Five audiobooks and five questions for narrator Karen White
Say hello to Karen White, the first guest in my 5 Audios / 5 Questions series. Karen is not only one of the queens of romantic fiction narrators but is also known for compelling performances in literary fiction, memoir, mystery, and more.
Audiobook fans live for those magic pairings between author and narrator, especially for ongoing series. Karen has performed many of Jill Shalvis’s novels and is the voice of her Heartbreaker Bay Series, including this fall’s CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE. Her delivery emphasizes the romantic tension between the characters and brings out the Shalvis’s sense of humor. Karen’s believable characterizations and spot-on pacing for Julie James’s FBI-US Attorney romantic fiction series won her an Earphones Award for SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER. Read more…
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.
It began with “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” which is arguably Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous short story. I was 11 years old and at odds with the world when my mother thrust a heavy volume into my hands. Still complaining, I retired to my room. Within a page, I’d been offered a wonderful new nineteenth-century identity as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson’s invisible sidekick. One who knew that only a dog cart throws up mud on a person’s sleeve in that way. “And then,” as Holmes explained, “only when you sit on the left-hand side of the driver.” Soon thereafter, we discovered the snake in the wall, that is, the speckled band, and I was hooked for life.
The Sherlock Holmes canon—four novels and 56 short stories—has remained in print since publication of the first novel, A STUDY IN SCARLET, in 1887. It’s inspired hundreds of screen adaptations (beginning with a silent film in 1900), radio and stage plays, and new Holmes novels and short stories by other writers. Luckily for us, that wealth has produced an equal richness of audiobooks. Read more…
National Book Award finalists offer thoughtful and inspiring listening
One 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.
If you are an educated adult who likes to read, this post may surprise you. Our literacy skills, as research has shown repeatedly and in international as well as American studies, aren’t stable across our adult life spans.
Kids’ “summer slide” has been well publicized, but less well known is evidence that adult literacy requires practice in order to persist through life, and not just seasonally. No matter your level of education, advancing age can lead to deterioration of literacy skill sets. Even bookworms can lose their literacy edge if their reading habits stop requiring or inspiring the need to reflect, question critically, or acquire new information. Unfortunately, this becomes the case with many adults in middle age.
These “literacy losses” are actually critical thinking losses. Once we have basic literacy skills (typically achieved in third grade), literacy isn’t about decoding individual words but collecting and absorbing meaning from whole paragraphs, texts, and complex directions. Adult losses in these skill areas impact our abilities to sort information, follow technical directions, and experience empathy. From a practical perspective, these losses mean we feel unsure about where stated fact ends and opinion begins, we may struggle to make sense of the programmable thermostat, and our world may shrink to include only those who share our cultural identity. Read more…
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.
Revisiting WWI through Fiction and Nonfiction Audiobooks
At age twenty-two, my grandfather looked a hero in his WWI pilot’s uniform. Peaked cap at a rakish angle, hand on his father’s shoulder, arm around his mother, he smiled broadly for the Brownie camera. Only the bulge of a service revolver beneath his jacket hinted at upcoming danger.
In this 100th anniversary year of America’s entry into the war, I wish I’d been able to hear about his experiences. He died when I was young, though, so I was never able to ask how the French battlefields looked from his biplane’s cockpit, how the rat-a-tat-tat of aerial combat really sounded, and frivolously, why didn’t he wear a silk scarf in the photo? Or did that sartorial flourish belong only to Snoopy’s Red Baron?
Instead, I’ve found a vicarious experience of my grandfather’s war in books and film, beginning with Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the war’s start, THE GUNS OF AUGUST. I read it as a teenager, and recently listened to the Earphones Award-winning performance by one of my favorite narrators, Nadia May (also known as Wanda McCaddon). That’s two prizes for one compulsively readable account of the dares and double-dares that caused so much bravery and death. Read more…
No escapes this week—activism in my listening queue
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 STICKis 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 314is 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.
Summer is a time to hit the road, and a good audiobook can go a long way towards making car trips not just bearable, but enjoyable. Some are actually stories about road trips.
Join Robin Whitten and Jo Reed as they discuss their picks for summer road trip listening. And before you declare summer to be over, remember that you may well have a road trip ahead of you this Labor Day weekend!
Listening to audiobooks about road trips while making your own way on the road can enhance your travel experience and make the miles speed by, whether you’re making a trek across the country or making your way into the woods for your last summer camping trip with the family.
“Whether you’re heading out in a car, in the train, or on the bus, nothing beats a good audiobook.”—Jo Reed