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The host of "Top Chef" narrates her memoir as if she's telling her story to a trusted friend. She sounds expressive and vulnerable--revealing mistakes with a tone of regret, letting her love shine through the voices she creates for beloved family members, and enthusing about her passion for food, fashion, and travel. Lakshmi slips in and out of accents as she moves through her childhood in India and the U.S., her modeling career in Europe, her marriage to Salman Rushdie, her move into the world of food and "Top Chef," her struggles with endometriosis, and the relationships that led to the birth of her daughter. While aspects of Lakshmi's story have been celebrity gossip fodder, this well-crafted memoir will have broad appeal to listeners interested in remarkable lives. A.F. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Listeners interested in the lives of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson will love this audiobook. Narrator Amanda Carlin provides good interpretations of both Lady Bird's and Lyndon's voices and Texas accents. Lady Bird's southern upbringing cultivated a public persona that was quite different behind closed doors. She was bright, attractive--and formidable. When anyone had a problem with LBJ, they went to her, and she would "persuade" her husband to reconsider his decision. Her expertise in handling those situations was tantamount to salvaging his presidency. As complex as their personalities were, they stayed together until the day LBJ died. Carlin does a fine job of capturing the essence of their relationship and its effect on the Johnson years in the White House. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Listening to the late Pete Seeger is like chatting with an old friend. It never gets old, even though we do. Seeger's latest collection of songs and stories is a treasure. He talks about life; friends, such as Woody Guthrie and Paul Robeson; and his tireless environmental work, which he started in the 1950s—before the word even existed. Musician Jeff Haynes adds a gentle background to Pete's tales, which lead into songs. Some of the songs were written by Seeger, some by others. All the songs are performed by singers touched by Seeger's legacy. The history of the song “Danny Boy” alone is worth buying the audiobook. My only complaint about the work is that it’s way too short. Two hours and 18 minutes barely scratches the surface of Seeger's amazing career. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Tavia Gilbert’s narration of these essays written by nurses is beautiful and profound. Nurses are the often invisible backbone of the healthcare system. Gilbert delivers all the essays, irrespective of gender or ethnicity, capturing the spirit of each one. They reflect personal growth as well as social and scientific progress. The hysteria of AIDS once meant that nurses weren’t even allowed to enter the rooms of AIDS patients, and now an HIV-positive individual might die of old age. Gilbert translates all the emotions, including fear, gallows humor, gratitude, and empathy. A baby born with half a heart dies shortly after birth, but the nurse treats both the baby and the parents with compassion and dignity. A home care nurse is the only attendee at the funeral of a client without family—and Gilbert does a terrific grumpy old man, too. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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William Shatner and the late Leonard Nimoy were friends for 50 years, creating many memories. They first appeared together in a 1964 episode of “THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E,” which was a far cry from the sci-fi work they’re most known for. Shatner narrates his story with touching reverence for a dear friend and describes how their relationship strengthened as they filmed 79 episodes of “Star Trek,” which would shape their destinies—individually and as a much-loved onscreen acting team. Shatner’s authentic performance moves the story along with humor and sincerity, making the anecdotes all the more interesting and touching. He describes the significant ways the two influenced each other and how their friendship helped make them the unique actors their fans revered for years to come. B.J.P. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Assaf Cohen so perfectly captures the voice of an expressive kid that it's hard to remember he isn't the author of this enthralling memoir. Gulwali Passarlay, now grown, recounts the story of his journey from Afghanistan to Europe when he was 12. Starting aboard a sinking boat in the Mediterranean, we flash back to the beginning of Gulwali's adventure. The author had a happy childhood in a conservative family until the murder of his father and grandfather propelled him and his brother to flee their home and head to Greece with a “fixer.” When the brothers lose each other, Gulwali survives on his wits and the kindness of strangers. Cohen nails both the nasty and nice characters—everyone from Kurd to Englishman—and brings moving expression to Gulwali’s growing confidence amid enough terrors for a lifetime. A.C.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Deep religious schisms, the threat of terrorist revolution, a return of a deadly pandemic. Today's headlines? No, it's 1606. With a voice of gentle authority and a good command of historic detail and literary deconstruction, Audie-winning narrator Robert Fass takes the listener on a fascinating tour of a pivotal time in William Shakespeare's life and career. This is when his "King's Men" acting troupe presented KING LEAR, MACBETH, and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA to their patron, King James I, all in the same year. The American-accented Fass leaves aside classic theatrical rhythms and delivers the many passages of the Bard with a conversational clarity that is much appreciated. Whether he's discussing Scottish independence, Guy Fawkes, or the Black Plague, Shapiro's descriptions of Shakespeare's times always sound so distant and so familiar all at once. B.P. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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No one but David Spade should narrate his memoir—one of the funniest in years. You can almost see him wink and smirk as he talks about his six-year stint on “Saturday Night Live,” his fear of Eddie Murphy, and life on the road as a stand-up comic. Spade also performed on the television shows “Just Shoot Me” and “Rules of Engagement” and in a host of films, including “Tommy Boy” with the late Chris Farley. His stories about Farley are simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious. But fame did not come easy to the fair-haired Arizona boy, who often found himself way over his head but who succeeded through his charm and quick wit. Listeners will enjoy the time spent with Spade. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Peter Reigert had a lot to live up to in being Marvel Comics honcho Stan Lee's alter ego in his memoir about his life in comics. Even with an introduction by Lee himself for comparison, Reigart does an “amazing, fantastic, incredible” job bottling Lee’s enthusiasm and tendency to speak in superlatives. Lee recounts how, as a poor kid in New York, he stumbled into a job in the fledgling comic-book industry and over a period of 20 years helped to transform it into something amazing. Based on a graphic novel, which is also pretty amazing, the audiobook offers a peek into the bizarre world of comic creators and the even stranger life of one of the industry's most important voices. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Most readers have heard of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., best known for his novel SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE. But few know even the name of his older brother, Bernard, a scientist who is credited with developing the process for using iodide crystals to seed clouds for rain. This work portrays both their lives in parallel chronologies. Sean Runnette delivers a solid, engaging narration. His conversational tone makes listening smooth and easy to follow. For example, when the author jumps abruptly from one brother to the other or even to a third person, Runnette pauses appropriately, allowing the listener to mentally make the shift. He sets off the few direct quotations with pauses, as well, again offering helpful aural cues. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Even if you think you know Dame Margaret (Maggie) Smith through her redoubtable performance as the Countess of Grantham in “Downton Abbey,” you will find much to savor in Sian Thomas’s narration of English theater critic Michael Coveney’s informative and enjoyable biography. The book traces Smith’s life and career from her childhood flair for comedy (much to her mother’s disapproval) to her later theater and film fame, and includes many tales of her personal and working relationships with other stars. The stories are fun, although the wealth of names is occasionally daunting. But Thomas’s well-paced performance and crisp, finely tuned voice keep one interested. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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As events escalate toward the momentous sinking of the British passenger liner LUSITANIA by a German U-boat during WWI, this comprehensive history reads almost like a novel, and that’s exactly how Scott Brick narrates it. He adds emphasis where needed, goes quieter when appropriate, and varies his pacing effectively. His narration doesn’t get in the way of the writing—it enhances it. And during the sometimes dry and lengthy history sections early in the work, he carries listeners along. In print, readers might be tempted to skim or even skip these passages, but Brick makes them easy to listen to. R.G.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 ALA Media Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Amanda Palmer’s resonant yet intimate reading is captivating—but in a way that keeps listeners wondering whether it’s her wisdom about emotional connections or her outspoken self-promotion that makes this audio so powerful. She turned the skills she developed as a street busker and nightclub stripper into crowdfunding her indie rock career and sharing her ideals about human exchanges in a TED talk that garnered six million views. Bringing authenticity to her audiobook performance, she sells herself as a new millennium woman who knows something about inviting people to understand her and enter into productive exchanges with her. Her dramatic and seductive vocal style makes her message unforgettable: Asking for what you want and need will make you a more genuine participant in the human experience. T.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Fred Sanders narrates this smartly written biography with the right balance of gravitas and entertainment value, providing accents for some of the major characters including a convincing South African accent for the story's star. Elon Musk, in case you're not familiar, is a 21st- century Howard Hughes, a captivating entrepreneur who has disrupted entrenched industries that include banking (PayPal), aeronautics (SpaceX), automobiles (Tesla), and energy (Solar City). His life story makes for a riveting tale—he was a bullied teenager who grew up to build electric cars and launch rockets into space (as well as to become the model for Tony Stark, Robert Downey's character in the Iron Man movies). The combination of great narration, well-written and well-researched content, and a bigger-than-life subject propels this nuanced work into the upper atmosphere of audiobook biographies. R.W.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Helen Macdonald has written a spectacular memoir full of wildness and grief, recounting her training of a goshawk in the wake of her father’s unexpected death. She is also a marvelous narrator, evoking the open spaces of her Cambridge fields, the natural violence of a goshawk’s existence, and her crippling fear of mingling with society when she is so bereft. It is all there in her voice, along with a crisp English accent that is such a pleasure to listen to. Macdonald intertwines her training of Mabel, the goshawk, with the miserable failure of T.H. White to tame a goshawk long before he penned THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, which made him famous. She slightly lowers her voice to distinguish White’s story from her own journey out of sorrowful madness into a hopeful future. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 ALA Media Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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JD Jackson offers a solid, easy-on-the-ears narration of this reexamination of the Underground Railroad. Jackson takes an almost professorial-sounding approach in his tone and cadence. But he’s by no means pedantic. He varies both the pitch of his voice and the pacing to fit the material as well as adds emotion where appropriate. For direct quotes, he pauses just before he reads the quotation, giving the listener clear audible cues about the content. He wisely doesn't try to give speakers unique vocal characterizations as the quotations often are too short for such a technique to be effective. This book is more scholarly than action filled, and Jackson's reading makes it easy to follow. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The familiar voice of NPR host and correspondent Scott Simon introduces listeners to a more personal side of his life in this audiobook, a memoir of his mother, Patricia Lyons Simon Newman, her colorful life, and her relationship with her only child. Based on Simon's tweets during his mother's final illness, and expanded to include additional reminiscences both positive and negative from mother and son, the book is an homage to a woman he clearly holds dear and who seemed to have touched everyone she met with her kind and positive disposition. Simon's radio background is evident in this production. His relaxed pace and pleasant vocal quality are conducive to easy listening. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Rick Bragg says Southern storytellers speak as if they’re slowly chewing each word, savoring the sound and meaning. And that’s just the way he presents this collection of his published essays. His presentation isn’t labored or slow just for effect. It’s just this tale spinner’s way of presenting the story, neither too slow nor too fast. While the entries were published in print, mostly in Bragg’s “Southern Journal” entries for SOUTHERN LIVING magazine, they clearly were written for the ear as well as the eye. His use of metaphor and rich descriptions comes across especially effectively when spoken. The topics cover Southern life, particularly family and everyday activities. The length of each entry makes this audiobook ideal for commuters, although motorists may be tempted to take a side trip just to hear another tale. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This book looks at the life and legacy of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall through the prism of his confirmation hearing, a politicized process that set the stage for future contentious hearings. Dominic Hoffman offers an effective and engaging narration. His voice carries the necessary gravitas, but he lightens the tone when needed, which keeps some of the Senate proceedings from becoming tedious. He alters his voice to indicate direct quotations. As Marshall, he is quite effective, and he does a fairly good job with Southern white senators. With others, notably Robert and Edward Kennedy, he has mixed success, but this is of little consequence to the overall effectiveness of the reading. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The topic of the U.S. internment of 120,000 Japanese people, both Americans and aliens, during WWII is a painful and shameful chapter of our history, yet reader James Yaegashi performs this work primarily without rancor. A Japanese-American himself, Yaegashi succinctly tells the story of racial hatred, fear, and greed as American citizens were forced to leave their homes and herded into camps that ranged from primitive to putrid. There is a tinge of pride in his voice when he talks about the loyal Japanese-Americans who willingly submitted to the camps for the greater good of their adopted country. And there is perhaps a touch of anger when Yaegashi tells about the greedy people who preyed on the internees, offering to buy their homes and possessions for pennies. M.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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North Carolina-born Joseph Mitchell, literary lion of THE NEW YORKER magazine, is the subject of an elegant, ambitious, and articulate portrait. Journalist Kunkel explores Mitchell’s enigmatic and odd nature along with his interest in colorful New Yorkers. Narrator Joe Barrett’s gravelly, expressive voice, which employs subtle characterization, is perfectly matched to the precise and confident prose. This is a thoughtful and sympathetic investigation of a life, seamlessly interweaving Mitchell’s youthful, middle, and later years, examining the long periods in which he did not write, only to return to those efforts later with great success. W.A.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, consumer and environmental protection acts—these and many other landmark bills all passed through Congress during the first years (1963-1966) of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. However, listening as Andrew Garman narrates in a calm and reasoned tone, one realizes that it would be a mistake to think that the pillars of Johnson’s liberal “Great Society” legislation sailed through Congress without a fight. With clarity and a just a hint incredulity, Garman recounts how Dixiecrats, hard-line conservatives, and old-line New Dealers were able to come together for the briefest of times and create the political and social landscapes of the nation we live in today. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Israeli writer Etgar Keret is best known for his satirical essays. He brings that same wryness to this series of autobiographical sketches, which span the period from the birth of his son to the death of his father. Alex Karpovsky’s engaging narration captures all the bewilderment the author expresses about modern life and the universal truth of many of his observations. Karpovsky changes his tone, volume, and pacing to fit the material so effectively that you’d swear he’s performing a stand-up comedy routine rather than reading a book. He gives selected other speakers individual voices, which add to the richness of the narration. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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John McDonough’s resonant voice narrates this account of the odysseys of Union veterans of the American Civil War. While listening to this account, one is struck by the fact that so little has changed in a century-and-a-half. Civilians who are untouched by the war take little to no notice of the veterans. The veterans themselves are often broken both physically and emotionally but struggle to secure appreciation for their sacrifices and support for their needy comrades. The account ends with the passing of the last verified veteran of the Civil War, Albert Woolson, of Minnesota, in 1956. McDonough’s pacing, inflection, and enunciation are always well done, and this production is no exception. His reading of this superbly written history will quickly capture the listener’s attention and keep it to the end. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This superb audio production illuminates a neglected side of WWI, and the origin of many of today’s conflicts in the Middle East. Rogan (author of THE ARABS) reconstructs a bloody and controversial history with objectivity and utter truthfulness, and narrator Derek Perkins maintains that same distance and balance—while conveying with stark immediacy the awful drift of events. The slaughter at Gallipoli, the murder of hundreds of thousands of Armenians, the postwar European betrayal of peoples who had fought and died for their independence—none of this “reads” very well today, however well it’s told. But this is THE source for those who really want to understand all that’s gone wrong in the Middle East these last hundred years. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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David Colacci splendidly narrates Signer’s discussion of how James Madison—a relative unknown compared to Jefferson, Washington, and Adams—operated in the political sphere. Signer’s account describes in detail Madison’s youth and education as well as his contributions to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, particularly his successful efforts on behalf of the federalists, which culminated in the ratification of the Constitution. The author also looks at Madison’s contemporaries, especially Patrick Henry, using Henry as a foil to Madison. Colacci’s baritone voice is expertly modulated, and his pacing is easy to follow and engaging. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The Battle of Waterloo is an iconic event that stands out as one of the most pivotal, bloodiest, and most celebrated military contests of the nineteenth century. With typical British confidence and precision, Michael Page narrates this detailed tribute to the Second Light Battalion, King’s (the King of England) German Legion, which stood at the crossroads of Haye Sainte on June 18, 1815, defending a small farmhouse against wave after wave of Napoleon’s best soldiers long enough to tip the tide of battle to the side of the allies. Page delivers the many German surnames and phrases sprinkled throughout the text with exacting precision, which only seems right because without those 400 brave German riflemen it’s a distinct possibility that many English might have ended up speaking French (again). B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell would feel comfortable unleashing her inner demons only in a format like this: Her longtime friend and colleague Malka Marom—who met Mitchell for the first time in 1966—conducts a course of interviews over several years, serving more as Mitchell’s confidante than interlocutor. At times, the women come off like a chatty coffee klatch, freely dishing and swapping intimacies, a tone that may leave listeners feeling like they’re outside of the conversation. But Carrington MacDuffie, a vocalist in her own right, carries the load well, capturing the pair’s chummy tone as they swap heavily female-centric insights and engage in poetic free flights. Given Mitchell’s well-known shy nature, this is the closest her fans are going to get to a tell-all bio anytime soon. J.S.H. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This audiobook on George Washington’s development as a leader and as a man is given a splendid reading by Christopher Lane. The biographical account covers the period of Washington’s early life through the end of the War of Independence. Listeners hear how his self-awareness and conscious efforts to improve himself molded him throughout his life. Lane’s baritone voice is winsomely sonorous, and he narrates at a perfectly expressive easygoing pace, allowing the listener to easily follow the text. This production is a near-perfect match of text and voice—a pleasure to listen to. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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As Tavia Gilbert leads the listener through Coco Chanel’s countless alliances and conquests, she reveals Coco’s driving ambition and eccentricities. A dominant and colorful influence in twentieth-century fashion, Chanel has already been the subject of numerous biographies, but Garelick delivers historical context to render this account worthwhile. Gilbert elegantly portrays the multitude of Chanel’s wealthy lovers and financial backers, ranging from the Duke of Westminster to a Nazi officer. Gilbert’s smooth pronunciation of French names is melodic but understandable to the American listener, and her consistent pace carries through the author’s complex comparisons of Chanel’s relationships to the politics of her time. Gilbert’s vibrant narration almost—but not quite—compensates for the absence of the print edition’s photographs. N.M.C. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Grover Gardner gets a marathon workout as he delivers this comprehensive biography of the celebrated novelist, poet, and essayist John Updike. Gardner envelops Begley’s heartfelt prose with warm tones and gentle pauses that let the major turning points in Updike’s career sink into the listener’s ear. Begley discusses, for example, the importance of Updike’s first appearance in THE NEW YORKER and its place in the securing of his ambitions. He also shows the many ways that Updike interpreted the true events of his life in his fiction. As Begley allows his affection for the novelist to bleed through, Gardner ensures that listeners are entertained and enlightened by this account of one of the twentieth century’s finest literary talents. R.O. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In the early days of WWI, training as a fighter pilot was a romantic notion for the young men who headed to Europe to earn their wings prior to the U.S. entry in the war. They wrote letters home and recorded their experiences in their diaries. Sean Runnette’s voice, pacing, and timbre superbly match their stories—a poignant tone and pause following a death, an increase in pitch as the joy of flying catches hold, and an easy delivery of French terms. Runnette captures the excitement of the young men as they learn to fly, the drudgery of waiting for deployment, and the reality of death as so many perish from accidents and combat as this nascent form of warfare develops. M.L.R. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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David Axelrod, top political advisor to Presidents Clinton and Obama, was 5 years old when John F. Kennedy was running for president. He got to shake Kennedy’s hand on a day he stopped in Illinois. Axelrod recounts the details of the encounter that marked the beginning of his fascination with all things political. As he describes working his way from political reporter to political advisor of some of the most powerful men in this country, his memoir is filled with compelling anecdotes. Although his delivery is monotone in some instances, it doesn’t diminish the power of his words. In particular, the last quarter of the production, which describes Barack Obama’s successful campaign and election to the presidency, is dynamite listening. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Suzanne Toren’s fine rendition of this engaging biography of two equally famous but vastly different women is one of the unqualified pleasures among this spring’s listening delights. Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer have done an exemplary job of reconstructing a neglected subplot in the Roosevelt family saga, and Toren brings charm, vigor, and a congenial lilt to a narrative that isn’t nearly as biting or contentious as the title may imply—though, it turns out, is biting and contentious enough. Here we trace the true political legacy of Teddy Roosevelt as his daughter Alice and niece Eleanor assume very different roles on the Washington stage. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Ralph Lister delivers a vivid picture of medieval England as described in this well-researched audiobook on King Edward I. Ambitious and intelligent, King Edward spent most of his life fighting, starting with the Crusades. He later mounted battles against Wales, Scotland, and France to expand his realm and to exercise his kingly rights. Even on his deathbed he wanted to reclaim Jerusalem for Christianity. Lister uses his marvelous vocal range to bring strength and depth to the persona of Edward. His performance gives listeners insight into the character of the man who defeated William Wallace, of BRAVEHEART fame. Not just a monster as he has been portrayed, Edward was also a zealous, long-reigning king. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Here's yet another honest, exhaustive, and thoughtful effort to give the listener an enhanced understanding of the complex genius and icon that was Steve Jobs. With the cooperation of many, including a few exclusive sources, the authors portray Jobs's evolution from immature, brash, and thoughtless innovator to resilient and mature industry leader. George Newbern's narration is--simply put--superb. He is exceptionally well suited to the task at hand. The greatest praise is that he disappears, allowing the story to unfold in one's mind. His unhurried narration is a totally immersive experience. Be prepared for the temptation to listen without pausing for any significant amount of time. W.A.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This audiobook details the events of one of the most forgotten decades in American history. The Revolution that came before the 1780s and the Constitution that came at the end of that decade are deservedly well chronicled--but what of the key era in between, which shaped who we are as a nation? Listen and marvel as we learn more about the genius of Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and John Jay. Robertson Dean's deliberate, authoritative voice lends this work an air of importance that is both compelling and accessible. The potentially dry story is an adventure as told by the masterful Ellis, and Dean propels it forward with a lively pace and impeccable diction. It's good history at its best. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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David McCullough’s reading of his new biography of the Wright Brothers is a stellar production on every count, and a supremely satisfying listening experience. McCullough’s calm, avuncular voice, familiar to millions from his PBS productions, is for many of us the voice of history itself. In the Wrights he sees exemplified the values of courage, character, and perseverance, which he has honored in book after book, never with such unqualified admiration as here. McCullough concentrates on the first decade of the 1900s— the Wrights’ years of labor and invention and a period of unparalleled public excitement their first flights inspired in Europe and America. The text is concise, rich in telling and illuminating detail. You feel you’re not just listening, but seeing the story unfold before your eyes. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © 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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As an NPR journalist, Steve Inskeep must craft stories in a way that allows listeners to see his subjects in their minds. In addition, when he delivers each story on the air, he has to be able to carry it along in a way that keeps listeners from tuning out. He brings both of these skills to bear in his history of Andrew Jackson's land acquisition in what was then the western United States as well as Jackson’s relationship with the Native American peoples who lived there. Inskeep varies his voice the way a good storyteller should, with appropriate emphasis or lightness in the right places. For direct quotes, his slight pauses make it clear which are the speaker's words and which are the author's. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Author Lynsey Addario uses her camera to capture images of beauty and light as well as despair, horror, and every other human emotion under the sun. Narrator Tavia Gilbert does the same with her voice, giving an authentic and thoughtful performance of this audiobook. As Addario recounts her experience of being held hostage, along with three reporters, by troops loyal to President Gaddafi in Libya, Gilbert brings the appropriate heart-pumping fear to the listener. It’s terrifying. It’s also a profoundly different experience for Addario—the men are beaten, but she is stroked and groped while being threatened with death. Addario’s story is fascinating as she tells of her unusual upbringing, early struggle to get assignments, raw emotion at being embedded in a dangerous culture, and abundant love for her husband and small child. Gilbert delivers it all in a thoroughly satisfying listening experience. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Aretha Franklin turns out to be a complex musical genius in this audiobook biography. Narrator Brad Raymond does a great job of portraying the relatives and friends in her life who helped her succeed. Raymond’s cadence and inflections change as he switches from Cecil, her brother, to Carolyn and Erma, her sisters, as well as Ruth Bowen, her first manager. Aretha was a child prodigy. But when her mother died, she was just 10, and it changed her life forever. Raymond also captures her father, a strong, vibrant man who demanded much of Aretha. As narrator, Raymond takes the listener through every stage of Aretha’s triumphs and tragedies. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This is a warm and affectionate biographical portrait of the forty-first U.S. president written and read by the forty-third U.S. president. George W. Bush uses reverential and understated tones as he informs and touches the listener with a most enjoyable audio treat. This narration is of the highest order because it brings to life the sincerity and love of a son for his father. The feelings are quite palpable. While there’s nothing surprising or scandalous here, and perhaps no new historic ground, the performance is engaging and exudes charm. It’s all here factually: George H. W. Bush’s WWII heroism, political wins and losses, pioneering work in the Texas oil business, and unlikely friendship and humanitarian work in concert with President Clinton. Both the senior and junior Bush demonstrate determination and commitment while maintaining steadfast, self-effacing points of view. W.A.G. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrating his own memoir, Lear looks back on his long life mostly with wry amusement and humane acceptance, but he also expresses a range of other emotions—from exasperation to wonder and grief. His voice sounds, understandably, a bit creaky but engaging and expressive as well. His pacing and timing are excellent as he keeps the material fresh, his tone reflecting his memories as he recounts them. It’s a remarkable life filled with accomplishment in television, film, and political activism, and his accounts are moving and revealing. Anyone with an interest in the past 60 years of entertainment should be absorbed and may find that, like life itself, the book goes by too quickly. W.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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David Greene, host of NPR's “Morning Edition,” sets out to discover the "real Russia" by heading cross-country on a train through Siberia, stopping along the way to visit the towns and speak with the people who inhabit them. Greene's narration is reflective and pleasantly relaxed. Since he spent two years based in the Russian bureau of NPR and is narrating his journey with his sidekick and translator, Sergey, Greene is able to impart additional emotion to the stories where appropriate, having lived through the experiences firsthand or listened directly to the people telling their stories. The result is an eye-opening look at modern-day Russia and the Russian character, both in the big cities and in the countryside. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Grover Gardner’s deep, versatile voice narrates the downfall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of modern Turkey in this detailed history. From its opening in the early 1890s, the Pera Palace has been a center of activity for Westerners. Its many guests have included businessmen; refugees from numerous wars, pogroms, and other disasters; political refugees such as Leon Trotsky; and a multitude of spies—Nazi, Soviet, British, American, and French. Gardner recounts the cavalcade of characters and epic events with subtle inflections and clear pronunciation. The events of 1914-1918 and the influx of refugees from the Russian Revolution and Civil War are particularly interesting. Gardner’s skill in delivering terms in several languages, along with his other strengths, makes this a production well worth listening to. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The trailblazing author writes with the equanimity of her 78 years and the perspective of someone with her world-class résumé. Narrator Bernadette Dunn, with her sturdy vocal personality and a captivating performance, delivers Sheehy’s story with the stature and strength that a memoir from such an iconic author demands. Listeners will feel the force of Sheehy’s character and her lifelong drive to not let demeaning stereotypes of women keep her from her life’s work. Dunn is especially sensitive interpreting dialogue and rolling with the subtle shifts in tone and momentum that make Sheehy’s writing so absorbing. With the pathos it deserves, she captures the book’s meta-theme—the fascinating intersection of Sheehy’s brave career path and her lifelong refusal to deny any part of what it means to be a woman. T.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Robert Fass splendidly recounts Jefferson Davis’s role as Commander in Chief of the Confederate States of America. His Midwestern-sounding voice moves at a deliberate pace in portraying Davis as a three-dimensional figure. The West Point graduate served as a regimental commander and hero in the Mexican War and then became Secretary of War and a senator before the Civil War. During that war he worked to forge a nation with some who were as hardheaded as he could be. Fass’s calm, steady delivery and appropriate inflections are a good match to the material, making for an engaging performance. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This autobiography by the late--and truly great--Louis Zamperini is ably read by Arthur Morey. Zamperini, whose story is depicted in the recent movie UNBROKEN, had a life that no one would believe if it were fiction: He was an Olympic athlete and a WWII bomber pilot who was shot down and survived in a raft for 47 days in shark-infested waters, and then survived two years of torture and abuse as a P.O.W. of the Japanese. Returning home after the war, he faced more demons before his conversion to Christianity in 1949. In his subsequent life he was a mentor and an inspirational speaker. Morey is a skilled narrator, but this performance lacks the warmth, energy, and vitality that Zamperini had when speaking in public. One wishes that Zamperini had lived long enough to narrate his own book. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Anjelica Huston’s second installment in her life story is a captivating look at a charmed life. She takes on the role of narrator for this audiobook and tells her story with many anecdotes that both astound and amaze. Her even-toned delivery suggests that the events she recounts have no emotional content, her tempestuous relationship with Jack Nicholson included. However, her love for her father shines through in her impression of his voice—she captures his cadence and language magnificently. Listeners will shed tears when she describes her father’s last days; her sorrow at losing him sounds as raw as the day it happened. This is a touching performance from a person who has lived a most extraordinary life. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Joe Barrett delivers the commentary, background information, and footnotes, and Lloyd James narrates the letters of Colonel Thomas H. Carter in this firsthand account of life in Confederate service during the Civil War. In 1861, Carter raised an artillery battery for the Confederacy from King William County, where he was from; saw action in nearly every major engagement of the Army of Northern Virginia; and eventually rose to command the artillery for the ANV’s 2nd Corps. His letters, of which almost all are addressed to his wife, describe not just battles but also life in camp, his very plain-spoken opinions of his compatriots and superiors, and life in the South during the war. James transforms himself into Carter—his accent, pacing, and inflection are perfect. Barrett, while not as adept, is quite splendid reading the commentary. M.T.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The humble Rhodes Scholar and former Army captain, a frequent world events commentator on cable news TV, narrates his second memoir/essay with sincerity and a bit of self-consciousness regarding his diction. It's a moving performance, nonetheless, because of his engagement with his own and others' early career stories, which are compelling. The point he makes is that the work we choose is ultimately more helpful to the world if we pay attention to what we feel strongly about, rather than what we think the world needs. With the author's compassionate observations and understated advice leading the way, this is a high-impact audiobook for anyone whose life work is beginning or who is in the midst of a transition. T.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This audiobook proves yet again that fact can be as fascinating as fiction, particularly when Simon Vance is the narrator. Although Nobel Prize-winning author Boris Pasternak believed that DOCTOR ZHIVAGO could never be published in his native country, the CIA thought differently, recognizing the book’s importance to the Cold War. In this eye-opening historical work, the authors document how the CIA smuggled the masterpiece into the Soviet Union, where it sold furiously on the black market and had a transformative effect on society. Vance’s adept use of accent and inflection complement the book, which is as exciting as a spy novel. Calling this a page-turner doesn’t do justice, however, to Vance’s elegant and memorable performance. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

