narrator Feodor Chin
Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Five Audiobooks that Will Put Your Life in Order
So how did your tax preparation go this year? Personally, I only cursed twice. First when I dropped the file of medical receipts. Second when I learned that despite what my husband and I had spent on doctors, it wasn’t enough to be deductible. I discovered that after adding it all up on a recalcitrant calculator.
That’s when, inspired by Marie Kondo’s runaway bestseller, THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, I shredded those useless receipts and resolved next year to keep only that which I truly need (in one pouch as she does). Emily Woo Zeller’s Earphones Award performance makes Kondo’s quirky, precise guide to living tidily endearing as well as helpful. (Watch Zeller’s delightful Behind the Mic chat about narrating the book – she too folds her shirts differently!) Her friendly tone warms the exacting tea-ceremony aspect of Kondo’s approach and animates her appealing eccentricities, such as thanking her possessions. Then again, who’s calling whom eccentric? I’ve always talked to my stuff. Read more…