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April 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.


ACCIDENTALLY ENGAGED
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Soneela Nankani narrates this delightful contemporary romance with her whole heart, drawing listeners in with her enthusiasm. She embodies Reena Manji, capturing her anxieties about her meddling Indian Muslim family, her boring finance job, and a series of lackluster boyfriends. When she bumps into her new neighbor, Nadim Remtulla, she's initially intrigued by his British... Read More

DANGEROUS WOMEN
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Fenella Woolgar's performance of this terrific novel, based on a true story, is as satisfying as a full-cast recording. In 1841, the Rajah leaves London with 180 women prisoners sentenced to transportation to Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania). Also on board are the captain, a physician, a clergyman, and optimistic 23-year-old Kezia Hayter, the ship's matron. Kezia chooses... Read More

DAVID COPPERFIELD
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Narrator Derek Perkins keeps listeners enthralled throughout the 35-plus hours of DAVID COPPERFIELD's mysteries, emotional upheavals, and delightful resolutions while simultaneously conjuring visual images of Dickens's memorable characters. Perkins wonderfully delivers the long, convoluted monologues of the writhing, oily Uriah Heep (you'll want a shower after hearing his... Read More

DOWN COMES THE NIGHT
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Saskia Maarleveld displays impressive vocal versatility in this gentle fantasy. Wren's gift for healing magic is unparalleled, but it's not enough to save her from the Queen's wrath when Wren's reckless actions go too far. Dismissed from the guard, Wren travels to the estate of a lord who is seeking her assistance, only to find Hal Cavendish, her kingdom's sworn enemy,... Read More

THE DUKE AND I
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Narrator Rosalyn Landor tells the first Bridgerton story with heaps of heart. One of an alphabetically named group of eight siblings, Daphne Bridgerton has always imagined she will marry and start her own family. Then she meets her brother Anthony's friend, Simon, the Duke of Hastings, whose childhood trauma has him vowing never to marry and never to father children. Landor... Read More

THE EMPATHY DIARIES
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Jill Larsen narrates this memoir with warmth and, well . . . empathy. As she alternates her delivery between storyteller and lecturer, her confident narration ultimately makes her a transparent surrogate for the author. To start, she mines the emotions felt by a child burdened by family secrets. When appropriate, she takes on an objective tone; for example, when unveiling the... Read More

EXIT
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

This darkly humorous mystery is expertly narrated by Rupert Degas. What seems to be an ominous story of suicide and murder turns into a lovely romp through England with Felix, an older man with a somber and thoughtful personality. In the panic of a monumental mistake, Felix--remembering his dog's behavior at having done something wrong--flees the scene of the crime. Thus begins... Read More

FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Isabella Star LaBlanc brings an authentic-sounding narration to this powerful audiobook. Set amid state and tribal lands in Michigan, the story of Daunis, who is caught between these two cultures, is told with heartfelt compassion. LaBlanc masterfully amplifies Daunis's apprehension when she becomes involved in helping the FBI investigate a new, deadly street drug. Thriller,... Read More

FOREGONE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Stephen Mendel is quite capable of a range of voices and accents, so his decision not to use them in narrating Russell Banks's kaleidoscopic novel is clearly a strategic choice. Leo Fife, the novel's protagonist and sometimes voice, may be confabulating, or he may be misremembering. As he is dying, the narrative shifts subtly between what he is saying and thinking, and... Read More

A GAMBLING MAN
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Edoardo Ballerini steps smoothly into the role of Archer, an ex-con who is looking for work as a private investigator. Narrator Brittany Pressley portrays Liberty Callahan, a sexy beauty who craves stardom. As they travel to California, they fall knee deep into a 1940s-style whodunit with more dead bodies than they can count. Ballerini and Pressley's delivery of... Read More

THE GOOD WAR
Earphones Award Winner
Children

In this gaming-themed novel, Robbie Daymond deftly narrates the authentic-sounding middle-school dialogue. Teams in Caleb's school's new e-sports club compete in a WWII RPG called The Good War. Unversed in WWII history, students develop their own assumptions about the war. When the Axis team starts identifying with their gaming characters, German Wehrmacht soldiers, light... Read More

THE KAISER'S WEB
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

This gripping audiobook, narrated ably by Scott Brick, focuses on the chilling premise that both candidates for chancellor of Germany are Hitler's children. During the election, a secret dossier surfaces, which--if its claims are true--would upend the election and, perhaps, the geopolitical balance of power. Investigators from all over the world are called in, including Cotton... Read More

