Your next great audiobook

AudioFile Recommends

Classics

This 22-minute collection of love poems from iconic writers offers a melodic narration by Richard Armitage. Each recitation is intentionally paced. There are no overly dramatic highs or lows in his voice. The passion is steady and constant from one poem to the next. From gestures of grandeur in Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Give All to Love" to the wisdom of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the listener hears an array of poetic styles clearly enunciated. There's subtle musicality in each poem. Armitage's masterful delivery of words, whether in rhyme, ballad, or other poetic form, is both gallant and calming. This audiobook of great classic poems is a listening pleasure. T.E.C. 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

[More]

Johnny Heller's stellar narration makes this audio experience ALMOST like hearing Mark Twain himself. Twain's dialogue and descriptions of people and places along the Mississippi River come alive. Huck; the escaped slave, Jim; and Tom Sawyer are equally distinct and believable. Most compelling is hearing Huck and Tom return after hunting for Jim; their discussion sounds like listening to a real conversation. Heller's portrayal of Huck is especially amusing when he pretends to be a shy, soft-spoken girl in order to pry information from an unsuspecting woman. A vivid description of a thunderstorm demonstrates how well-delivered words can serve as sound effects. This is Mark Twain at his best on audio. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

[More]

Whether you're new to Le Fanu's classic tales or a veteran of his particular brand of imaginative horror, these narrators are sure to entertain and spook you with these stories of stalking monkey-demons, supernatural courtroom revenge, premature burial, lesbian vampires, and more. Although it's not clear which reader performs which story, it's worth noting that all six are talented actors, making this a particularly impressive collection. Perhaps the most memorable stories presented are "The Familiar" and "Carmilla," both of which are iconic in their own right but are freshly imbued by their narrators. No over-the-top shenanigans here--these performers understand what creepiness is and how to share it. N.J.B. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Anne Hancock gleefully captures the warm characters, charming humor, and colorful descriptions in this classic story, set in 1916 Vermont. When 9-year-old Betsy is orphaned, she's rescued by her overprotective city-dwelling Aunt Frances, and then is uprooted again to live in the country with the often maligned Putney side of her family. Hancock splendidly portrays fastidious Aunt Frances as well as the more casual Putney farmers. However, her best creation is Betsy herself, who positively blossoms on the Putney farm with its delightful animals and daily chores, such as churning butter and harvesting maple syrup. Listeners will enjoy walking through the state fair with Betsy--until she realizes she's missed her ride home. The conclusion is satisfying and fully believable. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

[More]

Listeners should treat themselves to this full-cast audio of this tidy production of Kipling's stories of Mowgli and his jungle friends. Richard E. Grant, Bill Bailey, and a well-chosen cast of British actors make the magic of this audio drama, along with a fine soundscape punctuated with Shere Khan's roar or the howl of the wolf pack. Timing, pace, and elegant storytelling are all here. But perhaps the best aspect of this audio collection is the opportunity for listeners to banish the animation that usurped Mowgli, Baloo, and Bagheera and restore them to a rich and vivid life in the Indian jungle. This audiobook will delight families with the engaging, classic storytelling of Mowgli and his pack, and reacquaint old friends with these beloved characters. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

[More]

It’s difficult to overstate the quality of this work. The precision with which narrator Juliet Stevenson brings each character to life is impressive. Each of them—the long-suffering Gwendolyn, the singular Mirah, even the altruistic Daniel himself—lives as a distinct personality in the telling of the story. Listening to Stevenson, one notes that the effectiveness of her presentation is due in large part to her understanding of George Eliot’s work. Far from being a story of star-crossed lovers, the novel explores the trappings of desire, consequences, and Victorian England’s reception of those of the Jewish faith. Stevenson’s thoughtful treatment of the audiobook’s emotion and commentary merits the 36 hours it spans, even for those already familiar with Eliot. N.J.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

[More]

This 1912 novel is a fictional autobiography of an unnamed biracial man, with lessons and observations that are still fresh today. Alan Bomar Jones performs in a smooth voice. He adopts cultured, barely inflected tones for the narrative and the protagonist's dialogue, while using strong Southern and New York accents for the dialogue of other African-Americans. Jones's uninflected Spanish, French, and German phrases contrast sharply with Johnson's descriptions of the protagonist's near-native fluency. Full of sophisticated vocabulary, thoughtful ruminations, and detailed observations, the autobiography is replete with long discussions of race and discrimination as the hero travels throughout the South, New York, Boston, and Europe. Author James Weldon Johnson was a Harlem Renaissance writer as well as an educator, musician, and lawyer. M.B.K. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

[More]

There's a vintage feel to Alison Larkin's narration of this Austen favorite. The bell-like quality of her sweetly accented voice harkens back to another, quieter, time. However, her delivery of this much-loved matchmaking story offers a flexibility that is contemporary and easy to hear. Larkin's vocals can be precious or blustery, proper or pompous, depending on which character she occupies, and she creates distinctions between each with skill. The pace is brisk, and Larkin's treatment of the light humor in the novel is so subtle it could be missed by the distracted listener. Jaunty musical interludes grace the transitions between chapters, adding to the quaint charm of this production. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Steinbeck's experimental novel, self-labeled a "play novelette," tells the story of a desperate love triangle involving a woman whose desire for a child drives her to adultery. Focusing on four characters, the story is told through dramatic tête-à-têtes. Narrator Richard Poe projects the tension between each combination of characters. He especially captures the deep friendship expressed in the interchanges between friends Ed and Joe Saul, who speak to each other in raspy, earnest voices. Joe Saul's young wife, Mordeen, is portrayed with warmth and vibrancy in her voice. Through his attention to intonation, Poe captures the seriousness of the characters' conversations while maintaining a friendly tone. D.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

DE PROFUNDIS (From the Depths) is perhaps the least read of Wilde's major works, and the most heartbreakingly sincere. Merlin Holland, Wilde's grandson, delivers his own moving introduction, and Simon Beale narrates the book-length letter as though he were talking about his own life. The tone is sometimes bitter but always striving toward love as Wilde tries to explain his situation: He wrote the work from Reading Gaol to Lord Alfred Douglas, the lover who bore so much responsibility for the writer's imprisonment for homosexuality. Beale manages the difficult emotional transitions as Wilde moves from castigating Douglas to discussing suffering as the path to Christian love to expressing his hope of meeting Douglas again after his release. Beale never lets the leaps seem strained or unnatural. This is a reading that the work deserves. D.M.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

[More]

To hear Susan Lyons narrate these classics is to be transported back to their time and place—British East Africa (now Kenya) in the early twentieth century. In tones rich, rolling, earthly, and regal, she personifies equally well the Baroness Blixen and the land itself. The author’s love and concern for the land and its people shine through this simple yet stately presentation. Steeped as these stories are in time and place, they also cannot avoid reflecting that other artifact of their time: a certain white NOBLESSE OBLIGE that skims below, and occasionally breaks the surface of, the story. But even in this, Lyons’s performance remains true to the text. While a picture in time taken from a particular vantage point, this audio and Lyons’s performance are a memorable and faithful portrait. K.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Sean Barrett doesn't let early-nineteenth-century verbiage bog down Scott's tale of adventure involving a London merchant's son, a Highlands rover, and Jacobite plots. Nonetheless, his reading does convey the immersive, comforting pleasure of books of the period. He is skillful in supplying appropriate emotions, acting various parts, varying voices, and maintaining an excellent pace (though some passages ARE verbose). His Scots dialect seems authentic, sometimes to the point of incomprehensibility, so some passages may give listeners difficulty, although the context usually helps. He also exhibits remarkable skill and sensibility in varying the accents and the thickness of the dialect not only among characters, but also within individual character's speeches, when indicated. His reading will be richly satisfying to fans of the period. W.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Edoardo Ballerini's narration provides an emotionally sensitive, intelligent take on Kafka's famous novella that captures its disturbing humor. He exhibits an easy proficiency in managing the pace, varying voices to represent various characters, and achieving clarity of phrasing and emphasis. Beyond that, his precise diction mirrors the hyperrealistic detailing of Gregor Samsa's new life as a giant insect. Ballerini's deftness, brisk pace, and light touch not only keep the text moving but also help convey the anxious, querulous, submissive feel of someone far more eager to please and fit in than to question his absurd fate. The nervous energy of Ballerini's reading reflects the subtle hysteria underlying the tale. The artistry of the narrator is as satisfying as the story is disquieting. W.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

These pieces written in 1863, before Louisa May Alcott became famous for LITTLE WOMEN, are vividly brought to life by narrator Anne Hancock. Alcott traveled from her comfortable home in Concord, Massachusetts, to Washington, D.C., to minister to Civil War soldiers. Hancock skillfully demonstrates the humor, compassion, and determination of Nurse Tribulation Periwinkle (Alcott's pseudonym), the grit and courage of the soldiers, and the often graphic descriptions of hospital life. Listeners will feel that they're beside Alcott when she makes a request to a dying Virginia blacksmith, "Let me help you bear it, John." In addition to the medical settings, she makes witty observations of Washington's streets and residents. Sadly, Alcott's time was cut short when she contracted typhoid fever and had to return home. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Baseball has always been a sport of statistics, which can be scrutinized so much that they threaten to overtake the game's aesthetics at times. What this audiobook does is study the efforts of those who play the game, details that don't show up in the box score. Lonnie Wheeler's book is for baseball die-hards, and narrator Eric Michael Summerer brings home the many points--intangible, invisible, and emotional--with great inflections. His steady performance ranges over the many topics covered, which include "moxie" and "teamship" and their importance to the sport. Bonus points for Summerer: Not one athlete's name is mispronounced. Fantasy players would do well to listen to this book to remember what goes into making great players, and teams. M.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Dodging from the orphanage to the workhouse to the back alleys of London, OLIVER TWIST is one of the best known and most beloved stories in English literature. To bring Charles Dickens's fine use of language, satirical eye, and spirited characters to life, producer and director Paul McCusker assembled a wonderful cast of British voice talents, including 11-year-old Joseph Holgate as Oliver, Honeysuckle Weeks ("Foyle's War") as Nancy, and OBE recipient Roy Hudd as Mr. Bumble. With the assured and gentle voice of James Fox ("Downton Abbey") as the "storyteller," the production finds just the right balance between narrative passages and richly dramatized scenes. Mix in BBC-style sound effects, location recording, and an original musical score, and the listener will experience contemporary audio theater at its best. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

