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July 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.


THE ANTHROPOCENE REVIEWED
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

This audiobook, narrated faithfully by its author, offers a complex and insightful look at the various human experiences that shape us. John Green (THE FAULT IN OUR STARS) delivers impassioned reviews on a five-star scale of Diet Dr. Pepper, Canada geese, Halley's Comet, the Indy 500, and several other miscellaneous experiences, connecting each to his personal life and to... Read More

ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Euan Morton returns to narrate the final installment in the Simon Snow series. Morton's exceptional talent shines as he modulates between European and American accents and seamlessly shifts tones to bring each distinct character to life. Simon, voiced listlessly, must figure out his place in the World of Mages. And Baz, speaking sardonically, just wants to hold on to his... Read More

ARIADNE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

An elegant performance by narrator Barrie Kreinik recounts the life of Ariadne, whom many listeners will know from Greek mythology. Born to King Minos, Ariadne witnesses a barbaric yearly tradition. Fourteen youths must survive the Labyrinth, in which her monstrous brother, the Minotaur, resides. Rebelling against her father, Ariadne helps Theseus win. This production, with its... Read More

BACCHANAL
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Robin Miles narrates the eerie journey of a traveling carnival in the Depression-era South. Eliza has the ability to communicate with animals. When an alligator wrestling match goes awry, she steps in to prevent disaster. Afterward, the owner invites her to join the carnival, and she's eager to go, not knowing that evil resides within it in the form of an ancient demon who is... Read More

BEYOND
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

In this riveting production, Stephen Walker's accessible scholarship illuminates Soviet Union cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's groundbreaking 1961 Earth orbit. Narrator David Rintoul's pleasant baritone is the perfect companion to this revelatory slice of history. He seamlessly shifts between the aeronautic developments of competing nations to the launch of the first person into space.... Read More

BLACK PANTHER
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

JD Jackson and Joy Sunday take turns narrating 18 short stories from the world of Wakanda, written by authors of the African diaspora. The stories cover a variety of characters from T'Challa to Shuri, and even Killmonger. Jackson and Sunday breathe life into the short but complex works brimming with cameos and unique perspectives on the Black Panther mythology. The stories are... Read More

BLACK WATER SISTER
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Narrator Catherine Ho delivers a stellar performance of this layered urban fantasy set in contemporary Malaysia. Jess's college degree and secret girlfriend are not enough to keep her in the U.S. when her parents return to their homeland. She soon discovers that the gods and spirits are very real there: Her grandmother's ghost and the god Black Water Sister try to inhabit her... Read More

THE CAVE DWELLERS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Madeleine Maby narrates this layered satirical novel with a strong sense of story and a fine ability to get inside her characters' psyches. Her emulations of Washington, DC's, powerful and power hungry are nuanced. Her performance reveals the vapid sound of the social climber and the angst of the teenager. The novel is fast paced. Author McDowell draws on her own experience of... Read More

THE CONJURING OF ZOTH-AVAREX
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Narrator Jay Spaulding gives a hilarious performance of this fantasy in which a dragon attempts to reign over Seattle. The Site is a magic location hidden away and overseen by the U.S. Government. On Harris Reed's first day at his new job there, his first project--the summoning of a dragon--goes awry. Spaulding nails the delivery of every joke and pun. Characters such as the... Read More

DOUBLE BLIND
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

In his remarkable performance of Edward St. Aubyn's newest novel, stage and screen actor Benedict Cumberbatch proves yet again that he is a master of pacing and characterization. With a plot that is captivating, funny, and bewildering, listeners should just hang on for the ride and Cumberbatch's performance as three endearing friends and their mostly endearing compatriots... Read More

THE DOWER HOUSE MYSTERY
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

This classic British whodunit from the Golden Age of mysteries has been recorded to delight another generation. A comely middle-aged widow agrees to reside in what is reputed to be a haunted house for six months to earn money for her spoiled daughter. With panache and practiced skill, narrator Anne Hancock evokes the gloom of the old Dower House, with its peculiar staff and... Read More

THE EIGHTH LIFE
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

This huge, important novel is mesmerizing on audio, thanks to the range and judgment demonstrated in Tavia Gilbert's remarkable performance. She even sings beautifully, which matters at points in this saga detailing "the red century" through the lives of one family in Russian, then Soviet, Georgia. Haratischvili starts with a prosperous confectioner in Tiblisi in 1900. So far... Read More

