Celebrating Winners — And Adding More New Listening

Robin’s Roundup June 8

Audiobook Tea by Steve Kagan
Audiobook Tea by Steve Kagan
photo by Steve Kagan

Everyone in the audiobook world had eyes on the NYC conferences and social events last week. With more than 400 narrators, publishers, producers, authors, Audie judges, and audiobook media attending each of 4 events, I greeted, spoke with, or waved at so many audiobook people. At the Audiobook Tea—held during BookExpo—I was delighted to introduce the four guest authors: Laini Taylor, Gayle Forman, Jason Fry, and Kathryn Hahn spoke about their audiobooks. Publishers Weekly covered the event that was attended by booksellers, librarians, and publishers. 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.

Get It Together

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Five Audiobooks that Will Put Your Life in Order

Spark Joy

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpSo 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…

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

Opening Doors Beyond the Binary

In Our Time

The 57 Bus

In my work with library staff working to improve their reference interviewing skills, I regularly need to provide coaching to those who persistently (and inadvertently) shut down clients by offering them either/or options instead of open-ended questions. This binary view of possibilities is endemic in our culture as well: The person before us can identify themselves as this or that, black or white, straight or gay, right or wrong. In fact, identities match spectra, rather than simply opposite points, and allowing ourselves the opportunity to become aware of realities that go beyond what we already imagine as likely, or even possible, enlarges our own world as well as admitting more variety into it.

The 57 BusAn increasing number of authors address this concern, and many of these books are coming to audio format with successful performances. To be successful in this regard, narrators must be sensitive to the fact that humanity is much broader than a binary, and win listeners to greater possibilities through careful interpretation in their performances.

Among recent audiobooks that demonstrate such wider realities, Robin Miles’s reading of journalist Dashka Slater’s THE 57 BUS: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives is a fine example. There are surface-level elements in this account that clearly spotlight neither/nor, such as the crime victim’s identity as genderqueer. There are more subtle aspects, too, including the true reason behind the perpetrator becoming presumptively identified with a hate crime when, in fact, hate did not inform his motivation. Miles, for her part, does not add a fictional layer to Slater’s carefully balanced reporting by presuming character voices. Instead, she allows each and all sides to be heard unweighted, leaving the listener to consider all the mitigating points along the spectrum of gender identity, class, and racial histories. 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.

Take 5 with Candace: Lunar New Year

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

In China, the celebration of the Lunar New Year is called the Spring Festival, though you may know it as Chinese New Year. During the two-week-long holiday, participants honor their ancestors and deities and spend time with their families.

Festivities involve red decorations, lanterns, parades, firecrackers, and special foods (such as dumplings and long noodles). Similar to the celebration of the new year in cultures and religions around the world, several Chinese traditions are meant to ensure a healthy and prosperous future.

Do Not Say We Have NothingThis year, Spring Festival begins on February 16 and ushers in the Year of the Dog. According to one source, the coming months will see an increase in “social awareness and action, for the many rather than the few.” If you were born in the Year of the Dog, you likely share traits with Winston Churchill, Madonna, and Mother Teresa.

What can you do if you’re unable to attend any local celebrations? You can still get into the spirit of the Lunar New Year by donning a bright red sweater and ordering in some spring rolls. Then settle down to listen to one (or more) of today’s Take 5 recommendations, which will transport you to China, right from your favorite armchair. 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.

Behind the Mic: Kitchen Chinese

From a Hong Kong streetcar, Emily Woo Zeller recalls Isabelle’s journey

Kitchen Chinese

Narrator Emily Woo Zeller takes AudioFile readers Behind the Mic—and onto a streetcar in Hong Kong—to tell us more about her narration of KITCHEN CHINESE: Food, Family, and Finding Yourself and her connections to Ann Mah’s novel about Isabelle Lee, the heroine, who reconnects with her family and heritage.

“I’m currently in Hong Kong . . . Isabelle’s journey reminded me a lot of my time here and it’s wonderful.”—Narrator Emily Woo Zeller

Read more…

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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.

Robin’s Roundup: October 6 New Audiobook Reviews

National Book Award finalists offer thoughtful and inspiring listening

Sing, Unburied, SingOne of the great aspects of the National Book Awards is that they often highlight titles that may not be on your radar yet. And as listeners know, audiobooks can be a great way to increase your reading time and to tackle the problem of “so many books, so little time!” Among the finalist announcements this week, there are several audiobooks definitely worth taking the time to explore. We just reviewed SING, UNBURIED, SING with three narrators, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Rutina Wesley, and Chris Chalk, and picking up an Earphones Award. Two other finalists in the Fiction category, DARK AT THE CROSSING, with narrator Vikas Adam, and THE LEAVERS, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, are also recommended.

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: The “Special Sauce” in Personal Growth Audios

Four audiobooks with stellar narrations that urge you to take steps toward a better life

Gretchen Rubin

From cleaning house to searching for meaning, the personal growth audios I listened to this month spoke to me as they always do: “There’s always room for improvement, Tom!” This is especially true now that I have more years behind me than in front of me and feel some urgency to do more with the blessings I’ve been given.

Gretchen Rubin, photo by Michael Weschler

What continues to impress me about personal growth audios is how they bring together the power of the human voice with insights that speak to us about our lives and opportunities. Someone speaking to us, whether in person or on a recording, offers us the speaker’s heritage and character as well as the experience and ideas that they believe have values for us. When listening to an author like Agapi Stassinopoulos, we of course hear the substance of her insights and advice. But we also get a connection with her based on what we hear in her voice, her vocal personality.

Gretchen Rubin, who is much loved by fans of her Happier podcast, narrates her latest audiobook, THE FOUR TENDENCIES, with a casual, friendly style that feels like welcome advice shared by a friend over coffee. This is what’s unique about learning from audiobooks—this “special sauce” of someone’s voice may be more powerful in some audiobooks than others, but it always gets my attention. When it’s there, something happens that awakens the desire to commit, to live more intentionally, and to take the steps needed to have a better life.

The Four Tendencies

THE FOUR TENDENCIES: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)
written and read by Gretchen Rubin
Random House Audio/Books On Tape

Gretchen Rubin dives into a thorough examination of how and why we make our daily choices. She conveys her well-researched, home-grown four-tendencies matrix conversationally, using changes in pitch and speed to help differentiate the many anecdotes sprinkled throughout her book. She narrates her exploration of rebels, obligers, upholders, and questioners with obvious excitement, in a welcome and engaging manner. 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.

Robin’s Roundup: September 8 New Audiobook Reviews

What’s Cooking in the Audiobook Kitchen?

Salt Fat Acid HeatChef memoirs and “foodie” books seem to come in waves . . . we’re in the kitchen with Marcus Samuelsson or Ruth Reichl and then the cupboard is bare for months. Happily this week we have three terrific cuisine-related audiobooks. Alice Waters, visionary chef and owner of Berkeley, California’s Chez Panisse invites listeners right to her table to hear her memoir COMING TO MY SENSES. She shares her passion for food, the story of finding her own voice as a chef, and a scattering of recipes. If you’ve checked out the beautifully illustrated cookbook SALT, FAT, ACID HEAT, it might be hard to imagine the audiobook edition. Yet author Samin Nosrat pulls it off, bringing this innovative cooking guide to listeners with engaging, conversational style . . . but you may still want to have the hardcover text on your shelf for the recipe details and techniques. 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.