This cast of eight actors has a tough challenge in turning THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU into an audio program. How do they make humans sound like half-pigs, half-monkeys, and other half-creatures? With sniffling, gurgling, growling delight, Matthew Posner and the other cast members tell Edward Prendick’s story of being shipwrecked on an island where a scientist has been experimenting on animals, turning them into human-animal hybrids. The ensemble can be forgiven for occasionally sounding overly dramatic. The sound effects team perfectly re-creates the sounds of a tropical island and all its animal and avian inhabitants. As the humans are driven by their mostly altruistic desires, they’re blind to the pain they inflict on everyone around them. M.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

This audio version of St. Aubyn’s darkly hilarious masterpiece is a masterwork in its own right. Patrick Melrose’s is a world of almost unbelievable privilege combined with harrowing cruelty and failure to love. Patrick is grievously, perhaps irretrievably, damaged and self-destructive, yet he is so bright and cynically funny about his plight and much else that you are as strongly engaged as you are horrified. Alex Jennings gives us Patrick’s inner life plus an amazing range of the people he shares it with across decades, from Provence to New York. If forced to quibble, one might say that Jennings’s Americans are slightly too broad. But in this great gallery of international voices, Jennings conveys class, age, wit, foolishness, snobbery, innocence, vanity, kindness, and vice with breathtaking nuance. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

This story collection is composed of 12 gothic dramas delivered by five narrators. Their accomplished portrayals capture the straitlaced manners and mores of the Victorian era. Highlights of the production include "A Whisper in the Dark’s" bone-chilling portrayal of genteel Sophia, whose uncle commits her to an insane asylum when she dares to question his authority. Cassandra Campbell's polished portrayal of Bedford, the stately butler in "The Mysterious Key," is also memorable. The mature and spirited portrayal of Maurice’s rehabilitation in "The Abbot’s Ghost," a Christmas tale of intrigue, is especially engaging. Together, the accomplished narrators invoke intrigue, suspense, and provocative themes, none of which are what most listeners expect in the work of Alcott. G.D.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

John Burroughs (1837-1921) was a New York naturalist/essayist whose timeless words are skillfully brought to life by narrators Brett Barry and Rolland Smith in two essays. In "Pepaction: A Summer Voyage," Barry takes us down the Delaware River with Burroughs. Listeners can almost see his shadow on the water and hear him complain when he discovers that a woman who sold him milk skimmed off the cream. Smith narrates "The Heart of the Southern Catskills," which takes listeners on a difficult climb through primitive woods. We get a quick glimpse of the mountains as the clouds briefly part. Each essay closes with an interview from Burroughs experts Diane Galusha and Bill Birns. Most memorable is a recording of the bird called Bicknell's thrush, which can be found only on Slide Mountain. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

The author reads his descriptive stories at a steady, poetic pace for the listener. Luis Alberto Urrea's narration is soft, almost tender, and raspy in parts. He shifts capably between the thoughts and dialogue of male and female characters, handling both with sensitivity. Urrea enjoys his prose, and so does the listener, as he describes the difficult choices facing people who live in the American West. His measured cadence doesn't prepare the listener for the twists and turns in many of the stories, such as the surprise ending in "Amapola," winner of the Edgar award in 2010. In the American West and Southwest of these stories, the landscape is harsh, lives even harsher, but Urrea's narration is as gentle as a whisper. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

British narrator Simon Vance is the perfect voice for this very British book, an early work by White about his disastrous attempt to train a goshawk. Fans of White's classic ONCE AND FUTURE KING will recognize how much of this goshawk, and what White learned from falconry, wound up in the magical training of Wart, the future King Arthur, by the wizard Merlin (merlin being a hawk). Readers of Helen Macdonald's recent, and wonderful, H IS FOR HAWK will already know much about this book and be fascinated by what it was like for White to try to teach himself falconry from medieval sources. Vance's performance is appropriately donnish, literate, and articulate. He conveys his appreciation for White's marvelous language with perfect pacing and unflagging attention. B.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Jamie Parker wisely avoids poetic affectation or awkward emphasis on rhyme or rhythm in reading Byron’s long poem on his European travels, which introduced the world-weary “Byronic hero.” Parker emphasizes sense, letting it direct his reading, but the rhyme and rhythm come through as a kind of lyrical, mellifluous prose, bathing the listener in a lush flow of words. His reading is admirably clear, expressive, and emotional. Listeners who try reading the poem themselves may find that Parker’s narration is actually easier to understand. Nonetheless, the density of allusions—references to earlier history and literature as well as to Byron’s own time—will make this a challenge for most listeners. It’s still worthwhile, in Parker’s rendition an absorbing and beautiful piece. W.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Through the lens of literary realism, George Eliot examines the female role through Hetty, a woman tempted by illusions of grandeur, and Dinah, a woman whose life is dedicated to a religious calling as a Methodist itinerant preacher. Both women impact the heart of the honest carpenter Adam Bede. Georgina Sutton offers an expressive narration of Eliot's novel. It's clear that she grasps the tone of the prose through her delivery of the narrative voice, a voice that Eliot fills with many speculative asides. Sutton also convincingly portrays the country dialect of several characters, especially Adam and his brother, Seth, who both come across as good-hearted and noble. Sutton's pleasant tone is engaging throughout and draws one into the drama in the fictional community of Hayslope. D.M.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Ronan Vibert’s bravura performance enhances the poetry and romance of Steinbeck’s first book, a novelization of the life of Henry Morgan, seventeenth-century privateer, though even his talent can’t always transcend the novel’s occasional silliness. He imbues the dialogue with quiet, intense emotion but stays appropriate to the characters and their situations. This restrained passion adds energy and color to the text, and draws the listener in. His character voices are skillfully varied, usually, and his variety of British accents is excellent, though his non-British women tend to sound the same. His tonal interpretations of the text show both taste and intelligence. Vibert does this minor work in the Steinbeck canon proud, turning the book into a play performed in the intimacy of the listener’s mind. W.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Alyssa Bresnahan grabs attention and never releases it throughout Sanora Babb’s deeply felt and deeply human novel dealing with the daily lives of Oklahoma wheat farmers and their families in the 1930s. They must cope with dust storms and the poverty caused by them, as well as the hardscrabble existence of life in the California migrant camps. Filmmaker Ken Burns featured this novel in his PBS special “Dust Bowl,” and Bresnahan brings so much truth to each character that it sounds as if we’re listening to a documentary in which real people are telling their stories. Bresnahan elicits every nuance from Babb’s seemingly simple dialogue while at the same time finding the precise voice and tempo for each of the many remarkable characters. Babb’s first-class novel is given a first-class performance. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Roy McMillan takes one of Stevenson's best horror stories and wraps his vocal cords around it with a reedy English accent that brings the dramatic sequences to a stunning conclusion. McMillan ably portrays the two friends who went to medical school together, studying under a doctor of questionable ethics. The duo's meeting, years later, in a bar leads to the story's rising tension and chilling conclusion. McMillan's clipped delivery and perfectly placed emphasis make this trip to the dark side a treat for horror fans and a good introduction for those not familiar with Stevenson's THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. R.O. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Edoardo Ballerini takes Clive James’s translation of Dante’s classic and breathes fresh life into it. From Hell to Purgatory to Paradise, Ballerini’s measured performance invites listeners to travel alongside him and compels them to feel the wondering anguish and pained revelations that Dante would have wanted his contemporary audience to experience. One particular benefit of Ballerini’s performance is that his pronunciation of the very little untranslated Italian vocabulary is spot-on, giving listeners the feeling that their experience is both authentic and impressive. Finally, his tone is modulated to match the material: His pensive diction in Purgatory, for example, differs from his account of the events in Paradise. N.J.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

The late poet laureate Cecil Day Lewis's translation of this Roman epic is idiosyncratic, but David Collins's narration is consistently gripping. This is no small achievement, considering how remarkably passive Aeneas is for an epic hero. Letting Virgil do most of the work of distinguishing the characters, Collins brings the drama to life. His portrayal of Dido is particularly moving. Even in this modern (and, to some tastes, too modernized) version, Virgil's classical Latin can be chilly. Collins adds the heat necessary to make us weep, if not for Hecuba, then at least for Dido and Andromache. There are several good recordings of THE AENEID, and we can add this one to the list. D.M.H. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Conrad's LORD JIM pieces together the events of a shipping disaster. It's a novel whose narrative structure is as elusive as the background of its central character. Narrator Ric Jerrom's masterful approach to characterization suits this work perfectly. For most of the story, Conrad's famous narrator, Marlow, recounts his perspective of the case in the manner of a modern bard. Jerrom captures Marlow's voice with a melodic cadence and a cheerful tone. Aside from Marlow, Jerrom skillfully produces a variety of accents for Conrad's multicultural cast. As the story of Jim unfolds through fragmentary accounts, Jerrom's performance makes listeners feel they're part of Marlow's audience. D.M.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

In the early days of the American Revolution, Dick Dudgeon--played with easy wit and sly charm by Derek Smith--returns home to New Hampshire to find his family quarreling over his father's fortune and leaning towards supporting the British in the war. The Devil's Disciple declares himself a Patriot and then finds that may mean making a great sacrifice, much to the surprise of the minister's wife, played with sweetness and verve by Lisa Pelikan. Brimming with Shaw's lyrical and insightful dialogue and augmented with the sounds of pealing church bells, fife and drums, and an anticipatory crowd waiting to see a hanging, the play rushes to a rousing conclusion, much to the distaste of the sharp-tongued British General Burgoyne, played by a wonderfully droll Richard Dreyfuss. Classic theater at its best. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Richard Poe's voice blends seamlessly with Steinbeck's in this account of his travels through Russia with war photographer Robert Capa following WWII. Thanks to Poe's consistent pace, careful diction, and friendly tone, both longtime Steinbeck fans and new ones will find themselves comfortable with his performance. His subtle emphasis on the more serious aspects of Russian travel nicely balances the humor of certain events, and it might be surprising to some how much humor is to be found in Steinbeck's travels. The only downside to the audiobook format is the absence of the photographs that appear in the print version, but this is no reflection on Poe's performance or the value of the audiobook. N.J.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

One recognizable characteristic of THE ILIAD in any translation is its extensive dialogue. Every character, mortal or otherwise, has something to say--and it's usually a lot. Dan Stevens has a gift for dialogue, so it's little surprise that his performance of this title is highly enjoyable. Whether listeners are familiar with the genre or coming to it cold, Stevens takes Robert Fitzgerald's translation and becomes a one-man show, making it accessible and exciting. One small criticism of Stevens's performance is that he sometimes gets so invested in the dialogue that he speaks a bit too quickly for every word to sink in--but this never continues for long, and it takes nothing away from the production's overall value. N.J.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

With droll understatement and easy, sly humor, Jenny Bacon and Jerry Saslow shine in this freewheeling comic one-act as a sister and brother who suddenly drop everything to travel to Europe. They’re in search of a cure for the sister’s terminal illness, ATD (Acquired Toilet Disease), which she contracted while teaching elementary school. This Obie Award winner was recorded live before an appreciative audience at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and employs a number of audio/radio-theater techniques such as quick scene changes, musical vignettes, and hilarious voice-over descriptions, asides, and observations. Paula Vogel wrote this jagged and seriously funny piece in reaction to her brother’s death of AIDS in 1988. It’s contemporary theater heard at its best and most vital. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

This audio achievement begins with narrator David Aaron Baker portraying writer Ralph Fielding Snell, who is about to interview a man who claims he participated in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Scott Sowers then narrates the bulk of the story as 111-year-old Jack Crabb. Sowers’s even pace and gritty voice make the old-timer’s amazing, slang-filled story vibrantly clear. Sowers perfectly captures Crabb’s mercurial disposition and compellingly recounts his many adventures—as a Cheyenne warrior, white man, drunk, merchant, gambler, miner, mule driver, gunslinger, soldier, and more. Henry Strozier reads the essay by Larry McMurtry at the end in a deep, comfortable voice that offers listeners a chance to reflect on the significance of this American classic. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Conrad’s fine character study of a lazy, disaffected secret agent in Victorian London, whose desire for a paycheck from his shadowy masters produces a disaster, is one of the world’s great novels. It’s also slow to start, which is why the excellent David Horovitch is so vital. His attentive pacing highlights Conrad’s beautiful language and minute social observations without contributing longeur, thus keeping the listener interested as the plot develops. His warm, rich tone and English accent are a pleasure to hear. And once the action kicks in, his characterizations of gravel-voiced Eastern-European wanna-be terrorists, plummy government officials, and put-upon London shopkeepers illuminate the points that Conrad is making and add to the drama. This is an excellent and timely reissue of a profound novel. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrators David Horovitch, Jamie Parker, Joseph Kloska, and Alison Pettitt and cast adopt the identities of the well-known characters of Bram Stoker’s classic: Jonathan Harker, Mina, Lucy, the Count, and others. As the story is told in a series of diary entries and letters, Dracula himself comes off as both charming and caring—until his true form is revealed. Highlights of this production include a childlike portrait of Mina and bone-chilling portrayals of Harker and Van Helsing as the tension of the twisted plot rises and Dracula's sinister powers and needs are revealed. Fans of the genre will be reminded just how psychically unsettling this horror story is. R.O. SYNC 2015, 2016 ALA Media Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Not everyone can do the magic trick of creating a whole world with voice alone. Accomplished though he is, Michael C. Hall's performance here seems oddly flat. His unnamed narrator is telling the story of an unforgettable girl he once loved when he was young and new to New York, at a time in his life when everything shimmered with intensity. But Hall gives us only lackadaisical recollection, not the fire, the glamour, the excitement of what the experience meant to the narrator at the time. Nor are Hall's character voices, starting with Joe Bell's, particularly persuasive. There's nothing incorrect here, and the production does the story no harm; it's just not as much fun as it should be. Especially if you're expecting Audrey Hepburn. B.G. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Clare Corbett elegantly delivers each fairy tale in this collection featuring “The Snow Queen,” Andersens's most beloved tale. Each is punctuated by enchanting classical music. When young Gerda's friend, Kai, is spirited away by the Snow Queen, she travels far and wide to rescue him. Corbett flawlessly handles each child as well as the many adults, birds, and animals Gerda meets. In “The Old House,” Corbett is particularly moving as a lonely old man, a kind child, and an emotional pewter soldier. “The Leap Frog” offers a lively flea, grasshopper, and princess, but most impressive is the stately voice of the king. These sublime stories demonstrate why audio is an ideal vehicle for a young audience to enjoy literature. S.G.B.

[More]

This audiobook is a rare treat that offers a peek at the past yet remains relevant today. When first published in 1873, Jules Verne's novel represented merely a dream for most people. Despite the quantum evolution of transportation since then, the book is still delightful--from Phineas Fogg's initial bet to the final culmination of his adventure. Michael Prichard's delivery is reminiscent of the no-nonsense style used by the narrators of newsreels. He adeptly captures Fogg's audacious nature, as well as the unique personality of his newly employed valet, Passepartout. The focal point of the story remains Fogg's attempt to circumnavigate the globe using every available type of transportation, including trains, boats, and elephants. No matter how Fogg travels or what he encounters, Prichard brings out his joys, fears, and bravura. D.J.S. SYNC 2015 © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Robin Field magnificently captures the tone and rhythm of Mark Twain’s classic novel. Most challenging for any narrator is the reproduction of the dialects, dramatic emphasis, and accents that are essential to the story, which on the surface is merely a journey down the Mississippi but, in truth, explores the coming-of-age of an “uncivilized” boy. Added reverb to some passages is an interesting production choice and adds to understanding the thought process of the protagonist. Field’s youthful tone and connection to the emotional core of the story anchor the action of the novel, creating a connection between the listener and Twain that adds an extra dimension to the pleasure of what is arguably the great American novel. R.O. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, SYNC 2015 © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

With its meandering paragraphs, colorful character names, and engrossing plots, Charles Dickens's masterpiece is magical in the audiobook format. Anton Lesser's performance is especially notable for its blend of the traditional and contemporary. He captures young Pip's transformation from downtrodden lad to society gentleman with all the typical trappings of Dickens's atmosphere: Precise accent, clipped diction, and mellifluous voice are gloriously present. However, Lesser's performance is also wonderfully modern in its pacing and phrasing. Where some narrators resort to fusty, passive vocals, wherein they allow Dickens to own the role, Lesser is fully involved and vivacious in each sentence, propelling the story continually forward. This version of a classic is bound to become a classic in its own right. L.B.F. SYNC 2015 © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Novels written from multiple points of view pose a particular challenge for the audiobook format; the listener must easily differentiate between the numerous voices. Collins boldly presents nearly a dozen character voices, and the narrators in this production masterfully perform their parts. Even those unfamiliar with the story can track its progress through the narrators, all of whom contribute unique performances. Those not used to British diction may experience occasional difficulty with Ronald Pickup’s Gabriel Betteridge, but Fenella Woolgar’s Drusilla Clack is delightfully humorous and expressive, and Jamie Parker’s narration is convincingly commanding, if a bit snide, as detective Franklin Blake. N.J.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

If you listen to this audiobook to hear the title story, you won’t be disappointed. But it’s fortunate that you’ll get to listen to 24 other wonderful stories before hearing “The Lottery.” With masterful performances, narrators Cassandra Campbell, Gabrielle de Cuir, Kathe Mazur, and Stefan Rudnicki bring to life the diverse characters and tales that make this collection so powerful and entrancing. Each narrator brings a different but highly complementary style to the material, giving life and meaning to Jackson’s characters and allowing listeners to appreciate the breadth of this work. Campbell's performance of “The Lottery” is particularly satisfying. She uses an even, almost calming, tone that contrasts with terror of the story and allows it to develop to its unforgettable conclusion. As for the other stories, each qualifies as a superb second best. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrating two short stories, Gildart Jackson deftly delivers the author’s vision of a possible future. In 1905, Kipling imagined a society in the distant twenty-first century largely under the command of an air-traffic superpower called the Aerial Board of Control. A cadre of citizens who desperately crave privacy and democracy cuts off communication with the ABC to protest. Jackson speaks smoothly with a voice that’s crisp and clear. While the primarily English male voices in the first story aren’t particularly distinguishable, each suggests a unique personality. Jackson demonstrates his real talent in the sequel, in which he switches effortlessly between a range of accents and pitches—English to American to Russian to Japanese to Italian, male to female—instantaneously from one to the next, soundly reproducing Kipling’s dark world. A.K.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Katherine Kellgren's performance wrings all of the emotion and suspense from Andersen's classic tale of friendship, innocence, wickedness, and despair. In a large, crowded town, two children become as brother and sister. When Kai is struck by a shard of magical glass, his heart turns to ice, and he's captured by the evil Snow Queen. His loving playmate, Gerda, risks everything to rescue her companion, meeting a host of strange characters on the way to the Snow Queen's palace. Kellgren becomes the restrained storyteller, an old witch, talking crows, and more as she spins Andersen's iconic story to its happy conclusion. Those who have been engaged by the alternative retellings of the past few years will be newly enchanted by the original. S.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Therese Plummer's narration gives a contemporary twist to Fitzgerald's somewhat lesser known--at least by GATSBY standards--but oft praised novel. Plummer's enthusiasm for the prose is palpable as her tone and timbre veer from velvety to harsh. Indeed, sometimes her energy becomes a distraction as there are sections where she seems to add an exclamation point where none is warranted. (For example, the sentence, "For a moment she stood beside him on the path!") However, Plummer's skill with varied voices and accents is without equal. She navigates Fitzgerald's glamorous world with panache, immersing the listener in the intense characters' personalities. The result is an entertaining production in which the narrative is as alive as the characters themselves. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

