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Find more The Listen List
Angelmaker. By Nick Harkaway. Narrated by Daniel Weyman. AudioGO, $29.95 (9780792784869).
In a gravelly yet gleeful voice, Weyman narrates this swashbuckling genre blend of spies, gangsters, and a doomsday machine. The lavish and imaginative story of Joe Spork, a clockmaker out of his depth as he attempts to save the world, is brilliantly realized through Weyman’s attention to inflection, characterization, and pacing.
Listen-alikes: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke and narrated by Simon Prebble (Sound Library/BBC Audiobooks America); One of Our Thursdays is Missing, by Jasper Fforde and narrated by Emily Gray (Recorded Books); To Say Nothing of the Dog, or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last, by Connie Willis and narrated by Steven Crossley (Recorded Books).
Bring Up the Bodies. By Hilary Mantel. Narrated by Simon Vance. Macmillan Audio, $39.99 (9781427225825).
In this grim and gripping tale, masterfully told, Vance brings Tudor England to life. Beautifully accented and paced, his pitch-perfect narration deftly navigates the large and diverse cast and the intricate plot machinations to create a stunning glimpse into a dangerous time when Henry VIII ruled and Thomas Cromwell served as his “fixer.”
Listen-alikes: Elizabeth I, by Margaret George and narrated by Kate Reading (Books on Tape); Matthew Shardlake series, by C. J. Sansom and narrated by Steven Crossley (Recorded Books); Watergate, by Thomas Mallon and narrated by Joe Barrett (Blackstone Audio).
The Chalk Girl. By Carol O’Connell. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Recorded Books, $123.75 (9781464020186).
The discovery of a blood-covered little girl wandering in Central Park draws police detective Kathleen Mallory into an investigation involving long hidden secrets of New York’s elite. Rosenblat’s warmly expressive voice embodies each character effortlessly while adroitly managing the pace of Mallory’s gritty and harrowing tenth case.
Listen-alikes: Blue Heaven, by C.J. Box and narrated by John Bedford Lloyd (Macmillan Audio); Breakdown, by Sara Paretsky and narrated by Susan Ericksen (Brilliance Audio); The Drop, by Michael Connelly and narrated by Len Cariou (Recorded Books).
The Death of Sweet Mister. By Daniel Woodrell. Narrated by Nicholas Tecosky. Hachette, $19.98 (9781611135046); AudioGo, $54.99 (9781611130010).
Welcome to the world of Shug Akins, a thirteen-year-old loner coming of age in the Ozarks. Tecosky skillfully demonstrates that the vernacular of this country noir novel is at its lyrical best when spoken aloud. In a youthful detached voice, he authentically captures the violence, poverty, and heartbreaking bleakness of Shug’s life.
Listen-alikes: The Cold, Cold Ground, by Adrian McKinty and narrated by Gerard Doyle (Blackstone Audio); Finn, by Jon Clinch and narrated by Ed Sala (Recorded Books); We the Animals, by Justin Torres and narrated by Frankie J. Alvarez (Blackstone).
The Garden Intrigue. By Lauren Willig. Narrated by Kate Reading. Books on Tape, $45 (9780307989949).
In this lively ninth Pink Carnation romp, Eloise and Colin are beset by a film crew, while in the 19th century, agent Augustus Whittlesby, infamously bad poet, investigates rumors of Napoleon’s plotting and encounters love. Reading’s companionable, husky voice reveals all the humor in the rich banter and bad verse, as well as the passion.
Listen-alikes: Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Phillip and narrated by Anna Fields (Books on Tape); The Spymaster’s Lady, by Joanna Bourne and narrated by Kirsten Potter (Penguin Audio); What Happens in London, by Julia Quinn and narrated by Rosalyn Landor (Books on Tape).
Heft. By Liz Moore. Narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Keith Szarabajka. Blackstone Audiobooks, $99 (9781455160150).
This magnificent dual narration illuminates a poignant story of the isolation, family relationships, and new beginnings of two lost souls on a collision course. Szarabajka’s richly sonorous voice captures morbidly obese Arthur’s physical and emotional weight while Heyborne’s quietly expressive voice exposes the desperation of the teenaged Kel.
Listen-Alikes: The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach and narrated by Holter Graham (AudioGO); Room, by Emma Donoghue and narrated by Michal Friedman, Ellen Archer, Suzanne Toren, and Robert Petkoff (Hachette Audio); We Were the Mulvaneys, by Joyce Carol Oates and narrated by Scott Shina (Recorded Books).
The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel. By Anthony Horowitz. Narrated by Derek Jacobi. Hachette Audio, $29.98 (9781611136890); AudioGO, $69.99 (9781611132908).
