Archive for the ‘Audiobooks’ Category

In Defense of Audiobooks

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Do audiobooks still need defending?

At least one person thinks so. Ten years after the New York Times looked into whether listening to audiobooks was “real” reading, or just “oral CliffsNotes for reading lightweights,” Claire Armistead asks a similar question in the Guardian, “Reading with your ears: do audiobooks harm or help literature?” She quotes American literary critic Harold Bloom, who told the NYT that reading text is superior, “Deep reading really demands the inner ear as well as the outer ear. You need the whole cognitive process, that part of you which is open to wisdom. You need the text in front of you.”

She also quotes Neil Gaiman, a brilliant reader of his own work, who said that same year (via his blog) that Bloom’s comments are,

“just snobbery and foolishness … I don’t believe there are books I’ve never ‘read’ because I have only heard them, or poems I’ve not experienced because I’ve only heard the poets read them. Actually, I believe that if the writer is someone who can communicate well aloud (some writers can’t), you often get much more insight into a story or poem by hearing it.”

The New Yorker jumped into the fray seven years later,  also refuting Bloom.

9781442361539_91a28Armistead explores the issue for herself by comparing the experience of reading and then listening to Colm Tóibín’s Nora Webster, (S&S Audio, 2014).  The novel left her flat in print but thrilled her in audio (listen to an excerpt here, read by the brilliant Fiona Shaw, who also talks about reading the book here).

You have to wonder if Bloom, now 85 and at an age when many discover new appreciation for audiobooks, still feels the way he did ten years ago.

Order Alert: Stephen King’s DRUNKEN FIREWORKS

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 9.37.12 AMStephen King will release an audiobook-only title this summer, Drunken Fireworks (Simon & Schuster Audio; CD and DD, OverDrive Sample), about a fireworks rivalry that gets way out of hand.

To be released on June 30th, at the close of audiobook month, it is narrated by Tim Sample, who also read King’s Four Past Midnight: The Sun Dog.

In early November the short story will be released in print as part of a new King collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (S&S/Scribner; Nov 3.; ISBN 9781501111679). The full collection of stories will also be published in audio (no word yet on the narrator).

According to The Wall Street Journal, Drunken Fireworks will stream for free on July 2 as a promotion for CBS’s new web-based podcast platform CBS Radio stations in more than 20 markets will run promotions for four days starting June 29.

The Wall Street Journal sees this as a case of corporate synergy, since King is published by the CBS-owned Simon and Schuster.

King is known for his interest in helping promote new technologies. Back in 2000, he brought attention to eBooks by releasing the digital novella Riding the Bullet, causing the NYT‘s critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt to wonder, “is this the wave of the future or just a confluence of unusual circumstances?”

Witherspoon Voices WATCHMAN

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 10.11.26 AMFollowing in the footsteps of actress Sissy Spacek who narrates the 2009 production of To Kill A Mockingbird, Reese Witherspoon has been selected by HarperAudio to narrate Go Set A Watchman.

The audiobook will be released simultaneously with the print and ebook versions on July 14th.

Born in New Orleans, Witherspoon is quoted in USA Today:

As a Southerner, it is an honor and privilege to give voice to the Southern characters who inspired my childhood love of reading, Scout and Atticus Finch…I am eager for readers to be transported to a pivotal time in American history in the manner that only Harper Lee’s gorgeous prose can deliver.

An avid reader, Witherspoon has been associated with a number of book adaptations as both an actress and a producer, including Water for Elephants, Wild, and Gone Girl.  She won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter in Walk the Line, Oddly enough, Mockingbird‘s narrator, Spacek also won a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of another singer, Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

This is Witherspoon’s first audiobook.

Patti Smith Narrates Nesbo

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

9780553545975Patti Smith has narrated just one audiobook, her own, Just Kids. Now she adds a second, Jo Nesbo’s Blood on Snow, (RH & BOT Audio; RH/Knopf print; Random House Large Print) a standalone released this week Entertainment Weekly features an audio clip and a book excerpt. According to the story, “Nesbø is a musician and songwriter himself, and the two artists are mutual admirers of each other’s work.”

Smith is set to publish a second memoir this fall, M Train (RH/Knopf; BOT Audio, Oct 6).

Best Spoken Word Grammy to
Joan Rivers

Monday, February 9th, 2015

The 2015 Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album, presented last night, went to Joan Rivers, for Diary of a Mad Diva (Penguin Audio; BOT Sample).

Her daughter, Melissa Rivers accepts the award, below.