Even Steinbeck fans may not have encountered this collection of wartime journalism on WWII, and Lloyd James's narration makes the wait worthwhile. His voice is comfortable, confident, and confiding as he recounts stories about people rather than events. His delivery is just right for this audiobook as Steinbeck’s purpose was not to gather news, but to report the human side of the war. Some of the many short pieces are funny, and some are heartbreaking; all the people involved come across in their natural voices. Even though there are rarely more than one or two speaking characters in an anecdote, they’re always distinguishable by voice and accent. Like Steinbeck, James clearly appreciates each one of them. D.M.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

This early Hardy novel tells the story of a pastoral romance in the small Wessex village of Mellstock. Jamie Parker’s friendly, resonant tone adds warmth to a surprisingly cheerful work by an author known for his dour stories. Parker’s use of vocal variation in delivering Hardy’s descriptive prose guides listeners smoothly through the plot. He also demonstrates mastery in his renderings of local country dialects. The conversations between the choir members, who include an interesting range of ages and characterizations, are especially well performed, and his singing of various songs also enlivens the text. Overall, Parker’s charming performance adds much personality to this Hardy classic. D.M.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

A classic narrator reading a classic work is an unbeatable combination. Grover Gardner is one of a handful of readers who could make the phone directory sound interesting, but when he reads this novel about the infamous Confederate prison camp, the result is a performance that is hard to turn off despite the book's length. He varies his pacing and tone nicely to fit the material. His use of accents for characters gives listeners clear aural clues to whether a character is a Southern white, a slave, or a Northern soldier. But his restraint keeps this device from becoming distracting or cartoonish. His crisp diction makes even detailed passages and complex sentence construction flow easily. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

[More]

An enchanting and enthusiastic performance by Brooke Heldman reveals the magical world of this classic. As a miner’s boy helps Princess Irene escape from threatening goblins, Heldman’s buttery voice and gentle lilt create a bedtime-story quality in her narration. She skillfully captures the surprising and suspenseful moments with speedier pacing or drawn-out words. Her range of vocalizations brings out the youth and charm of the princess while also highlighting the darkness of the goblins without being too frightening. Crystal-clear audio quality, in addition to Heldman’s crisp articulation, adds to the allure of this timeless tale. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Tom Mison’s voice is delicious. His precise British diction allows listeners to savor Irving’s sumptuous descriptions and sly humor. There are many pleasures to be found in Mison’s rendition of the brief classic story, though a few instances of Irving’s casual racism grate on modern ears. Listen for yourself and discover why it has so captured our collective imagination. (Mison himself stars in “Sleepy Hollow,” the current TV incarnation.) Whether you’re familiar with the original story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman or not, Mison’s reading is a gratifying way to experience it. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

This classic promises an entertaining look at the corruption, duplicity, and ambition of Thackeray’s ironic narrator, Redmond Barry Lyndon. A confident social upstart, Redmond draws little empathy from the listener as he expounds upon his villainous actions to obtain wealth and prominence. Jonathan Keeble captures Redmond’s voice perfectly in his narration. Keeble has a deep, bold voice that becomes especially emphatic when his narrator grows heated, and his expert use of intonation often leaves Redmond’s veracity open for interpretation. This audiobook offers Keeble the challenge of creating not only the haughty Redmond but also a diverse set of characters, from Irish commoners to German aristocracy. Keeble meets the challenge admirably, providing a unique vocal personality for each character. His narration enlivens this intriguing fictional autobiography. D.M.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Sinister music opens this final Sherlock Holmes novella and adds dramatically to the atmosphere, particularly when murder is revealed. Narrator David Timson is sublime, whether he’s delivering narrative or portraying either Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson. Most unique are his renderings of Holmes's description of his archenemy, Professor James Moriarty, and Holmes’s impressive reasoning process as he sifts through clues. Almost as compelling is Detective Billy MacDonald of Scotland Yard--his personality and Scottish accent also demand listener attention. Sherlock Holmes's final words regarding Moriarty will give listeners the most pleasure: "You must give me time." It’s a promise that he WILL get his man. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

After a brief, informative introduction to Katherine Mansfield, Jenny Sterlin lends her crystal-clear voice and elegant pronunciation to this collection of 10 stories. Sterlin's exceptional grasp of Mansfield's subtlety ensures a controlled, understated performance that doesn’t miss a nuance. Her characterizations are spot-on in these short, beautifully constructed tales. Mansfield proves herself a master of the form, and Sterlin provides the perfect voice to give the stories life. The collection includes: "The Baron," "The Modern Soul," "Prelude," "At the Bay," "Bliss," "The Man Without a Temperament," "The Daughter of the Late Colonel," "The Garden-Party," "Miss Brill," and "The Doll's House." S.J.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Against all advice, cathedral dean Jocelin sponsors and directs the construction of a 404-foot spire. Narrator Benedict Cumberbatch's dramatic performance is well matched to Golding's stream-of-consciousness novel, set in medieval England and told from Jocelin's point of view. From soft whispers to shouts of anger, the deliberate variations in volume connect listeners to Jocelin's out-of-control emotions. Cumberbatch's distinctive voices and pitch-perfect pacing bring out the characters' strong reactions, especially as the dean argues with the master mason, defends himself to the church council, and struggles against his lust for a servant's wife. Particularly impressive is Cumberbatch's portrayal of Jocelin's slow disintegration into madness as the dean is overcome by angelic visions and what he believes to be divinely inspired passion. C.B.L. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

The pairing of a narration by the greatest living evolutionary biologist, Dawkins, with the words of the greatest naturalist of all time, Darwin, is a stroke of genius. Darwin’s record of his five-year voyage across the globe—from Brazil to the Galapagos, from New Zealand and Australia to South Africa—is elegantly written, with profound insights and observations. Professor Richard Dawkins’s love for the subject matter shows in his gracefully precise articulation and mellifluous tone. His euphonic tone and precise but natural articulation make this adaptation of Darwin’s journals a pleasure to hear. S.E.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Simon Prebble is the ideal narrator for one of the first science-fiction novels ever written. He captures the atmosphere as well as the accents and personalities of the men to whom the Time Traveler--he has no other name--shares his astonishing story of a time machine that takes him more than 800,000 years into the future. Listeners will feel that they’re with the Time Traveler as Prebble describes a future England and the bizarre people he encounters. Prebble’s pacing and conversational style are just what's needed for this amazing saga. Audio makes the incredible story seem almost real. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

In Eliot’s classic, a bitter man finds happiness in the adoption of an orphaned child. Narrator Anna Bentinck’s pleasant cadence immediately draws listeners into the story. Because Eliot includes a diverse cast of characters, from illiterate farmers to country squires, Bentinck is frequently called upon to deliver unique accents and personalities. She does so splendidly. At one moment, she portrays the cautious yet thoughtful weaver, Silas Marner, and at another, the bold and provoking young squire, Dunstan Cass. Bentinck seamlessly executes conversations between characters so that the dialogue flows naturally. The novel delves into the secrets and passions of human nature, and Bentinck’s energetic, sincere reading animates Eliot’s touching story. D.M.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

With standouts Calista Flockhart and T.R. Knight, this full-cast performance transforms a dark drama marked by unfulfilled and mislaid passions into a hypnotic look at the lives of deeply flawed and painfully recognizable characters. Kosta loves Nina. Nina loves Trigorin. Trigorin is happily seduced by Nina's youth and adoration. And then there's Irina, mother of Kosta, lover of Trigorin, and leading lady of the Russian stage; she, too, loves adoration—and herself. As Kosta, T.R. Knight’s light, energetic voice conveys the audacity of youth but eventually deepens and slows in response to repeated rejection. Using her voice to suggest seduction and control, Calista Flockhart is magnetic as Irina. Listeners will be mesmerized. A.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Cast members find every nuance of emotion as they dramatize passion, innocence, obligation, and madness in this Wilde production. Kate Steele gives a tour-de-force performance as the beautiful and sensual Salomé, who demands the head of John the Baptist as payment for her dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils for her cruel stepfather, King Herod. The production features a top-notch cast and an original score. First performed in French in 1896 and banned in England for almost 40 years, Wilde’s lyrical and evocative play is a feast for the ears. Every word deserves careful listening. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

These classic tales from the master of the short story are narrated by the masterful Frank Muller, a perfect match. This collection is emotional and insightful for the listener, and made even more so by Muller's perfect pacing, his performance of a wide range of diverse characters, and his ability to add tension to his voice as he nears the surprise endings O. Henry is best noted for. Listeners looking for stories guaranteed to bring a smile to the lips and a lump to the throat will find Muller's narration the best way to enjoy these timeless treats. R.O. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

With his regal delivery and majestic sense of pacing, Dan Stevens is the ideal narrator for Homer’s epic tale. The challenges that Odysseus encounters on his return home from war are as riveting as always—dangers and temptations and obstacles rear up without respite as his family awaits word of his safety. Stevens leaps into the text with apparent relish, enunciating Fitzgerald’s fine and comprehensive translation with painstaking precision and infusing the story with life. While the performance is excellent and the text remains timeless, the recording is best appreciated in segments rather than long listening stretches. The grandiose style, while suited to the audio format, can become overwhelming after a while, not unlike Odysseus’s journey did for the hero and his family. L.B.F. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

