Every month, AudioFile Magazine reviewers and editors give “Earphones Awards” to the best new audio books — the listens that combine blow-you-away narrations with standout writing. BookTrib, thanks to our partnership with AudioFile, offers this month’s picks of the newest, not-to-be-missed titles. Don’t forget your earbuds!
Narrator Graham Halstead voices Malcolm Kershaw, crime fiction bookstore owner, with a perfect next-door-neighbor tone that simply seduces the listener into trusting him. Mystery aficionados will delight in the literary references and enjoy the twists and turns in this cleverly written audio book by an author who truly appreciates the genre.
Jason Reynolds wrote and narrates this vital and compelling young adult remix of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From The Beginning. Even with such an intense subject, Reynolds writes and speaks directly to younger listeners in an engaging and open style. His rich voice and strong pacing make him especially good at emphasizing key points and carrying listeners through difficult concepts. Reynolds compels listeners to be critical thinkers and to take action.
This extraordinary production of Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout’s novel will remain with listeners long after the final words fade. The credit goes to three people: Strout; Rona Munro, whose exquisite adaptation pares the story to its core, and actor Laura Linney, who alternately transforms herself into tough yet fragile Lucy and Lucy’s croak-voiced mother, in conversations that reveal their scarred but unbreakable bond.
The many listeners enthralled by the earlier two volumes in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy will find all of their expectations met in this final installment. Actor Ben Miles, who collaborated with Mantel on the stage production of the earlier two volumes, is more intrinsic to the narrative than one senses in most author/narrator matches. Here is a narrative achievement of the highest order.
The Everlastingby Katy Simpson Smith | read by January LaVoy, Jeremy Arthur, Graham Halstead, Bahni Turpin, Caitlin Kelly | Harper Audio
A dazzling cast of narrators enhances this stunning novel, which takes place in Rome over the course of 2,000 years. In modern times, Tom, an American biologist, portrayed with sorrow by Jeremy Arthur, is trying to understand how his marriage went wrong. During the Renaissance, Bahni Turpin fluidly captures the beautiful Guilia, who is suffering from an unwanted pregnancy. In the Middle Ages, Felix, a monk, recalls his youthful love of a boy in wistful tones voiced by Graham Halstead. Finally, the saintly Prisca, who lives during the first century, is portrayed by Caitlin Kelly with innocent yet passionate inflections. Throughout, Satan, wickedly voiced by January LaVoy, provides commentary, and descriptions of the city of Rome illuminate the passage of time.
We all know the outcome, but listeners will still be on the edge of their seats while listening to John Lee’s superb narration of Winston Churchill’s first year as Britain’s prime minister, 1940-41. Larson delivers the introduction and does a fine job, but Lee brings the polish and expressiveness of a gifted narrator — one who performs a perfectly credible Churchill voice.
Narrator Grover Gardner and poet-novelist Paulette Jiles are a dazzling combination. It’s historical fiction of the highest order, transporting the listener to post-Civil War Texas and making it both exotic and piercingly familiar. Gardner brings excitement and experience to creating the sounds and voices in this tale of a rough-cut young hero making his way in a lawless world, with talent and a courageous heart. Pairing high-voltage adventure with passages of exquisitely beautiful writing, Gardner and Jiles leave you cheering.
Steven Weber returns to narrate the newest Harlan Coben thriller, and the pairing makes for a super suspenseful listen. When his classmate goes missing, Matthew Crimstein turns to his grandmother, Hester, a feisty criminal lawyer and TV personality, for help. Weber is perfectly in step with the pace of the action, which is interspersed with touching relationship scenes and terrifying depictions of the vulnerability that arises from our reliance on social media for our facts.
Yesterday’s gossip is today’s history, a principle amply confirmed by this richly detailed audio book chronicling the high life on the Riviera in the 1930s through WWII. Designer Coco Chanel is the focus of the narrative, and narrator Sophie Roberts’s strong, polished, highly sophisticated voice effectively conveys the aura of fashionable society while maintaining a firm narrative objectivity.
An unexpected delight in the multitudinous pleasures in Lily King’s new novel is narrator Stacey Glemboski’s beautiful soprano, which lifts into a breath-catching ballad at a key moment. This is the evocative story of Casey Peabody of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who waitresses while persevering with her first novel when her old friends have moved on to monied careers or marriages. Glemboski’s warm voice has great narrative appeal, and she populates the wealth of interesting characters with believable, imaginative voices. One wants to remain long in their company.
This story appears through BookTrib’s partnership with AudioFile. Check out the other Earphones Award winners onAudioFile’s website.
AudioFile (www.audiofilemagazine.com) is the magazine for discovering more about audiobooks. It reviews and recommends the best listening, most interesting performances, and what audiobooks are worth your listening time. AudioFile reviews about 50 audiobooks per week, features narrator profiles, and awards exceptional performances with AudioFile’s Earphones Awards. AudioFile publishes in print, newsletters and a blog, and podcasts daily recommendations on "Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine."