Monday, June 21, 2010

Sandy's Audies


Wasn't it nice that the Audiobook authorities declared the beginning of Audiobook Week on my birthday? They must have recognized that I am audio-obsessed (a "tapeworm" according to David Sedaris), and I appreciate them throwing a little love my way!

So to celebrate both, I decided it would be fun to host my own Audie awards. I have listened to well over a hundred audios since I started blogging late in '08, and even more before that, so to narrow down the field, I forced myself to pick my favorites from June '09 to June '10.

There are so many great books, a number of them offered on audio. But for anyone that listens to audiobooks, you know that because of audios and their narrators, books can be elevated to a whole different experience - almost three-dimensional in fact. In the hands of a great narrator, I LIVE the story, I am IN the story, I am transported to another world. Few printed books have been able to accomplish this. Audiobooks make walking, cleaning my house, running errands, doing yardwork and cooking an immense pleasure ...the ultimate multi-task.

Of course, the downside is that bad narrators can destroy a decent book, but that is not why we are here today, is it? Let's talk about a few that deserve distinctive honors:

Best Belly Laugh - Anything written and narrated by David Sedaris. His work should only be experienced through the audiobook medium. The printed word could never come close to delivering his dry wit in the manner in which it was intended. Reviews: When You Are Engulfed Flames, Me Talk Pretty One Day

Best Atmosphere - Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Post WWII Barcelona, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a young boy, a mysterious author, and an evil antagonist...this story sucks you into its world. But spoken from the lips of narrator Jonathan Davis, in his flawless Spanish accent, you just may find yourself in a swoon.

Best Ability to Remind You of the Magic of Literature - Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Multiple narrators + brilliant and insightful writing = audio masterpiece. More than once, the spoken prose made me stop and stand where I was, overwhelmed with the emotion of the moment. When I finished, I said to myself "now THAT is what it is all about". A number of great bloggers had issues with this book. I suspect the audio may have made the difference.

Best Series to Spend a Year With - Harry Potter Books 1 through 7 by J.K. Rowling. In the case of Harry Potter, I have read the books several times, seen the movies, and listened to the audiobooks. Without a doubt, the audios are the best experience of the three. Jim Dale embodies the characters effortlessly. It was almost like watching the movies only nothing was boogered up or left out of the plot. An entire year of our lives was spent frolicking in the Wizarding World of Witchcraft with childlike glee. Reviews: The Sorcerer's Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince, The Deathly Hallows (review coming soon).

Most Like a Warm, Comfortable Blanket on a Cold, Rainy Day - Love Walked In and Belong To Me (review coming soon) by Marisa de los Santos. Snuggle down, friends. You will never want these audios to end. Granted, the writing is half the charm, but Julia Gibson brings these enchanting characters to life.

Best Ability to Inspire Homicidal Rage - The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. I suspect I would have liked this book in print, but the audio version, narrated by Julia Gibson (the narrator of the beloved Marisa de los Santos audios), perfectly captured Walls' unfailing love and trust in her parents. Gibson also conveys the maddening selfishness of Rex and Rose Mary Walls, to the point where I was near a homicidal rage. That's some powerful narration.

Best Ability to Knock You Off the Elliptical Trainer - Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. So call me dense, but as I was listening to this audio, I did not see any of it coming. And when it came, my legs turned to jelly and I promptly disembarked the elliptical trainer so I could sit on the floor and put my head in my hands. All of this drama was delivered in the raw, course, haunted and even guttural narration of Tom Stechschulte, which added to my grief and the ultimate impact.

And saving the best for last...

Best Ability to Enthrall, Enchant, Entertain and Cause Your Heart to Palpitate (also known as the "Ear Candy" award) - anything narrated by Simon Vance. I melt like butter, I do, when Simon speaks. He's smooth, he makes his characters appear before your mind's eye, and his voice echoes in your head long after you have turned off your iPod. I would listen to him read the phonebook. Reviews: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (currently reading!), The Little Stranger


Stay tuned throughout the week, for in honor of Audiobook Week, all of my reviews will be on...you guessed it!





26 comments:

caite said...

Oh, all you audio fans, going on about your little audiobooks in your litle audiobook week. ;-)

I guess my brain just does not work that way, but I find it almost impossible to listen to an audiobook and not have my mind wander.
at least among bloggers, I seem to be in the minority.

Tampa BookWorm said...

Happy Birthday to you!! You have an award at http://tampabookworm.blogspot.com/

Molly said...

ok - I have favorite placed this post so I can return to it again and again.

