Category Archives: Audiobooks

Listen Up!

Grunt Hidden Figures A Gentleman in Moscow Journey to Munich Everybody's Fool

Looking for something to listen to over the winter holidays?  Here is a sampling of some of the best audiobooks of 2016.


Grunt, by Mary Roach.  Bestselling author Mary Roach explores the science of keeping human beings intact, awake, sane, uninfected and uninfested in the bizarre and extreme circumstances of war. Narrated by Abby Elvidge.

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly. The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Narrated by Robin Miles.

American Heiress, by Jeffrey Toobin. The wild saga of the kidnapping, crimes and trial of Patty Hearst.  Narrated by Paul Michael.


A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. From the bestselling author of Rules of Civility –a transporting story about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.  Narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith.

Journey to Munich, by Jacqueline Winspear. The 12th installment of Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series.  This time Maisie heads to Munich.  There will be Nazis.  Narrated by by Orlagh Cassidy.

Everybody’s Fool, by Richard Russo.  After 23 years, the author returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters who made Nobody’s Fool, a huge success.  Narrated by Mark Bramhall.

The Black Widow, by Daniel Silva. An international thriller that finds the legendary Gabriel Allon grappling with an ISIS mastermind. Narrated by George Guidall.


Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight.  The Nike founder and CEO  shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.  Narrated by Norbert Leo Butz.

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer.  A refreshingly candid and raucously funny collection of extremely personal and observational essays.  Narrated by the author.

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo   The Black Widow Shoe Dog American Heiress


June is Audiobook Month

june audiobook monthI’m not sure who designates such things as ‘audiobook month’, but I couldn’t be happier about it.  As an ardent listener, every month is audiobook month.

In the mood for a British romance? Look no further than Jojo Moyes’ excellent, thought-provoking love story,  Me Before You and the satisfying sequel After You.  Moyes’ protagonist, Louisa Clark, is one part snark, two parts heart and you will be instantly drawn into her life.  Keep a hankie on hand.

How about a little fantasy on your commute? Neil Gaiman’s self-narrated The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is a delightful–if a little unsettling–exploration of time and memory. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, is a masterpiece that will transport listeners into the body and mind of a wizard.  FYI, Gaiman just released a collection of essays, The View From the Cheap Seats, also self-narrated, which is generating heat in the publishing world.

Family sagas anyone?  The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney has it all: four East Coast siblings and a shared inheritance hanging in the balance.  The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer is another sibling story filled with family secrets and bad behavior.

If Sci-Fi is your preference try Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or The Martian by Andy Weir.

Finally, thrillers/suspense. Who doesn’t like an ‘edge-of-your-seat’ story? Hot new releases include Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben, 15th Affair by James Patterson, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and The Last Mile by David Baldacci.

There are literally thousands of audiobooks to choose from, with more arriving every day.  So, take off your reading glasses, put on your headphones and get hooked on audiobooks.

Me Before You  jojo oceangaimanname station  The Martian

fool 15thnest Children's Crusade


What the Staff is Reading

master pradoThe first thing that a reader might notice when browsing through The Master of the Prado by Spanish author Javier Sierra is the copious amount of illustrations. For anyone with an interest in art and/or Spain, this is enough to grab one’s attention. The novel starts when a mysterious stranger opens a conversation with the young student, Javier Sierra, while he is alone in a room in Madrid’s Prado Museum. The stranger gives plenty of food for thought about a particular painting, and over a period of weeks, continues to reappear, making observations about numerous other paintings by great masters, leading the protagonist to wonder who this stranger is. Are there are truly hidden meanings in the art, involving prophesies, conspiracies, and heresies? In the meantime, there is intrigue as Javier investigates who this man might be, and is followed and threatened around Madrid and the surrounding area. Although there are similar themes as in The Da Vinci Code, this book moves at a much slower, more literary pace.
wolf called romeo
In nonfiction, A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans is the account of the author’s six year relationship with a young black wolf in Juneau, Alaska. This unnaturally friendly loner wolf makes friends with local dogs and tolerates their owners, while the author and town have a chance to closely observe and learn about wolf behaviors. The author serves as a strong advocate of this misunderstood and feared animal, and works hard to reveal its more social-minded side. Philosophical at times, the book goes further to consider the relationship between wilderness and civilization.

magic stringsFor audio fans, an excellent book to listen to is The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom. In this story filled with magical realism, Frankie Presto is a fictional character, the greatest guitarist to walk the face of the earth. In a manner reminiscent of Forrest Gump, we are transported through the musical landscape over the decades and see Frankie’s influence on real musicians such as Elvis and Little Richard. In the process, we all come to see how the gift of music transforms lives.  (According to one staff member, for this title listening is the only way to go!)

BrooklynAnother audiobook staff member really enjoyed listening to Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. (This title is downloadable from Hoopla, so no waiting!) The setting is 1950s Ireland and New York, and has very vividly voiced characters. The contrast between small-town Ireland with its limited employment possibilities and large city America is striking, and so the story becomes about choices, not right or wrong, but just deciding between two very different worlds.

Saturn RunAnd finally, for those readers who enjoyed the “math and MacGyver on Mars” adventure of The Martian and are looking for something similar, try Saturn Run by John Sandford. Set in 2066, this richly detailed, exciting sci-fi exploration is all about a crew’s strength and courage tested against adversity and aliens using various engineering concepts.  (And for even more title ideas, check out our If You Like… The Martian booklist.)

Upbeat Reads

bean treesI’ve had several titles by Barbara Kingsolver in my TBR pile for years, but I finally got around to The Bean Trees and I’m so glad I did!  Featuring a feisty and outspoken heroine and her various encounters while on a road trip from Kentucky to Arizona, it’s a story that is both funny and uplifting. I listened to it and the audiobook had me chuckling out loud.

For similar reading ideas, check out our list Upbeat Reads which includes another audiobook I highly enjoyed, Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem (but please be aware that the main character has Tourette’s syndrome so some of the language is a bit “colorful”).

Lend Me Your Ears

The volume is high for end-of-the-year “best of” lists and audiobook fans are not muted! Read on to find out which titles are earning accolades.

Edoardo Ballerini’s narration of Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter has won’s nod for best audiobook of 2012 and I couldn’t agree more. This was one of those listening experiences that grabs you on the first track and makes you want to send gushing fan letters to the reader.


This memoir is read by its author, Marcus Samuelsson, and while his speech pattern takes a little getting used to, the combination of his incredible life story and his honest, raw telling of it make this a totally engaging listen. Disclaimer: You’ll be hungry if you listen on an empty stomach.


And here is another memoir that I couldn’t turn off. After the author’s mother is unfortunately diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, they spend her remaining time reading and discussing as many books as they can. As one would imagine, it’s a very moving story, and is way more than a chronicling of their likes and dislikes. Highly recommended.

Want more?  Try these award winners.


Click on any of the images in this post for more information.  And as always, happy listening.


Chill out with these cool audiobooks

Instead of curling up with a good book try stretching out with a good listen. Just put the fan on ‘hi’ and the CD player on ‘medium’ and let someone else do the reading.

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

St. Charles Public Library IL - The Boy In The Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

Can someone help the blockbuster Nordic authors with their title choices?  I find them so bland.  Fortunately, this story is anything but.  This is the first in a mystery/suspense trilogy by authors best known for their young adult fantasies.  A Red Cross nurse tries not to get killed while she solves the mystery of the boy in the suitcase.  Narrated by Katherine Kellgren, and a winner of an AudioFile Earphones award.

Among the Missing by Morag Joss

St. Charles Public Library IL - Among the Missing by Morag Joss

This psychological thriller is set in Scotland and the listener is treated to not one, but 3, inveterate readers; Robin Sachs, Kate Reading and Cassandra Campbell. They do an expert job of getting into the heads of the characters who have survived a bridge collapse.  Another AudioFile Earphones award winner.

Blue Monday by Nicci French

St. Charles Public Library IL - Blue Monday by Nicci French

Didn’t get your tickets to the London Olympics? This thriller will take you all over the city as a psychotherapist and chief inspector try to thaw a very cold case involving an abandoned child.  The blurb says, “Blue Monday introduces a compelling protagonist and a chilling mystery that will appeal to readers of dark crime fiction.” Deftly delivered by Beth Chalmers. AudioFile Earphones award winner, March 2012.

And now for something completely different,

Life, on the Line by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas

St. Charles Public Library IL - Life, on the Line by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas

This is one compelling memoir.  I was enviously wondering how Achatz could be the #1 U.S. chef and a great storyteller as I listened to his tale of starting out in a diner in Michigan to owning Alinea, the 4-star, world-class restaurant in Chicago. And he is a stage four tongue cancer survivor. And he isn’t even 40 years old.  Achatz’ success story is mostly about hard work and determination.  After you finish this you’ll want to check out his cookbook, Alinea, then you’ll want to make reservations.  Johnny Heller narrates.

