Welcome to Audio File, a Camrose Public Library Podcast series. On this podcast, we recommend audiobooks that are truly music to the ears and available right here at CPL. Today’s episode will be focusing on audiobooks that are both short and sweet, making the most of your precious time. By short, we mean any audiobook that is less than 10 hours which, according to Rakuten Kobo, is the average length for an audiobook. Let’s get to it!
Hello everyone and welcome to Audio File, a Camrose Public Library Podcast series. On this podcast, we recommend audiobooks that are truly music to the ears and available right here at CPL. Today’s episode will be focusing on audiobooks that are both short and sweet, making the most of your precious time. By short, we mean any audiobook that is less than 10 hours which, according to Rakuten Kobo, is the average length for an audiobook. Let’s get to it!
Our first pick is The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity. This is a vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz has a number of awards and almost awards to its name. It was nominated in the Best Historical Fiction and Best Debut Author categories of the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2018, and shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards, Goldsboro Glass Bell Award, British Book Awards Debut Novel of the Year, ABIA’s General Fiction Award of the Year and the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year in 2019. This is to say nothing of what it actually won, including the Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year Australia, Neilsen Gold Bestseller Award, Apple Book of the Year, and Specsavers Book of the Year to name a few.
To quote the Publisher’s Weekly review of the Tattooist of Auschwitz: “To many, this book will be most appreciated for its powerful evocation of the everyday horrors of life as a prisoner in a concentration camp, while others will be heartened by the novel’s message of how true love can transcend even the most hellishly inhuman environments. This is a perfect novel for book clubs and readers of historical fiction.”
The 2018 Harper Audio production of The Tattooist of Auschwitz is read by Richard Armitage. It won the Audie Award for Fiction in 2019 and with good reason. Armitage is an actor by trade and that couldn’t be more clear with his performance. He has a great speaking voice while his tone and emphasis lend the production a professional air. The audiobook clocks in at just under seven and a half hours, earning its spot in the short and sweet category.
If you’re looking for a historical tale of love and can’t stand the sight of a Ken Follett, 900 page epic, try The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
Our next pick is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. Narnia… the land beyond the wardrobe door, a secret place frozen in eternal winter, a magical country waiting to be set free.
Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor's mysterious old house. At first her brothers and sister don't believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Lion Aslan, they realize they've been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witch's sinister spell.
Between television productions, films, stage plays, radio plays, and video games, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t at least heard of the Chronicles of Narnia series, with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe arguably being the most popular entry. While the story isn’t perfect, it does still hold up relatively well in the seventy-odd years since its publication and is entertaining for audiences of all ages.
The Harper Audio production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from the year 2000 is narrated by Michael York. York is a two-time Emmy-nominated English actor who has appeared in more than 70 films across his career. He’s also been doing audiobook narration for decades. Oxford educated, the British performer began recording audiobooks in 1965 for Caedmon. He captures both the tone and spirit of literary fiction—from classics, such as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, to the contemporary, such as Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient. With the audiobook a mere four hours in length, this is easily a book that could be read in a day or two.
To quote the AudioFile magazine review of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “The only thing better than exploring Narnia with your children is having Michael York do it with you. With his precise, but lively, British accent, he eases listeners into the mysterious world hidden behind the wardrobe. With flawless accuracy York seems to sense the very timbre of the White Witch’s horrible voice and the anguish of the kind faun, Mr. Tumnus. York knows, as well, how excited the children are at coming upon Mr. and Mrs. Beaver at the very moment the forest has become so mysterious and they need some sensible friends to help them; later still we hear the gentle power of Aslan, as well as his fury.”
If you’re looking for a fast-paced and fun classic, try the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Our third pick is Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness. A laugh-and-cry-out-loud memoir from the beloved star of Netflix's Queer Eye, Jonathan Van Ness, sharing never before told, deeply personal stories of growing up gay, transforming pain into positivity, and embracing what makes you gorgeously different.
