In the midst of awards season, I’m always looking out for those that specifically celebrate audiobooks, like the Spoken Word Grammy (Carrie Fisher’s THE PRINCESS DIARIST) and The Odyssey Award (THE HATE U GIVE). Also, I love finding the audiobook companion of books that are being celebrated—the American Library Association awards announced this week offer a wealth of great listening. The Newbery Award, for example, given for the year’s “most outstanding contribution to literature,” honored HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly. We’ve talked about and celebrated the audiobook for months—check out narrator Ramon de Ocampo in one of our Behind the Mic videos telling us how swept up he was in this book. It’s thrilling to know that it has received the great Newbery honor. You’ll be hearing more about one of the Newbery Honor titles, Jason Reynolds’s LONG WAY DOWN—we have an exciting interview with Jason about recording his audiobooks for our upcoming print issue. (Look for it April 1.) Read more…
One of my father’s favorite stories was about when he picked apricots from an orchard and barely managed to outrun a shovel-wielding farmer (and a cow that he mistook for a bull) before making it home to Mama and Papa. The telling reduced the family to gales of tearful laughter each time. And each time, after wiping his eyes, he’d conclude, “The fruit wasn’t ripe, but there was nothing else for it. It was all the food we had that night.”
The man who taught me to take control by laughing at adversity, at least after the fact, would have loved comedian Tig Notaro’s performance of I’M JUST A PERSON, her memoir about facing down cancer and other iniquities. Delivered in her trademark deadpan delivery, Notaro’s audiobook is one that cures pain while delivering sidesplitting guffaws. I know because my father didn’t make it out of his Big C treatment alive, so I listened, cried, and laughed for both of us to her fierce and funny tale. Read more…
Looking at some of the new audiobook reviews this week, I see a theme of personal journeys—some fictional and some biographical. In an original audio adaptation, Susan Trott’s THE HOLY MAN is transformed into a full cast performance as THE MAN ON THE MOUNTAINTOP. Headlining the cast of this pilgrims’ tale are British actor Toby Jones and Stanley Tucci, who said the project “blends parable, myth, and morality with powerful and thought-provoking storytelling.”
At first, I confused Trott’s mountaintop and THE MOUNTAINTOP, the play by Katori Hall about Martin Luther King, Jr. This L.A. Theatre Works production is also an excellent listening experience, and a spiritual journey. A memoir of a slightly different type of journey, AN ODYSSEY: A Father, a Son, and an Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn, is also reviewed this week. Narrator Bronson Pinchot receives an Earphones Award for this memoir. Listening to even the briefest of sound clips lets you hear Bronson’s engaging style. Read more…
Audiofile Magazine is proud to present its 2017 Best Romance Audiobook list. These fifteen audiobooks represent a snapshot of this year’s best listening. Many reviewers helped make this list possible — thanks to all of them for being wonderful listeners. Since it’s impossible to choose a favorite from among these stellar titles, I thought I would prepare a little quiz for you as an introduction to the titles (see the end of the post for the answers!). And don’t forget to Love Your Listening!
Best of Romance Audio Quiz
1. Twelve of the titles are part of a series. Which 3 titles are standalone audios?
2. Of the historicals, one is set in the reign of King George IV of England, one during King Edward I of England’s reign, and one during King George III of England’s reign. Which is which?
