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October 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 130-STOREY TREEHOUSE
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Stig Wemyss's outstanding narration, accompanied by awesome sound effects and ambient music, animates the crazy antics in this tenth audiobook of the beloved Australian series. Treehouse residents Andy and Terry, and their friend, Jill, introduce listeners to 13 fantastic new levels of the treehouse--including a soap-bubble blaster, a time-wasting level, and a toilet paper... Read More

APRIL IN SPAIN
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator John Lee delivers a well-constructed, ably paced, and stylish performance of this elegantly written mystery. His portrayal of Banville's garrulous pathologist, Quirke, sets the tone. His subtle rendering of Quirke's wife Evelyn's Austrian accent contrasts nicely with his broader Irish posturing for the malevolent Terry Tice, who "liked killing people." Banville has a... Read More

ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DIVE INTO THE WATERS OF THE WORLD
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Lin-Manuel Miranda captures every intense emotion in this gorgeously lyrical and intensely hopeful sequel to ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE. Ari Mendoza and Dante Quintana, two gay Mexican American teens in El Paso, spend a magical summer together before their last year of high school, being in love with each other and being supported by their loving... Read More

BALTHAZAR
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Although each of the novels of the Alexandria Quartet can stand alone (this is the second), they gain depth if experienced in sequence. Fortunately, Nicholas Boulton is narrating all four, and here, at least, his performance is masterly. He deploys a range of voices and accents that never leave us in doubt about who is speaking, and he draws out the characters' emotions and... Read More

BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Author/narrator Qian Julie Wang captivates listeners with this poignant and powerful memoir. Speaking from her childhood perspective, Wang vividly describes living with her family in poverty and fear in New York City as undocumented immigrants from China. Her quiet, measured narration is a perfect match for her unsentimental prose. While often heartbreaking, Wang's writing is... Read More

BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Aoife McMahon's voice makes the conflicts of Millennials beautiful in today's messy world. Author Sally Rooney presents a tableau of Irish friends--Eileen, Alice, Felix, and Simon--who wrestle with relationships, mental health, politics, and the purpose of life. McMahon's acting dexterity shows in seamless shifts between points of view, characters, and emotions. Male... Read More

BELIEVING
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

January LaVoy's narration precisely reflects Anita Hill's call to effect real change in the institutional acceptance of gender violence against women, men, and nonbinary individuals. LaVoy expertly delivers Hill's cringe-worthy examples of actual instances of mansplaining, victim blaming, flat-out denial, and gaslighting, showing how these tactics reinforce society's complex... Read More

BLACK BIRDS IN THE SKY
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Brandy Colbert, award-winning African-American children's novelist, delivers the moving foreword to her first nonfiction work. Kristyl Dawn Tift vividly narrates the truth of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, a tragic event often omitted from history books. With all the dramatic tension and horror that years of racism wrought, this contextual account explains connections such as... Read More

THE BOYS
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

This audiobook is simply a delight. Entertainment icon brothers Ron and Clint Howard share a memoir that never strays far from being a sincere loving tribute to their late Midwest-born parents and grandparents for the values they instilled. With voices bright with high style and that special talent some actors have for making the conversation seem so intimate and direct, the... Read More

CHARLOTTE SOPHIA
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Narrator Adjoa Andoh delivers an epic journey through 50 years in the life of Charlotte Sophia, the first Moorish queen of England, wife of "mad" King George III. Always an embarrassment, Charlotte's tawny skin was covered with chalky makeup so she'd appear less dusky. She inherited a holy reliquary with mystical connections to the Knights Templar and the Masons. Andoh makes us... Read More

CLEA
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

With this audiobook, narrator Nicholas Boulton completes Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. His thrilling new performance isn't merely respectful of this classic work; these characters come to life, as does the environment of WWII-era Alexandria, "the capital of memory." Darley, a key figure throughout the series, ruminates on time, sex, and literature as he and Clea continue their... Read More

THE DARK HOURS
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Listeners once again enjoy the talented partnership of author Michael Connelly and narrators Christine Lakin and Titus Welliver. In this fourth audiobook in the Renee Ballard series, we follow the prickly LAPD detective as she relentlessly pursues justice. Ballard faces obstacles presented by the pandemic and the blowback on law enforcement from police brutality protests. Lakin... Read More

