BREAKING NEWS: RUSA’s 2013 Listen List highlights audiobooks that provide extraordinary listening experiences

SEATTLE –The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of ALA serving expert readers advisory and collection development librarians, has announced its selections for the 2013 Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration juried list.

The Listen List highlights extraordinary narrators and listening experiences that merit special attention by general adult listeners and the librarians who work with them. Titles are selected because they are a pleasure to listen to and make one reluctant to stop listening. Titles are also named to the list because the narration of the book creates a new experience, offering listeners something they could not create by their own visual reading; and because the narrator achieves an outstanding performance in terms of voice, accents, pitch, tone, inflection, rhythm and pace.

This juried list, designed for avid listeners and those new to the joys of being read a story, includes fiction and nonfiction and features voices that enthrall, delight and inspire.

The 2013 winners are:

“Angelmaker,” by Nick Harkaway. Narrated by Daniel Weyman. AudioGO. (ISBN 9780792784869).
In a gravelly yet gleeful voice, Weyman narrates this swashbuckling genre-blend of spies, gangsters, and a doomsday machine. The lavish and imaginative story of Joe Spork, a clockmaker out of his depth as he attempts to save the world, is brilliantly realized through Weyman’s attention to inflection, characterization and pacing.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke. Narrated by Simon Prebble. Sound Library/BBC Audiobooks America.
  • “One of Our Thursdays is Missing” by Jasper Fforde. Narrated by Emily Gray. Recorded Books.
  • “To Say Nothing of the Dog, or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last” by Connie Willis. Narrated by Steven Crossley. Recorded Books.

“Bring Up the Bodies,” by Hilary Mantel. Narrated by Simon Vance. Macmillan Audio. (ISBN 9781427225825).
In this grim and gripping tale, masterfully told, Vance brings Tudor England to life. Beautifully accented and paced, his pitch-perfect narration deftly navigates the large and diverse cast and the intricate plot machinations to create a stunning glimpse into a dangerous time when Henry VIII ruled and Thomas Cromwell served as his “fixer.”

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Elizabeth I” by Margaret George. Narrated by Kate Reading. Books on Tape.
  • Matthew Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom. Narrated by Steven Crossley. Recorded Books.
  • “Watergate” by Thomas Mallon. Narrated by Joe Barrett. Blackstone Audio.

“The Chalk Girl,” by Carol O’Connell. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Recorded Books. (ISBN 9781464020186).
The discovery of a blood-covered little girl wandering in Central Park draws police detective Kathleen Mallory into an investigation involving long hidden secrets of New York’s elite. Rosenblat’s warmly expressive voice embodies each character effortlessly while adroitly managing the pace of Mallory’s gritty and harrowing tenth case.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Blue Heaven” by C.J. Box. Narrated by John Bedford Lloyd. Macmillan Audio.
  • “Breakdown” by Sara Paretsky. Narrated by Susan Ericksen. Brilliance Audio.
  • “The Drop” by Michael Connelly. Narrated by Len Cariou. Recorded Books.

“The Death of Sweet Mister,” by Daniel Woodrell. Narrated by Nicholas Tecosky. AudioGo. (ISBN 9781611130010).
Welcome to the world of Shug Akins, a thirteen-year-old loner coming of age in the Ozarks. Tecosky skillfully demonstrates that the vernacular of this country noir novel is at its lyrical best when spoken aloud. In a youthful detached voice, he authentically captures the violence, poverty, and heartbreaking bleakness of Shug’s life.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Cold, Cold Ground” by Adrian McKinty. Narrated by Gerard Doyle. Blackstone Audio.
  • “Finn” by Jon Clinch. Narrated by Ed Sala. Recorded Books.
  • “We the Animals” by Justin Torres. Narrated by Frankie J. Alvarez. Blackstone.

“The Garden Intrigue,” by Lauren Willig. Narrated by Kate Reading. Books on Tape. (ISBN 9780307989949).
In this lively ninth Pink Carnation romp, Eloise and Colin are beset by a film crew, while in the 19th century, agent Augustus Whittlesby, infamously bad poet, investigates rumors of Napoleon’s plotting and encounters love. Reading’s companionable, husky voice reveals all the humor in the rich banter and bad verse, as well as the passion.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Natural Born Charmer” by Susan Elizabeth Phillip. Narrated by Anna Fields. Books on Tape.
  • “The Spymaster’s Lady” by Joanna Bourne. Narrated by Kirsten Potter. Penguin Audio.
  • “What Happens in London” by Julia Quinn. Narrated by Rosalyn Landor. Books on Tape.

“Heft,” by Liz Moore. Narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Keith Szarabajka. Blackstone Audiobooks. (ISBN 9781455160150).
This magnificent dual narration illuminates a poignant story of the isolation, family relationships, and new beginnings of two lost souls on a collision course. Szarabajka’s richly sonorous voice captures morbidly obese Arthur’s physical and emotional weight while Heyborne’s quietly expressive voice exposes the desperation of the teenaged Kel.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach. Narrated by Holter Graham. AudioGO.
  • “Room” by Emma Donoghue. Narrated by Michal Friedman, Ellen Archer, Suzanne Toren, and Robert Petkoff. Hachette Audio.
  • “We Were the Mulvaneys” by Joyce Carol Oates. Narrated by Scott Shina. Recorded Books.