FARAWAY THINGS
Earphones Award Winner
Children

William DeMeritt's narration of Eggers's latest tale is an evocative experience that transports listeners to an isolated, rocky shore. The sounds of the sea set the scene for Lucian's adventures. DeMeritt's delivery is spot-on as he captures Lucian's childish timbre as he engages in play with the cutlass he found when searching the beach for "faraway things" washed up on the... Read More

FINDING THE MOTHER TREE
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

This beautifully written, scientifically stunning, and deeply personal audio memoir will forever alter your understanding of forests. It's lucky for listeners that it's also a master class in read-by-the-author audio. In silky, rich vocal tones forestry ecologist Suzanne Simard describes growing up and working in the fecund forests of British Columbia. With the pacing and... Read More

FINNEGANS WAKE
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

"The Wake" is one of the most incomprehensible of classic novels, so not even a bravura performance like this one can clarify the language and story. The very useful companion booklet by Naxos provides some orientation, but the listener really needs a working knowledge of French, Italian, German, Latin, various pidgins, Irish history, the geography of Dublin, and Roman... Read More

THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

The fourth installment in the Wayfarers series brings listeners on a quiet space adventure. Narrator Rachel Dulude voices the mismatched entirely nonhuman crews of several spaceships who are stranded by a telecommunications accident on a remote planet. These widely varying species of sapients learn to relate to each other in bold new ways through their shared needs. Dulude... Read More

GREAT CIRCLE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Cassandra Campbell and Alex McKenna's captivating performances of Maggie Shipstead's new novel will divert you from everything else as you follow two women on different quests in separate eras. Marion, in the early twentieth century, devotes her life to flying; years later, Hadley navigates Hollywood's pitfalls as she prepares to play Marion on-screen. Campbell, who narrates... Read More

HOUSE OF STICKS
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Ly Tran narrates her memoir describing the struggles she faced growing up in a Vietnamese-American immigrant family in New York City. After a resettlement was made possible by a U.S. government humanitarian program in 1993, Tran and her family moved from South Vietnam to Queens, when she was just a toddler. In chronological order, Tran beautifully pieces together short,... Read More

HOW Y'ALL DOING?
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

From his opening line--"Well, shit, how y'all doing?"--Leslie Jordan brings his sparkling energy and humor to the narration of his memoir. The Tennessee native, who starred in television's "Will & Grace" and "American Horror Story," has of late achieved a loyal social media following after going viral (a status he didn't even know the meaning of until it happened) on Instagram.... Read More

INTO THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

In this audiobook, a novel that weaves the compelling 1960s stories of the race to space and the emergence of the Beatles, the real star is narrator Graham Halstead. He adds drama to the space flights--successes and failures--and his exceptional delivery of the Liverpool accents of the Fab Four and their real-life aide-de-camp, Mal Evans, enliven the listening experience. Mal's... Read More

ISLAND QUEEN
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Narrator Adjoa Andoh's versatile voice is the perfect match for this novel based on the life of Caribbean tycoon Dorothy "Doll" Kirwan Thomas. Born into slavery on Montserrat in the mid-1700s, Doll is determined to purchase freedom for herself and her family. Andoh's portrayals of Doll's parents, lovers, children, and racist antagonists provide a diverse sensory experience for... Read More

LAST GATE OF THE EMPEROR
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Prince Joel Makonnen, coauthor, and Prince Araya Mengesha, narrator, are members of the Ethiopian imperial family, so they bring real history to this fantasy. Yared doesn't fit in at school and has a strange life with his eccentric uncle. He feels most alive in HKO, the augmented-reality gaming tournament he's dominating. Mengesha crafts a lovable jokester as Yared deflects... Read More

LAST STOP FROM INNOCENCE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Shayna Small delivers a poignant coming-of-age performance. Skillfully voicing a wide-ranging cast of characters, her nuanced narration enlightens, inspires, and devastates listeners. Small presents an honest and raw portrayal of passion, agony, and the beauty of a powerful young woman. Protagonist Amore Brown spends her summer before college with her estranged father... Read More

THE LIVING SEA OF WAKING DREAMS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Essie Davis delivers a powerhouse performance of this novel about climate change by New Zealand writer Richard Flanagan. Winner of the Man Booker Prize, Flanagan has described the book as a "rising scream" about human-wrought ecological havoc. The story, using elements of magical realism, chronicles the struggle of three adult siblings facing their mother's mortality while the... Read More

