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E.O. Wilson's newest book champions the idea of setting one half the earth's surface aside to preserve a significant portion of the wealth of biodiversity that is currently disappearing so rapidly. Narrator Jonathan Hogan's slow, clear baritone is easy to follow and reminiscent of Wilson's own unhurried presentation style. As always, Wilson's perspective is founded in his concern about the little creatures--from viruses to beetles--that do most of the work that allows ecosystems to function. Hogan's pacing is good, and he has very little trouble with the often arcane names--common and Latin--of the sweeping range of life Wilson discusses. This audiobook contains more excellent thinking by one of the nation's most prominent biologists and proponents of biodiversity preservation. F.C. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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There may be no more tragic story in America than the prevalence of black-on-black violence and the public dismissal of it as unimportant. Narrator Rebecca Lowman takes a low-key approach, and it works perfectly; this audiobook is so dramatic and sad that it doesn’t need any amping up. Jill Leovy hangs her exploration of the South Central district of Los Angeles on the death of teenager Bryant Tennelle, the son of a police detective with no gang connections, and the efforts of Detective John Skaggs to solve that murder. Lowman convincingly renders the decency and drive of Skaggs, who is white and who lives in the area, has an unbelievable work ethic, and believes justice is the key to prevention. The litany of death is depressing, but there’s some comfort in learning that there are heroes on the side of angels. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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For a hopeful outlook on the future of individual health and medicine, look no further than to oncologist David Agus. With a light, energetic voice, Agus reads the introduction, offering listeners his argument on why these are "the lucky years" when it comes to personal health. His focus is on prevention through information and the appreciation of each individual's "context," the unique variables that determine individual health outcomes. After the introduction, narrator Holter Graham capably takes over the reigns with the same contagious enthusiasm. When Agus underscores his assertions with data from many studies, Graham artfully uses inflection and careful pacing to prevent the listener from getting lost. An informative, engaging listen that will prove useful both during and between checkups! A.S. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Thérèse Plummer makes this research study on growing up female in the Digital Age sound at once enlightening, disturbing, and worthy of consideration. Based on interviews with more than 200 young women across the country ages 13 to 19, the audiobook raises questions about how sexual maturing and gender identity are being influenced by today's X-rated social media and easy access to near-anonymous sexual partners. The balance and grace in Plummer's performance neatly mirror the author's investigative neutrality and let this remarkable reporting speak for itself. This satisfying production provides an opportunity for people to think about how to help young people relate to each other as self-respecting individuals instead of objects of sexual entertainment or shame. T.W. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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This important work describes the plight of the millions of Americans living in extreme poverty through the stories of eight families across the Midwest, from Chicago to the Mississippi Delta. The accounts are both shocking and nuanced, illustrating both the burden and the complexity of extreme poverty in the United States today. Allyson Johnson’s strong, matter-of-fact alto voice presents the material clearly. She has taken the time to learn the names, both geographical and personal, that appear in the text. Her dialogue is excellent, making it clear who is speaking without distracting the listener from their stories. The authors are proponents of a new round of welfare reform in the United States and set out their solutions in the audiobook’s last chapter. F.C. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Alison Larkin evokes the listener's curiosity about this detailed exploration of relearning how to eat. Based on the premise that food preferences are learned, FIRST BITE argues that the key to changing one's diet and adopting healthy food choices is changing one's thinking, rather than receiving nutrition education. Larkin's diverse voices and lively accents bring out the international flavor of research that compares global food and eating habits. The plethora of information, which includes industrial and scientific influences on natural food and our eating habits, occasionally threatens to become dry listening. But these sections are effectively tempered by Larkin's lively tone as well as some of the book's surprising discoveries. M.F. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Therese Plummer’s well-tempered performance complements this book’s important message about food and agricultural biodiversity. Her solemn tone conveys the trend toward standardization being set by the American food industry, which the author believes threatens the biodiversity of our food. Plummer’s casual warmth brings out the down-to-earth pleasures of foods—especially bread, wine, and chocolate—and emphasizes the need to appreciate diverse foods and flavors, and the humble places they come from. Creating individual voices and accents for various interviewees, Plummer captures the richness of the countries and cultures that embrace the three foods she focuses on. Overall, Plummer’s narration depicts the author’s belief that how we eat honors how we celebrate the world and our sense of taste. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Tom Perkins is a very listenable narrator, and that's especially valuable when the material calls for some relistening, and gradual absorption. Noë's text is accessible, and he uses familiar references for all his points. But even the sophisticated listener will find his distinctions between art and perception--which often defy current theories of neuroscience and evolutionary biology--surprising, and difficult to take in the first time around. The extra time is well spent, however, and Perkins is especially effective at conveying demanding texts, for which the skill lies not in expressiveness but in steady pacing, precise enunciation, and a sure instinct for the value of every word. Provocative and thought provoking, Noë's contention that art objects are tools of perception opens up a broad new understanding of art, aesthetics, and human cognition. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

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Allison Aubrey and Dan Charles are the lively hosts who introduce this delightful collection of radio interviews, discussions, and stories celebrating food. Through easy banter with each interviewer, the production features heartwarming memories and laughter as chefs, food critics, entertainers, authors, and comedians—including Gaston Acurio, Mark Bittman, Alton Brown, Julia Child, and Ruth Reichl—share recipes, cooking tips, and their delectable and loving perspectives on food. Musical introductions set the mood, and background sounds of the kitchen add to the ambiance as interviewees reveal not only the large role food has played in their lives but also its vital part in maintaining cultural traditions and setting social trends. These engaging bite-sized interviews whet the appetite and leave one hungry for more. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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If you harbor a secret disappointment that Bill Bryson doesn’t read this sequel of sorts to NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND, rest assured—Nathan Osgood does a fine job channeling the slightly grouchy but nevertheless charming author. Osgood is outraged, droll, tolerant, or positively gushing when the text demands it. It isn’t the places that Bryson visits around Britain—from bottom to top but otherwise randomly here and there—that stick with the listener, although his rapture at the splendid beauty of the countryside will. It’s the people that Bryson meets and his reactions to them that remain etched in one’s brain. Particularly hilarious is his wrath at rude English shopkeepers, an elderly woman who refuses to clean up after her dog, and architects with plans to pave over famous greenspaces. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Eric Weiner journeys to places he believes are, or once were, global centers of creativity—from ancient Athens to contemporary Silicon Valley. It’s fitting the author narrates his own work. A former NPR correspondent, Weiner sounds like a radio host whose informal style has no hint of pretentiousness, though his pronunciation of many foreign names is awkward for someone so well traveled. His insightful exploration of how and why geniuses are the products of place and time also includes waypoints such as Hangzhou, Calcutta, Edinburgh, and Vienna. Along the way, he interacts with contemporary denizens of these “genius clusters” and discovers that each place features a unique though often short-lived culture that allowed it to nurture our greatest minds. D.B. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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What could be more appropriate for audiobook listeners than a story focused on the ability to hear? A deaf man who was brought up in a dysfunctional hearing family falls in love with a hearing woman raised by deaf parents. They discover that she's slowly losing her hearing and will soon be deaf herself. Narrators Russell Harvard and Susan Pourfar reprise their stage roles in Raine's taut and often comic play. The work examines the difficult choices that the deaf must sometimes make between the world of sound and the world of silence. Harvard, who was born into a third-generation deaf family, brings poignancy, honesty, and depth to the proceedings. Fine contemporary theater. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Emily Woo Zeller captures the voice of author Marie Kondo so perfectly that it’s as if the Japanese de-cluttering guru is speaking in person. Zeller uses delightful character voices during quotes from Kondo’s clients, conveys the wry humor in how tidying can actually change your life, and evokes a Zen-like quality to the advice on letting clutter go with gratitude. Zeller expertly conveys the author’s obsession with tidying, along with her self-effacing humor and nonjudgmental outlook. With advice such as allowing your handbag to rest at night, making a place for every possession (from your stockings to your kimono), and saying thank you to the items you discard, this audiobook is perfect for listeners looking for inspiration as well as those who enjoy Japanese culture. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Krakauer delves into the case files of several high-profile rape cases in the college town of Missoula, Montana, between 2008 and 2012. Though one might anticipate that a male narrator would deliver Krakauer’s powerful stories, Mozhan Marnò proves a great choice. Her commanding tone and cadence keep the flow between paragraphs. Where the text suggests it, she imbues hints of emotion without being heavy-handed. She also provides vocal characterizations that are in line with Krakauer’s portrayals. Her most powerful delivery comes in women’s firsthand accounts of their sexual assaults. Scott Brick book-ends Marnò’s narration with an introduction and author’s note, though it would have been better to keep Marnò or have Krakauer do them himself. L.E. 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Listeners will enjoy the diverse information packed into this well-done audiobook. Cokie Roberts, writer and narrator, focuses on Mary Todd Lincoln and the wives of significant leaders during and after the Civil War. Her ability to weave information from letters, diaries, and newspapers into a coherent and sometimes humorous whole is marvelous. She showcases the women of the Confederacy, who without legal power, managed to get their husbands better prison accommodations and, in one case, freed from prison using only wit, cunning, and persistence as their weapons. Roberts's pride in these women is clearly expressed in her voice. She exults in their courage. Whether listeners are from the North or South, all will appreciate this first-rate women’s history. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrating a most engaging lesson on being productive and influencing others at work, Alan Winter communicates a natural enthusiasm that makes you like him right away and trust his understanding of the authors’ message. His vocal personality, pacing, and articulation draw listeners in and make them want to stay connected. The two authors are executives at the famed Second City improv theater. They describe how people in any type of work group can be more authentic and how they can use their creativity and emotional intelligence to energize a work team and move them forward with a project. The seven steps offered are focused on staying loose, taking the initiative, and, above all, learning to not be afraid to express your spontaneous, productive self. T.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The stand-up comic and actor shows his intellectual side in this research-based discussion of modern love. Aziz Ansari narrates his extended look at how Americans' marriage habits have changed since the 1960s. Ansari recounts the details of extensive surveys, interviews, and anecdotes in a conversational tone. He maintains a casual approach in explaining women's rights, divorce laws, and the early days of feminism. In true comedic style, he interjects jokes into the reporting and often expresses what the listener may be thinking during anecdotes. Ansari's interest in research may be surprising, but his humor is essential to keeping the listener engaged in this well-covered subject. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Low-key urgency flows steadily beneath Kirsten Potter's appealing interpretation of this important audiobook about our diminishing ability to connect with people in intimate ways. Her clear phrasing, full of texture and sonority, makes listeners want to hear every syllable and comprehend every idea. She helps the author make the point that in this digital age too many of us have lost our ability to sense how others feel by indulging in the soothing but profoundly numbing addictions we have to our devices. Potter's attention to the flow of these ideas compels listeners to really think about Turkle's heartfelt invitation to stop our slide into emotional isolation by having the frequent eyeball-to-eyeball conversations we need to really understand each other. T.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Mirron Willis may not have the scientific expertise of author Neil deGrasse Tyson, but he does a compelling job delivering Tyson's love of science and the mysteries of the universe. Is there life on other worlds? Will humans ever reach Mars? How big is the universe? And what's up with Pluto? Willis speaks eloquently about these subjects, giving voice to a life of scientific investigation by one of the stars of space research. Willis's deep, rich voice even matches Tyson's, which is widely known through his many television specials about space exploration. There are no bells and whistles in this audiobook, just a lot of straight talk about the mysteries of the great beyond. And that's more than enough. M.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Like the Energizer Bunny, narrator Mike Chamberlain powers through this informative account of science and intrigue with an upbeat delivery. He details the history of energy storage as a prelude to the current quest for reliable long-lasting batteries, which pits China against the U.S. Listeners learn that a major breakthrough in lithium ion batteries will affect more than Teslas and iPhones--and hear about its potential impact on the oil industry, the economy as a whole, and climate change. Though packed with technical details and scientific minutiae, Chamberlain's delivery, combined with the engaging story and profiles of the battery geniuses, results in a well-paced audiobook. R.W.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrating this montage of reportage and poetic essays, Allyson Johnson captures every ounce of the pathos and shock contained in the stories of the racial injustice suffered by black athletes such as Serena Williams and others. Johnson’s measured drama and impassioned dialogue interpretations rivet the listener’s attention and awaken sensitivity to the racism that still exists in both public and private arenas. Her memorable performance provides auditory texture and impact for the audiobook. Many of the vignettes describe shocking injustices—malicious oversights and blatantly wrong athletic officiating that can only be described as crimes of fear and hate. The achievement of this audio is how it allows these stories and the author’s powerful perspective to compel more empathy and vigilance about this lingering problem in America. T.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Though Schwartz’s detailed account of Orson Welles’s famous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast in June 1938 can stand on its own, Sean Runnette’s narration enhances the experience and helps listeners feel the full impact of the work. In a deep but gentle voice, he deftly moves through each chapter, choosing the right emphasis, speed, and tone for each moment. Even when rereading passages from the radio script, Runnette captures the right tone and energy from the original production. Schwartz provides a unique take on the event by pulling together different elements such as the history of radio news broadcasting, Orson Welles’s background, and the cultural context of the 1930s. L.E. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Author Fedarko recounts the true adventure of a speed run through the Grand Canyon in a wooden boat during the terrifying 1983 flood. Narrator Paul Michael Garcia grabs listeners' attention right away with his ominous tone. There are some side trips, though, that are less gripping. The early sections of the audiobook provide background information on such things as the Spanish exploration of the region and dam building. It's interesting but a bit long. Garcia's graceful voice works well for the descriptions of the canyon’s beauty, but some listeners may still feel like listening to the book’s opening and then skipping to the second half. From there, Garcia delivers the drama of the run itself with every word, for an edge-of-the-seat thrill. Listeners will want to keep going to the last drop to learn the Emerald Mile crew's fortunes. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Michael Paterniti's evocative writing style is showcased in this collection of 17 essays. In delivering them, Richard Poe takes on the tone of a seasoned observer of humanity. Poe's contemplative and nuanced voicing helps the listener appreciate the depth of Paterniti's commentary on topics ranging from the trials and tribulations of a modern-day giant in rural Ukraine to the story of a tsunami survivor in Japan. With thoughtful and practiced pacing, Poe gives additional impact to a work that ponders the human condition in far-flung places around the globe. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Robert Fass's skill in blurring the line between author and narrator shines in this mix of memoir and random musings by a Swedish entomologist. Fass’s easygoing tone and natural cadences highlight the author's enthusiasm for life and his curiosity about a range of topics from hover flies to art and literature. Listeners will be charmed by the idiosyncrasies of field biology and will be caught up in the stories about what it's like to pursue a solitary career. Fass's expressive narration allows listeners to appreciate the author's wry and self-deprecating humor. In addition, he handles the Swedish and Latin terms without a hitch, maintaining the conversational flow of the essays. Warning: Listeners may be tempted to invest in their own fly nets. C.B.L. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Basketball wasn’t always the fast-paced, flashy game it is today, with slam dunks and long-ranging three-pointers. It was a simple game that came of age during the days of Jim Crow. Author Scott Ellsworth’s steady narration has just the right inflections of emotion. His well-researched stories and solid writing carry this book, a series of biographical portraits that culminate in the story of an unpublicized game between all-white Duke University and a little-known black college. Ellsworth’s voice gently shapes the stories of obscure players, and his research into the sport’s well-known vanguards—James Naismith, Phog Allen, John McClendon—is truly fascinating. Ellsworth’s reverence for basketball comes through in his narration as much as it does in his writing. M.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Peter Berkrot adopts a tone reminiscent of Mickey Spillane in delivering this examination of a master swindler from Chicago in the early 1920s. The narration, combined with the author's somewhat breezy style, makes for an enjoyable account of a con game so brazen that it wouldn't be matched until Bernie Madoff's scheme came along. Leo Koretz duped investors out of $30 million ($400 million today) and led a mysterious double/triple life that came to light only after his nonexistent Panama timber-oil empire was exposed. Even his death—suicide by chocolate—was bizarre. Berkrot adopts a conversational style and eschews theatrics in his narration, preferring to let the story itself capture the listener. But he does add a tone of incredulity as details of the case emerge. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Looking for a light summertime listen? Lisa Scottoline, a bestselling author of thrillers, and her 20-something daughter, Francesca Serritella, trade off sharing stories of their own lives, with plenty of humor thrown in. The down-to-earth, relatable pair are a lot of fun to listen to as their topics range from family dynamics to surviving the contemporary dating world. Scottoline's Philly accent and expressive speaking style add to the humor of the stories. Serritella also sounds approachable as a young woman who is trying to navigate life, friendship, and love in the city. The stories—by and large light, easy, and fun—are perfect for a relaxed summer day. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Sean Runnette is an excellent narrator for this double biography of two great physicists, which focuses on their brief period of conflict in the late 1940s. In illuminating these two extraordinary personalities, Einstein and Schrodinger, Halpern shows an entire generation’s contribution to theoretical physics. The author has a knack for explaining scientific concepts in comprehensible terms, no easy thing, and Runnette is up to the task, too. His command of technical terms and place names in English and German is almost flawless. While his soft, warm baritone can be slightly soporific in the book's slower sections, he manages the almost impossible by consistently distinguishing the names of Max Born and Niels Bohr. (Halpern uses only last names.) This work is a significant addition to the intellectual history of twentieth-century physics. F.C. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Tanya Eby gives a performance to relish in this exploration of America’s food heritage from the 1400s to the present day. The 100-plus stories, or “bites,” about our different foods, people, and cultures are enticingly delivered in Eby’s rich voice. She presents the myriad facts about evolving food traditions with a fusion of journalistic directness and storytelling inflections. While the history of nationally recognized foods such as Spam and peanut butter and their significance in the historical context of American culture are intriguing in themselves, Eby also employs well-timed pauses to serve up several ironic twists, adding zest to this delightful listening experience. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Buzbee’s memoir boasts a lot of personal history and a bounty of history on American education. Combining a memoir with something more formal always runs the risk of sounding uneven—alternating between informal and pedantic—but Buzbee, thankfully, avoids this pitfall. This balance is reflected in Mike Chamberlain’s performance, an offering of personable tone and nuanced diction. This last is especially important to listeners who may not have the same passion for educational history and philosophy that Buzbee brings to the table. As any experienced educator (like Buzbee) knows, presentation is just as important as content, and Chamberlain’s narration is consistently enjoyable, giving voice to the humor and wisdom of the text. N.J.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Tom Perkins’s delectable performance highlights the multiple aspects of taste. Moving the listener fluidly through this detailed examination, he explains how taste affects evolution and provides insight into culture, geography, and mood. Perkins conveys reports on scientific studies in a clear voice coupled with precise diction. To keep things entertaining, he even delivers individual voices for some of the experiments’ subjects. Navigating the dynamic text with credible accents and well-timed inflections, Perkins brings out the elusive and surprising qualities of taste and how they relate to the range of human emotion. M.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Astronomer and space scientist Jim Bell is obviously comfortable behind a microphone. As an insider in the Voyager space program and other NASA projects, he’s lectured at more conferences, symposia, and college classrooms than he can probably count, so his matter-of-fact approach is both friendly and professorial. Here he gives a carefully detailed play-by-play on the development, launch, and planetary encounters of the two Voyager spacecraft. Because he’s “been there—done that,” his narration has the voice of authority. Listen and take a tour of what follows: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and now, interstellar space. Fascinating. D.R.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In his introduction to this wonderfully dense and decidedly nonlinear history of contemporary music and culture, narrator and raconteur Henry Rollins describes author Greil Marcus as a poet, which seems only fair. More than a history, this book is an ode to rock and roll. Reading Marcus’s words with the intensity and focus of a performance artist, Rollins describes how songs such as “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” by Buddy Holly, “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson, and “Money Changes Everything” sung by Cyndi Lauper changed music and changed lives. There’s an almost reverential tone to Rollins’s reading that might seem over the top, until one remembers a song in one’s own life that once described one’s world perfectly, and suddenly rock and roll becomes what it is—seriously magical stuff. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Foregoing any bells and whistles, George Newbern’s understated narration is the ideal match for Hillenbrand’s sweeping account of how a small bay horse—an underdog with crooked legs, often described as ugly—came to be more important to the American psyche than President Roosevelt and the war against Hitler. Newbern’s unhurried pace and warm, comfortable timbre invite listeners to sit back and enjoy this history of horse racing during the Great Depression, to become familiar with some of the major players as well as many of the ne’er-do-wells, and to revel in the extraordinary story of three men—owner Charles Howard, trainer Tom Smith, and jockey Red Pollard—and the unlikely horse who bound them all together. S.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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A sense of clarity and importance is conveyed in Lauren Fortgang's narration of Swaby's concise biographies of female figures in twentieth-century science. Fifty-two women who made significant differences in seven scientific fields are introduced and recognized as the role models they became throughout their lifetimes. Swaby's wittiness and Fortgang's easy pace and engaging tone encourage listener interest in each groundbreaking scientist and lead to greater understanding of what each woman had to overcome to make her discovery. Passionate and feminine, Fortgang's voice is the perfect fit for a book that seeks to increase recognition for women in science. D.Z. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Tavia Gilbert narrates with a liveliness and lightness that one might not expect in a book about the world of mathematics. Various recipes are used to highlight points about math, revealing that math, like cooking recipes, is made up of ingredients and method. Gilbert persuasively presents this edible exploration into mathematical concepts, making them seem as familiar and unintimidating as cooking. Gilbert’s fluid voice conveys the themes of beauty and power in both the concrete and abstract aspects of math. While it’s uncertain whether or not everyone will come away with a complete understanding of the concepts, Gilbert’s lyrical narration, together with her deliberate speed as she delivers the formulas, brings clarity and a down-to-earth approach to this often intimidating subject matter. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Hearing Ken Robinson discuss his vision of a better future for education is as riveting as it is eye-opening. Robinson is authoritative in a way that welcomes listening. You will WANT to hear what he has to say, and follow his cogent overview and approachable examples. Robinson's 2006 TED talk on our schools' killing creativity may have been many listeners' introduction to the British educator's philosophy, but this is not a 17-minute TED talk. Robinson explains and illustrates his points in considerable detail, with his characteristic wit and humor. Listeners will take this audiobook seriously and, as Robinson suggests, be part of the transformation of education. This audiobook should be shared, discussed, and savored by anyone interested in the future of our schools. R.F.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Ralph Lister does a splendid job covering this informative and often humorous look at Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland. Booth, an English journalist who is married to a Dane and has lived in Denmark for many years, decided to see if the Nordic people are as happy as surveys conducted year after year say they are. Are they happy or merely content, or have the surveys become self-fulfilling? Lister's sterling pronunciation of personal and place names as well as regional terms adds to the feeling of being in each distinct country. He remains evenhanded as he reveals Booth's personal views and deftly shares his self-deprecating humor. Most fascinating are the many insightful quotes from government officials, ordinary folks, and immigrants. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Chris Patton gives a persuasive performance in this detailed examination of the provenance, pervasiveness, and power of food flavorings. Patton’s narration is as irresistible as the man-made chemical flavorings that are reported to be taking over the taste of “real” food and to be the real cause of our nation’s obesity epidemic. Patton’s modulated voice smoothly delivers the scientific research, while his well-timed pauses highlight the stunning statistics on obesity and the paradoxes of our culture’s love-hate obsession with food. The author also discusses how food technology and marketing determine much of what we choose to eat and what we really taste. Patton’s straightforward narration will keep listeners intrigued and may make them think twice before reaching for another snack. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In this intriguing and ably narrated audiobook, columnist and public television commentator David Brooks explores what it means to have true depth of character—the kind lauded in a eulogy rather than that listed on a resume. Brooks himself delivers the introduction, clearly and engagingly explaining how a career as a pundit, often rewarded for shallow cleverness, has made him yearn for more depth and significance. But how to achieve it? As read by Arthur Morey with lovely pacing and an interested inflection, he finds that one looks to those who have gone before. In mini-profiles of such varying people as General George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower’s mother, Ida, and former football player Joe Namath, Brooks explores the traits that make us more than worthy. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Mark Bittman's collection of op-ed pieces, which originally appeared in the NEW YORK TIMES, supports his principal concerns about how and what America eats. Narrator Robert Fass wisely opts for a conversational style, punctuated with a little attitude, to keep listeners' full attention, even in the more fact-filled articles. Although Bittman writes from a variety of perspectives, he focuses on only a few issues: the interplay of food and health, food safety, federal laws, and agribusiness. In addition, he's passionate about home cooking and eating real food. Fass's performance is expressive and engaging, but Bittman's message can become repetitive. Listeners will best appreciate this important collection one or two articles at a time, making this audiobook the perfect choice for a daily commute or lunchtime break. C.B.L. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In clear, authoritative tones reminiscent of those that might emanate from a news anchor, narrator Morgan Hallett takes listeners through this account of Sawyer’s, Couric’s, and Amanpour’s struggles to gain just such a seat. Hallett remains fittingly unsentimental yet emotive while narrating the formative moments in the personal lives and careers of these iconic women. Their distinct personalities and career approaches emerge, as do differences in their public and private personas. Weller dishes out enough intrigue, backstabbing, and bad blood for listeners who are looking for them, but she also provides plenty of history, news industry revelations, and insights on women in leadership. Hallett’s professional tone reinforces the substantive nature of the book and the women it features. K.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In a clear, unemotional voice, Henry Leyva narrates the story of the 33 miners who were trapped deep below the ground when the San Jose Mine collapsed in August 2010. Beginning with a history of mining in Copiapo, Chile, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tobar recounts the events leading up to the mine’s collapse, the actions of the miners while trapped, the responses of their families aboveground, and the amazing rescue. Using subtle accents, Leyva draws listeners into the horror of miners trapped deep in the dark, winding tunnels. Switching effortlessly from English to Spanish and back, Leyva’s performance is riveting as scenes shift from inside to outside, from the tunnels to the mine offices. Each word builds the tension of the chilling disaster and the nail-biting rescue of men buried more than five miles below the surface. M.B.K. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The narrator of this outstanding audiobook knows the text inside and out and gives a performance that keeps listeners engaged with its complex ideas. Nicolaus Copernicus’s discovery that the earth is not the center of the universe turned humanity’s worldview upside down. But recent scientific discoveries show that the earth is unique, the result of special, unlikely events. Astrophysicist, author, and narrator Caleb Scharf explains that there’s a happy medium between these two views. He reads his own text with a cheerful, warm English accent, and explains things with a lovely sense of humor. Even if you’ve never pondered Planet Earth’s place in the cosmos, this audiobook will delight you and leave you smarter than you were before listening to it. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Alan Alda’s relaxed performance makes it easy to pay attention to and digest this discussion on the importance of delayed gratification. The author conducted the now famous “marshmallow experiments” with preschoolers more than 20 years ago: Eat one marshmallow now or wait a bit and get two later? It’s pure listening pleasure to hear Alda’s familiar voice and authentic engagement with this important book. The author shows how children who contained their impulses in the study demonstrated, later in life, substantially higher SAT scores, more effective goal attainment, better stress management, and more resistance to addictions. Offering promising evidence that life-draining impulsivity can be replaced by more thoughtful decision making, this is an accessible collection of brain science and behavioral strategies that can help us improve this critical life skill. T.W. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Without detracting from the book's scholarly foundation, narrator Tamara Marston's lively performance highlights the author's voice in this investigation of questions surrounding inoculation. ON IMMUNITY is a collection of interlinked, well-researched essays that present a variety of perspectives on the effects that vaccinations have had on individuals and society. The examination includes a look at the medical risks and benefits as well as the influence of pharmaceutical companies and popular misconceptions. Marston's understated level of emotion keeps listeners invested and adds to the accessibility of the subject matter, which combines social commentary and historical data with personal experience and scientific inquiry. The last hour of the audiobook contains endnotes, which stand up well by themselves, although listeners may wish they had been read closer to the pertinent text. C.B.L.

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Theoretical cosmologist Roberto Trotta attempts to explain the cosmos (all-there-is) using only the 1,000 most common English words. While the concept may seem like a silly exercise, Bronson Pinchot's superb performance showcases what turns out to be a charming masterpiece of scientific storytelling. Pinchot introduces listeners to the 1,000 most commonly used words. His recitation takes on the quality of poetry, with its changing meter and playful inflections. Who knew a list could be so enchanting? From there, the story of all-there-is unfolds, and Pinchot's careful narration brings Trotta's creative wordplay to life so that listeners quickly learn to translate simple words into complex concepts. A treat for the imagination worthy of repeat listens. A.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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For years, baseball’s venerable Hall of Fame has issued a postcard on each inductee. Now, they come to life in brief audio vignettes, a smart approach for listeners who want to learn about the men enshrined. The narrators read as if they’re telling a story rather than lecturing—and really, that’s what these are: condensed, well-researched stories that add personality to the sport’s greats. Each entry is several minutes long—the perfect length for a well-read overview. Actual players give longer bios; one of my favorites is Carlton Fisk, a catcher who played the game for 24 seasons, who lends voice, and character, to the sketch of the hard-nosed competitor he was. M.B. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Ellen Archer maintains excellent clarity as she delivers Klein’s comprehensive analysis linking climate change to a broader progressive agenda. Klein explains why everyone who cares about social justice should care about climate change and why our political leaders do so little to address such an important and well-documented crisis. Archer’s narration is well paced throughout Klein’s careful recitations of facts. She also shows touches of earnest emotion when the audiobook offers Klein’s personal reactions to the devastation wrought by Alberta tar sands development and other environmental horrors. While much of the material may not be new to listeners who follow climate change developments closely, Klein offers a fresh, personal, even hopeful, analysis of this most pressing global crisis. F.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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What has art become in the twenty-first century? What’s it for? What’s an artist? When do the ideals of self-expression and the necessities of self-promotion cross paths? With energy and enthusiasm narrator Tavia Gilbert fills the roles of both critic and confidante while narrating this detailed and personalized look at the lives of 33 artists who live and work in the globe-trotting contemporary art world of gallery openings, patrons, biennales, and money. Plenty of money. Gilbert’s delivery perfectly reflects the author’s dual reaction of admiration and ambivalence toward the art installations and the artists who create the works (sometimes with the help of dozens of assistants) for what has become a multibillion dollar worldwide industry. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Taylor provides a rich and exciting history of the Star Wars franchise—from the early personal and professional lives of director George Lucas to the implications of the forthcoming Star Wars film in 2015. Nick Podehl brings so much excitement to his narration that it’s hard not to suspect that he too is a Star Wars fan—though, in reality, he’s capturing Taylor’s tone quite well. He has a bit of a rasp to his voice, which is otherwise gentle in its projection. He handles the quotes well, sometimes generating the delivery styles of Lucas and other people or series characters. Taylor’s book covers a range of topics relating to the Star Wars narrative as well as its history and place within popular culture. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Johnson's explorations of innovations such as glass, refrigeration, water filtration, and clocks and their unexpected—even astonishing— impact on history are riveting. For listeners particular about sound quality, some jumps in the recording levels on this audio (from slightly muffled to louder and crisper) may distract, and George Newbern's narration is more competent and correct than enthusiastic. But most listeners will overlook these imperfections in their enjoyment of Johnson's revelations, connections, and insights and his unique take on innovation and invention. Whether your turn of mind is scientific, philosophical, or sociological, you'll want to hear HOW WE GOT TO NOW, which was also a recent PBS series. K.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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By securing a position as an English teacher and hiding her intention to write a book, writer Suki Kim was able to gain access to the enigmatic and largely inaccessible country of North Korea while teaching at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST). Janet Song's measured voicing is precise and serious, befitting the spare, unadorned surroundings in which the author found herself. Song's lightly Asian-accented tones help portray the author's own South Korean heritage and knowledge of the Korean language, both of which gave her additional access to North Koreans. Song does especially well at capturing the stiff recitations and largely unquestioning nature of the North Korean students Kim taught. This is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of the world's most secretive nations. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Hillary Huber engagingly narrates this fascinating glimpse into the life of the modern-day archaeologist. Far from the romantic occupation often imagined, archaeology involves unexpected pursuits and little income. With warmth and humor, Huber introduces an intriguing collection of specialists and provides just a hint of characterization, allowing the listener to envision each archaeologist’s unique obsession. Huber truly shines in narrating the voice of author Marilyn Johnson as she journeys to world-renowned archaeological sites (such as the stunning vista of Machu Picchu) and less glamorous field-training locales (which involve stinky buried pigs). Huber’s classy narration gives credence to Johnson’s assertion that archaeology is vastly more valuable than digging up bones and pottery. It’s a science that allows us to better understand our own humanity. N.M.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With an interested and inquisitive tone, narrator Robert Fass walks listeners through evolutionary biologist Rob Dunn's history of the science of the human heart. The particularities that govern cardiac function have long been of interest to scientists and laypeople alike, and curious folks of all kinds of backgrounds have been conducting explorations for many years to uncover the secrets of this vital organ. This accessible work examines these explorations--from scientists' and doctors' early experiments to treatments provided by modern-day health care facilities. Fass has a pleasant voice and varies his delivery in ways that make the extensive information clear and engaging. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Michael Kramer’s persuasive and unfaltering performance reinforces the disturbing information in this portrait of the American food industry. Kramer’s articulate narration tempers the author’s tone, offering mild intonations and a steadiness that balance the stark, and sometimes shocking, information. The author’s point is that the food supply chain—which rewards high-density animal farming and increased speed at production plants—is compromising the safety of workers as well as the quality and wholesomeness of our meat. Kramer’s good timing and clarity of voice clearly convey the shocking statistics and poignant message about the true price of cheap meat. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This is a thoroughly engrossing account of the “bacha posh” girls of Afghanistan. Dressed as boys, they secure higher status for their families by way of fulfilling the sought-after role of sons while gaining greater personal freedom or bringing luck to their parents' attempts to conceive future sons. Narrator Kirsten Potter takes an intellectual-sounding approach that befits the author, a journalist who conducted extensive personal interviews during research in Afghanistan. Potter's tone is analytical as she dissects the cultural and personal reasons that lead families to transform their daughters into bacha posh before they have to switch back at puberty to the restricted norms of Afghan females. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With an inquisitive tone, narrator Barbara Caruso dives into Diane Ackerman's exploration of the current geological age, in which “nature surrounds, permeates, effervesces in, and includes us.” This is the human age, the Anthropocene. Caruso's clear, unhurried enunciation prevents listeners from being overwhelmed by the scope of Ackerman's research, which runs the gamut from primates to weather to the blue revolution and beyond. The narrative is conversational, marked by rhetorical questions that Caruso inflects perfectly to spark the intended wonder. Despite the grim realities that led to the Anthropocene, Ackerman—and Caruso—offer a hopeful perspective that challenges listeners to reconsider the role that humans will play not only in nature but also as nature, going forward. A.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Using a sweeping range of sources, Horwitz’s story recounts the scientific and legal struggle to get the U.S. Navy to recognize the havoc it causes marine mammals with active sonar exercises. Holter Graham’s gruff, nasal narration conveys the emotional intensity of whale rescues, late-night whale autopsies, and courtroom battles. His clear and intimate narration is a perfect match for Horwitz’s heartbreaking yet hopeful story. He seems entirely at home with the specialized vocabulary of whale science. Beginning with the mass stranding of rare beaked whales in the Bahamas in 2000, the story continues by dramatic twists and turns through the Supreme Court's opinion in Winter v. NRDC in 2008, and beyond. This story is not over. F.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Karen Armstrong narrates her sweeping saga on humans’ use of violence in the name of God. Whether she’s discussing Muslim, Hebrew, or Christian cultures, her premise is delivered with logic and reason. Armstrong smoothly takes listeners from the beginnings of humans and their deities to humans in the 21st century. She details the many atrocities, including 9/11, that have been performed in the name of God. Her tone and phrasing keep the listener attentive to the complex political and cultural puzzle pieces that fashion an atmosphere in which violence becomes a holy grail for the masses. Her blistering commentary is delivered sotto voce, but the naked truth of her words is loud and clear. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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On the heels of the author’s gravelly voiced narration of the introduction, narrator Dennis Boutsikaris at first sounds tame or buttoned-down. But as the audio unfolds, his reading reveals a rich palette of emotional accents that he applies to great effect in all the right places. His skill with the subtleties of narrative energy also works well with this textured history lesson—one that focuses less on the technological than on the visionary characters profiled by the author. With one fascinating story after the other (did you know the daughter of a famous poet pioneered computer programming in the 1840s?), this highly entertaining audio chronicles the importance of collaboration as much as individual creativity among the colorful pioneers who brought us today’s digital world. T.W. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Holter Graham gives this Supreme Court review a boost of momentum with his carefully modulated reading. Meticulously researched by Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe and his former student, Joshua Matz, this study of the Roberts Court is more of a historical statement than a political one. Graham's near transparent reading maintains the neutrality. Listeners learn the backstory of the big cases—corporate citizenship and gay marriage—and the origins of the Justices' reasoning. There are unexpected turns and prophecies—for example, that the Affordable Care Act decision may be a harbinger of more judicial economic regulation. The result is an apolitical audiobook with one eye on history and the other looking ahead to an uncertain judicial future. R.W.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Author David Sax provides an engaging narration of his investigation into food trends and those who create them. Sax deftly conveys the diverse facets of his book—for example, he uses an animated excitement as he reflects on food trends such as cupcakes and bacon and a serious tone as he puts forth the question of whether tastemakers who encourage a food trend know enough about what they’re promoting. Sax’s clear delivery flows smoothly, and his Canadian accent slips out endearingly in his pronunciation of certain words, including “aboot” for “about.” He also offers pretty accurate renditions of Indian and Mexican accents as well as a humorous Woody Allen impersonation—complete with his trademark stammering—to keep the listening experience enticing and enlightening. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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An award-winning journalist makes the case that we can understand the world better by using evidence-based thinking instead of the impressionistic, magical thinking of our primitive brains. For this positive guide, narrator George Newbern dials in the perfect combination of school-teacher clarity and assurance. Some listeners may hear his tone as too gentle, but his approach works well with the message that people are not skeptical or disciplined enough when processing the realities of everyday life. The charming stories offered to illustrate the author’s assertions make this audio a constructive invitation to be more methodical in our thinking, more confident and optimistic in our approach to understanding the world. T.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The clarity and earnestness in the author’s voice propel her message that women are still treated differently from men in the workplace. Her efforts to use good diction may sound obvious from time to time, but her palpable sincerity is a good vehicle for the message that thoughtful adjustments in a woman’s workplace behavior can open doors, squash negative expectations, and break through glass ceilings. This update to her 2000 book lists more than 130 mistakes women make—deferential, inhibited styles of interacting prescribed by company cultures, the media, and even families and spouses. With concise writing and her diligent delivery, this is a powerful lesson on how women can go after what is theirs without acting like men or feeling like they’re taking something away from others. T.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With a lilting Scots accent, narrator John Keating guides the listener through this book like a sure hand on the tiller of a sailboat. Keating uses pauses and light and dark tones to portray the struggle of an artist who would not compromise his vision while writing what many consider to be the best novel of the last century, ULYSSES. Keating portrays James Joyce as a talented but troubled man living in a time of great political and social turmoil in the world. The story of his journey shouldn’t be missed by his fans or those interested in a fascinating period in history that changed our perception of art. R.O. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Sean Runnette’s thoughtful, fluid performance creates a soothing space for listeners to hear this important book, which is about how businesses can be more successful by aligning everything the organization does with its true soul. The author’s message is revolutionary: Instead of traditional marketing, storytelling to sell products, he says companies should put more energy into “story-doing”—living an identity that is obvious to consumers and that shows them how their lives will change when they start associating with the company’s products. Red Bull’s identity, for example, is not just selling energy drinks; it’s about bringing consumers into a lifestyle that is adventurous, risk-taking, and masculine. With phrasing that allows every cutting-edge idea to reach the ear with pizzazz, Runnette’s performance makes this a thoroughly absorbing, must-hear audio. T.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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If you've ever wondered about what working at "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" is like, wonder no more. With consummate skill, narrator Cassandra Campbell takes listeners from northern New Jersey to Manhattan, where Stewart went from stand-up comic to a new generation's Walter Cronkite. And Stewart would be the first one to say people relying on him for news is a little goofy, but some people do. Campbell conveys Stewart's wit, charm, and sensitivity. The best section describes how Stewart's love for dogs has translated into "The Daily Show's" office being a home for hounds during the workday. As one staffer puts it, "I can't imagine working in an office without dogs around." M.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Bassett Furniture Company in Virginia was once prominent in the production of wood furniture--until Chinese factories began flooding the American market with more cheaply priced goods. Kristin Kalbli's pleasant narration guides the listener through the ins and outs of the Bassetts' story--family history in the first half of the work segues into John Bassett III's attempt to fight offshoring and save jobs in the struggling Blue Ridge Mountain region. Kalbli's use of accents to portray Bassett family members and other locals helps to set the scene. She sensitively depicts the plight of displaced workers as well as "JBIII's" determination to preserve the local way of life. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Crossing the Atlantic like an intellectual tsunami, this study by French economist Piketty takes a long view of historical data to present an intriguing treatise on capital and income inequality. The audiobook has several major weaknesses; the pacing is relentless and rushed, and structurally the listener is unable to mull over an economic formula or the implications of tax policy as the narration continues without a chance to work through them. On the positive side, L.J. Ganser’s voice and accents are superb, and emphasis is well placed. Especially appreciated are the numerous charts available for download and appropriately referenced in the narration. Whether they agree or disagree with Piketty’s policy arguments, serious students of economics or public policy will find much to digest. M.L.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Dan Woren's relaxed narration enhances this inviting introduction to the paleo lifestyle. The authors, a Harvard Medical School professor and a journalist, describe a process for getting in touch with our roots by way of adopting lifestyle adaptations favored by our ancestors, such as spending a lot of time outdoors; eating natural, unprocessed foods; and establishing a close support network in a tight community. Woren's clear and engaging narration, coupled with the authors' easy-to-follow writing style, makes the paleo lifestyle seem not only possible but also eminently logical as a means of achieving greater health in our hectic society. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Dr. Judy Melinek has a job few of us can imagine doing. She's a forensic pathologist whose tasks on the job include investigating deaths, performing autopsies, and interacting with grieving family members. Narrator Tanya Eby brings life to the dead and the stories their bodies tell. Eby captures Melinek's intellect, conscientiousness, and dark wit as she confronts difficult situations such as examining victims of murder and suicide and inventorying body parts from the September 11 terrorist attacks as well as from another plane crash a few months later. Eby presents a well-rounded picture of a wife and mother who happens to practice what many would consider a dark profession. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Marguerite Gavin is an excellent choice to narrate this audiobook, which uses more than 100 years of financial and political history to make the point that wealthy, well-connected, mostly Ivy League-educated men have run the American economy. While not a great surprise, the author’s investigation does paint a picture of a country in thrall to an elite that has turned away from democratic ideals and social efficacy towards oil profits and higher share prices. Gavin’s low, somewhat gruff voice is energetic and animated. She varies her pitch and tone to propel the narrative forward and to keep the story exciting. While her voice is not elastic, her effective use of pauses and emphasis enhances the book. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Geithner wrote this book to communicate his take on the 2008 economic crisis. As narrator, he uses tone and pacing to present the perspective he wants the listener to hear and to bolster his arguments for his actions. Although his delivery occasionally contains some overly long pauses and drop-offs, Geithner’s view of the economic panic is a fascinating story. Well placed in the Bush and Obama administrations, he vividly describes his fear of the oncoming economic disaster and how powerless governments were to protect large banks, investment houses, and individual homeowners. Even though Geithner’s narration has some slight weaknesses, the authenticity of his delivery quickly draws listeners into the maelstrom facing policy makers in the wake of the collapse. M.L.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Mother and daughter authors Scottoline and Serritella give an entertaining, down-to-earth narration as they reflect on various aspects of their lives. Scottoline’s electric performance is worthy of a stand-up comedian, especially with her impersonation of her cantankerous and outspoken mother—aptly named Mother Mary. Scottoline’s spunky voice and perfect pacing make for a hilarious delivery of her tongue-in-cheek views of everything from adult diaper rash to Weiners in Washington. While Scottoline’s act is a hard one to follow, Serritella manages to hold her own with an amusing and heartfelt narration. The interview that follows the book adds to the likability of the narrators/authors and one’s appreciation of the vignettes. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With a lively voice and British accent, Jonathan Cowley guides listeners through Cox’s exploration of the world of unique and strange sounds. Whether capturing sounds in subterranean caverns, exploring the challenging acoustics of churches and performance halls, or explaining how to make monuments of sound, Cox provides a rich understanding of the aural landscape that surrounds people. Cowley captures Cox’s enthusiasm well and provides good pacing and emphasis for the technical parts of the prose. Audiobook listeners will be fascinated to hear about the complexities of sound but will likely be disappointed by the failure to maximize the format by integrating the specific sounds that Cox discusses. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Henry Leyva is the perfect narrator for Sam Kean’s history of brain research and its reliance on accidents, diseases, and chronic conditions to reveal what we know now. In true Kean fashion, the academic approach is enlivened by anecdotes that illustrate the complexity and resilience of the human brain. Leyva’s enthusiastic and lively performance delivers all the gravity, empathy, wonder, and humanity the book requires. It’s crazy but true, fascinating and serious—a wondrous audio experience stuffed with Civil War soldiers with phantom limbs, Siamese twins that speak in stereo, people who believe their loved ones are imposters, and poor Phineas Gage, who lived for decades after an iron tamping rod went through his head—but with a different, coarser, personality. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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WALL STREET JOURNAL reporter Russell Gold looks at fracking and how it has enabled more energy independence for the United States. Narrator Patrick Lawlor has quite the task in delivering the scientific, social, and political implications of fracking. Happily, his voice is easy to listen to, and he negotiates the jargon with ease. To put together this history of fracking, Gold interviewed thousands of people involved in each part of the story--from politicians and environmentalists to engineers and businessmen. When direct quotes are used, Lawlor sets them off from the general narration by slightly varying his tone and pitch. With his help, the book's message comes through as a story rather than a lecture or report. E.N. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Miodownik's charming and personal introduction to materials science is a great place to learn about a scientific discipline that is gaining importance in our changing world. Michael Page's clear English accent meshes perfectly with the London author's anecdotes of home and abroad. Miodownik describes the structural qualities of steel, concrete, chocolate, porcelain, and graphite, among others, teaching listeners a new way of thinking. Page's presentation is always easy to follow, and he's not intimidated by the occasional foray into technical topics like chemistry or quantum mechanics. Some listeners may be skeptical about another audiobook about ordinary things, but Miodownik and Page will swiftly win them over. F.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Though reluctant to consider writing a memoir at age 65, Rebecca Eaton is comfortable sharing what she loves most in the world—stories. And what stories! Meredith Mitchell gives voice to the woman who has been the executive producer of the iconic “Masterpiece Theatre” and “Mystery!” for more than 25 years. Like the storyteller herself, Mitchell's voice offers a warm invitation into the personal and professional. Despite a few stumbles with accents and dialogue that is not clearly differentiated, Mitchell’s engaging performance unfolds like a conversation. With low, confiding tones that hint at loss and disappointment, she brings added depth to emotionally charged scenes, demonstrating poise with respectful pauses before a transition. Anglophiles and “Masterpiece” fans will revel in this unique and candid memoir. A.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Few people realize the impact of lighter-than-air flight on meteorology, military strategy, postal delivery, and, of course, air and space travel. Gildart Jackson captures all the historic significance of Holmes’s work, which provides a detailed account of the early years of manned flight—from prehistoric Peru through the nineteenth century. Jackson conveys his clear respect for the subject matter. He slowly but accurately pronounces the many French names and phrases, and offers historical quotes without characterization. One might wish Jackson would enter more fully into the emotionally charged accounts of flying through dangerous storms, crash landings, and the sheer joy of lighter-than-air flight. Still, this is a gripping history, professionally performed. R.L.L. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A staff writer for the Washington Post reports from the front lines of working parents. Her focus is women who are expected to be both members of the workforce and the center of their families’ lives. Why is life so insanely busy, and whatever happened to leisure time? Tavia Gilbert narrates Schulte’s provocative answers to these questions and more, inhabiting the author’s presence as the sometimes puzzled, sometimes frazzled woman seeks to understand the quandary on a personal and professional level. Schulte enriches her research with firsthand accounts of juggling her own career in journalism with high-standards parenting. Gilbert’s narration makes the author’s story funny and insightful. Her pacing is also excellent, allowing the implications of Schulte’s meticulous research to sink in and inform today’s harried families. J.C.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners have the opportunity to hear this fine compilation of interviews with extraordinary individuals conducted by various NPR personalities through the years. Each interview is given background in an introduction by the NPR interviewer who conducted it, but the interviewees ultimately speak for themselves, sharing their unique and absorbing stories. Those featured include renowned animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, a Bosnian teenager living through the siege of Sarajevo, and the gifted young pianist Emily Bear, among others. The inspiring, heartfelt, and enlightening interviews bring the listener into the daily lives and experiences of some fascinating individuals from diverse backgrounds. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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If the argument of this audiobook sounds gloomy, even misanthropic, the warmth of Edoardo Ballerini's narration quickly dispels that impression. Masson, a longtime animal rights advocate, describes how the one quality that separates humans from other animals is our "singular capacity for violence." While we characterize sharks, wolves, and orcas as ruthless killers, Masson builds a compelling case that humans are the real "beasts" of the animal kingdom. Even if you don't accept all of Masson's conclusions (and his science is perhaps not as rigorous as his philosophy), his profound wisdom and lucid prose, conveyed through Ballerini's gentle but authoritative reading, will quickly draw in even the most skeptical listener. D.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The resonant, authoritative voice of narrator Pete Larkin gives power to the author's latest consumer-finance guide. Clark Howard and his co-authors use the stories of real-life consumers to show how his strategies can help people climb out of financial trouble and prepare for the future. Larkin's tone is dramatic, intentional, and more businesslike than the kitchen-table softness of Howard's television discussions. This intensity puts energy into the audio and works best when he's emphasizing important points. It's less effective, less believable, when he's performing quotes, especially from females and non-native English speakers. Whether your financial habits need a tune-up or a total makeover, this is one of the author's most detailed, accessible, and empowering personal-finance lessons. T.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Jim Henson was clearly a creative genius, and his legacy lives on in his beloved Muppets. Narrator Kirby Heyborne is an excellent choice for this audiobook, as he seems to effortlessly conjure Henson's gentle manner of speech as well as the voices of the most famous Muppets, such as Kermit and Rowlf. Additionally, Heyborne is clear and measured while recounting Henson's upbringing, his sometimes strained family life, and the business partnerships that led to his creative endeavors, such as advertising, his famous television characters, and several movies. Heyborne's creative narration is an asset for the biography of a man who was an imaginative and productive creative force. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Who better than quirky film director John Waters himself to narrate his hitchhiking odyssey? His book is divided into two fictional sections and the story of his actual journey. Waters, as author and narrator, outdoes himself on the fictional parts and is his best--and REAL self--with the diary of the trip. The fiction comprises Waters's fantasies about meeting fans--most of whom do not know him--and even his own movie characters. In the real-life passages, his delivery conveys his fear, bravado, or admiration for the strangers he encounters, most of whom are kind and generous to him. A range of people from a minister's wife to a young Republican are fascinatingly portrayed. Listeners will feel they've been along for the whole ride as Waters joyfully reaches his destination. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Some authors have a feel for narrating; others come across as stilted. But when a book takes an introspective look at a subject the writer knows well, it can be a perfect marriage. And that’s what Colson Whitehead brings. The author’s voice fits his writing because, of course, it’s his writing: a semi-stream-of-consciousness, personal, sarcastic, often humorous, and sometimes self-deprecating look at what goes on in one poker player’s mind. Sounding almost constantly out of breath, Whitehead paces the book like only he can. A section on tweets is especially well done. While some instructional advice on poker is given, the book relies on a more memoir-ish approach, so don’t expect when-to-hold-or-fold advice. M.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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John Feinstein is no stranger to taking a huge sports topic and breaking it into manageable glimpses for listeners. And count him among the group of authors who succeed at narrating their own words. Being that this is his reporting, he clearly knows the right emphasis and appropriate tones. Here, he opens up the world of minor-league baseball, where players either dream of making it to the big leagues or strive to make it back. He finds an assortment of people—players, managers, an umpire—and alternates between their stories. He does an especially good job of weaving in facts and details (exactly how much does a minor league player make?) while keeping their stories straight. No imitations here, no drawls—just the facts and anecdotes, about ballplayers and their dreams. M.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This is the breezily written story of how an Internet genius founded Twitter and other game-changing communication tools by massaging his rebellious attitudes, thinking big, and learning to respect and empathize with others. Jonathan Davis’s easy reading, full of emotional liveliness, makes this book sound like an off-the-cuff talk with many entertaining asides. His in-the-moment performance gives this book joie de vivre and imbues the author’s character with engaging humanity. Stone’s rags-to-riches saga is dotted with memorable aphorisms that came to him as he grew personally, overcame obstacles, and learned to channel his creative energy. This inspiring listening experience should be essential listening for anyone struggling to do some good in the world with creative ideas. T.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The author’s fascination with the idea of welcoming insects to the table is evident in her expressive and well-paced narration. Her audiobook takes an anthropological and historical perspective on entomophagy—the eating of insects—and explores its practice in modern times as well as its implications for staving off world hunger in the face of climate change and dwindling resources. She’s clearly comfortable behind the mic, and her enthusiasm for exploring the many tastes and textures of edible insects is contagious. Overall, Martin argues that entomophagy is key to providing low-fat, high-quality protein to large numbers of people with minimal environmental cost. Fried crickets, anyone? C.B.L. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Marc Cashman narrates in perfect attunement with the author’s ideas on Chinese philosophy and the historical and social science context of spontaneity. According to Slingerland, centered, confident mind states are the template for the calm and powerful operating style that Western psychologists call flow. Cashman’s voice is full of boyish enthusiasm, but his intelligent engagement never upstages the excellent writing or the author’s rich perspective on human intention. The book is one that could have come across as an esoteric indictment of Western logic and individual ambition. But as performed by Cashman, it unfolds with such equanimity that even Type A listeners will be charmed into considering more fluid, collaborative, and spiritual ways of interacting with the world. T.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Kathe Mazur’s narration is characterized by a sincere tone and slow pace in this memoir of Marton’s eventful life as an ABC news correspondent and wife of Peter Jennings and Richard Holbrooke. Paris is a touchstone for Marton. She was a student there during the 1960s student unrest, it was a meeting place with Jennings early in their relationship, and she and Holbrooke had an apartment there to hide away in. The book’s many French words and names are no challenge for Mazur as she zips through them without hesitation, lending authenticity to the production. Marton’s confession to having cheated on both of her famous husbands combined with her professions of enduring love is somewhat jarring, and Mazur’s earnestness exacerbates that discomfort. Nevertheless, the sense of loss when Holbrooke unexpectedly dies feels honest in both the writing and narration. A.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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For listeners looking for some perspective on international, national, and familial relations, look no further. Joshua Greene breaks down the challenges that come from two very distinct yet familiar and pervading worldviews: individualism versus collectivism. Mel Foster narrates Greene's practical and provocative five-part argument for utilitarianism, and as he repeats throughout, it's not what listeners might think. While Foster's deep voice provides a sense of authority, Greene's charm and humor are sometimes lost in the delivery. Nevertheless, the material has considerable value for listeners looking to see connections between what plays out on the news and at family dinner tables. This thorough investigation of what divides also lends itself to the welcome application of a reasoned solution: Take the utilitarian approach! A.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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David Lawrence’s deep, rich voice provides a smooth backdrop to this riveting story of death inside a wastewater treatment tunnel buried deep under Boston Harbor in 1999. He handles the details of the massive construction project designed to clean up what was then called the dirtiest harbor in America as well as the backstories of the deep-sea divers who are central to the story. Lawrence’s measured pacing helps the listener grasp the technical descriptions of both the project and the divers’ sophisticated equipment. But the same pacing drags during other parts of the narration. Rich in human emotion, tragedy, and courtroom drama, this cautionary tale and tribute unveils the steps that led to the deaths of divers and the fallout for those in charge. M.L.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Tim Gerard Reynolds's portrayal of a virtual slave trapped in the life-sucking mines of Mars is top-notch. The story could have been as easily set in a feudal European camp as on the distant red planet. The rugged dignity of the hero, Darrow, who escapes and challenges the universe's ruling class, is almost Shakespearean. His righteous hatred is visceral. Reynolds portrays him like a brawling Irishman who realizes he’ll never defeat his masters until he becomes one of them. As Darrow changes mentally and physically, Reynolds's portrayal slowly changes as well. In addition, his depiction of the ruling class as golden-skinned perfect people rings true, as does their disdain for the lowly Reds who live short lives mining for the precious metals that sustain their totalitarian society. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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If you have a retirement plan, own mutual funds, or, heaven forbid, trade directly on the American stock exchanges, this audiobook is not going to make your day. Narrator Dylan Baker does a terrific job of delivering this fast, irreverent, complex, and idiosyncratic Wall Street exposé on high-frequency trading (HTF) in a way even non-investors will find informative, entertaining—and scary. Baker uses speed, the lifeblood of HFTs, to infuse his narration with heart-pounding excitement. Baker’s perfect pacing amplifies the story’s intensity and drama in a way that only a truly gifted narrator can. M.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jeff Cummings walks a line between dramatic narration and animated lecturing as he guides listeners through this look at the high-tech future. The authors provide listeners with an upbeat, informative discussion of what the economy may look like in the coming "laborless" world. Cummings's approach lightens some of the material as the audiobook veers between a trendy survey and a future policy manual. Technology may not be the white horse that carries us to a happy ending, but, the authors argue, we can still preserve our species with a combination of humanism and technical advances such as self-driving cars, robotics, massive free online courses, and artificial intelligence. R.W.S. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Word lovers and political junkies, rejoice, and listeners who keep a dictionary for that occasional unfamiliar locution, make sure it’s close by. This fascinating examination of the 2012 presidential election is chock-full of intriguing facts and juicy tidbits, as well as being an exceptional lexicon. Robert Fass’s narration blends the right amount of well-paced vocals with emotional candor as the candidates plan their strategies, melt down, implode, and explode. Using information garnered from hundreds of interviews, the authors present a thorough investigation as the candidates’ fortunes rise and fall during the campaign. A sequel to their 2008 book, GAME CHANGE, this new audiobook is likely a precursor to a 2016 version. M.L.R. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Mitch Joel’s boyish, slightly techie reading works well with this cutting-edge lesson on the new rules for creating and marketing a business. Though he’s excited about his message, Joel’s excellent phrasing and quiet sincerity don’t sell this content as much as invite listeners into it. His advice is to scrap most of the old rules of building a business because of how quickly customers get information from Web-based sources. Along with many specific ideas about blogs and Websites, he offers a number of memorable principles on starting a business in the digital age. This combination of incisive content and the author’s can-do attitude makes this an appealing audiobook to learn how to get yourself moving, get your brand known, and make your business a success. T.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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History made into story, this is an excellent title for those who want to understand more about the complex relationship the U.S. has with Pakistan, bastion of Islamic ideology. Narrator Ralph Lister's crisp, deliberate pronunciation moves through the dense historical details at a steady pace while remaining comprehensible. Lister makes sense of a dizzying number of dates, names, and facts in recounting the creation and seventy-year process of shaping the modern-day state. His narration is swift and sure, taking the listener along the intricate narrative. For those who enjoy nonfiction in the audio format, this is a strong example of how substantial historical and cultural material can be handled deftly. M.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Roger Wayne’s warm, lively reading of Forrest Pritchard’s memoir of saving his family’s farm in the Shenandoah Valley is a hopeful and conversational experience. Pritchard comes home from college with an English degree, a vague notion of selling firewood, and a skeptical father. Wayne conveys the absurdist humor as Pritchard chases escaped chickens around the yard and rescues the lid of his freezer that flies off on the highway, and Pritchard's father sells chickens from his Washington, DC, office cubicle. Pritchard’s father is a wonderful character, and in Wayne’s hands his complicated get-rich-quick schemes, taste for processed sugar, and loyalty to his son’s dreams are dazzlingly larger than life. Pritchard is serious about his mission to bring grass-fed meat to farmers’ markets, and that integrity is heard in Wayne’s performance. A.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Derek Perkins’s fluid articulation, like a gondola threading the canals, carries the listener unresistingly through the crowded spectacle of Venice’s centuries of glory. Strathern is a superb writer, and this is a fascinating history of Venice’s evolution as a major trading center from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries, “from Marco Polo to Casanova,” a story that encapsulates Europe’s own evolution and its life-or-death struggle against the Islamic East. But somewhere deep into the Genoese wars (1256-1381), one can let loose the thread and enter a state in which that fine voice and the fluid succession of Italian names, battles, and politics papal and secular become pure delight. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Charles Pittard's understated presentation is ideal for the larger-than-life subject of this excellent biography. Hilburn presents Cash as the outstanding man he was but also notes his weaknesses and his ability to pick himself up with his greatness little diminished. Fascinating tidbits are sprinkled throughout—one example: June Carter’s relationship to Johnny can be viewed as “an early country equivalent” of Yoko Ono’s with John Lennon; both became power couples in their musical worlds. Pittard's down-home delivery style adds to the insider feeling—listeners can almost HEAR Cash himself sharing his observations and insights. Other highlights include glimpses of Cash's religious faith and his tender relationship with June, readings from his diaries, and his annual New Year's reflections. Audio enhances Cash's remarkable life story, making him seem more true to life. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The provocative behind-the-scenes story of the launch of the Food Network is one of those audiobooks that engages the listener's attention to the point of eluding life's next tasks. The billion-dollar network had little known humble origins and a myriad of hurdles to overcome. Narrator Julian Fleischer sounds intrigued by the machinations of the exhilarating corporate culture and cleverly hints at the players' distinctive voices to make it all thrillingly familiar. Interviews with famed chefs and cooking show luminaries whet the listener’s appetite before the author plunges into details of the financial perils and triumphs that evolved into the successful venture. Quotes from many high-powered personalities and lots of spicy dialogue as well as juicy scandals and hilarious exposés are vividly portrayed in Fleischer's adept performance. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Kathe Mazur’s virtuoso narration makes the story of this mother’s remarkable persistence in raising her autistic son an exceptional audio. Mazur has a broad palette of natural-sounding phrasing options and authentic emotional reactions. Her performance, compassionate but never melodramatic, stays true to every ripple and tide in the author’s riveting journey. Without any hint of hubris or crusading, Kristine Barnett uses examples of her wisdom and diligence with her autistic son to make the point that children with all kinds of developmental challenges grow best when given opportunities to exercise their strengths instead of endless drills to improve weaknesses. This outstanding memoir, combined with Kathe Mazur’s performance, will inspire parents to see higher possibilities for their children and themselves. T.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Michael Kramer's many talents include his ability to portray a persona using only subtle accents and shadings of tone. Such skill is evident here from the opening lines as he convincingly delivers all the emotion and understated drama of author Majd's chronicle of a year spent in his native Iran with his American wife and their toddler son. Kramer perfectly hits every note—from wry amusement at the behavior of political leaders to exasperation at the living conditions and anger about what reformers have endured from the regime. Madj has written about Iran before, but listeners will find that this time it's personal. Kramer's conversational tone and pace add to the intimacy and immediacy of this timely audiobook. M.O.B. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Even to the uninitiated, the “news from Lake Wobegon” inspires familiar feelings of coming home and catching up. Garrison Keillor's breathy baritone, complete with a periodic nasal whistle and his folksy stage presence, maintains the intimacy of the live listening experience. This latest compilation of monologues highlights the meaning of the mundane in family and community life for the familiar characters of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Keillor is a master of the understated, and his comedic timing is impeccable. Spanning nearly four decades, this compilation showcases Keillor's evolving accent, and while his vowels lose some of their trademark elongation, the monologues continue to unfold comfortingly. Topics range from decrying the degradation of potato salad to lamenting the loss of a well-loved resident, so there's something for everyone. A.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In an authoritative and evenhanded performance, narrator Pete Larkin steers this audiobook like he’s driving a big rig—staying in low gear for the first few chapters and then picking up speed as the Amazon enterprise morphs into a voracious behemoth. Larkin’s delivery matches the trajectory of the book—what starts out as a well-researched but fairly dry historical account of a retail start-up then veers into a complicated, slightly hellish tale of a predatory retailer that is not afraid to backstab competitors even while courting them. Founder Jeff Bezos, known for his exuberant optimism and keen business sense (“Worry about the customers, not the competitors,” he advises his troops), is also portrayed as a harsh, sometimes melodramatic taskmaster (“You’re ruining my life,” he tells an underling at a meeting). Of course, none of this should hurt Amazon’s bottom line, especially if you buy the audiobook from Amazon or from its wholly owned subsidiary, Audible.com. R.W.S. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This first-rate history of country music’s “outlaw musicians” informs as well as entertains. Narrator John Pruden provides an enthusiastic delivery and a touch of drama. Peppered with stories of the many players of the '60s and '70s country music scene, the audiobook focuses on “outlaws” Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings. It’s an easy listen filled with anecdotes and vignettes about these legends, their rejection of the Nashville establishment, and their future successes. Whether listeners are country music fans or novices, Pruden’s ability to portray the main players in the outlaw movement will keep listeners tuned in to hear how country singers went rogue and country music went global. E.E.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator John Rubinstein celebrates this "epiphany of taste" with his cogent and insightful performance. The historic convergence of four culinary pioneers in Provence in 1970 marked an impromptu culinary summit and the fledgling revolution of American cuisine. Rubinstein exudes wonder for the nascent food culture that transformed the way we experience restaurant and home cooking today. He provides precise French pronunciations for settings, recipes, and ingredients. Author Barr is food writer M.F.K. Fisher's great-nephew, a status that gained him access to telling journals, letters, and conversations between the gastronomic luminaries who came together during that holiday season. While the book's nonlinear structure becomes a bit confusing in audio as it jumps between time periods and personalities, Rubinstein's expressive descriptions of food and France are enchanting. A.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Bill Bryson offers up a chronicle of an eventful summer in American history: the summer of 1927. Bryson is an engaging narrator because of his evident interest in— indeed, fascination with—the subjects he writes about. Informative and by turns wry, Bryson is enthusiastic, and his hint of a British accent is delightful as he describes a number of historical events: the fervor over Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone’s singular success in the bootlegging trade, and the release of the first “talking picture.” Bryson expertly ferrets out little known details and curiosities and tinges them with dashes of humor, making for a work chock-full of facts that shed new light on the history you thought you already knew. S.E.G. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Simon Vance is captivating as he recounts conservationist Lawrence Anthony's adventures in seeking to protect endangered animals in Africa. Anthony sets off on a quest to save the northern white rhinos living in an area of the Congo controlled by the Lord's Resistance Army. In a surprising turn of events, while seeking to enlist the help of the rebels in protecting the animals, Anthony instead finds himself precariously in the middle of peace negotiations. Vance heightens the suspense in these tense moments and is expansive in conveying Anthony's descriptions of life on his Thula Thula Reserve in South Africa and the assorted animals who live there. Anthony's dedication to conservation is admirable, and Vance vividly depicts his efforts for listeners. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Mozhan Marno elevates the delectable French adventures of Francophile Ann Mah with her gentle tone and exquisite French pronunciation. This delightful audiobook evokes visions of Paris and the surrounding countryside, as well as the people who possess a heritage of timeless recipes. When Mah's diplomat husband is unexpectedly transferred to Iraq for a year just after the couple lands a coveted assignment in Paris, she hatches a plan to become privy to the secrets of the most cherished French regional cuisines. The audiobook eloquently reveals culinary mysteries while evolving into a memoir of love, marriage, family, friendship, and French culture. Marno's crystal clarity of speech adds depth and resonance to the single recipes that conclude each chapter, highlighting eight regional signature dishes. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This audiobook is the result of an in-depth investigation into the events immediately following Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of New Orleans in 2005. Narrator Kirsten Potter approaches this mammoth work with a deliberate reportorial tone that emphasizes the author’s words without appealing to emotion. Memorial Medical Center was overrun by water and people, and in the months and years that followed health care professionals were forced to defend the medical decisions they made in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Potter’s nasal-tinged voice is low and clear, and she treats each phrase and event with care, allowing listeners to focus on the story. Her careful, measured performance makes this a remarkable achievement. R.I.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning WASHINGTON POST reporter and recent recipient of a MacArthur Award details the harrowing experiences of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and their return to American society. Narrator Arthur Bishop is more than up to the task of recounting these lives in a way that will make listeners pause and consider their sacrifices. Bishop has a slightly raspy tone, and at times his pace is too fast, but his unadorned style fits the book and allows the words to take center stage. He alters his voice slightly for characters, but no more than is enough to set them apart from the narrative. The result is an emotional experience that listeners are unlikely to forget. R.I.G. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Hillary Huber manages to be both instructive and well paced in delivering these thought-provoking details about biotechnological advances. Scientists working in the field of biotechnology have been making great strides in recent years, and the applications of this research have now been extended to animals, including our household companions, cats and dogs. From cloned cats to dolphins with prosthetic tails, the scope of possibilities for animal genetic engineering is intriguing, holding promise in terms of new developments as well as raising new troublesome questions regarding bioethics. Huber’s voicing is clear and provides vocal variation that holds the listener's attention. Combined with the author's engaging writing style, it makes for an educational listening experience. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The thrill of the wild mushroom hunt is audible in Kevin Free's performance of this exposé. Amateur mushroom forager Langdon Cook fearlessly delves into forest depths and follows seaside trails seeking the ideal patch of wild umami treasures: morels, chanterelles, porcini, hedgehogs, lobster, and other fungi perfecti. He connects with eccentric, uncultivated, and dedicated foragers, a mysterious and elusive subculture. Listeners gain respect for the mushroom harvesters as Cook learns about their relationship with nature and the broad environs they traverse. Cook's exquisite descriptive writing, bordering on the lyrical, inspires Free's voluptuous narration, which immerses the listener in the delectable lore and science of edible fungi. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Tavia Gilbert’s voice is lovely and full of sensitivity, enthusiasm, and ruefulness—the perfect choice to convey Kate Christensen’s eventful life. Christensen vividly remembers both the shock and the breakfast of soft-boiled eggs and toast that she was eating when her hippie father was beating up her mother because her mother asked for help. Food features prominently as markers in Christensen’s life. She is comforted by her mother’s blue plate specials. Sometimes she eats everything in sight (in her “husky” phases); then she eats exactly the same food for weeks on end to lose the weight. Gilbert smoothly expresses Christensen’s emotions, ranging from regret at having had an affair to despair at her Iowa Writers’ Workshop experience, joy at writing whatever she likes, and a near disconnect at childhood sexual abuse. A.B. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Graeber, a prominent anthropologist, has become one of the most articulate voices for the Occupy Wall Street movement and its progenitors. Graeber’s audiobook about OWS follows in the great leftist tradition, mixing theory and practice, observations about process, and stories about street action to generate the point of view of a self-aware activist. Grover Gardner remains one of the preeminent audiobook narrators. His warm baritone is always clear and well paced. As its title suggests, this is not a blow-by-blow journalistic account of Occupy Wall Street but a more freewheeling discussion of its important aspects, where the movement originated, and where it may be going. Gardner adds life to Graeber’s commentary on theory and practice. F.C. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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A gripping account describes the rescue operations, trauma medicine, and combat support conducted by the U.S. Air Force's Pararescue Jumpers (PJs) in Afghanistan. Narrator Corey Snow does an admirable job navigating the listener through the technical details and military jargon. He captures the complexity of the PJs’ skills, equipment, training, and missions without overdramatizing the material. Listeners gain an appreciation of the PJ community as Snow brings the text alive by way of the bits of dialogue interspersed throughout the mission anecdotes. His solid, steady tempo provides consistency to the accounts of PJ resourcefulness in upgrading their barracks, surviving their training, and accomplishing their missions. Listeners will feel embedded with these Special Forces soldiers. K.C.R. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Entertainment writer Ellin Stein showcases the history of what has become America’s most well-known comedic magazine, The National Lampoon. Being both informational and humorous, Stein interviews those who developed the signature comedic tone of the Lampoon franchise and explains the fascinating way the legacy grew to its success. Narrator Jim Meskimen re-creates the candid stories of Lampoon’s familiar figures and clearly presents the facts. When the personalities of those behind the comedy are described, he adds emphasis to their points of view and strengthens the dialogue and quotes. The history of the magazine and its creators will be both familiar and inviting to fans. D.Z. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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With her beautiful tone and savvy interpretations, Kirsten Potter shows she was a superb choice to read this parenting advice. The author believes that children’s involvement with social media, screen games, and the Internet exposes them to adult life too soon and prevents their emotional engagement with their families. In practical, silky language Steiner-Adair explains that today’s electronic connections are more spellbinding than table games, phone calls, or TV. Handheld screens and earbuds put kids into a trance and don’t teach them the trust, empathy, optimism, and resilience that only family members can offer. As she delivers the author’s ample evidence and remedies for these threats to healthy development, Potter’s appealing voice strikes the perfect level of urgency without lapsing into drama or stealing attention from this compelling information. T.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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If you’ve read the title and you know—then, well, you know, and you’re probably smiling. If you don’t know, here’s the skinny: Humboldt County, California, is the marijuana-growing capital of the U.S. It represents the new frontier in the ever expanding universe of places that could benefit from the legalization of pot. This in-depth portrait of an area where people bury money underground and pay strictly with cash is absorbing and intriguing. Narrators Dan Woren, Sonny Warner, Erin Bennett, and Will Collyer each bring strengths to the account. Warner is energetic, Bennett smoky and cool. Woren is authoritative and reportorial, and Collyer warm and introspective. They alternate chapters, a structure that keeps the listener interested, and they bring depth and soul to this nonfiction work. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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For his intensely emotional play, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (J. EDGAR) draws on actual transcripts of the 2010 trial that examined the unconstitutionality of California’s notorious Proposition 8, which eliminated the rights of same-sex couples to marry. At turns comical and deeply upsetting, the play is beautifully cast—from Brad Pitt’s subtle Chief Judge Walker to George Clooney’s gentlemanly attorney, Boies. Jane Lynch’s expert portrayal of Maggie Gallagher (National Organization for Marriage) is downright maddening, and Chris Colfer’s reading of Ryan Kendall will make you desperate to go home and hug your kids. But the trial isn’t the crux of this story. Instead, it is the portrayals of the Perry family (Jamie Lee Curtis, Christine Lahti, Jansen Panettiere, and Bridger Zadina) that are the most authentic, the most tender, the most crucial to understanding why everyone, regardless of political leaning, should hear this stunning production. A.H.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin proposes missions to near-Earth asteroids to serve as early precursors to Mars missions. He also calls for global cooperation in this endeavor, in contrast to the space rivalry that existed during the Cold War. Narrator John Pruden provides a low-key presentation. At the same time, he puts in enough energy to keep listeners intrigued as Aldrin outlines his ideas. With talk of a Mars colony making the news, Aldrin's exploration of the psychological and practical requirements for Mars homesteading is timely and well considered. Listeners interested in current events and space exploration may find Aldrin’s discussion essential reading. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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When you have an author who writes with enthusiasm about a topic as arcane as competitive rowing and a narrator of the caliber of Edward Herrmann, the result is a fun and compelling work. There’s action and drama, particularly when the story moves to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the American crew’s unexpected but well-earned gold medal. But it’s in the details of the sport itself—the equipment, the training, the personal commitment of the crew members—that both author and narrator especially shine. Herrmann’s tone is steady yet conversational. The book itself reads like an extended magazine profile, and Herrmann’s pace exactly matches the writing. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Richard Aspel’s narration is creative, and his interpretation perceptive in this audiobook on the formation, rise, and breakup of one of the most influential groups in rock-and-roll history, The Beatles. Brimming with facts, anecdotes, and quotes on the effect the band had on the cultural history of Britain and the United States, Aspel provides a crisp delivery that keeps the listener engaged. His splendid narration of the many lyrics explicated throughout the work pulls the listener back to the time of their creation with his almost crooning intonation and cadence. The Beatles are presented in one neat package, and Aspel’s delivery is spot-on. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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If you’re thinking of skipping this book because of its quirky topic, please think again. Circle back and come on in, because this work details a slice of American history that is fascinating, terrifying, and timely, given the storms that have hit the Midwest in the past two years. Andrew Garman does a terrific job with the narration. He reads with a deep, assured voice that he varies to make the book interesting. Garman knows when to quicken his pace and when to let his words linger, with the result that we are drawn into the story and stay emotionally connected to it. Without doing character voices he brings the key people to life so we can grasp their monumental contributions to our lives today. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Ann Marie Lee’s animated reading conveys the fascinating and sometimes frightening process that raw food goes through to become convenience products on supermarket shelves. Lee’s sultry voice makes for an easy listen, even though she mispronounces a couple of foreign foods and attempts a less than impressive New Zealand accent. Her lilt and vocal modulations are more successful with an English accent, which adds to the versatility of her performance. Lee’s articulation and narrative flow highlight the author’s investigation of the food companies, chemicals, and chemistry involved in the manufacture of our foods, particularly the central paradox of food processing that places nutrition and convenience at odds. M.F. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This well-harvested collection of NPR interviews, April Fool’s news reports, and other skits is bound to garner smiles and inspire thoughts about comedy for any listener. From Drew Carey to Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Mel Brooks, and others, the collection includes great interviews that can sometimes offer a very different view of the interviewee—as when Diller talks about the challenges of being in a male-dominated field and Fred Willard and Martin Mull discuss their decade-spanning collaboration. The mixture of material provides something for everyone, and Peter Sagal’s introduction helps to pull it all together. The only complaint listeners will have with the production is that, at just over two hours, it’s not nearly long enough. L.E. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Author Roger Crowley (EMPIRES OF THE SEA, THE SIEGE OF MALTA) undertakes the massive task of charting the history of Venice from 1000 to 1500 C.E. He examines aspects of trade, the Crusades, and the cultural advances that made the “lagoon dwellers” a dominant force in Europe. Edoardo Ballerini’s narrative skill adds the human element to Crowley’s well-researched history. Thanks to Ballerini’s performance, the listener feels the early Venetians’ longing for power. With little land available for agriculture, they were forced to resort to the sea for trade. Recounting details of the Crusades, violent sea battles, political maneuvering, and religious disputes, as well as the 1204 sacking of Constantinople, which led to the Ottoman-Venetian War, Ballerini gives a passionate reading that keeps interest high. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Can body language reveal when someone is lying? Is there a way to identify when an interviewee is attempting deception? After listening to SPY THE LIE, most people will agree that the answer to these questions is yes. Narrated by Fred Berman, the book, written by former CIA agents, will open listeners’ eyes to the science of truth detection. Berman’s performance combines a straightforward delivery with moments when he sounds amazed at how much the authors have learned about their subjects and interviewees through their behavior. The material is fascinating, and Berman makes sure every story and tip enhance the listening experience. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The author of the most comprehensive history of the Civil Rights movement has produced a short but powerful book that highlights the major events of the era and puts those proceedings in chronological and documentary perspective. It can serve as either an introduction to the movement or a coda for those with greater knowledge of the times. Narrator Leslie Odom, Jr., has a firm yet gentle voice that conveys the significance of the story and reinforces Branch’s soaring words. His clear, well-paced reading accentuates the text and underlines the book’s inherent dignity. Odom doesn’t hurry the book along, nor does he use his voice as an instrument of instruction or oration. He simply and, at times, tenderly allows us to witness the movement as it inexorably moves toward its resolution. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Part autobiography and part political call to arms, this is a compelling encapsulation of a long life dedicated to public service. A U.S. senator from Maine for 18 years, now retired, Snowe has a distinctive voice and powers of verbal persuasion—both of which make a case for hearing the author read her own work. Narrator Pam Ward, nonetheless, is masterful in delivering the words of the powerful, passionate, and humble Snowe. Ward’s perfect pacing keeps the narrative flowing whether dealing with the high dudgeon of the early days of women in Congress or detailing vital but sometimes stultifying discussions of budgets, committee meetings, and cloakroom battles. Ward’s vocal power also highlights what we can infer from Snowe’s chronicle of a government lost in the desert. M.C. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Cooking and eating food may seem like mundane activities, but they’re responsible for humanity's intelligence. The double meaning of Pollan’s title becomes apparent as he unveils the anthropological process and primal magic that transformed raw items into cooked food. Pollan narrates his book in a conversational style filled with conviction and eagerness that drive the listener to join his evolutionary quest. He enthusiastically explores the culinary power of harnessing fire, water, air and earth. "Cooking is baked into our biologies," he states. Pollan brings the listener along on his visits to a North Carolina pit master, a Chez Panisse braising expert, a master bread baker, brewers, and "fermentos." Society, he warns, needs nourishment to be found not in corporate food preparation but in what connects us—meal creation together. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Eric Martin hits all the right notes in his narration of journalist Charlie LeDuff's chronicle of the problems that plague his hometown, the once flourishing and now foundering Detroit. The author’s edgy tone is tough and uncompromising, befitting the harsh realities facing those who remain in the troubled city. Martin's narration mirrors LeDuff's writing as he voices the poverty, corruption, and crime of the city as well as the brash and irreverent personality of the author himself. Both author and narrator are by turns incredulous, despairing, and hopeful, though, as LeDuff concedes, hope can be hard to come by nowadays in Detroit. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Like a beachcomber with a metal detector, statistician Nate Silver combs the sands of data in various disciplines—baseball, weather, earthquakes, politics, and more—and identifies the obstacles to predicting their outcomes. Mike Chamberlain narrates this audiobook with a youthful energy that matches Silver’s friendly approach to applied statistics. Faced with a blizzard of unimportant data (the noise), Silver (the bête noire of conservative pollsters) describes how to pick out the meaningful events (the signals). Fortunately, for audiobook listeners, there are no statistical minutiae to track. Instead, Silver sticks to big-picture concepts and instructive explanations—for example, the spurious world of “retro-dictions” (predictions of an event issued after the event has occurred). It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict that this audiobook will attract fans of MONEYBALL, FREAKONOMICS, and THE TIPPING POINT. R.W.S. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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What makes this third collection of the authors’ “Chick Wit” columns so much fun is hearing them read it themselves. Lisa Scottoline’s smart-alecky delivery supports her wisecracking style of introspection and self-deprecating humor. Scottoline delights in her quirky family and their unconventional styles, all the while trying to find a way to deal with empty-nest parenting. Daughter Francesca Serritella’s voice is younger and less seasoned, but her energy is high, and her observations are spot-on. She tells about bonding with her mom while watching sports and action-adventure movies and offers a “Field Guide to the American Male” from the perspective of a 20-something woman. For the “Flying Scottolines,” a “good fight” is not an oxymoron but the seasoning that makes mother-daughter love even more delicious. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Fly high! Dare to fail! Do art! (In a very broad but nuanced sense.) Seth Godin’s newest offering completes his transition from marketing guru to motivational philosopher. The program is a series of more or less closely related observations and stories that are short enough to absorb quickly. They’re well suited to listening. It’s like having an executive coach on your shoulder. Godin’s vulnerability and anger at those who don’t “get” him makes him more engaging. And he’s a good reader. As a motivational speaker, he understands how to present his own material to best effect. F.C. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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David Sedaris's familiar voice and delivery make everything he writes funnier, odder, and more poignant. (And if his voice isn't familiar, run, don't walk, to find any of his recordings.) In this latest collection of personal essays and commentary, listeners get Sedaris the world traveler—exploring China dubiously, overhearing American tourists in France, dealing with customs agents in England, delving into the strange landscapes of his own family and childhood in North Carolina. Sedaris knows how to make the most of the material, perfectly emphasizing every punch line, gross-out, and auditory double take. A few live recordings, complete with an appreciative audience, are interspersed with the studio readings. J.M.D. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This marvelous presentation of Pete Seeger’s words and music is a gift to all lovers of folk music, as well as anyone interested in the history of civil protest in America. The program combines Seeger’s captivating stories about his life and times with some of his most famous songs and well-chosen music from other folk traditions. Producer Jeff Haynes has combined the elements with care, incorporating interesting music—from bluegrass to Celtic to African—that enhances without getting in the way of Seeger’s marvelous reminiscences. Those deservedly hold center stage. Be forewarned that listening will make you smile so much that your face will hurt. Listen anyway. You’ll love every moment. A.C.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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With strong projection and an occasional light Southern drawl, Gore narrates his latest exploration of the world as a single cohesive system. He explores six converging elements, including economic impasse, hegemonic shifts, sustainability, digitization, transformational scientific breakthroughs, and more conscious awareness of the human in humanity. Taken together, these elements paint a future filled with challenges but also, Gore argues, a good number of opportunities. As narrator, Gore's skills in emphasis and rhythm create increased comprehension, particularly of the more technical and detailed passages. Listeners may find his inconsistent accent distracting however, it seems to shine through when he's being most emphatic, a pattern that listeners may find useful. L.E. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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When you look for chores to do that will allow you to listen to a particular audiobook, you know that title has you hooked. The compelling and charming story of a small-town high school baseball team in 1971 combined with an able and engaging narrator is an unbeatable combination. Mike Chamberlain has an easy tone, and he varies his pitch and pace effectively to match the material. A few times he alters his voice for direct quotes from figures in the book but not so often that it becomes a distraction. The author is a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writer, and the book comes across like a long, well-written magazine piece, with a narrative that flows and enough detail to keep listeners engaged. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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