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June 2021 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.


BEAUTIFUL THINGS
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

No one could narrate this punch-in-the-gut memoir more powerfully than its author, Hunter Biden, President Biden's younger son. It is his story: raw, unvarnished; filled with despair, anger, and redemption. An alcoholic who first drank at the age of 14, he later added crack cocaine to his pharmacopoeia. In his view at the time, he was functioning just fine--until his brother,... Read More

THE COMMITTED
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Cambodian-American actor François Chau seems to inhabit the anonymous narrator of this novel--a young man of Vietnamese and French parentage who flees Vietnam at the fall of Saigon and heads to California and France. Chau's narration is so stellar that the listener sees the action through the narrator's eyes, yet Chau's soft voice remains unobtrusive. The writing in this novel... Read More

FACING THE MOUNTAIN
Earphones Award Winner
History

Louis Ozawa narrates this true story about Japanese-Americans at home and abroad during WWII. There is little dialogue; thus, Ozawa narrates in a slightly different tone, depending on where and when the story is taking place. He modulates between hope and despair with the deftness of a film composer. Furthermore, when words are spoken, Ozawa slips into a Hawaiian, Japanese, or... Read More

GONE TO THE WOODS
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Dan Bittner flawlessly narrates this matchless memoir, which captures writer Gary Paulsen's bittersweet life. (He calls his parents vipers.) Listeners will be shocked when, in 1944, 5-year-old Gary is taken from his mother after she dresses him in a tiny uniform to entertain soldiers in bars. Life improves when rural relatives give him love and attention, and teach him fishing,... Read More

THE GREAT GODDEN
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

As a British family of six takes its annual beach holiday, narrator Ell Potter's delivery is informed by the voice of the unnamed, ungendered young adult narrator. Connection and joy have always been the context of vacations with Cousin Hope, who lives at the shore. This particular summer will end with Hope's wedding and begins with the arrival of the two American brothers,... Read More

THE HIDDEN PALACE
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

The pairing of George Guidall's narration with Helene Wecker's writing fully immerses listeners in this lushly detailed historical fantasy. Guidall's tone and style very much suit the era--the early years of the 1900s leading up to WWI--and the setting--mostly Manhattan's Lower East Side. This sequel to THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI follows the fortunes of Chava, a golem working as a... Read More

JOSEPHINE TEY
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Scottish author and playwright Josephine Tey (1896-1952) holds an especially honored place among British mystery writers, and this collection of five BBC Radio programs is a wonderful introduction to her work. As part of its high production values and immediately recognizable style and sound, BBC Radio pairs Tey's work with some of the best known and most talented character... Read More

LEGENDS OF THE NORTH CASCADES
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Edoardo Ballerini's clear and evocative delivery of Evison's novel works splendidly. The story exists on several planes. The inner and outer lives of an Iraq War vet and former star football player named Dave Cartwright comprise one plane. The other focuses on a legend of long ago involving a native woman named S'tka who is cast out by her clan and survives on the edge... Read More

LOVEBUG
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

If only all audiobooks could be this well done, clever, funny, poignant, zany, touching, well acted, and beautifully narrated! Author/narrator Erin Mallon hits it out of the park with a rom-com that tells the hilarious story of Mabel, a perpetually upbeat and insightful entomologist. She metamorphoses from being semi-satisfied with a loser mama's boy to reluctantly falling for... Read More

THE LOWERING DAYS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Brown's debut novel, set in Maine's Penobscot Valley in the 1980s, is performed with a compelling, confident delivery. Narrator David Aaron Baker is the voice of David Almerin Ames, who recalls a community divided when a Penobscot teen set fire to the paper mill on the eve of its reopening, destroying the town's livelihood. Penobscot elder Moses's sonorous, wisdom-filled voice... Read More

LUCY CLARK WILL NOT APOLOGIZE
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Tara Sands uses just the right sarcastic tone to represent the voice of 16-year-old Lucy Clark. Recently suspended from her boarding school in Texas, Lucy is sent to New York City for some character-building. She is to help care for elderly Edith Fox. Sands's cruel portrait of headmistress Miss Leary makes for a wonderful contrast with the wit of Lucy's voice and the... Read More

MADE IN KOREA
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrators Raymond J. Lee and Joy Osmanski dazzle with their performances of two teens who sell competing K-beauty products at their high school. Osmanski portrays Valerie Kwon with a sharp tone, channeling her intelligence and laser focus to succeed. Her narration shines in her ability to capture Valerie's humanity and faults. Lee, on the other hand, gives Wes Jung a laid-back... Read More

THE MAIDENS
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Between the three of them, author Alex Michaelides and narrators Louise Brealey and Kobna Holdbrick-Smith cast a spell that will have listeners glued to this suspenseful novel every chance they get. Michaelides, author of the bestselling thriller THE SILENT PATIENT, introduces us to group therapist Mariana, who returns to Cambridge University to comfort her niece after the... Read More

MY REMARKABLE JOURNEY
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

The movie HIDDEN FIGURES portrayed the brilliant Black female mathematicians who made NASA's Mercury program a success. Even listeners familiar with the movie will find this audiobook memoir a revelation. Mathematician Katherine Johnson tells her own inspiring life story, including her battles against racial barriers and her intellectual triumphs. Narrator Robin Miles's... Read More

ON THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Listeners hear author Ed Hajim's actual voice as he narrates the introduction to his memoir. Regardless, when narrator Rob Shapiro takes over for the body of the work, listeners will completely buy into his performance. He inhabits the work and perfectly paces the financier/philanthropist's rags-to-riches story. Shapiro's tone is always on target, especially when Hajim... Read More

ONE LAST STOP
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Narrator Natalie Naudus brings a quiet intensity to this genre-crossing audiobook featuring August, a prickly loner who tries to lose herself in New York City but instead finds purpose, community, and unconventional romance. The latter involves kindhearted, butch Jane, who overrides August's emotional barriers while facing a more serious hitch: Jane's from the 1970s, trapped on... Read More

THE PENGUIN BOOK OF THE MODERN AMERICAN SHORT STORY
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

A brief review can only hint at the many pleasures of this fine anthology of the best short stories of the past 50 years, performed by some of the most gifted narrators working today. Every listener will single out favorites, but there are few, if any, stiffs here, and the match of story to narrator shows a shrewd understanding of the interior character and distinctive voice... Read More

PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Julia Whelan's immersive narration and the author's rich prose draw listeners into this slow-burn romance. Poppy is uninspired by her work as a travel writer and missing Alex, her best friend, after a falling out. After she texts to see if he'll revive their summer vacation tradition, Whelan makes Poppy's jumbled hope, anxiety, and joy palpable when he agrees. Alternating... Read More

PROJECT HAIL MARY
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

Through tone and pacing, narrator Ray Porter makes Andy Weir's fantastical space opera seem plausible. Porter captures the panic and semi-hysterical self-deprecation of an amnesiac who is the sole survivor on a spacecraft cruising through space. As the protagonist's memories return, Porter is called upon to deliver a United Nations of accents for characters ranging from Dutch... Read More

REEL
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Narrator Eboni Flowers uses her Broadway experience to portray Neevah Saint, a theater actress recruited to star in film director Canon Holt's biopic about 1940s-era Black, bisexual singer Dessi Blue. Flowers dazzles with her emotional and vocal range. Her smooth voice spotlights Neevah's passion for Canon and his film. Flowers differentiates cast and crew in her dialogue.... Read More

RETHINKING COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Earphones Award Winner
Business & Finance

Management superstar Ram Charan's prescient views on how today's consumer markets are organized are well served by a narrator Arthur Morey. In addition to his pitch-perfect interpretations of nuance, his steady pacing and serious tone convey respect for the intellectual weight of the author's expansive insights, providing a constant reminder that these views deserve close... Read More

THE ROSE CODE
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Saskia Maarleveld is the perfect narrator for this actually thrilling novel set at Bletchley Park in WWII among the women and men who broke codes and worked the Bombe and Enigma machines. Maarleveld's graceful way with accents, her deep understanding of her characters, and, above all, her intensely responsive pacing as the story of three heroines whipsaws from the mundane to... Read More

RULE OF COOL
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Felicia Day narrates a sidesplitting literary RPG (role-playing game) told from the perspective of the story's monsters. Raze is a gearblin--a mix of goblin and gremlin--in a game in which the players carry out quests. Using a special code, Raze casts aside her chains and gathers other monsters to face down the game's so-called heroes. Day is perfection as the strong-willed,... Read More

SISTER OF THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Soneela Nankani sparkles in this charming ode to family bonds and the power of the perfect party. When her sister, Vinnie, announces her engagement, Mini wishes their mother were still alive to plan the wedding. With everyone else wrapped up in work, Mini has to figure out this wedding stuff fast. Nankani's nuanced performance makes this standout production more than... Read More

A SITTING IN ST. JAMES
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Machelle Williams skillfully narrates this sprawling story of generational secrets in antebellum Louisiana. La Petite Cottage plantation is home to three generations of Guilberts, as well as the enslaved people who make their lifestyle possible. The family matriarch's decision to sit for her portrait begins a chain of events that will upend everyone's fortunes. Williams weaves... Read More

STAMPED (FOR KIDS)
Earphones Award Winner
Children

How better to communicate this vital history of racism in America to its young audience than to have the audiobook narrated by a peer? Nine-year-old Pe'Tehn Raighn-Kem Jackson hits it out of the park with her lively and engaging reading. Her voice and delivery are unmistakably that of a kid--and she's an inspired casting choice. Short chapters, ideal for listening to one at a... Read More

STAMPEDE
Earphones Award Winner
History

This dramatic history of the Klondike Gold Rush--narrated by author Brian Castner--grips you from the first minutes. Castner is a compelling storyteller both on the page and as the voice for this audiobook. As narrator, he is as skilled and resourceful as a voice actor. And what a story he has to tell. The rush of unseasoned fortune seekers to one of the harshest and most... Read More

THE STOLEN PRINCE OF CLOUDBURST
Earphones Award Winner
Children

This audiobook--full of heart, clever humor, and magical imagination--is a complete joy to escape into. Narrator Sarah Ovens exudes charm and vulnerability as 12-year-old Esther, a middle child attending boarding school with her sisters, who she believes are much more accomplished than she is. As portrayed by Ovens, Esther is quirky, quietly brave, and genuine as she contends... Read More

TWINS
Earphones Award Winner
Children

A full cast brings this middle-grade graphic novel to life. Maureen and Francine are Black twin sisters who are forever being mistaken for each other. When they start middle school, outgoing Francine, voiced with confidence by Grace Capeless, decides to run for class president. The story is told from Maureen's point of view, and Ahnya O'Riordan's youthful voice captures her... Read More

TWO OLD MEN AND A BABY
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Nicholas Guy Smith narrates this oddball adventure of two Dutch septuagenarians who accidentally find themselves in possession of a baby girl. Hendrik and Evert are looking forward to an enjoyable evening of camaraderie and relaxation. On his way to Hendrik's apartment, Evert ducks into a school bathroom to relieve himself, but after a series of small and extremely funny... Read More

THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR
Earphones Award Winner
Children

This audiobook includes two versions of the late Eric Carle's classic story, both equally delightful in different ways. The first version is brought joyfully to life by narrator Kevin R. Free with vivid sound effects and music. Kids will laugh out loud as the hungry young caterpillar audibly chomps, crunches, and crinkles its way through all kinds of food until it is full. The... Read More

WASTED
Earphones Award Winner
Business & Finance

Dan Woren's wonderful pitch and phrasing patterns provide a steady supply of positive energy to his narration. Lifted by his pleasing tone and flawless interpretations, his effortless performance makes this well-researched audiobook easy to hear and absorb. The authors deliver hard-hitting facts about the rapidly increasing industrial and consumer waste we create and the many... Read More

WHEN WOMEN INVENTED TELEVISION
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Narrator Nan McNamara brings her enthusiastic storytelling skills to this illuminating examination of TV pioneers Gertrude Berg, Hazel Scott, Irna Phillips, and Betty White. Listeners are treated to a revelatory history of the transition from radio to television in the 1940s and '50s, including the devastating impact of the McCarthy era. McNamara is perfectly in tune with... Read More

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