John O'Hara was a master of documenting social relationships, and he had an uncanny ear for capturing American speech of the mid-twentieth century. Here, an assortment of talented narrators—including Jon Hamm, Richard Kind, and Gretchen Mol—give voice to a fine assortment of his New York stories with remarkable finesse across the board. Each narrator handles the rapid-fire shifts in accents with aplomb. A wide array of O'Hara characters is vividly brought to life: faded Hollywood celebrities, New York socialites, past-their-prime businessmen, bartenders, cab drivers, thugs, and Irish maids. This production of some of O'Hara's best stories creates an immersive snapshot of a bygone era in New York. S.N.M. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Clive Swift and Chris Larkin lead an ensemble of talented storytellers to take on this classic story of mystery and suspense. Accents are handled with professionalism and round out the creation of the characters’ clearly defined personalities. The narrators also build tension in their deliveries and are both haunting and detailed in their descriptions. Musical interludes add to this production, creating a sense of time and place. Listeners will be astonished by the effectiveness of this early form of the detective mystery. R.O. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

In Graham Greene's masterful 1953 examination of the mysteries and quirks of love, family, and faith, a seemingly normal romantic couple, voiced with easy naturalism and subtle intensity by Julian Sands and Kristen Potter, return to the woman's gothic girlhood home in London. There they find an elderly, infirm uncle and two maiden aunts who have a number of secrets to keep. Peerless British character actors W. Morgan Sheppard, Jane Carr, and Judy Geeson have a wonderful time finding the dark comic rhythms and eerie pathos in every line. But when her lover's wife appears on the scene, one can hear in Potter's clear, fragile delivery the tragedy that most likely is waiting in the wings. A classic of modern British theater. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Frank Muller does wonders with the story of foppish Humphrey Van Weyden, who grows stronger after his experiences at sea. Muller’s chilling interpretation of the sadistic captain, Wolf Larsen, is outstanding, lending an air of anticipated violence as conditions aboard the Ghost grow more dire. Given London’s well-drawn characters and thrill-a-moment plotting, including a shipwreck and a mutiny, Muller creates genuine personalities for major and secondary characters. It’s always possible to tell who’s speaking without the usual identifiers. One of audio’s finest voice actors, Muller performs London’s exciting adventure in a way that is completely satisfying. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

L.A. Theatre Works' "radio theater" production of Ibsen's classic play about environmental contamination, science, dissent, and hypocrisy offers a well-rounded audio theater experience. Very little in Ibsen's original work requires theatrical action, and, when it does, the LATW cast--including Richard Kind, Rosalind Ayres, Gregory Harrison, and Josh Stamberg--and the production team do an excellent job of conveying it through sound. Like most dramatic works, the two-hour play is best enjoyed in one or two sittings. Ibsen's themes remain relevant, almost prescient, nearly a century and a half after he wrote this play. F.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

A story of isolation, passion, and misplaced lovers, Hardy’s classic novel is moving and enigmatic. The almost druidic nature of the fictional Egdon Heath sets an ominous atmosphere that permeates the novel. Nicholas Rowe’s narration is both subtle and resonant. He has a soft, melodic way of speaking that resonates with Hardy’s vivid descriptive style. Rowe’s steady pace throughout the reading allows the listener to take in the complex images that Hardy creates through meticulous diction. Rowe also captures the characters expertly. The passionate Eustacia speaks hurriedly and emphatically while the removed Wildeve embodies disinterest and brevity in his speech. Through Rowe’s compelling performance, this production is a masterful portrayal of Hardy’s haunting novel. D.M.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Set in California’s Central Valley, Steinbeck’s novel tells the story of four brothers from Vermont who settle in the West. Mysterious Joseph, loyal Thomas, pious Burton, and rebellious Benjamin all contribute an individual influence to the land. Jonathan Davis’s narrative style mimics Steinbeck’s unhurried prose. Filled with environmental description, the novel profits from Davis’s calm, detailed narration. His vocal characterizations are equally well suited to the work. The protagonist, Joseph, is portrayed in a firm, almost monotone voice, characteristic of his thoughtful nature. Davis also skillfully portrays Hispanic and regional accents. His carefully executed reading enhances Steinbeck’s unique narrative voice. D.M.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

It all starts when a long forgotten letter is found in the attic. From 1938 to 1940, 10,000 European Jewish children were relocated to Great Britain to live with adoptive families. Only the children were allowed to leave. Their parents had no choice but to stay in Europe and endure WWII and the Holocaust. Emmy Award winner Jane Kaczmarek ("Malcolm in the Middle") leads a fine cast, including Susan Sullivan and Molly Quinn (both of "Castle"). Together, they voice characters over three generations (adoptive mother, daughter, and granddaughter) and over seven decades as they examine the complex emotions of what it was to be a child and survive. Once again, LA Theatre Works illustrates how one-act stage plays can be seamlessly, convincingly, and passionately adapted to audio. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

What makes the NORMAN CONQUESTS trilogy so listenable and so entertaining throughout is that all six actors never lose track of their characters. This isn’t a broad comedy with broad comic types. Every line sounds as if it were meant to be said, no matter how silly, and there are some wonderfully silly lines. The action in this third installment takes place in the garden outside the family home. Here Rosalind Ayres, Jane Leeves, (FRASIER), and Carolyn Seymour all realize that Norman has made a drunken pass at all three of them, even his own wife, and although none of them sound like they want to go to dull, damp Bournemouth for a quick tryst, in the end Norman has conquered all our hearts. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

It’s a pleasure to encounter BUTTERFIELD 8 in this new audio version, especially if your most recent memory of it is the image of a young Elizabeth Taylor in high heels and a slip. The 1935 novel is dated but no less entertaining for that, and narrator Gretchen Mol inhabits this time capsule with ease. She deftly distinguishes between male and female voices with just a subtle shift of tone. Making the young women sound distinct, however, is less successful. Mol’s men also sound much alike, and you can’t always hear that one scene has ended and entirely different characters are speaking. Nevertheless, Mol’s pacing and dialogue are effective, and this tale of a beautiful doomed club kid of the Prohibition era is engaging. B.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

JACOB’S ROOM, a classic modernist text, is more about language and the art of fiction than it is actually a story, which means the narrator has to be as alive to the pleasure of the exact right word as a thriller narrator is to the power of a car bomb. Juliet Stevenson is a perfect actor for the challenge. Her voice is lovely, her diction clean and precise, and she is so sensitive to nuance, to the rhythm of Woolf’s sentences, that she communicates her own excitement at Woolf’s achievement in a way that delights and even instructs. There is much beauty here, owing equally to Woolf’s art and Stevenson’s, and the ending is indelibly moving. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator George Guidall provides a splendid narration of this two-part classic reference work. In Part One, Bulfinch suggests that this work is for the listener who wants to understand literary allusions, since many derive from stories found in mythology. Under Guidall’s artistry, poetry from Lord Byron and Milton illustrate the point, while familiar stories such as those of King Midas, Pygmalion, the Golden Fleece, Ulysses, and many others are told exactly as they should be, as if your favorite uncle were reading to you. Stories that have multiple versions are told more faithfully and more thrillingly here, thanks to Guidall. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Steven Crossley provides a riveting performance of Oscar Wilde’s classic tale of morality, hypocrisy, and depravity. Wilde’s subtle, ironic comments are handled with ease by Crossley. He delivers Dorian Gray’s fateful statement - -“If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! . . . I would give my soul for that!” -- with all the flamboyance of the young British sophisticate. Crossley’s delivery of the lighthearted banter between nineteenth-century fashionable folk is musical; whereas, as Gray’s dissipation becomes evident, he creates spine-tingling horror. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator and Dickens expert David Timson becomes a partner with the great novelist to bring to life this classic tale about a shipping magnate and his family and business interests. With his appealing voice and understanding of the story, Timson handles the accents and dramatic scenes with a thoroughly professional performance, but it’s his sensitivity to the portrayals of the individuals that makes this listening experience extraordinary. Timson’s talented and well-versed interpretation is a study rich in fascinating detail and engaging drama. R.O. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Norman Dietz sounds as if he’s having as much fun performing this novel as listeners will have hearing it. As the story’s first-person narrator, Axel, Dietz sounds appropriately incredulous as he tells the tale of his uncle, Professor Otto Lidenbrock. Dietz portrays Lidenbrock as an impatient, crazed man, incapable of focusing on more than one thing at a time. Lidenbrock is obsessed with an original runic manuscript that claims to reveal a passage to the center of the Earth. From chambers of combustible gases and a battle between prehistoric creatures to giant insects and a herd of mastodons, Dietz delivers a thrilling journey down into the depths of Jules Verne’s imagination. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

As its title suggests, the last completed novel of Steinbeck echoes themes from Shakespeare’s RICHARD III. The novel takes place in small New Baytown, a community that prides itself on its heritage. For Ethan Allen Hawley, however, the future holds the key to success. The listener follows Ethan down a path of corruption as he strives for his conception of the American dream. David Aaron Baker’s calm, measured narration sounds friendly and familiar. He accomplishes a superb portrayal of Ethan, giving flawless intonation to a character whose sarcasm and honesty often intermingle. Baker’s vocal characterizations are convincing whether he is portraying the flirtatious Margie Young-Hunt or the belligerent town drunk, Danny Taylor. Baker’s consistency throughout renders a strong overall performance. D.M.W. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

An outstanding group of actors performs this full-cast production of Oscar Wilde's droll look at society’s double standard. They deliver Wilde’s bon mots with the polished style of the period. "I can resist everything but temptation," is delivered by the roué Lord Darlington with great good humor. Maintaining the elevated energy necessary for good theater, the actors keep the interactions between the characters sparkling. Others of Wilde’s most famous one-liners are handled with aplomb, and lovely music separates the scenes, making this an especially good fit for audio. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

