Every month, AudioFile Magazine reviewers and editors give “Earphones Awards” to the best new audiobooks — 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!
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.] | Read by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen and a Full Cast | Audible, Inc.
This magnificent audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic graphic novel series, The Sandman features James McAvoy leading an all-star cast. Gaiman takes the role of The Narrator and McAvoy portrays Morpheus, the King of Dreams. Listeners are swept up in a saga in which cats talk and nightmares walk. While the cast members are exquisite, special mention goes to the production staff. The sound effects are immersive, and there is a wonderful cinematic score. This audio drama is compelling. Listeners won’t be able to pause once they hit play.
Narrator Grover Gardner returns to breathe life into listeners’ favorite dog-loving lawyer as Andy Carpenter defends a man declared dead in a boat explosion. The supposedly dead man returns to retrieve his canine companion from Andy’s dog-rescue charity. Gardner gives each supporting character a distinctive flair. In his vivid portrayal of the wisecracking Andy, Gardner creates a sense of a cheerful reunion with the lawyer for longtime listeners and a warm greeting for newcomers.
A Burning by Megha Majumdar | Read by Vikas Adam, Priya Ayyar, Deepti Gupta, Ulka Mohanty, Soneela Nankani, Neil Shah | Random House Audio
Six narrators of Indian descent bring authenticity to this tragic debut fiction about a Jivan, a young Indian woman unjustly charged with terrorism over a Facebook comment. With their accurate Indian accents and adept pacing, the narrators bring listeners into the slums of India. Their multifaceted voices harmoniously blend to bring out a consistent storytelling experience. As Jivan fights to get out of jail, listeners will find themselves sympathizing with her predicament. This must-listen, if overstuffed, audiobook explores the oppression of minorities in the South Asian nation.
Charlie Thurston’s performance transports listeners into a modern fantasy laced with themes of cultural differences, gay romance and the battle between science and religion. German native Max can bring dead animals back to life with his touch. After moving to Alabama, he enrolls in a Christian school, becomes engrossed in the “boys being boys” culture of the football team and explores a relationship with Pan, an unapologetic witch living his best life. Thurston offers the perfect dynamic narration for such a rich story. A remarkable performance charged with melodrama and polished theatrics makes this a gem.
In a story spanning generations, Bahni Turpin and Sophie Amoss deliver mesmerizing performances. Turpin portrays Hannie Gossett, born a slave, trying to make a life for herself after “the Freedom.” Turpin is outstanding as Hannie, who is determined not to be defeated as she searches for her family — last seen on the auction block. Amoss portrays Benny Silva, a thoughtful, engaged teacher facing a challenging high school English class in rural Louisiana. Separating chapters are a series of actual classifieds, expertly narrated by the ensemble cast. They offer heartrending pleas from newly freed men and women who are searching for loved ones sold during slavery. Don’t miss this remarkable audiobook.
This audiobook fills a major gap in the history of war correspondents during WWI, and Bernadette Dunne offers a narration that matches its importance. She matches her tone and pacing to fit the text, keeping the narrative flowing and listeners engaged. During much of the exposition Dunne keeps her voice even, but at the points where double standards governing male and female correspondents are obvious she matches the author’s near incredulity. This is an important story, well told and well narrated.
James Fouhey’s outstanding narration heightens every nuance of the complicated characters and lush world-building in this queer space adventure. Orphaned by war, Ettian has built a life for himself as a military pilot when he learns that his best friend is heir to the empire that destroyed his homeworld. Then an attempted assassination causes the boys to flee on a cross-galaxy quest for safety. Fouhey’s chameleon-like ability to express emotions ranging from rage to desire brings listeners deep into an unfamiliar world and turns this compelling novel into something truly magnificent.
Known as the Queen of Folk during the 1950s-60s, singer and guitarist Odetta was also an important Civil Rights activist. Rosa Howard is outstanding in her narration of this first full-length biography of an influential but enigmatic figure. Howard makes her interviews and diligent reporting as engaging as a good conversation. Deeply respectful but not naïvely uncritical, this is a well-researched and beautifully read portrait of an artist whose life deserves to be more widely known.
Narrator Carrington McDuffie communicates the revolutionary spirit and intellectual depth behind spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson’s most recent audiobook. With McDuffie’s mature voice and thoughtful pacing, her sound has the stature needed to deliver this work, which blends the author’s lyrical writing with ideas and sensibilities that seem to have come from the ancients. MacDuffie’s performance is both satisfying and convincing as she expresses Williamson’s quiet outrage and cautious hope about the state of politics, business and community life today.
With his seasoned voice and theatrical timing, narrator T. Ryder Smith presents this comprehensive study of the devastating 2018 Northern California fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed more than 14,000 homes. Smith utilizes dramatic pacing — speeding up during the nail-biting personal stories and slowing down when explaining the fire’s causes (Pacific Gas & Electric failed to maintain equipment) and behaviors (it was hot enough to melt underground watering systems). The audiobook contains a remarkable weaving together of California history, fire science, climate change, individual accounts of heroism and horror and fire trivia.
This story appears through BookTrib’s partnership with AudioFile.
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."