And finally, we do have the Fifty Shades trilogy on audio but perhaps you want to wait until the weather is a little cooler for this hotter than hot title.

I Heard That!

Here are some new audio books I have recently enjoyed.


Nightwoods is
Charles Frazier’s (Cold Mountain) long awaited new release. Set in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1960s, it is the story of Luce, a young woman who
is charged with raising the troubled twins of her murdered sister. Twins +
murder + backwoods = Drama! Expertly narrated by veteran reader Will

The Affair is the latest from Lee Child in his Jack
Reacher series. It is actually a prequel.  Fast paced, exacting and
suspenseful with excellent narration by Dick Hill (who has read all the other
Reacher novels).

The Submission by Amy Waldman. This tour de force of literary fiction is about a representative Manhattan jury who must choose a 9/11 memorial from anonymously submitted designs.  Questions arise when it is leaked to the press that the winning designer is an architect from Virginia.  Oh, and he’s Muslim.  Kudos to narrator Bernadette Dunne for her even-tempered delivery.

The Night Circus. Erin Morgenstern’s debut is a wonderfully rich, turn of the 20th century fantasy.  Magicians, lovers, rivals, performers, disappearances – all under the big top – but only at night. Who else but Jim Dale could bring out the magic of this delightfully layered novel?!

                    submission.jpg            night circus.jpg     

And here’s a bonus track  for all you audio book fans. It’s an article from NPR and George Guidall is in it!



Playaways are entire books in one little recorded package. They are great if you are a) a fan of audiobooks and b) don’t want to carry around bulky CDs.

I recently took a Playaway with me on a weekend trip. It didn’t take up much real estate in my bag and didn’t require any special charging apparatus except a AAA battery.  Supply your own headphones or earbuds and listen away!

What’s not to love? The most common complaint is they stop functioning even with a new battery.  We always check out the problem (if it is made known to us) and either replace the Playaway or get a refund from the publisher. Quirky Aspect Alert:  Energizer batteries work better than other brands.  This was not from an Energizer rep.  I also think that once the battery starts to go, you will not get good results. So keeping a new battery nearby might be a good idea.

Playaways are popular across all age groups with about 3/4 of the Adult Playaway collection checked out at any given time.  Most Playaways can be found at the beginning of the Audiobook collection, but there are some which are interfiled with books of the same topic, e.g., language learning. If you’d like a demonstration on how to use a Playaway, please ask any staff person at the Information Services or Readers Services desks.

Playaway Quick List.

Jane S.


Anyone listening??

It’s that time of year. The time when top 10 and “best of” lists are promulgated by every reviewer, blogger, commentator or editor on the planet. Culled from reviews, circulation records, listener raves, and MHO, I offer all you Audio Book fans out there yet another list. 


goon.jpgmatterhorn.jpgtattoo.jpg  61 hours.jpg  one day.jpg

A Visit from The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Read by Roxana Ortega.
print version of this novel about power, friendship, rebellion, and
aging has made every top ten list around. The audio is as highly rated.
Roxana Ortega has just the right balance of youth and maturity in her

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. Read by Bronson Pinchot.
Thirty years in the making, (the novel, not the audio) Marlantes’s epic tale is a
dense, vivid narrative spanning many months in the lives of American
troops in Vietnam as they trudge across enemy lines, encountering danger
from opposing forces as well as on their home turf.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Read by Simon Vance.
Blockbuster thriller from Sweden. Everyone is reading and listening to this trilogy. Give it a try.

61 Hours by Lee Child. Read by Dick Hill.
Reacher is back in another high-octane thriller (the 14th in the
series) from Lee Child. Some critics believe Child’s work is best
experienced through Dick Hill’s stellar narration. Sounds to me like
code for “the listen is better than the read.”

One Day by David Nicholls. Read by Anna Bentinck.
isn’t on any list I’ve come across except my own. Theme: Love story.
Location: London. Time: July 15, mid-80s through the present. Bentinck’s
narration will have you laughing and crying.  Thoroughly enjoyable.

river.jpg    room.jpg     grayson.jpg     mockingjay.jpg    cronin.jpg 

So Cold the River by Michael Kortya. Read by Robert Petkoff.
Edgar Award nominee Koryta’s captivating work of supernatural horror is masterfully read by actor Robert Petkoff who renders the characters with “veridical insight.” – from Library Journal.

Room by Emma Donoghue. Read by Michal Friedman, Ellen Archer, Suzanne Toren & Robert Petkoff.
This is a bit of a sleeper hit. The story of a kidnapped young woman and her 7 year old son living in a converted shed in her kidnapper’s backyard. “The chemistry between the players creates a gem of an audiobook that will haunt listeners long after the story’s end,” from Publisher’s Weekly.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green. Read by MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl.
This is a Young Adult novel. Please, if you don’t care for YA literature do not listen to this. The eponymous high school characters are trying to grow up in Evanston and Naperville. An hilariously wrenching and satisfying listen from these two respected YA authors.

by Suzanne Collins. Read by Carolyn McCormick.
Another YA title. Part three in The Hunger Games trilogy. Intense suspense. Fabulous.

The Passage by Justin Cronin. Read by Scott Brick.
It was a toss up whether to end the list with Freedom by Franzen, but Freedom’s had plenty of  attention so I opted for Scott Brick’s masterful rendering (on 29 CDs!) of Cronin’s engrossingly horrific account of a post-apocalyptic America overrun by
the gruesome reality behind wish-fulfillment fantasies. So there.


life.jpg     henrietta.jpg    overdue.jpg  roosevelt.jpg  bryson.jpg

Life by Keith Richards. Read by Joe Hurley, Johnny Depp, Keith Richards.
Keith Richards and Johnny Depp? What more needs to be said?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Read by Cassandra Campbell with Bahni Turpin.
Documents the story of how scientists took cells from an unsuspecting
descendant of freed slaves and created a human cell line that has been
kept alive indefinitely, enabling discoveries in such areas as cancer
research, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping.

This book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson. Read by Hillary Huber.
Of course this would make my list, but it is on others as well. A fascinating romp about how librarians are going to save the world. Really, it’s interesting, a little scary and perhaps prescient.

Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. Read by Mark Deakins.
The conclusion of Morris’s trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt. According to AudioFile magazine, “Deakins’s narration supports Morris’s empathetic biography of this most straightforward yet enigmatic of men.”

At Home by Bill Bryson. Read by the author.
The author takes readers on a tour of
his house, a rural English parsonage, showing how each room has figured
in the evolution of private life. If you aren’t familiar with this author’s work, I’d recommend starting with A Walk in the Woods. Fans will enjoy At Home, not because it’s Bryson’s best work to date, but because it’s Bryson and it’s clever and fun.


All About the Audio

I have come to the conclusion that it is much more difficult for me to select books to listen to than those I read in print. I wonder if others have the same dilemma? Here are two of the things I find myself dealing with when choosing audiobooks (and the ways I get around them!):
* The types of books I enjoy listening to are often very different from the ones I sit down and read. I have always been primarily a reader of fiction (especially thrillers, suspense, science fiction and fantasy), but I have found I enjoy listening to nonfiction. Since I’m not usually paying attention to nonfiction reviews, etc. I have to work harder to find ones that have some appeal. In addition to reviews and recommendations, I suggest keeping track of which audiobooks you enjoy most to look for recurring themes that you can use when browsing the nonfiction audiobook section (for me that means primarily memoirs, travel narratives and history). You might also want to note the readers you enjoy and use that as a guide. For example, I know some people will listen to literally anything read by George Guidall, and that has led them to listen to a wide variety of books. I am hit or miss on this system as I find a certain reader can become so strongly associated in my mind with a certain story that I am a bit disoriented when they are suddenly the “voice” for a completely different set of characters. Fortunately, after a certain amount of time I find that association diminishes and I can go back to readers I’ve enjoyed.
* There aren’t as many reviews for audiobooks – or at least there didn’t seem to be to me! I’ve since found there are a lot out there, you just have to search a bit harder. One nice new review source is AudioFile Magazine which the Library now has in the Reader Services area (and note that they have a great website as well). The Library also has complimentary copies of BookPage which reviews a few audio each month and I use the various resources on the “Audio” page of the Library’s website for links to several different review sources. Last, but certainly not least, I’ve realized that many people are getting into audiobooks, so now in addition to asking whether they have read anything enjoyable lately, I ask if they’ve LISTENED to a good book!
p.s. I can think of other issues as well – what are yours? More importantly, if you ever feel “stuck” please talk with us at Reader Services. We’re happy to brainstorm new book ideas with you – both in print and audio!