This noir classic is voiced with the just right amount of innocence, arrogance, and aplomb by the perfectly cast Kelsey Grammer. In 1947, American writer Holly Martin arrives in the war-ravaged city of Vienna expecting to meet an old friend but soon finds himself acting as an amateur detective in a murder investigation. What happened to Harry Lime? Was he hit by a car, or was he pushed, or was it something else altogether? Grammer's old "Frasier" partner John Mahoney does solid work as the voice of military investigator Major Callaway, and British actress Rosalind Ayres shines as the lost and beautifully enigmatic Anna Schmidt. This taut audio adaptation closely follows the original Graham Greene film script right down to using the Anton Karas theme music. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Gibbon’s monumental history of the later Roman Empire and its fall is given a spirited treatment by David Timson, who narrates with expressiveness, brisk pacing, and intonation and modulation sensitive to the sense of the text. He fully uses the rare opportunities for voice characterization or acting—in the reading of letters, for instance—but without overdoing, keeping the expression appropriate for a serious history. His very British accent helps provide a clarity much needed in the coils of Gibbon’s sometimes complex syntax. At times, however, he’s a shade too quick for dense prose laden with archaic usages, ancient place names, and many obscure personages, and the listener can get lost. But overall, he provides a fine reading of this massive and difficult work. W.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

As is typical of Charles Dickens, NICHOLAS NICKLEBY contains a myriad of characters, and as is typical of Simon Vance, he skillfully handles each one. In an epic listen, Vance's smooth, pleasant voice regales listeners with the title character's search for his place in the world after the death of his father. Capturing the essence of characters ranging from noblemen to country folk, the seasoned narrator appropriately injects his voice with smugness, innocence, and everything in between. The pacing is perfect—Vance rapidly delivers Mrs. Nickleby's comedic ramblings and slows his speech to a crawl when portraying the simple Smike. His female voices are particularly noteworthy, sounding soft and natural. Like the novel itself, Vance delivers a performance that is both poignant and humorous. M.D. 2012 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Simon Vance can hardly be equaled as a Holmes narrator. He carries the stories with cultured British upper-crust intonation, merging seamlessly into characterizations that are distinct, believable, and enjoyable. The variety of characters comes across as realistic, and that includes the various British classes of the time as well as foreigners of various nationalities, including an accurate portrayal of Americans. The Holmes aficionado has quite a variety of productions from which to choose. But Simon Vance is among AudioFile’s Golden Voices; it’s hard to beat that. D.R.W. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

A celebrated essayist a century ago, Hillaire Belloc is scarcely remembered today. This account of his travels through Scandinavia in 1938, 43 years after his first visit there as a boy, could be a niche title. But Alex Hyde-White’s splendid British enunciation breathes character and immediacy into the prose. Two bygone eras are thus evoked, each with a certain narrowness and innocence of vision that, today’s listener can’t help remembering, would soon be swept away by war and social change. Belloc’s visit to Elsinor is a high point here as history and literature merge, and a succession of centuries blends into an image of place and time, a way of living with the natural world and ourselves, that’s gone forever. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Norman Dietz does not disappoint in this comical and oftentimes poignant collection of seven Mark Twain short stories. He’s as comfortable with delivering the rustic speech of Jim Smiley, the notorious bettor who gets hoodwinked in the title story, as he is with portraying an exasperated Adam as he copes with Eve in the Garden of Eden in "The Diaries of Adam and Eve." There’s a deadpan quality to Dietz’s comedic delivery that adds to the humor. The smooth, deep tone of his voice is pleasing to the ear—but can make his female characters sound too masculine. Some listeners may find the pacing a bit too slow, but it seems fitting for a collection written during a simpler, less hurried time. M.D. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

In this intimate and compelling drama, Victor and Esther Franz stand in the attic of Victor’s late father’s brownstone apartment building in the heart of New York City. The award-winning Richard Dreyfuss and Amy Irving bring such a familiarity and naturalism to these roles the listener can sense the stillness and the dust in the attic and feel the characters sifting through a lifetime of memories. When a 90-year-old Yiddish antique dealer and Victor’s brother, played with vocal realism and depth by Timothy West and Harris Yulin, come puffing up the stairs, a “price” is named for every family heirloom and every missed opportunity. The entire cast finds majestic sadness and life in every word of this classic by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Arthur Miller. American theater at its best. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Faced with a large cast of characters, narrators have two choices: invent a lot of distinctive voices or capture each character's mood and depend on the author to clarify who is speaking. In this production, two masters—Dostoevsky and Guidall—combine to keep us riveted without the distraction of excessive impersonation. Yes, there’s a lot of discussion of philosophy (this is a Russian novel, after all), but George Guidall’s narration helps us to understand how passionately vital that is to most of the major characters. Politics and philosophy are literally issues of life and death to Nikolai Stavrogin and Alexei Kirilov and Stepan Verkhovensky and the people who get entangled in their lives and secrets. Guidall makes it thrilling. D.M.H. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

In this re-release of a well-known classic, Frank Muller creates a world made for audio. His performance lifts the words from the page and turns them into flesh-and-blood characters with aches and torments. Each accent fits the character, and each character sounds authentic. Union soldier Henry Fleming faces his first battle and runs away. Muller turns Henry’s shame at his act of cowardice into something as tangible as the “red badge” he longs for. Muller’s pacing is exceptional in battle sequences, and his quiet moments can be tender. Henry’s plight combined with Muller’s vocal artistry makes this utterly engrossing listening. S.J.H. SYNC 2014 © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Stacy Keach sets the perfect subdued tone for this thought-provoking collection of short stories. Keach’s narration fits Hemingway’s simple writing style with understated accents and emotions. The stories have a complexity beneath the surface that is difficult to grasp just by listening—yet listening is a pleasure. Many of the stories feature an American character named Nick Adams at different stages of his life. Other stories offer snapshots of WWI, bullfighting, horse racing, and other topics. Keach’s voice enhances the images—whether harsh, surprising, or even puzzling—without infringing on the writing. The addition of haunting music between the chapters adds to the ambience. M.M.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

Sean Barrett adopts a reminiscent air as Adso, now an old man, tells of a time when he was a novice traveling with Brother William. Brother William was tasked with investigating charges of heresy at an abbey in 1327 and ended up also solving a series of murders. Barrett deftly handles the Latin phrases (no translation provided) and the long passages of church history and politics that are woven into the interviews and inquiries of Brother William. The general tone is reflective of the quiet monastery setting; however, Barrett finds opportunity for artfully varying the pace and attitude. Chapter introductions and the preface are narrated simply and clearly by Nicholas Rowe and Neville Jason, respectively. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Zola’s 1867 novel portrays adultery and murder with extreme naturalism, and narrator Kate Winslet reads as though she is relishing every morsel of the drama. Since there’s not a lot of dialogue, Winslet easily changes characters by simply lowering her throaty voice to a growl for angry men or by adding a touch of disreputability to show a wanton woman. She clearly loves the book, and her pleasure in the text is infectious. The novel is almost 150 years old and could have seemed dated, but Winslet throws herself into a take-no-prisoners performance. With her crisp, clear, yet sensuous reading, she grabs listeners and doesn’t let go. G.D. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Unfolding mostly through the eyes of two children, James Agee’s somber novel recounts a father’s death and its impact on his family. The events of the book move slowly as the story focuses on the emotions and responses of Mary Follet and her two small children, Rufus and Catherine. Lloyd James narrates with a careful cadence, clearly rendering the plot in low tones and making each character distinct. He captures each family member’s cautious restraint, revealing the ever present tension between self-control and emotional outburst. The gravity of James’s tone suits the solemn occasion of the story, making for a thoughtful and conscientious narration. D.M.W. 2013 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Stefan Rudnicki and Bronson Pinchot work eerily well together to bring a dozen of Edgar Allan Poe's works to life. Pinchot's pacing and timing are impeccable—from the frantic whispers of a tortured man's startling confession in "The Fall of the House of Usher" to the matter-of-fact tone he gives a madman who hides a dismembered body in "The Tell-Tale Heart." In “The Raven,” there's a guttural, almost growling quality to Rudnicki's voice that's as dark as the feathers of the bird itself. Throughout the production both narrators add suspenseful pauses that have just the right spine-tingling effect. M.D. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

In this dark character study, the first sounds the listener hears are faint music, then sirens, then the echoing frightened voices of detainees in a damp Nazi holding cell in Paris, 1942. They're the voices of men in trouble who are wondering how they'll survive and who is to blame. The despairing tones of an electrician (Arye Gross), a painter (Jon Matthews), a doctor (Raphael Sbarge), and six others who are arguing about who deserves to be sent to a concentration camp aren't pretty to hear, but they're mesmerizing. L.A. Theatre Works perfectly captures the black-and-white Cold War ambiance of this 1964 one-act classic. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

In this irreverent and warmly silly ode to America’s number one G-man, longtime comic collaborators Harry Shearer (THIS IS SPINAL TAP, THE SIMPSONS) and Tom Leopold (SEINFELD, CHEERS) gathered up a veritable who’s who of American comic voice talent—from Dan Castellaneta to Christopher Guest and Annette O’Toole. Together they deliver a rousing send-up of the modern American musical. Sounding as Tin Pan Alley as humanly possible, Kelsey Grammer, as the FBI’s foundering director, J. Edgar Hoover, and John Goodman, as Hoover’s protégé, Clyde Tolson, happily sing their hearts and lungs out on their way to taking modern American history to new hilarious heights. Biting satire never sounded so in tune. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Ben Stiller was not only aptly cast in the recently released movie of the same title, he’s also sublime as the entertaining narrator of Thurber's original short story. A timid man escapes his boring life by living in his imagination—which is full of fantasies of daring heroic adventures. Stiller grasps this concept by imbuing each new character that Walter Mitty assumes with a bold creative voice. Mitty’s fantasy world is in direct opposition to his melancholy existence, which is, of course, the point. Although the short story is brief, Stiller continues the audiobook by imparting his interpretation of the story and its lasting significance and relevance. A.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

[More]

Narrator Susie Berneis lends this production the perfect blend of respect and contemporary wit. With a decidedly modern, warm voice, she embraces every nuance of Wharton’s social commentary without coming across as too formal or irreverent. The listener is immediately gripped by protagonist Lily Bart’s unique situation as an unmarried woman of a certain age who attempts to have some small control over her future in a world dominated by male figures and moneyed families. Berneis is simply wonderful—gorgeously precise with Wharton’s lovely prose and quietly prescient with the cold undercurrents of New York society. The classics endure because they capture what makes us human; Berneis’s humanity makes this an enveloping listen. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

