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Check It Out

Courier Article by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, June 3, 2001

Celebrate Audiobook Month

June is a Audiobook Month, a good choice as it marks the start of vacation season when a lot of us are going to be in our cars for extended periods of time. I am a strong promoter of audiobooks and am happy that more and more people are discovering the pleasure of listening to works read by skilled actors or authors. I listen to a wider variety of books on cassette than I read in print. If a book is well narrated, has a compelling story line and offers me new information I will stick with it. If it isn't interesting I have no hesitation in turning it off and trying something else. Your public library has a huge selection of books on cassette as well as a growing selection on compact disk, so give us a visit before you hit the road this summer.

Fiction

War of the Rats by David L. Robbins (Recorded Books, 1999).

War stories generally don't appeal to me but I saw this book on a list of nominees for Audie Awards for unabridged fiction and had to give it a try. Once I started listening I was hooked by the story of the Battle for Stalingrad during WWII. If you saw the recent film "Enemy at the Gates" you will be familiar with the real characters on which this novel is based. . Actor George Guidall does his usual masterful job narrating an action-thriller about a Siberian hunter who becomes a sniper and a Nazi marksman sent to bring him down. It is over 15 hours long and the last tape is an interview with the author which adds immensely to the listener's understanding.

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Recorded Books, 2000).

A time-travel tale in which a twenty-first century Oxford University student is transported back to the same locale in 15th century England at the time of the Black Death. Coincidentally she leaves just as a modern plague strikes Oxford and delays her immediate rescue. The daily life of the characters in Medieval England kept my interest and made me endure the tedious bits about fussy American tourists and academic nincompoops in the chapters based in the present day (or maybe near future, I wasn't sure). Despite a desperate need for editing in this 18 cassette (26.5 hours) novel, I found myself on edge waiting to hear the conclusion. English actress, Jenny Sterlin, is a skillful narrator whose voice is easy on the ears.

Death In Holy Orders by P. D. James (RandomHouse Audiobooks, 2001).

A good friend sent me a short review of a popular new mystery. When Commander Adam Dalgliesh arrives at an East Anglia seminary school to investigate the death of a flamboyant businessman's son, the college is torn apart by a sacrilegious and horrifying murder. James, Britain's "queen of crime" is teamed up with narrator Charles Keating in a 15 hour rendering of a most wonderful mystery. Keating's English accent and delivery make this audiobook come alive every step of the way.

Non-Fiction

The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War by Edward J. Renehan, Jr. (Recorded Books, 2000).

I have been recommending this well-written and entertaining family biography especially to wives who come in looking for something that will appeal to their husbands as well as themselves. When Teddy returns a hero from the Battle of San Juan Hill and then becomes President his three sons grow up feeling that they must live up to his example. When the "Great War" begins it gives them an opportunity to do this with tragic results. The interview with the author at the end adds more inside information from the surviving family members and friends he consulted when writing the book. Narrated by John McDonough, it runs 10.5 hours.

The Prizewinner of Defiance Ohio by Terry Ryan (Simon&Schuster Audio, 2001).

Author Terry Ryan reads this nostalgic memoir of her plucky mother who raised ten children despite an abusive husband who spent much of his paycheck on nightly six-packs and bourbon. The 1950s and 60's were the heyday of contests where the entrant had to complete a jingle or a "why I like brand X" often in 25 words or less. While the author is not a polished audio performer her heartfelt reading adds authenticity to a story that is affectionate and uplifting. Despite being abridged and only 4.5 hours long, this version didn't leave any gaps in the story and I didn't feel I had missed anything important in not hearing the whole thing., which is often the advantage of abridged non-fiction.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.