Audiobooks and Literacy: Purposeful Performances

6 audiobooks with narrations that will thrill you, comfort you, and send you off to bed

Manhattan Beach

Every day we read, listen to, or watch a variety of media with specific purposes in mind: to gather information, find entertainment, explore a new culture, or participate in our own. Each should vary in delivery if we are to satisfy our goal: to learn, to relax, or to share in a sense of community. There is no one-size-fits-all presentation for a certain kind of content, and no one way of engaging with that content that will work for everyone.

Manhattan BeachAnd so it is when you choose audiobooks for yourself or for children. Beyond content, what sort of performance might best fit the material and help listeners satisfy their immediate needs? Luckily, the audiobooks available to us today continue to show growth the in diversity of their expressive styles as well as their range of content, both for adults and children. Some performance styles particularly enhance and expand the particular kind of content you seek on audio.

Looking for a satisfying escape through story? Certainly the acting performance of a skillful narrator—or multiple narrators, like in MANHATTAN BEACH—can move a thriller or a cozy mystery or a celebrity biography from page to sound, with highly enhanced entertainment value. Read more…

Francisca Goldsmith
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.

Robin’s Roundup: November 17 New Audiobook Reviews

A food-centric audiobook to inspire holiday plans

Out Of Line

Out Of Line Chef and restauranteur Barbara Lynch’s memoir OUT OF LINE: A Life of Playing With Fire may be just the ticket to inspire your holiday planning while hearing about Lynch’s bootstrap rise to extraordinary success. Narrator Christina Delaine leads us through avowed risk-taker Lynch’s memoir. I was intrigued by the New York Times interview with Lynch titled “After South Boston, a Restaurant Was Easy.” That seems like a good way to approach holiday meal planning!

One of the audiobook publishing events I’ve most looked forward to this fall is Philip Pullman’s new THE BOOK OF DUST: La Belle Sauvage. I’ve previously written about my affection for and admiration of Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS—the full trilogy, released nearly 20 years ago. I had the great pleasure of talking with some of the audio producers involved in creating Pullman’s terrific audiobooks, and I’ll write more about this in a few weeks. Read more…

Robin Whitten
Robin is the Founder & Editor of AudioFile Magazine. The AudioFile Blog is her newest project to offer new voices and recommendations for audiobooks.

Robin’s Roundup: November 10 New Audiobook Reviews

We persist—with both ferocity and compassion

Nevertheless We Persisted

Nevertheless We Persisted For a little listening to lift our spirits this week, I want to highlight this audio-first anthology of stories, poems, and essays, NEVERTHELESS WE PERSISTED, written and performed by an ensemble of authors and narrators. The collaboration between authors and narrators from around the globe resonates clearly in this labor of love and careful production. And for tiny feminists (ages 4-6) and their parents, remember to take a listen to Chelsea Clinton’s SHE PERSISTED.

For a listening choice to galvanize resolve to speak up, Gretchen Carlson’s BE FIERCE: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back is a timely choice this week. When Carlson walked away from her job as a news anchor for Fox News to fight—and win—her sexual harassment case, she discovered that her story is just one of many that deserves to be told. She suggests practical steps women can take to stand up for themselves. Read more…

Robin Whitten
Robin is the Founder & Editor of AudioFile Magazine. The AudioFile Blog is her newest project to offer new voices and recommendations for audiobooks.

Self: Can We Learn Anything Without a Good Story?

Audiobooks that inspire with learning tools and powerful stories

Life is Like a MusicalListening to these audiobooks, I was reminded of how important stories are to making them work as learning tools. Business and life lessons full of rigorous thinking and action steps appeal to me in a left-brain, problem-solving kind of way, but I’ve noticed that some deeper kind of attention becomes activated when the lesson is grounded in a human narrative—whether colorful historical vignettes or an author’s personal stories. Even more captivating are memoir-type audios that focus on one person’s burning vision and show how that passion expressed itself in the form of a complex, purpose-driven organization or a life well lived. These are the lessons that have the longest shelf life in my operating system—lessons with strong stories. They may also offer insights and advice along the way, but, ultimately, they’re more about the hero’s journey than analysis and logistics. 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.

Solve: Crime in Small Bites

Investigate these 10 short story crime audiobooks and get hooked on listening

Craig Johnson - Wait for Signs

When I tell people how much I enjoy listening to audiobooks, I often receive the response, “I can’t listen to audiobooks. I can’t pay attention.” I thought the very same thing at one time. Now I constantly want someone to be telling me a story.

Craig Johnson - Wait for Signs

Listening to audiobooks is a skill, just like reading print books. Even though we eagerly listened to adults telling us stories as small children, somewhere along the way, we lost the knack for listening—personally, I blame it on television, but that’s a different blog post. Never fear, though. Listening skills can be dusted off and honed back into shape. One of the ways I recommend people work on their listening skills is with short audios, and lucky for us, there are great short works of crime fiction available.

About once a year now, I listen to Craig Johnson’s WAIT FOR SIGNS. This collection of Walt Longmire shorts is described by Johnson as the stories between the novels. He develops his well-loved characters in funny, heart-warming, and engaging short stories. It’s probably my favorite collection to recommend to someone just starting to listen to audiobooks. I often recommend it as the introduction to the Longmire series as well. When you’re confident listening to these short stories, you can move on to his novellas—THE HIGHWAYMAN and SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT. Same great style, in a slightly longer format. By the time you finish these two, you’ll be ready to listen to the novels. All of Johnson’s work is narrated by George Guidall. There hasn’t been one time I’ve attended a book event for Craig Johnson when at least one member of the audience hasn’t gushed about how much they love the series on audio. There’s a good reason for that. 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!

Behind the Mic: Say You’re Sorry

This audiobook will freak you the heck out — perfect for your Halloween weekend!

Say You're Sorry

Narrator Cris Dukehart takes us Behind the Mic to share with AudioFile readers how narrating for Melinda Leigh has changed her life. SAY YOU’RE SORRY is the first in a suspenseful series about former prosecutor Morgan Dane and her peaceful life in her hometown — well, almost peaceful, until her babysitter gets killed.

“To Melinda Leigh . . . . Just wanted you to know how narrating from your killer’s point of view is FREAKING ME THE HECK OUT!”—Narrator Cris Dukehart

Read more…

We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!

Robin’s Roundup: October 20 New Audiobook Reviews

Seasonal—spooky—listening from Joe Hill, and essays on feminism by Rebecca Solnit

Strange Weather

Strange WeatherTopical essays, historical portraits, and short story collections can all give listeners a useful introduction to an author, but also showcase the variety offered with the audio version. Author Joe Hill’s collection of four novellas, STRANGE WEATHER, is a great example.

Four top narrators—Wil Wheaton, Dennis Boutsikaris, Kate Mulgrew, and Stephen Lang—each take on one of Hill’s stories. One can binge the whole collection or dole out the listening one dark scenario at a time. AudioFile is hosting a conversation between Joe Hill and narrator Dennis Boutsikaris as part of our podcast series, The Download. Keep an eye out for more on this program. Read more…

Robin Whitten
Robin is the Founder & Editor of AudioFile Magazine. The AudioFile Blog is her newest project to offer new voices and recommendations for audiobooks.

Tease: Cozy Romance

Cuddle up in your favorite sweater with 6 new cozy romance audiobooks

Second Chance Girl

Second Chance GirlAs the crisp days of fall tread inevitably to the snowy invasion of winter — at least here in the Northeast — I start to hunker down and cozy up. My softest green Express sweatshirt from the ’90s comes out of the bottom drawer, I pace the grocery store for new and novel hot chocolate flavors, and I look for cozy listens. I’m a re-reader and a re-listener, so many of my cozy listens are old favorites like historicals or Mary Stewart mysteries, or books I read as a child like THE SECRET GARDEN or THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I have slightly different criteria when it comes to cozy romance. I don’t want to spend most of the book on the edge of my seat fretting. I want an intimate connection with the main characters. Even if they are flawed, I still want to love them. I look for comforting and wondrous elements such as a dreamy setting or heartwarming dialogue. This column features some cozy listens, including a few holiday titles for you to enjoy in your favorite sweatshirt — or even — no judgment here — pajamas after breakfast.

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Caitlin is a librarian from Connecticut who enjoys great narrators and happy endings. She has been reviewing audiobooks for Audiofile Magazine since 2006, and she has had the privilege of judging numerous Audie Award categories since 2009. Her favorite authors are Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and whatever she's listening to right now!

Self: Brain Science, Buddhism, and the Church

5 Audiobooks on Meditation, Joy, and Enlightenment

Unplug

UnplugGrowing up, as I did, at a time when most people in my city practiced the same Christian faith, standard practice was to look to the church for guidance about the nature of the universe, what is right and wrong, and how to think about ourselves as we live our lives. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Freudian psychology was prominent, and the brain science we had was speculative at best. Eastern religions like Buddhism were not on my radar.

These audiobooks draw their wisdom from a larger universe than the one I grew up with, so seekers of all stripes are likely to find a perspective or path that feels right for them. Nowadays, we have so much more information than we had in the past about the mechanics of attention and belief, the connection between our bodies and our minds, and how to approach the challenge of doing what we say we want to do. 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.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Growing Up with the Vietnam War

Audiobooks that offer perspective on a long war and turbulent time

The Vietnam WarSoldiers lunged muddy, exhausted, and wide-eyed across our kitchen table most evenings when I was a teenager. It was the Vietnam War, in all its fear and confusion, playing in black-and-white on the nightly news. I wish we’d had Ken Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward’s audiobook, THE VIETNAM WAR: AN INTIMATE HISTORY, to support our viewing, as it’s every bit as informative and wide-ranging as their recent PBS documentary. Though the audiobook is abridged, Burns won an Earphones Award for his clear and serious narration, which helped me concentrate on the hard story without turning away.

You see, in 1969, while waiting for my ride outside the San Francisco airport, I did look away when a soldier dropped a bulging duffle at his feet, and said, “I’m just back from Vietnam.” Such were my muddled emotions that to my eternal regret, I couldn’t even manage a “Welcome home.” Between them, Steve Sheinkin’s MOST DANGEROUS: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE VIETNAM WAR, read by Ray Porter, and Howard Means’s 67 SHOTS: KENT STATE AND THE END OF AMERICAN INNOCENCE, read by Alan Sklar, help explain the mess we were in during those tumultuous times. They don’t absolve my rudeness to that soldier, but they put my reaction in context. Read more…

Author and audiobook fanatic, Aurelia often falls asleep at night with earbuds still attached. She can also be found at www.aureliacscott.com.