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The pleasures of Roberts’s big, richly detailed biography of the great French conqueror are enhanced in this outstanding audiobook production. John Lee is a steady and agreeable narrator, and a good choice for a work this long. Based on the recent full publication of the 33,000 letters Napoleon wrote in his lifetime, the narrative offers a close-up and largely sympathetic view of one of history’s most interesting, accomplished, and—yes—likable personalities. Lee maintains the fine balance between intimacy and perspective, as well as between Napoleon’s current and former reputation, to make this one of the stellar histories and audiobook adaptations of this year. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Cassandra Campbell’s velvety voice conveys heartfelt moments in this comforting story of tradition, food, and familial love. This rich memoir recounts the journey of author Kathleen Flinn’s family from Sweden to America and how they managed through good times and bad to maintain a life that provided the stability and support of family. Campbell’s steady narration not only allows listeners to relish all the details of cooking rituals but also captures the strong family connection, especially between the author’s mother and father. Campbell’s range of voices offers some liveliness in an otherwise soothing narration. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Journalist Cokie Roberts deftly introduces excerpts from interviews with First Lady biographers and First Ladies themselves, which aired over a period of time on NPR. Roberts, one of those interviewed for her books that feature women of the Revolutionary period, gives listeners newly researched information that reveals women’s lives during our nation’s infancy. Among the other First Ladies included are Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Barbara Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Michelle Obama, to name a few. To hear women who made history as they lived it involves the audience in a special experience and opens a window onto our presidents’ private lives. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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With her smoky voice and Southern accent, Elizabeth Ashley is the perfect narrator for this “warts and all” biography of one of America’s most treasured literary icons. Ashley is no stranger to the works of Tennessee Williams—she starred in the 1974 Broadway revival of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. With poise and sensitivity she reflects the penetrating insights, lashing humor, and shattering anger that Williams expressed in his many letters and memoirs, which are liberally quoted throughout, covering everything from his troubled relationship with his father to his binge drinking, open homosexuality, and, most important of all, his absolute, untiring dedication to the craft of writing. Ashley is unsparing and loving in her reading, and Williams would have expected nothing less. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Mark Bramhall’s voice has a remarkable calm strength and evenness throughout his excellent reading of this in-depth, clear-eyed examination of the Middle East. The book is three intertwined histories: a concise look at the nations and historic events of the Middle East from 1948 to 1978; a fascinating overview of the ancient peoples who wrote and lived the stories in the Bible, Torah, and Koran; and, of course, an hour-by-hour account of the impassioned arguments and debates that took place at the 1978 Camp David Peace Accord between Israel and Egypt, which was brokered by President Jimmy Carter. Bramhall’s delivery reflects how serious a task it was to bring three very different leaders and personalities together to talk peace for 13 short days in September 1978. Essential listening. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A volume of letters might seem a risky choice for an audiobook—will it hold your attention over time without a narrative through-line? The answer is a resounding yes, followed by many bravos. Narrator George Guidall has to catch the personality behind each letter (these are both from and to Bernstein) and understand if the writer is serious or being ironic, an acquaintance or an intimate. He has to know when Bernstein writes “I love you” to Aaron Copland, how differently he means it than when writing to, say, Judy Holliday. Bernstein was a true genius of American music and was loved by luminaries from the musical duo Comden and Green to Bette Davis and Jackie Kennedy. Guidall makes this treasure trove intimate, lively, funny, moving, and utterly fascinating. B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This book is an absolute aural treat. It’s the transcription of an oral history told by Nate Shaw, an elderly African-American sharecropper living in the South. While the written words might be interesting, in audio they are absolutely transfixing. Sean Crisden narrates the work with just the right regional accent, cadence, and pacing. Even the ramblings seem natural. It takes several minutes to get used to the strong rural accent—such as dropped “g's,” “de” instead of “the,” and other regional pronunciations—but after that, it's like listening to a master storyteller spin the tales of his youth and adulthood. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's memoir tells the story of her desire to make a difference in the country's future and her resultant journey into politics. Gillibrand (D-New York) narrates in her New York-tinged accent, full of passion for the causes for which she advocates. Her voice is youthful and enthusiastic, and possessed of the know-how that got her where she is. One of only 20 women in the Senate, Gillibrand reveals some of the challenges this gender imbalance has wrought, and she describes the mixed results of some of the legislation she has worked on, such as medical care for 9/11 responders and protection for victims of sexual assault in the military. The audiobook features a foreword by Gillibrand's mentor and Senate predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, which is read by Susan Denaker in a confident tone. S.E.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Michael Kramer’s fine, elegiac reading of Bruce Catton’s Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the closing months of the Civil War reminds us why Catton is so many readers’ favorite historian. Here is popular history at its very best— in its historical interest, its skill in storytelling, and its excellent match of the narrator’s voice to text and author. Knowing the story already makes it possible to listen to this closing chapter alone and, at the same time, won’t prevent listeners from being on the edge of their seats throughout. Catton’s book features soldiership, good and bad, competent and worse—far, far worse. Here we can cheer for the good and curse the rest, regardless of which side they’re on. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Opulence, power, intrigue, and ultimately, tragedy: Those Romanovs were quite the royal family. And Enn Reitel is quite the narrator. His rich, dignified voice and well-timed pacing are befitting of the imperial family, whose antics never fail to astound. The tsars’ secret lives include stories of astounding cruelty over sometimes (or often) frivolous matters, voracious sexual appetites, and lavish excess in almost all areas, generally culminating in conflict on all fronts. Reitel’s British accent is appropriate for the portrayal of this imperial family, and he adds touches of whimsy and wry astonishment in recounting the incredible stories of the Romanov dynasty, which spanned 300 years. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Actress and comedian Amy Poehler’s memoir is full of charm and life lessons, but what’s REALLY fun is how out of the box the audiobook production is. Listeners know they’re getting something special, unique, and a bit absurd right from the start when Poehler claims to be narrating from her own personal audio booth, built at the base of Mt. Rushmore. Poehler sounds consistently warm, funny, and genuine, and it’s only a matter of time before she’ll have you laughing out loud. When she’s joined in “her” studio by Seth Meyers and Mike Schur to reminisce about “Saturday Night Live” and “Parks and Recreation,” it sounds like we’re overhearing candid (and giggly) conversations between friends. Cameos from Carol Burnett, Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart (intoning strange haikus), and even Amy’s parents add even more flavor. What a treat. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The USS JEANETTE sailed from San Francisco in 1879 with 32 crew members under Captain George Washington De Long, intent on reaching the North Pole by way of an open polar sea—which turned out not to exist. Narrator Arthur Morey’s impeccable tone and pacing portray the confidence and hopes of discovery prior to departure, the romance of De Long and his wife, the gravitas of the expedition’s situation when the ship sinks after two years of being stuck in the ice, the race to beat winter across 1,000 miles to Siberia, and the harsh beauty of the unforgiving landscape. Hampton Sides goes down multiple tangents with colorful characters, and Morey maintains our rapt attention. This may be a long listen, but it’s so thrilling and tragic that it just whizzes by. A.B. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Along the Eastern Seaboard in 1942, merchant ships were being targeted by German U-boats. Ed Offley profiles the men on one of those U-boats and the Americans who ended their attacks. Robertson Dean's deep voice draws listeners in, and the story keeps them there. Dean wisely lets the accounts of the damage near American shores, the efforts to end the threat, and the harsh conditions the U-boat crews endured fascinate listeners on their own merits. Along the way, anecdotes, such as the one about a "Noah's Ark" ship, break the dramatic tension. It doesn't matter whether listeners are war buffs or those just looking for a good listen; the intriguing detail makes this a gripping WWII story. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Korda’s long, detailed biography of Robert E. Lee, with emphasis on the Civil War years, reveals Lee to be America’s greatest tragic hero. Jack Garrett’s strong voice, expressiveness, and vigorous pacing give his narration energy and hold the listener’s interest. He does well matching his tone to the text’s sense, conveying the book’s sympathy and admiration for Lee while avoiding hero worship or hagiography. He has a slight tendency to read with too much emphasis and emotion—more performance than narration—but doesn’t go far enough to become distracting. Korda’s text and Garrett’s narration provide listeners with a good opportunity to know Lee’s story. W.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Larson is an exceptionally fine historian, storyteller, and prose master, and Mark Bramhall amplifies those qualities in his restrained and expertly paced narration. Wisely—thankfully—Bramhall doesn’t attempt to reproduce the voices of Washington or others but through subtle changes in tone and inflection suggests character, temperament, and state of mind. On the page, eighteenth-century rhetoric can be difficult to parse from writer to writer, and for that reason alone an audio performance is a convenience and an enhancement. Here, too, Washington—remote and passive as a historical figure—comes to life as a farmer, botanist, landowner, politician, and man you’d like to spend an evening with. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Celebrated actor Alan Cumming is best known for his lilting Scottish accent and his well-trained musical voice. His roles in hit movies, Tony award-winning performance on Broadway in CABARET, and many television roles show how versatile his talent is. Cumming uses all his vocal experience and charm in this searing memoir. His unashamedly honest and emotionally raw remembrance of surviving his abusive father is a must-hear. Intrigue also plays a part in the story as Cumming recounts how he set out to solve a mystery surrounding his grandfather—and found out way more than he bargained for. Delivering stories that are both harrowing and at times hilarious, Cumming reaches through your earphones and doesn’t let go. Make sure you carry a pocket of tissues. R.O. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Gerard Doyle performs this work as if he has an intimate knowledge of its content, leaving little doubt that he and the author are of like mind. Almost a hundred years after the infamous assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, British author Tim Butcher recounts his journey across modern-day Bosnia and Serbia on the trail of the triggerman, Gavrilo Princip, who fired the shot that started WWI. Doyle presents the many interesting facts the author discovers in his travels. He has lengthy conversations with Princip's relatives and discovers new writings about the events before and after the shooting. Doyle gives each interviewee a unique voice, which adds to the authenticity of the work. Listeners will be interested to hear that Princip was shocked that his actions started the chain reaction that would bring the world into a grim, deadly conflict. M.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This audio version of Morris’s history of General Douglas MacArthur’s virtual dictatorship over Japan following WWII exceeds its text, and most other versions of this story, in particular the lame rendition in the recent film "The Emperor." Morris is a fine researcher but a somewhat plodding writer, and Charles Constant’s steady delivery carries his text through its inevitable dry patches. The story is complicated, full of legal and historical niceties, and its protagonist is larger-than-life and greatly flawed but in many ways an admirable figure. Constant holds together these somewhat disparate and contradictory elements and delivers a narrative that is rewarding both as a character study and a reconstruction of a vital period in twentieth-century history. D.A.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Clinton’s audiobook recounts her tenure as secretary of state and focuses on the decisions she made while managing President Obama’s foreign policies. It sheds new light on U.S. actions regarding Iraq, China, Israel, and other world hot spots and shows Clinton to be a thoughtful and, at times, embattled statesperson. Kathleen Chalfant is the main narrator, although Clinton lends her voice to the introduction and other sections of the book. Clinton speaks well, but Chalfant does the hard work. She has an open, friendly voice, and her pacing and diction are excellent. However, while she varies her pitch enough to keep the story moving, Chalfant sounds much like Clinton. This is fine on one level as Clinton’s voice is so well known, but the artistic choice prevents her from putting her narrative mark on the book. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator George Newbern’s homey tone and use of a Southern accent succeed in making this book seem as all-American as its author. Webb, a combat veteran, former U.S. senator (D—Virginia), and secretary of the navy in the Reagan administration, calls his memoir a love story. His loves are family, country, and service. He’s seen war, peace, and politics, and he recounts his experiences with pride. Newbern narrates with an easy style, making the book engrossing by involving the listener with a friendly, open approach. He doesn’t have an especially elastic range, which does limit his effectiveness, but he varies his tone to encompass the joys of family stories and the horrors of Webb’s experiences in Vietnam. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This fine audio production of popular historian Paul Johnson’s concise life of the murderous Soviet dictator proves there is no such thing as “Stalin Lite.” All those millions dead by starvation, in concentration camps, in war, and, by Stalin’s favorite method of dispatch, a bullet in the back of the head, still carry their awful burden. Grover Gardner’s steady narration conveys the full horror of Stalin’s regime while maintaining balance and objectivity, as well as a sense that justice, in the form of historical truth, has triumphed in the end. Perfectly attuned to its subject in opening and closing music, pacing, and, especially, choice of narrator, this is an excellent historical survey and introduction to one of history’s most terrifying and paradoxical figures. D.A.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Malcolm Hillgartner narrates these profiles in a conversational tone. As the author emphasizes in the introduction, this is not a book about the politics, planning, or grand battle plans of Israel's Six-Day War. Rather, it's a look at pieces of the war as seen by people on the ground doing the fighting. There are names listeners will recognize, such as Moshe Dayan and Ariel Sharon, and many more that they won't. But their stories are compelling, made all the more so by an effective reading. These are personal stories told in the first person, and Hillgartner reads them in a conversational tone that is inviting. He lightens the tone when needed and adds gravity when appropriate. His facility with Israeli names and places and Hebrew phrases makes the narration move along easily. R.C.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Lovers of Tom Robbins's writing will rejoice in Keith Szarabajka's strong performance of this hilarious work. Robbins's quirky novels are infused with a quixotic range of the infinitely wild, and Szarabajka’s narration fully captures that trait. This memoir—which is not really a memoir, but more of a series of narratives of Robbins's bohemian life—is well served by Szarabajka’s exuberance, hoarse drawl, and perceptive timing. From earliest infancy to adult wayfarer, Robbins pulls the listener along, with Szarabajka perfectly in tune—from the absurd to the abstruse. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator John Mayer’s wonderfully warm baritone adds enormously to this engaging history of the transformation of rapid transit in the United States from horse-drawn trolleys to electric-powered subways. Listeners will find extensive detail about the men who imagined, engineered, and financed this change. Although he’s always even and clear, Mayer sounds like your favorite uncle telling a long, funny story. Most’s tapestry offers a below-ground view of how large-scale change happened in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Mayer helps the listener enjoy the story of engineers with revolutionary ideas, wealthy men interested in both doing good and doing well, and city politicians interested in maintaining their power. F.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Kate Reading guides listeners through this carefully documented record of the trials of six women--accused and accusers--who were central to the Salem witch trials. The first part of the book is background regarding the six women and their status in their communities, as well as a chronology of events. Although the first part of the content is a bit tedious, it sets up the second part, which focuses on the trials, and Reading keeps the pace moving. The descriptions of the periods of imprisonment and the trials are a bit more lively. Reading creates an intimate mood that draws listeners into the lives of these women and their families as they were caught up in a travesty of justice that continues to fascinate. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Ah, seventh grade . . . If you’re brave enough to revisit that turbulent time of shifting social alliances and raging hormones, this may be the memoir for you. Narrator Kirby Heyborne portrays Kevin Brockmeier, a sensitive, imaginative, funny kid who is struggling to understand the changes taking place within himself and his friends. Heyborne's gentle and thoughtful narration complements the personality of the young Kevin, who can't seem to figure out the hows and whys of his friends' behavior as he and they seek to establish their own unique personalities somewhere between childhood and young adulthood. Heyborne also excels at capturing the mocking tones and insensitivity of Kevin's questionable friends. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Annie Jacobsen's narration is as clear as her writing, yet the subject matter of this exposé still makes for an uncomfortable listening experience. Using years of research and recently released documents, Jacobsen guides the listener through a secret government program that gave some of the Nazis’ most brutal scientists work and a life in the U.S. instead of judgment and punishment at Nuremberg. Jacobsen's journalistic skills carry over to her delivery style in a presentation that is objective and unemotional without sacrificing any of her passion for the subject. Detail and background are sufficient for history buffs and general audiobook fans alike. This unique look at a dark incident in our history is as disturbing as it is fascinating. M.O.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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An entirely enjoyable listening experience! Actor Robert Wagner provides both a rich history of Hollywood’s bygone era—its style, architecture, haberdashery, and ethics—and a personal memoir. While each of Wagner’s 84 years may be heard in his weathered voice, his enthusiasm and class are palpable. Hollywood’s Golden Era is accurately compared and contrasted with the bizarre, security-focused nature of today’s celebrity. Though a few mispronunciations should have been caught in production, Wagner’s consistent delivery whisks listeners from the Bel-Air Country Club to the Polo Lounge and the personal homes of the Zanucks and the Warners. The whole package is as effervescent as a glass of Veuve Cliquot, and listeners may want to toast an era never to come again. W.A.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Cynthia Barrett’s witty, intelligent narration enlivens Marshall’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Margaret Fuller. Fuller, a lesser-known writer during the Transcendentalist Movement, was a precocious child, a remarkable young woman, Emerson’s close friend, and Thoreau’s first editor. She was a fierce advocate for women’s rights, a tireless worker for prison reform, and, as a journalist for Horace Greeley’s New-York Tribune, wrote many front-page editorials denouncing the terrible conditions in mental hospitals. Barrett’s consistently listenable narration turns Fuller’s private journals and letters into insightful cultural commentary on the period. Barrett brings humanity to Marshall’s impeccable research, introducing an extraordinary woman whose life was shaped by her struggle for gender equality and touched by joy, scandal, and tragedy. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The implosion of Lance Armstrong’s career was swift and complete, and author Juliet Macur watched it all unfold from the front row. Her marvelous journalism gets a performance-enhancing boost from narrator Carrington MacDuffie, whose straightforward delivery is a perfect fit. Macur, a reporter with the New York Times, not only had access to Armstrong himself during her research but also interviewed countless members of his family and inner circle to create this unflattering portrait of a cyclist who was willing to win at any cost. MacDuffie’s narration captures the author’s frustration with Armstrong’s refusal to take responsibility, but she never sounds judgmental or strident. She sets a brisk pace and effortlessly carries listeners all the way to the finish line. D.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This book could be subtitled “The Making of a Populist” as Elizabeth Warren describes her journey from struggling homemaker to U.S. senator (Democrat, Massachusetts). Ultimately, it was her interest in bankruptcy law and its impact on everyday people that propelled her onto the national stage. Warren narrates this memoir herself, and, as a polished political speaker, she delivers the material well. She’s especially good at projecting emotions: Her anger at the insensitive credit industry is palpable. And her sadness over the death of her father is wrenching. The flow of the book is hurt slightly by the chapter subtitles, which interrupt the narrative when listening. However, this minor weakness does not blunt Warren’s powerful call to action. R.C.G. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Michael Jordan’s drive, demons, and pure talent are well documented in this audiobook. The author aptly describes Jordan’s personal and professional lives and analyzes to perfection the very real dichotomy between the affable persona he displayed off the court and the tornado that appeared at practices and games. Narrator Bob Souer uses a staccato rhythm reminiscent of a sports announcer calling a basketball game to great effect. His command of the material propels the listener and captures the essence of this single-minded icon. Even if listeners know only the basics of the game, hearing the coalescence of the psychology and politics that surges onto the court with the players for every game makes this as exciting as any thriller. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Laugh-out-loud moments abound in this writing and wrestling memoir from bestselling novelist John Irving. But the most moving remembrances focus on the relationships between Irving, his writing teachers, and, mostly, his coaches. Narrator Joe Barrett affects an empathetic tone and pleasing rhythm that allows listeners to relive the moments that turned a dyslexic reader and mediocre athlete into a celebrated author and successful wrestling referee and coach. While Barrett is a good match to the material and does a wonderful job, the audiobook is a missed opportunity for the author to bring his distinctive voice to his coming-of-age story, and we are sadly denied that intimacy. R.O. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In this age in which privacy can be an elusive concept, this audiobook returns the listener to a different era, when politicians like Franklin D. Roosevelt could survive polio, be constrained to a wheelchair, and still become a world leader whose limitations stayed under the press's radar. James Tobin's biography is a thorough presentation of FDR's struggles, which are ably presented by narrator Charles Constant. In particular, Constant's style highlights Tobin's elegant prose, which brings out FDR's determination and frustration, from which the public was often shielded. A book like this can be both depressing and inspiring. Constant uses subtle nuances in inflection and tone to create a realistic portrait of FDR, the press, and those who helped him attain greatness. D.J.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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What if iconic African-American leaders Paul Robeson, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and Joe Louis met with Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey in the spring of 1947 to debate the announcement of Jackie Robinson being named the first black man to play Major League Baseball? The meeting never happened, but after listening to this wonderful, thought-provoking examination of racial tension, hopes, and dreams, maybe it should have. Playing the wily, silver-tongued general manager, longtime L.A. Theatre Works player Ed Asner leads an all-star cast, including Carl Lumbly ("Alias") as Robeson, Charlie Robinson ("Night Court" as Louis, and Rugg Williams as the young, eager-to-please bellhop. Perfect listening for audiobook lovers, students of history, and baseball fans alike. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Jane Mecum, the subject of this well-done audiobook, gives listeners a rare look at how difficult life was in eighteenth-century America. In a splendid performance, Robin Miles narrates this unusual story, told through correspondence between Jane and her brother, Benjamin Franklin. Because Jane was Franklin’s youngest sister, listeners would suppose she lived a life of privilege. In reality, her life was one of pain and travail. Twelve of her children died, and her marriage to a profligate husband forced them to live with her parents. Miles’s interpretations show Jane’s devotion to her brother and his to her. However, Miles’s exceptional performance will also make women glad they live three centuries later. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners may remember the story this riveting audiobook is based on. Three young Americans, the authors, were hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2009 when they inadvertently crossed the Iranian border and were captured and accused of being spies. Each of the authors has his or her own narrator. Michael Goldstrom, as Shane, has a strong, deep, nasal-infused voice that reflects the romanticism inherent in the trek the three set out on. Tristan Morris, as Josh, has a slightly higher, though similarly nasal, pitch. He conveys the wonderment of the adventure, reading more hurriedly but with sincerity and composure. Julia Whelan, as Sarah, has the most serious voice and the narrowest range, but she’s the most effective in voicing the fear and foreboding in the hikers’ story. The book is both a political and psychological story, and succeeds on both levels. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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CIA operative Antonio Mendez’s memoir is an entertaining audiobook that offers insight into international espionage and brings a distinguished career to life. Mendez, who was nicknamed the “Chief of Disguise” and was also the author of ARGO, is most famous for his skill at subterfuge, doing everything from creating fake documents to devising disguises to help his colleagues escape or avoid danger. Those roles permeate the book, and that is where narrator John Pruden focuses his performance. Recognizing that the audience will want to absorb every detail of every operation, Pruden delivers the material with the same sense of joy and amazement that Mendez clearly experienced while at the agency. The result is one of the most enjoyable audiobooks in years. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Jen Lin-Liu takes a journey that follows the origins of pasta, traveling and eating a path through western China, Central Asia, Iran, Turkey, and across the Mediterranean to Italy. Narrator Coleen Marlo captures the author's diverse roots with crisp American accents and perfectly uttered Chinese phrases. She deftly shifts from travelogue to personal musings to vivid, mouthwatering ingredient descriptions, often with audible longing. Lin-Liu set herself to discover how ancient culinary migrations led to the development of pasta cookery in diverse cultures. She learned the skills of blending, shaping, and comparing noodles in a variety of cuisines—and shared goals, gender roles, and the search for self among a global sisterhood of women. A.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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NPR is marking this year’s 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI by releasing this riveting compilation of audio documentary pieces about this incredibly wasteful war, which cost millions of lives and arguably resulted in WWII. The production embodies the standards of professional broadcasting, and the reporters/narrators are highly skilled. While those are two big pluses, the big draw here is the content. The short pieces, featuring historians, authors, and veterans, are interesting enough as stand-alone stories. Together, they make a fascinating WWI primer. There are many new books coming out to mark the centennial of The Great War—this is one not to miss. G.S.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Veteran foreign correspondent Marie Colvin was no stranger to war zones and heavy fighting in some of the most dangerous places on earth, but her mission in Homs, Syria, during the bombardment by President Assad's forces in February 2012 proved to be her last. Narrator James Clamp reads this account of the siege, which was written by Marie Colvin’s friend and colleague, Paul Conroy. Clamp is engaging and suspenseful in his narration of this white-knuckle account, which reflects the lengths to which war correspondents will go to bring a story to light. He is effective in recounting the political situation in Syria and manages to convey the daredevil, justice-seeking personalities of the two protagonists, Marie and Paul. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This follow-up to TV news anchor Roberts’s previous audiobooks offers personal growth principles abstracted from her experiences. She has a deep, athletic-sounding voice that sounds consistently clear but not as spontaneous as she appears in her television work. The assertiveness in her voice works well to express the determination she had to summon when facing a life-threatening disease that required a bone marrow transplant in 2012. Her fans will enjoy the chatty narratives about her celebrity life and medical travails that dominate this memoir. What everyone facing a health challenge will savor is how Roberts uses her grounding in Southern culture to remind us of the importance of gratitude, hope, and strong connections with family members. T.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Like the massive presidential bios of Stephen Ambrose and Robert Caro, this book, about jazz giant Charlie Parker—nicknamed “Bird”—is slated to be a multi-volume affair. This first installment covers Parker’s formative years in Kansas City, and formidable jazz critic Crouch paints a vivid picture of not just Parker’s life but also the rise of this mostly African-American art form, getting as far as Parker’s move to New York, where soon he would make history with the advent of bebop. One would be hard-pressed to find a more solid narrator than Kevin Kenerly—his voice jumps and dances with all the mad rhythm of a Bird solo, but it’s never breathlessly histrionic. It’s a great treatment of a great book, which begs the question—when’s the next volume coming out? J.S.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listening to this remarkable work is akin to eavesdropping on conversations in the Oval Office and policy discussions at the Pentagon. The author served as secretary of defense for both Presidents G.W. Bush and Obama, and this audiobook is a candid account of his tenure while the nation was involved in two wars. Gates himself delivers the author’s note at the beginning, narrating in a deep, gravelly voice that exudes confidence. George Newbern delivers the rest of the work. He doesn’t have a broad range, and, because he settles into a pattern as this long book unfolds, he’s prone to some monotony and flatness in his performance. However, he clearly articulates Gates’s arguments so they remain coherent and logical. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Johnny Heller’s tough, weather-beaten voice lends itself wonderfully to this crackling audio tale of derring-do featuring the most famous outlaw in U.S. history. The September 1876 bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota, led to the end of the James-Younger gang, a story that involves townspeople who took justice into their own hands. Heller narrates with authority, and although he doesn’t use a wide range of voices, his delivery is animated enough to make the story come alive. He varies his pitch to create characters that are more suggested than confirmed. He does his best work while using his natural voice to paint images of a bygone era in the American past. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The subject matter carries this audiobook, but that isn’t to say that Robertson Dean is lacking as a skilled narrator. Indeed, he is one of those rare talents who reads so effortlessly that the listener forgets he’s there. This informative book intertwines the careers of three renowned aviators; it’s filled with the imagery of soaring heroes in flimsy winged tubes, daring disaster itself. One can’t forget that air flight as we know it, in war and peace, is barely more than a century old. Neither Groom nor Dean attempts to inject a lot of emotion into the book. They just put the lives and facts forward, yet they stimulate our imagination. D.R.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With a biography of Louis Armstrong under his belt, the author now has his sights on Duke Ellington, and this audiobook is well worth hearing: fascinatin’, illuminatin’, and syncopatin’. Peter Francis James’s loud, resonant voice is a far cry from jazz cool, but it demands notice. James lends the book an energy that keeps the story moving and enables the listener to hear every crystal-clear syllable. He doesn’t develop specific character voices, opting instead for subtle accents and changes of pitch and tone. James does a nice job, but choosing a less demonstrative voice for the narration would have created more synergy with the subject. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Johnson’s lyrical writing captures the dynamics of fitting in as an expat in France while exploring the varied histories of her contemporaries, as well as her own. Suzanne Toren performs this memoir with sensitivity to its shifts from historical context to vibrant characterizations. She has a flair for verbally depicting the mundane of the Midwest juxtaposed against the French aristocracy and upper-crust society. Johnson recollects memories of her Illinois past, then delves deeper into her genealogical roots, recounting tales of the first of her ancestors to arrive in the New World, pioneering family ghosts, and her own generational guesswork. Toren delivers the charming narrative with humor, grace, and lively vocalizations. A.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Children’s writer Roald Dahl’s memoir of working for Shell (oil) in Tanzania and training as a fighter pilot for the RAF ranges from scenes of comedic Scottish snake charmers to those of terrifying air battles. Dahl’s zest for life and absurdist sense of humor are perfectly encapsulated by Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”), who employs both wry and serious tones overlaid with just the right note of adventure. Stevens rolls through African place names and terms without hesitation. He’s a master of pacing, increasing his speed to maximize the excitement when chasing a lion that has stolen the cook’s wife and then amping up the astonishment at the discovery that she has been held so gently as to not be hurt at all. Dahl’s experience of the war and the Allies’ futile air strategy in Greece are appropriately rendered in a grave tone accompanied by disbelief. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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David Laskin brings three generations to life in this deeply personal and moving portrait of the HaKohen family, from which he is a descendant. The audiobook, ably read by Geoffrey Cantor, takes the listener from the shtetls of Eastern Europe through the Holocaust to Israel and the United States. Every tale is worth hearing. Whether Cantor is relating the history of the Maidenform Bra Company, life during Palestine’s infancy, or tales of horror during the Holocaust, his presentation has a tone that intimately captures the events and also welcomes the listener into the Laskin family home. As a result, the three parts of the story flow smoothly and separate this book from other, more superficial, works. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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With a steady and authoritative voice, Simon Vance gives a splendid reading of Hastings’s overview of the causes of “The Great War,” as well as his account of its first six months. While this work is clearly a popular history, it’s more detailed than Tuchman’s GUNS OF AUGUST and brings out many facts that have been learned since her work was published. At the end of the work, the author also presents a rebuttal to those who claim it didn’t matter who won the war: He strongly defends the rightness of the cause of France, Great Britain, and their allies. Vance has a distinguished voice, and his delivery of this long and detailed work sounds effortless, making it well worth investing one’s time in listening. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Comedian Richard Pryor was as screwed up as he was gifted, or perhaps his immense talent was born of his unendurable pain. This work allows listeners to peek into the soul of one of the funniest, and saddest, men who ever lived. Narrator extraordinaire Dion Graham has the ability to become Pryor in all his incarnations: comedian, tortured cocaine addict, loving husband, abusive husband, victim, and tormentor. Graham even imitates Pryor, and mimics Pryor as he mimics the voices of other characters in his act. One thing is for sure, Pryor was best appreciated at a distance because he hurt the ones he loved the most, often physically as well as emotionally. This is the work to hear in order to truly understand the source of Pryor's pained humor and to accept that we may never see anyone like him again. M.S. 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Shavit’s provocative book avoids the clichés typical of some works about the Middle East, and the audio version benefits from Paul Boehmer’s superb presentation. His personal and compelling portrait of contemporary Israel provides insights that should make even the most polarized listeners think more deeply about the nation, Zionism, and the Palestinian conflict. Boehmer adopts an Israeli accent that lends credibility to the material. The audio production also succeeds because Boehmer authentically presents the breadth of the material, which includes interviews, historic documents, and personal accounts of life in the Promised Land. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Robert Leckie’s unvarnished 1957 memoir paints a vivid picture of his experiences as a Marine on the frontlines of the Pacific Theater in WWII. Using the unadorned demeanor of a tough Marine, narrator James Badge Dale delivers Leckie’s eloquent text with intensity and respect. He adopts a touch of humor when describing the occasional raucous camaraderie of the men but mostly employs a hard-boiled, sturdy veneer for Leckie’s revealing and sometimes shocking narrative. Dale’s unrelenting pronunciation of long “a”s (such as “a gun”) is at first distracting but eventually comes to feel like the unyielding backbone of a young warrior facing the brutal action of battle. A brief introduction from Tom Hanks helps the listener anticipate the significance of this powerful American chronicle. N.M.C. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Analysis of the Battle of Gettysburg is a crowded field, but Guelzo's easy writing style and depth of detail have created a standout. The weaving together of politics and personalities with all of the pathos and action of the battle itself results in a text that a broad range of listeners will find riveting. The very density of the detail in this sweeping story requires a helpful guide, and Robertson Dean's steady voice and unflagging pace fill this role admirably. Dean keeps his delivery clear and unadorned, letting the material deliver its own considerable drama and emotion. Listeners need not be experts on Civil War battles to find this an accessible and satisfying look at an iconic event in American history. M.O.B. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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A dynamic performance by Wanda McCaddon brings the real Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, to life in this marvelous audiobook. Whether she’s describing catastrophic events or everyday occurrences in the lives of the Carnarvons, McCaddon delivers. She captures the essence of Lady Catherine and her family and friends and infuses each of them—and there are many— with individuality as they unfold in her accomplished presentation. Listeners hear Winston Churchill’s booming voice and Lady Catherine’s subtly nuanced expressions as if they’re privy to their real-life conversations. McCaddon’s engaging portraits of the characters will have listeners waiting for the next installment in this riveting social history of a time and place we’ll never see the likes of again. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listening to John Telfer narrate this superbly detailed history and travelogue, one hears two conflicting emotions, abject sadness and sheer awe, sometimes in the same sentence. The awe comes with the author’s retracing of the steps of conquering Spanish “adventurers” such as Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro, who crossed unimagined rain forests, deserts, and mountains, enduring brutal physical hardships to single-handedly destroy the Aztec and Incan civilizations. The sadness comes with the knowledge that so many worlds and peoples disappeared in such a short span of time (1500-1542). Telfer delivers all the tricky-to-pronounce Spanish and South and Mesoamerican names and places with admirable ease. The listener is drawn into a world of events that still reverberate 500 years later. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Thomas Cahill’s brand of history is highly personalized, based on his own travels and his own highly literate responses to the art he discusses. It’s only right, therefore, that he should be the narrator of this engaging and literate history of Renaissance artists and Reformation clerics—as rich and varied a set of personalities as any history has to offer. Cahill narrates with ease and clarity and, if anything, improves upon the immediacy of the written text. An added advantage of this audio version is that it allows one to research and view simultaneously the artworks he is discussing—for example, the various Renaissance Davids, a high point of this title. Here all the potential of audio production is perfectly achieved. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Craving travel and excitement, young Canadian Amanda Lindhout embarked on a career as a freelance journalist. But her adventures came to a terrifying halt in Somalia when she and a friend were kidnapped. With writer Sara Corbett, Lindhout has written an account of her 460 days as a hostage, telling a harrowing story that demonstrates her courage, tenacity, and resilience. The choice of Lindhout to narrate her own memoir adds enormous intimacy. She displays control of a broad emotional range, including clear, objective reporting of her torture and deprivation. Her measured pacing and effective use of tone provide immediacy and texture. This "can't-stop-listening" experience is not to be missed. M.O.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The audio version of this touching memoir illustrates the point that hearing a story is a more personal and immediate experience than simply reading one. Narrator Mike Vendetti achieves this intimacy with his nuanced delivery of Trafford's extraordinary story of star-crossed lovers. Piecing together letters and photos found among his late mother's effects, he discovered that her lover was one of the three men who escaped from a German prison camp, a story that was immortalized in the movie THE GREAT ESCAPE. Vendetti's blending of brisk narration with softer introspective passages gives all the personalities distinctive voices while also delivering the emotional depth of this son's moving tribute to his beloved mother. M.O.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In a work of this length, it would be easy for the narration to become, if not tedious, at least tiring. But the combination of the author’s pacing and Jeremy Bobb’s even reading makes this biography of President Woodrow Wilson flow evenly. Bobb slightly varies his pacing periodically to add a note of drama or pathos. Although he doesn’t use special intonations for the wide array of quoted speakers, direct quotes are clearly differentiated aurally. Wilson was a tragic figure, trapped in his own idealism and prejudices. Berg’s book captures his personality effectively, and Bobb transmits it equally well to listeners. R.C.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Listeners will be moved as they listen to Conroy’s latest memoir, which delves deeply into his dysfunctional family of origin, especially his experiences with his abusive father, Don, a U.S. Marine. The humorous and gut-wrenching prologue, read by Conroy himself, transitions perfectly to Dick Hill’s delivery of the soul-searching memoir. Hill inhabits all the Conroy family members well, but his shifts between father and son when the two lived in Atlanta after the parents’ divorce is where the story soars. Conroy bares his soul with each of his books, and even more so here. He often uses personal experience for his fictional work, such as THE GREAT SANTINI, which divided the family when first written but ultimately brought them closer together once the movie was made. S.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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To fully appreciate physicist Robert Oppenheimer, you have to understand his Jewish background and his physics. That’s the premise of this mammoth biography of the man who is considered to be the father of the atomic bomb. And that’s also the problem. The author goes into such detailed depth that listeners may be overwhelmed, especially in the sections on atomic theory. Michael Goldstrom offers an easy-to-listen-to narration. His voice is steady without being monotonous, and he eschews the kind of vocal drama that would quickly become tiring in a work this long. He handles foreign phrases and names with ease. But he can’t overcome the preponderance of detail. Listeners who persevere will be rewarded with a rich portrait well read. R.C.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Grover Gardner provides the perfect easy-toned American voice for these personal stories of WWI. Less than a dozen years ago, author Richard Rubin went in search of the last living veterans of the Great War. He was able to track down and interview a few dozen—all between the ages 101 and 113. The result is the remarkable, candid memories of foot soldiers, nurses, ambulance drivers, and loggers. (Somebody had to cut the timber that lined the walls of the trenches at Amiens and the Somme.) These recollections, along with Rubin’s own well-researched insights, weave together an important and moving portrait of our nation in the years 1917-18, when we were just entering the world stage. Gardner’s reading is warm and clear. Most important, it reflects the author’s satisfaction at knowing that these men and women, who all simply said they were just doing their duty, will never be forgotten. A very special listening experience. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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One secret to a good narrator is this: Is he or she interested in the content of the book? It comes across in intonation, pace, and emphasis, and Sean Runnette demonstrates it here. The author is opinionated—this is a political analysis as much as a discussion of the controversial general. But Runnette doesn’t rant; he reads at a conversational pace, yet there is an element of tension in his voice: What happens next? Can’t wait to know! Consequently, the listener is drawn in and has a hard time hitting the “stop” button. This is not a performance but a highly skilled reading, an exceptionally good one. D.R.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The pioneering Jackie Robinson’s on-the-field accomplishments have inspired many books, stories, and movies over the years. Here David Falkner gives a well-rounded overview, culling a lot of research to craft a comprehensive biography of the man, not just the player. Richard M. Davidson delivers a steady narration of a life worth hearing about. Davidson keeps it straight, using a consistent tone and avoiding any vocal impressions that could come across as disingenuous. And that’s just as well, because most of the subject matter is serious, including much attention to Robinson’s political leanings in his life after baseball. Davidson sounds like an engaging professor talking to eager students. Consider this more of a history lesson than a book about baseball. M.B. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Robert Edsel’s history of the efforts to protect Italy’s artistic and cultural treasures on the battle lines of WWII has added interest with the coming release of George Clooney’s film MONUMENT MEN, based on Edsel’s earlier book on this subject. Edoardo Ballerini gives a polished narration of a dramatic and engaging story, and he certainly knows his Italian. His pace, however, is overly measured, establishing an elegiac tone more suited to an epilogue than a narrative. Also, his perfectly accented Italian names stand out from his otherwise unaccented English. Text and narrator are both quite good—but not necessarily with each other. D.A.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Most people think of the founder of Standard Oil as a cold, heartless capitalist who cared for nothing but money and destroying the competition. This biography acknowledges Rockefeller’s dark side but also tries to show him as a man whose generosity still shapes our world. Narrator Grover Gardner’s deep, resonant voice is a wonderful accompaniment to the story of this Gilded Age robber baron. Gardner’s tone and inflection bring to mind the mahogany-paneled clubs that were the refuges of the nineteenth-century corporate elite, and he especially excels when reading quotes from the leaders who lived during that era. It’s an elite performance without a hint of elitism, and, as Rockefeller himself surely would say, merits the investment in time and money. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This biography of Henry Kissinger is enhanced by Malcolm Hillgartner’s outstanding narration. His delivery is lively, and he’s a great storyteller—no half-bored professor intoning a history lecture here. While his pretty-well-done imitations of Kissinger and President Nixon are distracting at first, they soon blend into the narration. The lengthy book presents a full portrait of Kissinger in all his egotistical, power-grubbing, brilliant complexity. It covers everything from his German childhood to his family’s flight from the Nazis, his college years, and his rise to power as a controversial secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations. G.S.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Not just another history of the famous Boston battle that ignited the American Revolution, BUNKER HILL is a colorful reconstruction of the early American landscape, as well as its culture, and even its geography. These are aspects of the Boston and New England region that have been rarely glimpsed. Chris Sorensen delivers each sentence with considered inflection and emotion. He taps into Philbrick's impressive research, lending fresh perspectives to the nuanced characters who lived in Boston during the occupation of the British troops in 1775. Colonists bewildered by the siege in the city and its environs erupt in patriotism and revolt against the British blockade. Key players in the drama that led to the foundation of the United States spring to life in the author's depiction and the performer's impassioned rendering of historical events. A.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Listeners may find this carefully written biography of Canadian-born musician, poet, and writer Cohen to be both astute and moving. Joshua Pollock bring this insightful and multilayered examination to life. With superb pacing, inflection, and tone, Pollock’s restrained delivery and deep vocal tones are a delight. Cohen’s genius, creativity, bouts of depression, and financial successes and difficulties are presented in one’s earphones with well-researched analysis and the genteel manner of the musical artist himself. The listener can’t help but notice the importance of persistence in Cohen’s story. W.A.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This eclectic assortment of NPR reports on the Vietnam War is neither a history nor even an organized overview, but more a series of impressions, many of them concerned with politics and the war's aftermath. As NPR's first broadcasts weren't until 1971, the program seems hampered by a lack of NPR material directly about the war. But there are contemporary clips ranging from the voices of President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to that of a helicopter pilot just after duty, as well as later commentary by people directly involved. Despite a somewhat scattershot feel, the program is informative and interesting, and often compelling and moving. Narrator Audie Cornish occasionally seems to strain to inject emotion into her voice, but generally her introductions are clear, brief, and professional. A useful, often affecting, program. W.M. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Orhan Pamuk describes his native Istanbul in this personal account of the city and its inhabitants. Speaking through the prism of his own experiences while growing up in an upper-class family, Pamuk evokes the consciousness of the Istanbul "huzun," or melancholy, that, in his view, pervades the crumbling city of the lost Ottoman empire. John Lee narrates the work in a measured and deliberate tone, lingering over the author's rich depictions of his life and descriptions of a city steeped in history. He is engaging while still capturing the melancholy, introspective spirit of Pamuk's work, which covers the author's formative experiences, literary and artistic representations of Istanbul by the greats, and the current westward-reaching spirit of the city. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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One couldn’t ask for a better narrator for this wonderful collection of personal remembrances than its author, Elinor Lipman. Lipman, who has written many acclaimed and popular novels, has a pleasant voice with the perfect lift and enthusiasm for the funny pieces; “Sex Ed” is one of the many laugh-out-loud essays in the collection. And her voice's gentle resonance enhances the most moving essays, including those that may make the listener weep. One of those, “Nine Months Passed,” about her beloved husband's illness and death, causes Lipman audibly to tear up and recover while reading. It's just such moments that make this a particularly special listening experience. Prepare to be enchanted. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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D-Day represents the starting point of this mammoth work, which covers the last two years of WWII. From there, it goes on to recount the challenges and successes of the Allied push to end the conflict. L.J. Ganser uses his insistent voice to keep the story moving. His midrange tone has a nasal tinge, and he pronounces the French and German passages accurately and with feeling. He generally stays away from character differentiation, just slightly varying his voice to let us know that someone is talking. There are times when the sheer weight of the story, the statistics, and the military jargon get to be a bit much, turning Ganser into a reciter rather than a narrator, but given the book’s length and scope, that’s a minor complaint. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Robin Miles’s narration is perfect for this absorbing memoir. The author was expelled from communist China as a teenager and navigated her way through the digital world of Silicon Valley to start a top 3D simulation company. Her gripping memoir swings between her often traumatic childhood experiences and the challenges of adapting to a Western, capitalist culture. It’s a compelling tapestry of dualities. Examples include child labor and reeducation camps in China as compared to the wide-open possibilities of the U.S. and the cultural divide between her intellectual birth parents and her nurturing peasant family. Every thread quietly affirms the author’s resilience, compassion, intelligence, and honor. Miles’s gravitas serves the author’s journey as subtle tonal shifts color this sweeping story of culture, character, and self-determination. T.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Rohde discusses the heavy reliance of the U.S. on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan and the questionable results of that policy, in terms of both financial repercussions and infrastructure development—or the lack thereof. Narrator Patrick Lawlor is appropriately informative throughout this exploration of America’s role in the Middle East, though his delivery of the different accents of the people interviewed is generic at best. Accents aside, Lawlor is persuasive in communicating Rohde's advocacy for the development of alternative means of promoting peace and diplomacy in the region, including investing in educational and entrepreneurial efforts and fostering the growth of the moderate Muslim sectors in these countries. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Sean Barrett delivers this well-written, comprehensive history of WWII with intelligence and deftness. He narrates as smoothly as if he’s conversing but with expression and emphasis that keep the text clear. His tone is serious, perhaps somewhat melancholy, and he “acts” or emotes only on the rare occasions the book calls for it. His pronunciation of words, names, and even whole sentences in a range of languages, including Russian, is excellent and always convincing. His accents—provided for phrases as short as two words—are also fine, including the sometimes difficult American accent. In a few places he seems to lose energy, but even then his fine natural pacing doesn’t lag. History buffs will find this compelling program, even at this length, hard to set aside. W.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Henry Ford was a driven genius who eventually came to believe he could accomplish anything, even stopping WWI. It’s difficult to capture the life of such a complex man in a single work, but this biography does a capable job. Sean Runnette offers a solid and, at times, spirited narration. He captures the excitement and enthusiasm of Ford’s early years as he labors to perfect his first automobile, crafting every part from scratch. In the latter portion of the book, Runnette depicts the pathos as Ford’s successes cause him to develop monomania, alienating most of those around him, including his own son. Runnette varies the pacing of his reading effectively, carrying the listener along and adding emphasis for effect as needed. He limits vocal characterizations to direct quotes by foreign speakers. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This biography of Thurgood Marshall uses as its centerpiece a tragic case in central Florida that put the civil rights lawyer at great personal risk. Peter Francis James offers a solid and, at times, compelling narration. His even tone heightens the almost unfathomable racism that drove whites to preserve their primacy. James also is effective when he uses a more colloquial style of speech for direct quotations although, because his range of voices is limited, some of the white speakers end up sounding a bit like black speakers. But this is only a minor issue and certainly doesn’t detract from the overall performance. In all, this is an informative, even insightful, look at one of our nation’s most influential figures in the Civil Rights Movement. James’s reading makes the work even more visceral in its impact. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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When Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel discovers, at age 82, that he has five blocked arteries and faces emergency open-heart surgery, not surprisingly, he reflects on his life. In this beautiful, heart-wrenching memoir, narrated with sensitivity and tenderness by Mark Bramhall, Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and much-honored author, wonders whether he’s lived up to his covenant with God, whether he’s done enough with the precious gift of life. Bramhall allows the author’s humanity to shine, especially as he rejoices in his great good fortune, the love of his wife and family. Bramhall treats Wiesel’s emotional, intimate, and painful revelations with respect, showing this towering figure as an ordinary extraordinary man who has made the world a better place for his being in it. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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Bernadette Dunne's narration reflects the emotional upheaval that Cheryl Strayed experienced as she plunged into a downward spiral following the death of her mother, the dissolution of her marriage, and a foray into heroin usage and sexual promiscuity. At the same time, this memoir captures Strayed's freewheeling, earthy, and adventurous personality as she endeavors to leave her troubles behind as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail on her own at the age of 26. The solitude of the trail enables her to connect with herself in a new way, focusing on the here and now of her immediate needs and forcing her to confront—and rise above—her own pain, both emotional and physical. Dunne's narration captures the author’s grit and heart in this absorbing memoir. S.E.G. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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For lovers of audiobook memoirs, it doesn't get better than this: a grand and memorable life, efficiently written and carefully detailed, as told by the person who lived it. We listen as O'Brien—propelled by destiny, courage, and confidence—writes her way out of the small-minded world of her Irish hometown; inserts herself into a high-society culture filled with musicians, literary titans, and film stars; experiences several highs on the "love trampoline," as well as life-threatening bouts of despair; and ultimately (and fortunately) breaks her vow never to write her memoir. In her narration, O'Brien's vocal eccentricities—including a sonorous, often bemused tone— enliven and color her carefully crafted prose. The result is a detailed self-examination that achieves the realm of literary nonfiction. R.W.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Acclaimed history professor Nasaw provides a well-researched and absorbing biography of the pessimistic Kennedy. The subject’s varied roles as a financial speculator, real estate tycoon, U.S. ambassador, and movie studio owner are explored in great detail. Malcolm Hillgartner’s understated narration is spot-on for the task. His tone conveys authority, and his proper emphasis and pacing keep the listener engaged. Involved with virtually all of the significant worldwide events of his time, Kennedy tirelessly pursued many roles, including SEC chairmanship. Nasaw had the benefit of complete access to the family’s personal papers. Ambitious, unbridled, and relentless, this father of a U.S. president is presented in a sweeping and comprehensive work. W.A.G. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In separating fact from fiction about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Longabaugh), the author tells a story every bit as interesting as the Hollywood films about the outlaws. And when you have a well-told tale read in an engaging manner, you have a most enjoyable audio experience. Narrator James C. Lewis gives a steady and, at times, spirited reading but eschews the laconic Texas drawl. The outlaws’ life stories are textured, with the author taking side trips into other aspects of Western and American history such as the history of train robberies and the birth of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Each chapter opens with a verse from a popular song or poem from the period. One wishes the producers had used a singer and musician for those brief passages. In all, though, the book is a fun and informative listen. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This multifaceted biography and analysis of C.S. Lewis’s life and works would challenge even the most dedicated audiobook narrator. The late Robin Sachs clearly has a keen understanding of the work and the life he is recounting. The book is divided into segments that include the various events of Lewis’s life. His relationship with his father, the death of his wife, and his ongoing relationship with his brother influenced his literature. Additionally, his conversion from atheism to Christianity transformed his character. With a tranquil tone and fluid delivery, Robin Sachs leads the listener through these various sections with a quiet perception of the man and thoroughly reveals Lewis’s complex nature. It’s a stellar performance and a stunning biography. E.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Grammy Award winner Janis Ian shares her journey as an American singer-songwriter who first entered the music scene in the mid-1960s. She’s most known for a controversial (at the time) hit single, “Society’s Child,” about an interracial romance. Her memoir provides an intimate and honest look at a woman who has been active in the music business for more than 40 years. Hearing Ian tell her story adds emotional depth and character to the journey she shares. She serenades the listener with her powerful lyrics at just the right moments, explaining her thought processes when she wrote them. She also vividly conveys her personal memories of noteworthy friends such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. D.Z. 2013 Spoken Word Grammy Award Winner, 2013 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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This memoir poses significant challenges for the narrator. She must capture the essence of the author from an unschooled 4-year-old to a polished adult writer. Lisa Renee Pitts carries it off well. In addition, she gives individual characters just enough difference in tone that extended conversations sound like multiple people reading. And when an incident in a movie theater forces the author to confront the realities of racism, the anguish and eventual anger in her voice are palpable. Later, after the lynching of Emmett Till, she talks of knowing “the fear of hunger, hell, and the devil. But now there was the fear of being killed just because I was black.” This is a powerful book rendered all the more powerful by an intimate reading that makes the author and her words come alive. R.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The ability to hold the listener’s ear is the measure of every audio production, and it’s exhibited at its finest in Edward Herrmann’s skilled reading of Jon Meacham’s biography of America’s third president. Thomas Jefferson was a contradictory figure, to say the least, and Meacham’s point-counterpoint narrative is brisk, enlightening, never dull. A riveting description of Jefferson’s stay in Paris during the French Revolution is followed by a reflection on inconsistencies in his viewpoints over his lifetime. Herrmann matches each shift in narrative with a variation in tone and emphasis while maintaining a pace that would benefit an action thriller. While seeming to do nothing, he does everything well. His unaffected but dynamic, upbeat but effortless delivery achieves an immediacy and freshness especially rare in historical biographies. A superb match of subject, text, and narrator. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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