These reflections by a thoughtful observer of contemporary life strive to expand our awareness of the things we appreciate to include their darker aspects--the Asian children who make our clothing, the animal cruelty required for perfumes, the morality of factory farms. Cindy Kay's performance conveys an eagerness to be understood that is at the heart of Katy Kelleher's... Read More
With a mixture of spunk and quirkiness, narrator Cara Swingline brings Fran and Ken Stein to life in this lighthearted mystery series. Working as private investigators who help clients find their birth parents, the siblings search for a missing ukulele that could lead to a client's father. The deep, throaty voice Swingline gives to Ken unintentionally makes him sound obtuse.... Read More
Philip Plait is a veteran popularizer of astronomy in the media. This audio program is his first foray into narration, and he excels at it. The timbre of his voice is youthful rather than professorial, and his infectious enthusiasm makes him an ideal tour guide as he escorts listeners to Mars, the asteroid belt, Saturn, and Pluto before taking them beyond the solar system to... Read More
Our guide to this overview of conspiracy theories that have obsessed Americans for most of our history is narrator Will Damron, who speaks with just the right mix of authority and urgency. Beginning before the Revolution and extending through the twentieth century, the author covers the Illuminati, the Masons, the Lizard People, the John Birch Society, the Ku Klux Klan, and... Read More
Susan Casey's exploration of the deepest oceans is fascinating, frightening, and compelling. As a narrator, she's also quite wonderful; her clear, warm voice has touches of humility and awe, and she has excellent timing. The bottom of the ocean is teeming with life-- bioluminescence, transparent fish, weird worms, volcanoes. It's also home to shipwrecks, rubbish, and valuable... Read More
Laura Horowitz brings a charming narration to the small-town life of Sadie Revelare. Sadie wants nothing more than to bake, garden, and practice helpful magic for the people she loves, but too much abandonment has left her heartbroken. The letdowns continue with the return of her ex, Jake, and her twin, Seth, which coincides with her grandmother's dire medical diagnosis. At the... Read More
Maddy Withington narrates an enemies-to-lovers romance set in Australia. While in high school young teens Brooke and Jesse became best friends; however, after an embarrassing incident, Brooke's feelings for Jesse turn to scorn. When they both end up in Melbourne for college, they're surprised to find themselves housemates. Remaining cordial for the sake of their other... Read More
British writer-comedian-actor David Mitchell regales listeners with his irreverent, sometimes profane, history of the English monarchs. Beginning with Arthur (he didn't really exist, according to our intrepid historian) and ending with Elizabeth I, Mitchell performs with energy and wry comedic timing. He holds all the monarchs in disdain, telling the most intimate and grisly... Read More
Ruth Simmons gives a warmly engaging rendition of her memoir. Simmons was the first Black president of Smith College and went on to be the president of Brown University and Prairie View A&M University. Here, she recounts her childhood in Texas, growing up as the youngest of 12 children in a sharecropping family that lived in deep poverty. Simmons lovingly describes her close... Read More
Paul Boehmer's thoughtful, well-paced narration encourages close listening to this beautifully written personal memoir and guide to the seventeenth-century Dutch master painters. When Pulitzer Prize-winning author Benjamin Moser relocated to the Netherlands, he sought to understand his place in a foreign country by delving into the lives and work of Rembrandt, Fabritius,... Read More
Christopher Brown uses the voice of a confidant for this cornucopia of pleasures--literary and gustatory. He immerses listeners in the world of protean NEW YORK TIMES book critic Dwight Garner. For a text crammed with words, quotes, and anecdotes about food and literature, Brown takes on a conversational style and uses occasional slight accents to identify the countries of... Read More
January LaVoy gives a breathtaking narration of an astonishing historical novel. Listeners meet a servant girl in the winter of 1609 as she escapes certain death by fleeing into the unknown dangers of the forest. What follows is a beautifully wrought story of survival, narrated with precision, emotion, and a keen sense of the drama that unfolds. The girl's past is slowly... Read More
