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May 2020 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.


AFTERLIFE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Alma Cuervo's warm, even-keeled performance guides listeners through the interwoven themes of love, loss, and compassion in this beautifully wrought new novel by poet and author Julia Alvarez. Antonia is a Vermonter of Dominican heritage. Since the recent death of her beloved husband, she has been "walking a narrow path through the loss" of love and identity--for Sam died on... Read More

THE BIG GOODBYE
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

One of the best things about this audiobook is author Sam Wasson's narration. His modulation and timing are as good as any professional narrator's, and his use of accents provides subtle shading to everyone from John Huston to Henry Kissinger. Wasson builds his narrative around the four friends who created the movie CHINATOWN: director Roman Polanski, screenwriter Robert Towne,... Read More

THE BIG LIE
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

This audiobook is a thriller for those who enjoy fiction that merges with today's political realities. Adeptly narrated by Jonathan Davis, the story features a Trump-like president whose reelection is jeopardized by a rebellious member of the Electoral College and her politically connected lawyer, Jack Swyteck, the featured character in Grippando's series. The author adds... Read More

BOX
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Dion Graham delivers this narrative poetry with understated passion, giving dignity to Henry Brown's story of escape from slavery by mailing himself to Philadelphia in a box. Graham transports the listener to a painful time and place in our history, blending a Southern accent with Weatherford's hybrid of modern and period language. Graham is soft-spoken yet expressive reciting... Read More

CLAP WHEN YOU LAND
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Melania-Luisa Marte narrates the first-person free verse of Camino, the Dominican daughter of a man who has died in a plane crash. Elizabeth Acevedo delivers the alternating verses of his other daughter, Yahaira, who lives in New York. Neither sister knows the other exists until their father's death. Marte's narration captures the lyricism of a young woman who assists her aunt,... Read More

CRIBSHEET
Earphones Award Winner
Personal Growth

Karissa Vacker was a wonderful choice to perform this enlightening collection of research on parenting young children. Along with an appealing voice and flawless phrasing, her narration has the perfect personality for this work--a sincere and breezy quality that makes listeners feel at home and makes them forget they're listening to heavy-duty science offered by a... Read More

DEATH IN MUD LICK
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Eric Eyre's nose for investigative journalism and conversational writing style are enhanced by narrator Michael David Axtell's energy, empathy, and appropriate tone of outrage. Why does a pharmacy in a town of 382 people in West Virginia need nine million pain pills over a two-year period? There is plenty of blame to go around for the opioid crisis, with pharmaceutical... Read More

THE ESCAPE ARTIST
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Even if you haven't read Fremont's preceding memoir, AFTER LONG SILENCE, this is an audiobook worth experiencing, one that stands memorably on its own. Narrator Gabra Zackman's deep, rich voice exudes a confidence and compassion that immediately capture the listener's attention and hold it as Fremont's account of a family full of secrets reveals itself. The honest ring of... Read More

THE FEMALE QUIXOTE
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

DON QUIXOTE has been adapted or parodied many times over the centuries, and this 1752 version by Charlotte Lennox holds up pretty well as read by Juliet Stevenson. (It was also one of the inspirations for Jane Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY.) Lady Arabella has read too many romances, and, having grown up in isolation in the country, she interprets them as history. Stevenson takes us... Read More

FIFTY-TWO STORIES
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Jim Frangione splendidly narrates this "full deck" of stories, which Chekhov wrote from 1883 to 1898. Frangione's mastery of Russian names and nomenclature infuses this wide-ranging collection with the world of the late nineteenth century. He paces his narration to the stories' style and gives the carefully delineated characters subtle differences in their manners of speech.... Read More

GHOST GIRL IN THE CORNER
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

When it comes to narration, this short audiobook packs a powerful punch. Fast-paced and intense, the story is taken to the next level by the talented Anika Noni Rose. After Tee takes over the community newspaper, a local girl disappears, and a ghost girl no one else can see appears. In a race against time, Tee sets out to save the missing girl and salvage her troubled... Read More

IF IT BLEEDS
Earphones Award Winner
Horror

Stephen King's latest audiobook has four exceptional novellas that are each masterfully narrated. "Mr. Harrigan's Phone," narrated by Will Patton in a wistful tenor, is a meditative coming-of-age tale dotted with technophobia and communications from beyond the grave. "The Life of Chuck" is King's most imaginative work in years. Narrator Danny Burstein expertly captures the... Read More

IN THE BEAUTY OF THE LILIES
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Jason Culp affects the anxious, educated, and astute tone of Clarence Wilmot, a thoughtful clergyman in 1910 Paterson, New Jersey, who loses his faith but finds solace in movies. His son, Teddy, becomes a mailman who rejects all aspects of religion. Culp portrays him in a flat, sad tone. Wilmot's granddaughter, Esther, becomes a movie star, a media goddess, and Culp... Read More

KENT STATE
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Fifty years after four young people were shot by the National Guard at Kent State University, Deborah Wiles gives us an honest fictional account enhanced by this production. The narrators give voice to several witnesses, each with a unique perspective. We hear the truth as perceived by students, townies, the National Guard, and others. Christopher Gebauer, as Student #1, uses a... Read More

THE LEGENDS OF THE FIRST EMPIRE 4
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Narrator Terence Aselford and a full cast lead a GraphicAudio production of a sweeping fantasy epic kicked off by the death of a god. The balance of power and trust between the gods and humans is forever shifted, prompting a few to stand and defend humanity. The young seer Suri, voiced masterfully by Amanda Forstrom, prophesizes doom and gathers allies to her cause. Aselford's... Read More

LIGHT IN HIDDEN PLACES
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Narrator Beata Pozniak's authentic accent carries listeners into this gripping true account of Stefania (Fusia) Podgorska. Fusia leaves her country home to live and work with the Diamants, a Jewish family in the town of Przemysl, Poland. Pozniak portrays how Fusia thrives with the loving family--until Nazis arrive and the Diamant family is sent to the ghetto and Fusia's beloved... Read More

LITTLE FAMILY
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Dion Graham captures listeners' attention in this heartbreaking audiobook about five orphans in an unnamed coastal town in an unnamed African country. Each of the five main characters has such a distinct personality that it could have made sense to hire a full cast, but with Graham narrating, it was unnecessary. The various dialects, accents, and quirks of the... Read More

MAIN STREET
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

With vocal naturalism and a wonderful feel for the author's prose, narrator Kitty Hendrix makes this first masterwork by Sinclair Lewis sound as fresh and real as the day it was published in October 1920. Through his depiction of the fictitious town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, Lewis offers penetrating detail, memorable characters, and wry observations. The novel captures the... Read More

MISS AUSTEN
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

In a cultured, melodious voice, narrator Juliet Stevenson becomes Miss Cassandra Austen, older sister to Jane and keeper of her memory. In the course of this fictional biography, Cassandra, at the end of her life, tells the story of her relationship with Jane through letters and reminiscences. The story shifts between the late 1790s and early 1800s and the present of 1840, when... Read More

MORE MYSELF
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Musician Alicia Keys delivers her own memoir. In addition to her rich, inviting style, we are treated to cameo appearances by her family and friends. These include the likes of Oprah, Bono, and Michelle Obama, among many other household names. They chime in during chapters relevant to their expertise or those that describe shared moments with the author. Keys herself is... Read More

MURDER IN AN IRISH COTTAGE
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Caroline Lennon transports listeners to Ireland, where traditional beliefs about fairies make for a powerful listening experience. An urgent phone call to Macdara Flannery, a member of the Irish Garda, opens this mystery audiobook. Macdara and his fiancée, fellow Garda Siobhán O'Sullivan, become immersed in the murder of Macdara's aunt, which locals blame on evil... Read More

NAVIGATE YOUR STARS
Earphones Award Winner
Personal Growth

Jesmyn Ward, the author of SING, UNBURIED, SING, performs the moving speech she delivered at Tulane University's commencement in 2018. Ward humbly recounts her belief that a college education would help her create a life not bound by poverty or the circumstance of her birth. With raw emotion, Ward describes her disappointment and disillusionment when, after graduation, she had... Read More

A PILGRIMAGE TO ETERNITY
Earphones Award Winner
History

In this audiobook, Timothy Egan brings listeners along as he makes a thousand-mile walking pilgrimage to find the roots of his Catholic faith. In a well-defined and pleasant voice, he progresses through France, Italy, and Switzerland, and ends with seeking an audience with Pope Francis in Rome. He chats with his listeners about Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, and even Henry VIII,... Read More

THE PROPHET
Earphones Award Winner
Classics

Listening to this masterful narration by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer is a solid choice for those wanting to enjoy Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran's prose. The narrators share his wisdom for the ages in beautifully read phrases. Exhortations on marriage, justice, family, and politics are delivered as memorable aphorisms. In a deep baritone Kramer takes on the words of... Read More

RAPHAEL, PAINTER IN ROME
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrating entirely in an Italian accent, P.J. Ochlan captures the youthful exuberance of the Renaissance artist Raphael as he tells his own story of how he painted the papal apartments in the Vatican. Raphael's hard climb to fame as a self-described "nice boy from Urbino" in corrupt Rome is made especially difficult by his rivalry with the volatile Michelangelo. The two artists... Read More

SAL AND GABI FIX THE UNIVERSE
Earphones Award Winner
Children

You didn't think that middle schoolers Sal and Gabi could manipulate the multiverse without there being consequences, did you? Narrator Anthony Rey Perez's lively performance brings listeners right back to Miami's Culeco Academy in this sequel that picks up where SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE left off. The universe is in trouble, and so is the school play that the Culeco... Read More

SANCTUARY
Earphones Award Winner
Horror

Here's an audiobook with all the darkness of a Grimm's fairy tale--and narrator Matt Addis uses his flexible baritone to scare listeners senseless. Marlene is married to Wegener, a master criminal and sociopath. Pregnant and fearful, Marlene steals a pouch of sapphires from his safe and runs for her life. Addis captures her terror as her car slips off a mountain road. He... Read More

THE SECRET GARDEN
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Alison Larkin expertly introduces this classic Yorkshire story to a new generation. At the turn of the twentieth century, friendship and the power of nature and gardening completely transform two lonely, difficult children into caring, thriving individuals. Larkin flawlessly portrays the personalities of the characters: sour Mary; the crotchety gardener, Ben;... Read More

SHADOWPLAY
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Joseph O'Connor's graceful, insightful writing is immediately apparent, thanks to Barry McGovern's and Anna Chancellor's outstanding performances. McGovern delivers an acting tour de force, highlighting both the dark underbelly of Victorian London as well as the frequently scratchy, often tender relationship between eccentric, egotistical, world-famous actor Henry Irving and... Read More

THE SISTERS GRIMM
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Adjoa Andoh narrates a fantastical adventure in which four half sisters connect in a dreamworld and learn of their unusual shared fate. The sisters have wild adventures in the supernatural realm known as Everwhere until they're cut off on their 13th birthday. Upon turning 18, the four must fight to the death against inhuman monsters--to the delight of their demonic father.... Read More

STOP AT NOTHING
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Neil Hellegers employs a peculiar talent in narrating this thriller: He reads every sentence, even one like "Pass the butter," as if it were a precursor to imminent disaster. Listeners will be on the edge of their seats, desperate to hear what happens next. Ongoing tension is the core of Hellegers's talent. The story's protagonist sounds like your average off-shore... Read More

STRANGE HOTEL
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Award-winning author Eimear McBride introspectively delivers her emotionally charged novella about a middle-aged woman who frequents hotels. In a stream of consciousness style, McBride introduces listeners to an unnamed female character who checks in and out of hotels in different places around the world--such as Avignon, Austin, Auckland, Moscow, and Oslo--to run away from a... Read More

UNDERCOVER BROMANCE
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Gear up for a fabulous romantic comedy with returning narrator Andrew Eiden. Braden Mack, founder of the men's romance book club in Nashville, gets dumped and gets his friend's sister-in-law, Liv, fired in a single evening. He then desperately tries to make it up to Liv by joining her on a quest to expose her ex-boss as a sexual predator. Eiden's gruff voice adds humorous... Read More

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD RECORDS
Earphones Award Winner
History

Kevin R. Free leads an exceptional ensemble cast in delivering William Still's landmark historical document of American slavery, oppression, and freedom. Still was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, a system of secret passageways providing people a way to freedom from slavery during the 1800s. Still's historical accounts, originally published in 1872, are presented here... Read More

WARRIOR RISING
Earphones Award Winner
Personal Growth

The combination of Adenrele Ojo's lively performance and the author's lyrical writing will make the message in this audiobook jump out at all parents, especially those who worry about the kind of world their child will enter as an adult. Ojo is an accomplished actress, producer, and narrator; you can hear her professional depth as she flawlessly tells the true story of the... Read More

WE DREAM OF SPACE
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Ramon de Ocampo infuses his narration of this emotionally powerful story with direct and subtle emotions that define the three Nelson-Thomas siblings and their middle school experience. The story begins in January 1986 with the excitement of the CHALLENGER mission and ends with its tragedy. As the siblings' parents' domestic tragedies dominate the children, 12-year-old twins... Read More

WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Skillful soundscaping and a full cast heighten the atmosphere and emotion in this audiobook, inspired by the childhood of coauthor Omar Mohamed. The story follows young Omar, a Somali boy living in a Kenyan refugee camp, where he cares for his brother, studies hard, and tries to balance his hope of resettlement against grim reality. Narrator Faysal Ahmed is thoroughly... Read More

WHEN TIME STOPPED
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

This audiobook about journeys is made even better by narrator Rebecca Lowman's captivating performance. Author Ariana Neumann describes how she discovered her father's secrets. The story describes her father's life in Nazi-ruled Czechoslovakia and Germany, as well as his journey to Venezuela, where he became a successful businessman whose past was never mentioned. Through it... Read More

WINK
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Michael Crouch's first-person narration is spot-on as Ross endures treatment for eye cancer, plus the normal awkwardness and humiliation that come with seventh grade. Crouch manages to make Ross seem vulnerable without making him pitiful--because Ross does not want pity. He just wants to be normal. While emotionally expressive of Ross's anger and frustration, Crouch also... Read More

THE YELLOW HOUSE
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Sarah Broom's chronicle of life in a historic yet poor section of New Orleans is an audiobook that captivates the listener from its first words to the end. The National Book Award-winning memoir holds one's attention because of Broom's vivid prose and narrator Bahni Turpin's flawless performance. Although the audiobook focuses on the physical home where Broom was raised, whose... Read More

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