The nominees were:

Actors Anonymous. James Franco, (Brilliance Audio)

A Call To Action, Jimmy Carter,  (S & S Audio)

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America, John Waters, ( Macmillan Audio)

A Fighting Chance, Elizabeth Warren, (Macmillan Audio)

We Will Survive: True Stories Of Encouragement, Inspiration, And The Power Of Song, Gloria Gaynor, (Brilliance Audio)

MARS Ascending

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

The Kickstarter-funded movie, Veronica Mars, may not have done well at the box office (or with the NYT critic, or with some of the funders), but the related book (which picks up the story after the movie) The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, released yesterday (RH/Vintage) is currently at #8 on Amazon’s sales rankings.

In addition, the audio book (BOT download), read by Veronica Mars herself (that is, Kirsten Bell as Veronica) is getting attention. New York magazine’s “Vulture” says Bell’s “mellifluous yet extremely sardonic delivery will really cure what ails you, if what ails you is a disease brought on by a Veronica Mars deficiency” and The Week magazine adds, “Bell voices all the characters in the audiobook version, giving fans the chance to hear her version of characters like Weevil Navarro and Cliff McCormack.”

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is the first of two planned Veronica Mars novels.

New Audio Sounds

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

On NPR this morning, AudioFile founder and editor Robin Whitten selected several audiobooks from the magazine’s picks of the best of the year to showcase  ways in which producers are “expanding the envelope …with multiple narrators, sound effects and sound design, as well as a single voice just telling you a great story.” Not only books, but comics have made their way to audio (Graphic Audio has released dozens, including AudioFile Best, Marvel’s Civil War)

AudioFie’s “BEST Audiobooks and Best Voices” is available this year in a nifty new format, complete with audio samples.

AudioFile's Year in Audio 2013

Oprah — Audios Better Than Books

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

If you’re searching for ideas for your library blogs, here’s one to steal from, a feature on seven “Audiobooks That Sound Better Than the Printed Versions.” Among the narrators spotlighted are Edoardo Ballerini (Beautiful Ruins, HarperAudio; listen to Ballerini here), Dean Robertson (The Poisonwood Bible, Brilliance; sample here), and, of course, Jim Dale (the Harry Potter series, Listening Library; samples here).

Not much needs to be said about narrator of Graham Greene’s The End of The Affair. The story simply states, “I’m only going to say this once: Colin Firth’s speaking softly, directly into your ear—and he’s talking about love.”

Unfortunately that one is not available to libraries; it’s only on, but we couldn’t resist showing this behind-the-scenes video of Firth in the recording studio:

Get Ready For PARADE’S END

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Parade's EndCalled “Downton Abbey for Grownups” (Laura Miller, Salon) and “The Better Downton Abbey” (The New Yorker), the BBC/HBO mini-series adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s series of four novels, Parade’s End, begins on HBO on February 26. A hit when it aired in the UK last summer, it’s recently been nominated for a number of awards.

In her audio column, “The Listener,” on Salon, Laura Miller notes that “Downton comparisons will abound, though some viewers will be disappointed to find Parade’s End lacks a mansion and wisecracking old ladies — not to mention the complete absence of attention paid to the servant class,” adding, “Although [Benedict] Cumberbatch, cast against type  [in the lead role], delivers an impressive performance … You can only really appreciate what the actor does with this deliberately inexpressive man if you’ve read the books.”

Miller recommends the audio version, to be released next week as a tie-in by S&S Audio (also from Recorded Books as both CD and downloadable) for “Steven Crossley’s sensitive naration.” Miller applauds Crossley for making the many characters distinct and for handling women particularly well; “Not for Crossley the risible practice of adopting an artificially high-pitched, drag-queen voice whenever a woman is speaking.”

Official Series Web Site:


Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Audible has just released their list of the best audios of the year, including their pick of the ONE best, which is Beautiful Ruins by Jesse Walter (HarperAudio). It was also chosen by Salon, which praised narrator Eduardo Ballerini’s “handling of this fantastically complex narration [which] is so accomplished you keep forgetting that it’s a performance.”

The print version has been picked up Best Book picks, from Kirkus, NYT Book Review, Publishers Weekly and the Washington Post.

We first heard about it during HarperCollins Library Marketing’s Buzz session at ALA MidWinter last year (sign up for the upcoming one here). Kayleigh George’s description deserves its own award.

BOSSYPANTS Named Audiobook of the Year

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

The Audio Publishers Association (APA) announced the winners of the Audies in 30 categories last night. Tina Fey’s recording of her book, Bossypants (Hachette Audio) was named the Audiobook of the Year. The AudioFile list of winners and nominees includes links to reviews and audio clips.

In the category of “Narration by the Author,” Libba Bray won out against tough competition from John Lithgow, Ellen DeGeneres and Tina Fey for her reading of her YA novel, Beauty Queens (Scholastic AudioBooks). The AudioFile reviews says,”As narrator, Bray puts her theatrical background to good use, changing accents, register, and pitch so smoothly and consistently that listeners will forget there’s but a single narrator”


Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

An “exclusive” nine-minute clip from the audio of Fifty Shades of Grey is on Entertainment Weekly‘s “Shelf Life” blog. We were suspicious, since the post is dated April 2nd (this year’s unofficial alternate to April Fool’s Day, since it was on a Sunday) and no publisher is listed.

Turns out, dear listeners, that it’s true. RH/Books on Tape confirms that they are doing the audio and that it will be available on OverDrive (UPDATE: it is downloadable ONLY).

BOT Library Edition Downloadable only, OverDrive; ISBN: 9780449808177 Price : $95

The book’s reader Becca Battoe, is the narrator of several YA and children’s audios, including Judy Blume’s It’s Not the End of the World. Her voice sounds young, appropriate for the innocent college student, Anastasia Steele. Don’t worry, the clip is very SFW.

Who should play Anastasia in the planned movie? People magazine suggests six actresses, including Emmy Rossum (starring in Showtime’s series Shameless and in the upcoming film version of the YA title, Beautiful Creatures).

The Book I Can’t Stop Talking About

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Hold on to your seats, I am about to recommend a business audio. It is true that I rarely write about books (or audiobooks) for grown-ups, but I can’t stop talking about Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
Tony Hsieh
Retail Price: $29.98
Audio CD: Unabridged
Publisher: Hachette Audio – (2010-06-07)
ISBN : 9781607882305

What is our experience as librarians with the business book category? Do we read them because the Director went to a “who moved my cheese” seminar and found a way to force the staff to read a book not of their choosing? Because the Four Hour Work Week has an appealing title and is on best seller lists? Did a friend recommended Freakanomics?

Business books are a genre I read for fun after a pile of picture books. My first reading of Managing The Non-Profit Organization by Peter Drucker was when I worked as a retail manager for a children’s museum. I was intrigued by the way he laid out organizational structure, interpersonal relationships and above all the difference between a for-profit entity and a non-profit.

I heard the rumors that everyone who worked on Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson quit their job and went to something else, following “their calling.” Within a year of reading it, I, too, quit my job in publishing, enrolled in graduate school and started my career as a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. That’s what a thoughtful examination of how we evaluate our work will do… instigate change.

What is about Delivering Happiness? I’m not in a rut at work. I have high expectations of interesting developments, my managers encourage and support new ideas, curriculum and projects (like the recent BookFest@Bank Street). They expect me to stretch and grow, to mentor and teach, to be passionate about our work and to enjoy the daily work of teaching.

So here comes Tony Hsieh examining and sharing what makes a great place to work. He lays out how serendipity, exciting hard work, kindness, generosity, passion and personal growth can all be part of a corporate strategy for success. Hsieh’s presentation jells with my own philosophy of work life. To be passionate, to encourage others, to be of service, to blow off steam in productive but fun ways, to find ways small and big to improve how we do things to serve our students and teachers, and to do more with less, to learn that obstacles or misaligned philosophies are growth opportunities.

Hsieh’s passion for “delivering happiness” is palpable on the audio edition of the book. He sounds almost amazed at where life has taken him, he generously shares his mistakes and errors in judgement as well in a sure-why-don’t-we-try-that attitude. The audio includes the voices of others on his team who grew Zappos with him as well as Jeff Bezos after the Amazon buy-out. (More complicated than that… read the book).

It confirms my own business philosophy and articulates how I can grow within my organization as well as partner with those outside who share our core values.

Needless to say, I’ll be giving it to many friends this holiday.

ROOM Discussion Group

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

To read Emma Donoghue’s Room is to want to talk about it. Entertainment Weekly‘s “Shelf Life” blog has initiated a Room discussion group that’s bringing in some fascinating comments; we won’t reveal them here because most of them contain spoilers (don’t link if you plan to read it; on the other hand, the spoilers serve as a great cheat sheet for those who don’t want to be left out of the discussions).

One comment we can reveal; “the audio recording is amazing, and probably works even better than print.”

The book, of course, is shortlisted for the Booker. The winner will be announced on Monday.

Room: A Novel
Emma Donoghue
Retail Price: $29.98
Audio CD: 0 pages
Publisher: Hachette Audio – (2010-09-13)
ISBN / EAN: 1607886278 / 9781607886273


Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

David Sedaris is a master of the audio format, so it’s no wonder that he is also a fan.

On the New Yorker Book Bench blog last week, he writes about his favorite audios, a slim selection of four from all time, that achieve the perfect match of both material and narrator. Among his choices are the entire Harry Potter series, but the British version, featuring Stephen Fry a narrator, rather than the American favorite, Jim Dale. The idea of Elaine Stritch reading Dorothy Parker had us salivating, but, sadly, it is no longer available.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of tasty titles on these best audios of 2009 lists: