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December 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.



AND LIFE LIGHTS UP

AND LIFE LIGHTS UP

Earphones Award Winner

by Alice Taylor | Read by Jennifer Fitzgerald

Bolinda Audio
Personal Growth

Irish writer Alice Taylor offers a heartwarming meditation on the beauty to be found in the world around us. Taylor's natural optimism makes voice pro Jennifer Fitzgerald a wonderful choice to perform this inspiring writing. Her relaxed tone and audible love of Taylor's message conjure memorable conversations we've had with close friends--warm interactions that touched our... Read More

COMFORT ME WITH APPLES

COMFORT ME WITH APPLES

Earphones Award Winner

by Catherynne M. Valente | Read by Karis Campbell

Dreamscape
Mystery & Suspense

Karis Campbell narrates a chillingly familiar story, which takes place in an unexpected setting. Sophia and her husband are perfect for each other, and their life together is perfect. Just perfect. Everything is perfect. Or is it . . . ? As the story unfolds, Campbell subtly shifts her narration from crisp and poised to unsettled and then frantic, reflecting Sophia's mental... Read More

CROSSROADS

CROSSROADS

Earphones Award Winner

by Jonathan Franzen | Read by David Pittu

Macmillan Audio
Fiction

Jonathan Franzen stuns listeners with a sharp, relevant family saga, set in 1970s Chicago. Narrator David Pittu superbly transports the listener into the lives of the Hildebrandts, a family with many secrets. In typical Franzen fashion, the storytelling is the center of this work, with deep character studies and taut interwoven perspectives. Narration alternates between Russ,... Read More

DIRTY BIRDS

DIRTY BIRDS

Earphones Award Winner

by Morgan Murray | Read by David Ferry

ECW
Fiction

This audiobook is a comic tour de force. Murray's story, as narrated by Canadian actor David Ferry, is a laugh-out-loud combination love story, road trip, and so much more. It's part A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES and part ON THE ROAD, with a dash of Charles Bukowski. Ferry's performance is pitch-perfect as he captures the main character's combination of earnestness and awkwardness.... Read More

HOW MOON FUENTEZ FELL IN LOVE WITH THE UNIVERSE

HOW MOON FUENTEZ FELL IN LOVE WITH THE UNIVERSE

Earphones Award Winner

by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland | Read by Kyla Garcia

Simon & Schuster Audio
Young Adult

Narrator Kyla Garcia's light tone adds humor to the often sarcastic, sometimes self-deprecating Moon Fuentez. But lurking beneath is a darkness of negative beliefs about her appearance and past actions that Garcia makes palpable. Moon has always lived in the shadow of her media-influencer twin sister, Star. When Star lands an opportunity to promote herself on a cross-country... Read More

MADAM

MADAM

Earphones Award Winner

by Debby Applegate | Read by Erin Bennett

Random House Audio
Biography & Memoir

Erin Bennett's spirited narration breathes life into Debby Applegate's richly detailed biography of America's most celebrated brothel keeper. Polly Adler may not exactly have been an icon for her time, but she's a fascinating, colorful figure, and Bennett, who clearly knows a good story when she has one, gives this one her all. The narrative is well researched and well written,... Read More

THE MEMOIRS OF STOCKHOLM SVEN

THE MEMOIRS OF STOCKHOLM SVEN

Earphones Award Winner

by Nathaniel Ian Miller | Read by Olafur Darri Olafsson

Hachette Audio
Fiction

With a voice of warm intelligence and wry Nordic wit, Icelandic actor Olafur Olafsson brings the arctic adventures of Sven Ormson to life. In 1916 Ormson leaves his native Sweden for the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, one of the northernmost, bleakest, coldest inhabited lands in the world. Soon he is injured and horribly disfigured in a mining accident and sets off to live... Read More

THE MORNING STAR

THE MORNING STAR

Earphones Award Winner

by Karl Ove Knausgaard | Read by Edoardo Ballerini, Mia Barron, Michael Braun, Alyssa Bresnahan, Hannah Cabell, Michael Crouch, Elisabeth Rodgers, Graham Winton

Recorded Books
Fiction

The many viewpoints of this large novel are well served by the large group of narrators, all of whom embody their characters admirably. Don't, however, expect their stories to come together or to come to any neat resolutions. The central event of the novel, the appearance of a new star, remains unexplained, so why shouldn't the stories? Each character's tale is gripping as... Read More

ONCE UPON A WARDROBE

ONCE UPON A WARDROBE

Earphones Award Winner

by Patti Callahan | Read by Fiona Hardingham

Harper Muse
Historical Fiction

Fiona Hardingham showcases great range in her enchanting and touching narration. She enthusiastically portrays Megs Devonshire, a mathematics student at Oxford who sets out to ask C.S. Lewis about the inspiration behind Narnia for her little brother, George. Hardingham brings terminally ill George to life, engagingly imbuing him with childlike curiosity and excitement. She... Read More

THE POWER OF STRANGERS

THE POWER OF STRANGERS

Earphones Award Winner

by Joe Keohane | Read by Jonathan Todd Ross

Random House Audio
Contemporary Culture

With his enthusiasm and considerable vocal charm, narrator Jonathan Todd Ross brings to life this timely discussion of the joys of talking with strangers. His likable voice will make listeners smile as they listen to this pleasing combination of evolutionary history, social science, and the often heartwarming experiences of the author and others as they reached out to talk with... Read More

THE PROMISE

THE PROMISE

Earphones Award Winner

by Damon Galgut | Read by Peter Noble

Europa Editions
Fiction

Born in South Africa, narrator Peter Noble eloquently delivers an inspired performance of this compelling audiobook. He's adept at voicing young and old, black and white, Afrikaans inflected with a distinctly South African lilt and twang. He captures the nasal tones and tight sounds and masterfully paces this novel, which won the 2021 Booker Prize. The plot excavates South... Read More

REVOLUTION IN OUR TIME

REVOLUTION IN OUR TIME

Earphones Award Winner

by Kekla Magoon | Read by Tyla Collier

Listening Library
Young Adult

Tyla Collier delivers the author's narrative on how centuries of abuse to Black Americans led to deep unrest and the founding of the Black Panther Party. Collier's narration gathers strength when she describes scenes of Bobby Seale and Huey Newton's early organizational attempts in 1966. The Black Panthers' "power to the people" was less about militancy and more about gaining... Read More

SCIENTIST

SCIENTIST

Earphones Award Winner

by Richard Rhodes | Read by Lincoln Hoppe

Random House Audio
Biography & Memoir

Narrator Lincoln Hoppe is in stellar company here. Biographer Richard Rhodes and his subject, naturalist E.O. Wilson, can both take credit for a long shelf of fine audiobooks ranging in subject from the sociobiology of ants to the making of the atomic bomb. Wilson is one of the towering thinkers of our time, and Rhodes is unsurpassed in his ability to convey complicated... Read More

THE SENTENCE

THE SENTENCE

Earphones Award Winner

by Louise Erdrich | Read by Louise Erdrich

Harper Audio
Fiction

Louise Erdrich never disappoints in this engrossing, beautifully written novel. Her narration is breathy, poignant, often funny, and always engrossing. Tookie works at Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore in Minneapolis owned by Erdrich--who sometimes enters the novel as herself. Tookie is being haunted by the ghost of her most annoying customer, Flora, who won't leave the... Read More

A THOUSAND TRAILS HOME

A THOUSAND TRAILS HOME

Earphones Award Winner

by Seth Kantner | Read by Dan Bittner

Blackstone Audio
Biography & Memoir

Dan Bittner narrates this eloquent evocation of life in the Alaskan outback in the clearest of tones and an assured style. His voice expresses the elemental beauty and fierce exigencies of growing up in the wilds of the tundra, accompanied by the planet's vastest herd of caribou. He captures the wilderness sensibility of a life filled with natural history and the changing... Read More

THE VANISHED DAYS

THE VANISHED DAYS

Earphones Award Winner

by Susanna Kearsley | Read by Robert Ian Mackenzie

Recorded Books
Historical Fiction

Robert Ian Mackenzie narrates a sweeping romance set against the early years of the Jacobite cause in the mid-1700s. Adam Williamson is drawn into an inquiry regarding a claim made by a young widow to collect her husband's share of monies owed--but he doesn't expect all that follows. While the story is dense with religion, history, and politics, Mackenzie keeps everything... Read More

WHEN WE CEASE TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD

WHEN WE CEASE TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD

Earphones Award Winner

by Benjamin Labatut, Adrian West [Trans.] | Read by Adam Barr

Dreamscape
Fiction

It's difficult to characterize this "work of fiction based on real events," but whatever the genre, it's a marvelous listen. Labatut's first work to be translated into English (and it's an outstanding rendering by Adrian West) is a series of narratives involving some of the twentieth century's greatest scientists and mathematicians, brought to our ears through the inviting... Read More

WISH YOU WERE HERE

WISH YOU WERE HERE

Earphones Award Winner

by Jodi Picoult | Read by Marin Ireland

Random House Audio
Fiction

Narrator Marin Ireland takes listeners on a journey they won't forget. Diana has her life perfectly planned. But when her long-awaited dream vacation in the Galapagos with her boyfriend, a doctor, is sidetracked by the pandemic, he insists she go without him. Reluctantly, Diana leaves for the isolated island--where her dream becomes a nightmare. Ireland sounds truly flummoxed... Read More

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