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November 2020 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.


APPLE (SKIN TO THE CORE)
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Poetic, intense, and defiant, Native American author and artist Eric Gansworth delivers his own coming-of-age story. The youngest child of seven, he grew up on a reservation outside Buffalo, New York, amid abject poverty and systemic racism. Like many children of the 1960s and '70s, he adopted pop culture icons like the Beatles, Batman, and Star Wars as his own and watched his... Read More

A CHILDREN'S BIBLE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Xe Sands offers an excellent performance of this timely and thought-provoking audiobook. A commentary on climate change, this novel blends a view of contemporary life with a warning about a bleak future. Sands voices Evie, a teenage narrator whose dim view of adults is well justified. With her peers, she must take charge when a summer stay at a coastal mansion becomes a battle... Read More

CHRISTMAS AT THE ISLAND HOTEL
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Listeners are quickly immersed in the doings of a new start-up, the Rock, a hotel on the small island of Mure, which lies between Scotland and Norway. Narrator Eilidh Beaton masterfully handles a variety of accents that dance in listeners' ears. They range from the Scottish of the townspeople to the French of the hotel's temperamental chef and the Norwegian of Konstantin, a... Read More

THE CIRCUS OF STOLEN DREAMS
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Jesse Vilinsky's narration perfectly fits the manic mood of this mild horror story in which children surrender memories or dreams in exchange for a ticket to an otherworldly circus. Vilinsky's tone is melancholy as we meet Andrea, who is still mourning the mysterious disappearance of her younger brother three years ago. Soon, the narration becomes exciting and friendly as a... Read More

THE COLD MILLIONS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Edoardo Ballerini anchors the full-cast performance of a story that takes place in Spokane, Washington, in the early twentieth century. The audiobook centers on two brothers who arrive in town seeking seasonal work. Events take a turn when they get caught up in the free speech movement and union organizing. Other narrators deliver first-person vignettes that provide... Read More

DARK TIDES
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Louise Brealey's performance is just one good reason to listen to the second in Philippa Gregory's Fairmile series. Gregory's unparalleled storytelling is another. Alinor's health never recovered after being "swum" as a witch in the tidelands in 1648. It's now 1670. Alinor's close-knit family members live peaceful, if hardworking, lives in London. Their quiet is disrupted by... Read More

DEARLY
Earphones Award Winner
Poetry & Drama

Margaret Atwood is best known as a novelist, of course, but she is also quite a fine poet, and her reading of her poems is also quite fine. The poems focus largely on nature and the nature of being a woman in the modern world, but these potentially fraught subjects do not tempt Atwood, in writing or reading, into stridency. Her performance throughout the collection is low-key,... Read More

DEATH AND THE MAIDEN
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

The final installment of Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series receives a posthumous tribute from her daughter, author Samantha Norman. Kate Reading, a familiar voice for the series, brings the medieval world to life once more with her inimitable talents for pacing and characterization. Adelia Aguilar, now a semiretired pathologist, and her independent-minded... Read More

DEATH ON WINDMILL WAY
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Emily Ellet's performance mingles mirth and mistrust in this lively murder mystery. Antonia Bingham, the new owner of an inn in the Hamptons, turns amateur sleuth to prevent herself becoming a murder victim. Ellet gives a perfect portrayal of Bingham's tumultuous emotions as the happy but overwhelmed owner of the Windmill Inn becomes fearful of those around her when she... Read More

ENEMY WOMEN
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Narrator Reba Buhr imbues Paulette Jiles's republished first novel, a vivid evocation of late-Civil War Missouri, with nuanced characters and a tonal through-note straight out of the Ozark Mountains. It's a memorable performance of a remarkable book. In 1864, Missouri was filled with warring Union and Confederate militias. In this confusion, we meet young Adair Colley, who's... Read More

FAUCI
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Journalist Michael Specter's throaty voice and emotional yet precise delivery perfectly suit his examination of the coronavirus pandemic and the man who is trying to save us from it, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Based on Specter's profile of Fauci for THE NEW YORKER, this short and gripping audio production blends interviews with Fauci (and Fauci's wife, herself a bioethicist with the... Read More

FLIGHT RISK
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Siiri Scott masterfully narrates this romantic thriller. Savannah is a lawyer who is working with an aeronautics company on a new black box invention. The venture becomes personal when a plane goes down and people associated with her ex-husband are killed. Scott deftly delivers several accents as well as male and female characters of varying ages. She portrays Savannah in a... Read More

GATORS AND GARTERS
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

In an exceptional performance, narrator Cassandra Campbell embodies the character of former CIA assassin Fortune Redding and her two best friends, seniors Ida Belle and Gertie. The trio lead what is known as the Swamp Team 3, of Sinful, Louisiana. As Ida Belle prepares for her wedding, the caterer, former cage fighter Miss Molly, disappears, leading the team to take on an... Read More

THE GIFT OF THE MAGPIE
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Bernadette Dunne takes listeners to the Virginia town of Caerphilly at Christmastime as Meg Langslow organizes Helping Hands for the Holidays. First, she must talk Harvey the Hoarder into letting the group clean up his house. The excitement listeners share with Meg, however, dissipates when she finds Harvey's body and realizes he's been murdered. As Meg helps the... Read More

HEAVEN'S RIVER
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

Narrator Ray Porter is a multi-character wonder in Taylor's newest sci-fi Bobiverse adventure, set in interstellar space. That it's only available on audio speaks to the fan base Porter has built with his terrific narration of the previous novels. So, to catch up, it's the year 2334. Former human Bob, who is now a sentient space probe with self-replicating (cloning) powers,... Read More

HIS TRUTH IS MARCHING ON
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

This stirring audiobook offers a memorable merging of author, subject, and narrator. JD Jackson voices John Lewis with an authentic and nuanced nod to his rural Alabama roots. He adroitly does the New England intonations of JFK and RFK and the drawls of LBJ and George Wallace. But it is the powerful retelling of John Lewis's life's work fighting to bring civil and voting rights... Read More

THE HOBBIT
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Narrator Andy Serkis, whom many will recognize as the voice of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings movies, delivers a magnificent listening experience of the familiar classic. Serkis perfectly captures the nuances of each character, offering an engrossing performance of the story of a hobbit who is averse to adventure journeying with 13 dwarves to reclaim their treasure from a... Read More

HOMELAND ELEGIES
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Pulitzer-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar narrates his somewhat autobiographical novel, an outstanding chronicle of an upper-middle- class immigrant Pakistani family's experience in America and an indictment of contemporary American politics and economics. Akhtar narrates from the point of view of the protagonist, the eponymously named Ayad Akhtar, who describes his family's rise... Read More

I AM EVERY GOOD THING
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Joshua David Scarlett's confident tones match the many ebullient turns of phrase that are used to present a self-assured boy who is certain that he is capable and loved. Scarlett makes the most of Barnes's story, which includes numerous iterations of a child recognizing that although he will fall, he will be "right back on his feet again." He later acknowledges that he... Read More

I WANT TO BE WHERE THE NORMAL PEOPLE ARE
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Actress/comedian Rachel Bloom ("Crazy Ex-Girlfriend") narrates her own memoir, and listeners are in for a treat. This audiobook is at times so funny that listeners will need to pause so they don't miss the next line and so heartbreaking that listeners will want to keep tissues handy. Bloom voices herself at different ages, along with some of those in her life who have both... Read More

THE INDOMITABLE FLORENCE FINCH
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Adopting a no-nonsense tone, Dan Woren narrates this fascinating biography of Filipina Florence Finch (aka Loring May Ebersole, 1915-2016), the Mestiza daughter of an American soldier of the Spanish-American War. The work focuses on her resistance work under the Japanese occupation of Manila during WWII, for which she was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Woren... Read More

IS THIS ANYTHING?
Earphones Award Winner
Humor

Gold, Jerry! This audiobook is pure gold! In that one-of-a-kind unforgettable voice, Seinfeld explores 45 years of comedy bits, sorted by decade. Each section begins with a jazzy interlude and a brief introduction narrated by Fiona Hardingham. In what is hours of pure entertainment, Seinfeld's timing is, of course, perfect, and the familiar way that he narrates creates a unique... Read More

THE LAST CAMPAIGN
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

Rebecca Mozo impressively introduces life in Maxwell City, on Mars, along with the array of international citizens who make up the settlement. Listeners will meet founder Nicolau Aames and his wife, police chief Rosalia Morais, and learn about the city's everyday life, food, unique gardening, restaurants, and stores. Characters sound realistic as Morais's job becomes more... Read More

THE LAST MILLION
Earphones Award Winner
History

In this meticulously researched tome, the fates of one million displaced persons who were left without homes as a result of WWII are presented with clarity and precision by narrator Malcolm Hillgartner. Nasaw deftly interweaves the personal and the political, juxtaposing the postwar strategies of the Allied nations and several international organizations with distressing... Read More

THE LAW OF INNOCENCE
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Peter Giles, who has become the voice of Mickey Haller in Connelly's popular Lincoln Lawyer series, returns to take listeners on a legal roller-coaster ride. What could be more dramatic than Haller having to defend himself against a murder charge and prepare for his trial in prison? Giles masterfully conveys the fear and frustration that Haller experiences facing the prospect... Read More

