Robin’s Roundup: February 9 New Audiobook Reviews

Pairs: two identical, similar, or corresponding things that are matched for use together

It Occurs to Me that I Am America

This week I noticed an impressive crop of nonfiction audiobooks reviewed. Thoughtful and powerful audiobooks on immigration, politics, abuse, and race give us the chance to listen to important and varied perspectives. We often see some of these complex topics handled in both nonfiction and fiction. Listeners usually have a specific preference—a factual account, or the same topic with imagined historical or emotional detail.  Here are some thoughts on audiobook pairs from our recent reviews.

It Occurs to Me that I Am America
Revolution Song

Russell Shorto’s new history REVOLUTION SONG takes a look at the American Revolution through the stories of six people. I’ll pair that with IT OCCURS TO ME THAT I AM AMERICA, a collection of short stories by Richard Russo, Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman, Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark, and thirty other contemporary authors. 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.

Take 5 with Candace: 5 Questions with Robert Fass

Five audiobooks and five questions with narrator Robert Fass

Robert Fass

Today I welcome the versatile Robert Fass to the 5 Audios / 5 Questions hot seat. I say versatile not only because Robert’s audiobook catalog covers a wide range of genres but also because he’s dipped his toe into the audiobook publishing pool as well (IT HAPPENED IN BOSTON?).

Robert Fass

5 Audiobooks

One of Robert’s strengths as a narrator is creating a strong link between listeners and author, especially for nonfiction. For example, his performance of the personal essays in THE FLY TRAP highlights entomologist Fredrik Sjöberg’s personality, enthusiasm, and wry humor, making us feel as if we had just made a new friend. Robert’s delivery of Henry Fountain’s THE GREAT QUAKE, about the 9.2-magnitude 1964 Alaskan earthquake, helps us absorb the unthinkable devastation as described by eyewitnesses but wisely backs off the melodrama. Read more…

Candace Levy

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.

Self: The Nuance of Social Issues

Audiobooks to understand the foundations of and approaches toward today’s social challenges

Tales of Two Americas

Audiobooks about issues and ideas have always been a large segment of the nonfiction catalog, and we’re honoring that tradition with a collection of audios on social issues your friends and neighbors are talking about. Racial and LGBTQ discrimination, unfairness in the workplace, an upside-down criminal justice system—these are issues that deserve our attention.

Tales of Two AmericasWhile the messaging in print and other media outlets is too often full of passion without mercy and chaotic conversations, the social issue audiobooks we hear are invariably more illuminating than divisive. Written persuasively by well-qualified authors, these audios tackle the foundations and nuance of today’s social challenges and offer appealing ideas about how to handle them.

With audiobooks in this genre, the challenge for narrators is bringing the type of tone, attitude, and character that fits the energy and substance of the message. By carefully modulating their passion, a good reader draws listeners into a book’s point of view instead of throwing hand grenades at them. Just watch a bit of political or local-access TV to get a taste of how bombast and an untrained voice can ruin an idea. 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.

In Our Time: An Inebriate New Year

From Prohibition to marijuana’s budding legalization

Reefer Madness

A century ago, the United States experimented with a federal mandate prohibiting the manufacture and sale of liquor. Enforcement turned out to be a Sisyphean task, and repeal of Prohibition was legislated less than 20 years later. The remainder of the 20th century turned legal enforcement against other potentially intoxicants  (called vaguely “drugs”) and included a kind of unevenness in enforcement that punished poorer communities, often of color, while turning an increasingly blind eye, across the ensuing decades, to wealthier ingesters of coke, marijuana, and prescription pharmaceuticals taken beyond a regulated relationship between prescribing physician and patient.

Reefer Madness

In the past few years of the 21st century, while marijuana cultivation, sale, and use continue to carry federal criminal penalties, several states have passed laws that, at first, legalized marijuana for medical use, and, more recently, for recreational use as well. With New Year’s drinking behind us and contentious legal paths ahead on the federal level for changing standards of acceptable marijuana use, here’s an audiobook path from Prohibition through marijuana’s budding legalization. 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: January 5 New Audiobook Reviews

A New Year and the Real Meaning of Robin’s Roundup

Robin's round up

2018 has roared into Maine with frigid temps and plenty of snow. This is great curl-up-and-read/listen weather.

Just what Danish author Meik Wiking suggests in his popular THE LITTLE BOOK OF HYGGE. His new audiobook, THE LITTLE BOOK OF LYKKEoffers encouragement for a happier year, and life that includes getting to know your neighbors and volunteering. Another new audiobook that offers thoughts along the lines of “fresh starts” for the new year is Oprah Winfrey’s audio collection THE WISDOM OF SUNDAYS: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations. I wasn’t initially sure about the title, but found that once I listened to the sample sound clip—that comes up with our review—I was eager to hear more. One activity I do in my neighborhood at the start of the new year reveals another meaning to Robin’s Roundup. My husband and I “roundup” Christmas trees for our garden—limbed up, the boughs make a terrific mulch!

Robin Whitten rounding up Christmas trees for mulch. 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.

In Our Time: Immigration and the American Imagination of Itself

4 audiobooks to gain an understanding of current events

All the Agents and Saints

All the Agents and SaintsFrom time to time, we’ll be publishing blog posts about listening that can advance our understanding of current events. In this initial post in that vein, we’re talking about how the much-discussed topic of contemporary immigrants and immigration in the U.S. has been shaped by a history of national and popular beliefs about what it means to be an immigrant here and how immigration makes or breaks a culture some native-born Americans find comfortable.