This wonderful full-cast rendering of Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning play loses little in the staged recording. The gathering of vocal luminaries brings passion, poise, and panache to the narrative in a memorable audio performance. The subtle but completely appropriate sound effects are exciting and superbly amplify the angst and drama. There are seven active character voices, and while it’s sometimes a bit difficult to keep them all straight, the natural flow of the story helps the listener stay on track with who’s doing what to whom in this sometimes funny, sometimes brutally human drama. M.C. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

Well-regarded musicians and movie stars collaborate to benefit the Lenny Trusler Children's Foundation. Authors and composers, living and dead, such as Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Edvard Grieg, Claude Debussy, and Camille Saint-Saëns, are brought together in this collection of beautiful music and poetry. Standouts include Roald Dahl's modern Cinderella, who goes to a disco rather than a ball. Narrator Tom Conti's mature and commanding voice adds to the fun. Simon Pegg's witty rendering of “Silly Old Baboon,” by Spike Milligan, will have listeners chuckling to its appealing humor. Finally, the perfect bedtime story is “In the Dark,” by A.A. Milne, accompanied by Chopin's Nocturne Opus 9/2. Clive Owen's gorgeous voice slows and eventually fades out as sleep overtakes. Listeners of all ages will be entranced by this treasure. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

Hamilton’s classic examines the roots and purpose of mythology as it relates the Greek, Roman, and Norse tales that hold the seeds of so much of Western literature. Narrator Suzanne Toren does an admirable job of balancing the scholarly and the literary. She moves smoothly between academic theory and an entertaining retelling of classic tales, adding layers of new understanding to these ancient stories. Unencumbered by sound effects and assorted voices, the listener can focus on the power of the stories themselves and develop a new appreciation for how attuned to our deep-seated psyche and human motivations our ancient ancestors were. The attentive listener will come away from this listening experience with a basic understanding of how myth is integral to our present-day culture. N.E.M. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

Although all the characters in Thackeray’s famous “novel without a hero” ultimately disappoint in terms of heroic attributes, they provide a telling view of Victorian high society. Georgina Sutton’s colorful narration provides an enjoyable medium for listeners to experience this literary classic. She masters the irony of the author’s narrative voice with careful attention to his intonation. Her vocal characterizations are skillful. She creates the kindly lisping voice of Dobbin with as much ease as the sinister cadence of Lord Steyne. The character of Becky Sharp is as dynamic in Sutton’s reading as she is in upper society. Witty, cutting, and ingratiating in tone, Sutton’s portrayal ably captures this society darling. While addressing the nuances of Thackeray’s prose, Sutton produces an entertaining trip through a metaphorical “vanity fair.” D.M.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

As soon as one finishes listening to this audiobook, one wants to start right back at the beginning. Narrator Viggo Mortensen treats this beloved text with care, using quiet tones to portray the Little Prince and his travels. Mortensen’s narration respects the beauty of the language and the magical nature of the story. Subtle inflections let the listener know when the downed pilot is speaking and when the Little Prince is speaking, and music transports the listener between the scenes. Listening to this book allows its imagery to float into the listener’s imagination as the people and places of the young prince come alive. Mortensen is magical, just like the story. J.K.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

If you’ve never seen the author’s plays, then listening to them might be the next best thing. This collection includes all of Miller’s greatest hits: DEATH OF A SALESMAN, THE CRUCIBLE, ALL MY SONS, and more. What’s better is that they’re performed by excellent actors such as Richard Dreyfus, Stacy Keach, Julie Harris, Jane Kaczmarek, and a distinguished cast of supporting players in front of live audiences, allowing us to hear and feel the plays as Miller intended. Keach is especially good as Willy Loman in DEATH OF A SALESMAN, and Amy Irving shines as a woman who is caught in a disagreement between two brothers in THE PRICE. This is not an audio experience to be heard in one sitting but one to be savored over time. R.I.G. 2012 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Armando Durán’s bold performance of this much loved novel is infused with energy and enthusiasm. His voice is clear, with just a touch of appealing huskiness, which lends an air of realism to the love story. Devotees of Márquez should hurry to hear this version of the audiobook, for Duran’s pronunciations and his navigation of complex sentences are smooth and artful, offering lively characters and animated descriptions. It does take some concentration to get into the rhythm of the text; listeners new to Márquez may find the pacing too slow to unfold the action. Regardless, Duran is a skilled narrator whose affection for the material seems real. L.B.F. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

If it’s been a while since you tackled Goethe’s FAUST—like, forever—don’t wait a moment longer. John R. Williams’s sparkling English translation is delightful, full of wit and delicious rhymes, and would be reason enough to fling yourself at it, but this full-cast production more than doubles the pleasure. The actors play it as if we were all Faust and hell were going to be a lot worse than other people. The performances are marvelous, and the sound effects clever and often gorgeous (the choir!). After this rendering of “Walpurgisnacht,” you’ll never see Halloween the same again. One might call this Harry Potter for grown-ups, except that the good guys—well, I wouldn’t want to give away the ending. What a great theatrical experience. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine

[More]

The last half-hour of this fine production of Ibsen’s 1879 domestic tragedy is completely riveting. Nora (Calista Flockhart) explains to her shocked and confused husband (Tim DeKay) why she must leave her family. The sound effect of her final door slam (heard all over Europe, theater lore maintains) is rendered in this audio as something like a pistol shot. What is just as effective is the comedy that director Rosalind Ayres emphasizes in some earlier scenes. Eva Le Gallienne, a famous Nora, has written about the importance of comic relief in Ibsen, and this production proves that claim without compromising its powerful conclusion. The minor roles of Nora’s children (performed too stridently) are the only weak notes in this exceptional audio drama. G.H © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

The iconic imagery, so rich and engaging, in Pasternak's epic love story amid the Russian Revolution glows even more brightly in this new translation. Narrator John Lee matches the book's lavish descriptions with moving expression and depth of feeling. He ably pronounces Russian names and words while imbuing characters' emotions and strife, class and age with striking clarity. Although the foreword seems superfluous, given the popularity of the classic film, some new details emerge in this translation, released in celebration of the novel's 40th anniversary. Poet Yuri Zhivago's vivid and lovely musings, contrasted with the war-torn turmoil that surrounds him, sound even more intense. Based on the original text, this new rendering is worth revisiting to immerse oneself in the cataclysmic epoch and Yuri's poetic vision. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine

[More]

Simon Prebble is the perfect narrator for Charles Dickens’s complex saga of love, betrayal, and self-sacrifice during the French Revolution. Beginning in 1775 and continuing through the storming of the Bastille by French peasants to its inevitable outcomes, the story of Charles Darnay, Sydney Carton, and Lucie Manette is given new life in Prebble’s truthful characterizations. Leaving no doubt which person is speaking, Prebble’s vocal artistry provides each character with ingenious quirks and idiosyncrasies, allowing listeners to picture real people in a full range of economic conditions. From the infamous Madame Defarge to the villainous Marquis Evrémonde, Prebble heightens tensions, making even lengthy descriptive passages as vital as the social inequities and romantic entanglements. Here’s an undisputed classic given a fresh performance by a master audio actor. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

In Dickens's first novel, the many adventures, or perhaps misadventures, of Mr. Samuel Pickwick and his traveling companions are detailed in a series of interrelated vignettes ranging from the frightening to the absurd. David Timson is a one-man ensemble who skillfully portrays dozens of characters. He is equally adept at chilling the spine with the gravelly, breathy tones of a madman as he is at tickling the ribs with the clipped speech and perfect comedic timing of a bold charlatan. Even his female voices, while seemingly overdramatic, capture the delicate nature of Dickensian women, who are oftentimes prone to fainting spells and fits of hysteria. Like the novel itself, Timson creates a superb portrait of nineteenth-century England that Dickens himself might have declared “a capital performance.” M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Originally a Glasgow/New York stage production, Alan Cumming’s one-man reimagining of MACBETH is set in a psychiatric unit in which Cumming is the sole patient. Whispered stage directions work to heighten the profound creepiness of this production. Cumming’s Lady Macbeth is almost sickening in her thirst for power, and his Macduff is youthful, tragic, but resolute. But it is Cumming’s Macbeth who truly underscores the excellence of this audio. He doesn’t simply play Macbeth as an evil man who, bullied by his wife, acts on his ambitions and meets his inevitable bloody end. Instead, Cumming taps into a deeper facet of Macbeth, finding a man who initially seems more lost than avaricious and deepening the tragedy by suggesting that fate could have dealt Macbeth a different hand. A.H.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Does anyone still read John Steinbeck? This collection presents a strong argument that we should. Even if some of the stories— particularly “The Raid” and “The Murder”—show their age, Steinbeck's concerns, language, and powers of observation still deserve our attention. They deserve a fine narrator, too, and Holter Graham gives the language and characters subtle interpretations that draw us in and give us room to form our own understanding. His accents and voices are well chosen, but even the strong characters must share their positions with Steinbeck's wonderful sense of place. Geographic setting, always important in his work, is never more so than here in these stories of his native Salinas Valley. D.M.H. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Once again, the daunting elements of classic literature that might discourage a timid reader become irrelevant, thanks to a skilled narrator. ANNA KARENINA offers multiple plotlines, complex characterizations, sizable descriptions, and many, many Russian names. The active reading required by such a book is not exhausting in the audio format; in fact, Wanda McCaddon makes this literary cornerstone downright enjoyable. It’s not that she turns herself into every character or offers over-the-top drama. Instead, it is her consistency and sensitivity to the author’s tone that make this a wonderful listen. Her familiarity with the text and understanding of its nuances illuminate the work, making what might have seemed lofty, absolutely lively. L.B.F. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Rupert Degas demonstrates that he was the perfect choice of narrator for Bram Stoker’s collection of macabre short stories. Degas's graceful use of pauses adds a deliciously suspenseful edge to each work. With impressive versatility, he fluidly transitions from harshly accented peasant to appropriately haughty nobleman. With a dramatic flair, he expertly delivers both hushed tones and frenzied exclamations. Degas is guaranteed to make listeners’ hearts race even when they already know what’s coming. His performance of these superb classics will enhance its appeal for any fan of nightmare adventure. S.M. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