3. Of the paranormals, one is set in a magical upstate New York and one is set in a magical Houston, Texas. Which is which? Read more…
One of the great traditions of the season is the many live performances that families can attend. The glamour and excitement of dance events are my favorite. Two new audiobooks we just reviewed, DANZA! and THE NUTCRACKER MICE, can put your youngsters in the mood . . . for Mexican folkloric music or the traditional Nutcracker ballet. And there’s a classic audiobook that should be on every dance-loving family listening list, BALLET STORIES. This classic from 2001 is an Earphones and Audie Award winner and is punctuated with Naxos AudioBooks’ signature music, and meticulous attention to detail. And for anyone who watched CALL THE MIDWIFE on PBS, Jenny Agutter (Sister Julienne) narrates this wonderful program. Read more…
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…
So many great listening choices this week, I could make a long list! Astronomy, history, education, political activism . . . it looks like nonfiction is catching my eye. For teachers and students getting ready to go back to school, here’s a welcome message. MAKE IT STICK is ready to toss out “learning the hard way.” Two cognitive scientists have teamed up with storyteller Peter Brown for a highly listenable audiobook offering some powerful strategies. Another work that addresses totally different educational challenges, THE BATTLE FOR ROOM 314 is an important, though harrowing, memoir from Ed Boland’s year of teaching at a New York City high school. Alongside this audiobook is Gwendolyn Brooks’s biography, A SURPRISED QUEENHOOD IN THE NEW BLACK SUN. Brooks, brilliant American poet, Poet Laureate, and first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize, is often known for her poem “We Real Cool.” As I was looking at details about Brooks, I found her reading of the poem.
A sad endpoint to Boland’s story, but learning about Brooks’s legacy offers listeners inspiration and admiration. Another dynamic listening experience is L.A. Theatre Works’ live-audience production of SEVEN, based on interviews with women activists from around the world.
For anyone who was wrapped up in this month’s solar eclipse, AMERICAN ECLIPSE, which is about the 1878 eclipse, has some fascinating history and scientific detail, as well as an astroid hunter. Narrator Jonathan Yen adds a lot to the listening experience. I can’t wrap up this week’s roundup without mentioning my nostalgia on seeing Louise Penny’s GLASS HOUSES. I love the Inspector Gamache books and admire the success of the change of narrators in the middle of the series. Robert Bathurst gets his second Earphones Award for his narration with the newest title. He took over for my lovely friend Ralph Cosham, who recorded the earlier titles and brought the series to listeners’ attention.
What are you listening to this week?
If you’re in the mood for a little escapism, this week’s audiobook reviews have some great options. The first to catch my eye, and ear, is THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER. The premise is that daughters of Victorian literary villains—Dr. Jekyll, Mr Hyde, and Rappaccini—collaborate to solve Jack-the-Ripper-like murders with some help from Sherlock Holmes. Narrator Kate Reading has a grand time with this romp.
A different sort of collaboration was the brainchild of the authors of INDIGO. Nine high-profile fantasy authors including Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong, and Jonathan Maberry create a crime-fighter urban myth with super powers drawn from shadows. Just one narrator, Christina Delaine, takes this on. She gets high praise for handling the many male characters as well as the female ones, and for keeping us emotionally engaged. For X-Files fans, this one’s for you—THE X-FILES: COLD CASES. This elaborate original production with a creative soundscape and a huge cast of voices also brings back the original Mulder and Scully actors, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Just the chance to travel through X-Files land again should delight listeners.
My last choice this week is slightly different but a true AudioFile staff pick, WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI. This sweet, immersive teen romance is dynamically read by two narrators, Vikas Adam and Sneha Mathan. The banter between the teens is perfected by the two actors who get the characters, and their world, just right. Dimple and Rishi both struggle with pressures and expectations from their families and society at large, and these nuances add depth to the story of ambition, romance, and tradition, while still keeping things fun.
What audiobook is taking you “out of your world” this week?
This week’s audiobooks shine a light on an interesting mix of cultural icons—not exactly Beyoncé-type icons, but they reflect their own times nonetheless.
I love the prospect of LUCY AND DESI: The Legendary Love Story of Television’s Most Famous Couple—Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It’s a wonderful throwback to 1950s television and will get you searching for “I Love Lucy ” reruns. With all the interest in superheroes, what about Catwoman? Batman’s enemy/love interest gets a “biography” chronicling her first appearance in 1940 through today in THE MANY LIVES OF CATWOMAN.
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.