PBS has just concluded a national survey and an eight-part series that explored and celebrated the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels: THE GREAT AMERICAN READ. The final results just released put TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD definitively on top, with four finalists: the Outlander series, the Harry Potter series, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and the Lord of the Rings series. What strikes me with these favorites is that many of them offer spectacular listening. Read more…
See the yellowed pages in my copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE? That’s to prove that I am a true Janeite.
Bona fides established, let me tell you about the literary mashup PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, by Seth Grahame-Smith, in which the basic P&P plot line and tone are intercut with zombies roaming the 19th-century English countryside. Yes, Jane and zombies are ridiculous, but I listened during one of those complicated family summers, and its occasionally gruesome silliness was a magic diversion. Author Steve Hockensmith has written two subsequent mashups of the mashup, which are also crazy funny: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES: DAWN OF THE DREADFULS and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES: DREADFULLY EVER AFTER. Most importantly for us, all three were narrated by the amazing Katy Kellgren, who won an Earphones Award for the second volume.
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.
And 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…
As 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.
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?