THE LOVE SONGS OF W.E.B. DU BOIS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Three talented narrators transport listeners with this absorbing novel. This lyrical debut, which is at once expansive and intimate, explores timely issues of intergenerational trauma, colorism, class divides, and higher education. The story centers on the complicated lives of Ailey and her extended family, as well as the trials of her African, Creek, and Scottish ancestors.... Read More

PAINTING THE LIGHT
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Shipwrecks and portraits, bicycles and women's suffrage--all these enter into the plot of this excellent summer title as the audiobook transports listeners to Martha's Vineyard, 1898. Ida Russell Pease is an artist and sheep farmer who is struggling with stifling spousal and societal expectations as she copes with the grief of her past. Narrator Eva Kaminsky is an excellent... Read More

THE PASSENGER
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

With penetrating urgency and an innate feel for the author's tragicomic yet hyperrealistic interior dialogue, narrator Neil Hellegers gives heartrending voice to this rediscovered novel, written in 1938 in the wake of Kristallnacht. Otto Silbermann, who is desperate to avoid the Third Reich's roundup of German Jews, searches for a train to take him across the border to safety... Read More

PLUNDER
Earphones Award Winner
History

This fascinating audiobook is a fusion of exceptional writing and an outstanding narration by Suzanne Toren. Author Cynthia Saltzman presents a sweeping account of Napoleon's conquest of Europe, including the looting of its finest antiquities and Renaissance masterpieces and the creation of the Musée du Louvre. Caught between the colliding worlds of art and politics is the... Read More

THE PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

A diverse and experienced cast come together to maximize the drama laced throughout this political thriller. Peter Ganim, Tony Goldwyn, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Soneela Nankani are among the stellar narrators lending their voices to a rich listening experience. Former U.S. President Matthew Keating goes off the grid in search of his kidnapped daughter. Goldwyn does an... Read More

REVIVAL SEASON
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Joniece Abbott-Pratt's performance captures the fear and exhilaration of 15-year-old Miriam Horton as she travels the revival circuit with her family. Abbott-Pratt narrates in a fast-paced style that suits the high emotions of revival meetings, which are the focus of the plot. She expertly emulates Miriam's troubled voice when things go wrong. Miriam's famous father, a boxer... Read More

THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Narrator Simon Jones takes on a riot of madcap characters in this early Agatha Christie mystery. Adrift, Anthony Cade agrees to help a friend by delivering the manuscript of a dead nobleman to an English publisher. Naturally, this drags Cade into international intrigue, upper-crust scandals, jewel thieves, and murder at an English country estate. Jones balances his hilarious... Read More

SEVEN DAYS IN JUNE
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Narrator Mela Lee's extraordinary range and dramatic style allow listeners to experience every dark, humorous, and heartbreaking moment of this fraught second-chance romance. As troubled teenagers, Eva Mercy and Shane Hall shared seven life-changing days that inspired their successful writing careers. Lee's conversational tone lends itself well to Eva, who now hides her chronic... Read More

THE SLAUGHTERMAN'S DAUGHTER
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

This gem of an audiobook combines Yaniv Iczkovits's charming story and an exceptional narration by Tovah Feldshuh to create an experience listeners will relish. The audiobook transcends cultural boundaries and is one that listeners of all backgrounds will embrace and enjoy. Fanny Keismann, daughter of a Jewish ritual slaughterer, follows in her father's footsteps, only to give... Read More

SLINGSHOT
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Jesse Vilinsky masterfully connects listeners to the awkward nervous energy of teens. Gracie, a 15-year-old who attends a boarding school in Florida, does not have a typical or even pleasant family life. Scared of love, and of letting others get to know her, she ends up drawing the attention of the new boy, Wade, by shooting his adversary with her slingshot. With that... Read More

SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Ashley C. Ford brings listeners into her life in this outstanding coming-of-age story. Her father was incarcerated when she was a toddler. Ford clearly differentiates the two sides of her mother: "Mama," who was easygoing and kind, and "Mother," who was physically and verbally abusive. Ford frequently fended for herself but believed her absent father offered her unconditional... Read More

SOMERSETT
Earphones Award Winner
History

With a sense of unbound curiosity, narrator Robert Petkoff narrates this fascinating account of the background and backroom dealings that crafted and sustained the American Revolution--from its financing to its persuasive pamphlets and battle plans. The story centers on Benjamin Franklin, who dedicated the second half of his life to wresting the Colonies from England. Along the... Read More