KLARA AND THE SUN
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Sura Siu will be a fresh voice for many listeners, and her wonderfully subdued narration proves perfect for portraying Klara, the all-too-observant "AF" (artificial friend) purchased by a mother for her ailing child. Assigned to look after Josie, Klara slowly discovers she is being groomed to be the failing child's replacement. On this charged premise novelist Kazuo... Read More

THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

The inviting performances of Marisa Calin, Shiromi Arserio, Katherine Littrell, Danielle Cohen, and Siobhan Waring add to the immersive pleasure of this engaging historical novel by bestselling author Julia Kelly. Set alternately in 1907, 1944, and the present day, the plot centers on the women of England's Highbury House. Venetia, the estate's 1907 garden designer, struggles... Read More

LET THE LORD SORT THEM
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Kevin Free's approachable narration of Chammah's multifaceted historical investigation of the death penalty makes the topic easier to bear while simultaneously delivering a gut punch as one realizes the horror of it all. In 1972, SCOTUS found the nation's death penalty laws to be unconstitutional, prompting states to rewrite them. Chammah explores the sentence's racist origins,... Read More

LONE STARS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Michael Crouch's narration expresses the emotional peaks that highlight Deabler's moving story of a Texas family across several generations. Lacy, a college student, and her future husband, Aaron, meet through a pen pal program while he serves in Vietnam. The sweetness of their connection is undercut as their marriage comes apart after secrets come to light. Their son, Julian,... Read More

LONG LIVE THE QUEEN
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Kirby Heyborne's congenial performance is perfect for this diverting audiobook based on HRH Queen Elizabeth II's rituals and routines for daily living. There is a liveliness and charming affability in Heyborne's narration as he relays the 23 rules that have contributed to HRH Queen Elizabeth II's longevity and well-being--and that make her surprisingly accessible to us... Read More

LOVE IS A REVOLUTION
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Renée Watson narrates this story like it's a chat with a best friend. Nala's goals for the summer before her senior year are to spend tons of time with her cousin-sister-friend Imani and, she hopes, to get a boyfriend. When she meets Tye at one of Imani's "Rise, Harlem" events, she feeds the sparks between them with a few little lies designed to make herself sound like more of... Read More

'MEMBERING
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Narrator Nigel Shawn Williams seemingly reanimates the late Barbadian poet Austin Clarke, who spent decades living in Toronto, won Canada's Giller Award, as well as other literary recognition, and was named a Member of the Order of Canada. Williams's Caribbean-inflected speech and deliberate pacing fully deliver Clarke's delight in language as this memoir unfolds--from island... Read More

MUTED
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

This must-listen is narrated by the author, who drew from her own experience in an all-girl R&B group to tell the harrowing story of three teenage girls' attempt to make it big in the music industry. Denver and her BFFs, Dali and Shak, are confident they've found their big break when they meet Merc, a huge R&B star who acts as their mentor. But when Merc monitors everything... Read More

MY BROKEN LANGUAGE
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes brings warmth and exuberance to her narration in this memoir of family, language, home, and coming of age as an artist. A collection of heartbreaking and joyful moments comes alive through her voice. Her narration embodies the rhythms of her beloved North Philly neighborhood; the love and familiarity she uses to capture the voices of the many... Read More

NALA'S WORLD
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Narrator Angus King captures tattooed, bearded party guy Dean Nicholson, who loses his heart to an abandoned kitten he names Nala at the start of an around-the-world journey. Listeners will join the duo as they bike around mostly remote parts of Europe and Asia. King nails Nicholson's strong Scottish brogue, along with the diverse accents of the people man and feline encounter.... Read More

THE NIGHT GATE
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

This audiobook is a great example of the magic that happens when a masterful author and a talented narrator come together to deliver a captivating story. In addition to effectively portraying the many characters--Scottish, British, and European; male and female; young and old--Peter Forbes convincingly voices Hitler, Goering, and de Gaulle. When forensics scientist Enzo Macleod... Read More

OCEAN PREY
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Richard Ferrone's gritty voice is a great match for U.S. Marshal Lucas Davenport in this 31st book in the Prey series. Davenport is sent to Florida to help with an FBI investigation of murderous heroin traffickers. In a crossover from another Sandford series, Virgil Flowers, a detective whose thinking is not always on the straight and narrow, is brought in to go... Read More

PERFECT ON PAPER
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Not only is this queer rom-com audiobook PERFECT ON PAPER--it's also perfect on audio. Narrator Barrie Kreinik portrays a diverse cast of lesbian, gay, trans, and straight characters. Bisexual high school junior Darcy Phillips runs an anonymous relationship advice service through Locker 89 at her school, despite having never been in a romantic relationship herself. When... Read More

THE PUSH
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Marin Ireland delivers an emotionally charged performance in this story of postpartum depression. Blythe received little nurturing or support in her childhood. After she gives birth to her second child, she can't help favoring her first child, her son, over her second, a daughter, and she spirals into depression. In her struggle to connect with her family, she also... Read More

SENSATIONAL
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Listeners will have a wonderful time diving into this accomplished history of the female "stunt reporters" of the late nineteenth century. This audiobook is indeed a sensational adventure for the ears. Narrator Maggi-Meg Reed is the ideal choice to deliver these narratives of women journalists who donned disguises and affected alternate identities to go undercover in medical... Read More

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER AND SWEET
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Andy Aragon and Arami Malaise's seamless alternating narration creates a dazzling portrait of Pen and Xander, a young Latinx couple, and the Mexican-American community in Austin, Texas, where they live. This debut is an affecting coming-of-age story and a splendid romance, as well as a trenchant exploration of father-child relations, immigration, and the impact of crime upon a... Read More

A SON AT THE FRONT
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

If Edith Wharton is an acquired taste, then this audiobook, narrated superbly by Robin Siegerman, is an ideal first course. Set during WWI, the novel highlights the efforts of a young man's parents to keep him out of the war. Instead of avoiding the fighting, the recent college graduate joins the French army. Wharton's dialogue is precise, and her narrative brings even the most... Read More

SPIRIT OF THE TITANIC
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Irish actor Ruairi Conaghan's narration enhances this captivating story of the TITANIC. The clever twist to this well-crafted version is its protagonist, 15-year-old Samuel Scott, who lost his life while working on the vessel's construction. Samuel's ghost moves unseen among his colleagues on Belfast's docks and among the passengers and crew of his beloved ship during her... Read More

A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

It is not often that the listener is asked to multitask, but here we are invited to be audience, critic, and student all at once. With a voice that expresses academic passion and easy humor, Syracuse University creative writing professor George Saunders takes us on a deep dive into the literary craft, psychology, and historic background of seven superb nineteenth-century... Read More

THINKING AGAIN
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Jan Morris's piquant, irreverent daily diary about life as a nonagenarian in the 21st century is brought to vibrant life by narrator Jennifer M. Dixon. As she did in her first book of jottings, the famous Welsh author and historian, who died in 2020, observes everything from world politics to neighborhood birds--from aging, family, and love to the pleasures of jam on toast in... Read More

TOM STOPPARD
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

British actor Stephen Crossley is the right narrator for this intense, informative biography. Crossley delivers Hermione Lee's thorough investigation of playwright Tom Stoppard's life, covering his early years--his escape from Nazi Germany to England at the start of WWII--and leading to his eventual recognition as a renowned British playwright. There's even an adjective in the... Read More

THE UNWILLING
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Kevin Stillwell brings to life this gut-wrenching story of the weight of war, family secrets, and human depravity. Stillwell is the voice of Gibson French. "Gibby" sounds young, sometimes eager, and often defensive as he forges a relationship with his estranged brother, Jason, against their parents' wishes. Jason enlisted after his drafted twin was killed in Vietnam.... Read More

WHEN THE MOON IS LOW
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrators Sneha Mathan and Neil Shah work together to recount the harrowing events that take place as an Afghan family attempts to find a peaceful place to live. Fereiba must flee with her three children when the Taliban murder her educated husband. Mathan captures the constant worry and fears plaguing the distressed mother on her journey from Kabul to the streets of Europe.... Read More

WINTER IN THE BLOOD
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Darrell Dennis captures the angst of the unnamed narrator in this classic novel of modern Native Americans on the Great Plains. He adroitly shifts between the flat dialogue of ranch life and the lyricism of the Western setting. Likewise, he captures the cadences of a trio of secondary characters--aspiring Lame Bull, wise Yellow Calf, strong Teresa. Most of all, Dennis's... Read More

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