Over the Top uncovers the pain and passion it took to end up becoming the model of self-love and acceptance that Jonathan is today. In this revelatory, raw, and rambunctious memoir, Jonathan shares never-before-told secrets and reveals sides of himself that the public has never seen. JVN fans may think they know what lies behind the stiletto heels, the crop tops, and the iconic sayings, but there's much more to him than meets the Queer Eye.
Over the Top is a New York Times Bestseller, NPR's Favorite Books of the Year, an Indie Bestseller, and a Goodreads Choice Award Winner in the Best Memoir & Autobiography category. To quote the Library Journal review of this memoir, written by David Azzolina, “Van Ness's signature wit and charm shines throughout this fiercely honest and heartfelt memoir. Pop culture fans will love the openness on full display.”
The 2019 Harper Audio production of Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love is read by the author. With such an iconic, well icon, like Jonathan Van Ness as the author it only makes sense to have him act as narrator of his own life story. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. The AudioFile review of the Over the Top audiobook reads, “Jonathan Van Ness narrates his hilarious and moving memoir with all the bright energy he's known for--no one but the queer icon himself could narrate his story”. Clocking in at just under six hours, this memoir contains a lot into a relatively small package.
If you’re looking for a stellar memoir that’s sure to make you laugh, cry, and otherwise be moved, try Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love.
Our next pick is the middle grade fantasy The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack, who has already killed Bod's family. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book by beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman is sure to enthrall listeners of all ages.
The Graveyard Book is a perennial favourite that has sold over one million copies. If accolades will help win you over, it’s also the winner of the Newbery Medal and the Carnegie Medal (the only novel thus far to ever win both awards), the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the Locus Award for Young Adult Book. The story is a re-imagining of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, but instead of being raised by wolves, a boy is raised by ghosts. The set up may be odd, but Gaiman does such an excellent job of weaving this narrative together that you buy into the world right away. The chapters feel episodic, but ultimately cumulate into an overarching plot that provides strong character development and a good, if bittersweet, ending.
The 2014 Harper Audio production of the Graveyard Book is narrated by the author as well as a full cast, including: Derek Jacobi, Robert Madge, Clare Corbett, Miriam Margolyes, Andrew Scott, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and more. This production won Audiobook of the Year and an Audie Award for Distinguished Achievement in Production in 2015. Full cast editions of audiobooks are where the audio medium truly shines, and this is a great example of that. There are no weak links in this cast, with the variety of voices and performances keeping you engaged every second of the story. At a tidy eight and a half hours, there’s enough content here to make the story feel fleshed out without becoming so detailed that it detracts from the story. To quote the AudioFile magazine review of this production: “the cast is uniformly excellent, giving broad or subtle performances as appropriate, and the overall effect is to enhance the sense of the graveyard as a community, and of the dangers lurking outside it.”
If you’re looking for a classic re-telling that’s fun for all ages, try The Graveyard Book.
Our last pick is the Adult Non-Fiction Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know by Malcolm Gladwell. How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn't true?
While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you'll hear the voices of people he interviewed. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There's even a theme song - Janelle Monae's "Hell You Talmbout."
Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don't know. And because we don't know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.
The 2019 Hachette Book Group production of Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know is read by the author. This is one of the few examples of a situation where I think the audio experience trumps the print. Not only does Malcolm Gladwell have a great speaking voice and elevate his work by using his own voice, his voice isn’t the only one you’ll find in the production. Talking to Strangers is also narrated by scientists, criminologists, and military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. All these come together to make for an unparalleled experience that truly allows Gladwell’s points to hit home.
The audiobook edition of Talking to Strangers was an instant #1 bestseller, and was one of the most pre-ordered audiobooks in history. It was also a 2020 Audie Award Nominee in the Non-Fiction category. All this and the audiobook is only 8 hours and 42 minutes. Not bad!
If you’re looking for non-fiction that’s crafted from the ground up to be a fantastic audio experience, try Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know.
That’s it for this episode of Audio File. All the audiobooks discussed are available at Camrose Public Library in audio CD or downloadable audio format at the time of this recording. Thanks very much for listening and remember to stay curious.