It's time to rev up the old minivan and hit the road for summer vacation. One way to stave off those "are we there yet" questions is to get 'em hooked on an audiobook.
It just so happens that this is the season when there are a lot of new audiobooks to choose from. Last week, prizes for the best audiobooks of the year were announced at the annual Audie awards.
To help guide us through our audiobook options is Adam Boretz, editor of the blog Listen Up. He covers the wide world of audiobooks for Publishers Weekly, and he wrote up some of his recommendations for us.
Written by Tina Fey
Narrated by Tina Fey
This audio edition of Fey's best-selling memoir — that covers everything from her childhood and family life to her improv days in Chicago and tenure at Saturday Night Live — won Audiobook of the Year at this year's Audie Awards, and for good reason: Bossypants won't fail to entertain. And unlike plot-driven thrillers and mysteries, listeners can dip in and out without missing key plot points. So feel free to stop for gas, navigate traffic jams or argue with family members — you'll be able to pick up the storyline again with ease.
A Wrinkle In Time
Written by Madeleine L'Engle
Narrated by Hope Davis
Listening Library (Random House Audio)
Narrated by Hope Davis for Listening Library, this new audio edition of L'Engle's classic follows a young girl's attempt to locate her missing physicist father by warping across the universe, through space and time. Kids will love it. Parents will remember reading it. This one just might actually make a long car trip "fun for the whole family."
Miles: The Autobiography
By Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe
Narrated by Dion Graham
Narrated by Dion Graham for AudioGO, this audio edition of Davis' autobiography provides an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at one of the best and most influential jazzmen of all time. Music fans, jazz fans and nonfiction fans will be delighted.
The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby
Written by Charles Dickens
Narrated by Simon Vance
Winner of an Audie Award in the Classic category, Tantor Media's audio edition of Dickens' famed novel tells the story of the titular Nicholas Nickleby, who is left penniless after the death of his father and works to find a way to provide for his family. While there are many audio versions of this title, Tantor's is read by one of the very best narrators in the business: Simon Vance. If you're traveling across country and want to lose yourself in a classic story, this audiobook — which clocks in at over 30 hours — is the one for you.
The Neil Simon Collection
Written by Neil Simon
Narrated by a full cast
L.A. Theatre Works
This collection of full-cast audio productions of 10 of Simon's classic plays from L.A. Theatre Works includes everything from Barefoot in the Park and Biloxi Blues to Brighton Beach Memoirs and The Odd Couple and features a host of big-name actors — Eric Stoltz, Laura Linney and Nathan Lane, just to name a few. This collection will transport you from the freeway to Broadway. And with their old-time radio drama feel, these full-cast recordings are a great entry point for new audiobook listeners.
Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy
Written by John le Carre
Narrated by Michael Jayston
Packaged to tie in with the recent feature film version of le Carre's famed thriller, the audio edition from Penguin Audio is narrated by Michael Jayston, an actor who appeared in the 1979 BBC television adaptation of le Carre's novel about spymaster George Smiley's quest to undercover treachery within England's secret service. Fans of mysteries and thrillers will love this new audio edition of the classic tale of espionage. And while that family car trip to Disney World may not prove thrilling, this audiobook certainly will.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
'Tis the season to rev up the old minivan and hit the road for summer vacation. And one way to stave off those are-we-there-yet questions is to get your family hooked on an audiobook and the miles will just fly by. It just so happens that this is the season when there are a lot of new audiobooks to choose from. Just last week, the winners of the annual Audie awards were announced. These are the awards for the best audio books of the year.
And we've got the greatest hits from that event, as well as some books that you can road test yourself this summer on your way to the destination of your choice. And to help guide us through our audiobook selections is Adam Boretz. He covers the wide world of audiobooks for Publishers Weekly. He joins us from our New York bureau. Welcome to the show, Adam.
ADAM BORETZ: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: OK. So without further ado, who was this year's big winner at the Audies?
BORETZ: This year's big winner was Tina Fey for "Bossypants." She won the Audie for audiobook of the year. She also won for "Memoir."
MARTIN: Okay. Tina Fey doing well at the Audies. Let's get a little sample of that.
(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIOBOOK "BOSSYPANTS")
TINA FEY: (Reading) My dad looks like Clint Eastwood. His half-Scottish, half-German face in repose is handsome, but terrifying. I searched the audience for him during the 6th grade chorus concert and seeing his stern expression was convinced that he had seen me messing up the words to the "Happy Days" theme and that I was in big trouble. I spend the rest of the concert suppressing terror burps only to be given a big hug and a kiss afterward. It took me years to realize, oh, that's just his face.
BORETZ: Yeah, she did an amazing job. I think, you know, of all the audiobooks that came out this year, it's probably one of my favorites, and one of the most entertaining.
MARTIN: So you recommend another celebrity-narrated book, the autobiography of trumpet player Miles Davis, which is performed by Dion Graham. Let's take a listen to this.
(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIOBOOK "MILES: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY")
DION GRAHAM: (Reading) By the time I was 12, music had become the most important thing in my life. I probably didn't realize how important it would become, but looking back, I can see just how important it was. I still played baseball and football, still hung out with my friends like Miller Curtis(ph) and Donnell Moore(ph), but I was seriously taking trumpet lessons and was really into my horn.
MARTIN: Such a compelling and distinct voice.
BORETZ: Yeah, I think, you know, Dion Graham was probably best known for his role on "The Wire," but has been in film, television and is something of an audiobook celebrity, does an amazing job with that and really kind of inhabiting the character there in a way that I don't think you get with the print edition.
MARTIN: So that's really interesting, though. You think the performance is so important that it can trump good storytelling?
BORETZ: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, you can have a great audio version of a terrible book and a terrible audio version of a classic novel. I think it all comes down to the audio performance.
MARTIN: And for our potential road trippers out there, is there anything you would recommend for that kind of long stretch of highway through, say, the Nevada desert, when there are no distractions and maybe you and your family desperately need one?
BORETZ: Sure. Well, I mean, I think if you're on the desolate highway and you want to lose yourself in a story, I might recommend Nicholas Nickleby. It was narrated by Simon Vance who is one of the best narrators in the world. It won an audio award this year for classics. It comes in at over 30 hours. So if you're going to be on the road for a while, that's probably the one for you.
MARTIN: And what about for families with young kids, you know? You're packing up the whole brood, long drive to the beach, say. Anything that can satisfy a lot of diverse tastes perhaps?
BORETZ: Yeah. Well, I would say, you might want to go with, you know, in terms of family-friendly pick, "A Wrinkle in Time." There's a new recording of that from Listening Library narrated by Hope Davis.
MARTIN: Let's take a listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF AUDIOBOOK, "A WRINKLE IN TIME")
HOPE DAVIS: (Reading) Everybody was asleep, everybody except Meg. Even Charles Wallace, the dumb baby brother, who had an uncanny way of knowing when she was awake and unhappy and who would come so many nights tip-toeing up the attic stairs to her. Even Charles Wallace was asleep.
BORETZ: The kids will enjoy that. Parents will probably remember reading it in their youth and it could satisfy everybody.
MARTIN: OK. Well, you've inspired me. You've given me all kinds of fodder for plenty of distraction. Adam Boretz is the editor of the Publishers Weekly blog, Listen Up. He joined us from our studios in New York. Thanks so much, Adam.
BORETZ: Oh, thank you for having me.
MARTIN: Happy road tripping.
BORETZ: And to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.