MAKE ME RAIN
Earphones Award Winner
Poetry & Drama

Nikki Giovanni's slightly raspy, slightly sibilant voice draws listeners into this important collection of poetry and prose. Letting her poet's sense guide her tempo, Giovanni wrings the humor, anger, and sorrow out of being Black in America. In "And So It Comes to This," Giovanni's mocking tone is the perfect match for a scathing indictment of white men and their obsession... Read More

THE MAN WHO RAN WASHINGTON
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

This political biography is a surprise. Not only is James A. Baker III's life story fascinating, but this book is also written in an engaging and accessible style. It is eminently suited to audio. With Michael Quinlan narrating, the audiobook offers driveway moments political junkies will love and others will enjoy and learn from. Baker is described as an accidental political... Read More

MAYA AND THE RISING DARK
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Soneela Nankani delivers an animated performance in this audiobook about a girl's search for her father, who is missing in the Dark world. Maya's father, an Orisha, is tasked with maintaining the veil between the human world and the Dark in order to stop the Lord of Shadows from destroying humankind. As a half-Orisha, Maya must figure out how to use her newfound powers... Read More

MIDNIGHT AT MALABAR HOUSE
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

It is December 31,1949. In Bombay, Sir James Harriot, a prominent Englishman who is assisting with India's transition to having its own constitution, is murdered. Narrator Maya Saroya makes listeners experience the sights, sounds, and scents of Bombay as Persis Wadia, the only woman police detective in India, handles the tricky job of navigating the case. It is fraught with... Read More

MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO PRAGUE
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Narrator Kate Reading's tone and pacing are perfect for this complex drama spanning the war-torn twentieth century. A delayed train journey in 1927 from Berlin to Prague intertwines the lives of Natalia Faber; her unpredictable mother, Beatriz; journalist Miklós Andorján; and Dr. Magdalena Schaeffer. The stranded strangers begin friendships that last decades, through WWII and... Read More

THE MINISTRY FOR THE FUTURE
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

Jennifer Fitzgerald leads a full cast in this compelling work of speculative fiction about solving the climate crisis around the world. Fitzgerald does the heavy lifting as Mary Murphy, the woman put in charge of solving the global crisis. Because the cast of characters come from every continent, Fitzgerald must move from her native Irish lilt into a variety of accents and back... Read More

MURDER AT AN IRISH CHRISTMAS
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Caroline Lennon's performance will have listeners imagining a Christmas tree decorated with items from nature--like the O'Sullivan family's. They are spending Christmas in West Cork with the family of renowned orchestra conductor Enda Elliot. When Siobhán discovers Enda dead under a harp, she and her fiancé, fellow Garda officer Macdara Flannery, end up on the case, which they... Read More

MURDER COMES TO CALL
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Barbara Rosenblat once again demonstrates her well-earned reputation for being a top-notch narrator as she reunites listeners with proper Edwina and adventurous Beryl. When the 1921 census forms are stolen amid a rash of local thefts, the detective agency run by the pair of friends gets a call. Then two cases merge when the women's new assistant gardener is arrested for the... Read More

MY ANTONIA
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Robert G. Slade narrates this classic with warmth and wit. He delivers the voices of Bohemians, Norwegians, and Russian immigrants with subtlety and captures the cadences of young and old. His storytelling manner gives a sense of reality to this immigrant story about foreign families settling in Nebraska, where their new lives require hard work and they sometimes receive a... Read More

OAK FLAT
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Author Lauren Redniss aptly delivers the narrative that threads through this immersive audiobook. The fine cast of additional narrators, which includes Crystle Lightning as Naelyn Pike, A. Martinez as Wendsler Nosie, and the redoubtable Arthur Morey as Jackie Gorham, makes the audiobook especially dramatic. The voices transport the listener to the high, dry country of southeast... Read More

ON CORRUPTION IN AMERICA
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Want to listen to an incredibly important, incredibly depressing, incredibly well-researched and well-narrated audiobook? Look no further. Sarah Chayes's work reveals levels of corruption present in the U.S. today that are likely to shock the listener. Chayes does a remarkable job both as investigative journalist and as narrator. Neither is surprising, given that she is a... Read More

THE PRINCE OF TROY
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

In this novel, which begins a retelling of the Greek myths and heroic tales found in THE ILIAD, THE ODYSSEY, and THE AENEID, narrator Jonathan Keeble becomes a bard in the tradition of Homer as he recounts the events that led to the Trojan War. Using a unique voice for each of the panoply of gods, goddesses, heroes, and warriors, and women, Keeble recalls their lives and their... Read More

