Each summer AudioFile celebrates audiobook narrators with a Maine clambake in Boothbay, Maine. Narrators come from across the country, and sometimes we even have an international guest. But it’s not just the usual suspects—each year a different and diverse group of narrators joins us. We greet old friends and make new ones!
We always have representation from AudioFile’s Golden Voices—this year Barbara Rosenblat and Robin Miles joined us. AudioFile Earphones Award winners and Audie Award winners also are well represented. And it’s a true delight just to get to put voices and faces together. Read more…
Short stories have often gotten the short straw in audiobooks. With audio publishers producing more titles each season, and podcasts gaining more and more listeners, short story collections may be getting more attention. Eight new collections, just reviewed, are worth your listening time. I’ve split them into essays (nonfiction) and fiction stories.
Ramona Ausubel’s AWAYLAND showcases the voices of a dozen narrators in a collection that’s both fantastical and familiar. Scott O’Connor’s stories in A PERFECT UNIVERSE are all set in California. Two narrators, Bronson Pinchot and Thérèse Plummer, take us outside the bright lights of Hollywood with very human and complex characters, and pick up an Earphones Award for their performances. Read more…
Aurelia’s Audio Adventures: Matching audiobooks to the drive improves the scenery
My husband Bob and I recently drove from Maine to California and back just to listen to audiobooks. Okay, we also wanted to escape winter in the 23rd state. However we played lots of audiobooks along the way, choosing ones set more or less where we were going. Call them road-trip audiobooks. That’s how we took the LAST BUS TO WISDOM, Ivan Doig’s heartfelt, comic paean to lighting out. Across the Great Plains we went with 12-year-old Donal, 70-something Herman-the-German, and the amazing narrator, Aaron David Baker. They rode the Dog Bus — think now, what bus line’s emblem is a hound? — while we drove a Subaru. But with a master author and narrator to guide us, we found wide-open spaces and quirky, worthwhile Americans. We survived robbery (Donal and Herman) and a blizzard on Donner Pass (Bob and me). And we replaced several meals with chocolate bars. Read more…
Christian Baskous talking about recording Richard Ford’s BETWEEN THEM; Mark Bramhall on Ron Chernow’s GRANT biography; Jonathan Yen giving us a wonderful teaser to explore A MIND AT PLAY and discover the man who is called the father of the information age, Claude Shannon; and Rob Shapiro talking about recording THE WORLD REMADE, a timely look at America in World War I.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded when she arrived, as if I’d been keeping audiobooks a secret. “I’d never realized how witty Christie is until I heard it. And those amazing accents!” Then she uttered the classic line. “Listening to the performance made the story come alive.”
One more audiobook convert, all because of the narrator, which is how it should be. Read more…
When we go Behind the Mic with a narrator, we always learn something. Today with Mark Bramhall, we get some perspective on his epic narration of GRANT, Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant.
“To know . . . the story of the Civil War and Reconstruction is to arm yourself with something I think is quite necessary these days. Turned out to be a good thing—a book that not only intrigues, but matters.”—Narrator Mark Bramhall
From the sublime—Nobel literature—to popular listening of the season
When the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced last week, it was a great pleasure to find that so many of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books are already available on audio.
THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, narrated by the impeccable Simon Prebble, may be the place to start exploring Ishiguro’s work in audiobooks. Simon delivers it perfectly with nuance of emotion and subtlety of accents. Some other Ishiguro audiobooks to look at—THE BURIED GIANT or the stories collected inNOCTURNES. Also, WHEN WE WERE ORPHANS whichis narrated by John Lee (see more about John below).
Among the week’s newest reviews, there seem to be several that make a good run-up to Halloween. Since my post today happens to fall on Friday the 13th, a few scary tales to try your luck seem appropriate. Stephen & Owen King lead off with SLEEPING BEAUTIES. Women going to sleep and not waking up sounds pretty unlucky to me. THE BLACK HAND takes listeners to the wharves and warehouses of 1880s London and the origins of Italian crime syndicates. And if you want to to stay in the horror zone, THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR, VOLUME 9 has a collection of stories to curl your toes with every whisper. Read more…
Dark or bright? Are you looking for real-world challenges or a fantasy escape?
My choices from this week’s new audiobook reviews seem to have a yin and yang approach. The dark and the light. We have history and biography that stare hard challenges straight in the face, like HUE 1968, Mark Bowden’s extensively researched account of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. I like reviewer Bob Grundfest’s comment on narrator Joe Barrett: “He sounds like an old boot and offers no quarter when detailing the battle’s ravages, both in terms of men and American strategy.” If you are planning on watching Ken Burns’s PBS documentary or listening to the audiobook edition, THE VIETNAM WAR, Bowden’s work is an excellent companion. The biography of Israel’s former prime minister, Shimon Peres, NO ROOM FOR SMALL DREAMS, covers important decades of Israeli history. Narrator Mark Bramhall clearly gets into the author’s voice and brings listeners a direct and inspiring reflection. For another type of challenge, the biography of English cardiologist and surgeon Dr. Stephen Westaby looks at his career and many high-risk surgeries in OPEN HEART.
To counterbalance the nonfiction choices, what about a little fantasy? M.T. Anderson is a master of the invented world, and LANDSCAPE WITH INVISIBLE HAND is his newest young adult novel. Hearing about the aliens called “vuvv” may actually be easier than encountering the words repeatedly in the text—an unexpected bonus of audiobook listening. Anderson narrates the audiobook himself as he did with his celebrated SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD. While I’m on words that might be easier to hear rather than read, how about NYXIA, a sci-fi thriller by Scott Reintgen. The North Carolina teacher offers his novel for the “front-row sleepers and back-row dreamers of his classrooms.” That should be enough to pique your interest, but narrator Sullivan Jones delivers with action and emotion for the teens in a competition aboard a spaceship.
Is your approach to listening this week dark, or bright?
Seeking inward and outward clarity through audiobooks
The learning audios I heard this month are about a range of issues that people are thinking about today: the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the erosion of contract between corporations and labor, some important social science topics, and a timely lesson on the way we acquire knowledge of the world.
We’re all seeking clarity, and finding it requires a commitment—whether you’re working on understanding yourself or becoming better informed as a consumer, employee, business owner, or citizen. These audiobooks can help because once you decide to start listening, thinking more critically becomes a habit and a priority. By just making the time and paying attention, you can absorb the substance and stimulation you need to participate more fully in life.
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.
Recently I took a trip to Central Virginia to visit a friend who moved there. She waited for me to arrive before heading out to her new library so she could sign up for a card and investigate this cherished repository of stories. It’s a lovely, modern building that includes a front porch and—no joke—rocking chairs. But what really caught my attention was this sign they had hanging on one of the bookshelves:
Having worked as a high school English teacher, I cannot understand the mindset that audiobooks are cheating. Don’t misunderstand—I believe literacy is vital in our society, but reading the words printed on the pages of a book is at the bottom of Bloom’s taxonomy. Where the true value of good stories comes into play is in the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of characters, plot, theme, sometimes setting, symbols, etc. And when we listen to audiobooks, we’re still wholly responsible for that role. Read more…
A freelance book and audiobook reviewer, I have also written numerous interviews of authors and narrators. Story entrances me and if I'm not reading for myself I love having a story told to me. In addition, I'm an avid photographer, where stories are in the images!