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January 2020 Earphones Award Winners

The award is given by AudioFile to truly exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.


ALL THE DAYS PAST, ALL THE DAYS TO COME
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Both author Mildred Taylor and narrator Allyson Johnson fully meet expectations in concluding the Logan family saga, which began in 1975. Johnson warmly welcomes listeners as if inviting them to sit by the fire to hear this family story. The heroine of so many of the Logan books, Cassie, is 19 at the time of the Civil Rights movement. She leaves behind both her beloved land and... Read More

BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Susan Bennett offers a moving performance of this multilayered story of two women whose lives are affected by a New Deal art mural. In 1940, Anna, a young artist from New Jersey, faces hostility from the townspeople in Edenton, North Carolina, when she is hired to paint the post office mural. In 2018, Morgan, who is just out of prison, uncovers disturbing details and... Read More

THE BONE SHIPS
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Jude Owusu narrates a vibrant nautical fantasy featuring a ship made from the bones of dragons and populated with criminals. Centuries after the total disappearance of dragons, the sighting of one lone creature propels two nations into a race to capture it. Owusu gives lively and colorful accents to the staggering cast of characters, including the enslaved Gullaime, a slave... Read More

BURN THE PLACE
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

This memoir often sounds as if narrator Eileen Stevens has pulled up a chair at a farm's kitchen table to tell stories. Her familiar tone and conversational cadence work. Though Chef Iliana Regan's story is fraught with bouts of alcoholism and self-destructive behavior, including sexual adventurism and tragic loss, her remarkable focus, drive, and farm-girl pluck win out. Her... Read More

CHILDREN OF VIRTUE AND VENGEANCE
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Bahni Turpin exquisitely narrates the second book in this fantasy series, Legacy of Orïsha. Her steady pace and West African accent draw us into the story of Zélie, a Maji warrior, and Princess Amari-- both of whom fight against a monarchy that threatens to destroy the people of Orïsha. Turpin manipulates her voice in a variety of ways to convey raw emotion in the characters... Read More

CLEAN GETAWAY
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Dion Graham's soft voice evokes the tenderness between biracial middle schooler "Scoob" Lamar and G'ma, his white octogenarian grandmother. There are many other moods in this audio as well, and Graham succeeds with all of them. There's surprise as Graham's squeaky-voiced G'ma carries him off on a road trip in a new Winnebago, then sadness when he learns she's sold her... Read More

EATING THE SUN
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Imogen Church's stellar narration highlights the vivid detail and poetic language of this beautiful contemplation of our cosmos. In just under three hours, author Ella Frances Sanders whimsically explores our universe, considering carbon, stars, and our planet--among a myriad of other things--and how they relate to us. Church takes on the lyrical nature of the narrative with... Read More

ELEVATOR PITCH
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

This suspense, narrated superbly by Johnathan McClain, shows how the best audiobooks grab the listener at the outset and maintain their attention to the end. Linwood Barclay's story begins when four people board a New York office building elevator, which ascends to the top floor and then suddenly plummets. What seems to be a random accident repeats the next day and the next,... Read More

FIREBORNE
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

This dragon fantasy rife with political intrigue has three narrators. Christian Coulson portrays Leo, the last living member of the ousted ruling class, who is hiding in plain sight as Lee, a dragon rider who is competing for the coveted Firstrider position. Candice Moll voices Annie, another contender for Firstrider, whose family was murdered by Lee's father. Steve West's... Read More

THE GERMAN HOUSE
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Finding answers and hope through post-Holocaust fiction is a challenge, yet this gripping audiobook succeeds because of the power of the dialogue as delivered by narrator Nina Franoszek. From the beginning, Annette Hess's novel uses an unusual approach to the 1963 Auschwitz war crimes trials in Frankfurt. The story focuses on Eva Bruhns, a naïve 24-year-old who accepts a job as... Read More

GRACE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Mark Bramhall narrates these stories in measured tones, giving each word maximum value. The novella and five short stories that make up Dan Burns's latest collection all deal with imperfect people finding the blessings of grace where and when they least expect them. Bramhall gives the diverse characters unique voices that illuminate their personalities. Two characters... Read More

THE GUILTY FEMINIST
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Deborah Frances-White and Adjoa Andoh work together to narrate this set of ruminations about contemporary womanhood and its many dilemmas. Frances-White has an upper-crust British accent that gives the questions she's asking an added layer of importance. As she reads at a quick but measured pace, listeners are pulled along by her brisk no-nonsense approach to a seemingly... Read More

HI FIVE
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Zeno Robinson narrates the fourth audiobook in the series featuring private investigator Isaiah Quintabe (IQ). IQ's latest case involves especially high stakes. For one, the powerful arms dealer Angus Byrne is forcing him to solve a shooting death and threatening to break the hands of IQ's girlfriend, a violinist, if he fails. Also, the main witness/suspect is Byrne's daughter,... Read More

LOVE & COURAGE
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Vikas Adam's tone is one of warm conviction as he recounts Jagmeet Singh's story of growing up an outsider, embracing Sikh religion, and handling his complex relationship with his alcoholic father. Singh, who is the leader of Canada's New Democratic party, sets the tone of intimacy from the beginning as he narrates his introduction. Adam seamlessly picks up the narration... Read More

LOVE LETTERING
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Listeners will melt in response to this whimsical performance by Nicol Zanzarella. Meg, a calligrapher, used to live in Brooklyn with her best friend and roommate, taking commissions for wedding invitations. Now she's begun a new business, but she struggles with a chronic creative block and her best friend has moved out. So she decides to travel around New York City to look at... Read More

THE OUTSIDE
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Nancy Wu captures the essence of Yasira Shien from this audiobook's opening scenes. Shien is an autistic math and physics prodigy who has designed a new generation reactor to power a space station in the 28th century. Wu employs neutral accents for humans, especially for Shien and her mentor, who is also autistic (as is the author). In contrast, Wu uses light accents for the... Read More

THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!
Earphones Award Winner
Children

A winning combination here--Mo Willems narrates the latest installment in his Pigeon books, and a musical score enriches the experience. The plot is spot-on for children facing the prospect of starting school. Meet Pigeon who, in his own estimation, doesn't need to go to school because he knows EVERYTHING. But when he's peppered with questions by kid voices, he becomes... Read More

QUEEN OF BONES
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Cynthia Farrell's mellifluous and confident rendering of Cuban speech patterns alternating with perfectly colloquial American ones gives the listener a delicious sense of having been transplanted to Havana, a treat you couldn't get from the page alone. In Dovalpage's atmospheric tale, Juan Chiong returns home 20 years after barely surviving his escape to Florida on a... Read More

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Stevens, the repressed and self-denying butler at the center of this audiobook, is in some ways one of the most appalling protagonists in all of literature. Not until close to the end does he allow himself to show, or have, an emotion. Nicholas Guy Smith's narration captures the persona that Stevens has constructed without making it completely monochromatic. The novel is the... Read More

RIBBONS OF SCARLET
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Six experienced performers portray the women who are featured in these interwoven novellas of the French Revolution. They use unaccented speech for the narrative and a subtle French accent for the dialogue--with the exception of the last two chapters, in which the French accents are harsh and brittle. In "The Philosopher," Sophie de Grouchy de Condorcet is portrayed as an... Read More

THE ROYAL BATHS MURDER
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Michael Page flawlessly presents this story, based on an actual mystery writers' convention. After Damian "Poison Pen" Penrose is found dead in the town of Harrogate's Victorian baths, the list of suspects is unending. Listeners will accompany witty, literate Detective Chief Inspector Oldroyd as he sifts through a mountain of clues--and tries online dating. Page's portrayals of... Read More

THE SELECTED ESSAYS OF GORE VIDAL
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

None of these short essays are in Vidal's own voice, that distinctively tart patrician voice so familiar to TV audiences half-a-century ago. Maybe that's for the best. Jeff Cummings, who narrates several of Vidal's other nonfiction works, frees these "occasional essays" from Vidal's voice, and his overriding personality, and highlights their prose excellence, grace and wit, and... Read More

ST. FRANCIS SOCIETY FOR WAYWARD PETS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Sarah Naughton delivers a charming narration of this story about a woman discovering herself as she becomes acquainted with her late mother. Maeve Stephens is recovering from a humiliating breakup, a mugging, and a lost job when she learns that her biological mother, Annabelle, has died. Naughton portrays the overwhelmed protagonist with tender humor, capturing her reluctant... Read More

SUCH A FUN AGE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Nicole Lewis hooks listeners with her lively pacing and vivid characterizations in this gripping debut audiobook on race, privilege, and money. In an upscale Philadelphia grocery shop, 25-year-old black college graduate Emira is improperly detained by a security guard who refuses to believe that she is the babysitter of her white employer's 3-year-old daughter, Briar.... Read More

TO THE ISLAND OF TIDES
Earphones Award Winner
History

Narrator David Rintoul sweeps listeners into historian Alistair Moffat's tapestry of memoir, journalism, and religious history relating to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The tidal island off the Northumbrian coast has a Celtic Christian identity that dates back more than a millennium. With subtle yet distinct modulations of pacing and tone, and--to convey Moffat's sense of... Read More

TRINITY SIGHT
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

January Lavoy narrates a powerful dystopian saga that merges science and religion. After a bright flash, Calliope Santiago is one of only a handful of survivors in a seemingly postapocalyptic wasteland. LaVoy perfectly captures the terrible cascade of emotions Calliope experiences when she realizes that her family is gone--but she must survive because she is pregnant with... Read More

THE VANDERBEEKERS TO THE RESCUE
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Robin Miles is crisp and pliable of voice--and as upbeat sounding as the five Vanderbeeker children. These skills serve her well as she navigates the topsy-turvy, ever-changing world of the Vanderbeeker family. They may be rescuers, but they sometimes cause problems, too. When Mama's home baking business is threatened, it's the children who come up with many plans to... Read More

WILD GAME
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Narrator Julia Whelan delivers Adrienne Brodeur's heartbreaking and exquisitely written memoir with an observer's objectivity yet with enough compassion to keep listeners enthralled. The author paints her mother, Malabar, with loving strokes, revealing a child-woman who involves 14-year-old Adrienne in the intense love affair she carries on with her husband's best friend. By... Read More

THE WILL AND THE WILDS
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

In a story full of myth and magic flawlessly narrated by Angela Dawe, a young woman puts her soul at risk by bargaining with a monster. As the creature, Maekallus, becomes more human, Enna struggles to release the curse connecting them and let go of her changing feelings toward him. Dawe's narration draws listeners deep into the tale, keeping them engaged. It's surprising to... Read More

THE WORD COLLECTOR
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Reynolds's beloved story is even more spectacular with Guy Lockard's narration and Sandra Hart's music. The tale of Jerome, a word collector, begins with cheerful music that expresses his excitement. As various words are introduced, the music follows the lead of the text--thoughtful as Jerome expresses respect for the word "wonder" and dramatic while delivering powerful words... Read More

YOU ARE AWESOME
Earphones Award Winner
Personal Growth

Bestselling author and super popular TED talker Pasricha narrates his likable audiobook, which helps listeners be a little happier when grappling with life's inevitable failures and challenges. Moving beyond merely stating that resilience matters, Pasricha offers concrete, achievable steps toward its practice. In personable short chapters, the author shares a variety of... Read More

YOUR HOUSE WILL PAY
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

The story may be fiction, but listeners will feel like they're hearing true crime--so captivating are the performances of narrators Greta Jung and Glenn Davis. The mystery involves Grace Park, a sheltered Korean pharmacist, and Shawn Matthews, who find themselves intertwined following a horrendous crime that rocks Los Angeles, where they both live. The result is a gripping... Read More

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