EARTHA & KITT
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Entertainment icon Eartha Kitt's biological daughter, Kitt Shapiro, offers a stirring and nuanced memoir of both her mother and herself-- their lives were so very intertwined. Narrator Karen Chilton's performance is a showstopper, at once superb, stunning, evocative, and moving. While Eartha Kitt was a mix of Black, Cherokee, and white ethnicity, her daughter's father was... Read More

FUZZ
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Author Mary Roach does a fantastic job narrating her wonderful new foray into science-related stuff. In this instance, she tracks nature's "law-breaking" interactions with the human world. Bears, birds, elephants, macaque monkeys, lethal plants, and more take her into the field around the world. Roach is an observant and witty writer with an eye for detail and a passion for... Read More

GENIUSES AT WAR
Earphones Award Winner
History

Golden Voice narrator John Lee adapts just the right tone--authoritative, intelligent, quintessentially British--for this revealing history of the men and women who cracked the Nazis' codes at Bletchley Park. Lee does exposition smoothly and with subtlety. His Oxbridge intonations and Cockney imitations vivify the narration. Ultimately, thousands worked at Bletchley, not only... Read More

THE GREAT MISTAKE
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Andrew Haswell Green's life and death lingered in obscurity until it was revived through this fascinating audiobook. Green's murder was the tragic ending to the life of one of the key architects of Central Park, the New York Public Library, and more. Green's shooting was never solved, but author Jonathan Lee's novel tries to fill in the blanks. Graham Halstead's riveting... Read More

THE GUILTY MAN
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator John Voce performs this police procedural set in the town of Ryebridge in Northern England. DI Harry Lennox and DS Jess Wilde, both portrayed with Scottish accents, investigate two interconnected crimes. First, 3-year-old Lucy Green suddenly reappears after having been missing for five weeks; next, the severed hand of a local drug kingpin and human trafficker turns up;... Read More

I TAKE MY COFFEE BLACK
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Actor-comedian Tyler Merritt flawlessly presents his memoir, which includes commentary on American and African-American history, religion, and the constant challenges of being a 6'2'' Black man in an unforgiving white nation. He speaks directly to listeners of his belief that proximity challenges racism. Merritt reveals his coping methods and the raw pain he still feels years... Read More

LUCK OF THE TITANIC
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

As she's done previously, author Stacey Lee finds a fascinating bit of unexplored history and writes fiction that enlightens audiobook listeners, this time about mistreatment aboard the TITANIC after the Chinese Exclusion Act. Narrator Rebecca Yeo's crisp British accents convince listeners that British-Chinese heroine Valora Luck has the daring to stowaway among the wealthy in... Read More

THE MARTIAN
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

Wil Wheaton skillfully narrates this unrelenting and data-dense audiobook. His first-person portrayal of Mark Watney, an astronaut who is stranded alone on Mars for a year and a half, is nothing short of stellar. Wheaton elevates the listener's experience with a light-handed yet convincing delivery of an immense amount of technical material. Perfectly paced, this audiobook is... Read More

THE MATZAH BALL
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Narrator Dara Rosenberg whirls listeners through Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt's desperate plan to save her writing career. Rachel is Jewish, but she secretly writes Christmas romances. Rosenberg expresses Rachel's panic when her editor demands a Hanukkah romance. When Rachel begs her archnemesis, Jacob, for a ticket to his exclusive New York City Matzah Ball, their childhood... Read More

MOUNTOLIVE
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Born in Gibraltar, the sometimes-Shakespearean actor Nicholas Boulton is the perfect narrator for the third book in the cherished Alexandria Quartet. And no, you needn't have listened to the others; this novel is a universe unto itself. Boulton fully inhabits the often drunk, always stuffy, plainly ridiculous characters who ran the empire on which a British sun refused to set.... Read More

NO-NO BOY
Earphones Award Winner
Poetry & Drama

Greg Watanabe, Kurt Kanazawa, and Joy Osmanski give riveting, emotional performances in this L.A. Theatre Works adaptation of the 1957 novel by Japanese-American author John Okada. After spending years in internment camps and prison, a Japanese-American who had said no to both a loyalty oath and serving in the U.S. military during WWII (hence, the term "no-no boy") finally... Read More

AN OBSERVANT WIFE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

In this sequel to AN UNORTHODOX MATCH, Gabra Zackman returns to narrate the story of secular-born Jewish Leah and her Orthodox Jewish husband, Yaakov, a widower. Zackman expertly creates the watchful atmosphere of their insular Brooklyn neighborhood. The devotion this unlikely couple share with each other, and with their five children from Yaakov's first marriage, as well as... Read More