THE SOUL OF A WOMAN
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Internationally acclaimed author Isabel Allende describes her lifelong feminism. The audiobook begins with her experiences as a child witnessing her mother's attempts to provide for her three children after being abandoned by Isabel's father. Her story then moves through the feminist movement of the 1960s, her three subsequent marriages, and the effects of feminism on the lives... Read More

SUBURBIA MADE ME DO IT
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Andrea Emmes takes listeners on a wild ride of grief and misfortune, narrated with twisted humor. Roxy is creating a new rule book to live by. After her sister dies, Roxy discovers that her husband has been unfaithful multiple times, and she files for divorce. Amid her feelings of betrayal, she is pelted with more unfortunate events, and the only saving grace is that... Read More

THIS SIDE OF BRIGHTNESS
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Narrator Dion Graham's captivating voice is a perfect fit for the epic sweep of McCann's sprawling audiobook. The story captures the complexity of living and working in early-twentieth-century New York City, where Black, Irish, and Italian immigrants labor in perilous conditions, digging tunnels from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Deep under the river, a horrifying accident occurs,... Read More

THE THOUSAND CRIMES OF MING TSU
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Feodor Chin beautifully performs this revenge story set in the postCivil War American West. Ming Tsu, born in America and orphaned at birth, was raised by a California crime boss who taught him how to survive in a violent world. After Ming is forcibly recruited by the Union Pacific Railroad as a manual laborer, he escapes, determined to track down every man who tore... Read More

TOO BRIGHT TO SEE
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Jax Jackson quickly convinces listeners of Bug's determination to acquire a sense of self before middle school. There are several reasons for this: his beloved Uncle Roddy's death, a ghostly presence that haunts his dreams, and viewpoints he holds that don't jibe with friends' interests. Jackson's delivery also conveys the deeper uncertainty this 11-year-old is facing.... Read More

UNSPEAKABLE
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Music and sound effects accentuate the moods in this nonfiction picture book about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. January LaVoy narrates with a range of emotions. She opens cheerfully, detailing the thriving Black community's prosperity, reading the repeated refrains: "Once upon a time in Greenwood . . ." and "Once upon a time on Black Wall Street . . ." City sounds and... Read More

V FOR VICTORY
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Lucy Briers enriches this WWII story emphasizing the lives and plights of ordinary people in London. Listeners meet Vee Sledge and her unofficial adoptee, Noel, who try to keep a low profile because of potential danger. Vee takes in an array of lovable eccentric lodgers who pay part of their rent by tutoring the exceptional Noel. Each character is enjoyable and... Read More

VAGRANT QUEEN 1
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

Narrator Nanette Savard and an ensemble of voice actors skillfully create a universe in which a queen flees from villains who fear she will try to reclaim her throne. Thanks to the wonderful narration, it's easy to get lost in the adventure. No-nonsense Queen Elida teams up with Isaac, a cocky rebel from the Han Solo School of Rogues, to steal a mind-control device from a bad... Read More

WE ARE INEVITABLE
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Sunil Malhotra portrays 19-year-old Aaron Stein, who lives with his father, Ira, and works in their used bookstore. Aaron lost his brother to addiction, and now he's discovered that Ira is deep in credit card debt. Malhotra expresses Aaron's conflicted feelings when Chad, an old friend of his brother, shows up and demands they build a ramp, which they can't afford, to... Read More

THE WITCH KING
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Trans, queer witch Wyatt Croft--portrayed by narrator Dani Martineck-- escaped the fae kingdom where he was raised to find freedom in the human world. After years without the pressure of fae expectations, Wyatt is taken by surprise when his betrothed--a fae prince named Emyr--shows up to bring him home. Unperturbed by Wyatt's transgender identity and insisting they fulfill... Read More

THE WOMAN THEY COULD NOT SILENCE
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Author/narrator Kate Moore delivers her stunning biography of Elizabeth Packard (1816-1897). Packard became an advocate for the rights of women and patients unjustly committed to insane asylums. Elizabeth's vindictive husband, a minister, had her forcefully committed because he feared her intelligence, opposed her defense of women's rights, and loathed her deviation from his... Read More

WOMEN IN WHITE COATS
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

With more women than men enrolled in medical school today, it might be hard to imagine a time when females were flatly denied the opportunity to become doctors. This audiobook profiles three pioneering Victorian-era women who helped open the doors to the female medical students who would follow. Jean Ann Douglass offers a first-rate narration of this work. Her tone varies with... Read More

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