Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 Wrap-Up Week: My Favorite Audiobooks

Regulars around this joint know I'm a huge advocate for audiobooks. Once upon a time I had the obnoxious notion that listening to audiobooks wasn't as good as reading a book AND I surely could never listen to audiobooks because I wouldn't be able to pay attention.

Then, two things happened. First I got a job where I had to drive 45 minutes each way (in good weather) and I quickly got sick of the radio. I decided to give audiobooks a shot in hopes that I wouldn't feel like I was wasting so much of every day. Not only did I realize I COULD pay attention to them (I'm ADD by the way), I remembered that I fell in love with books by listening to others read them to me. AND I realized that it's not about the print or book covers or feel of the pages or smell of the books. It's about the STORY. The delivery mechanism only matters in so much as it gets the story to us.

Now I take every opportunity I can to listen to audiobooks: in the car, while I'm working out, while I'm crafting or cleaning or doing yard work. And since I'm a slow print reader (ADD remember), it allows me to fit far more books into my year. And this year, that included 47 audiobooks as of December 18th. So, I think it's only appropriate to have a "favorites" list for audiobooks. This list, however, will be solely based on the audio performance: how well I feel the narrator connected with the story, how he/she/they brought the story to life, didn't overdramatize, etc. So, these books could be on my favorites list later this week or they might not. Some of the audiobooks were magnificently created and the story was just o.k. That's about as scientific as I can get in how I decided this list. These are not necessarily new in 2010; they are just the audios I listened to in 2010. And here it is in no particular order, my Top 10 Favorite Audiobooks of 2010:

Trigger City by Sean Chercover; narrated by Joe Barrett (Audible) - Barrett is one of my favorite narrators and I think it's because he "gets" crime fiction. He's also sharp with sarcasm. He never allows that to be overlooked in dialogue. Chercover doesn't use it a lot in his writing, but when he does, it's a zinger and Barrett nails it. Barrett's tone is hardboiled. He doesn't get overly dramatic unless it's truly called for. And then when it is, the effect is stronger because he hasn't been doling it out the entire book. So, the pacing of this audio was exceptional. This book came alive for me.

Power of the Dog by Don Winslow; narrated by Ray Porter (Blackstone) - Porter is just WOW! The Power of the Dog is an epic novel and to juggle the characters and the diversity and the emotion of this book was an exceptional feat. Truly one of Porter's most amazing efforts.

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton; narrated by MacLeod Andrews (Brilliance) - This is the first audio I've experienced narrated by MacLeod Andrews and he blew me away. This plot is full of emotionally gripping, psychologically challenging content and I think Andrews added dimension to something that was already incredible. He definitely ripped my heart out on this one. His characterization, tone, pacing, all top-notch. He understood the humor and how it accented the plot. Andrews won a new fan in me with this one. Outstanding!

Redemption Street by Reed Farrel Coleman; narrated by Andy Caploe (Audible) - Even though I started the Moe Prager series in print, Andy Caploe was able to voice Moe for me. He brings to life the sound of Coleman's sense of place in these novels. And I may start sounding like a broken record, but Caploe understands the humor and knows how to bring it through. This may seem unimportant, but if you've ever listened to a narrator who doesn't get the humor and glosses over it, you know how big a difference that makes. The other element that Caploe brings out in the narration is the internal struggle Moe deals with. This is essential to the plot and Caploe appreciates how much. Incredible performance.

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston; narrated by Paul Michael Garcia (Blackstone) - This was a beautiful work of art in all aspects. The narration is spectacular. Garcia goes from the obnoxious and the absurd to the psychologically challenging to the emotionally overwhelming. Keeping up with Charlie Huston can be no easy feat, but by God, Garcia did it and then some. This is a brilliant, brilliant recording.

Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson; narrated by George Guidall (Recorded Books) - Not long ago, Reed Farrel Coleman said he would read a grocery list if it was written by S.J. Rozan; I think I'd listen to a grocery list if it was read by George Guidall. He's a master and his work on this series reflects that. He's called on to use dialect, sing, crack wise, and melt your heart with emotion. And he does it in spades! This entire series on audiobook has received nothing but my highest recommendation, and Junkyard Dogs is no different.