THE OLDEST STUDENT
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Nikki James's narration enriches this unforgettable real-life story of patience and determination. Mary Walker always believed that she would learn to read, but when? Born into slavery in 1848 Alabama, emancipated at 15, married twice, raised three children, always, always working--she didn't have time to learn how to decipher those "squiggles" in her Bible. Ultimately, with no... Read More

PARADISE ON FIRE
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Tyla Collier's youthful timbre and reflective tone are an ideal fit for Addy, a young teen who is embarking on a life-changing summer in the California wilderness. Addy is one of several city kids in the outdoor program, and Collier makes use of various tones and pitches to devise unique age-appropriate voices for the teens, who band together when a forest fire rages.... Read More

THE PECULIAR TALE OF THE TENTACLE BOY
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Theo Solomon delightfully introduces the English village of Merlington and its fish-loving inhabitants. Martina Minnow rescues abandoned William, who has tentacles for hair and crab claws for hands. Solomon delivers endless lessons about fish, stories about the town's 17 competitive fishmongers, and the residents' suspicions about William and the Minnow family. In... Read More

PLAYING THE CARDS YOU'RE DEALT
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Dion Graham makes every audiobook he narrates into a special event, and his charisma just overflows in this one about Ant, a 10-year-old boy from South Carolina. Ant is obsessed with winning his community's annual spades tournament--and living up to the expectations of his gambling, alcoholic father. When Ant's best friend and spades partner is grounded, Ant finds an unexpected... Read More

PONY
Earphones Award Winner
Children

In 1860, three horsemen arrive in the middle of the night, forcing Martin Bird to go with them and changing his 12-year-old son Silas's life forever. Narrator Ian M. Hawkins brings to life this atmospheric story of the power and resilience of love as he gives the large cast of characters unique voices. Pa's calm voice lives on in Silas's head, reminding him of the knowledge and... Read More

RATIONALITY
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Narrator Arthur Morey employs an authoritative tone and a pleasing rhythm as he performs this essential study of the evolution of rational thought. Pinker examines current society in the age of "truthiness." That's Stephen Colbert's word for something seeming to be accurate, even if it's not necessarily true. In a period of rampant conspiracy theories, the inability to... Read More

THE SECRET OF LIFE
Earphones Award Winner
History

Many listeners, especially women, will feel growing indignation as this audiobook unfolds. Narrator Donald Corren's voice possesses the quiet certainty of an investigator who's searched the record fully, weighed all the facts, and uncovered a hive of nasty crimes: deceit, slander, sexism, anti-Semitism. The men involved, most famously James Watson, have already told the story... Read More

SHELF LIFE
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Listeners will delight in this memoir by the strong-willed and always opinionated Nadia Wassef, one of the co-owners of Diwan, a group of independent bookstores founded in Cairo in 2002. Narrator Vaneh Assadourian's lively cadences and emphatic tone perfectly suit this inspiring story. She brings forth the enthusiasm and feisty determination of this passionate advocate for... Read More

THINGS I HAVE WITHHELD
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

The Jamaican writer Kei Miller narrates his collection of essays with powerful clarity and vulnerability. The audiobook's title reflects his experiences with being Black and queer and with being seen as a brother, a threat, a Jamaican, a target, and a family member. He also addresses the nature of things unsaid or let go. Miller reflects on his experiences when self-professed... Read More

THIS SHINING LIFE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

An ensemble of talented narrators enhances the humanity of the family members in Harriet Kline's beautifully conceived novel. After Rich is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, the shock reverberates through the lives of his wife, Ruth; his son, 11-year-old Ollie, who's on the autism spectrum; Rich's parents, Marjorie and Gerald; Ruth's mother, Angran (Ollie's combining of... Read More

WHEN WE MAKE IT
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Elisabet Velasquez narrates her debut novel-in-verse with vividness, honesty, and poignancy born of her life experience and performance expertise. Like her heroine, Sarai, Puerto Rican-American Velasquez grew up in Bushwick and knows what it's like to be poor in the midst of increasing gentrification. Sensitive 14-year-old Sarai is working hard to discover her identity despite... Read More

THE YEAR OF OUR LOVE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Edoardo Ballerini gives a riveting performance of this absorbing coming-of-age novel set in Italy. It's the story of the decades-long romance between Valerio, the narrator, and Olivia, the wealthy daughter of the family Valerio's parents work for. Chaotic Italian politics of the late twentieth century, with their accompanying violence and criminal and societal upheaval... Read More

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