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March 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.


AFTERSHOCKS
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

In this poignant memoir, author and narrator Nadia Owusu weaves an intricate narrative of home, belonging, trauma, family, geography, and the truths held in her Black female body. Using earthquakes as a metaphor to untangle the threads of her life, she recounts her childhood in Europe and Africa--a childhood defined by her mother's abandonment when she was a baby and her... Read More

CATCHING THE WIND
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Joe Barrett's commanding performance captures the complicated and flawed life of Edward Kennedy. The senator remains most widely known for his work as a liberal politician and for being responsible for the drowning death of a young staffer. Gabler's exhaustive audiobook serves both as a detailed portrait of the man and a history of U.S. policy from his viewpoint. Listeners hear... Read More

CRUEL AS THE GRAVE
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

If you're in the mood for a witty, engaging British police procedural, listen to this 22nd addition to the DCI Bill Slider series for a real treat. Narrator Mark Meadows masterfully differentiates the large cast of police investigators and suspects. Listeners will accompany Slider and his team through London as they dig into the life of murder victim Erik Lingoss, a personal... Read More

D (A TALE OF TWO WORLDS)
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Isabel Adomakah Young shines as narrator in D, in which she portrays an orphan who journeys into a pocket universe (with a magical sphinx) to hunt down the fiend who's absconded with the letter "d"--a circumstance that not only makes speaking difficult but also endangers the very existence of any person, place, or thing that includes the letter. Young's narration strikes a... Read More

THE DEAD SECRET
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Nicholas Boulton's narration of this wonderfully entertaining audiobook is simply astonishing. He keeps listeners on track though its shifts in time period and plot. As a work of "sensation fiction," this story of Rosamond Treverton Franklin's discovery of her late mother's secret was intended to excite and amuse its nineteenth-century audience, although the suspense is tame by... Read More

EMINENT VICTORIANS
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Strachey's relatively brief lives of four prominent Victorian personalities set a new tone and standard for biography: witty, honest, and not always full of praise. Jonathan Keeble's narration captures the wit, irreverence, and drama, as well as the poetry and stylishness of Strachey's prose. Even though Cardinal Manning and Dr. Arnold are mostly forgotten now (the other two... Read More

THE GET TO PRINCIPLE
Earphones Award Winner
Personal Growth

Narrator Kaleo Griffith's playful tone and youthful timbre convey a cheerful optimism that's essential for a message like this to hit home. He makes listeners want to answer yes when the author asks if they are ready for a change. The audiobook is compact, compared to similar works on happy productivity, and this aspect of the production is also served well by Griffith's tone.... Read More

HOW THE ONE-ARMED SISTER SWEEPS HER HOUSE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Set in Barbados, a paradise to all but those who live there, this audiobook captures the mythical qualities of Jones's debut novel. Narrator Danielle Vitalis's slow, dreamlike performance is perfect for the tragic story of Lala, a hair-braider; Adan, her husband, a sadistic, small-time crook; Mira, who once lived on the island; and Peter, the white man she married. Mira and... Read More

THE KINDEST LIE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Shayna Small's sumptuous voice and on-the-mark character portrayals enhance this beautiful story, rich with themes of familial bonds, reconciliation, and racial prejudice. Ruth Tuttle, a successful engineer living in Chicago, returns to her hometown in search of the child she was forced to give up for adoption as a teenager. She finds much more. Small's lush voice is... Read More

LATER
Earphones Award Winner
Horror

Seth Numrich portrays Jamie Conklin, a young man who sees dead people and can compel them to answer questions truthfully. As a child, Jamie is able to help his mother, Tia, avoid financial ruin. But then Tia's girlfriend, an NYPD detective, asks him to force a dead man to reveal the location of a hidden bomb. This unleashes sinister forces that stalk Jamie for years. As the... Read More

MILO IMAGINES THE WORLD
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Dion Graham conveys the dreamy quality of Milo's imaginings, along with a weighty message, in his captivating delivery of this thoughtful children's story. Milo imagines and sketches the stories of the passengers on the subway. When a well-dressed boy disembarks at the same stop that he does, Milo realizes that his imaginings about him are incorrect and that the... Read More

THE RICHARD JACKSON SAGA, VOLUME 1
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Fred Berman masterfully presents this diary-style look at the fantastical life of 14-year-old Ricky Jackson. Listeners join him as he hitchhikes round trip between Ohio and California in 1958. En route, he stops armed robbers, wins a rodeo, finds gold, meets Elvis and John Wayne--all realistically rendered--while maintaining an endearingly modest demeanor. Mum Jackson's wry... Read More

SAY HER NAME
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Channie Waites's expressive narration further heightens the impact of Zetta Elliott's paean to Black girls and women. By turns gentle, melodious, animated, and dramatic, Waites matches her pitch and pacing to the themes in Elliott's poetry--microaggressions (like hair touching), brutality, enslavement, and resistance. In a reflection of the title, some poems take a hard look at... Read More

SHY WILLOW
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Vico Ortiz's angelic voice brings a magical quality to this sweet story about a courageous rabbit. Shy Willow lives in an abandoned mailbox. When a little boy deposits a letter for the moon, Shy Willow decides to deliver it. This precious story provides a delightful and absorbing experience for children as they accompany the shy rabbit on her journey. Ortiz captures... Read More

THE THANKSGIVING PLAY
Earphones Award Winner
Poetry & Drama

This four-character production undertaken by L.A. Theatre Works is a send-up of woke culture, a satire of political correctness, and a most entertaining listening experience. The four actors capture the zeitgeist with controlled mayhem. Liza Weil plays well-meaning Logan, who is directing an elementary school drama production with an eye toward grantors. She is trying her best... Read More

THIS BOOK BETRAYS MY BROTHER
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Jacqui Du Toit's tone changes from bright and naïve to stunned and pained as 13-year-old Naledi witnesses her brother's crime. That event makes it clear why she feels the need to betray him years later. Du Toit's accent reflects the novel's South African setting. You can hear young Naledi's coy grins as she details her sheltered family life, which includes running a... Read More

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
Earphones Award Winner
History

J.K. Simmons anchors this dramatization of the full transcript of the trial of the Chicago Seven, protesters at the 1968 Democratic Convention who were prosecuted by the federal government. Simmons does the heavy lifting as the obtuse and obstructionist judge who oversees the proceedings. The combative and willful ignorance of the judge comes through in Simmons's gruff... Read More

UNDER A WHITE SKY
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Narrator Rebecca Lowman is an excellent choice for Kolbert's report on the future of our environment. Lowman narrates clearly, enunciates precisely, and provides a sense of immediacy while bringing energy and intelligence to the task. The work looks at the sinking of New Orleans, carbon capture in Iceland, invasive carp on the Mississippi River, geo-engineering, and more.... Read More

THE VANISHED
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Anika Noni Rose's narration gives life to Shuri, the tech-savvy princess of Wakanda, who is the Black Panther's sister. Shuri is trying to complete phase one of her training when her best friend, M'Karah, uncovers the mysterious disappearance of scientifically brilliant girls from all over the world. Rose's gift with accents allows even listeners who are new to the story of the... Read More

WHAT WOULD FRIDA DO?
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Bilingual voice artist Marisa Blake narrates with a lovely warmth that makes this combination biography/personal growth audio as delightful to hear as it is inspiring to absorb. Her beguiling tone and phrasing draw people into the world of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican-born painter who overcame the crippling effects of polio and a disfiguring bus accident to become an international... Read More

WHEN YOU FINISH SAVING THE WORLD
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Writer, director, and Oscar-nominated performer Jesse Eisenberg (THE SOCIAL NETWORK) brings his trademark intensity to this sharp and evocative story of an emotionally lost family in search of itself. Presenting three monologues, Eisenberg leads off as a father who is overwhelmed by the birth of a son. Finn Wolfhard (STRANGER THINGS) portrays the son, who is encountering all... Read More

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING
Earphones Award Winner
Poetry & Drama

Vanessa Redgrave's throaty contralto and famous hint of a quaver beautifully serve this brief dramatization of Joan Didion's memoir about the year following her husband's sudden death. Redgrave starred in the stage version, and her intimacy with the material highlights the eloquence of Didion's writing and the agony of the emotions portrayed. Didion was in her 70s when she... Read More

YOU DON'T BELONG HERE
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

This is an extraordinary audiobook about four extraordinary women who were war correspondents--the three women who are the subject of Becker's book, as well as the author herself. Adding to the remarkable story of these groundbreaking journalists is the skill of narrator Lisa Flanagan, who is pitch-perfect throughout this account of the trailblazers. She moves from harrowing... Read More

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