Tag Archives: Middlesex

Top 10 Favorite Audiobooks

JuneHeaderIn honor of June is Audiobook Month (JIAM), I’ve decided to share a list of my favorite audiobooks. This was hard! There are a lot of good ones out there. If you haven’t tried an audiobook before, here are a few you might want to try.

1. Three Junes by Julia Glass. What I said: “The narrator, John Keating, was nearly perfect. I loved his brogue and his Fenno was wonderful.”

2. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. What I said: “The three performers -Nick Sullivan, Lorna Raver, and Mark Bramhall – were absolutely perfect; I felt like I was listening to a script reading. The voice of Clem, in particular, was superb. This may be the best audio production I’ve ever listened to.”

3. Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout. What I said: “The performer, Bernadette Dunne, had the accents down perfectly and really imbued the voices with personality and character. She brought Strout’s words to life so convincingly that at times I felt as though the characters were in the room with me. This is one of the best audiobook narrations I’ve listened to, ever.”

4. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. What I said: “[T]he narration by Peter Altschuler is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Great delivery and perfect accents. Mrs. Ali was the weak link, the errant thread of the Turkish rug. But the others were great.”

5. A Good American by Alex George. What I said: “The audio is terrific. Great narrator – Gibson Frazier. In fact, I think it was the audio version that kept me interested – I am not sure I would have stuck with this book if I hadn’t been listening to it.”

6. Faith by Jennifer Haigh. What I said: “The narrator, Therese Plummer, has a perfect Boston accent, and she vividly brought Faith‘s characters, male and female, to life. The audiobook forced me to ingest this novel more slowly than if I had read it, prolonging the pleasure of experiencing the book.”

7. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: What I said: “Hope Davis is an excellent narrator. She conveys a range of voices perfectly – from Marina’s terror brought on by drug-induced nightmares to the infallible tone of Dr. Swenson.”

8. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. What I said: “I highly recommend the audio. It was narrated by Ferris, and he’s a great reader. I love listening to authors read their own works – who understands the words better than they do? Who else knows exactly where the emphasis lands in a sentence, and the tone of voice a character should take when talking to someone else?”

9. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta. What I said: “It didn’t hurt that I listened to this book on audio narrated by the sublime Campbell Scott. I wouldn’t complain if he narrated every single audiobook in the library. His deep voice, which verges on (but never reaches) flatness, was the perfect vehicle for Perrotta’s understated sarcasm and jabs. I especially enjoyed Scott’s narration of Pastor Dennis – just perfect.”

And finally, the audiobook that got me into audiobooks…

10. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. What I said: “This book is narrated by Kristoffer Tabori, an accomplished actor, and I give him credit for embodying so many diverse voices throughout the 21 hours of Middlesex. His narration is fluid and vibrant, his voice highly capable of conveying the range from humor to desperation. To me, the weak link was his female voices, especially that of Cal’s grandmother Desdemona, who bordered on caricature. But this is a minor complaint. There were times when I was tempted to read ahead in my print copy of Middlesex, but I developed a strong appreciation for and loyalty to Tabori as I was reading, and felt that it would be betraying him NOT to experience every word through his narration.”

What are your favorite audiobooks? Please share them!

June is Audiobook Month

This month is Audiobook Month, and I am celebrating it with some audiobook-related content here at EDIWTB.

I discovered audiobooks in the summer of 2010, when I listened to 21-hour Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. Ever since, I  always have an audiobook going in the car. My commute is about 20-30 minutes long, so I can usually get through an audiobook in about three weeks, sometimes less depending on the length of the book. I almost always pick out audiobooks for which I already have the print version, because I like to read along in the print. I find that having the print version lets me re-read passages that might be hard to find on CD, and it helps with learning how characters’ names are spelled, how books are structured, and how key scenes were written. And sometimes when I get close to the end of an audiobook, I finish it off in print because I get impatient to find out how it ends, and print is faster.

Some books aren’t as successful in audio as others (The Red House by Mark Haddon comes to mind), while others seem to dance off the pages on audio (A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash). I’ve read books narrated by their authors, multiple books narrated by the same narrator, and books narrated by multiple authors. I’ve read books narrated by 80s movies stars (hello Campbell Scott and Elizabeth McGovern and Molly Ringwald). And I’ve even had the chance to meet some of the narrators I’ve enjoyed.

Last week at BEA, I went to a breakfast with a group of audiobook narrators and a few other bloggers. It was one of the highlights of my BEA experience. I met Karen White, Robert Fass, Anne Flosnik, Patrick Lawler, Amy Rubinate, Simon Vance, Xe Sands, and Lauren Fortgang, and they couldn’t have been a nicer bunch. They tolerated my many, many questions and recommended books and recordings. They were incredibly supportive of each other, and seemed genuinely happy to be in each others’ company. Please check out their sites and their recordings!

In honor of Audiobook Month, I will be featuring interviews with Karen White, Anne Flosnik and Robert Fass later this month, and I have also created a new category within the blog – Audiobooks – which collects all of the audiobook reviews that I have written. I always cross-post my audio reviews at Audiobook Jukebox, which is a great resource for finding new audiobook reviews, and I also recommend the site Audiogals, which is run by Lea Hensley, whom I also had the pleasure to meet last week.

So keep an eye out for the narrator interviews later this month, and keep listening to the great recorded books that we are lucky to have access to.

Here is a photo of me with the narrators and bloggers at the breakfast last Thursday (thank you Lea for the photo!). I can’t seem to make it any larger.

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I’d love to know: what are the best audiobooks you’ve ever listened to? What made them great? I will do a top-5 list later this month.

BBAW Giveaway #3: Audiobook – MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex Book Blogger Appreciation Week Giveaway #3 is a 17-disc unabridged audiobook of Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. I listened to Middlesex this summer and reviewed it earlier this month. It is a fantastic book, and the audio version is done beautifully. I loved the narrator's ability to create a diverse range of voices over 21 (!) hours.

If you'd like to win this audiobook, leave me a comment here and I will pick a winner on Saturday, September 18.

MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides

Sorry for the lapse – it was a weird week. Thank you to my readers and the  book blogger community for the emails, tweets and posts on Wednesday – it felt really nice knowing you guys were looking out for me.

Middlesex Today, I FINALLY finished listening to the audiobook of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex. I started it back in June (!), but because it is a long book (21 hours of audio) and I have a short commute (15 minutes at most), it took me quite a while to get through it. Middlesex is my first audiobook, ever. I always thought I would have trouble concentrating on an audiobook. But a year or two ago, I found this set at a used book sale and decided to pick it up, and in June I was inspired to give it a try.

Since I’ve never reviewed an audiobook before, I am in new territory. I am going to review the story first, and then the audio second.

Middlesex has been urged on me by people I trust for a long time. I avoided it, in part because it was long, but mostly because it sounded weird. It is the sweeping, epic story of Calliope Stephanides, a baby born in the early 60s in Detroit to a Greek family. Calliope’s grandparents, Desdemona and Lefty, came to America in the 20s from a small village in Turkey, and settled in Detroit. Calliope’s parents, Milton and Tessie, endured the Depression, the 50s and the tumultuous race riots of the 60s, finally settling in tony Grosse Pointe, an upper class suburb just outside Detroit city limits. Calliope attends a fancy private school and develops a close – and ultimately romantic – relationship with a female classmate. RIght before her 15th birthday, Calliope learns a complicated truth about herself – she is actually a boy, born with a genetic mutation that makes her look like a girl. The remainder of the book is about how Cal learns to live as a man, and how it affects her family.

It takes over half the book for Eugenides to get to the point where Cal learns the truth. He sets up the long history of the Stephanides family, spending hundreds of pages on her grandparents and parents, and there were times when I questioned the novel’s length, detours and details. But it all mattered. All of the twists and minor players and detours – they each contributed to the story of Callie’s transformation into Cal. And, of course, Middlesex isn’t just the story of Callie’s transformation – it is also an ode to the social, political and economic changes America witnessed over those same 60 years. Detroit and San Francisco in particular are the lucky subjects of Eugenides’ observant eye, and Middlesex explores the essences of these two vastly different cities using historical research mixed with fictional narrative.

This is a hard book to sum up, but in short, I thought it was brilliant. Eugenides is a graceful, richly emotional writer, and his amazing ability to capture the mind of a confused teenage hermaphrodite is nothing short of admirable. The accolades and praise this book has received are well-deserved.

And now to the audio version. This series is narrated by Kristoffer Tabori, an accomplished actor, and I give him credit for embodying so many diverse voices throughout the 21 hours of Middlesex. His narration is fluid and vibrant, his voice highly capable of conveying the range from humor to desperation. To me, the weak link was his female voices, especially that of Cal’s grandmother Desdemona, who bordered on caricature. But this is a minor complaint. There were times when I was tempted to read ahead in my print copy of Middlesex, but I developed a strong appreciation for and loyalty to Tabori as I was reading, and felt that it would be betraying him NOT to experience every word through his narration. He seemed to truly understand these characters, and Eugenides’ vision for Middlesex– is that always the case with audiobooks?

So I conclude my summer-long journey through Middlesex, fittingly, on Labor Day weekend. I look forward to more audiobooks in the future.