Frankie Corzo reads Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s examination of cultural lives that straddle borders set by U.S. governments. As a Tejano, Griest discovers her own life has been impacted by the demarcation between Texas and Mexico that has cut between generations-long movements by family members. She also finds similarity in the experience of Mohawks whose home ranges were cut asunder by the border between Canada and the U.S. In Corzo’s performance of ALL THE AGENTS AND SAINTS: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands, listeners are given the opportunity to hear appropriately accented quotations from Griest’s informants and family members. 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: October 27 New Audiobook Reviews

200 Horror Audiobooks from the AudioFile crypt

Gwendy's Button Box

Gwendy's Button BoxScary listening has been on our minds as we creep closer to Halloween. We’re chatting with author Joe Hill and narrator Dennis Boutsikaris in New York this week, and all our channels, Goodreads, newsletters, narrator videos, and blog posts have a decidedly spooky trend. My personal interests run a little more to kids in costumes than scary stories, so I enjoyed our kids’  audiobooks list “9 Spooktacularly Good Halloween Audiobooks for Families” that our ReadBrightly.com partner shared. But I know there are plenty of you who go right for the scary stuff . . . so have at it: Browse 200+ audiobook horror titles from the AudioFile crypt. From the audiobooks of the King dynasty to Frankenstein, there’s surely something scary for everyone! 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: September 1 New Audiobook Reviews

This week 5 end-of-summer options that think about transitions

ArrowoodAs we wrap up summer with a long weekend, the audiobook reviews this week put me in two minds. I want to extend my random “summer listening” choices just a little longer, but also know many of us have already turned to the more serious efforts of fall.

ARROWOOD, set in the London of Sherlock Holmes, looks like a great choice if you’re on a mystery bent. We’ve been doing a lot of listening around the upcoming Sherlock Holmes anniversary in October. Arrowood is a scornful, anti-Holmes detective portrayed by Malk Williams. It gets an Earphones Award, so well worth attention.

An ensemble of popular young adult writers including Libba Bray and Tim Federle offer a collection to wrap up summer with some teen listening: SUMMER DAYS AND SUMMER NIGHTS. Six narrators share the varied stories. The notion of “coming-of-age” comes to mind as I thought about the stories and how the end of summer often marks this transition.

The cultural commentary of Ben Sasse’s THE VANISHING AMERICAN ADULT has a lot to say about coming of age in 21st-century America. His friendly warning, as well as encouragement for parents, teachers, and officials, is worth checking out. Fiction is often the norm for listeners to explore coming-of-age stories, and I often think it’s a welcome way to learn about the customs, culture, and expectations of others ages and times—think Jane Austen. In a dynamic new production, Emma Thompson leads a full cast to present NORTHANGER ABBEY. The Gothic satire of Austen’s first novel makes good listening.

My Absolute Darling

This week’s current darling of the publishing world, MY ABSOLUTE DARLING, is getting reviews and comments from critics as a major debut. As an audiobook, Gabriel Tallent’s debut is harrowing in a way that is different from the distress caused when we read text of graphic violence. Narrator Alex McKenna should be commended for her fortitude to perform the work and bring it vividly to listeners.

Can you think of other audiobooks that pack a punch that’s different from the experience of reading the same text in print?

 

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: Writers on Writing for Writers

What do Colum McCann, Anne Lamott, Stephen King, and Natalie Goldberg have in common? Fabulous books on writing!

If you’ve been aching to write a novel, poem, memoir, or perhaps a thriller about killing off your least favorite relative – aren’t we all? – now’s a good time to rush out for the newest book by Colum McCann, author of LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN. His LETTERS TO A YOUNG WRITER is full of lovely advice to readers and writers of all ages and ambitions, and it’s read by the master himself. His narration lends a personable voice to his warm words of advice for budding writers, and he reads and writes with humility, charm, and earnest good intention.

Letters to a Young Writer

LETTERS TO A YOUNG WRITER: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice
By Colum McCann, Read by Colum McCann
Random House Audio

While we’re on the topic of writers who’ve written about writing, the eighty percent of Americans who’d love to publish something – anything! – have even more listening possibilities. McCann is one of many authors who’ve offered pithy advice, and better yet, narrated the resulting audiobook. Here are a few of our favorites.

ON WRITING: A Memoir of the Craft
By Stephen King, Read by Stephen King
Simon & Schuster Audio
With this indispensable book, the king of bestsellers intended to put down his thoughts on writing. After explaining what’s important (including good grammar), the celebrated author says to get down to the business – as he has for the last forty-odd years.

WRITING DOWN THE BONES
By Natalie Goldberg, Read by Natalie Goldberg
Sounds True
From the first moments of this classic work on writing and life, listeners know they are hearing something wonderful. Everything is read in what Goldberg calls her “New York Jewish voice” and is suffused with her quirky, delightful sense of humor. Learn more about Goldberg’s experience recording WRITING DOWN THE BONES in our interview with her!
And we don’t want to forget the audio program of one of Natalie’s workshops, THE ART OF WRITING MEMOIR.

WORD BY WORD
By Anne Lamott, Read by Anne Lamott
Writer’s AudioShop
If you’re a writer, you need this audiobook. The sound of Lamott’s voice will cheer you on in your darkest hours. As our reviewer put it, “she’s the real thing–a successful writer–and she shares invaluable nuggets of wisdom about writing and the writing life.”

Looking to sample some of the best writing these authors have to offer? Come to our site for more reviews of titles by McCann, King, Goldberg, and Lamott!

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