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Best Audiobooks of the Year

Age of Miracles audiobook coverCelebrate June is Audiobook Month by turning a ready ear to the brand new winners of the 2013 Audie Awards. Whether on a sunny walk, a cross-country road trip, or even a daily commute, you will find the journey to be all the better in the company of an expert story. Audiobook listeners can also earn chances for prizes in MPPL’s summer reading program, Have Book, Will Travel, so why not start with one of these?

Science Fiction: The Age of Miracles (Walker) – read by Emily Rankin
Literary Fiction: Bring Up the Bodies (Mantel) – read by Simon Vance
Mystery: The Beautiful Mystery (Penny) – read by Ralph Cosham
Romance: The Witness (Roberts) – read by Julia Whelan
Solo Narration – Female: Katherine Kellgren for The Boy in the Suitcase (Kaaberbøl and Friis)
Solo Narration – Male: Edoardo Ballerini for Beautiful Ruins (Walter)
Teens: The Fault in Our Stars (Green) – read by Kate Rudd
Children’s Title for Ages 8-12: Same Sun Here – written and read by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
Children’s Titles for Ages Up to 8: The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case (McCall Smith) – read by Adjoa Andoh

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on June 1, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Awards, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, Literary, Romance

Who Needs a Bookstore at 2 AM?

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore audiobook coverOut-of-work graphic designer Clay Jannon stumbles on an unusual bookshop and impulsively asks for work. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore seems innocuous enough, but soon it becomes apparent that there is a strange plot that can’t be contained by the towering shelves of unusual tomes. It will take a love of books, complex data visualization, connections at both Google and Industrial Light & Magic, and a motley crew of friends with unusual skills to complete this quest, and even then the victory may not be theirs. Author Robin Sloan crafts a modern lit-tech adventure, and reader Ari Fliakos brings it to life, honoring the wit, geekery, and enthusiasm that make decoding the secret of immortality hard to resist. The glow-in-the-dark cover helps, too.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on May 20, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Books

A Girl You Won’t Forget

Salvage the Bones audiobook coverTwelve days before Hurricane Katrina lands in Bois Savage, Mississippi, we meet 14-year-old Esch Batiste, a most unlikely heroine. Living in dire poverty with three brothers and her oft-drunken father, her attention is divided between a hidden pregnancy and a new litter of pit bull puppies. Winner of the National Book Award, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward is an evocative story of an already-embattled family faced with incomprehensible forces of nature. Narrator Cherise Boothe fascinates as the heartbreaking Esch, a girl used by boys since she was twelve but who dreams of being the strong women of mythic tales. Under Boothe’s skill, what might otherwise be a difficult story to hear is transformed into a lyrical narrative with universal resonance.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on April 15, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Awards, Literary

Do Readers Make the Best Spies?

Sweet Tooth book coverIn Cold War-era Britain, compulsive reader Serena Frome is unexpectedly recruited by MI5. Her big chance comes with the launch of Operation Sweet Tooth, one designed to fight Communist propaganda by secretly supporting writers with the right ideals. Serena’s beauty and interest in books puts her in an ideal position to befriend rising author Tom Haley. From the first paragraph of Ian McEwan’s latest, we already know that the mission doesn’t end well, but it’s easy to be distracted by the earnest narration of actress Juliet Stevenson. Through her voice, Serena feels her way through perception, deception, and manipulation. Exposure is imminent, but who, by whom, and how? Just wait for the final reveal, one that will especially gratify fans of Atonement.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on March 18, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Historical Fiction, Literary

The Best Crime Fiction You’re Not Reading

Seven Days audiobook cover“Today I will shoot a policeman. In the leg. And every day I will shoot a policeman, until you charge the murderer.” It isn’t enough that Cape Town homicide detective Benny Griessel is tasked with the cold-case stabbing of Hanneke Sloet; he also has to contend with the ticking clock of a sniper who insists the police are engaged in an active cover-up. South African sensation Deon Meyer writes tense crime thrillers against a backdrop of racial conflict and complex personality. With no apparent motive, no viable suspects, and no new leads, how will Benny solve a 40-day-old mystery while at the same time protecting his colleagues? British narrator Simon Vance steers listeners through Seven Days of dire circumstances to create a riveting audiobook experience.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on February 25, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

A Little Night Music

Nocturnes audiobook coverIt is a gifted writer who can compose sentences that remind you of haunting melodies. Kazuo Ishiguro is one such author, and his collection Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall boasts charms that will soothe the savage breast. Set in different cities worldwide, each story is shared from the perspective of a single musician, all struggling to balance the idealism of music’s promise with the colder realities of making one’s way in the world. A sense of humor lightens many of the characters’ exploits, especially in the title story, in which an aging jazz musician undergoes plastic surgery to improve his image. Narrators Mark Bramhall, Simon Vance, Kirby Heyborne, and Lincoln Hoppe each take their turns at the podium to orchestrate Ishiguro’s symphony in words.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on February 11, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Literary

Cathleen’s Pick: The Flight of Gemma Hardy

Cathleen staff picks pictureThe Flight of Gemma Hardy transports the story of Jane Eyre to twentieth-century Iceland and Scotland, successfully honoring the source material while still offering a few surprises. The graceful, lilting narration of reader Davina Porter perfectly renders Gemma’s progression from neglected waif to independent young woman.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on January 29, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Picks by Cathleen, Romance, Staff Picks

On Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service

The Rook audiobook coverIn one of the most fascinating starts in recent fiction, Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in a London park surrounded by dead bodies wearing latex gloves, and she has no idea how this happened or even who she is. A note in her jacket pocket begins, “The body you are wearing used to be mine,” kick-starting a story that escalates in both action and intrigue. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is masterfully read by Susan Duerden, who rises to the challenge of voicing two versions of Myfanwy — one of whom is revealed through stacks of preemptive letters, and the other who is trying to ferret out a conspiracy in the secret organization which battles supernatural forces in Britain.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on January 14, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

Murder at the End of the World

The Last Policeman audiobook cover

If you knew the world were going to end in six months, would solving crimes still matter? Young Detective Hank Palace insists it does, and he is determined to prove that the apparent suicide found in a former McDonald’s restroom is really a murder victim. In The Last Policeman by Ben Winters, the impending asteroid strike has led most people to abandon their jobs and embrace life without consequences, but Palace won’t let this go. Reader Peter Berkrot’s superb narration balances the earnest with the hard-boiled, leading us through changing directions and multiple red herrings while keeping us thoroughly invested. The Last Policeman is a satisfying mystery that takes full advantage of its pre-apocalyptic setting, offering keen insights into human thought and behavior.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on December 31, 2012 Categories: Audiobooks, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

Giving Back to Half the World

Half the Sky book cover

“More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century.” Wow. But as startling as statistics like that may be, Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn know that people don’t respond to numbers — they respond to stories. Accordingly, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide focuses on people: those who have been victimized, those who are working to combat untenable situations, and those who have survived unimaginable horror and are now fighting back themselves. This extraordinary work celebrates the victories, the progress, and the solutions, and it gives specific options for each of us to respond to a call to action. As we pause to reflect on our own blessings at this time of year, it is also good to be reminded that most of us know very little of real need or oppression. What can one person do? Read this life-changing book and find out.

If reading the book seems too much, check out the audiobook (expertly read by Cassandra Campbell) or the documentary series on DVD. Your only regret will be that it took you this long to have your eyes opened.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on December 24, 2012 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Movies and TV, Nonfiction