A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellory; narrated by Mark Bramhall (Blackstone) - Mark Bramhall is another narrator who was new to me this year. He's stunning. This audiobook is stunning. The depth and complexity of this book is daunting, but Bramhall handled it with apparent ease. And the beauty of the language? Wow, did Bramhall get it and so will every listener. This is a heart-wrenching story, so humor isn't a large part, but when it does rear its head, Bramhall brings it home. His use of dialect and pacing help to set the stage and the tone of the novel. This recording is a magnificent performance.

Narrows Gate by Jim Fusilli; narrated by Joe Barrett and Joe Pantoliano (Audible) - This audiobook is a first as far as I know. It isn't a book in print. It went straight to audiobook. It's 17 and a half hours and it's a mafia epic. I'll be writing up a full review in the near future, but suffice it say, I thought the audio was extremely well crafted. Barrett read the narration and Pantoliano read the dialogue. Both did an excellent job setting the tone of the book; Pantoliano was in sospeso when it came to dialect and the Italian. Kudos to all those involved in this production.

Hell Hole by Chris Grabenstein; narrated by Jeff Woodman (Audible) - Another of my favorite narrators, Jeff Woodman is extremely versatile in his narration work. Grabenstein never fails to challenge him on that front. Hell Hole is one of the more emotionally charged of the John Ceepak novels and Woodman handles the balancing act of humor and emotion well; just as he balances the differences between Ceepak and Danny. It's all good!

Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley; narrated by Rich Orlow (Recorded Books) - Starvation Lake was my first experience with Rich Orlow as narrator. I would not by any means consider this an easy book to have to narrate. It's complex and dark. And Orlow made me love it! His work on this book embodied the conflict the protagonist battled. When you bring a book to life as a narrator, you know you've done your job well. Orlow did far better than well.

O.k., there you have it. My favorite 10 from 2010. Now it's YOUR turn. Tell me what your favorites were from this year. Next up tomorrow, my favorite 10 overall reads. Happy Reading!


Beth F December 21, 2010 at 8:51 AM  

Hummm I posted a teaser from Gruley's Hanging Tree today and was going to buy the print version of Starvation Lake. I had forgotten how much you loved the audio. Now I am changing my mind.... can you say, hello audio?

le0pard13 December 21, 2010 at 10:06 AM  

Well, you know I'm only going to agree with you fully with what Joe Barrett, Ray Porter, and George Guidall accomplished. MacLeod Andrews and Paul Michael Garcia were also newcomers for me and were eye (and ear) openers.

I haven't said it yet, but you've been doing some extraordinary wrap-ups for the year, Jen. Kudos for that and what you've accomplished (in reading and listening). Thanks for this.

p.s., I'm putting Narrows Gate on my Audible list ;-).

Chris December 21, 2010 at 10:15 AM  

I only listened to one audiobook this year -- Burke's Rain Gods. Liked it!

Jen - devourer of books December 21, 2010 at 11:26 AM  

I really liked "The Hanging Tree" in print but haven't read "Starvation Lake" yet, maybe I'll go back and do it on audio.

Jen Forbus December 21, 2010 at 11:36 AM  

Thanks le0! You're always helping to feed my addiction to this format. You're the expert, so that means a lot to me!

Chris, I listened to Recorded Books version of RAIN GODS last year. Loved it!

Jen and Candace, I definitely recommend reading STARVATION LAKE however you can.

Naomi Johnson December 21, 2010 at 12:52 PM  

That's an outstanding reading list, audio or otherwise, Jen.

nigel p bird December 22, 2010 at 8:05 AM  

i've just come to appreciate audio books. i've picked a few up at the library and it's made my drive to and from work so much more of a pleasure.
The Flesh House by Stuart MacBride was superb, The Sign Of The Four (a Sherlock Holmes) was narrated by Derek Jakobi and I doubt there's a better voice out there for a book and The Guards (Ken Bruen) was great though the narrator's attempt at a cockney accent made Dick Van Dyke seem like a Londoner. Nice post.

Jeff Woodman December 22, 2010 at 11:21 AM  

Hey Jen, so glad to make the round-up!

I'm reading so much for recording that I could never match your lists, but this year on audio I particularly enjoyed Carl Capatorto's "Twisted Head" (read by the author), and in print, "Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century" by Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger. Good trashy fun, and a great bit of "junk food" as a break from all the "literate" stuff I read for work.

Thanks for a year of your always entertaining blog posts -- I look forward to more in 2011!

Have a great New Year!

  © Blogger templates 'Neuronic' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP