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May 15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more The Listen List
The Listen List highlights extraordinary narrators and listening experiences that merit special attention by a general adult audience and the librarians who advise them. Recordings are selected because they are engaging and make one reluctant to stop listening; because the narration creates a new experience, offering listeners something they could not create by their own visual reading; and because the narrator achieves an outstanding performance in terms of voice, accent, pitch, tone, inflection, rhythm, and pace. This juried list, designed for avid listeners and those new to the pleasures of stories read aloud, includes fiction and nonfiction and features voices that enthrall, delight, and inspire.
Simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, Woodson’s approachable and compelling free verse reflects the African American experience of growing up in 1970s Brooklyn. Miles’ pitch-perfect inflection evokes universal feelings of memory, friendship, and the magic of place in this rhythmic narration.
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. By Stephen King. Read by Stephen King and others. Simon & Schuster Audio, CD, $49.99.
A stellar cast of actors presents this career-spanning collection of short works, punctuated by King’s engaging, conversational commentary describing his writing process and inspiration. Through atmospheric, nuanced performance, each work achieves a dramatic reinterpretation of a range of genres, from humor to horror.
Because of Miss Bridgerton. By Julia Quinn. Read by Rosalyn Landor.
HarperAudio, DD, $24.99; Blackstone Audio, CD, $39.99.
Landor’s polished reading perfectly matches Quinn’s clever, witty historical romp, providing a delightful listening experience. Through a sophisticated British accent and subtle changes in tone, the storyteller’s distinctly voiced performance impeccably conveys the exasperation and romantic tension that draw listeners into the budding love story, building to a sensual, satisfying culmination.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. By Phaedra Patrick. Read by James Langton. Harlequin Audio, CD, $39.99; Blackstone Audio, CD, $39.99.
Langton’s unhurried delivery charms in this heartwarming yet often bizarre adventure of adorable octogenarian Arthur Pepper as he bumbles his way through a scavenger hunt into his late wife’s undisclosed past. From high-pitched middle-class Bernadette to her mumbling, teenage son, listeners forge an emotional connection courtesy of adroit expressions of character development.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. By Matthew Desmond. Read by Dion Graham. Books on Tape, DD, $95.
Listeners will experience a shift in their worldviews as this significant work of ethnography reveals the impact of eviction on poverty in America’s society and culture. Graham’s sobering, empathetic narrative captures the personalities of eight struggling families and two landlords while conveying author Desmond’s painstaking data collection and intimate reportage.
Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. By Julian Fellowes. Read by Juliet Stevenson. Hachette Audio, CD, $35; Blackstone, CD, $118.99.
Stevenson demonstrates her unequaled mastery of narrative art, transforming Fellowes’ richly detailed historical melodrama of 1840s London into enthralling audio theater. A panoply of British class and regional accents, combined with period pacing and precise depiction of age and gender, illuminates personalities within a family saga of social rivalries.
Lily and the Octopus. By Steven Rowley. Read by Michael Urie. Simon & Schuster Audio, CD, $29.99.
Rowley explores the deep attachment of man and dog in a tale that combines pathos and humor, eloquently portrayed by a reading that echoes those shifting moods. Urie crawls inside owner Ted’s head, voicing a sympathetic connection with human despair, while also depicting dachshund Lily’s engaging doggy dialogue, in a cathartic performance that reveals a roller coaster of emotions as a tumor devours a life.
News of the World. By Paulette Jiles. Read by Grover Gardner. Brilliance Audio, CD, $59.97.
This lyrical western tale of a developing friendship between an aging soldier and an orphaned young girl is colorfully expressed through Gardner’s steady pacing, gravelly twang, and folksy tone. Subtle changes in inflection and accent give voice to the former captive and ethnically diverse characters encountered along the road, immersing listeners in a harrowing though ultimately redemptive journey through post–Civil War Texas.
Razor Girl. By Carl Hiaasen. Read by John Rubinstein. Books on Tape, CD, $40.
With endless energy, unfailingly deadpan delivery, and spot-on comedic timing, Rubinstein skillfully distinguishes a large cast of characters as they ricochet through interweaving story arcs. In this briskly paced work of beautiful absurdity, a series of offbeat high jinks connects impeccably voiced characters, including a Cajun country reality star; a mafia kingpin; Arabic immigrants; a sexy con woman; and the hero, Yancy, a disgraced detective now on roach patrol.
Sleeping Giants. By Sylvain Neuvel. Read by Andy Secombe and others. Books on Tape, DD, $76.
The discovery of a giant metallic hand prompts a team of scientists, government agents, and researchers to scour the planet for clues. The vocally versatile ensemble constructs a beyond-the-book experience, nimbly interpreting Neuvel’s nonlinear approach of using dialogue-driven exchanges through interviews, news stories, and journal entries.
The Underground Railroad. By Colson Whitehead. Read by Bahni Turpin. Books on Tape, CD, $40.
Whitehead’s haunting literary tale of Cora, who escapes abuse and enslavement in the antebellum South, is propelled by the magic realism of a subterranean railway in an alternate American history. Turpin’s faultless, fully voiced narration embodies authentic dialects and accents; her sonorous, dramatic tone and commanding presence intensify the somber power of the author’s words.
A Wild Swan: And Other Tales. By Michael Cunningham. Read by Lili Taylor and Billy Hough. Macmillan Audio, CD, $19.99.
Taylor and Hough’s atmospheric dual performance delivers a quirky interpretation brimming with macabre, racy humor in Cunningham’s reimagined fairy tales for adults. Accompanied by original musical motifs that enhance the storytelling, and combined with a remarkable depth of characterization, this short, episodic production is a perfect listen for those new to audiobooks.
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