“The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel,” by Anthony Horowitz.  Narrated by Derek Jacobi.  Hachette Audio (ISBN 9781611136890). AudioGO. (ISBN 9781611132908).
In a refined, resonant, and delightfully self-aware voice, Jacobi re-creates the world of Sherlock Holmes. His pacing is lovely – leisurely, inviting, and seductive – while his accents are grand and fit the characters perfectly. In this authorized addition to the canon, Holmes investigates a conspiracy linking criminals to the highest levels of government.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Face of a Stranger” by Anne Perry. Narrated by Davina Porter. Recorded Books.
  • “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Narrated by Simon Prebble. Tantor Audio.
  • “A Test of Wills” by Charles Todd. Narrated by Samuel Gillies. Recorded Books.

“The Inquisitor,” by Mark Allen Smith. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. Macmillan Audio. (ISBN 9781427214775).
Fliakos’ unflinching depiction of Geiger, an expert in the art of “information retrieval” (aka torture), intensifies this absorbing and disturbing thriller. He sets the mood from the opening line, offering a tormented, affectless but surprisingly sympathetic hero. His skill in creating tone, character and pace enhances the haunting quality of Geiger’s world.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “13 Steps Down” by Ruth Rendell. Narrated by Ric Jerrom. BBC Audiobooks America.
  • “The Chameleon’s Shadow” by Minette Walters. Narrated by Simon Vance. Tantor Audio.
  • “The Cloud of Unknowing” by Thomas H. Cook. Narrated by Stephen Hoye. Tantor Audio.

“Macbeth,” by William Shakespeare. Narrated by Alan Cumming. Simon & Schuster Audio. (ISBN 9781442355934).
Cumming makes “The Scottish Play” an electric event, allowing modern audiences a chance to experience it with the same excitement, horror and wonder Shakespeare’s contemporary audiences surely felt. From stage directions delivered in furtive whispers to the cackle of the witches and the grim resolution of Lady Macbeth, Cumming astounds.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Narrated by Jim Dale. Listening Library.
  • “King Lear” by William Shakespeare. Narrated by a Full Cast. Naxos Audiobooks.
  • “The Odyssey” by Homer. Narrated by Stanley Lombardo and Susan Sarandon. Parmenides Audio.

“Miles: The Autobiography,” by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe. Narrated by Dion Graham. AudioGO. (ISBN 9780792784814).
With his raspy, whispery voice Dion Graham inhabits musical genius Miles Davis in this tell-all autobiography that flows like a jazz riff. While setting the record straight about Davis’s career, lovers, addiction and racial issues, Graham channels Davis’s voice and cadence so completely that listeners will believe they’re hearing the master himself.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Life” by Keith Richards. Narrated by Keith Richards, Johnny Depp, and Joe Hurley. Hachette Audio.
  • “Life Itself” by Roger Ebert. Narrated by Edward Herrmann. Hachette Audio; AudiGO.
  • “Telegraph Avenue” by Michael Chabon. Narrated by Clarke Peters. Harper Audio; Recorded Books.

“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore,” by Robin Sloan. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. Macmillan Audio. (ISBN 9781427227423).
Affectionate and playful, Ari Fliakos’ narration is addictive as he expertly voices full-bodied characters, savoring their eccentricities, in this imaginative work of “geek-lit.” His optimistic wonder and understanding of the subtext bring tension to even the minutiae of this grand quest by a motley crew of book lovers hoping to crack the code of immortality.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Ready Player One,” by Ernest Cline. Narrated by Wil Wheaton. Random House Audio; Books on Tape.
  • “The Shadow of the Wind,” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Narrated by Jonathan Davis. Penguin Audiobooks.
  • “The Technologists,” by Matthew Pearl. Narrated by Stephen Hoye. Random House Audio; Books on Tape.

“The Pickwick Papers,” by Charles Dickens. Narrated by David Timson. Naxos Audiobooks. (ISBN 9781843795551).
Timson’s irrepressible performance of this rollicking romp through 1830s England in Dickens’s first novel invites listeners along as Pickwick and his crew ramble through the countryside. With broad satire and clever irony, Timson proves a delightful guide through slapdash adventures and a host of eccentric characters.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer. Narrated by a full cast. Blackstone Audio.
  • “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. Narrated by Stephen Fry. Books on Tape.
  • “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce. Narrated by Jim Broadbent. Books on Tape.

“The Remains of the Day,” by Kazuo Ishiguro. Narrated by Simon Prebble. Tantor Media. (ISBN 9781452608358).
Prebble’s performance is like listening to a full cast production so great is his skill in crafting characters. Navigating memories of both “upstairs” and “downstairs,” dutiful butler Stevens revisits past pains and triumphs. Prebble creates a poignant reflection of a life given to service seen through the eyes of a man finally questioning his purpose.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “About Schmidt” by Louis Begley. Narrated by George Guidall. Recorded Books.
  • “The House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton. Narrated by Anna Fields. Blackstone Audiobooks.
  • “Saturday” by Ian McEwan. Narrated by Steven Crossley. Recorded Books.

The list was selected by The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration Council: Neal Wyatt, chair, Virginia Commonwealth University; Jodi L. Israel, library technology expert and veteran audiobook reviewer, Birmingham, Ala.; Bonnie Kunzel, youth services and adolescent literacy consultant, Germantown, Tenn.; Joyce Saricks, Dominican University; Kaite Mediatore Stover, director of readers’ services, The Kansas City (Mo.) Public Library; and Renee Young, NoveList audiobook project team lead, Durham, NC.

The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Not a member, but interested in being part of a member community and enjoying discounted registration rates on conference, preconferences and other events? Join, renew or add RUSA to your ALA membership at www.ala.org/membership. Learn more about the association at www.ala.org/rusa.

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