Best Media 2012: Best Audiobooks–Reviewers’ Picks

As the fading embers of 2012 went cold, book lovers digested LJ’s many best-of lists. While print is the main course, there are scrumptious multimedia goodies to feast on as well—and dessert is the best part of the meal! LJ again polled its audiobook reviewers for the best fiction and nonfiction listens.

Fiction

Barry, Dave & Alan Zweibel. Lunatics. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780307989765. $29.95. F
Prizewinning humorists Barry and Zweibel poke fun at the post-9/11 paranoia that blankets our nation. After a minor squabble, a pet-shop owner and a forensic plumber are mistaken for international terrorists and stumble from one crazy episode to another while generating wider notoriety. The authors read their material themselves, perfectly embodying these two numskulls who are polar opposites. Both funny and poignant. (LJ 4/15/12)

Bohjalian, Chris. The Night Strangers. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780307940797. $40. NightStrangers1217 Best Media 2012: Best Audiobooks  Reviewers PicksTHRILLER
Following a plane crash that kills 39 of his passengers, pilot Chip Linton moves his family to the solitude and anonymity of a small New Hampshire town. The house is a Victorian fixer-upper that has a deadly history and some odd features, including a mysterious door in the far corner of the basement held shut by 39 (there’s that number again) long bolts. To add to the problems, the new neighbor is taking a more-than-average interest in Linton’s twin daughters. The reading by Mark Bramhill and others keeps the suspense flowing in this genre-bending novel. (LJ 2/1/12)

Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780307990419. $55. THRILLER
Nick Dunne knows his too-perfect wife, Amy, is planning something special for him to mark their fifth wedding anniversary. Since losing their New York City jobs and moving back to his small Missouri hometown, their relationship has hit a rough patch. But when Nick arrives for the celebration, there are signs of a struggle in several rooms, and Amy is gone. Their marriage has been strained, but he wouldn’t kill her…would he? The dual perspectives of Nick and Amy, presented here by narrators Kirby Heyborne and Julia Whelan, reveal both sides of the relationship.

Johnson, Adam. The Orphan Master’s Son. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780307939715. $45. Forphanmastersson1217 Best Media 2012: Best Audiobooks  Reviewers Picks
Johnson paints a dismal portrait of life in North Korea through protagonist Pak Jun Do. He begins life in an orphanage run by his father, who treats him the same as the other boys. As an “orphan” he’s recruited by the military for horrible training and worse missions involving everything from kidnapping to spying. Love eventually finds him, though, and Jun Do becomes rivals with none other than Kim Jong-il. Narrator Tim Kang and others do a superb job of bringing the story’s horrors and joys to life. (LJ 3/15/12)

King, Stephen. The Wind Through the Keyhole. Recorded Bks. ISBN 9781461844556. $102.75. FANTASY
King’s long-awaited return to the “Dark Tower” series was welcomed warmly by fans. Although the story includes familiar characters and places, this installment is more of a stand-alone addition to the series and doesn’t require prior knowledge of the story arc to be understood and enjoyed. King himself does an adequate job of narrating this dark vengeance story. (LJ 9/1/12)

Nonfiction

Caro, Robert A. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Brilliance Audio. ISBN  9781455890507. $89.97. BIOG/POL SCIPassageofPower12171 Best Media 2012: Best Audiobooks  Reviewers Picks
Caro’s latest entry in his monument to Johnson from the late 1950s to the tumultuous 1960s covers the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and JFK’s assassination. It not only tells the story of LBJ’s life as he catapulted from senator to President but also that of the young Jack Kennedy and how two politicians who barely tolerated each other became a winning team. Grover Gardner narrates the well-written text like a documentary and can also deliver an LBJ quote with a fluent Texas cadence. (LJ 10/1/12)

Gaddis, John Lewis. George F. Kennan: An American Life. Blackstone Audio. ISBN 9781455155378. $160. BIOG
Kennan is one of those figures of 20th-century history who remained anonymous to most Americans, yet his work as an American diplomat played as large a part in our nation’s Cold War policies as any president’s. In fact, knowledge of Kennan’s life and work is essential to an understanding of the Cold War. Gaddis provides an exhaustive biography presented very personably by narrator Malcolm Hillgartner. (LJ 8/12)

Kyle, Chris with Scott McEwen & Jim DeFelice. American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. Harper Audio. ISBN 9780062209498. $29.99. AUTOBIOG
U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Kyle presents a different facet of America’s military involvement in the Middle East. Although he has recorded more kills than any other American sniper, he’s also a regular guy you could have a beer with. He doesn’t shy from offering his philosophy on engaging the enemy (he believes terrorists are evil and is happy to pull the trigger on as many as he gets in his crosshairs). This first-person story is accessible, humorous, and quite human. John Pruden’s masterly narration is well paced and incorporates a skillful use of accents. Bull’s-eye! (LJ 6/1/12)

Marshall, Garry. My Happy Days in Hollywood: A Memoir. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780307970503. $40. FILM/AUTOBIOGGarryMarshall1217 Best Media 2012: Best Audiobooks  Reviewers Picks
Marshall is familiar to movie and TV fans as the producer and director of Happy Days, Pretty Woman, and other hits. However, his roots in the entertainment industry run deep; in TV’s fledgling days, Marshall was a top writer for just about every comedy show on the air, often scripting several at the same time under different names. He recalls his early life growing up a sickly kid in the Bronx and later gravitating toward both comedy and writing, going to college, doing a stint in the army, and breaking into show business. He reads his life story in a New York accent from hell that perfectly matches the material. A charmer from beginning to end. (LJ 9/15/12)

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