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.

Do You Even Like Pumpkin Pie?

Audiobooks to See You Through Thanksgiving

Appetite For LifeAs our national celebration of family and pie approaches, I’m reminded of the Thanksgiving when our gorgeously brown turkey slid off the serving platter and across the none-too-clean kitchen floor. After a stunned silence, my mother called out, “Julia Child!” We took up the cheer, “Yes, yes, Julia Child!” And with that paean to the woman who showed America how to cook and cope cheerfully with culinary setbacks, we plopped the bird back on the platter and headed into the dining room to brave my uncle’s divergent political opinions. (For more on the indomitable American cook, I recommend Wanda McCaddon’s reading of APPETITE FOR LIFE: THE BIOGRAPHY OF JULIA CHILD.)

The Lay of the Land

Weighted with food calamities, family contretemps, and expectations of perfection, November Togetherness Day can be tense. As Joe Barrett’s fine performance of Richard Ford’s THE LAY OF THE LAND reveals, it can also be joyous. Selected as an AudioFile Best Audiobook of 2007, the novel drops us into the amusing and angst-ridden tribulations of Frank Bascombe, Ford’s everyman hero, as he faces Thanksgiving with friends and family. 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.

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.

Robin’s Roundup: November 3 New Audiobook Reviews

Electrify your listening with baseball or jazz!

Electric October

Electric OctoberBaseball season may be over with the conclusion of the World Series, but it’s not too late to extend the season if you love baseball history. Joe Barrett’s snappy narration of ELECTRIC OCTOBER is perfect for stories from the Golden Age of Baseball. And—enjoy hearing the players’ names: Cookie Lavagetto, Burt Shotton, Snuffy Stirnweiss, and Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish (really!). Names are just not what they used to be!

With holiday travel coming up when many families will be hitting the road, now is a perfect time to plan your “are we there yet?” listening stash.

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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.

Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: The Stars are Out Tonight

Great actors who can also deliver great audiobook performances

The Testament of Mary

Asked to read a telephone book, Meryl Streep could find subtext even in the X’s. Hand her a novel and she’s la crème de la crème. That cannot be said about most celebrities who’ve narrated audiobooks. Unfortunately, mega stardom doesn’t guarantee a mega audiobook performance. So let’s celebrate three stage and screen superstars who also are able to deliver splendid listening.

The Testament of Mary

Streep can do serious, as evidenced by her performance of Colm Tóibín’s THE TESTAMENT OF MARY — a blazing commentary by the mother of Jesus on her son’s fate. She channels Mary, making the audiobook one for every faith or none. It’s a performance of a lifetime that I’ve pressed on many who weren’t sure and who came away convinced. Streep can also do funny, and her comedic timing is beautifully displayed in Nora Ephron’s fictionalized memoir, HEARTBURN. Both performances won Earphones Awards. Then there are her characterizations, vividly apparent in several narrations for children. For the kids in your life, or just for yourself, listen and savor THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, or three stories in an audio collection called RABBIT EARS STORIES BY BEATRIX POTTER. Rarely has Peter Rabbit sounded so inveterately tempted by Mr. MacGregor’s garden. 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.

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.

Behind the Mic: Becoming Bonnie

Icons of American crime lore—Bonnie and Clyde

Becoming Bonnie

AudioFile goes Behind the Mic to talk with Susan Bennett  to hear her insights on narrating BECOMING BONNIE. On the 50th anniversary of Arthur Penn’s iconic 1967 film BONNIE AND CLYDE, listeners can explore this fictional account of young Bonnie and Clyde in 1920s Texas.

“I had never given much thought to the stories of Bonnie and Clyde before they became who we now know in our American crime lore.”—Narrator Susan Bennett

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We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!

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.

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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.

Behind the Mic: The Destroyers

Graham Halstead shares the secrets behind Christopher Bollen’s latest audiobook

Listen in as narrator Graham Halstead goes Behind the Mic with AudioFile to fill us in on THE DESTROYERS, Christopher Bollen’s thoroughly engrossing literary thriller set in the Greek Isles. What’s your next move in this dangerous game?

“You have no idea what’s around the next turn . . . “—Narrator Graham Halstead

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We're the editorial team at AudioFile Magazine!