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December 2017 Earphones Award Winners

The award is given by AudioFile to truly exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.


AMERICAN KINGPIN
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

If you didn't know any better, you'd swear this story was the concoction of a Hollywood screenwriter. Narrator Will Damron embodies the determination and frustration of driven but flawed federal agents who sought to bring down the world's largest website for the purchase of illegal drugs, weapons, and even deadly poisons. What is truly frightening is that this is the true story... Read More

BE FIERCE
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

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. In steady, measured tones, Carlson digs deep into the history of harassment cases, current laws in place to protect women, and why Human Resources isn't always your friend. At times,... Read More

BEFORE THE DEVIL BREAKS YOU
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator January LaVoy shines in the third installment of The Diviners series. In 1920s Harlem, the Diviners, a disparate group of preternaturally gifted young people, work to discover the source of their powers as a new threat to the equilibrium between good and evil emanates from a local asylum. The story is a striking blend of history, magic, horror, and romance, and LaVoy's... Read More

THE BEST OF US
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

In this soul-baring journey of love, tragedy, and recovery, author Joyce Maynard's satin voice delivers every emotion fluidly. In her mid-50s, Maynard finds the love of her life, and all is right with world. A year later, her husband is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. With great skill Maynard modifies her pitch and tone to reflect a register of emotions from joy to... Read More

THE BOOK OF DUST
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

There's something pleasingly old-fashioned about Michael Sheen's narration, which is matched by the pleasure of returning to Pullman's world of daemons and Dust. Sheen fully inhabits the text, and he's utterly believable as 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead, who meets baby Lyra (heroine of Pullman's His Dark Materials series) and embarks on a perilous adventure to protect her from... Read More

CAUGHT BY THE SCOT
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Privateer Conner Douglas decides to marry his best friend, Lady Thea, to claim his legacy. To his shock and anger, she is eloping with a local squire. Using wit and steamy kisses, he is determined to stop her. Narrator Gary Furlong has a commanding presence with his distinct accents, sweeping vocal range, and enjoyable pace. Conner's crew is comical and shrewd in their attempts... Read More

CHASING DOWN A DREAM
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

With a silvery smooth voice, narrator Lynnette Freeman conveys the essential message in Jenkins's Blessings series: The essence of romance is family. This small-town romance, appropriate for teen and adult listeners, is set in Henry Adams, Kansas. Featured characters are single mom Gemma, who cares for two abandoned children she found on the side of the road, and restaurateur... Read More

COURAGE FOR THE UNKNOWN SEASON
Earphones Award Winner
Philosophy & Religion

Ann Richardson's voice add a tone of comfort and joy as she narrates an invaluable resource on preparing for the inevitable surprises of life encountered by young and old. Oddly enough, Richardson is so smooth and exuberant that her young-sounding voice conflicts with the aged wisdom of the author. Regardless, the wisdom pours through one's speakers as she delivers these much... Read More

DEATH IN THE AIR
Earphones Award Winner
History

Scottish-born narrator Graeme Malcolm reads this inventive mix of true crime, social history, political cover-up, and environmental exposé with just the right mix of traditional British verve and stoicism. For five days in early December 1952, a heavy, yellow, noxious fog descended upon the city of London. The air was so thick with the ash and residue of a cheap coal called... Read More

DINNER AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Mark Bramhall's task can't be understated; his performance must cover complex characters, each with motivations that become progressively clear. Englander's audiobook examines interlocking stories and characters who are involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Scenes shift between 2002 and 2014 as relationships develop. Among the main characters are Prisoner Z, a... Read More

ELECTRIC ARCHES
Earphones Award Winner
Poetry & Drama

Eve L. Ewing reads her first poetry collection with brio and a tang that hook the listener from the get-go. She has a youthful lilting voice that lifts listeners into the funny poems and carries them safely over the tough ones, singeing them perhaps, but not letting them drop into the flames. A trained sociologist as well as a poet, Ewing ranges across the experience of being... Read More

THE EMPTY GRAVE
Earphones Award Winner
Children

This is the fifth and final Lockwood & Co. audiobook, all of them exquisitely narrated by Emily Bevan. The satisfying conclusion fulfills the promise of author and narrator. The book begins with the usual suspense as the Lockwood crew discovers that the coffin of famed psychic Marissa Fittes is empty. Bevan delivers that dynamic scene in the voice of the witty first-person... Read More

AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Julia Whelan's skillful narration intensifies the drama in this stirring debut novel. Using pitch and deliberate pacing to full advantage, Whelan draws listeners into a romantic fantasy world of faeries who covet the creative abilities of humans, using enchantment as currency. Isobel, a talented portrait painter, runs afoul of Rook, the Autumn Prince, and is drawn into the... Read More

EUGENIA LINCOLN AND THE UNEXPECTED PACKAGE
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Lorna Raver knows Eugenia Lincoln and her sister, Baby, from the inside out. She takes the narration from cranky to imperious to almost tender and back again with ease. When Eugenia's predictable life is disturbed, greatly, by the arrival of an unreturnable package, Eugenia has to contend with the contents and with all the neighbors, who are suddenly interested in the... Read More

GIVEN TO THE SEA
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

This ensemble cast gives a superb performance presenting the characters of the kingdom of Stille in this young adult audiobook. Narrator Monika Felice Smith, as Khosa the Given, envelops herself in her role as the young woman who is doomed to be taken by the sea. Robbie Daymond infuses Vincent, the heir to the throne of Stille, with uncertainty and indecision as he searches for... Read More

HALSEY STREET
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Halsey Street, in Brooklyn, where Penelope lives, is a place any listener might like to visit, despite Penelope's mixed feelings about the place--and her family. Narrator Bahni Turpin's performance is gorgeous. Her voice has a texture that suits the nuances of the novel's plot: easy enough to absorb but with a depth and grittiness that make it interesting and real. As the novel... Read More

HERE IN BERLIN
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

This audiobook is structured as a set of stories collected by the unnamed narrator, most of them as told to her in the first person. They're reminiscences of life in Berlin from just before the German surrender in 1945 to the near-present. Narrator Joan Walker doesn't attempt to give each of the many characters a particular voice. Instead, she gives each of them a personality... Read More

KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

KRISTIN LAVRANSDATTER is a masterpiece of storytelling. It was published in 1922, and its author won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928. Her work has lost none of its power or appeal since. That the 1997 Tiina Nunnally translation is now available as an audiobook is a literary event, since an immersive saga of such length and depth will be particularly appealing to many in... Read More

LIFE 3.0
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

It's hard to believe that a machine could replace Rob Shapiro's effective, nuanced narration of this audiobook, but then again it was once hard to believe there would be driverless cars and voice-activated homes. We are witnessing the baby steps of artificial intelligence (AI) research. But what happens when machines become more intelligent than humans? Will malicious redeyed... Read More

LONG WAY DOWN
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

This novel in verse, made to be read aloud, makes a compelling case for gun control. Its potency is increased by the narration of author Jason Reynolds, which buoys listeners through the intense linked stories. Three poems into Will Holloman's first-person narrative, one learns about his brother. Shawn is funny, tells stupid jokes, and "was shot . . . and killed." Reynolds... Read More

MONTAIGNE IN BARN BOOTS
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Would you enjoy listening for five hours to a Wisconsin volunteer fireman discoursing on a sixteenth-century French essayist? You bet. Michael Perry is a contemporary equivalent of the traditional American humorist exemplified by Mark Twain and Finley Peter Dunne's "Mr. Dooley"--a faux rube who balances common sense with a droll, biting wit. Far from the wise yokels of old,... Read More

MOVING KINGS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

This audiobook begins as though it will be a comedy but gets darker as it goes along. Narrator Jonathan Davis tracks that progression through a multiplicity of New York voices and accents--Israeli, Arabic, Manhattan, outer boroughs, Hispanic, and more. He manages to convey some especially thick accents, for people who speak little English, with complete clarity. There are... Read More

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Kenneth Branagh offers a full-cast performance all by himself in this delicious production of a 1934 Christie classic that is often remembered only for its film adaptations. What a pleasure to encounter the author's original intent and be reminded of how cleverly she devised plots and characters. For those who need reminding, the plot involves a murder on a snowbound Orient... Read More

