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