These outstanding debut novels for adults and youth on audio, reviewed from October 2015 through October 2016, offer a wide
range of listening experiences. —Joyce Saricks
Anna and the Swallow Man. By Gavriel Savit. Read
by Allan Corduner.2016. 6.5hr. Listening Library, CD,
$40 (9781101891834). Gr. 8–11.
Corduner turns in a masterful performance of
this haunting novel about the effect of war on innocent bystanders, convincingly voicing young,
orphaned Anna as well as the mysterious Swallow Man, who leads her to safety.
The Book of Speculation. By Erika Swyler. Read by Ari Fliakos.2015. 11.5hr. Macmillan,
CD, $39.99 (9781427261434).
Myths, mermaids, tarot cards, and a family curse flow together in this tale of a librarian
who receives an unsolicited package that opens up the secrets of his family history. Flia-kos captures character and tone in this splendidly performed tale.
The Forgetting Time. By Sharon Guskin. Read by Susan Bennett and David Pittu. 2016.
11.5hr. Macmillan, CD, $39.99 (9781427268167).
Guskin’s debut intertwines two imaginative stories: a preschooler continually asks for
his “other mother, ” and a psychiatrist studies reincarnation in young children. Pitch-perfect
performances from Bennett and Pittu add drama and emotion to the complex story.
I Let You Go. By Clare Mackintosh. Read by Nicola Barber and Steven Crossley. 2016.
12hr. Books on Tape, CD, $40 (9780804195102).
This relentlessly paced and harrowing novel of psychological suspense opens with
the hit-and-run death of a child. Barber and Crossley’s masterful narration heightens the
drama and underlines the novel’s chilling tone and frisson of horror.
If I Was Your Girl. By Meredith Russo. Read by Samia Mounts.2016. 7hr. Macmillan, CD,
$34.99 (9781427272935). Gr. 9–12.
Russo draws heavily on her real-life experiences as a transgender woman in this
powerful coming-of-age novel. Mounts’ moving performance perfectly depicts teenage
Amanda’s struggles to find love, acceptance, and safety.
In a Dark, Dark Wood. By Ruth Ware. Read by Imogen Church.2015. 9.5hr. Simon &
Schuster Audio, DD, $17.99 (9781442390508).
Church’s mesmerizing reading ensnares listeners in this disturbing, twisty novel. Crime-writer Leonora Shaw reluctantly attends a party for her erstwhile best friend, but things
go badly awry, and disastrous events lead to murder.
Lilac Girls. By Martha Hall Kelly. Read by Cassandra Campbell and others. 2016. 17.5hr.
Books on Tape, CD, $45 (9781101889602).
Campbell, Kathrin Kana, and Kathleen Gati stunningly portray three women—an American socialite, a Polish teenager, and a notorious camp guard—whose lives converge at
Ravensbrück concentration camp.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses. By Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock. Read by Jorjeana Marie
and others. 2016. 5.5hr. Listening Library, CD, $35 (9780147523730). Gr. 9–12.
Narrators Marie, Erin Tripp, Karissa Vacker, and Robbie Daymond plunge listeners into
the lives of four teenagers in 1970s Alaska in a poignant domestic drama of dysfunctional
families and troubled teens.
Sorcerer to the Crown. By Zen Cho. Read by Jenny Sterlin.2015. 13hr. Recorded Books,
CD, $123.75 (9781490691411).
Cho imagines a nineteenth-century England where magic exists and creates a vivid fantasy world in which sorcerers confront the crisis of England’s dwindling supply of magic.
Sterlin’s stylish narration adroitly matches the satiric tone.
The Wake. By Paul Kingsnorth. Read by Simon Vance. 2016. 9hr. Tantor, CD, $39.99
Vance’s tour de force narration of this nightmarish historical novel transforms the archaic English of the text and transports listeners back to eleventh-century England as
witnesses to the horrors of the Norman invasion.
TOP 10 FIRST NOVELS ON AUDIO
they had a daughter named Ruby. Living
just blocks apart in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn,
the two families find themselves intersecting
again as a film studio wants to remake their
youth in a biopic of the band’s deceased lead
singer, and Harry and Ruby experience their
own first taste of young love. The one down-side of listening to this smart, engaging tale
of aging hipsters and domestic life is that you
can’t fold down a page or stick a Post-it over
Straub’s exquisite prose. Award-winning audiobook narrator Tullock subtly differentiates
each character and moves effortlessly between
ennui, annoyance, passion, and impatience.
A lovely listen for fans of Cathleen Schine or
Curtis Sittenfeld. —Karen Keefe
North by Northwest.
By Paula Poundstone. Read by the
2016. 2hr. HighBridge, CD, $22.95 (9781681682228).
Poundstone’s first double-live CD is a short
recording of two live performances: the first
at Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua in
Bayfield, Wisconsin, and the second at the
Aladdin Theater in Portland, Oregon. Poundstone is at her peak during these one-woman
shows, doling out clever jokes with keen delivery. The audience certainly appreciates her
humor, and their laughter on the CD is infectious. However, there are moments when
listeners may feel like they are missing some of
the effect without visuals of Poundstone’s expressions. One element that sets Poundstone’s
recording apart from other comedy shows is
her interaction with the audience (more so in
the Bayfield performance). The impromptu
banter with audience members highlights her
sharp wit and gives the performance a spontaneous, organic feeling. Her distinctive voice
and delivery create pure entertainment for her
many fans. —Mieko Fujiura-Landers
Paper: Paging through History.
By Mark Kurlansky. Read by Andrew
2016. 14hr. Recorded Books, CD, $123.75
Kurlansky’s latest commodity microhistory
journeys through the development of the written word, papermaking technologies, printing,
and today’s move toward going paperless.
Kurlansky challenges the “technological fallacy” that new technologies change societies
(often for the worse) by showing instead that
papermaking and paper use have developed always in response to society’s needs. The story
includes both macro and micro analyses of
paper’s creation and uses. The big picture of
exploration, religion, scientific discovery, and
other centuries-long themes contrasts effectively with detailed descriptions of inventors,
artists, and manufacturers. Garman reads at a
confident pace that keeps the occasionally dry
material moving. His patient phrasing makes
the complex details of manufacturing and the
sometimes murky personal lives of the major
players easy to follow. This audiobook convinces the listener that paper is a central element in