THE PRAGUE SONATA
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

A magnificent obsession sparks Morrow's gorgeous novel, and Christina Delaine's narration adds the needed heat. A plot as intricate as a sonata winds together the German occupation of Prague in 1939; an authentic eighteenth-century musical score hidden from the Nazis; and the life of Meta Taverner, a young musicologist in contemporary New York. Delaine's lush tones allow the... Read More

PROVENANCE
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

Narrator Adjoah Andoh creates a stunning tapestry of characters within the vast galaxy this audiobook spans. Her theater background allows her to give distinctive timbres and accents to every character, which helps to keep the large cast and complex story straight. Ingray Aughskold starts out as a young woman who is quite unsure of herself and her place in the world, but by the... Read More

RANGER GAMES
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

What would incite an Army Ranger with a spotless record and boundless potential to rob a bank and throw his career away? That's the question Ben Blum sets out to answer in this outstanding piece of personal journalism about his cousin Alex, who committed this inexplicable crime. Narrator Johnathan McClain's pacing is ideal. He carries the narrative briskly along, using more... Read More

REAL DIRTY
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Narrators Elena Wolfe and Sebastian York pump up this rocker romance to the level of guilty pleasure. Country music's notorious star, Boone Thrasher, gets dumped and seeks solace in a quiet bar. Its owner, Ripley Fischer, detests Boone on sight, but an attraction between them builds. Wolfe captures Ripley's fierce independence and passionate desire to avoid the limelight.... Read More

RUBY 10
Earphones Award Winner
Audio Theater

Rodent Kappor, who sounds like Peter Lorre, has started his own P.S. (Private Snoop) firm on his home planet of Summa Nulla. That can only mean silliness, trouble, horrible puns, and his old pal, Ruby, having to save the day. The sci-fi/noir send-up, "Ruby: The Adventures of a Galactic Gumshoe," first appeared on over 500 radio stations worldwide 35 years ago and has been... Read More

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Jane Austen's classic novel about sisters Elinor and Marianne has been produced on audio many times and featured many talented narrators. This version stands out as one of the best. Alison Larkin's narration will captivate listeners from the first sentence. Her delicate voice and perfect English accent sweep the listener back in time, right into the lives of the characters.... Read More

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Popular author John Green's story is inspired by his own suffering with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Narrator Kate Rudd dramatizes the quick intelligence and high anxiety of high school junior Aza Holmes, who has an incapacitating fear of being infected with a deadly bacteria. Rudd offers poignant pictures of Aza's struggles through vivid portrayals of other characters. She... Read More

TWO KINDS OF TRUTH
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Titus Welliver portrays Detective Harry Bosch in the latest installment of this longstanding series. Bosch says there are two kinds of truth in the world: that which we all can agree on, which is immutable, and that which comes from the mouths of politicians, lawyers, and their clients, which is malleable. Bosch takes on two cases, a cold-case murder he thought he'd... Read More

VACATIONLAND
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

It's no surprise that an audiobook by humorist John Hodgman is funny. More surprising, though, are the emotional depths Hodgman reaches in this assortment of essays. Hodgman is known for his work on "The Daily Show" and as the stodgy personification of a PC in Apple's "Get a Mac" commercials. He brings the expected dose of sardonic humor to his narration but is also a gifted... Read More

WILD BIRD
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Alex McKenna depicts the transformation of Wren Clemens, a 14-year-old teen who is sent to wilderness therapy camp. McKenna, nimbly navigating this complex protagonist, highlights Wren's faults and strengths with tones of misery, regret, resilience, and grace. Wren comes to life as McKenna vocalizes the teenage girl's search for the self she has left behind. With a... Read More

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Award-winning narrator Simon Vance has the perfect English accent for this 1908 classic featuring four anthropomorphized friends: Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger. Vance's character voices are gently nuanced--discernible without distracting from the considerable descriptive prose that embellishes this tale of friendship and adventure along the riverbank at edge of the Wild Wood. He... Read More

WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOR
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Peter Berkrot handles this timely, well-written police procedural and courtroom thriller about racism amid police departments and the world at large. Butch Karp is the district attorney of New York City and an easy character to like. Listeners will appreciate Berkrot's deft use of pacing and accents to bring out the characters' personalities and emotions. He is... Read More

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