Audiobook lovers were treated to an abundance of top-shelf titles throughout 2011. To compile this list, LJ again turned to its intrepid stable of reviewers, who recommended works ranging from literary memoirs, histories, biographies, and a business course to a slew of thrillers, a short story collection, a trio of hard-boiled beauties, and some literary novels. Stick these in your ear!
Atkinson, Kate. Started Early, Took My Dog. library ed. unabridged. Hachette Audio from AudioGO. ISBN 9781609416485. $79.99; retail ed. Hachette Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. MYS
Investigator Jackson Brodie just can’t seem to stay retired. His fourth outing has him tracking down the birth parents of his latest client. Along the way, he rescues a dog, which has its own problems. Add to the mix a retired childless ex-cop who buys a toddler from a junkie. It’s complicated, but narrator Graeme Malcolm masterfully handles the material. (LJ 7/11)
Berry, Steve. The Jefferson Key. library ed. unabridged. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780307932846 . $50; retail ed. Random Audio; retail ed. abridged; digital download; abridged/unabridged. THRILLER
Many thrillers feature rich men who consider themselves above the law‚ it’s up to the good guys to stop them. That basic formula plays out in this political thriller, which finds a group of multimillionaires trying to assassinate the U.S. President. This is Berry’s seventh series installment featuring Cotton Malone; Scott Brick’s narration keeps the story tense.
Black Mask Stories. Vol 1. Doors in the Dark and Other Stories. ISBN 9781611744583.
Black Mask Stories. Vol 2. Murder Is Bad Luck and Other Stories. ISBN 9781611744613.
Black Mask Stories. Vol 3. The Maltese Falcon and Other Stories. ISBN 9781611744644.
ea. vol: retail ed. unabridged. HighBridge Audio. $29.95. MYS
This initial trio in an eventual ten-volume collection offers a lucky 13 short stories that are the cream of vintage hard-boiled fare lifted from the pages of the late, great Black Mask magazine. The series standout is Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, presented here in the original serialized version, which is a bit tougher than the reedited novel. Noir-ilicious. (LJ 11/1/11)
Brooks, Geraldine. Caleb’s Crossing. library ed. unabridged. Blackstone Audio. ISBN 9781441790163. $50.; MP3-CD. library ed.; retail ed. Penguin Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. HISTORICAL
Pulitzer Prize winner Brooks recounts the relationship between a Native American boy from Martha’s Vineyard and the white girl he befriends. The story tackles the prejudices Caleb faces both in terms of race and religion as well as the sexism Bethia suffers. Caleb surmounts his obstacles to become a student at Harvard, where, ironically, Bethia also is sent, but as an indentured servant. (An LJ Best Historical Novel of 2011.)
Clark, Marcia. Guilt by Association. retail ed. unabridged. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781609419783. $29.98; Playaway digital; digital download. MYS
Former Los Angeles prosecutor Clark’s debut novel is well polished, using her insider experience to create a fast-paced mystery, gushed our reviewer, who also praised narrator January LaVoy. Listeners meet protagonist DA Rachel Knight, who is investigating two cases simultaneously‚ one official, the other under the table. If this titles does as well as expected, Clark will be joining the ranks of lawyers who become best-selling authors. (LJ 9/15/11)
Cussler, Clive & Grant Blackwood. The Kingdom. library ed. unabridged. Recorded Bks. ISBN 9781456118853. $102.75; MP3-CD. library ed.; retail ed. Penguin Audio; digital download. THRILLER
The third time most definitely is the charm for Cussler and Blackwood’s husband-and-wife team Remi and Sam Fargo. Here, the globe-trotting adventurers are hired by oil baron Charles King to find his long-lost daddy‚ or so he tells them. What King is really after is an ancient artifact worth mondo bucks. Once the Fargos are on to him, things get dicey in this roller-coaster ride. (LJ 10/15/11)
Espach, Alison. The Adults. library ed. unabridged. Dreamscape Audio. ISBN 9781611200133. $39.99. Playaway digital. F
Our audio reviewer asserted that Audie Award nominee Tavia Gilbert’s narration adds candid poignancy to the story about a teenage girl’s coming-of-age among adults behaving badly in mid-1990s suburban Connecticut. This is a novel that begs to be heard‚ literally‚ and is the perfect example of a top-flight narrator enhancing a story beyond the original print. (LJ 6/15/11)
Rollins, James. The Devil Colony: A Sigma Force Novel. library ed. unabridged. Recorded Bks. ISBN 9781449810863. $123.75; MP3-CDs. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. Harper Audio. THRILLER
Rollins’s Sigma Force series has evolved into a best-selling machine. In print, this title received a 350,000-copy first printing and was backed with a ten-city tour. The story has a historical flavor, with the plot focusing on the original American 13 Colonies and a sinister group that’s been manipulating the nation since its birth. Peter Jay Fernandez narrates expertly.
Shepard, Jim. You Think That’s Bad. library ed. unabridged. AudioGO. ISBN 9780792776529. $59.95; digital download. SHORT STORIES
Shepard presents a collection of high-concept, exhilarating stories, with a kaleidoscopic cast of characters ranging from a hydraulics engineer to a depraved murderer to the creator of Godzilla. While skillfully written, these tales are completely character-driven; very little actually happens. They mostly stop rather than end, but Bronson Pinchot’s deft reading keeps them engaging. (LJ 6/15/1 1)
Wallace, David Foster. The Pale King. library ed. unabridged. Hachette Audio from AudioGO. ISBN 9781609417321. $110.99; retail ed. Hachette Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Unfinished at the time of Wallace’s death, this novel was stitched together by his editor, Michael Pietsch, from notes and other material the author left behind. There’s no real plot, but the story unfolds around an IRS agent in training, with unrelated asides throughout. Reader Robert Petkoff’s voice drips with Wallace’s irony. Though billed as fiction, the story was claimed by the author to be true. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 10/15/11; an LJ Best Book of 2011.)
Connors, Philip. Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout. library ed. unabridged. Blackstone Audio. ISBN 9781441782120; retail ed.; MP3-CD. library/retail eds.; Playaway digital; digital download. AUTOBIOG
Former Wall Street Journal copy editor Connors recounts the five months he spends annually as a U.S. Forest Service wilderness lookout. Though far from his usual beat, the author relishes his activities, which range from nocturnal fly-fishing to cleaning animal droppings from his cabin. The tale is exciting enough, and Sean Runnette’s narration makes for more enjoyment. (LJ 8/11)
Fey, Tina. Bossypants. library ed. unabridged. Hachette Audio from AudioGO. ISBN 9781609417192. $64.99; retail ed. Hachette Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. AUTOBIOG/TV
Fey has been on a roll since parodying Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live (SNL). Her narration adds to her life story, which tracks her childhood, college, and improv days as well as her stints in the writers’ rooms at SNL and 30 Rock. She reveals herself to be somewhat uncomfortable with fame and her public personae. A PDF of photos is included, so the audiobook is as complete as the print‚ sweet! (An LJ Best Book of 2011.)
Gleick, James. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. library ed. unabridged. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780307914989. $50; retail ed.; digital download. SCI
Gleick chronicles the story of information and how it has transformed human thought and life, covering quantum mechanics, the structure of DNA, and more. Rob Shapiro’s narration effortlessly guides listeners through this dense material and renders it accessible to science and technology enthusiasts and general readers alike. (LJ 7/11)
Hughes, Langston. The Big Sea: An Autobiography. library ed. unabridged. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780307939487. $28; digital download. Random Audio. LIT
This is the first of two autobiographies Hughes wrote during the early years of his life. Age 38 at the time of its composition, he recounts his impoverished childhood, beginnings as a poet, adventures as a sailor, and initial successes as a writer. Although Hughes managed to acquire a better education than many African Americans during that time, he faced the same racism, which he discusses at length. Hughes’s elegant prose dances in the ears thanks to narrator Dominic Hoffman. (LJ 10/15/11)
Jacoby, Susan. Never Say Die. library ed. unabridged. Tantor Audio. ISBN 9781452630373. $95.99; retail ed.; MP3-CDs. retail ed.; digital download. SOC SCI
It’s natural to want to live as long as possible, but while medical advances have made it possible to keep the body alive longer, is that actually a good thing? Jacoby dispels many of the myths of old age and pulls no punches in describing the difficulties of being elderly in a youth-obsessed culture. Narrator Laural Merlington’s mature voice adds to the experience. (LJ 6/1/11)
Logue, Mark & Peter Conradi. The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy. library ed. unabridged. Tantor Audio. ISBN 9781452631301. $71.99; retail ed.; MP3-CD. retail ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. HIST
Hollywood’s take on Lionel Logue’s relationship with King George VI was a compelling drama but only the tip of the iceberg. Narrated by Simon Vance, this volume by Logue’s grandson recounts the man’s whole story. More than teacher and pupil, he and the man who would be king were true friends. (LJ 6/15/11)
McCullough, David. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. library ed. unabridged. Recorded Bks. ISBN 9781461805816. $123.75; MP3-CDs. library ed.; retail ed. abridged; retail ed. S. & S. Audio; digital download. HIST
Not all pioneers went west, says McCullough in this splendid history that follows Americans Elizabeth Blackwell, Charles Sumner, Samuel Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and others who traveled to Paris between 1830 and 1900. Their experiences in the City of Light made an indelible impression on them. Beautifully read by the author and Edward Herrmann. (LJ 9/15/11)
Millard, Candice. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President. library ed. unabridged. Recorded Bks. ISBN 9780307939654. $58.75; retail ed. Random Audio; Playaway digital; digital download. HIST
President Garfield’s assassination has been studied little when compared with Lincoln’s and JFK’s, but Millard here reveals in great detail the facts of the crime and the power struggles that followed. She also highlights the hideous medical mistakes that, she asserts, ultimately put Garfield in the ground. Narrator Paul Michael is in good form. (LJ 11/15/11)
Orman, Suze. The Money Class: Learn To Create Your New American Dream. library ed. unabridged. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780307913524. $40; retail ed. Random Audio; digital download. FINANCE
Just about everyone could use some financial advice these days. Orman’s thesis is that the American Dream as we knew it is dead, so it’s time to create a new, more reasonable vision for the current fiscal crisis. She wants to teach listeners how to live within their means and forgo the luxuries they might want but truly don’t need. (LJ 9/15/11)
White, Betty. If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t). library ed. unabridged. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780307933898. $25.95; retail ed. Penguin Audio; digital download. AUTOBIOG/TV
White is red-hot, and this memoir shows that she’s still quite sassy. Her frankness gives what might at first seem saccharine musings a bit of punch. She sounds like the sweet old lady next door but will surprise you, said our reviewer of White’s performance. She muses on her lengthy career in TV and movies and her love of animals. (LJ 10/15/11)