In a refined, resonant, and delightfully self-aware voice, Jacobi re-creates the world of Sherlock Holmes. His pacing is lovely – leisurely, inviting, and seductive – while his accents are grand and fit the characters perfectly. In this authorized addition to the canon, Holmes investigates a conspiracy linking criminals to the highest levels of government.
Listen-alikes: The Face of a Stranger, by Anne Perry and naarrated by Davina Porter (Recorded Books); The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and narrated by Simon Prebble (Tantor Audio); A Test of Wills, by Charles Todd and narrated by Samuel Gillies (Recorded Books).
The Inquisitor. By Mark Allen Smith. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. Macmillan Audio $39.99 (9781427214775).
Fliakos’ unflinching depiction of Geiger, an expert in the art of “information retrieval” (aka torture), intensifies this absorbing and disturbing thriller. He sets the mood from the opening line, offering a tormented, affectless but surprisingly sympathetic hero. His skill in creating tone, character and pace enhances the haunting quality of Geiger’s world.
Listen-alikes: 13 Steps Down, by Ruth Rendell and narrated by Ric Jerrom (BBC Audiobooks America); The Chameleon’s Shadow, by Minette Walters and narrated by Simon Vance (Tantor Audio); The Cloud of Unknowing, by Thomas H. Cook and narrated by Stephen Hoye (Tantor Audio).
Macbeth. By William Shakespeare. Narrated by Alan Cumming. Simon & Schuster Audio, $14.99 (9781442355934).
Cumming makes “The Scottish Play” an electric event, allowing modern audiences a chance to experience it with the same excitement, horror and wonder Shakespeare’s contemporary audiences surely felt. From stage directions delivered in furtive whispers to the cackle of the witches and the grim resolution of Lady Macbeth, Cumming astounds.
Listen-Alikes: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens and narrated by Jim Dale (Listening Library); King Lear, by William Shakespeare and narrated by a full cast (Naxos Audiobooks); The Odyssey, by Homer and narrated by Stanley Lombardo and Susan Sarandon (Parmenides Audio).
Miles: The Autobiography. By Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe. Narrated by Dion Graham. AudioGO, $99.95 (9780792784814).
With his raspy, whispery voice Dion Graham inhabits musical genius Miles Davis in this tell-all autobiography that flows like a jazz riff. While setting the record straight about Davis’s career, lovers, addiction and racial issues, Graham channels Davis’s voice and cadence so completely that listeners will believe they’re hearing the master himself.
Listen-alikes: Life, by Keith Richards and narrated by Keith Richards, Johnny Depp, and Joe Hurley (Hachette Audio); Life Itself, by Roger Ebert and narrated by Edward Herrmann (Hachette Audio; AudiGO); Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon and narrated by Clarke Peters (Harper Audio; Recorded Books).
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. By Robin Sloan. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. Macmillan Audio, $34.99 (9781427227423).
Affectionate and playful, Ari Fliakos’ narration is addictive as he expertly voices full-bodied characters, savoring their eccentricities, in this imaginative work of “geek-lit.” His optimistic wonder and understanding of the subtext bring tension to even the minutiae of this grand quest by a motley crew of book lovers hoping to crack the code of immortality.
Listen-alikes: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline and narrated by Wil Wheaton (Random House Audio; Books on Tape); The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and narrated by Jonathan Davis (Penguin Audiobooks); The Technologists, by Matthew Pearl and narrated by Stephen Hoye (Random House Audio; Books on Tape).
The Pickwick Papers. By Charles Dickens. Narrated by David Timson. Naxos Audiobooks, $137.98 (9781843795551).
Timson’s irrepressible performance of this rollicking romp through 1830s England in Dickens’s first novel invites listeners along as Pickwick and his crew ramble through the countryside. With broad satire and clever irony, Timson proves a delightful guide through slapdash adventures and a host of eccentric characters.
Listen-alikes: The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer and narrated by a full cast (Blackstone Audio); The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams and narrated by Stephen Fry (Books on Tape); The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce and narrated by Jim Broadbent (Books on Tape).
The Remains of the Day. By Kazuo Ishiguro. Narrated by Simon Prebble. Tantor Media, $34.99 (9781452608358).
Prebble’s performance is like listening to a full cast production so great is his skill in crafting characters. Navigating memories of both “upstairs” and “downstairs,” dutiful butler Stevens revisits past pains and triumphs. Prebble creates a poignant reflection of a life given to service seen through the eyes of a man finally questioning his purpose.
Listen-alikes: About Schmidt, by Louis Begley and narrated by George Guidall (Recorded Books); The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton and narrated by Anna Fields (Blackstone Audiobooks); Saturday, by Ian McEwan and narrated by Steven Crossley (Recorded Books).
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