RETURN OF THE THIEF
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Author and narrator offer a tremendous finale concluding the Queen's Thief series, stories that have spanned 20 years in creation. Steve West delivers the narrative of Pheris, Erondites's grandson, who has physical disabilities and no language. After being dubbed "The Little Monster" early in his life, Pheris has chosen to adopt this persona as a guise. West's precise reading... Read More

RIVIERA GOLD
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Jennie Sterlin narrates this 17th Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes adventure, which begins immediately after ISLAND OF THE MAD ends. Holmes's landlady/housekeeper and Mary's dear friend, Clarissa Hudson, has disappeared. Months later, while on holiday on the French Riviera, Mary spots Mrs. Hudson, who deliberately avoids her. This piques Mary's detecting instincts; she suspects... Read More

THE ROOMMATE
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Narrators Brittany Pressley and Teddy Hamilton juggle humor and heat in this sexy contemporary romance about socialite Clara unwittingly moving in with adult entertainer Josh. Pressley's voice has a lively quality that mirrors the energy of the characters, so when she slows her tempo or lowers her volume, it adds depth to a compelling narrative. Hamilton seems to have a bit of... Read More

THE SILENCE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

A full cast propels DeLillo's latest audiobook, which portrays our current relationship with technology. At a time in the close future, an unexplained technology disruption occurs, impacting the characters of this work at various levels. An international flight to New York crash-lands; the survivors are treated in a clinic that is also affected by the blackout. The Super Bowl... Read More

SILENT BITE
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Listeners' favorite lazy, dog-loving lawyer returns. This time, Andy Carpenter gets dragooned into defending a convicted felon when the man is charged with murder. Narrator Grover Gardner performs the first-person narration. Listeners will be convinced they're hearing the wisecracking Andy himself and find themselves chuckling throughout the story. When Andy has to face the... Read More

A SINGLE SWALLOW
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

An ensemble of five gifted narrators splendidly conveys the haunting language and imagery in this WWII story of Ah Yan, a Chinese woman who has a lasting impact upon three men. Feodor Chin's facility with Chinese words and penetrating depiction of Ah Yan's childhood friend, Liu Zhaohu, transport listeners to war-torn China. With a measured pace and gentle tone, Adam Verner... Read More

SWEET SORROW
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

This audiobook is an absolute delight. Rory Kinnear's performance is smart, observant, and incredibly funny. Portraying Charlie, a teenage boy who is wrestling with an unstable family, an uncertain future, and an all-consuming love for Fran, the girl of his dreams, Kinnear walks the line between perfect comedy and astute empathy. His comfort with Charlie's awkwardness and his... Read More

A TIME FOR MERCY
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

The venerable author's latest legal thriller brings back attorney Jake Brigance, this time defending a teen accused of killing a sheriff's deputy. Grisham starkly lays out how the deck is stacked against the poor in small-town Mississippi as they struggle with closed minds, mounting financial challenges, and other obstacles. Narrator Michael Beck is superb. He is a vocal... Read More

THE TOWER OF NERO
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Rick Riordan's epic Trials of Apollo series comes to an end with this fifth and final installment. Narrator Robbie Daymond has been the smug, funny, and entirely convincing voice of Greek god Apollo from the very beginning. As Apollo, Meg, and their friends return to New York after a cross-country road trip and prepare to wage their final battles against baddies Nero and... Read More

TRISTAN STRONG DESTROYS THE WORLD
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Listeners who loved the first Tristan Strong audiobook are in for a treat--Amir Abdullah has returned to narrate the next chapter. Tristan, a Black seventh grader, has spent the past month working on his grandparents' farm. When creatures from Alke break through into his world, Tristan and his grandmother fight them off, but then the sinister Shambleman steals her away.... Read More

THE UNSPOKEN
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Amir Abdullah depicts Chicago's wealthy enclaves, struggling neighborhoods, and mouthwatering foods while introducing former-cop-turned-PI Ashe Cayne. Listeners join him as he interviews aloof billionaire Violet Gerrigan, who wants him to find her missing 25-year-old daughter, Tinsley. As Cayne focuses on the secretive family, he learns that Tinsley is kind, generous,... Read More

WE ARE NOT FREE
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

An outstanding cast of narrators captures the experiences of 14 Japanese-American teenagers when they and their families are uprooted and forced to live in incarceration camps from 1942-45. Each chapter follows a different character's story, with the narrator's voice closely mirroring the character's distinct and vibrant personality. Listeners feel their initial shock, their... Read More

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Incredulity and suspicion thread their way into every nuance of this audiobook, narrated wonderfully by Casey Withoos. She credibly conveys the central characters' feelings and keeps listeners at full attention. Susan Middleton's sister disappeared, without warning, and apparently without reason, 20 years ago, only to reappear to claim her inheritance. Is she really the missing... Read More

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