I think I am going to see if I can find The Shadow of the Wind (because the physical book has been on my shelf for over a year) and Shutter Island (because I LOVED the movie and want to "read" the book) to take with me this weekend. Hopefully these will be two books that Geoff wouldn't mind listening to as well.

Great post -- I'd love to hear more of your recommendations as the days/weeks go on :)

Zibilee said...

Some of these books I have read in print, and they were great stories! I am not one who is very comfortable with audio books. I just tend to wander away mentally when I am listening to an audio book, which makes me sort of sad, because there are some great ones out there. I am going to have to give them more of a try this year and see if I can get over my issues with audio books. I certainly envy you your success with them!

Jen - devourer of books said...

I totally agree that David Sedaris should only be experienced audibly. I find his print books woefully disappointing, but let him narrate and I'm THERE.

I own a print copy of "Let The Great World Spin," but after all your raving I may have to check if my library has the audio!

Susie Sharp Librarian said...

I have to totally agree with you on Shadow of the Wind it is a GREAT Audiobook!Was a little disappointed that Angel's Game didn't have the same narrator though because it just didn't have the same feel.
My favorite narrator is Davina Porter she brings Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series to life!

farmlanebooks said...

Fantastic list! I wasn't a fan of Shadow of the Wind in print, but you have persuaded me to keep an eye out for the audio version. Perhaps I'll make it to the end of it that way!

Shutter Island also sounds like something I should find on audio. Thanks again for providing many more wonderful audio book recommendations!

Shelley (Book Clutter) said...

Happy Birthday! I love the term "tape-worm!" I really must give David Sedaris a try!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

My husband is dying to see Shutter Island because of the story of how it knocked you off the treadmill!
:--)

Beth F said...

Shadow of the Wind was absolutely awesome on audio. I pushed that on everyone who even looked at me! I really do need to try HP on audio (yes, hanging head in shame, I haven't listened to even one word). Let the Great World Spin -- ugh. I did try it in audio. Just didn't work for me. I loved Mystic River on audio, so must try Shutter Island.

Enough about me ... Happy, happy, happy birthday!!!!! Here's to hours of wonderful listening.

bermudaonion said...

Happy Birthday, Sandy!

I love this post. I'm listening to my first audio narrated by Simon Vance and I thought about you and Jennifer as I started it.

The Bumbles said...

Hmmm - well, since I can't get Simon Vance to narrate a personal birthday greeting for you, I am happy to send you that King graphic novel as a present instead if you haven't already bought it today ;0)

Jo-Jo said...

Happy Birthday to you! I've been seeing Simon Vance pop up a few times today. I don't think I've ever listened to a book narrated by him. Guess that needs to be added to my list!

Serena said...

I must check out this Simon Vance of which you speak! I love that you would listen to him read a phonebook...is he really merely reading or is he acting?! Can you act the phonebook?! LOL

Avid Reader said...

Sedaris, Harry Potter, Shutter Island, Let the Great World Spin, Shadow of the Wind, I've read and agree with all of those. Such great books. Oh how I love my audiobooks.

Julie P. said...

Fantastic post. I'm still not ready for audio books at this point in my life, but I can see their use as my kids get older.

Lenore said...

OMG! Happy Birthday!

I've never been able to listen to an entire audio book, though I've tried.

Iliana said...

This is great! I unfortunately haven't had any luck with audio books but I'll remember Simon vance then! Maybe I just haven't gotten the right narrator!

Wishing you a wonderful birthday and hope you get lots of new books :)

Tyrie said...

I recently rented a car and found that someone had left a burned copy of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian read by Alexie ... it was one of the funniest audiobooks I've heard to-date. I highly suggest it.

Jenners said...

First of all, happy birthday!!

You seem well qualified to me to give these awards!! Do you know I've never listened to ONE real audiobook ever!!!???? You're making me think about it though.

ds said...

Yes, to Mr. Vance, will look for Mr. Sedaris on audio (thought his first book was very funny in print, but would love to hear his voice). Recommend Hope Davis reading Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje, which I hope to write about soon. Also, since you're finished with Harry Potter, try A Series of Unfortunate Events as narrated by Tim Curry. It's a perfect match-up!

Hope you had a fabulous birthday!!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Happy Borthday and thank you for helping me out with the question on my post, what are some wonderful audios?

I gathered quite a list here from you, the only ones I have tried that you mention are the Potter books - and yes, I totally agree that Jim Dale has it down to perfection!

Carrie K. said...

I am really excited to listen to Girl With the Dragon Tattoo! Great awards - love them. :)

Kathleen said...

Happy Belated Birthday!!!!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I just downloaded Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the two sequels....not sure why, since I've already read them, but I had heard that the audio was so worth it!

Melissa M said...

Happy Belated Birthday!!