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October 2019 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.


BERNARD PEPPERLIN
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Dormice have all the fun. At least, the famous dormouse of ALICE IN WONDERLAND does, while also having some rip-roaring adventures. First, he is voiced by Gary Furlong--as are nasty weasels, a wisecracking cat, dancing cockroaches, an enterprising iguana, even more creatures, and some colorful humans characterized with an entertaining panoply of accents and personalities.... Read More

BUTTERFLY YELLOW
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Gorgeous writing meets expert narration in this one-of-a-kind refugee story. Narrator LuLu Lam gracefully maneuvers listeners through Hang's efforts to reconnect her with her brother Lihn in Texas after the Vietnam War. Lam fully captures Hang's struggles and joys with learning English as well the text's Vietnamese dialogue, making this an especially appropriate novel for... Read More

CHARLOTTE'S WEB
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Melissa Sweet, author of SOME WRITER, introduces this edition of CHARLOTTE'S WEB with insights into White's inspiration for the sweet story. Then, Meryl Streep and a stellar cast take us to the barnyard. She draws the listener in with a smooth, consistent delivery and unobtrusive interjections highlighting the emotions of the dialogue. Every portrayal of every character, major... Read More

THE CHESTNUT MAN
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

This superlatively good audio thriller, a first novel by the accomplished screenwriter Søren Sveistrup, is made almost unbearably vivid by narrator Peter Noble. The story hits all the usual gory marks of the genre but is also something more, psychologically richer, better written, and surprisingly moving. A chestnut man is a doll made in autumn by Danish schoolchildren, used... Read More

COMING THROUGH SLAUGHTER
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

At first listen, Dion Graham's narration of this historical novel about jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden, originally published in 1996, sounds breathy and at times overly dramatic. But he's just warming up. As the colorful details of the cornet player's life unfold, Graham cranks up the story's intense moments to great effect, while dialing the mood down with hushed tones and slower... Read More

CONFLICT RESOLUTION FOR HOLY BEINGS
Earphones Award Winner
Poetry & Drama

Most poets mine their own experiences and their histories, and Joy Harjo is no exception. In this audiobook she brings to life many of the stories, songs, and traditions of her Muscogee and Cherokee ancestors. Her poetry can fairly be called polemical in its intention, but it is also deeply human, working in ranges of experience that many listeners may have been fortunate... Read More

DANCING WITH BEES
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

The author narrates this work in a slow, warm, mellifluous tone that, were this a scientific treatise on the native bees of the British Isles, would be sleep inducing at best. But listeners will quickly discern that this is a love story that begins with bees in the backyard and spreads to a wide array of native fauna and flora. One does not have to be a trained naturalist to... Read More

DEAD GOD'S DUE
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Narrator Ralph Lister does much more than assign distinctive voices to his characters. He creates complete personas. He includes attitudes and mannerisms and builds personalities for both men and women so there is no doubt who is holding forth or taking others to task. In the first installment of a new series, Sins of the Father, Yazid is trying in vain to get everyone to focus... Read More

DOMINICANA
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Set in the 1960s, this audiobook introduces Ana, a 15-year-old new bride whose mercurial husband brings her to America. Coral Pena's strong delivery is a breath of fresh air--her depiction of Ana blends confidence and naïveté as the protagonist makes her way from her home in the Dominican Republic to New York, from a simple life to a complicated one. Pena is a master of accents... Read More

THE DRAGON REPUBLIC
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Narrator Emily Woo Zeller returns for the second audiobook in The Poppy War series. War is all Rin knows anymore, and she'll destroy anyone and anything that gets between her and her revenge upon the Empress. Zeller's fierce narration couples well with the story's many dark and fantastical twists, keeping listeners on the edge of their seats. She creates clearly differentiated... Read More

EMERGENCY SKIN
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

Narrator Jason Isaacs's voice is the perfect mix of insistent, pedantic, and scornful as he portrays the AI inside the head of an "instrument" that is sent on a mission to gather valuable biological materials on what's left of Tellus--or Earth. Listeners are directly addressed by Isaacs as if they, too, are on this mission. They too experience alarm and curiosity as the AI... Read More

EVERYTHING INSIDE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Robin Miles's luminous narration will make converts of those who usually abstain from the short story genre. She does not overdo or overemphasize any moment. Her voice has a quiet lushness that suits the carefully curated prose of acclaimed Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. With subtle alterations in her intonation, pitch, and inflection, Miles creates haunting... Read More

FIND ME
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Michael Stuhlbarg's rough, raspy voice lends a whispery intimacy to this sequel to CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. That book focused on 17-year-old Elio's relationship with Oliver, a graduate student. This sequel focuses first on Sami, Elio's father. It's 10 years later. Sami is on a train to Rome to visit Elio, now a world-famous concert pianist, when he finds himself drawn to... Read More

FULL THROTTLE
Earphones Award Winner
Horror

A terrific cast of narrators lend their voices to 13 stories by Joe Hill, two of which are cowritten with his dad, Stephen King. Hill himself reads the utterly delightful introduction, remembering his childhood and his path to becoming a successful horror writer. The first story, "Throttle," follows, with Stephen Lang perfectly portraying a gang of bikers who are being... Read More

GOLD DUST WOMAN
Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir

Christina Delaine's performance often feels like rock singer Stevie Nicks herself is telling her story. Delaine conjures up visions of Stevie with her melodious voice, which can turn sharp as a knife when the story makes it necessary. And what a story it is: Everyone wanted her, but no one wanted to love her. This audiobook relies heavily on interviews with friends and... Read More

H.G. WELLS: THE SCIENCE FICTION COLLECTION
Earphones Award Winner
Science Fiction

That the moon is different from H.G. Wells's description doesn't matter a whit while listening to this marvelous collection of five classic tales from the famously imaginative author. Introduced by self-described Wells fan-boy Eli Roth, the stories are each read by a different British narrator in a feat of perfect casting. David Tennant's glottal Scots accent suits the shock of... Read More

IMAGINARY FRIEND
Earphones Award Winner
Horror

Christine Lakin's superb narration of this horror novel from the author of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER immerses listeners in the gruesome. Christopher and his mother, Kate, finally settle in Pennsylvania after years of moving around. But what they thought was a safe and secure home turns out to be a playground for something sinister. When Christopher disappears for six days... Read More

LOOK BOTH WAYS
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Ten African-American narrators read these ten interconnected stories, and their performances are uniformly excellent, bringing the cast of characters to vivid life. Listeners follow the varied adventures of students as they walk home from school. In "Call of Duty," read by Kevin R. Free, Bryson stands up for a boy who gets kissed by another boy at school; in "Satchmo's Master... Read More

THE MAN WITH NO BORDERS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Thom Rivera gives this novel an unforgettable performance as he captures the diminishing spirit and dying body of José María lvarez. Rivera's diction is spot-on as he delivers Spanish, American, Swiss, and Indian accents. He powerfully conveys the tortured thoughts of the flawed and complex private banker at the center of this compelling work as he re-creates the... Read More

MOMENTOUS EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

This is the second audiobook about Aven--who may be armless but is armed with confidence and grit, as was shown in the earlier audiobook INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS. She's a very different heroine in this story. Listeners will again be engaged by narrator Karissa Vacker's portrayal, especially her whip-smart, quick dialogue. She does full justice to even minor... Read More

NOTHING TO SEE HERE
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Narrator Marin Ireland flawlessly introduces listeners to Lillian and Madison, two unlikely friends separated after a boarding school scandal. Years later, on the precipice of a major change, Madison begs Lillian to become her twin step-children's governess. These are special kids: When they become agitated, they spontaneously combust. Drawing from a seemingly endless supply of... Read More

OLIVE, AGAIN
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Kimberley Farr, who performed Elizabeth Strout's previous Olive Kitteridge novel to fine effect, does it again in this newest examination of Crosby, Maine's, odd and marvelous inhabitants, starting with Olive herself. Awkward, brusque Olive has a beau of sorts, a fellow with a large stomach and large issues. Despite the issues, he makes her feel loved. For more than that, you... Read More

THE REIGN OF THE KINGFISHER
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

Tension and suspense are maintained on high with L.J. Ganser's narration of this Chicago mystery, the author's debut. Hostages have been taken to try to force the police to come clean about the death of the Kingfisher, a superhero or vigilante, depending on your point of view, 30 years after the police claim he was murdered. From the start, Ganser sets a strong pace in a style... Read More

ROYAL HOLIDAY
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Discover renewed love in this wonderful performance by Janina Edwards. Vivian accompanies her daughter, Maddie, to England when she is hired to dress a princess for the royal Christmas festivities. Vivian unexpectedly hits it off with Malcolm, the Queen's secretary. Their continuous flirting explodes into a short-lived affair, but will it remain just that or grow deeper?... Read More

THE SANCTUARY MURDERS
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Narrator David Thorpe meticulously depicts 1360 Cambridge as King Edward III calls for everyone to arm against France. University staff, including sleuths Brother Michael and Matthew Bartholomew, are concerned because there are French scholars to consider plus the usual town-and-gown conflicts. Thorpe deftly captures the rise in tension when the university hosts a colloquium of... Read More

THE SECRET COMMONWEALTH
Earphones Award Winner
Young Adult

Michael Sheen throws himself wholeheartedly into narrating this sequel to LA BELLE SAUVAGE, and listeners will be rapt. Lyra is now 20, and she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, are uneasy with each other in ways they never have been before. This central conflict is the catalyst for a series of journeys and is just one of many, many threads that Pullman will presumably pick up again... Read More

THE SECRETS WE KEPT
Earphones Award Winner
Mystery & Suspense

This ensemble performance of Laura Prescott's novel, told from multiple points of view, reimagines from a female perspective one of the great Cold War coups--the smuggling into the West and publication in 1958 of Boris Pasternak's DR. ZHIVAGO. In Washington, the narrators include "The Typists" at CIA headquarters, a young Russian-speaking agent, and a glamorous senior agent... Read More

TALKING TO STRANGERS
Earphones Award Winner
Contemporary Culture

Malcolm Gladwell is a fabulous narrator of his latest book, this one about the biases and blind spots people have when trying to understand people who are not like they are. His pleasing tone, phrasing palette, and exceptional skill with dramatic pauses all sound natural, yet add sparkling energy to his writing. He says we often misunderstand others because of cultural and... Read More

THE TESTAMENTS
Earphones Award Winner
Fiction

Bear witness to the secretive lives of Gilead's women 15 years after THE HANDMAID'S TALE's conclusion. Narrator Ann Dowd, known for her role on the television adaptation, is formidable as Aunt Lydia. Hearing her resonant narration of diary entries allows listeners to feel the horror of early Gilead, be disturbed by the aunt's complicity, and discover her secrets. Bryce Dallas... Read More

TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY
Earphones Award Winner
Children

Narrator Amir Abdullah's rich baritone brings a thrilling mythological world to life. Tristan Strong's best friend, Eddie, died a few weeks ago, and Tristan has just lost his first boxing match. He's sent to his grandparents' Alabama farm to work off his grief, and there a tiny sap-covered character out of Anansi tales, called Gum Baby, steals his last connection to Eddie, a... Read More

TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT
Earphones Award Winner
Fantasy

Barrie Kreinik and Raphael Corkhill co-narrate an epistolary fantasy novel about the joys (and dangers) of translating newly discovered ancient manuscripts. Audrey Camherst, granddaughter of the intrepid Lady Trent, is eager to make her mark on the world and jumps at the opportunity to translate a cache of newly discovered material. Kreinik narrates Audrey's diary, which... Read More

THE WATER DANCER
Earphones Award Winner
Historical Fiction

Joe Morton doesn't just give a stellar performance of Coates's audiobook. He embodies its characters completely, making the listening experience cinematic. In Virginia, before the Civil War, White people are referred to as "Quality," while black people are "the Tasked." Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked, is moved from field labor to a plantation house. Soon after, he is recruited... Read More

WELL MET
Earphones Award Winner
Romantic Fiction

Brittany Pressley brings humor and tenderness to this story about family, finding love, and playing pirate. After her older sister's car accident, 25-year-old Emily helps out with the care of her 15-year-old niece--which includes signing up to be a wench at the upcoming Renaissance Faire. Pressley is a dynamic performer who brings out Emily's increasing ease as she gets to know... Read More

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