As the author admits in her foreword, it's difficult to write a biography of someone about whom we know little. For this audiobook, Sarah Ruden, a noted translator of Vergil, had to rely on a biography written a generation after the poet's death, the texts of the three poems clearly written by him, and a deep knowledge of life in the early Roman Empire. Suzanne Toren does an... Read More
Marisa Blake tells the story of Vlad, a vampire who covers up his rosy cheeks for fear of not being accepted by the other vampires, who revel in their pallor. With even pacing and great enthusiasm, Blake captures Vlad's tumultuous feelings as he uses his fashion skills to mask his secret. Ultimately, with the support of a friend, he finds self-acceptance. Dramatic music tying... Read More
Hillary Huber's warm, expressive tones engage listeners with this contemplative novel set in New York City in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The narrative centers on a female writer at a "vulnerable" age who moves into the apartment of a friend to care for the friend's pet macaw, Eureka. Award-winning author Nunez's unique writing style fuses meditations, facts, and... Read More
Suzanne Toren gives an exemplary performance of this memoir by Donna Leon, author of the Commissario Brunetti mystery series. Leon, who is in her 80s, shares illuminating vignettes of her family; her love of reading, tennis, and opera; her travels and her life in Venice; and her peripatetic career path in a life she describes as "unplanned." Toren's rich, elegant voice helps... Read More
NPR podcast cohost Aisha Harris passionately dissects pop culture, delivering an honest portrayal of her life. Her musings are funny, tender, and sometimes searing rebuttals of others' critiques. Harris examines the "Black friend" trope by referencing the TV shows "New Girl," "Scrubs," and "Happy Endings." She compares the development of serialization, reboots, remakes,... Read More
Every now and then a chime rings in this audiobook, directing the listener to the related image file (which is interesting, but not essential). This is not so useful to those who listen while on the move--fortunately, the visuals are not required to follow the text. Not that Terrance Hayes's text is always easy to follow; it blends prose poems, reviews, and short essays in a... Read More
Emily Woo Zeller's fierce narration perfectly suits this sweeping fantasy retelling of the Chinese classic "Water Margin." Lin Chong is a highly respected arms instructor for the Emperor's soldiers despite her gender. She's unwilling to challenge the sexism and corruption around her, but when her entire life and career are suddenly ripped away, she is recruited by the Bandits... Read More
Will Damron's passionate narration of this first novel adds additional layers of emotional depth as two men who were once married and had children discover they're gay. As Thomas and Matt's marriage creates a blended family, the two fathers have strained relationships with their complicated children. A plumbing disaster in their large apartment forces them all into a tiny... Read More
Narrator Marysia Bucholc creates an air of skewed reality in this collection of interconnected stories. Charlotte Farrier moves from South Africa to Canada with her single mother and struggles with both the ordinary and peculiar difficulties of young womanhood. Bucholc's tones are slightly flat by design, perfectly signaling Charlotte's objective gaze upon her own life. From... Read More
Gary Tiedemann knows how to bring out the best in a strong narrative and, more importantly, how not to tamper with one. His delivery is brisk, highly focused, and steady throughout. The author's discussion traces the course of the U.S.'s growing domination of the Western Hemisphere through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries--backed by the Monroe Doctrine and... Read More
Tre'vell Anderson gives a spirited and often hilarious performance of their comprehensive history of transgender representation in film and TV. They walk listeners through some of the most iconic moments of on-screen trans visibility, exploring how trans representation has (and hasn't) changed since the advent of moving pictures. With sharp analysis, plenty of jokes, and moving... Read More
The dramatic skill of narrator Steven Jay Cohen makes this story of white male redemption more realistic and believable. Cohen voices clinical psychologist Gregory Weber's angst as he reckons with a decades-old secret. A mysterious new client named Mira cracks open the demons of his past. His obsession with Mira forces his marriage into a crisis as his wife, Liv, suspects... Read More
This audiobook's excellence makes its nearly 19-hour time span fly by. Ari Fliakos is superb in this complex yet supremely accessible performance. He lends his skill to the depiction of Jack and Elizabeth's relationship and all its backstories and subplots. No nuance of this novel escapes Fliakos: satirical social commentary, tender love story, hilarious missteps of modern... Read More
Robert Petkoff solidifies his position as one of the finest narrators in the audiobook world with this metafictional mystery. His voice is fluid, and his attitude is exactly right for both the omniscient self-congratulatory narrator (who frequently interrupts the story to comment) and for PI McAnnis, who is on a case. Petkoff keeps one's attention even while delivering the long... Read More
Caroline Hewitt narrates this tale of the wealthy Costa family so intimately that listeners will be convinced she has insider status with this dysfunctional group. Sal Costa, family head and manager of a financial institution in serious trouble, hopes to provide for his two children, Rachel and Roberto, who are complete strangers to work and the value of money. His ex-wife,... Read More
Listeners will revel in Cassandra Medcalf's narration of this first novel in the Midlife Olympians series. A fortune teller named Lydia is experiencing an otherworldly midlife crisis. Her husband, a criminal, has just left her, and she's also found out that she is a true Oracle, a seer to the Olympian gods. She must now make her way to the west coast to claim her place, with... Read More
Two economists study the patchwork system of health insurance we have in the U.S. and make sweeping recommendations about how a national insurance mandate would provide better care to more people. Their thinking is down-to-earth and sounds even more accessible as delivered by Susan Bennett, whose performance strikes the right balance between the tone of a policy expert and that... Read More
Narrator Kirby Heyborne embodies the gruesomeness and terror and beauty in Daniel Kraus's story. Listeners will feel its intensity in the pit of their stomachs. Teenage scuba diver Jay Gardiner is consumed by guilt as he seeks to find the remains of his father, who died by suicide, in the Pacific Ocean. As Jay searches the ocean's depths, he is swallowed by a sperm whale. As... Read More
This poignant audiobook features five deceptively simple parables about how libraries inspire the pursuit of one's passions. Each of the interconnected stories is narrated by a single narrator who portrays a member of Japanese society whose current existence is unfulfilling and unsuccessful. The international narrators bring a blend of accents that highlight the vast... Read More
With a quirky protagonist, a wide range of unconventional characters, and a storyline spanning more than 40 years, this is an engaging listen. Author/narrator Winman pulls listeners in with her beautiful prose and vivid descriptions. At the start, Elly is a girl in England in the late 1960s. She questions everything--even when she gets in trouble--and Winman captures her... Read More
Journalist Meg Kissinger gives a stellar narration of her extraordinarily affecting memoir about growing up in the 1960s in a close-knit Irish-Catholic family of eight children, many of whom were afflicted with mental illness. Kissinger's father suffered from bipolar disorder, her mother was hospitalized for depression during Kissinger's childhood, and she lost a brother and... Read More
In a compassionate, relatable tone, Allyson McCabe delivers a compelling case for the importance of the late Sinead O'Connor's musical artistry and ability to use her platform to advocate for such issues as abortion rights and HIV/AIDS prevention and care. McCabe uses a direct, enthusiastic tone in supporting O'Connor and viewing the singer's controversial words and actions.... Read More
Clara Harte is perfect as she narrates this beautifully written timely novel about connections, transitions, and authenticity. Phoebe Ford is starting a new life as a trans woman in Copenhagen. Originally from Ireland, she is reinventing herself but leads a relatively solitary life. Harte infuses Phoebe with wit, humor, and compassion in this story told over a long weekend.... Read More
With his deep, gentle voice and careful pacing, Nick Mondelli delivers this coming-of-age horror story. A boy leads a pleasant life with his parents and dog until the day his estranged grandfather arrives. Listeners can hear the boy's parents' anxiety, but they're unwilling to say why. The grandfather's intense clipped voice and sinister smile create palpable tension. As the... Read More