Ford’s four connected works, a neglected and sometimes problematic classic, track the blighted life of brilliant, aristocratic, and tremendously “old school” Christopher Tietjens before, during, and after WWI. Steven Crossley’s British-accented voice is rich and endlessly listenable. He keeps characters’ voices distinct and provides an array of accents differing by class and region. Rather than just reading, he performs a single-handed drama. His excellent pacing, subtle variation of intonation patterns, and sensitivity to the text seem natural and effortless. He enlivens the novels’ long interior monologues with variations of tone and emphasis that also interpret the characters’ thoughts and feelings, rendering them more vivid and comprehensible than most readers could on their own. Listening to Crossley read PARADE’S END is, in many ways, better than reading it oneself. W.M. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Maisie's parents, whose fecklessness challenges credulity, have divorced each other, then each abandoned their second spouses, then quit the stage entirely, leaving Maisie with two stepparents and a nanny in conflict, as all three of them seem desperately to want to keep and raise the orphan. Maisie, who has had virtually no education and spent almost no time with other children, is the narrator's great challenge, written as blankly innocent but with adult speech patterns and a hyper-attentive shrewdness. Lorna Raver makes her human. Her adults are even better, vivid and self-revealing, and outmaneuvered by Maisie. Raver's English accents are not perfect, but this distracts little from the pleasure of her performance, which is filled with intelligent empathy and human warmth for these unlikely characters. B.G. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Each part of this novel about success, spiritualism, mental health, and the soul is expertly delivered by a different narrator who perfectly projects the story's tone and energy. Samuel West's melancholic, refined air and emotional register reflect Geoffrey's experiences as a British schoolteacher turned concentration camp escapee. Christian Rodska's lower-class British accent and animated pacing telegraph Billy's rise from workhouse poverty to literate family man in Victorian England. Lucy Briers plays storyteller for Elena's journey from farm girl to famous scientist in a futuristic Europe. Sian Thomas's soft voice and spot-on French accent are perfect for Jeanne's transformation from Catholic orphan to maid for a mid-nineteenth-century bourgeois family. Rupert Degas seamlessly switches from male to female, British to American in the final story of American hippie Anya's musical career. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Steinbeck portrays his beloved Salinas Valley, California, in this sweeping montage of short stories. First published in 1932, they’re woven together by narrator Sean Runnette in passionate detail. Steinbeck’s characterizations are as rich as the fertile valley soil, and Runnette gracefully recounts the many experiences of each generation. The valley offers great opportunity for growing nearly any type of crop or flower, but there are also challenges presented by Mother Nature as well as human strife. As caretaker of these Steinbeck vignettes, classic takes on human struggle, Runnette keeps his voice steady—whether expressing celebration or sorrow. Steinbeck fans will be rewarded by Runnette’s care. S.C. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

The sinister tales of Edgar Allan Poe come alive in this live-performance reading. Each narrator takes ownership of a story, producing an eclectic mix. René Auberjonois gives a gripping performance as the deranged narrator of the “The Black Cat,” reflecting the anxiety and pride the protagonist portrays in perfectly concealing a murder, or so he thinks. Fionnula Flanagan recreates the eeriness of “The Masque of Red Death” as she performs the story with a slow, steady tone. Selected poems also take center stage, with readings of “The Bells,” “Annabel Lee,” and “The Raven.” Poe’s stories lend themselves to performance with their introspective narrators, and this audiobook really takes the listener into the minds of these complex characters. D.M.W. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

April 1963 found Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, for his leadership role in a Civil Rights protest there. Eight local religious leaders publicly admonished him for his participation, saying that it was particularly unseemly for a clergyman. The eloquence of the response King wrote from his cell, in which he defended "nonviolent, direct action" and argued against segregation, rings as clearly today as it did 50 years ago. Nobody can duplicate King's distinctive voice and presentation, but narrator Dion Graham presents this iconic document with a clarity and forcefulness worthy of its inspiring message. His rich voice, with hints of restrained anger and frustration, conveys King's driving passion for justice and equality. Historic value paired with a commanding presentation makes this brief audio a true gem. M.O.B. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

You see the book’s title, and you make certain assumptions. It’s a classic. It’s uniquely English. And it will capture (or recapture) your imagination as only great books can. If you’ve never read it, let this version be your introduction. If you’ve already experienced it in print, then indulge yourself in a terrific audio experience. From the very start—and I mean the first word of this production—narrator Simon Vance raises a banner that announces a once-in-a-lifetime performance that exquisitely matches narrator and text. Vance has a mellifluous English voice, an engaging tone, and marvelous diction. The elastic quality of his voice delightfully differentiates the myriad characters that live between Dickens’s pages. The result is a wonderful listening experience for all ages—not to be missed. R.I.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

Luke Daniels is a force to be reckoned with. His performance of Vonnegut's collection is so imaginatively wrought that he seems to identify with the individuals he portrays. He delves into the psyches of Vonnegut's diverse characters, reflecting their lively personalities. This collection of six short stories and one bold, bitter rant of an essay is compelling and addictive. Daniels jumps right in with engaging articulation, taking risks of expression rarely heard. The listener can practically hear his impassioned gestures. He deploys cute Midwestern twangs and pretty feminine wiles as well as the throaty growls of harsher beings. These stories trace simple lives and desires while illuminating motivations and hopes with amusing, and often dark, wit. A.W. Winner of AudioFIle Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

Miller’s PARIS 1928 grabs the reader from the beginning. Based upon Miller’s own experience in the City of Lights between the wars, the relatively short work covers a broad range of topics, including the impending Depression and the author’s diverse ruminations. The work, which encountered censorship when it was first written, excels in audio as performed by Lynn Hard. He captures Miller’s intense prose and offers a personal glimpse into the man known for such provocative books as THE TROPIC OF CANCER and NEXUS. Hard is simply terrific, delivering every line with enthusiasm and an ideal mix of wonder, irreverence, and heart. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Evelyn Waugh adored the aristocrats of his native England and repaid their generosity to him by writing malicious, amusing satires about them. In addition to such well-known novels as BRIDESHEAD REVISITED and VILE BODIES, he wrote short stories about his pompous, self-congratulatory friends and acquaintances. Lucky for us that the tales are now out in audio, narrated by the inestimable Simon Prebble. Whether navigating shades of snobbery in an outpost of the Empire or documenting a hapless honeymoon that leads to divorce, Waugh is merciless, and Prebble is marvelous. His shadings of accent, pitch, and tone color the characters and help listeners understand the social send-ups. And his attractively deadpan delivery of the narrative sections makes them all the funnier. Tongue-in-cheek has never sounded better. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Combining a deeply loved classic like THE GREAT GATSBY with a well-known Hollywood voice like Jake Gyllenhaal’s could create magic or disaster. Could there be competition between the two? Which side would come out stronger? This production strikes a graceful balance, with both big names blending to complement each other. Gyllenhaal’s reserved tone lends polish to Fitzgerald’s text, accentuating the mood of poetry that pervades the novel. His delivery is simultaneously youthful and experienced, aware of the subtleties of the characters and the plot nuances as he infuses them with life. Gyllenhaal controls his performance with style and careful pacing, seemingly keeping as reverent an eye on the novel as Gatsby himself kept on that elusive green light. L.B.F. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

Teen listeners may be happy to skip Ray Bradbury's literary introduction, titled "The Ardent Blasphemers"—which makes comparisons between Herman Melville and Jules Verne—and get right to the granddaddy of steampunk novels. This seminal science fiction work recounts the story of three survivors of an American frigate, sunk while searching for the sea monster that has been attacking vessels along international shipping lanes. The "monster" turns out to be the fantastic submarine NAUTILUS, led by one of the most notorious villains in literature, Captain Nemo. James Frain's sturdy pacing, clipped British accent, and mellifluous baritone guide listeners through the dense, dramatic text. S.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

[More]

Followers of the popular vampire literary and film interpretations of recent years might be blasé about another performance of the exquisitely written novel that started it all. But listening to this full-cast performance turns out to be remarkably suspenseful and chilling. The superlative cast lends this powerful production the diversity that is required by the structure of the novel, which includes journal entries and letters. Each actor employs various accents, infusing into the characters vibrant emphasis, urgency, and dread. The famed vampire Count Dracula leaves a swath of exsanguinated bodies in his wake as he attempts to relocate from Transylvania to England in 1897, stalked by the brave Van Helsing. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

When many people think of this title, their reference is the Academy Award-winning film starring Jack Nicholson, not Ken Kesey’s novel, which was originally published in 1962. Now its audio incarnation is certain to appeal to a new generation. Narrator John C. Reilly’s performance is superb. Reilly immerses himself deeply in the personalities who make the story so memorable, channeling their emotions with inflection, volume, and a strong sense of realism. Although told from the perspective of Chief Bromden, the presumably mute part-Indian patient in the book’s mental ward, the audio version succeeds so well because of Reilly’s portrayals of the pathologically controlling Nurse Ratched and Randall Patrick McMurphy, the irreverent inmate who devotes his energy (and obvious sanity) to opposing her every move. This is a performance to be remembered. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]

Probably any well-trained actor can make a good thing of Uriah Heep. Still, Nicholas Boulton’s Heep is miraculously visual. You’ll remember that in addition to being poisonously "’umble,” Heep writhes a good deal. Boulton somehow makes his voice sinuously whiney, such that you actually see Heep coiling one horrible leg around the other while he smarms somebody. Still, it was Boulton’s Betsy Trotwood who completely undid me. At her first cry of strangled outrage, "Janet! Donkeys!” I laughed out loud in the garden and startled the dog. If you haven’t read Copperfield since school, you’ll be surprised. The sentimentality seems worse than ever, but Dickens’s eccentrics are even more shrewdly conceived than you remember. Pair that with this glorious performance, and you’ve got audio heaven. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

[More]