Teddy Hamilton and Lauren Sweet pair up to narrate this audiobook featuring two college students and a fun summer romance. After her parents' bitter divorce, Aurora, voiced by Sweet, has trouble committing to one man. Russ, portrayed by Hamilton, is a hockey player with a troubled father. It's the end of the year for the students of Maple Hills College. After a one-night stand,... Read More
Krysta Gonzales narrates a romance between a botanical witch and her former crush. Forced to return to her hometown after losing her job, Sage Flores unwillingly confronts her past. Gonzales expertly navigates the complications Sage experiences as she faces not only her family, but also the man who broke her heart in high school. The three Flores sisters--Sage, Teal, and... Read More
Actor Michelle Williams delivers a tell-all memoir from Britney Spears. As a child star on "The Mickey Mouse Club" and a teenage pop star, Spears always felt that other people were making decisions for her and was constantly tempted to quit show business. Williams uses a direct approach to voice Spears's feelings, and these passages carry even more weight in this audiobook than... Read More
Imogen Church does an exceptional job narrating this absorbing biography of a lesser-known yet no-less-colorful woman in Tudor England. Alice Spencer (1559-1637)--an ancestor of Diana Spencer, later the Princess of Wales--started life as the youngest of seven children in a minor aristocratic family and became, through two fortuitous marriages, a powerful woman in her own right.... Read More
The best historical fiction illuminates the past and brings it to life, building a human connection between eras. This audiobook animates historical details of the Women's Army Corps, offering three different perspectives from the only unit of Black women to serve overseas during WWII. Robin Miles's performance is strong: She is brisk and confident, maintaining both a focused... Read More
Themed poetry anthologies built around concrete topics such as children or gardens can contain immense variety. When they are built around feelings, however, they run the risk of being weighed down by the similarity in their works, especially in audio anthologies. So while the poems here are all good and all are read well, their single focus on a sense of wonder makes them... Read More
Hillary Huber performs Evelyn McDonnell's fan notes on the life and times of Joan Didion with the warm excited tones of a girlfriend sharing an enthusiasm with someone she met outside the star's stage door. It's a smart choice, well-paired with McDonnell's text, and Huber's voice is lovely. The problem lies not with the performance of this audiobook but with the text itself.... Read More
Brace yourself--this expertly executed audiobook on the nature of consciousness will shake your brain to its core. Sean Hopkins wisely delivers it at a fast pace that matches the author's groundbreaking intelligence and giddy dedication to understanding how the mind works. Like trying to understand biology without Darwin's theory of evolution, or physics without Einstein's... Read More
Calvin Joyal and Cooper North give an emotional performance of this dystopian sci-fi audiobook. Osric, voiced by North in a smooth, low rumble, is a powerful, sentient AI who was forced into an android's body. Valentine, voiced by Joyal with energy and sarcasm, is desperate for the funds necessary to enter Salt Lake City and secure the trans-affirming healthcare he needs. To... Read More
Actor and talk-show host Jada Pinkett Smith foreshadows the range of emotions she projects in her memoir by beginning with quiet despair and transitioning to a fierce tone. Smith shares intimate details of growing up in Baltimore; with a mother who was addicted to heroin and an absent father, she was raised mainly by her grandmother. Smith shouts as she recounts being held at... Read More
Brooke Bloomingdale and James Gloucester delight listeners as they narrate this hilarious, heartfelt holiday rom-com. Melody Gallard and Beat Dawkins are the adult children of the legendary rock band Steel Birds--now defunct. Thanks to a lucrative reality TV offer, Beat and Melody are attempting to reunite their estranged mothers, both veterans of the band, for a reunion... Read More
Ron Butler strikes the perfect balance as he narrates this middle-grade thriller set in the early days of the Covid pandemic. Valdez Jones VIII, known as Wrecker, is a biracial Key West teen with generations of seafaring ancestors skilled in diving and salvage. When he encounters suspected smugglers in a grounded speedboat, their fortunes intertwine dangerously. Smuggling,... Read More
Anne Enright, Aoife Duffin, Owen Roe, and Liza Ross perform Enright's latest novel. Duffin narrates the perspective of Nell, a 20-something who is navigating the complexities of young love and desire. When she meets her new boyfriend's parents, they only want to talk about her grandfather, the famous Irish poet Phil McDaragh. Duffin beautifully captures the frustration and... Read More
Narrator Todd McLaren does a fine job depicting the romance between Erianne Mitchell and architect Ty Mosby. Erianne has known and loved Ty most of her life. Since she's gone to work for him doing cost estimates, her feelings have only deepened. But when he thinks she's betrayed him, he casts her aside, not realizing that she's pregnant. She flees to Wyoming, prepared to raise... Read More
Twisty and fast paced, this engaging listen tells a story of survival, trust, and friendship. Summer and Leo are grifters--soul sisters who are traveling the California coast in Summer's Land Cruiser. Both have complicated, heartbreaking pasts, and Summer "mentors" Leo as the women survive through a mix of recklessness, con artistry, and determination. When Leo, voiced by... Read More
This audiobook perfectly captures the extraordinary Project C, the ten- week campaign to end segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, which was crucial to the subsequent success of the 1963 March on Washington. Jaime Lincoln-Smith's performance is exceptional. He complements the book's historical precision with his delivery of the memorable voice of Martin Luther King, Jr., while... Read More
Jasmin Walker narrates the story of a woman who returns home for the holidays and unexpectedly finds love. Starr is surprised to see her brother's friend Waylon at her family's Thanksgiving celebration. Neither is the type to have a fling, but their attraction is undeniable. As the year's end approaches, so does Starr's time in DC. Both characters rely on their deep faith to... Read More
Eunice Wong perfectly delivers this powerful biography. Author Mattie Kahn has a simple goal: to bring attention to the teenage girls throughout history who have sparked protests and social justice movements. She infuses these stories with a conversational tone that matches the well-researched stories of girls we know (like climate activist Greta Thunberg) and those we don't... Read More
Olivia Dowd is so good at delivering this history that it's like listening to a historical novel set in the sixteenth century. Dowd gives each woman a unique voice in this true account of the lives of Catherine de' Medici, Queen of France; her daughter, Elisabeth de Valois, Queen of Spain; and Catherine's daughter-in-law, Mary, Queen of Scots. The production provides hours of... Read More
Mark Sanderlin's and Griffin Puatu's performances in this vibrant slasher story bring a high school queer club to life--as the club's members fight for theirs. Cole and Dearie, two gay friends, are living their best lives as they approach graduation. Enter Mr. Sandman, a serial killer who wreaked havoc decades ago, only to show up again, attacking anyone associated with the... Read More
Award-winning radio journalist Michele Norris hosts a podcast that will have listeners feeling hungry and warmhearted as they explore diverse family culinary traditions. Each 40-minute episode focuses on a guest, such as Michelle Obama and Conan O'Brien--to name a few. Norris asks them probing questions about the foods from their childhoods, leading guests to reminisce about... Read More
Narrator Hewot Tedla perfects the strengths of this teen thriller: a tone of brassy independence, fiery romance, and chilling terror. Charity, who is about to start her senior year of high school, has almost completed her seasonal job in which she plays the final victim of a full-contact terror experience on the old set of a camp horror film. Tedla gives Charity a tone that... Read More
The bright and youthful voice of Katharine Chin brings a lighthearted manga-style energy to ZHARA, the first in a new series by S. Jae-Jones. Although magic is forbidden throughout the Morning Realms, this story focuses on Jin Zhara and her discovery of the Guardians of Dawn, a secret organization seeking to liberate magicians from hiding. Chin's vocal variations provide enough... Read More
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