Electric Review

Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms

Eye On Audio

All reviews written by Editor John Aiello unless otherwise noted.

Books on tape are the only literature some folks know. Urban commuters, busy mothers whose days are filled with kids and housework, those with optical handicaps, and the elderly in hospitals and nursing homes have come to depend on these audio tapes as a means to stay current with the newest fiction and feed their need to read.

Once looked upon as the poor step-sister of the publishing industry by many traditionalists, audio books have come along way during the past decade – with many houses devoting specific editorial resources to maintaining an audio division. Accordingly, presentation has come along way as well — the first-rate narration and digital recording techniques have omitted that funky old tape hiss and created a crystal-clear, high-definition sound.

This was an especially good year for audio books, with some outstanding selections released that should provide hours of enjoyment to readers, who now can investigate these stories while driving, riding the bus, doing the laundry or recuperating in the hospital. Like the advent of the home computer and portable CD player, audio books open the door to a whole new world in the mind of the reader. As these books will attest, the possibilities are indeed limitless.

New Releases from Audio Renaissance

New Releases from Hachette Audio

New Releases from Harper Collins Audio

New Releases from MacMillan Audio

New Releases from Naxos Audio

New Releases from Penguin Audio

New Releases from Random House Audio

New Releases from Simon & Schuster Audio

New Releases from Time Warner Audio

THE FOUNDING FATHERS COLLECTION. James MacGregor Burns; Susan Dunn; John Patrick Diggins; Joyce Appleby; Gary Willis. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Editor. Macmillan Audio. These are political times on a volatile landscape, as the dawning of the second Great Depression threatens not only our lifestyles, but also the futures of untold generations. As you witness this unfold in real time, have you wondered just how we got here (wondering when the nation took its wrong turn?). In this stunning boxed set (which grows from Macmillan’s American Presidents Series), listeners are presented with biographical snapshots of the first four US presidents (George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison). Expertly edited by Arthur Schlesinger, this collection proves both fast-paced and erudite, as listeners are taken on a long and intense journey through the still-beating heart of American history. In sum, The Founding Fathers is perfect enough for the arm-chair historian looking to revisit the settlement of our nation (while still brave enough to march into the territory of academicians and scholars looking to discover buried information on the men who built this country). Segments read by Richard Rohan and Ira Claffey. 20 hours on 20 CDS.

LOOK AGAIN. Lisa Scottoline. Macmillan Audio. Writing a thriller is not as easy as it might initially appear. To the contrary, it takes tremendous command of both story and language to weave random images into taut and soulful characters (building emotion from the spaces between the lines from the silence between the words). In Look Again, Lisa Scottoline presents a true masterpiece of the genre, with Scottoline’s story centered on journalist Ellen Gleeson who fears that the adoption of her son is tainted. Succumbing to her suspicions after she receives a missing-child flyer in the mail, the writer goes in search of the truth about her son’s murky past. Scottoline’s skill as a novelist is undeniable, and she manages to keep the audience on the edge of its collective seat by making us feel every thread of tension – all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘what nows’ extending from character to reader as we come to live their intimate stories. In terms of presentation, the novel is taken to another level by Mary Stuart Masterson’s narration, the long-time actress using her amazing tonal command to elevate the audio to a ‘one-night-only’ stage performance: The cadence of Masterson’s voice melting into the layers of Scottoline’s prose, resurrecting the words with the energies of some hidden dimension.

LOVE LETTERS OF GREAT MEN. Edited by Ursula Doyle. Macmillan Audio. Get a head start on Valentines Day shopping with this audio that collects romantic missives from some of history’s most notable men. Inspired by the Sex In The City film, Love Letters builds from the private papers of the likes of Beethoven, Mozart, Mark Twain and Lord Byron. This collection just released from Macmillan Audio illuminates their passion and pain in an ever-so poignant voice, proving that love is most certainly the universal language of the people. Read by Shakespearean veteran Anton Lesser, whose every breath roars with secret poetry, thus inspiring a multitude of generations to revisit their own tender selves. 3 hours on 3 CDS

TOM CRUISE. AN UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY. Andrew Morton. Macmillan Audio. Tom Cruise is still a big-ticket item in Hollywood, as both producers and film-fans flock to one of the screen’s modern-era golden boys. In this engrossing and highly detailed book, veteran biographer Andrew Morton takes a serious look at one of the biggest entertainers in the world – writing through everything from Cruise’s troubled childhood to his romantic interests, writing through everything from his major movies to his controversial pursuit of the doctrines of Scientology. In terms of style, Morton is a master who knows how to grip his audience’s attention and not let go (his mission here to educate as he titillates – this salaciously introspective portrait of one of the most interesting actors at work today). Basically, Cruise is worth our time because he takes on difficult roles rather than sleep-walking through easy formulaic gigs for a paycheck. In turn, Morton’s biography examines the actor’s career from all perspectives (this unauthorized form allowing the voice of the reporter to guide the secret story-lines). Listeners will delight in John Hinch’s reading, as he comes to wade hip-deep in the story while commanding our full attention with a deep cool Shakespearean presence. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

PLUM LUCKY. Janet Evanovich. Macmillan Audio. New fiction is a tough sell – there is so much published and so little of it is original that novelists often try and over-sell their fare (over-writing their books into stories that aspire to be taut while falling helplessly limp). However, here, Evanovich, a veteran of the top-seller lists, has written a book that is at once bawdy and fun, this effortless exploration into the wild-side of human-kind. In Plum Lucky, we run hand-in-hand with Stephanie Plum, an almost archetypal character who has been grafted from many different kinds of women and many different eras in order to create a truly unique face. In the story, Stephanie’s out to connect with her dream man in ways both physical and mental. But she doesn’t get the prize until she earns it (as this bag of stolen money threatens to stop her before she really get rolling). Evanovich is a brilliant novelist whose greatest skill comes in being able to compel her audience to want to read on (accomplishing her mission through a combination of character development and crisp pacing – two attributes which shine brightly in Plum Lucky). Read by Lorelei King in a soaring voice that captures the drama and deep nuance of the story perfectly. Over 3 hours on 3 CDS.

EMMA. JANE AUSTEN. Naxos Audio Books. Emma is one of Jane Austen most filmic characters – an arrogant and electrically-charged woman of great balance and intricate disposition who proves the perfect vehicle for Austen’s lithe and limber prose. Here, in Emma, we have every son-in-law’s nightmare: Brash and brimming with arrogance, Emma’s ultimate mission is to make everything right, since she is really the only really who knows how it should be done. In this story, Emma is revealed as the consummate ‘busy-body’ stuffing her nose into the belly of everybody’s business (playing the matchmaker in an effort to help plain Miss Harriet Smith make her mark on life and that ‘higher society’). And as Emma seeks to correct her own shortcomings through humble Miss Harriet, we are taken on a compelling journey of great introspection (learning that any road that causes you to lie to yourself about who you are is truly the greatest travesty any man can commit against the world). Read by veteran Thespian Juliet Stevenson, whose voice rises and throbs and trembles at all the right moments – this performance akin to watching a ‘one-woman show’ on an intimate stage in your own home. 16 hours on 13 CDS.

STORIES FROM SHAKESPEARE. Volumes 1 and 2. David Timson. Naxos Audio Books. The works of Shakespeare are central to any student’s understanding of literature, poetics and drama. In turn, these two volumes provide a wonderful introduction to the genius of the old bard, offering a fun and creative way for instructors and parents to expose the intimidated to the brilliant essence of William Shakespeare. Volume One contains analysis of 10 if Shakespeare’s best plays, including “Hamlet,” “King Lear,” “Macbeth” and “Othello.” In these selections, Timson does an exemplary job at paring down the plots of these complex dramas into bite-size chunks, introducing listeners to key characters and legendary lines. Volume Two features 8 plays, including the “Merchant of Venice,”  “Julius Caesar” and “Richard II,” this volume specifically geared to giving young readers a leg up on developing a practical understanding of the greatest theatrical writer ever to have lived. Read by Juliet Stevenson, Alex Jennings and Michael Sheen, whose mastery of the material makes this lesson in literature both educational and compelling. Total running of volumes 1 and 2: Nearly 8 hours on 6 CDS.

THE BUDDHA’S NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH. An Introduction. Urgyen Sangharakshita. Naxos Audio Books. The “Eightfold Path” serves as the cornerstone of Buddhist teaching, a series of lectures meant to help students form a foundational understanding which will naturally lead them into deeper study. The “Eightfold Path” is truly one of the oldest of the Buddha’s discourses, blending the wisdom of his order with practical tips on reaching a higher stage of enlightenment. In turn, this guidebook allows seekers to reach a greater understanding of both the self and the infinite. Basically, the Eastern teachings are premised on the idea of the self and on the realization that all life is intertwined and interconnected, part and parcel of a higher realm through which we finally discover our true place in the universe. Eightfold Path by Urgyen Sangharakshita works to synthesize each of these ideas into accessible segments so that novice readers can slowly begin to grasp them. This text is noted for its clarity and for its careful organization, one idea building onto the next now giving rise to the full scope of the Buddha’s sacred discourse. Moreover, the reading that Kulananda (Western Buddhist Order) gives this material is amazing, his voice an actual component of the words and the message, his presence an intangible extension of the path on which we are about to embark. Nearly 6 hours on 5 CDS.

KAFKA ON THE SHORE. Haruki Murakami. Naxos Audio Books. Kafka On The Shore is a classic audio book: A multidimensional story of depth and grandeur that sweeps the mind to untold landscapes sweeping us across the hidden corners of the human consciousness (while our journey is enlivened by the delicate reading of the text by an array of voices that bend and twist its characters into tangible form). Murakami’s story, itself, is premised on motion, on movement, on ‘journey.’ In one plot segment, a youngster named Kafka leaves home on a quest to outrun an army of internal demons. As the pages turn into the next panel of faces, we are introduced to Nakata – this guide to the lost animals whose life is a perpetual odyssey across the half-carved fields of Japan. Suddenly, these two individuals in two individual stories have melted away skin and bone and entered the realms of the same reality in the very same world. The audience will sit spellbound. However, as mystical and captivating as these intersecting lives are, they are taken to a higher level by Murakami’s writing: The delicate hooves of prose so softly hushed build into a grand and epic poem in the spirit of the great Basho (a mission to take the ordinary moments of the eye and squeeze meaning from seemingly inconsequential morsels of existence). In turn, Murakami is able to take up where all his literary mentors and predecessors left off, leading Kafka’s characters through the ordinary curves of life and unto the heavenly threshold of the light. The book is read by Sean Barrett and Oliver le Sueur (along with Georgina Sutton, Gordon Griffin, Bob Rollett and Daniel Philpott) – and their performances shine, elevating the book to a new place. Simply, what makes the audio form of this book worth the investment of time is the way it plays: Like listening to a theater production within the intimate walls of your own home, the voices of the characters are given blood and breath through the sweetness of the narration. In the end, this is why the human spirit comes to crave a relationship with literature: It allows our stories to merge and melt with some author’s story in the far-away lands of imagination. And it allows each of us, then, in our own personal ways, to pursue the reasons behind the questions of this earthly journey. 19 Hours on 15 CDS.

THE WAY OF ZEN. Alan W. Watts. Audio Renaissance. This book by Theologian Alan Watts was a vital addition to the annals of our literature, bringing the core of Eastern philosophy to the greater Western world. Watts’ way of thinking was predicated on integrating the depth of life into every breath that we take (a discipline now considered to be Zen or Buddhist). According to Watts (who died in 1973), one cannot reach enlightenment until he lets go of the conscious mind and gives into complete blankness – or no thought. To this end, Way of Zen delineates the whole of the path, discussing the basic history, premise and principles of the Zen practice before sinking into an in-depth discussion of its two most important components: The Koran and meditation. As we move through this selection and begin to absorb some of these ancient principles, we come to understand that the cornerstone of the Zen Wayis achieved through a total mind cleansing (and this, in turn, is only achieved through the solitary ceremony of meditation). The Way of Zen (similar to Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums and Gary Snyder’s The Old Ways) brings a glimpse of God through the wonderful whirling wheels of word intersecting idea. Masterfully read by Ray Blum. Three hours abridged on 3 CDS.

CUT THE FAT AND GET FIT TO LIVE. Pamela Peeke. Audio Renaissance. Pamela Peeke, who is a noted author and physician dedicated to helping people discover healthier lifestyles, has written this book as a means to help readers find the point where they can effectively learn to control their weight. Simply, most people begin any given New Year with resolutions about kicking off extra pounds and feeling better. But in reality, this is much easier said than done. In reality, dropping weight and keeping it off is a monumental undertaking that requires careful preparation and supreme dedication. In Cut the Fat, Peeke helps readers to see how unhealthy eating habits can increase stress levels while compromising the cardiovascular system – causing a loss of mental acuity and an over-all decrease in the quality of life. However, the story is hardly all bleak, as Peeke offers an answer to the problem, setting forth a five-point plan that promotes diet and exercise regimens while teaching the individual that the ability to control that waist-line comes by-way of a combination of knowledge and commitment: It’s about knowing the right things to eat and then being disciplined enough to stay on course for the long-term. As Peeke instructs, the key is in knowing what to do and in knowing what to expect as you embark on a journey that can’t ever end, but instead, must begin anew each day. Read by the author in a steady voice that blends empathy with a clearly defined plan of attack. 4 hours on 3 CDS.

THE EYE OF THE WORLD. Robert Jordan. Audio Renaissance. Eye Of the World is an adventurous ride. This is a cartoon and fable and mysterious drama all rolled into one epic and sprawling fantasy story – the terrain ripe with monsters and young souls unaware of what lurks behind the next wall of shadows. On these roads of cast offs and beautiful demons, the past melds with the present to create a timeless and seamless pure world. Faces are un-named. Hearts go unclaimed. Like we did via the “Road Warrior” series, we are moving into a place we don’t know or understand. Masterfully read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer. 31 hours on 25 CDS.

TEN BIG ONES. Janet Evanovich. Audio Renaissance. Ten Big Ones is a fun one to listen to – this is the kind of fast-paced story that draws readers to crime-fiction, providing the kind of high we got as kids when the newHardy Boys hit the library shelf. In Ten, we’re presented with Stephanie Plum, a lovable on-the-edge woman caught in the dirty crime-sick streets of the American Nightmare. Plum is a loner who drives fast and dashes about (mostly in painful circles), looking to make sense of a story that has gone mad. And then, in the midst of hunting down a killer called Junkman, she comes to find herself. A fun book that ends up teaching us about ourselves. Read by Lorelei King; crime writer Evanovich is also interviewed. 8.5 hours on 7 CDS.

A wild and thrilling story.

Simon & Schuster Audio

FAIR GAME. MY LIFE AS A SPY, MY BETRAYAL BY THE WHITE HOUSE.  Valerie Plame Wilson. Simon and Schuster Audio.  In the months following the United States invasion of Iraq, a story by Robert Novak made public the information that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife was a covert CIA agent. In hindsight, this one of the biggest stories to grow from the Iraq controversy and its disclosure led to the trial and subsequent conviction of Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby. Like the Richard Nixon fiasco of the 1970s, this story reveals much about the inner-workings of our government (shedding light on its many hidden layers and on its secret cadre of information-gatherers). Going further, Fair Game forces us to ask ourselves what we would do if confronted with this kind of challenge: Would you resign? Or ask for reassignment? How would you deal with the media that must know and tell all? As a testament to her strength, Wilson remained in the CIA until her eventual retirement in 2006. And through all the innuendo and the endless articles that destroyed the mirage of a private life, Wilson maintained a true professional stance (until publication of this book allowed her to recount her experiences and bring the record her delicate first-person perspective). This audio is truly an enlightening read, as Wilson documents the difficult assignment that any government-employee must meet – namely, being able to balance the needs of the country with a personal life and individual goals. Read by the author whose voice resonates with honesty and conviction: Like a witness on the stand testifying to herself, Wilson comes to measure every word – persevering to tell a story that we all thought we knew (but didn’t). In 6 CDS.

YOU: ON A WALK. Michael F. Roizen. Mehmet C. Oz. Simon and Shuster Audio. This is one cool premise for a health book – this audio that promotes exercise by enticing its audience with music. The simple idea here is to help dieters to want to exercise by putting them in the mood for movement. And what better way to draw a body from its chair then to call it forward with a song? Here, Roizen and Oz (who also wrote the You: On a Diet manual) reiterate the fact that no one keeps off the pounds unless they compliment their dietary plan with a complete exercise regimen. In turn, this audio presents two thirty-minute walks, one at slow pace and one at a faster rhythm. In the midst of the programs, the authors voices are heard via passages that outline the reasons why it is important to walk, in addition to offering quick-hitting tips for proper healthcare. What is best about this audio is that it serves as a great motivational tool, urging folks to get off their duffs and take to the sidewalk for a brisk walk. Moreover, the music-based component of the book makes every step of the journey fun (like aerobic dance studios do for the younger crowd). However, You: On A Walk has a much greater purpose: To acquaint people with the idea of exercise so that it becomes a habit and not just some passing fancy. Read by the authors, who become coaches in this environment, gently prodding you towards the finish line. 2.5 hours on 2 CDS.

BEYOND THE WHITE HOUSE. Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope.  Jimmy Carter. Simon and Schuster Audio. When he was in the White House, and in those years immediately following his tenure as president, Jimmy Carter took a hell-of-a-lot of flak as critics questioned his resolve and decision making skills under pressure. But now, looking at Carter’s stint in the White House in retrospect, we come to see what a solid leader he was – commanding the country in a human and humble way (leading by example). And today, as the country languishes in an embarrassing and pointless war, Carter’s image still seems to give us a faint ray of hope – perhaps there is someone out there who might clean up this ugly mess without igniting more fire. In this audio, Carter shows his followers what his presidency was all about, namely the furtherance of the world populous and the eradication of suffering. In his post-presidency life, Carter has dedicated himself to the same ideals that brought him to the White House (forming the The Carter Center with his wife Rosalynn). The Carter Center’s mission is truly based in the idea of people as it works to blot out disease and bring peace to regions locked in tumult. And the Center’s guiding force is none other than Jimmy Carter, whose whole persona remains steeped in the idea of growth through a peaceful path. Beyond the White House tells the Carter story of the last three decades in personal and graceful terms, offering readers an alternative look at reality as we try to transcend the pain and suffering of the post-year-2000 world. Read by Jimmy Carter himself, whose stark, noble and direct delivery recalls each of his “State of the Union” addresses: Somewhat hushed in tone, but still so very self-assured, bringing us back to our collective human core. 6 hours on 6 CDS.

Other books by Jimmy Carter on audio

SUNDAY MORNINGS IN PLAINS.  Measuring our Success. Bible Study with Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter. Simon and Schuster Audio. I don’t think it’s possible for a leader to guide a country without having a deeply faithful core, without believing in the hand of some higher force. And Jimmy Carter remains a living example of such faith and unwavering belief – this man who has a taught bible school for decades in an attempt to spread his message to young and searching minds. Sunday Mornings in Plains records 5 bible classes Carter taught in 2003 on the Book of Mark (linking the teachings of Jesus to our present-day paths). Deeply moving and over-flowing with passion, Sunday Mornings in Plains reads not so much as a ‘religious book’ but as an eternal message to the hearts of the world; and that message?: Never lose sight of your true purpose and your true place in these vast realms of the holy. 4 hours on 5 CDS.

THE HORNET’S NEST. Jimmy Carter. Simon and Schuster Audio. Hornet’s Nest is billed as a novel of the revolutionary war, and it serves as the first work of fiction by a U.S. President ever to be published. In the book, Carter commits his interest in the American South and the War of Independence to the printed page by-way of a supple and sure fictional face (as Ethan Pratt, whose voice tells the story, becomes Carter’s archetype now come alive in these worn-torn times amid the South’s fight for independence). Although this is a work of fiction, astute readers will nonetheless find bits and pieces of Carter here – his unique voice half curdled with mercy rising with empathy for both sides of the battle. Read by Edward Herrmann, whose delivery brings the story’s deep drama an ever-lasting life. Nearly 6 hours on  5 CDS.

TRANSFORMATION: The Next Step to the No Limit Person. Dr. Wayne Dyer. Simon and Schuster Audio. Dr. Dyer is a writer who has dedicated his life and life’s work to helping people develop their minds and sharpen their awareness. In sum, this book does a splendid job at conveying the foundations of Eastern thought as it synthesizes them into a tidy roadmap meant to encourage us to seek a true sense of the self. Here, Dr. Dyer sets his readers on a path to blend thought with desire and desire with reality in order to build a better life. Sadly, many of us lack the proper motivation to make our days better. It is not that we are lazy; a better description of the phenomenon would be to say that we are misdirected. Accordingly, Transformation is about self-realization of dreams and the actualization of the self – -a how-to-book that teaches us ways to shed negative preoccupations. Simply, most people fail because they are programmed to fail. Instead of giving into these destructive patterns, Dr. Dyer shows us that before we ever can succeed at living we must first give into ourselves and our personalities (rather than hiding behind so many vacant masks). Dr. Dyer’s treatise is notable because of its practicality and because it does not wallow in ‘life-is-grand’ platitudes, but instead, preaches a merging of the individual with reality as we learn to come to terms with who we are and what we want out of our collective existence. Read by the author, whose voice rings with authority and compels the attention of the listener – his message too important to ignore. On 5 CDS.

HOW TO BE A NO-LMIT PERSON. Dr. Wayne Dyer. Simon and Schuster Audio.  Also from Wayne Dyer, this selection augments Transformation and continues his message of motivation and self-awareness — instructing his readers that everything is possible and every dream attainable (if you allow your attitude to open the doors to so many invisible mansions). If you step back and look around, you will see that the most successful people mix determination with creativity and creativity with bull-headed imagination, confident in their place astride the world. Here, Dr. Dyer stresses that happy, self-fulfilled people are in control of their minds, their relationships, and their lives. Instead of reacting with seat-of-the-pants decisions, successful people remain proactive and direct in their thinking – taking time by the throat and refusing to let go. Also read by author, whose steady cadence and sure tone drive each subtle point home. On 4 CDS.

YOU ON A DIET. The Owner’s Manual For Waist Management. Michael F. Roizen. Mehmet C. Oz. Simon and Schuster Audio. Advances in science during the last 30 years have taught us how important the things we eat are to our long-term health. Specifically, it has been proven by a variety of studies that there is a direct correlation between obesity and afflictions such as diabetes and coronary artery disease. Accordingly, both the healthcare community and the general populous are searching for ways to better control weight. In this direct and practical manual, doctors Roizen and Oz have authored a vital source of information premised on teaching readers how to safely strip weight off their bodies. Probably the most notable aspect of this selection is that it is steeped in the free exchange of information, a book that teaches people that it is indeed possible to lose weight – if they will only remain committed to exercise and proper doctrines of nutrition. According to doctors Roizen and Oz, a person cannot be expected to lose those extra pounds until they realize what is happening inside their bodies. And this includes understanding how the human metabolic system works in storing fat and burning off calories. Easier said then done you say. Yet, Roizen and Oz give us a fighting chance here, creating a book that outlines techniques for a proper diet in relation to an activity/exercise plan. The lesson for would-be dieters is that losing weight comes down not only to what you eat but also to what you do. Moreover, the process must evolve safely and with the long-term health of the body in mind (a fact the authors are careful to speak to). Read by Roizen and Oz in a gentle and conversational tone that brings the bedside manner of Marcus Welby to the audio-books stage. 5 hours on 5 CDS.

STATE OF DENIAL: BUSH AT WAR –PART III. Bob Woodward. Simon and Schuster Audio. Bob Woodward (Assistant Managing Editor of the Washington Post) is truly the journalist’s journalist – -a reporter with the guts to buck the big boys on Capitol Hill in honor of the public’s right to know. Oft times, his job is not easy as he strives to paint a picture the government and its myriad administrations might not want us to see. And going still further, this might be Woodward’s boldest work yet: In State of Denial, Woodward dissects the faces of the Bush Administration as they attempt to stabilize the war in Iraq now churning into its 4th year. Just like with the Vietnam War, many questions linger in the minds of Americans: Did Bush mislead the American people in order to invade a country that has seemingly been in his sights since he took office? Where are those weapons of mass destruction? Did Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld really believe these weapons existed and that they could threaten a super-power such as the United States? And do they still believe any of it now, after years of searching have yielded no hard evidence to support their original claims? And was this war truly necessary given the number of lives lost given the destruction of a region that will take at least a century to rebuild? As Woodward examines the details of the Iraq war, he pulls no punches; instead, he’s hunting for answers amid the chaos and rubble that has defined so much of this administration. Instead, Woodward is looking at the bigger picture, trying to discern if this war is even winnable, trying to assess if there is going to be anything left of the Middle East once the fighting stops (the story-line all the more piercing in light of the late President Ford’s comments on Bush and Iraq now in circulation). In addition to this being a brilliant reportage, State of Denial brims with confidence and a certainty of purpose: The reporter on a mission to illuminate life-and-death events that pertain to world peace, the reporter on a mission to bring information to the public (even though at times it’s a story that is not always easy to tell). Read by actor Boyd Gaines, whose performance echoes the work of Woodward – rich and broad in scope, immersing us in the dark cold desperate lines of our lives. 7 hours on 6 CDS.

Of Related Interest

DESTINED FOR DESTINY. The Unauthorized Biography of George W. Bush. From the creators of Weeklyradioaddress.com. Simon and Schuster Audio. The antithesis to Bob Woodward’s incisive examination of the War in IraqDestined For Destiny looks at the human side of George Bush – looking to humanize a president who has been at the center of the storm ever since the attacks on the World Trade Center took place on September 11, 2001. In this book, Bush is captured in a less formal guise, as we are offered this rare chance to gain insight into the man in the oval-office. Destined For Destiny is a story of politics and American history told by a man who has premised his life on a deep and unabridged faith in God and his word. Accordingly, Destined For Destiny gives us an intimate glimpse into George Bush through Bush’s voice, detailing how he was able to climb from the oil fields of Texas to the seat of most powerful office in the world. If you are wondering just what drives a man to invite the hopes and needs of the citizenry to ride his shoulders, then search out this book: Not only does it tell the tale of George W. Bush, it also serves to deconstruct his persona, in turn humanizing every man who has walked among us as President. This recording was produced and directed by Scott Dikkers and Peter Hollered – two veteran journalists who know Bush and the things that drive him. Consequently, they have been able to create an accurate portrait of the man through his perceptions and memories and observations. The result is an autobiography of a president delivered to us while he is still in office and carving out his place across these vast gray walls of history. Fans and detractors alike can’t help but be enlightened. 5 hours on 5 CDS.

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. Ernest Hemingway. Simon and Schuster Audio. Papa Hemingway was one of the greatest novelists ever to live – a writer with a penchant for capturing the human condition at its most barren and profound. In addition to his captivating stories, what is best about the Hemingway style is the way he used short bursts of language to chisel into the reader’s consciousness, compelling us to devour the characters. Hemingway was a true master at creating a relationship with his audience that drove it back to his stories – these novels actual mirrors of reality which spoke to our collective (and humble) existence. In this book, Hemingway acts as a journalist reporting on the Spanish Civil War. His protagonist, Richard Jordan, is the very real archetype of the maverick novelist who lived the edge that finally led him to death. Jordan’s tale is universal in scope and it speaks to the solitary demons soldiers on every war-torn landscape must eventually battle against. Hemingway’s prose here is other worldly, framing pieces of the subconscious in words, giving faces to all those wayward ghosts who stalk the pictures of the living and the dead.Ultimately, this is a story about the timeless and internal conflicts all of us endure when bravery wages war against fear (the lost and wounded men at the four corners of the earth trying to find their place in the world). This audio version of the story is read by Campbell Scott (both an actor and director), and his work captivates the audience. Scott’s performance turns the story into a great theater performance, calling to mind the voice of radio plays from the bygone days of the 1940s. 18 hours on 16 CDS.

Of Related Interest

A FAREWELL TO ARMS. Ernest Hemingway. Simon and Schuster Audio. This is Hemingway’s other great war book, a story of love and loss during the kinetic days of World War One. Arms is notable in the Hemingway canon not only for the grand sweep of the story, but also because its creator was only 30 when he put it down on paper. It is amazing to think that a young man could develop a tale of this depth and breadth, the emotional turmoil reeking through the words and enveloping the very taste of our blood. Stage-veteran John Slattery does the narration, and listeners will be struck by his vocal range which works to reinvent the passion and pain of Hemingway’s book, each breath boring its way into the hearts of the characters. At times, this does not sound like Slattery, but instead, echoes the ghost of Papa speaking through his immortal Henry and Catherine. Chilling and raw and vital, Slattery’s performance takes a classic and polishes it into a brand new book. 9 hours on 8 CDS.

GUESTS OF THE AYATOLLAH. Mark Bowden. Simon and Schuster Audio. Sadly, recent events in the world has made the Iran Hostage Crisis a mere footnote to our vast history – a dark moment at the brink of a distant past which once put America on the edge of its collective chair. However, it should not be forgotten that the seed for 9-11 and the present terrorist movement against the United States was actually planted in this violent event that saw 52 Americans kidnapped and held captive for nearly 15 months. In Guests of Ayatollah, Bowden does a masterful job at recreating the crisis that closed out the 1970s. Bowden does a deft job at juxtaposing the perspectives of the hostages with the eyes of the terrorists to build this mini-movie on paper. Readers will be struck by the way that Bowden sets the political stage and then dissects it in order to show how and why the crisis in Tehran was born. Read by the author, whose erudite voice and well-paced delivery rise with a delicate mix of passion, fear and suspense. Even though the hostage crisis has been hidden away in musty drawers of time, its impact on today’s landscape deserves not be underestimated. 10 hours on 8 CDS.

Random House Audio

THE ESSENTIAL BARACK OBAMA. Featuring Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Barack Obama. Random House Audio. This recording collects the Grammy-award-winning audios that allowed Americans a first glimpse into the depth of Senator Barack Obama. Obama, who is currently locked in a mad scramble with Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Nomination, has quite an interesting history to look back on – his path to the White House forged ‘against all odds.’ In Dreams From My Father, readers are introduced to Obama the man as he learns to come to terms with his father’s tragic death amid the challenges of growing up black in a country still very much divided by racial prejudices and vast inequalities. Later, in Audacity of Hope, we meet Obama the politician – the Senator on a quest to rise above partisan politics as he sets out to lead with integrity and intelligence. Streaked with sweet intimacy and humor, Audacity of Hope paints the picture of a proud man who remains committed to both family and the ‘greater good’ (this man dedicated to bringing the idea of equality to the old-boys network that is Washington politics). Read by the author, whose voice rises with the rhythm and precision of a stringed instrument – these personal conversations with this unique and unconventional candidate now at the center of the Presidential stage during the most tumultuous time in world history. 14 hours on 11 CDS.

BUILDING BETTER FAMILIES. Matthew Kelly. Random House Audio. Author Matthew Kelly is known for writing books that are both candid and insightful, his prose sharp and crisp and accessible to a wide-range of readers who come to him to learn how to enrich their lives. In this work, Kelly focuses his attention on the concept of  family focusing on ways for parents and children to unite to build stronger family units. Building Better Families is quite an important book, especially during these times, when everything is so fragmented – the culture a by-product of myriad technologies that have speeded up the pace of life to near-impossible levels. Here, Kelly takes an in depth look at the state of the American family and then offers salient advice on what we can do to make our collective home-bases stronger. According to the author, before we can ever begin to strengthen our familial units, we must first disavow the expectation of what a family ‘should be’ (this done in favor of accepting ourselves and who our parents and children and siblings are). At this point, we finally begin to enjoy an honest exchange of emotion (in turn offering our children the foundational platform from which they can seek deep personal fulfillment). Building Better Families covers a wide-range of  core-topics, including compelling passages on how to teach children to cope with ever-evolving expectations regarding body-image and money. Read by the author in an authoritative voice that immediately commands the reader’s attention and never relinquishes it. 5 hours on 4 CDS.

SELECTIONS FROM DREAM SONGS 2. George R.R. Martin. Random House Audio. Martin is the consummate practitioner of fantasy literature whose imaginative flair drives readers to reconnect with their own creative eyes as they become the centerpiece of the story he’s telling. In Dream Songs 2, we get a rare glimpse into Martin’s short works as this two-volume set presents many of his early foundational works that show the growth of a young writer. What’s best about this collection is that it shows the many voices that make up the work of George Martin – the many different styles and mediums represented here document the life of a writer in motion now reaching out to capture the moment. Accordingly, readers will find Martin’s imagery all-consuming as he comes to twist his unique prose-line into the sweet delicate rhythm of poetry. Standout pieces include the brilliant and evocative “The Skin Trade,” in addition to the flagship novella from the Ice and Fire series, “The Hedge Knight.” Read by various readers. 17 hours on 14 CDS.

GIVING. BILL CLINTON. Random House Audio. Bill Clinton was one of the most popular American presidents to ever walk the White House – noted for his depth of humanity and dedication to his people. In this book, Clinton shows readers that this public image was not mere ‘media spin,’ but instead, a peek into his real-life skin. In Giving, Clinton goes back to the people, setting out to show that each of us is important and each can make a difference in the quest to improve the world. Obviously, there will be nay-sayers out there who will scream “Bull—-!” as they throw up arms in protest. But those folks will have missed the point entirely. Here, Clinton has drafted a text that is ultimately about the concept of community and selflessness – the lesson here that if each entity and each individual is willing to give up something to someone less fortunate the course of the world can indeed be altered. As Clinton shows us, it’s not just about giving money – even if you’re not rich you can still make an impact by giving time, compassion or a gift of your skill. The idea here is to rebuild the torn shadows of the world by a collective community effort – as people in all walks of life come together to soothe those in need. Giving is quite a bold book and it makes quite a remarkable statement about the state of the world and its many sub-cultures. In this age of George W. Bush and the War on Iraq, it attempts to return a country from the brink of apathy and callousness. Read by Clinton himself, whose steady cadence recalls his best moments as president – calm and self-assured, the captain returns to the helm to steer the ship back on course. 6 Hours on 5 CDS.

LOOK ME IN THE EYE. My Life with Asperger’s. John Elder Robinson. Random House Audio. This is one damn gutsy book – I mean, it takes a hell-of-a lot of guts to go public with a medical condition that for years was stigmatized by our collective ignorance. However, John Robinson does just that with Look Me in the Eye, sharing with readers his battle and ultimate triumph over a syndrome that causes behavior patterns to run contrary to societal norms. The real contradiction of an Asperger’s diagnosis is that those afflicted are often brilliant and gifted individuals able to master complicated engineering and technological challenges. In this memoir, Robinson takes on the idea of Asperger’s and dismantles our misconceptions about this form of autism that causes gifted people to at times appear incoherent and maladjusted. As Robinson tells his story, readers are given a blunt lesson – don’t be so quick to judge that kid who appears a bit off kilter. Instead, take the extra time and go the extra mile and strive to unlock what might be happening in his or her brain. Unfortunately, when Robinson was growing up, the scientific knowledge about Asperger’s just wasn’t there. Consequently, he was called “defective” and made to see himself as a social outcast. It wasn’t until his forties that he encountered a therapist astute enough to dissect his problems and give him answers to deep questions that had plagued his every step. In Look Me in the Eye, readers are presented with an inspirational story that also offers us a lesson about perceptions and culture and the social ‘box’ each of us fits into. To reiterate, those different children aren’t all that different – what they need is an extra moment of understanding and the freedom to act as individuals rather than clones. And what they need is to be given careful counsel from trained professionals until they are able to find a comfortable platform from which to grow. Look Me in the Eye documents the fact that Asperger’s kids can indeed excel and make meaningful contributions if we encourage and nurture them. Read by the author, whose narration ripples with humor and hopefulness – a human rendering of a deeply personal story. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

ALICE COOPER, GOLF MONSTER. A Rock ‘n’ Roller’s 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict. Alice Cooper. With Keith and Kent Zimmerman. Random House Audio. Even though the premise of this book centers on the game of golf, it is about so much more — the underlying theme one of redemption and perseverance, one of triumph over addiction. Many rock fans still perceive Alice Cooper to be the anything-goes-stage-maniac who seeks to breathe fire into the heart of his shows. Moreover, as many surmised, Cooper was once a hard and heavy drinker who lived on the edge and fought his demons hourly. Thus, it is quite a surprise that he’s still around making music. In addition, the reason he’s made is also wrapped in surprise: Believe it or not, Cooper owes his ability to kick his booze habit to golf. Cooper literally became addicted to the sport after a friend dragged him to the course as a means to pull him away from liquor for a day. Miraculously, that was all he needed, as that one day hooked the singer on a sport that he would play daily (later becoming a viable Prop Am competitor). Interspersed with details of Cooper’s journey into the world of golf are very real passages that speak to a partial life lost in whisky and rock ‘n’ roll (culminating in a stint in a sanitarium in a last-ditch effort to separate himself from alcohol). Co-written with the Zimmerman brothers (whose past work includes the definitive chronicle of the Sex Pistols). Read by the author, whose natural stage presence brings us to the threshold of a private theater where he performs in a private concert for this audience of one. 4 hours on 4 CDS.

FDR. Jean Edward Smith. Random House Audio. Some 6 decades after the fact, so many Americans still yearn to reconnect with the FDR presidency. Looking back, the reasons for this are obvious: Simply, FDR’s tenure in the White House was the metaphor for hope and belief and the promise of the future. Simply, it was a time when Americans felt that rejuvenation was indeed possible (even as they languished in the midst of a war). In this audio, Smith (one of the most accomplished biographers in practice today) takes us on a magnificent journey through the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Accordingly, the whole story is here – as readers move from details of FDR’s personal battles to his assault on national politics (as we bear witness to one man’s transformation from president to American savior). What’s best about Smith’s treatise is that he doesn’t run from the dark points of the story, nor does he avoid shedding light on FDR’s initial failures. Instead, Smith sketches a portrait of the whole man as a means to show readers just how huge FDR’s accomplishments really were. In essence, Roosevelt took a county from the brink of disaster and rendered it powerful and meaningful and proud once again, giving it this ‘super-power’ status that it would never again relinquish. Read by veteran actor Richard McGonagle (“Six Feet Under”) whose voice rises with grandeur and drama, capturing us at the depth of the core. Nearly 11 hours on 8 CDS.

WISDOM OF OUR FATHERS. Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons. Tim Russert. Random House Audio. As we get ready for another Father’s Day, this selection by Tim Russert (Managing Editor for Meet the Press) will increase the depth of awareness of the child-parent bond for both kids and their dads. In this era, with a large segment of the world ravaged by war, it has become increasingly important for fathers, sons and daughters to reconnect on both spiritual and emotional levels. Here, Russert presents a record of kids talking to their fathers, sharing their wounds and triumphs and failures, sharing bits and pieces of their hopes and fears. In this book, fathers of all ages can learn about their kids and what makes them tick, learning what kids want and need and expect from their dads. In sum, Russert’s book serves to educate us, asserting that the most important thing we can ever give our children is the gift of time – rather than heaps of material things, give them your hearts and ears and listen to the things they are telling you, since it’s these seemingly tiny moments that will stay with them forever. Read by the author, whose delivery compels our absolute attention: Russert’s voice, at once poignant and soft-swirled, encased in echo and splintered with passion, shows his readers that the role of the father entails so much more than we might realize. 5 hours on 4 CDS.

THE MAN OF MY DREAMS. Curtis Sittenfeld. Random House Audio. We all think about it – how and where do we find that ‘perfect someone’ who will share our souls and support our lives? And where do we find that perfect alter-ego who’ll grow old in our arms and feed our needs? In this fine story by Curtis Sittenfeld (“Prep”), we come to examine the secret forces that drive young women on their search for self-actualization. The story’s protagonist, Hannah Gavener, is a well-tailored mirror-image of the 21st woman – Gavener at once painfully sensitive and prematurely hardened, battling invisible demons, looking to reconnect with herself on a true spiritual level. What’s best about Sittenfeld’s work is found in her ability to deliver a story in sharp lines, cutting to the core of the conscience, revealing the hearts of her readers in timeless universal truths about the human condition. Like all creatures, Hannah Gavener has inherited both the flaws and perfections of her parents, and she is haunted by these traits as she moves from innocence into adulthood. In turn, Gavener’s adult relationships are byproducts of her childhood and the things she experienced as a young girl – the lesson here is to teach parents that those arguments and stormy marriages are indeed toxic to children, carrying the power to affect their footsteps forever. Man of My Dreams is a gripping novel full of depth and sensitivity, and it will likely appeal to women of all ages for both its honesty and shapely prose. Read by actress Anne Heche, whose waltzing delivery magically propels listeners into the head of a young woman coming of age. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

THE NEW RULES OF MARRIAGE. A Breakthrough Program for 21st Century Relationships. Terrence Real. Random House Audio. The advent of technology (and specifically the home-computer) has not only speeded up the pace of life, it has increased the amount of work we can produce and the amount of responsibility we can shoulder. However, there are also less favorable aspects to the process – namely, our focus on business has made us more detached as a people, devoid of the concepts of community, unable to build meaningful relationships. And unfortunately, this behavior-pattern extends to the idea of marriage as well. Simply, both men and women are becoming increasingly more difficulty to live with – lost in ego, unable to succumb to concepts of compromise. In this important book, Terrence Real (a therapist with over 2 decades of professional experience) focuses on helping women unlock their collective consciousness while learning to inter-relate with both their spouses and themselves. Here, Real teaches his readers to interact with others by practicing intimacy, honesty, diplomacy and tact: The idea is to deepen bonds by communicating and by listening – enjoining souls by embarking on a mutual path. Read by the author, whose voice blooms soft conversational tones, building a true doctor-patient relationship with the listener, soothing his audience as he teaches it new ways to find everlasting love. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

THE RIDE OF OUR LOVES. Roadside Lessons of an American Family. Mike Leonard. Random House Audio. Mike Leonard has what many journalists would consider a dream job – working up features for NBC’s Today. In addition, he seems to have has a deep and meaningful relationship with his parents that any television script writer would envy. In this poignant travelogue-memoir, Leonard chronicles the family reunion of a lifetime: On sabbatical from work, taking to the road in twin RVs with parents and children in tow, the newsman becomes the story as he sets out to rediscover his family and their intimate bond. The Ride of Our Lives is notable not so much for its subject matter (trying to recapture happier times byway of one last family vacation), but because of the way it moves: This story is about rediscovering the self while rediscovering parts of the American way of life, a book that dances and sways as if Kerouac had grown into a dedicated husband and family man – gone back to the road to tame this updated version of the old West. Read by the author, whose experience at the helm of a network news desk is not lost. Here, Leonard is able to grip and compel his listeners with his sweet narration, painting a picture of this trip in our minds that pierces with an indelible eloquence. Five hours on 4 CDS.

A THOUSAND NAMES FOR JOY. Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are. Byron Katie. With Stephen Mitchell. Random House Audio. The mad pace of the 21st-century consumes each of us: Pushing us to do more; pushing us to attain more; drawing us away from ourselves. Given this torrid lifestyle, the idea of happiness seems to be pure illusion. “But not so!” say authors Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell. According to Katie and Mitchell, joy is indeed possible if one remains cognizant of their place within the universe — living within the framework of the world, coexisting with each wall and each crisis and each event (coexisting rather than trying to alter sacred courses of time and nature). Obviously, this tact parallels an Eastern or Buddhist perspective; accordingly, Katie and Mitchell do an outstanding job of distilling complicated aspects of the Tao Te Ching, rendering them understandable to all those reared on the Capitalist manifestos of the Western world. Ultimately, the lesson of A Thousand Names For Joy is that the doubt and angst you are feeling is not new. To the contrary, every human soul on every point of the earth has felt the exact same things you are now feeling. Simply, the key to conquering this dark pain comes by living in balance with events as they occur – a component of the frail reality from which no human eye is detached. Read by the authors in a tone that soothes as it inspires – washing over the mind in a long tranquil swirl. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

LOVE IS A MIX TAPE. Life and Loss, One Song at a Time. Rob Sheffield. Random House Audio. Love is a Mix Tape is a magnificent story with an edgy sensibility as it walks its readers through the landscape of pop music and into one couple’s sweet romance. Here, Sheffield (contributing editor for Rolling Stone Magazine) puts himself at the center of the page and recounts his own story of love – and ultimately, of loss. In the end, this is a gutsy and creative book with many curves to navigate and many peaks to ascend. In Love Is, Sheffield artfully uses the songs from 15 homemade “mixed tapes” to show how the lives of two seemingly incompatible people intersected. Sheffield, a “shy music geek,” met the love of his life (Renee) because of music and their mutual connection to the sounds that would define their culture. Appropriately, Sheffield chooses to use music to chronicle the couple’s life together. Readers will find Sheffield’s approach original and inventive (almost filmic): Placing his life in the context of song, juxtaposing his face with the arcs of a personalized soundtrack as it throbs through the skull of the radio. Rather than search for a plot, the writer instead allows the music to become the plot. Rather than try to figure out just where to place himself within the labyrinth of the narrative, he allows the songs to create a shelter for him at the center of the stage. What is love? Why do people come together? What are we looking for in the eyes of the other? Why do we need the connection? What is community? Why do we need to fit into this intangible beast called society? And where does death take us? And how are we to cope with the memories of those who have left us? Sheffield poses some big questions, and then goes looking for answers in the voices of Elvis and Jagger. Many things can be said about Love Is, but what’s best about this book is that it serves to remind us just how deeply we are shaped by the random art of our era. Beautifully read by the author, whose poignant rendering is able to invoke both smiles and tears as we travel with him across the mixed tapes of our collective lives. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

SHIP OF GHOSTS: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR’s Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of Her Survivors. James D. Hornfischer. Random House Audio. World War II is one of America’s shining moments in history, and some 60-plus years later, it still has the power to capture our full attention. In Ship of Ghosts, James Hornfischer (one of the most versatile and stylistic writers practicing today) has authored a gripping story of the USS Houston – FDR’s prized warship and an early (and still enduring) symbol of his presidency. In the first stage of the war (following Pearl Harbor), The Houston was in the far Pacific, where it fell under the concentrated attacks of the Japanese forces. After multiple hits, The Houston sunk and its survivors were taken hostage. However, the story does not end there; instead,Hornfischer uses these sea-framed battlefields as a springboard allowing him to bring the POW camps and hidden jungles to life (as we come to witness another kind of war being waged). Ship of Ghosts uses journals and letters together with eye-witness accounts as it builds with a great visual power that most war films on million dollar budgets never come close to. Ultimately, Hornfischer presents a gripping story that recreates the desperation and courage and pain of the men who were jailed and left to wonder on the hour when they would die. Throughout, Hornfischer’s language is taut and evocative, his descriptions cut with deep authenticity as we relive these life-and-death struggles of the great American journey. Read by actor Robert Dean, whose style is well-suited for this material: In the end, Dean makes us feel like we are listening to a great radio play that recounts an event that nailed the country to its collective chair. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

THE SOUTH BEACH HEART PROGRAM.The 4-Step Plan That Can Save Your Life. Arthur Agatston. Random House Audio. In this audio, Dr. Agatston (a leading cardiologist from the University of Miami) presents an important addition to consumer-based health literature. In this selection, Agatston tackles a tough subject – heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and it has held this dubious place in history for a long time. Simply, heart attack and stroke are of tremendous concern to scientists in all four corners of the world, as medicine continues to struggle for ways to slow down (if not eradicate) cardiovascular disease (which continues to strike over one million annually in America alone). In South Beach, Agatston presents some very controversial material as he sets forth a radical departure from standard U.S. cardiac care. As Agatston infers, hospitals and doctors make huge amounts of money by treating heart disease through various invasive measures. However, Dr. Agatston believes that a large portion of new heart disease cases can be prevented if patients would only pay attention to warning signs and submit to a non-invasive scan that helps to assess an individual’s cardiac risk. Agatston’s approach to reversing the rising trend for cardiovascular disease comes via a 4-part program, which includes healthy-eating habits; regular aerobic exercise; diagnostic testing; and cutting-edge medications to help protect the heart and make it work more efficiently. What’s notable about Dr. Agatston is that he has literally put his money where his mouth is, employing these theories in his day-to-day routine, boasting that “he [now] rarely sees a heart attack or stroke in his practice.” Read by the author, whose passion and commitment reverberate through each distinct passage. This is an important book that offers sound and practical advice that middle-aged Americans cannot afford to ignore. 5 hours on 5 CDS.

I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK. And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. Nora Ephron. Random House Audio. In this age of technology, when so many are preoccupied with their looks and the ideas of youth, growing older has become a much more difficult proposition. And it’s doubly difficult for women, who are often held prisoner by a culture that demands they look great 24-7 while singing an endlessly sunny disposition. In I Feel Bad, Ephron (“When Harry Met Sally”) has created a very important book that sends all women now approaching middle age a clear message: It is OK to be yourself, OK to be getting older, OK to be moving to the next phase of your life. Ephron is a writer of intense sensibilities with an innate ability to capture her audience. In addition, Ephron can be brutally honest, her narrative rich and thought-provoking as she takes on issues like menopause and kids leaving home with both humor and brightly-lit compassion (carefully stressing to her readers that life is all about change and accommodating those changes). Obviously, the incidence of change can be rough on women. As kids leave the nest, the role of motherhood graduates into a different shade – this motherhood from afar. Add to that a few extra pounds and a few gray hairs and suddenly the mirror has changed the very perception you had of your face. It’s an unavoidable chain of events, and Ephron lets her readers know that every woman goes through it – from the famous to the not-so-famous, from the executives to the factory workers. Ultimately, I Feel Bad is a book that crackles with catharsis – each minor confession a reason to smile at yourself as time marches on and takes us with it. All women (of post teen-age) will find meaning here, as might their boyfriends and husbands (who shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss those moody periods as ‘battiness’). Instead, the lesson is to realize that the process of growing older comes with a whole new set of fears. In turn, how we assimilate ourselves into these brand new moments of doubt is what determines how gracefully we move toward that final stage. Read by the author, whose lilting voice rises and falls with the narrative – sometimes sweet, sometimes hushed with uncertainty, sometimes ripping with a smoky dark humor: This great movie in which the collective we writes a captivating subject. 4 hours on 3 CDS.

PENTHOUSE: Between the Sheets. From The Editors of Penthouse Magazine. Random House Audio. The Penthouse Forum Section has long been famous for its edgy stories depicting real people full of real desires – these real faces acting through their fantasies, shedding away their inhibitions in sexual romps that became every college kid’s dream. Above all else, the stories in Penthouse were able to capture the imagination because they were drenched in real possibilities, stories of wanton passion cut with a pure anonymity that left the reader with one primary thought: “Hey! This could happen! And maybe even to me…” Here, we have a Penthouse collection of erotica that brings those sultry scenes from the magazine to audio-form – a sexy and sensual sheaf of “bedtime stories” meant for couples to share, a way for lovers to reconnect and feed their salacious sides, a way to help couples act out their fantasies and let their lust go. In addition to the steamy erotic stories, this audio stands out because of the production: Alison Valentine, Eliza Foss and Libby Kimball narrate the stories, and their steamy-blue hot-under-the-collar deliveries of the pieces create the perfect soundtrack to the movie going on in our minds. Suddenly, the Penthousepages have a voice which we can hear and with which we can readily identify. Suddenly, reader is a part of the story: Riding that double-decker bus, fumbling though the London fog. Sexy without being indecent, decadent in a harmless sort-of-way, these stories are meant to put the fun back in your sex life. 9 hours on 8 CDs.

NoteThis selection contains adult material which is strongly sexual in nature.

Of Related Interest

26 NIGHTS. A Sexual Adventure. From the Editors of Penthouse Magazine. Random House Audio. 26 Nights sizzles with allure, a novel built around the stories that fill the pages of Penthouse. This book is about a wager most young men would take up in a heartbeat: Make love to 26 women in 26 nights. And off the story goes, as narrator assumes his mission with an enthusiasm that Penthouse is noted for. Readers should note that this is a fun and erotic audio with a clearly facetious story-line, meant to titillate and thrill, meant to allow for a few moments of fantasy whereby folks can live out some decadent thoughts free of guilt. Veteran commercial performer Bill Morgan provides a delicious reading, his voice going sexy and soft at all the right moments. 8 hours on 7 CDs.

NoteThis selection contains adult material which is strongly sexual in nature.

THE BIG BAM: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BABE RUTH. Leigh Montville. Random House Audio. George Herman Ruth Jr. was baseball’s first and greatest slugger: No matter how many homers Aaron and Bonds hit after him, the majesty of a homerun will forever be defined by the “Bambino’s” left-handed swing, by the shape of a baseball flying deep into the Yankee Stadium mist as Ruth lumbered about the bases – the picture of athletic dominance. In Big Bam, Montville (formerly of Sports Illustrated and The Boston Globe) writes a story that goes beyond the baseball diamond, telling the story of Ruth from its bare beginnings. Here, we come to be introduced to the Babe in his childhood days in Baltimore, traveling with him through those often dour times as he made his way into the Majors. Montville, working as journalist and private investigator, splices together interview segments with historical data to create a record of George Herman Ruth: A man of many facets whose prowess on the baseball field helped him become a national icon. If you’re interested in unlocking the reasons as to why and how it happened, you need to listen to this audio. Read by Adam Grupper (The Sopranos), whose voice ripples and soars with the passion of a radio play-by-play man: The passion he brings to this recording reflects the reason why baseball is America’s national past-time. 6 hours on 5 CDs.

WORLD WAR Z. An Oral History of the Zombie War. Max Brooks. Random House Audio. This book reads like a darkly intellectualized update of “Night of the Living Dead” – an oral account of the fictitiousZombie War that nearly wiped the human form off the face of the earth. Here, Brooks has created a story that brings Man’s greatest fears into the open (passages of The Book of Revelations now brought into modern context as we come to taste the mythical eye of the Apocalypse). In World War Z, Brooks becomes journalist, traveling the world and interviewing the survivors who litter the landscape after having escaped the clutches of the ghostly undead. Playing out like a grand stage production, each subject interviewed by Brooks has their own voice.Accordingly, in addition to Brooks’ memorable delivery, the audio features stirring performances by John Turturro, Rob Reiner, Carl Reiner and Henry Rollins. This is horror writing at its finest, bringing elements of “The Shining” and “The Exorcist” and “The Omen” together in a new and magnificent stew that will enthrall aficionados of the form and leave them craving for more. 6 hours on 5 CDs.

A WRITER’S LIFE. Gay Talese. Random House Audio. What drives men to do this kind of work? What drives this human thirst to put down every secret thought in words and lines for the eyes of an unforgiving world to see? In this audio book, renowned New York journalist Gay Talese attempts to give his readers a sense of what it means to be a writer, trying to put down in discernible text what it’s like to “chase” a story from within and then lay it down onto blank sheets of paper. Indeed, Talese is a very interesting study, as his life’s work has led to a bevy of important books on varied subject matter (organized crime; the sex trade), these books selling millions and captivating audiences world-wide. Here, we are allowed to peek into the mirrored rooms of the writer’s mind where eyes are in full flower, searching step-for-step with the man on his private mission to know God (this journey to chronicle what he sees in the face of every landscape). Moreover, Talese asserts that all men are fuel for the writer’s experience and that all lives have a sharp and meaningful story imbedded somewhere within this sacred labyrinth of skin. Like his best work, Writer’s Life is both poignant and nicked with moments of humor — part and parcel entwined with the starkness of the human condition itself. Brilliantly read by the author, whose passionate voice soars with each revelation and confessional sword of thought. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

TREASURE HUNT. Inside The Mind Of The New Consumer. Michael J. Silverstein. Random House Audio. This is an important book that not only serves as a survey of consumer-based economics and class structure, but also as a psychological exploration into the heart of the international shopper: Why do we buy so many things? Why do we buy the things we do? Why do we spend and save in discernible patterns that follow us for the length of our lives? In Treasure Hunt, Silverstein (Vice President for The Boston Consulting Group) analyzes our buying patterns by putting us in peoples’ homes inside their heads as they are in the midst of purchasing decisions. From this perspective, we are allowed to see what is driving the typical consumer on the never-ending search to find a dollar-saving bargain. Moreover, the book also gives us a glimpse into corporate boardrooms as strategists struggle to keep pace with the changing appetite of a world that can’t help itself from buying more things. Thought-provoking and timely, this book can tell you a lot about yourself before you go milling through the mall on that next shopping spree. Actor John Mayer does a laudable job in his reading, the narration and delivery well-paced and full of nuance, immediately bringing Silverstein’s treatise to life. 9 hours on 8 CDS.

STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS. Daniel Gilbert. Random House Audio. Daniel Gilbert is a noted Professor of Psychology at Harvard University who seeks to put us in touch with ourselves and our aspirations. If you were to ask random folks on the street what they “want,” most will invariably say — “to be happy.” But do any of them really know what this means? Do they really see what has to happen before happiness becomes tangible and permanent rather than purely ephemeral? My bet is that they do not. In this study, Gilbert sets out to show that most people are far too separated from their inner-cores to know true and absolute contentment. Gilbert asserts that because of a personal lack of imagination people have basically become stagnate and dull, stuck in the proverbial rut, unable to see into the future where a better road might exist. This is a tough and somewhat abstract topic and Gilbert’s incisive writing allows for quick accessibility on the part of the reader. Read by the author, this audio moves along nicely, as Gilbert offers a light voice in places in order to escort his listeners (rather than beat them over the head). In short, this is a note-worthy book which exposes our collective flaws, further serving as a cause for deep introspection. 7-plus hours on 6 CDS.

1O DAYS THAT UNEXPECTEDLY CHANGED AMERICA. Steven M. Gillon. Random House Audio. Presented as a companion to The History Channel’s documentary series, 10 Days is an enjoyable book that identifies the 10 events/days that altered the course of these states. Rather than ruin the surprise for listeners, we have decided to let each of you discover the events that Gillon singles out as you hear the reading (since it’s a lot of fun to compare Gillon’s list with your own personal list on just what moments in history serve as the country’s signature moments). Insofar as production, Gillon (Historian for the History Channel and Professor at the University of Oklahoma) is dead-on with his ability to set each scene and put the events in the context of the larger American story. Read by veteran actor Stephen Hoye, the audio gallops along with certainty and precision, driven by the rhythm of Hoye’s voice (so rich and evocative, imbedded within these teardrops of drama that compel us to go forward on this special journey). 9 hours on 8 CDS.

THE JOURNEY: HOW TO LIVE BY FAITH IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD. Billy Graham. Random House Audio. These are the questions on every mind: “Why are we here?” “What is the point of it?” “Where are we going?” The theme drives our books and films and music and is at the underside of every breath we take. Fans of the hit HBO series “The Sopranos” know exactly what I’m talking about, for they’ve watched protagonist Tony Soprano be utterly consumed by the question, peppering his therapist with images of his past, lost inside silent memories of his coma (when he temporarily passed over to the ‘other side’). In this book, Evangelist Billy Graham delves into the question by asserting that man is only on a “journey” and his questions we will be answered at the end of the road. Conceptually, this is a logical premise, but practically, it is hard to accept. Man is born to search, to invent, to realize immediate answers to his problems. And life is simply without an answer. Instead, it is only a path we are each moving down — constant and faithful attention required. As Graham says here, every turn in the road requires a decision to be made. Unfortunately, no one knows the true result of any decision until death frees the chain and the journey has culminated and the last door has opened. Ultimately, Graham’s journey is about teaching us to be able to cope with the ultimate mystery of what lies beyond the hidden doors of death. In Journey, Billy Graham comes to us not a minister or preacher but a man driven by faith struggling down the same course we are on. A man. A contemporary – -sharing his stories and ideals and faith so that we, too, might find some solace in our Godly connections. Read with force and vigor by actor Reathel Bean. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

THE PRO. Lessons About Golf And Life. Claude “Butch” Harmon, Jr. With Steve Eubanks. Random House Audio. Summer days in June, and golf aficionados are everywhere, soaking up the sunshine in endless days on the “green.” In the world of golf, even novices know the name “Butch Harmon” — a master coach and teacher who has counseled the game’s greatest pros (Tiger Woods; Fred Couples) to an endless string of victories and millions of dollars in prize money. In Pro, Harmon opens a door to himself and reveals what it takes to deal with the super-sized egos of the international sports world. Readers will be quite interested to note that Harmon’s secrets to motivating his star pupils came directly from things he learned from his father. Aside from giving us glimpses into these mercurial sports stars and the ways they drive themselves, Pro shows us that different circumstances dictate how a coach musst approach his subject — sometimes gentle with empathy sometimes stern and forceful, this commitment to make the individual realize the best aspects of himself through his unique talents and life’s work. And through it all, Harmon is here paying tribute to his father and the things he learned from his dad about life, ambition and the self. Beautifully written and artfully poignant, paying homage to dads everywhere as we come unto the threshold of another Father’s DayRead by actor David Bishins. 5 hours on 5 CDS.

GAME OF SHADOWS. Mark Fainaru-Wada. Lance Williams. Random House Audio. For baseball, the BALCO steroid scandal is the story that just won’t die. Did Barry Bonds ingest drugs that increased his stats to mythical proportions? And did he lie to the Grand Jury when questioned about his training habits? This book by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Williams and Fainaru-Wada is a must hear for even casual baseball fans, for it attacks the position Barry Bonds took on the stand in front of a Federal Grand Jury in 2003 (when he testified that he did not knowingly take performance enhancing drugs). Now, some three years after this story broke into the national consciousness, it is still churning forward. In the midst of a brand new Grand Jury investigation that is delving into whether Bonds lied to the first panel, Williams and Fainaru-Wada are also under subpoena as the Government seeks to find out who leaked the confidential Grand Jury transcripts that would become the basis for their breaking new stories on Balco (and the foundation for this book). The subpoenas recently issued to the reporters and to the Chronicle have set off a firestorm of debate on the extent of First Amendment protections for newspapers. The ultimate question: Does the public’s right to know eclipse the Government’s right to keep certain court proceedings secret? If the past is any indicator, this story is just beginning to graduate into bloom. Thus, Game of Shadows is required reading for anyone interested in knowing why the world of baseball itself is under investigation for seemingly turning a blind eye to the things its biggest stars were doing behind the scenes. Compelling and full of new perspective, this book holds the reader from the first paragraph of the first page. Read by writer and radio producer Arnie Mazer. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

31 DAYS. Barry Werth. Random House Audio. Back in the 1970s, America was completely unprepared for the angst that Richard Nixon’s resignation caused the nation: even casual observers were mystified as to why the President would take so many wrong turns and cast such a wide-reaching pall over his office. In this book, Massachusetts writer Barry Werth (“The Scarlet Professor”) brings us back to the White House during the month that followed Nixon’s departure from the political scene. In light of the revelations contained in 31 Days, it’s obvious that none of us were cognizant of what was happening at the Capitol circa 1970: I’m talking about back-biting. I’m talking about divided camps. I’m talking about a divided media — career politicians sparring for position trying to protect their asses and keep a job. More than anything, Werth’s tightly written narrative captures the detail of the times and then links it to the political stage of the new millennium. The lesson here is that Nixon’s corruption was the beginning of an “anything goes” attitude in Washington (an attitude that’s poisoning the country more than ever today). Intense and intriguing, with a dark undercurrent — this story is vital to developing an understanding as to when the machine that is Capitol Hill began to careen out of control. Read by veteran actor J.R. Horne. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

THE GOOGLE STORY. David A. Vise. Random House Audio. The advent of Google and Yahoo have changed the face of America in terms of the way people obtain information and complete research (“Google it and see what you come up with…”). Here, Vise (a renowned reporter from the Washington Post known for incisive prose and impeccable investigative skills) tells the story of Google and its founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Brin and Page were drop-outs from Stanford University’s grad school who had an idea that they could alter the world though the creation of an internet search engine that would give users access to data without the burdens of subscriber fees. Their idea was a resounding success that has restructured traditional media, as throngs of advertisers have abandoned print-based publications in favor of being able to reach consumers on Google ‘24-7’ (taking advantage of the tech age in order to connect with readers from all walks of life). Through it all, Google has been the undisputed leader, setting the bar for every other internet-based business looking to carve out a niche on the world-wide web. Google’s success has truly been startling, resulting in a meteoric rise to the top of Wall Street and changing the landscape of how investors take to the market. Vise’s story is layered in detail and sharp on insight, bringing us to the threshold of the obvious question (“where do they go from here?”) and then evaluating the possibilities (and what they will mean for internet users and tech businesses throughout the world). Read by actor Adam Grupper (“The Sopranos” and “Law and Order”). 6 hours on 5 CDS.

DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY. Kenneth C. Davis. Random House Audio. Davis’ acclaimed series (which now includes a compilation of children’s books on audio tape) has revolutionized the way that history is presented to the reader, abandoning the stodgy textbook shape of the genre in favor of bouncy and lively prose that seeks to envelop the audience rather than lecture from the podium. Many of us have developed an aversion to history because of our schoolroom experience. To combat this, Davis has come up with a unique approach to writing history, placing it in the context of a conversation which engages and entertains the reader as it weaves through its subject (instantly making the reader/listener a part of the story by-way of a sharp question & answer format that promotes in depth retention of the material). This audio edition is updated and revised to include recent events that have changed the course of the world. A standout title that is truly crossover in nature, Don’t Know Much covers the whole of the American story with the vibrancy of the very best non-fiction. If you have a child struggling with their study of history, play this audio title in lieu of the television hour and you will inevitably open up some hidden doors within that young mind. Read by Jeff Woodman with Jonathan Davis. 24 hours on 19 CDS.

The Biography. Peter Ackroyd. Random House Audio. Ackroyd is a Shakespearean scholar of the highest order, and he comes to us here to share his vast knowledge of the world’s greatest poet in a shapely and comprehensive biography. In addition to its impeccable presentation, one of the best aspects of this audio is that it gives individuals who might otherwise be overwhelmed by the thought of delving into the subject of Shakespeare the chance to easily aquatint themselves with the life and work of this master. As a biographer, Ackroyd takes a unique road to dissecting his subject: rather than step back and examine Shakespeare through his art, we instead come to observe the writer in relation to the world in which he lived, coming to experience the plays and poems set against the confines that inspired them. Moreover, Ackroyd’s style is at once powerful and enlightened, conjuring aspects of Shakespeare through a rich and evocative poetic pace that magically paints a living picture of a presence who continues to inspire new platoons of writers centuries after his death. Read by actor Simon Vance, who has recorded hundreds of audio selections in his career. 19 hours on 16 CDS.

This selection has lasting reference value, and should be included in all public sector libraries in order to give those with reading limitations access to the authoritative biography of ‘William the Great.’

ANDREW JACKSON. His Life and Times. H.W. Brands. Random House Audio. In this time of political unrest and global uncertainty, people throughout the world would be well-served to go back to a time when leaders were men of integrity and grit and bravery – unencumbered by corporate motivations, unfettered by stock-markets or popularity polls. And a good example for each of us to reference would be none-other than Andrew Jackson. The first “common man” to become President of the United States, Jackson was a man hell-bent on equality for all people no matter their economic status. In this selection, Brands (a professor of history from the University of Texas) creates a wonderful biography of one of our national icons. Effortlessly written and over-flowing in detail, Life and Times tells Jackson’s story from its rustic beginnings (moving with him through his battle with the Red Coats to his work as Congressman and attorney to his position as a brilliant General during the War of 1812). These achievements notwithstanding, the book also offers an extensive overview of Jackson’s presidency (1829-1837) — a series of years still regarded as one of the most important periods in our government’s genesis. Simply, this work is a historian’s dream gift – a book as big as the great presence of Jackson himself. Read by veteran actor Chuck Montgomery (Sopranos, Law & Order, Third Watch). 8 hours 7 CDS.

THE LOST PAINTING. The Quest For A Caravaggio Masterpiece. Johnathan Harr. Random House Audio. Harr (author of “A Civil Action” and a veteran journalist of the highest order) has written a book that would make a great Christmas present on so many levels. Lost Painting centers around the Italian Master Caravaggio (regarded as one of the greatest of all the Baroque artists), telling the story of this visionary painter who was known as much for his anger as for his blinding creativity. In addition to chronicling this man’s unique life, Lost Painting seeks to unravel the artist’s greatest mystery and answer the question of what happened to his The Taking of Christ (a piece reputed to be one of Caravaggio’s most eloquent and incisive). Harr is quite inventive in how he chooses to mark the tracks of the painting, surveying the artist’s life in relation to the period, looking into the lives of the various characters who encountered Caravaggio in an attempt to locate the missing masterwork. A can’t miss for both art historians and general readers with subtle interest in the period. Read by actor Campbell Scott (Roger Dodger), featuring a bonus interview with the eloquent Harr. 6 hours on 6 CDS.

Also Recommended this quarter from Random House Audio

THE PLANETS. By Dava Sobel. Random House Audio. Sobel is a unique talent with a unique gift — her immense knowledge of our solar system has been married to a swift and inviting writing style that seeks to stun and captivate her reader. Accordingly, when reviewing a Sobel title, the result is often a book you can’t put down (or in the case of audio — turn off). This book continues the trend, as she tells the story of the planets in human terms — detailing the specifics of each and then marrying these worlds to the vision of our own earthly galaxy. Aside from its in depth scientific exploration, this book stands out for Sobel herself: the soft and poetic layers of the text never cease to amaze, and at her sweetest moments, she often leaves the reader shivering. Read by Kate Reading. 5.5 hours on 5 CDS.

JOHN. Cynthia Lennon. Read by Author. Random House Audio. It’s an irrefutable fact that John Lennon was the heart and soul of The Beatles. Lennon was an enigmatic genius who gave “lyrical meat” to the group’s catalog, his searching energy responsible for the quartet’s best-mid 1960’s records. John tells Lennon’s story from the point-of-view of his first first wife, Cynthia (“the real story of the real John [that] infuriating…talented and needy man”), and her insights will grip the most rabid fan, providing a sharp new perspective to the reclusive musician. When Lennon was shot and killed in 1980, the world lost one of its leading artists (and a man partly responsible for many of the ideas that reshaped the America’s cultural landscape). In light of this, John is important to read because it comes to us from the inside — from someone who lived with and knew Lennon and can speak to his true self and his private motivations. Includes an interview with the author, and a foreword read by Lennon’s son, Julian. 5 hours on 4 CDS.

Previous Random House Audio Reviews

BAT BOY. My True Life Adventures Coming Of Age With The New York Yankees. Matthew McGough. Random House Audio. Read By The Author. As October approaches and Autumn turns leaves back to yellow, our thoughts turn to baseball and the World Series. And who can think World Series without thinking of the Bronx Bombers?– those Yankees from New York. This book is a real find, and it will immediately appeal to any man who loved baseball as a kid and dreamed of being able to see into the sport from inside the dug-out walls. Bat Boy is a baseball story, a book about youth and youthful hope graduating into adulthood. The ride begins with McGough writing a letter to the Yankees’ front office requesting a job as a bat boy. What are the chances that the letter would even be read? One thousand to one? Not only was McGough’s letter read — but he got the job, too. And at that point, Matt McGough begins to sprout, layer-by-layer through his childhood. Along the way, he encounters his heroes and plays on the edge, teetering on the thin line that separates kid and man. This book is a great read — chronicling the story of one kid who was allowed to live a part of his dream. And through the author’s well-paced narration, we’re enabled to look back in time and relive a few of our own dreams. Five hours on 4 CDS.

THE GODFATHER RETURNS. Mark Winegardner. Random House Audio. Mario Puzo wrote The Godfather some 3 and half decades ago, and its impact on world-wide culture has not waned since its 1969 release. Puzo’s book is simply regarded as the best “true crime” story ever, inspiring interest in the gangster-drama to deepen to near fanatic levels (see David Chase’s The Sopranos) for our most recent example. In this selection, veteran novelist Mark Winegardner (who also teaches at Florida State University) has given Godfatherfans everywhere more from the story they can’t seem to walk away from. Returns is about the lives of the fictional Corleones during the years that are not covered in the films or in Puzo’s brilliant novel. Instead, Winegardner uses the original characters to embark on a new road, actually opening the pages on a whole new story along the way. What we have here is a book that truly demonstrates the multi-dimensional depths of these characters, paying the ultimate homage to Puzo. What other novel could allow a writer from another generation to append to it in a way that captures the original scent of the story while artfully adding to it in a thousand different ways? In Returns, Winegardner has infused his story with Coppola’s cinematic vision while redirecting the ultimate question: How far is a man allowed to go to preserve the future of his family? The answer is left up to every reader. Read by Joe Grifasi. Six hours on 5 CDS.

RIGHT TURNS. Unconventional Lessons from a Controversial Life. Michael Medved. Random House Audio. Read by the Author. Medved is known throughout the country as a film critic and radio talk-show host with the uncanny ability to immediately sell his listeners on his version of the truth. Not an easy thing to do in this jaded era when 24-hour-a-day news shows refuse to give the populous a break from the eye of the media. Right Turns is Medved’s personal story, and it’s indeed worth hearing. As the title implies, this selection chronicles how a wide-eyed liberal who once worked as a Bobby Kennedy volunteer came to be regarded as one of the most conservative voices to grace the radio-air-waves. Again as the title implies, Medved’s life has taken many turns, and the recapitulation of his radical beginnings artfully paints a lasting picture of how the human consciousness is formed. Medved’s road is fraught with many contradictions, yet it will ultimately take you on a fascinating ride through the mind of a man who has the attention of so many ears across the nation. Every second of this audio book is a new discovery, and listeners will be left amused or enraged (often simultaneously), as we struggle to understand these very same contradictions within ourselves. 5 hours on 4 CDS.

THE FAMILY. THE REAL STORY OF THE BUSH DYNASTY. Kitty Kelly. Read by the author. Random House Audio. The Bush family is arguably one of the most powerful groups in all of history. The Bush resume boasts a father and son who have both served as President of the United States (with another son governor of one of the most influential states in the union). A family tied to politics and big business. A family that controls the oil business and other avenues of world commerce. Here, Kelly (who has written for the Washington Post and Newsweek among other publications) goes back to the origins of the Bush clan and examines exactly where the money came from. A story that begins in the world of Ohio steel and moves into the vortex of oil and government. But what makes this selection more than a run-of-the-mill political commentary is in the fact that Kelly was gutsy enough to dig beyond the surface, delving into the hidden lives of the Bush family, showing that the shiny public and polished image of these people only provides for half the story. Contrary to Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” The Family looks at the Bushes through the cold and objective eye of a journalist. It’s definitely a story worth reading. 10 hours on 8 CDS.

GARLIC AND SAPPHIRES. The Secret Life of A Critic In Disguise. Ruth Reichl. Read by the author. Random House Audio. The world of the restaurant critic is a world wrapped in power and influence: a mention in a named critic’s column can literally make or break an eatery. And as much as restaurateurs want reviews, they also fear them: for the wrong comment can throw you out of business in a matter of months. In terms of influence, Reichl is as powerful as they come: a critic who writes for the New York Times in a town with more big-dollar restaurants than anywhere in the country. Accordingly, to avoid being duped or treated better than the average customer, food critics attempt to conceal their identity — it is their only way to keep the playing field level, their only way to make sure that they are experiencing the true atmosphere of the establishment. To this end, Reichl has had to go to a variety of extremes — literally recreating her persona over and again — just to make sure restaurateurs can’t pick her out of the crowd. Garlic and Sapphires is an honest, humorous and enthralling look into the foodie world of America, detailing the many different faces Reichl has donned just to be able to remain objective in her ultimate role as journalist. 5 hours on 4 CDS.

WILT, 1962. THE NIGHT OF 100 POINTS AND THE DAWN OF THE NEW ERA. Gary Pomerantz. Read by Roscoe Orman. Random House Audio. In the annals of sports achievements, that night in March of 1962 when Wilt Chamberlain scored a cool 100 points is probably the greatest single feat ever to occur in sports. To think that a player of Chamberlain’s magnitude existed and ruled the league for so long is almost unfathomable. I mean, “Wilt the Stilt” stood head and shoulders above the game and literally caused the rule-makers to modify the standards of play to slow the big man down. This Random House selection chronicles Chamberlain’s legendary, mythical night, and does so with the pure passion of yesteryear – when men played for the love of the game instead of the love of the dollar. This recording actually features the final half-hour of the original radio broadcast — a chilling and haunting segment that all basketball fans will want to hear and cherish. Read masterfully by actor Roscoe Orman. Six hours abridged on five CDS.

MY LIFE. Bill Clinton. Random House. Like it or not, even President Clinton’s harshest critics must admit that he was a leader who did a lot of good for the country and the world economy, preserving our civil liberties along the way. And it’s truly a shame that these things have become but a footnote to the sensationalized Monica Lewinsky story (it’s deplorable that what should have remained a private event was turned into a public scandal and political football that cost the country millions of dollars for nothing). More than anything else, that’s what is so striking about this book by Mr. Clinton: it forces us to look at what he did as a President instead of focusing on his private moments. Personally, I am much more concerned about where we are going to end up as Americans (in the wake of 9-11 and the Iraq war) than I am about any man’s marital life. In the end, My Life is about a former President looking at himself and examining the things that led him into office — examining both the good and the bad, delving past the right and the wrong, allowing us this rare chance to glimpse a former President as a person (rather than as public figure or icon). This title is a major release, and the audio edition is made all the more compelling by Mr. Clinton’s magnetic voice and his ability to bring passion to each sentence of the recording. 6.5 hours on 6 CDS.

THE VOICE OF THE POET. Allen Ginsberg. Random House. Ginsberg, along with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, was a leader of the literary movement that became known as the “Beat Generation.” And since his death in 1997, poetry lovers around the globe have been left starved for the passion that Ginsberg’s life embodied — for he lived each of his poems with the meat of his spirit and the strength of his blood, spitting his love of song and sound across the whole holy face of the world. Truly, Ginsberg’s life was about the beauty of expression and the living hope of the word, breathing life into the memory of each moment in which he lived. The Voice Of The Poet perfectly captures Allen Ginsberg in his own voice – capturing him moment by moment, syllable by naked syllable, breath by broken breath. Sink into this recording. Not surprisingly, his rendition of “Howl” stands out: since it was written over 50 years ago, “Howl” has been a vital and meaningful expression of the American condition. 71 minutes on 1 CD.

Also in this Random House Series

WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS. THE VOICE OF THE POET. William Carlos Williams. Random House Audio. William Carlos Williams was a huge influence on Allen Ginsberg (they were both from New Jersey), and also a guide for the other leading voices of the Beat Generation. In addition to being a physician, Williams was an innovative and resilient poet who revolutionized the “impressionist poem” and also restructured its appearance on the page, using a succession of short lines to hammer and chisel at the senses until the images burned into the vivid and naked light of life. This recording is a real find in that it brings the best of Williams’ work back to us. The fact that it comes imbedded in the soundful echoes of his own voice makes it all the more rich and endearing — now we can hear just what Ginsberg heard in the work of the great and under-studied Williams: the invocations of spirit, the homage to the beauty of the ordinary eye now come spinning through the universe from beyond the purview of the grave. Highlights are many, but none are more stunning than the version of “To Elsie” which serves as a deep and haunting commentary on the emptiness of our times. Also fine renditions of “Red Wheelbarrow” and “Queen Anne’s Lace.” Note additional analysis by esteemed Yale Review Editor, J.D. McClatchy (who is also the series editor). One hour on a single CD.

T.S. ELIOT. THE VOICE OF THE POET. Random House Audio. Along with Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot is regarded as the father of the American poetry scene during the last half century: Eliot’s sweet rhythms are partly responsible for the course the Beat Generation’s road took, but also, the way he came to structure his poems and build his rhyme-scheme further provided a grand motivation for the rock-and-rollers of the 1960s. Writers like Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Lou Reed almost certainly studied and absorbed Eliot’s poetry and then used the things they learned to change the way music was presented to the culture. This recording captures the best of T.S. Eliot’s catalog, including stunning performances of Eliot’s most influential pieces. Listen to the essence of the poet’s voice bleed through “The Waste Land” and “The Hollow Men” — these are the strains of the bells straining against the clear invisible skirts of the wind. These are the echoes of Christ’s breath straining against the claws of the window glass. This great legacy of our American poetry. This inspiration of the muse now come to tend and stroke and soothe come to guide us home. One hour on a single CD.

SLEEPING WITH SCHUBERT. Bonnie Marson. Read by Michelle Santopietro (and featuring the music of Franz Schubert). Random House. Wonderfully original novel that is centered around a New York lawyer who is housing the spirit and soul of the genius Austrian composer Franz Schubert within herself. The story builds around the reincarnation of the great musician in the seemingly ordinary body of Liza Durbin. As the book moves forward, we come to connect with the power of music and its ability to drive us from our hidden selves (the story intensifying moment-to-moment as we become absorbed in the melodies of the master composer). At times the melding of plot and voice and concerto is simply stunning, with an impassioned reading by Santopietro (Sopranos and Law & Order). 5 hours. 5 CDS.

RAMMER JAMMER YELLOW HAMMER. A Journey into the Heart of Fan Mania. Warren St. John. Random House. This brand new release by Random House coincides with the start of the new football season, examining the motivations that drive the sports fan. To those of us who are not “die-hard” fans, the things some folks do on Sunday seem silly (following their team, covering themselves in war paint, fighting in the stands in the name of victory). St. John has created a modern-day anthropological study here, following the Alabama Crimson Tide college football squad from game to game in his RV (The Hawg). St. John’s journey takes us into the very heart of the “extreme fan” – digging beyond the surface into the phenomenon of American sportRammer Jammer is at all times engaging and thought provoking – a book bold in scope that sets out to tell the country about itself. Read by the author. 5 hours on 4 CDS.

Recommended to college sociology instructors as a class text that explores first-hand the reasons why some people graduate from spectator to fanatic. Further recommended to all libraries as a general reference text.

Tantor Audio

AGAINST THE DAY. Thomas Pynchon. Tantor. Given Thomas Pynchon stature in the sacred realms of literature, every new release featuring his work is an event that draws the attention of readers from throughout the world. Against the Day, set in the late 1800s, ripples with intrigue as Pynchon takes his characters on a rock-licking ride across myriad continents – these lost men gone in search of themselves. Like Pynchon’s other great works (VGravity’s Rainbow), this book sprawls out luxuriously and contains many sub-stories within its primary plotline. And similar to Pynchon’s other work, the thread of drama is undercut with caustic humor as the author pokes fun at society and so many of its hollow mores. As his readers know, in a Pynchon story, everything is fair game. Here, the novelist covers myriad parcels of ground – -weird sexual predilections segue into dark moments of violence as men lose themselves in the great idea of no conscience, surrendering to the carnal impulses of spirits gone mad. In the end, Thomas Pynchon’s fiction is only meant to serve as a mirror of the person and the times in which he exists. And in this respect, Against the Day is no different that the books that preceded it – a story pitting man againstthe times as the writer reports on these dark savage wars that we wage against ourselves. Read by audio-books veteran Dick Hill, who loping cadence resonates as big as the story itself. A huge book, Against the Day clocks in at nearly 55 hours on 42 CDS.

The audio fiction book of the year, hands down.

JESUS. A Meditation on His Stories and His Relationships with Women. Andrew Greeley. Tantor. Jesus of Galilee is the most intriguing presence in the history of the world: A profound heart whose vast spirit is recorded within the pages of the most widely read book ever published, the idea of Jesus dominates our every conscious thought. Here, Father Greeley attempts to humanize the myth and make Jesus more accessible to us. In this carefully written study, Father Greeley looks to define and reveal Jesus through the parables he shared with the people. Accordingly, as we ingest this book, we come to view Jesus in an entirely new light: In addition to his place at the center of all organized religion, we also come to see that this man was a master storyteller who could bring disparate people closer to the concept of God. Recast in the guise of old mystical poet, Jesus bound us together through the snapshots he carved with words – -these stories that carried the power to inspire faith and a deeper belief in the spiritual self. Yet going further, this treatise also investigates other mortal aspects of Jesus’ life, including his Jewish roots and his relationships with women which have inspired the imaginations of both authors and filmmakers for the past century. Well-written and sharply emotional, Jesus firmly entrenches Father Andrew Greeley as an important religious thinker/philosopher who is serving his calling by teaching large segments of the populous about the paths of the Christ. Also read by Dick Hill, whose resume boasts over 200 audio-book recordings. 5 hours on 4 CDS.

NAOMI’S GUIDE TO AGING GRATEFULLY. Facts, Myths, and Good News for Boomers. Naomi Judd. Tantor. It’s a bridge we all have to cross sooner or later – this bridge that begins the aging process and eventually culminates in the passing of the earthly body into death. Simply, the thought of aging conjures some of the deepest and most profound fears that mortal man endures. Basically, as we becomeelderly, many of us lose a great part of our strength and lose bits of confidence — eroding at the edges, suddenly frail and tender, suddenly in need of the help of others in order to make it to the next day. InNaomi’s Guide, Judd looks at the question of age from the unique perspective of an entertainer who is accustomed to the limelight (but who nonetheless has avoided the hollow trappings of fame). Rather than dwelling on the wrinkles and achy joints, Judd encourages her audience not to become paralyzed by the idea of age; instead, the secret is in accepting the aging process as a natural and vital component of the life process (remaining open to the opportunity for even great self-discovery). According to Judd, the key to aging gracefully is in simplifying your life and stripping your environment of needless clutter and needless “energy vampires” as you refocus your attention on mind-body health. Given the fact that a large percentage of the ‘baby-boomers” will graduate to retirement age during the next half decade, this book serves as a timely motivational tool full of practical ideas. Read by actress Renee Raudman, whose clear voice accentuates each passage with a sweet cool beautiful empathy. Nearly 8 hours on 7 CDS.

TRUMP 101. The Way Too Success. Donald J. Trump. With Meredith McIver. Tantor. For those out there who fantasize about wealth and endless success in the realms of big business, Donald Trump strikes a heroic pose: The consummate example of the ‘way it’s done.’ Here, those contemplating a leap into the business world can take an actual class from the master. Trump 101 is a book that reads like a college lecture, detailing the fine points of what it takes to reach the top of the ladder. Donald Trump is noted around the world for keen judgment and iron-willed tenacity, a guy who always knows the right hand to play to make 100 dollars morph into a million. So how has he done it? What’s his secret? Most notably, Trump 101 shares the basic doctrine of a master-businessman’s discipline – knowing what your intellectual strengths are and having the guts to pursue them. In addition, Trump 101 shares insight into how to negotiate from positions of strength and how to turn adverse situations into profitable events. During the typical four-year program, a college student must wade through hours of rhetoric in order to see what information is applicable to their own path. However, Trump 101 is a college course that only presents the data you need, information readily applicable to the real worlds of finance and commerce and economics. In short, this book is about knowing what it takes in order to succeed at what you’re doing. And even though you might not become a millionaire, you can always attain self-fulfillment. And that is what the real journey is all about. Read by audio-books veteran Alan Sklar, who recalls the voice of Kingsfield in The Paper Chase– erudite and strong, radiating the depth of the lesson. 4 hours on 3 CDS.

LOVE, MEN AND SEX. The Complete User’s Guide For Women. David Zinczenko. With Ted Spiker. Tantor. These days, men everywhere are secretly talking to each other, mouthing the same set of questions: “How the hell did it get so complicated? How did it become so hard to talk to a woman and say what’s on your mind?” Bluntly, many men today are scared and confused, unsure of what women want, unsure of how to present themselves to the opposite sex. In turn, women are confounded – with no idea of what’s ticking behind that stoic male mind. In Love, Men and Sex, Zinczenko (Editor for Men’s Health Magazine) compiles the thoughts of men from many different planes who come forth to confess their deepest thoughts about sex, female-friendship and the quest for love. Here, readers will find out the typical man’s turn-ons and turn-offs. Additionally, women can finally tap into the core of what causes men to fall in love and crave the married life. Moreover, women are allowed to peek into the pages of so many private dialogues written by so many different men who share what things they need in order to keep them from roaming. Accordingly, Love, Men and Sex presents some surprising secrets, ultimately giving women deeper insight into their boyfriends and co-workers and contemporaries. If you’re single or on the threshold of cementing an existing relationship, you might want to pick up this book and share it with your lover. Beyond learning more about each other, it might open doors to many honest and meaningful future conversations. Read by Stephen Hoye (who has won multiple awards for his audio book narrations). Hoye’s steady voice lends a human-ness and passionate vulnerability to this material that augments its many hidden layers. 5 hours on 5 CDS.

NOTORIOUS C.O.P. Derrick Parker. With Matt Diehl. Tantor Audio. Americans love true crime stories. No one has to look further than to the countless court television shows to see the level with which we are enthralled by items that merge our lives with cops and courtrooms. And this audio takes the theme still one step further, looking into the seedier side of the rap music business. It’s no big secret that many urban gangsters base their lives on the music they hear, basing their actions on songs which depict young kids hell-bent on murder and mayhem. Moreover, many of these rappers boast to premising their songs on real-life exploits. So, if these horrible crimes actually took place, why haven’t they been prosecuted? In Notorious C.O.P., Derrick Parker of the New York City Police Department brings us within ear-shot of an answer. Parker was the lead detective on the NYPD’s Rap Intelligence Unit, which was dedicated to controlling criminal activity among hip-hoppers. Parker worked this detail for two decades, investigating the likes of Tupac, Biggie and Jam Master Jay. In the course of these investigations, he discovered how the rappers were capitalizing on their crimes. So, you ask, with a special force devoted to the detail, why are hip-hop criminals still running neighborhoods in New York and elsewhere? The answer to this question forms the meat of Parker’s book, as he speaks to brazen conflicts of interest where police officers work for musician-criminals and look the other way. This is a major book by an insider, and it is quite illuminating, showing us reasons why gangs in places like Oakland, California and Richmond, California are out of hand (there’s literally a killing or two a day on these streets as young ghetto-born children try to live out the stories in the songs they hear). Listeners will be both shocked and captivated by Parker’s presentation – a ballsy and no-holds-barred look at the new Mafia. Narrated by veteran stage actor Richard Allen. Allen’s delivery sizzles and burns, adding a deep layer of tension and profound suspense to a tale that, most unfortunately, was born on the now-hollow streets of so many American cities. 10 hours on 10 CDS.

THE ICE MAN. Confessions of A Mafia Contract Killer. Philip Carlo. Tantor Audio. America’s interest in the Mafia is quite insatiable. From Gotti to The Godfather, from Big Paul to The Sopranos, we seemingly can’t get enough of the stories that depict a world so many fantasize about from the safety of the living room couch. In Ice Man, Philip Carlo (a crime writer who is known for the brilliant Night Stalker stories) weaves an engaging chronicle of Richard “The Ice Man” Kuklinski, a hired gun from New Jersey (devoted father by day and blood-crazed killer by night). Kuklinski, known for his poise and coolness under fire, is thought to be one of the shooters who killed Big Paul Castellano, in turn enabling John Gotti to assume leadership of the New York underworld. Afterwards, Kuklinski would become one of John Gotti’s most trusted soldiers; in fact, Gotti is said to have hired Kuklinski to kill the neighbor who ran over Gotti’s young son in the street. Ice Man is a captivating ride, the result of Carlo’s exhaustive research and his unique ability to sew an artful graceful narrative about a guy who killed for a living. As noted, Carlo’s research technique is masterful: For example, he interviewed not only Kuklinski, but his wife and daughters as well, building a book that is ends up being about Kuklinski’s whole life and not just the sensationalized segments we watched unfold in newspaper headlines. The audio is narrated by Michael Prichard, who has read over 400 books-on-tape in his career. Prichard does a remarkable job with this material, his voice building with dark edgy suspense, as we wait to see ‘what could possibly come next.’ The text is further augmented by an hour’s worth of interviews with “The Ice Man” himself, as we come to dissect the elements and motives of a mean-hearted and notorious American killer. 18-plus hours on 16 CDs.

THE SCRATCH OF A PEN. Colin G. Calloway. Tantor. This selection is part of Oxford’s Pivotal Moments In American History Series, and it details the transformation of North America (circa February 1763, when the Treaty of Paris was signed). This document, executed between Britain, Spain and France, effectively ended the turmoil of the French-Indian War. In addition, it altered the existing boundaries of the world, as great chunks of the Americas changed ownership (in the words of historian Francis Parkman, “half a continent…changed hands at the scratch of a pen.”). Here, Colin Calloway, a noted Professor of History at Dartmouth College, constructs an erudite review of the Treaty of Paris and its impact on a burgeoning world. In addition to recounting the core of these events, Calloway touches on the many competing cultures that were merged and torn asunder that were severed and reshaped by the changing lines of these ancient territories. Scratch of A Pen is read by British actor Simon Vance, who was simply the choice to “tell” this story: Vance has a sharp-studded voice and it fits the narrative perfectly, rising and swelling with the emotion of the very generations who came to write the history of every footstep that has ever been taken. In addition to being recommended to audio-fans of American History, Scratch of A Pen should also be on reserve in libraries world-wide: This is a story that can be used as a reference point today (and for years to come). 7 hours on 6 CDs.

The Audio Partners

THE DEFINING MOMENT. FDR’s Hundred Days and The Triumph of Hope. Jonathan Alter. Audio Partners. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was one of the best-loved Presidents in U.S. history – simply, FDR was considered to be the man who took the country from the brink of ruin and brought it back to sweet prosperity. In this beautifully written account of a captivating leader, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter brings to life the soul of Roosevelt through the taste of all he accomplished. Even though FDR was taking over in the wake of the Great Depression, he did not hesitate to take immediate action. In his first 100 days in office, he implemented policies and programs to give relief to struggling banks and give hungry men jobs. However, Roosevelt’s first quarter in office served only as a precursor to bigger accomplishments – commanding the country through World War Two and putting together the nuts-and-bolts plan for the Social Security Administration (which, to this day, provides stability for America’s elderly). Alder, an accomplished journalist who is noted for his deep-piercing columns, is able to cut to the core of Roosevelt by first dissecting his background and then painting a picture of the man for his readers. As we listen, we come to see that Roosevelt was able to do what he did because he was not a one-dimensional thinker. Instead, FDR had the unique ability to see beyond the curve and instinctually know what was going to happen six months in the future. Consequently, he was able to take aggressive action and keep moving the country forward. As Alter shows us, there would likely be no internet and no robust Dow Jones Market without FDR’s unyielding leadership. Read by Grover Gardner, who is a master of the audio production. Here, Gardner’s distinguished voice captures everything FDR was about: Integrity. Hope. Freedom. Individual purpose. Faith. A truly flawless reading of a hugely important historical figure. 12-plus hours on 10 CDs.

Q & A. Vikas Swarup. Audio Partners. In the course of being enlightened and entertained by this novel, readers will be taught an important lesson about prejudice and the class-wars that have plagued the idea of man for centuries. Q & A tells the story of a teenager in India who is arrested after winning one billion rupees on a game show. For the questions remained: How can a kid know so much? How did this poor-born and impoverished waiter from a slum get so smart? Of course he would have had to have cheated! (since this boy had no privileged schooling from which to glean his magnificent breadth of knowledge). It is only after Ram is placed in jail and presented with an attorney do we discover just how the mind of this young man developed, in turn giving us a lesson about how unjust the systems we have created can be. Author Swarup, an Indian diplomat, is well-versed in the ways that society looks down on the poor, and he writes with a wonderful sense of the human condition. Brilliantly narrated by actor and veteran-audio-books-reader Kerry Shale, whose voice rings out poignant and purposeful, compelling us to defend Ram out of sheer morality. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

LOVE ‘EM OR LOSE ‘EM. Getting Good People To Stay. Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. Audio Partners. The American work place has been beset with strife during the last 20 years, as company down-sizing and the influence of technology on society has forever changed the role of the worker in the typical office-setting. Here, authors Kaye and Jordan-Evans examine what employers can do to keep their employees “on the team” and working for the greater good of the company. Simply, managers have to make their employees feel wanted and needed – vital to the corporate mission. If you do not show workers that they mean something, morale plummets and resentment takes hold of the heart. In turn, productivity slips and dissension overtakes the rank and file. So what’s the best way to engender loyalty and keep workers’ heads in the game? Competitive salaries are only one aspect of the answer. Accordingly, the authors take readers through the question from A-Z in order to teach the bosses that it’s ultimately up to them to keep a well-developed work-force in place. Read by actor David Drummond who lends a sharp and authoritative tone to the production. Nearly 5 hours on 5 CDS.

WHOSE FREEDOM? The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea. George Lakoff. Audio Partners. Lakoff is a noted Professor of Linguistics at the esteemed University of California, Berkeley, and he sets off through some interesting territory in this new audio. Whose Freedom? examines the concept of a free society from a foundational perspective: In short, before there can ever be equality and freedom, society must turn as a collective wheel, moving to bring mercy and empathy and loyalty into the universal consciousness. As Lakoff teaches us, it’s not about class separation, but about community; and it’s not about us versus them, but about a common belief in the soul of human kind (these ideals creating the cornerstones of both civil and personal liberty). At this particular time in history (with a war on-going and the American government enacting legislation to allow for the intrusion on the “average Joe’s” private life), it has now become increasingly important to examine what we are about as a Nation and as a People. Accordingly, this book is quite an important stepping stone towards that examination. Read by the author: Not so much in the style of a collegiate lecture, but instead in a sharp and engaging conversational tone. 8 hours on 7 CDS.

Also by Audio Partners

TAKEN AT THE FLOOD. Agatha Christie. Read by Hugh Fraser. Audio Partners. 6 Hours on 5 CDS.

HALLOWE’EN PARTY. Agatha Christie. Read by John Moffatt. Audio Partners. 7 Hours on 6 CDS.

These two selections mark additional installments in Audio Partner’s classic Hercule Poirot series: Crisp and thrilling mysteries that weave their way through the eye of the mind – twist after turn, jump after start. Christie was a writer of great depth and vital imagination. Obviously, her stories have lived so long because of their ability to build human and multi-dimensional characters who dwell within the chasm of good and evil, this endless balancing act between right and wrong, these souls in half-form hovering between darkness and moral purity. Each of these stories bloom vintage Christie, humming and bouncing with a clear focus that will hold you spellbound. Perfectly read by two actors who create true stage productions with the solitary instruments of their voices. 

ROMEO AND JULIET. William Shakespeare. Featuring Joseph Fiennes and Maria Miles. Audio Partners. 3 Hours on 3 CDS.

MACBETH. William Shakespeare. Featuring Hugh Ross and Harriet Walter. Audio Partners. 2.5 hours on 2 CDS.

Shakepeare’s finest plays are captured here in these magnificent dramatic recordings. Everyone knows (or should now) the plots of the plays, but here, the words have been dressed-up and given gallant new mouths via riveting performances by these true stage voices. Listeners will be greeted by a literal symphony of poetry as the master-bard’s lines rise to impossible crescendos, hovering among the clear light of the spirit world, animal voices at dawn crying out like bare-naked children. What an experience to hear these records! This is the greatness of the theater personalized and made small enough to fit into the glove of your living room stereo. As glorious as any recorded drama we’ve heard in years.

GAUDY NIGHT. Dorothy L. Sayers. Audio Partners. Here, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane — two of Sayer’s classic characters — are brought to life by-way of this crisp and sharply written novel. Wimsey, a close cousin of the great Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, embodies the traits of those John Wayne Westerns of the 1950s: the hero brave and bigger than life itself, his mind two steps ahead of the question. Gaudy Night centers around mystery writer Harriet Vane (the thinly veiled archetype of Sayers herself) who finds that’s she’s been thrust into the plot of one of her own story ideas — the focus of a stalker whose dark-scrawled notes suddenly take a violent turn. Enter Wimsey: his Sherlock-Holmes-like style smolders and crackles, capturing the trust and affection of the vulnerable Vane. Sayers, who died nearly 50 years ago in 1957, was one of the first women to graduate from Oxford, and her writing waltzes with a delicate and sweet-flowered grace that devours her listener heart and soul. Read masterfully by Ian Carmichael, whose portrayals of Wimsey have become legendary. Nearly 16 hours on 12 CDS.

Audio Partners Previously Reviewed

CARDS ON THE TABLE. A Hercule Poirot Mystery. Agatha Christie. Audio Partners. Speaking of mysteries: Can any column on suspense novels be complete without mention of the brilliant and ground-breaking Agatha Christie? Christie’s mastery of the genre came in the way she developed characters that could captivate our thought processes and make us, the collective reader, want to follow their every twist and turn. Accordingly, Poirot was a leading man who could save and protect us: A veritable James Bond of the printed page whose off-beat presentation was sassy and commanding, this presence who had all the answers to ward off evil. Just who could resist it? In this novel, a bridge game after dinner unravels into a tightly wound murder-mystery that takes Poirot to the edge and back again as he sifts through missing facts to find the guilty face. All of the classic Christie is here — sharp dialogue and magical descriptions bring the power to put you in the room with the super sleuth, allowing you to share in his sacred mission. Read by Hugh Fraser. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Jane Austen. Audio Partners. Remember the Mash series of the 1970s? Remember the Charles Emerson Winchester character whose soul embodied the haughty high-brow of the Harvard Yard? Fans of Winchester were amused by his snobbish and hard-hearted judgments of the ordinary of his day. And it’s this very dynamic that is the meatiest dimension of Austen’s brilliantly conceivedPride and Prejudice. The book tells the story of the Bennett girls and their collective search for the perfect husband. Along the way, Austen’s text provides an incisive inspection of the mores of 19th-century England, dissecting the many ways that the human species forms its beliefs (& prejudices), showing how these prejudices come to shape our paths — and our lives. Even though you might want to pretend you’re above the idea of a class war, the things your parents learned from their parents are the building-blocks through which you formulate your persona. The relationships you build are tied to the things your parents taught you to believe. Their personal prejudices become yours. And that’s just why Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has withstood the test of time: it allows us to peer into the secret mirrors of ourselves and laugh at our inconstancies, allowing us to mourn our hollowness and recoil at the dark blind callousness. In strange and myriad ways, the Bennetts are pale sketches of all families in worlds far and wide. Read by actress Irene Sutcliffe. 9 CDS spanning nearly 12 hours.

Harper Collins Audio

GANG LEADER FOR A DAY. Sudhir Venkatesh. Harper Audio. This book should be required reading in all urban high school and university settings, since it offers a real and compelling examination of the gang-mentally (further examining the dire environmental conditions which promote the formation of these intricate communities). In Gang Leader For a Day, Venkatesh tells the story of how he was able to infiltrate a crack-running gang in Chicago – this true sociological study meant to document the inner-workings of this underground world. In an almost unfathomable story of courage, the author takes his sociology project to the ‘laboratory,’ winding his way into the heart of an actual drug gang in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago. Once here, Venkatesh quickly becomes friends with the gang-leader, and he is allowed to observe the outlaws in much the same way a documentary film-maker would: Recording all sides of the story with an articulate objectivity, peeling back layer after layer until we are able to taste and touch and feel the poverty and hopelessness that give rise to this way of life. Read by Reg Rogers – whose tone cuts through the air and envelopes all listeners (losing us in a sociological study meant to shed light on one of the most profound issues now desecrating our urban landscape). Over 8 hours on 7 CDS.

MEMO TO THE PRESIDENT ELECT. Madeleine Albright. Harper Audio. Really, could any book be timelier? At a time when the United States is drowning in a horrible recession while trying to come to grips with a “war on terror” now going on year 7, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001) has written a striking treatise that seeks to awaken all candidates contemplating a term in the White House. As Albright so eloquently writes, one of the biggest challenges facing the next president will be how to repair the nation’s floundering foreign policy agenda (something that must occur in order to return the United States to the position of credible player on the international front). Memo to The President Elect does a fine job at juxtaposing examples from the great classroom of the past with new ideas on how our next commander-in-chief might choose to deal with the current tumult in the Middle East (while simultaneously coping with the specters of Iran and North Korea). Insightful and authoritative, Albright is a gifted writer with a wealth of experience on the frontlines of government. Accordingly, Memo to The President Elect comes to us an accessible reference able to educate both politicians and the general citizenry on what will be required to right the course of this old ship. Read by the author, her voice this beacon of reason and intelligence that gives a glimmer of hope for the future.  Over 9 hours on 8 CDS.

Of Related Interest

THE GREAT AWAKENING. Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America. Jim Wallis. Harper Audio. This book by theologian Jim Wallis flows in the opposite direction of Albright’s erudite political analysis, serving to show that political savvy alone can’t save the soul of a country. Instead, according to Wallis, the citizenry also must possess a strong spiritual foundation and a belief in the collectiveself. As Wallis notes, positive ‘movements’ that instigate lasting social change require faith and the keen ability to choose right over wrong. What’s best for me? And what’s best for the rest of this world? As the author teaches us, these questions must be asked simultaneously and must sire the very same answer. Thought-provoking and incisive, Wallis’ voice takes the listener by the heart and refuses to let go. 14 hours on 11 CDS.

ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE. A Year of Food Life. Barbara Kingsolver. With Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. Harper Audio. In this audio, noted poet and fiction writer Barbara Kingsolver puts her money where her mouth is in terms of eating healthy foods: Instead of placing the onus for her mission on a third-party, Kingsolver instead accepts full responsibility for the things going on the family’s table, embarking on a journey where-by she pledged to only consume foods that were raised in her own neighborhood (“learning to live without” anything that wasn’t truly ‘home-grown’). Bluntly, bold is too weak a word to describe the commitment required to accomplish this feat as the writer came to show her family (and the world) about the food-chain and its many hidden layers. As the country moves headlong into the new century (losing itself in endless technological streams), it has once again become necessary to reconnect ourselves with the concept of the ‘farm’ (and ‘organic’ ingredients). Many will argue that it is no longer possible to eat 100% pure food grown in a non-toxic environment. However, Kingsolver’s book proves that with the proper dedication and discipline anyone can work to purify their diet (giving themselves better health in the process). Read by the authors in a straight-forward no-nonsense delivery. Nearly 15 hours on 12 CDS.

IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME. The Games Do Count. Brian Kilmeade. Harper Audio. Some say that America is defined by its allegiance to sport – the case effectively made by the yearly Super Bowl extravaganza which gives participating cities the chance to applaud their football teams in the name of the greatest show in the world. However, the idea of sport is about much more than entertainment; instead, it is the stage that unites myriad cultures through the concepts of commitment and competition. Simply, sport is about inspiring kids and adults alike (teaching pride, dignity and the ability to lose with grace). Basically, the idea is to take the lessons you learn on the field and apply them to the days of your life. In this audio, journalist Brian Kilmeade collects a series of inspirational tales that have changed out collective path as individuals and cemented our values as a nation (these interviews with the likes of baseball ‘iron man’ Cal Ripken Jr. and the enigmatic Donald Trump showing us that the games being played in the stadiums of the world are actual extensions of ourselves and our belief-systems). Read by the author himself – the veteran of the broadcast booth flawless in his delivery as he elevates this audio to the level of radio play-by-play; it will hold you to the edge of your seat from start to finish. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

PRAYER. Finding the Heart’s True Home. Richard J. Foster. Harper Audio. The twenty-first century is a time of great unrest and tumult, as violence and the specter of war overtake huge chunks of the world. Consequently, most people are searching – uncomfortable and uneasy, looking for concrete answers, uncomfortable and uneasy and searching for a personal moment of peace. But how do we get there? In this deep and meaningful text, Richard Foster tries to offer some pertinent and well-reasoned guidance, guiding us back to the sanctuary of the self. According to Foster, men find true peace in prayer in the quietude of a dialogue with God. Obviously, the act of engaging in prayer is deeply personal –it’s an activity most of us do not know how to discuss or analyze. In Prayer, Foster attempts to get us back in touch with ourselves, helping us to unscramble tangled concepts of faith – unfettered and at peace with our own voices and our own feelings. Basically, Foster’s treatise is meant to show us what prayer is and the many forms it can take (this lesson that shows that the ultimate purpose of prayer is to create a unique and intimate relationship with God). And it’s through such a relationship that mortal man finally comes by inner peace – grounded and at one with the self, finally able to transcend the instability of this world. Read by Terence Alselford in an almost conversational tone – this inspirational and introspective look at the ways we speak to God. 10 hours on 8 CDS.

Of Related Interest

JESUS FOR THE NON RELIGIOUS. John Shelby Spong. Harper Audio. This book is quite a bold undertaking, for in it Spong (a noted author and former bishop in the Episcopal Church) challenges traditional teachings about Christ (this attempt to humanize the idea of a higher being and inspire readers to integrate it into the course of their daily lives). A bold book indeed – for Spong is definitely a forward thinker who seeks to question all we know and believe about Christ (as he tries to bring a more ‘present’ meaning to the most important figure to ever walk the roads of history). Basically, in this text, Spong asks his readers to view Christ in relation to the Jewish scriptures as he strives to reconnect us with the divine idea of a world based on understanding, mercy, and human-ness. Many will not agree with Spong’s stance here – but that’s beside the point: In actuality, this book is really about placing the topic of religion out on the table in modern terms (thus creating this robust dialogue between believers and non-believers and those languishing on islands in between). Read by Alan Sklar. 12 hours on 10 CDS.

THE FEMININE MISTAKE. Are We Giving Up Too Much? Leslie Bennetts. HarperCollins. In these strange times of changing roles and fragmented relationships, men and women are required to do more in the way of compromise in order to make relationships work. Going further, economics are also a huge factor in the path that relationships take, as the cost of services like child-care often make it necessary for one parent to stay home and tend the kids. Accordingly, women are often the ones told that it’s better for the core of the family structure if they stay home and raise the family. But what of career, creative-purpose and personal goals? And is it really better for the family if women are stereotyped into the role of ‘homemaker’? In this thought-provoking and timely audio, Bennett (contributing Editor at Vanity Fair) poses these very questions, exploring whether it really is in the best interests of women to give up their professional lives in favor of a position as house-mother. Simply, the premise of this book comes down to one question: Why isn’t it possible for a woman to have kids, give them attention and direction while working a full-time job? Bennett (a working mom who raised two kids) is able to speak to readers from experience as she helps women to see that they should think long and hard about what they are giving up before they accept the traditional role of ‘mother’ – since things like the death of a spouse or a sudden divorce can literally destroy the idea of security for any stay-at-home-mom. Read by the author, whose voice soothes as it educates, leading women back to the idea of themselves. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

NIXON AND KISSINGER. Partners in Power. Robert Dallek. HarperCollins. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger cut an imposing duo – these political powerhouses side-by-side in the Whitehouse were literally world-changing figures, two of the most powerful leaders of the last hundred years. In this definitive study, Dallek (a best-selling author and journalist) reveals both the working relationship and the personal rivalry between Nixon and Kissinger, bringing us face-to-face with the two men who reshaped foreign policy amid the tumult of the Viet Nam War. Dallek used previously classified documents and tapes to draw this portrait of two competing personalities who were often at odds behind the scenes – each trying to out-achieve the other, each trying to leave an indelible mark on the face of the world. Dallek has done an amazing job at infusing new details into the old story of Watergate, as we are given an intimate glimpse into the chaotic mess who was Richard Nixon and the cunning political advisor who was Henry Kissinger. Both historians of the era and students of modern politics will gain much insight from this audio, as it shows in no uncertain terms how America came to be thrust into its present position as guardian of the universe. Read by Eric Conger in a clear and present tone that puts us in the first row of the auditorium awash in this great historical drama. 11 hours on 10 CDS.

THE ESSENTIAL TWAIN. Mark Twain. Caedmon. In this collection, performed by the inimitable Ed Begley Sr., the genius of Mark Twain is resurrected. Widely regarded as one of the top three or four American writers to ever live (and the first to capture the layered beauty of the Southern argot), Essential Twain captures the core of the man who gave us such classics as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Here, we experience some of the best moments from “Life on the Mississippi,” witnessing the line between youth and adulthood come full circle – innocence lost to the cold harsh eye of reality as the world falls into full focus. Twain’s writing has become an indelible staple in the mind of literature because it swims in depthless poetry – lyrical without trying to be lyrical, scented and soft, perfect in its pristine subtleties. This audio is notable because Begley truly has a feel for his material: The actor on stage in some dream-pierced world now brings the heart-flames of Twain back to life via cold rough-polished voice, each line soaring high emotion antagonizing the light, each line soaking up his audience in sweet  perfect pools of melody. Like the work of Twain that inspired it, this is a sparkling, riveting, indispensable recording. 1 hour on 1 CD.

THE RONALD DAHL AUDIO COLLECTION. Ronald Dahl. Harper Children’s Audio. Dahl, who died in 1990, was a classic children’s writer, a master at creating multi-dimensional stories that had the power to elevate a kid’s imagination the second they ingested the sinew of that first sentence. Simply, Dahl had a knack of challenging his young audiences, putting their eyes to work and compelling them to visualize the scenes that they were reading. In addition, Dahl liked to leave empty space within his characters so that his audience could incorporate the core of the story into the skin of their own living souls. Dahl Audiobrings Dahl’s classics together in one place, collecting “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Enormous Crocodile” and “The Magic Finger” on one sterling recording. Listeners will be touched by the voice of the author as it propels Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory into brilliant life, the tremble of his voice now ever-thinner as we teeter at the edge of that infamous river in that holy candy-coated paradise. Over 3 hours on 4 CDS.

THE PROPER CARE AND FEEDING OF MARRIAGE. Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Harper Audio. In the last 20 years, the steady erosion of the institution of marriage in America has renewed our focus on relationships, as many seek new insight into just what makes a successful pairing of people and personalities. In this book, Dr. Schlessinger (known for her award-winning radio program) outlines what it takes from each side in order to build a union that can withstand the rigors of this earthly life. Since the 1970s, there has been a steady rise in divorce, as American couples fall victim to various pressures that drive permanent wedges through the house, forever dividing it. Schlessinger is a renowned doctor who is able to capture the differences between the sexes in sharp passages and clear language which often leaves the reader shuddering with realization – “Yes! That’s what I feel!” That’s it! Does he see it?” Basically, a successful marriage takes willingness to compromise, requiring each spouse to recognize the needs and shortcomings of the other and then make allowances for them. Here, Dr. Schlessinger uses real-life examples from her radio show to develop actual examples of marital strife which will have universal meaning to many couples. From here, she able to craft possible solutions to sensitive problems, showing us that there is always a way to save a marriage if both sides will come to the table, meet half way, and say what’s on their minds – confessing rather than blaming. This is an important book for many reasons, the most pertinent of which is to tell those not yet married that a successful union takes more than love, it takes the delicate ability to communicate over a lifetime of peaks and valleys. As Dr. Schlessinger infers, all married couples owe it to each other to do everything they can to stay together and build their families rather than dash for cover at the first hint of dissent. Powerfully read by Lily LoBianoco. Preface read by the author. 6-plus hours on 6 CDS.

In addition to being a title with broad appeal among the general reader, this title is also recommended to libraries in both the public sector and at the college level: the information it imparts has the power to relieve many from long roads of darkness and pain.

GRANT WRITING FOR DUMMIES. 2nd Edition. Harper Audio. Bev Browning. Harper Audio. Bev Browning is a national grant writer with years of practical experience on the art of drafting proposals of which grant committees will take serious note. Here, Browning shares her knowledge in a splendid audio book that reveals many of the subtle nuances that literally make the difference between success and failure when it comes to obtaining a grant. In Grant Writing, the author paints a clear picture on how to pursue various government-based grants, teaching us the things to say that might raise your proposal to the top of the stack. Prospective grant recipients must realize that the competition will be stiff as myriad candidates do battle over a finite amount of money. Accordingly, a grant writer must know what to say and how to say in order to have a fighting chance at breaking into the bank. Topics covered here include how to execute application forms and how to conduct research into the provider-pool , compiling the most up-to-date information on how to obtain funding from government sources as well as foundations and corporations. Read by Brett Barry is a conversational style that never intrudes on the lesson being taught. As with all of the Dummies titles, noted for its clarity and for the ability to speak to a multiplicity of demographics at the same time. 3-plus hours on 3 CDS.

Of Related Interest

MORTGAGES FOR DUMMIES. 2nd Edition Eric Dyson. Ray Brown. Harper Audio. Also in the esteemed Dummies Series, Dyson and Brown do an exemplary job of breaking down the intricacies and vagaries of the mortgage mystery so that first-time home-owners might have a fighting chance to understand what they are walking into (these step-by-step instructions on everything from adjustable-rate mortgages to balloon loans). What’s best about this title is the way it takes a very complicated subject and whittles it into bite-sized junks that do not require an MBA in order to be digested. Also read by Brett Barry. 3-plus hours on 3 CDS.

Recommended to the general reader and to all public-sector libraries as a general reference text. In this age of the property-boom, no community should be without access to this book.

HENRY AND THE CLUBHOUSE. Beverly Cleary. Harper Children’s Audio. The Henry Huggins character has escorted many a child through youthful angst and indecision, teaching kids the wonders of literature and the power of the written word. Here, Huggins and his friends build a clubhouse to serve as their sanctuary and hidden place from the world; in their clubhouse, no girls are allowed (“AND THIS MEANS YOU!”). However, Little Ramona Quimby is sweet on Henry and follows him to his clubhouse where the piece meets its point and purpose. This is a wonderful children’s story with a real lesson for kids to learn: That growth requires compromise and the ability to accept people for who they are. The story is read by Neil Patrick Harris (remember the boy doctor Doogie Howser?), and Harris is a perfect fit for the story — his voice melding into those invisible characters a child creates within the webs of his mind (thus giving a personality to Cleary’s carefully honed text). Harris is a veteran stage actor known for compelling his audience to get to know the characters that he’s portraying. Accordingly, his work with this children’s story is gentle and full of passion, inviting all young readers to grow along with the affable Henry. Over 3 hours on 3 CDS.

THE GOOD FIGHT. Peter Beinart. HarperCollins. Beinart serves as Editor-at-large for The New Republic, and this selection is a bold undertaking given the fact that the country is toiling in a war that seems as it if is destined to go on for decades. However, as the polls show, Americans are dissatisfied with the path Bush has taken in the Middle East, so utterly perplexed by rising fuel/energy costs which have significantly reduced the quality of life for so many. Here, Beinart presents us with a book that looks at the Liberal movement and ways it must be retooled in order to further the evolution of the world through the mouth of the 21st-century. Beinart’s point-of-view is hard to argue with: Democrats are absolutely powerless these days, the party floundering in the wake of two consecutive losses to a President that has seen controversy at every turn of his terms. Accordingly, Beinart’s sharp political perspective comes with a blunt ultimatum for Liberals — either put up or shut up. Either get off your couches and exact some change or don’t dare complain about the course this country is on. Beautifully read by David Slavin who brings the poise of Cronkite’s old evening news broadcasts all the way back. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE. Kurt Vonnegut. Caedmon. Vonnegut’s a legend whose work sings with a sweet and universal tone, this leading voice in myriad realms of the American literature-landscape. Monkey House collects some of Vonnegut’s shorter works that were first released by publications like The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. This collection is notable for the wry sense of humor we see develop through these oft-forgotten pieces (a sense of humor that has set Vonnegut apart from so many of his contemporaries, fusing his work with a true originality of perspective with a ethereal vitality of spirit). Multiple readers include David Strathairn; Maria Tucci; Bill Irwin; Tony Roberts; and Dylan Baker. Tucci steals the show with beautiful readings of “Harrison Bergeron” and “Miss Temptation” — her delivery perfectly suited for these narratives that overflow in the beauty and contradiction of this human condition. 7 hours on 9 CDS.

ZORRO. Isabel Allende. HarperCollins. Zorro is one of the best-loved adventure stories in the world’s vast library — a tale that embodies the essence of chivalry and honor and justice for the underdog. But just who was Zorro? Just who was the man at the center of the face behind the mask? Here, California writer Isabel Allende has drafted a brilliant novel that seeks to tell the Zorro’s tale, in turn humanizing the story, stripping skin from myth until a real and believable character rises into being. In Allende’s book, Zorro begins as Diego de la Vega, the child of a military-man and a Shoshone warrior whose psyche is shaped by the genocide of the Native American tribes he witnessed first-hand. And it is from this vantage point that the spirit of Zorro is formed: a man before he was ever a hero, Diego de la Vega was born to fight for those too beaten-weak to fight for themselves. And born again to give a voice to the legacy of our dead. Masterfully read by the venerable Blair Brown, whose theater background brings a true richness of voice to this rendering of Allende’s noteworthy novel. 15 hours on 13 CDs.

RUNNY BABBIT. Shel Silverstein. HarperCollins. Written by Shel Silverstein (whose resume includes work as a cartoonist, playwright and Grammy-winning songwriter), this book creates a character who brims with power and grace – a story that’s meant to enlighten the child-reader as it so effortlessly entertains. Here, “Runny Babbit” writes a rich and vibrant language all his own as he creates a platoon of cohorts (“Snerry Jake,” “Rirty Dat,” “Dungry Hog”) who burn within the secret imagination (Silverstein forming a story that is part fable and part language-explosion, driven by the sheer heat of words). And that, then, is what makes this book so valuable: it not only is meant to entertain your children, it is also meant to excite them about literature, in turn sparking a true intellectual energy. Like those Great Dr. Seuss stories, this book has the power to captivate the imagination of the child so that he will strive to read and look to discover. In the end, Runny Babbit is about inspiring children to want to learn about the words they use and the hidden meaning each set of phrases contains. Performed by Dennis Locorriere, famed for his work with Dr. Hook.

BACK TO THE BEDROOM. Janet Evanovich. HarperCollins. This one’s a can’t miss in these weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day — a story for men and women alike that will not only titillate the psyche with the musty scent of romance, but will also challenge the reader to examine their own deep need for acceptance and companionship. Bedroom is truly a universal story about the shadows that lurk and swim within the idea of human relationships. Look close: Once those first awkward moments pass and the lustiness of the initial chase has lapsed, we are each left with the chore of deciding just how much of ourselves we are going to reveal to the other person. And that mirror is often laden with creatures that we don’t like admitting that we see. And that mirror is over-flowing in dark faces that stink with ambivalence. Somehow, Evanovich has come up with a slant on these themes that often serve to reinvent aspects of the human condition, in turn showing us how we look in other eyes. Performed by C.J. Critt5.5 Hours on 5 Cds.

WordTheatre: The Wild West. Cedering Fox. Darrell Larson. HarperCollins Audio.

The WordTheatre is known to theatre aficionados for its depth and intelligence, a series that mostly recalls the energy and sensibilities of the 1930s and 40s.

WordTheatre showcases “world class actors reading world class writers,” bringing us back to the great tradition of Beckett’s stage, back to a world that is pushed by the holy rhythms of language, driven by the steamy blue movement of invisible voices as they rise and fall. The WordTheatre project comes to us a cousin of that by-gone era of mainstream radio, born of a time when people gathered en masse, gathering to absorb information and news and entertainment, living through the voices within the box.

Recently, Cedering Fox and Darrell Larson produced three installments of the WordTheatre series for HarperCollins for release as audio books. In this selection, some of the most evocative literature inspired by the “wild wild west” is collected. Make no mistake, this is a ride that Sam Peckinpah would be thrilled to go on.

The Wild West compilation (recorded live at the Met Theatre in Hollywood) features some very rich material. “Deadwood Dick: At The Met” brings us Amy Madigan giving a no-holds reading of Edward Wheeler’s story from 1887 — like “Gunsmoke’s” Long Branch Saloon reborn into even crazier times. Also notable is Gary Dourdan’s reading of “The Naked Gun” (written by John Jakes) – – the lines of the story slowly absorbing us into the dichotomy of a lost frontier.

What’s best about these audio books is the way they capture the face of the stage on record — brimming with high energy, overflowing with deep passion. If you were going to introduce someone to an audio title for the very first time, WordTheatre would be a great starting point. These are performances of some our lost classics and they evolve like a new form of cinema — allowing the listener to build pictures of the stories in his head as the words boil-over to envelope time and space. 70 minutes on 1 CD.

by John Aiello

Also Recommended this quarter from HarperCollins Audio

WHY DO MEN HAVE NIPPLES? Mark Leyner. Billy Goldberg, MD. Harper Audio. Too many people have vaulted doctors into the role of deity — someone we bow down to and laud and don’t dare ever question. Exactly the thinking that gets most patients in trouble, because it causes them to fail to take an active role in their health care. This selection looks to reverse that trend, merging humor with science in order to make people more comfortable with their bodies. Why Do Men Have Nipples? ( “Questions You’d Only Ask Your Doctor After Your Third Martini“) looks to expose the human body in the same manner a journalist would look to uncover the hidden facts of a story — by going to the source of the information and asking for answers. “How do people in wheelchairs have sex?” “Why does my pee smell after I eat asparagus?” — these are things more than one of us have wondered about: ultra-sensitive things about the human body that have answers based in science. Yet, many people are shy around doctors and would never ask such touchy questions. And this is exactly the reason Leyner (a writer and satirist) and Goldberg (a New York Emergency Medicine specialist) have paired their talents, helping to erase the mysteries about the quirkier side of the human animal. Read masterfully by Leyner, who breathes humor and good cheer into the book. 1 hour on one CD.

TRUE STORY. Michael Finkel. Read by the author. Harper Audio. Finkel is a seasoned journalist with a sharp style, and the best aspects of his writing springs immediately to life in this cliff-hanger. The story centers around a journalist for the New York Times who learns about a series of murders as he’s being fired from his job. The accused killer? A man hiding out in Mexico under an assumed identity, pretending to be a writer for the Times, pretending to be none other than Finkel himself. What ensues is a dramatic and enthralling ride as journalist and impersonator come together to share bits of their psyches that reveal delicious morsels of the darker side of the human condition. The culmination of the book comes with a shot of surprise, perching you at the edge of your seat like the golden moments of the best Hitchcock. In addition to its gripping narrative, this story of identity theft leaves every reader in the same place: left to accept the sad reality of just how vulnerable we all can be. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

DYLAN THOMAS. THE CAEDMON COLLECTION. Dylan Thomas. Introduced by Billy Collins. Caedmon/Harper Audio. The master lyricist Thomas was a multi-dimensional talent whose genius was rooted in the idea of theater. Not only a poet of the printed page, Thomas was, too, a master poet of the stage, a keen orator who understood the intracies of breath and cadance, a poet who took over the auditorium with the rhythms of word and presence, melting away walls of human skin with these beautiful skeletons of melody. It was in February of 1952 that Thomas made his first recording for Caedmon Records (A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Five Poems), launching the unique idea of the Caedmon imprint, in turn helping to shape an art-form that would soon come to be known as “spoken-word.” Even though these recordings were initially tied to academic circles, they quickly came to inspire countless other poets (Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Carl Sandburg), who took to the stage to “sing” their works. In addition, muscians like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon also owe much to Thomas, as they were able to marry music to pieces of verse in a way that deeply energized the study of poetry, bringing it to kids outside the realm of the classroom. Make no mistake, Bob Dylan might be more popular, but his course was shaped by the work Dylan Thomas did decades before. This collection truly sparkles, featuring killer performances of “Fern Hill” and Do Not Go Gentle” — the lyricism of the great master splashing down the thirsty linen walls of the mind like warm pebbles of blood. Also notable for allowing us to absorb Thomas’ oral interpretations of his own favorites (Shakespeare and W.H. Auden). Accordingly, the book will be well-recieved by both poetry scholars and general readers with an appreciation for tradtional metered verse. 12-plus hours on 11 CDS.

BECAUSE HE COULD. Dick Morris and Eileen McGann. Read by Morris. Harper Audio. Morris was Bill Clinton’s go-to-guy, the political adviser who often was consulted during the President’s most troubling times, and he imparts aspects of the man and politician that only a trusted insider could know. Clinton’s own “My Life” was gutsy in its own right, and survives today as one of the best books by a politico that the world has ever seen. However, that book was an autobiography, and it gave us only Clinton’s side of the story. Morris and his co-writer McGann (who is also Morris’ wife) instead gives us a snapshot of the Clinton years from the point-of-view of an adviser who was charged with helping to keep the President’s course in balance and on point. Literally, a no-win job. Obviously, this book is chock full of anecdotes and asides that help to fill in the shape of the Clinton story that came to captivate the country for the better part of a decade. 6 hours on 6 CDS.

MOTHER GOOSE. Mary Engelbreit. Harper Audio/Childrens. Like bread to the human table, “Mother Goose” is a staple in the world of the adolescent, a book that has come to hone and polish the learning curve while helping to usher the young reader into more advanced material. This audio (which is best enjoyed in tandem with Engelbreit’s richly illustrated book) hums along on the voice of its reader, the veteran actress Lynn Redgrave. Redgrave’s voice is a perfect match for this material, soft and soothing, then suddenly full of pops and shivers, capturing the child-listener from the onset and refusing to let go. Motherfeatures 100 rhymes, with tried-and-true standards like “Jack and Jill” and “Humpty Dumpty” that recall the sweet innocence of childhood. This book reminds us it’s an experiece meant to be sipped slow and savored. 30 minutes on 1 CD.

Previous Harper Audio Reviews

THE KNOWN WORLD. Edward P. Jones. Harper Audio. This masterful novel examines the concept of slavery from many perspectives, and in turn, causes us to examine our own fetid prejudices. Known World brings us the story of Henry Townsend, a former slave who dispels the myths of the illiterate servant with his passion for Paradise Lost. Townsend, however, is part and parcel the shape of the Paradise Lost, as he loses sight of himself and becomes a plantation owner — and an enslaver. The story that ensues is a deep and engaging one, for it is about exploitation and greed and our insatiable need to control and rule each other. During these times of prisoner abuse and oil-driven wars, it couldn’t be more relevant. Will appeal to the general reader and to the serious student of world history. Read by Kevin Free. 15 hours on 10 cassettes.

FOUNDING MOTHERS. (The Women Who Raised Our Nation). Cokie Roberts. Harper Audio. Cokie Roberts is a nationally known political analyst/journalist who is respected for her in depth coverage of the politics and the events which give shape to our nation. In Founding Mothers, Roberts continues the theme of her two previous books (We Are Our Mothers Daughters and From This Day Forward), examining the lives of the women who persevered through dark times, propping up the country. People know the story of Jefferson and Lincoln well. Kids are taught in school what Kennedy meant to America. But often, personalities like Martha Washington and Mary Bartlett are passed over as we become consumed in the strong male perspective that has honed our history. And that’s the beauty of this book – it sews together all the scenes and faces and stories of the women who were here when the country was young and faceless and struggling, telling a story that we all need to hear right now. Read by the author herself in an engaging and vibrant voice. 6 hours on 4 cassettes.

Highly recommended for the general reader and for women’s studies groups. Further recommended for all public sector libraries.

ORACLE NIGHT. Paul Auster. Read by the author. Harper Audio. This is a writer’s novel — and the story line swirls among cobwebs in the holy minds of ghosts. Oracle follows the novelist Sidney Orr after he buys a writing book in a Brooklyn stationary shop and then slowly dissolves into its perfect and sultry blank pages. The events that follow challenge Orr’s whole reality — consuming both mind and body. Lovers of fiction will no doubt enjoy this book, but writers will especially be drawn to it, for it speaks about the muse which drives pen toward word and word toward paper. And it speaks to the muse which drives us through tawdry realms of madness, driving us toward these deep rivers of hunger and music and beauty. 8 hours on 6 cassettes.

HOW TO TALK SO TEENS WILL LISTEN AND LISTEN SO TEENS WILL TALK. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Harper Audio. Read by both authors. It’s pretty much agreed by parents everywhere that a child’s teen-years are the most challenging — presenting both parent and kid a unique set of problems and questions that much be dealt with in a real way: if parents fail here, they literally fail the child forever. Faber and Mazlish (nationally recognized experts on communicating with young adults) are careful to cover this material in a way that involves the parent/reader rather than lectures to them. In this presentation, parents are given a hint as to the path that they need to take in order to effectively reach their children: the key to the equation is in talking to them, rather than at them. Easier said than done, I know. The simple fact remains that this pre-adult period is not only difficult for the teenager, but for the parent as well. Emotions run high. Parents often let passion turn into a rant or endless lecture. Consequently, the child turns off, and in doing so, naturally begins to rebel. And that’s just the thing How To Talk teaches us to avoid — the loss of our child’s ear (and attention). If your raising a teenager, these times are ripe with peril: Aids. Drugs. Child-predators. Parents need to be able to steer kids away from these paths and towards a deeper interest in education. However, this can’t ever happen unless your kids are willing to listen to advice. How To Talk offers the road map, and a viable way to begin. 3.5 hours on 3 CDS.

ON THE ROAD. Jack Kerouac. Caedmon/Harper Audio. This book by Jack Kerouac marked the birth of a new culture; even though Rock and Roll predates the release of Road, it nonetheless was Jack Kerouac’s words that tied the vision of the youth together and offered some semblance of meaning to a war-torn and confused America. Once they found this book, the kids never looked back — suddenly infused with holy energy, mad-eyed, chasing ghosts through the rusty moonlit dusk. Make no mistake – On The Road was the great beginning of it – the seed of the inspiration, the first step in a journey that wouldn’t end for some 25 years. Road tells the story of the friendship between Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty (Kerouac and Neal Cassidy, respectively), chronicling their travels scene-by-scene as they flew down the lost roads of America (interested readers will note that Francis Ford Coppola has recently begun pre-production on a big-screen adaptation). Everything about this novel is a slap in the face: the way it lilts and bounces and sways to the invisible rhythms of an unborn music is absolutely captivating — at once merging the breath of writer and reader until narrator and audience come together in a beautiful cool seamless union (with all eyes one). Even though the tale has become legendary (almost mythical), it’s the way Kerouac’s writing blooms to tell it that is the true discovery. In addition to everything else, On The Road gave us our first taste of spontaneous prose: the author’s dictum of letting the private moments of a story roll off the tongue – no censorship or fear – was finally realized in these pages, in turn teaching writers everywhere to become more confessional in their work. Just like that — in the flicker of candle flame down the bare tongue of the blank page — the Beat Generation was born. Make no mistake, On The Road was the movement’s mother and father. Read skillfully by actor Matt Dillon, whose throaty growl captures the whisper of the outsider perfectly. 11 hours on 7 cassettes.

Hachette Audio

BO’S LASTING LESSONS. The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership. Bo Schembechler. John U. Bacon. Hachette Audio.  Bo Schembechler was an institution in the mid-west – for he was the man who led the University of Michigan football team to lofty plateaus while never wavering from his ultimate purpose: To teach young athletes that football was only a small part of the equation. In Schembechler’s world, sports were the platform from which young men could learn about themselves, learning about ‘team unity’ and the faithful ideals of community. Strange to think of these terms in relation to Big-Ten college football – but this is indeed part and parcel of Schembechler’s great legacy. In this new audio from Hachette, many of the great coach’s beliefs and dictums are captured in real time, Schembechler showing his audience in no-frills terms what it takes to transcend the football field and become a meaningful contributor to society. Even though many of Schembechler’s players went on to have storied NFL careers, many more were able to successfully intercept the business world. And their success grew directly from their coach’s blackboard – as concepts like honesty and integrity and belief in the self grew into a wonderful way of life. Even after Schembechler’s untimely death, his mission as an educator moves steadily forward, as his former players carry the torch and spread their leader’s message. Read by veteran actor John Mayer, whose voice is an extension of the soul of Schembechler: Each word rising with passion, compelling our ultimate attention. Nearly 4 hours on 3 CDS.

HARD CALLS. Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People who made them. John McCain. Mark Salter. Hachette Audio.  Senator John McCain knows all about the hot-seat, as his life has been predicated on one challenge after another – from stints in the U.S. Navy to a seat as a U.S. Congressman culminating in a place in the Senate. And through it all, McCain became an expert at weighing the ‘pros and cons’ of a situation and making the ‘right call.’ Really, if you look at life objectively, it all comes down to managing one situation after another. Simply, success in life is about being the ultimate coach, the ultimate ‘field general’ as you come to guide the road before it guides you. Yes – looking at it objectively, it’s all so much easier said than done. In this audio, McCain and Salter dissect “the anatomy” of the great decisions in history via examination of the lives of the men and women who made them. In the course of their study, the authors also isolate the six components of every great decision: Awareness; timing; foresight; confidence; humility; and inspiration. And as McCain and Salter teach us, great decisions need not only made by people in powerful positions; instead, they can and should be made by each of us in the course of our daily lives as we come to decide what’s best for our aging parents as we come to decide what will make our kids’ lives richer and sweeter. In sum, there’s quite a lot of interesting material in this audio and it will inspire deep thought on the part of each and every listener. Read by McCain and Daniel Hugh Kelly – their collective delivery one of authority and passion meant to inspire us to do better for ourselves. 8 hours on 7 CDS.

LAW OF ATTRACTION: THE SCIENCE OF ATTRACTING MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT AND LESS OF WHAT YOU DON’T. Michael Losier. Hachette Audio. In this audio, Losier sets out to teach us that the vibrations our bodies are emitting are responsible for the quality of our lives and linked directly to the things that are happening to us. Basically, the “Law of Attraction” says that the personal messages we are creating (either positive or negative) are related to the quality of our lives. In other words, according to Losier, if you put out a positive aura the universe will match that message with a positive response. In contrast, if you put out a negative wave, the universe will match that motion with deeper darkness. As the author teaches, if an individual thinks good thoughts good things will happen to them. But, practically, how can we do this? Just how do we preach the positive when the world around us in mired in such chaos? Good questions, with the answers coming in the shape of this audio, its mission to show readers how to corral each positive impulse and then put them work via a series of exercises and tips. Many skeptics out there will be instantly converted once they give Losier’s directives a try, since, above all else, this book speaks to core elements of logic and self-esteem. Simply, those folks who feel good about themselves tend to accomplish more and experience deeper fulfillment. In the end, it’s all about the way you see and taste the world, the secret a part of your ability to accept your place amid this sprawling universe. Read by Hugh Gallagher, whose steady delivery puts the listener in touch with the deeper self. Nearly 3 hours on 2 CDS.

Ten Minutes With Michael Loiser

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I have a background in project management with Provincial Government in BC, Canada, but I’ve been in the personal growth field since 1990. I’ve been coaching people on the use of the Law of Attraction since 1996. I started doing teleconference calls in 1997 and have conducted hundreds of hours of training classes on the subject. These hours helped me to build a thick binder of notes, emails, exercise and processes and this material facilitated development of my book, which that I wrote between 2001 and 2003. The book was released in Canada in March 2003 and become a national Canadian bestseller within weeks of hitting the shelves – it was a true word-of-mouth success.

Briefly tell readers what the Law of Attraction is.

It’s all about vibes. Vibes, of course, comes from the word vibration. And there are only negative and positive ones. At any given moment, we are putting off or sending a vibration and the Law of Attraction is responding to that vibration by giving us more of the same (vibration).

What was the genesis of this book — how exactly did you get the idea to write it?

I was practicing Law of Attraction even before I knew it had a name.We are all experiencing it. After studying Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) I understood more about words and what vibrations they cause us to send… either negative or positive in nature.

What kind of research did you do and what kind of data did you compile as you began to commit your ideas to the printed page?

My research included hundreds of hours of training within the spectrum of the subject, in addition to the teleclasses and seminars I conducted.

Is there any scientific data that corroborates this concept – or is it more an attitude and approach to life?

No, I don’t have any scientific data to present on it.

How have you personally integrated the fine-points of the Law of Attraction into the fabric of your own life?

I’ve integrated it in terms of health; personal and business relationships; media; client referrals. Basically, I use it all the time in many ways.

What has the public reaction been to your book? Have readers been receptive to you & your work?

You should go to Amazon.com and read the specific feedback there. 95% of the readers love it, saying it is simple and easy to practice, while 5% don’t seem to care for it much.

Have any readers shared their success stories with you after having implemented the techniques described in the Law of Attraction? Can you share one or two?

You can find these stories on my website.

What other books or resources are available for readers who want to learn more about this phenomenon?

These references are also on my site.

by John Aiello

THE LAST CHANCE MILLIONAIRE. It’s Not too Late to Become Wealthy. Douglas R. Andrew. Hachette Audio. In this day and age, with record-high gasoline prices causing the rate of inflation to jump, money is yet again topic one on every mind. Simply, we’re all worried about making ends meet, worried about paying for health insurance and the cost of housing, worried about job security and changes in the world economy. Yes…wouldn’t it be easier if you had extra cash in the bank and more time to enjoy your kids and the things you’ve accomplished? Well, according to Andrew (President of Paramount Financial Services), ‘it’s not too late.’ In this audio, Andrews takes a lifetime of financial study and applies it to a text that can be readily absorbed by the general reader. In Last Chance, Andrew has created an in depth resource that outlines how to go about constructing a retirement package that you can not only ‘live with’ but also enjoy. As Andrew notes, the key to the process is in not relying on 401-K accounts, but instead, in making intelligent investments that limit risk while increasing the rate of return. Sound like a fairy tale? It’s not. What it takes is resolve, conviction, and the ability to think outside the box; what it takes is the ability to make decisions not by ‘formula’ but by the personal needs of your life. Read by the author, whose steady delivery inspires the sharp attention of the listener. This is a book about financial planning full of priestly knowledge touching on the highest levels of its subject. Nearly 14 hours on 10 CDS.

THE TIPPING POINT. How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Malcolm Gladwell. Hachette Audio. What instigates social change? Why do some ideas flop while other enjoy immense popularity? What are the intangibles that ‘tip’ the scales? In this audio, New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell seeks to examine the so called ‘tipping point,’ or that moment in time when an idea pierces the attention of the general public and becomes universal in tone and scope. Gladwell is a fixture on the New York Times bestseller’s list because he has the knack of touching on subjects that define the soul of the human condition. Here, Gladwell slices to the core of a very interesting topic as he analyzes the reasons why some ideas succeed while others flounder in obscurity. Think about it: Why is “The Sopranos’” still so popular while so many other Hollywood gangster scripts have fallen into the garbage bin? It all comes down to timing, that point where idea collides with the collective consciousness of the people – that unknown moment when idea becomes an actual component of life itself. Read by the author with grace and wit — Gladwell’s voice grand and sweeping in the tradition of old-time radio-theater. 8.5 hours on 8 CDS.

A PERFECT MESS. The Hidden Benefits of Disorder. Eric Abrahamson. David H. Freedman. Hachette Audio. So…this is a feel-good book if there ever was one! This tidy and crisp-moving audio has a message that cluttered heads everywhere will pay to hear: It’s OK to be messy. It might even help your production. Here, Abrahamson (Columbia University School of Business) and Freedman (Inc. Magazine) use various examples from all facets of life (government; retail/industry; business; parenting/home; politics; food service) to show that neatness does not necessarily correlate to success. Instead, the authors set out to prove that those with less-than-average organization are in many cases administering more productive systems than those fastidious souls in the corner office with every hair and every paper-clip perfectly in place. In addition to speaking to issues of productivity, the authors also present evidence that messier workers actually reduce unnecessary waste of resources while offering more practical and effective solutions to deadline-driven problems. Simply, according to Abrahamson and Freedman, it’s not about how things look but it’s about how efficiently things get done – a message that will be a load off every worker’s mind as they struggle to clean those sagging desk-tops. Read by Freedman, whose steady voice ripples through the consciousness like a soothing line of wind. 3 hours on 3 CDS.

GOD IS NOT GREAT. How Religion Poisons Everything. Christopher Hitchens. Hachette Audio. Many will be loath to sympathize with any part of Christopher Hitchen’s treatise, as it goes against the grain of traditional teachings – a proverbial slap-in-the-face to the foundation of all organized religion — namely, that God is all-knowing and perfect in every way. And although you might not agree with anything Hitchens (Vanity Fair) has to say, this book will drive you to deep introspection as you come to analyze yourself and your own intricate belief systems. In God is Not, Hitchens uses pieces of his own experience and his own personal war with religion to place himself in the greater context of science, disarming ideals of faith by carefully considering the world in relation to reason and evolution. Hitchens, regarded as one of the best journalists practicing today, writes with emphatic certainty: “God did not make us, we made God.” In turn, according to the author, a belief in any religious doctrine only serves to poison rational thought, stripping us of our ability to navigate through problems, paralyzing the mind’s mission to accept the rhythms of this reality.Yes, every second of this audio is drenched in controversy, and it will no doubt sting many devout Christians, leaving them frothing with anger. However, in addition to striking myriad emotional chords, God is Not will also make you take a position and a point-of-view, forcing you to become passionate about your life and the ideas to which you subscribe. And in the end, that’s exactly why people write books and why publishers circulate them. Read by the author, whose bravado and unflinching demeanor will nail you to your chair and bring your blood to full boil. Agree or disagree, love or hate him, Christopher Hitchens commands your full attention. 9 hours on 8 CDS.

CHASING LIFE. Sanjay Gupta. Hachette Audio. Gupta’s face is known to many of us, as he serves as Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN. In this text, Gupta provides a guide to help people across the world maintain their health and live longer by forging a symbiotic relationship with science. Chasing Life is a book that helps people of all ages and all cultures come to terms with the aging process as they learn that they are not powerless and can do things to bolster the overall quality of their lives. Here, Gupta stitches together recent advances in science with advice on how to apply these advances to the benefit of your own body. In addition, Gupta (a noted medical journalist and accomplished surgeon) offers myriad points of practical advice about diet and exercise and the use of nutritional supplements in an effort to arm his audience with knowledge – the idea here is to show that by educating yourself on the health process you can get a ‘leg up’ on making your golden years richer. Read by Gupta, whose experience as a broadcast journalist is put to good use – the narration evenly paced rather than frenetic as the doctor artfully refrains from bombarding the listener with too much information at one time. 3 hours on 3 CDS.

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND. Joyce Meyer. Hachette Books. The human mind is an endless pit of paradox and contradiction, a machine in a constant state of flux – the body a victim to these periods of random imbalance. In Battlefield, Meyer (a practicing minister and best-selling inspirational author) delivers an informative and compelling book that focuses on helping us to recover mental peace. Basically, all people are the same: Doing battle with rage and depression, fighting against pangs of doubt and denial – this never-ending war with the self. Step back for a moment and you will see just how much of your day is consumed in negative energy as you struggle to get through your job and find meaning in your family. Here, Meyer attempts to show us her formula for a more realized (and happier) life: The key is in the individual’s ability to rise above dark thoughts (recognizing their points of origin, stanching the blind flow of their patterns). Once you can do this, you will naturally let go of the negativity. According to Meyer’s treatise, all people have the light inside of them. Unfortunately, in so many of us, it lays buried in darkness and confusion, unable to thrive. Thus, our constant purpose must be to reconnect with our true self and our spiritual nature. In addition to bringing us more inner fulfillment, this path will allow us to embark on a sweet journey towards experiencing God. Joyce Meyer sells vast numbers of books because she is a writer who understands people and their mental construction – rather than lecture on right versus wrong, she instead looks to show people new roads by offering authentic examples: The idea here is to gain control of your mind so that you can savor your days on earth rather than fearing or dreading them. Read by Pat Lentz with an introduction by the author. 7.5 hours on 6 CDS.

IS REAL ESTATE THE BEST INVESTMENT OF ALL? Tax and Legal Secrets of Successful Real Estate Investors. Sharon L. Lechter. Garrett Sutton. Hachette Books. The most recent boom in housing and development that took America by storm re-enforced the idea that real estate is where smart people sink their cash – real property this new gold that accrues equity over time, often times doubling and tripling in value just by virtue of location and/or demand. In this volume, Lechter and Sutton (two well-respected experts in the field) offer a text aimed at both first-time and experienced investors, a book meant to show us how to navigate through a real estate investment and make good money along the way. Is Real Estate the Best Investment? covers myriad topic areas, including: How to find reliable advisors and brokers; how to create steady monthly income from your real estate holdings; how to reduce your over-all risk of loss; how to mitigate taxes; and how to maximize profits with equity loans. What sets the Lechter-Sutton book apart from others in this genre is the fact that the authors base their advice on tried-and-true formulas – this isn’t a collection of theories, but instead, a compendium of information that would-be real estate investors can follow to maximize their chances at making money and attaining future security. The text is written in clear and definite language that does not ‘flaunt’ its rarefied knowledge. Rather, Is Real Estate the Best Investment? seeks to teach and illuminate as the authors attempt to level the playing field of what has for years been an ‘insider’s club.’ Read by Sutton, whose sharp no-frills delivery never interferes with the audience’s ability to absorb the depth of what is being said. 3 hours on 3 CDS.

BEYOND BASKETBALL. Coach K’s Keywords For Success. Mike Krzyzewski. With Jamie K. Spatola. Hachette Book Group. Mike Krzyzewski is one of the most successful coaches in the history of college basketball, his Duke Blue Devils noted for their unselfish play and dedication to team basketball. During the past 15 years, Duke has been a powerhouse on the court, fielding teams that rebound well and throw the extra pass – mirroring the sensibilities of the coach who leads them. Coach ‘K’ (as he known to the team) teaches through example, using a series of code or ‘key’ words to stress the concepts he wants his players to master – both on and off the court. In Beyond Basketball, Krzyzewski offers 40 essays, each based on one of his keywords and illustrated by pieces of his personal and professional life. Here, words like ‘trust,’ ‘passion,’ ‘respect’ and ‘excellence’ are given real faces and brought to life, as Coach K seeks to teach his players that basketball is only an aspect of life that must lead to a greater understanding of the world (and themselves). A closer look shows that Mike Krzyzewski’s success on the court is no accident: He lives his work and pours himself and his very intimate belief system into teaching kids how to play basketball and how to grow up – stressing personal responsibility, stressing a dedication to community, preaching a ‘one-for-all’ doctrine that is truly about thriving beyond the basketball court. Read by the author, whose passion and strength-of-purpose bleed through each passage, captivating his listeners, pushing them unto the threshold of deeper introspection. 3 CDS. Unabridged.

THE BOOK OF THE DEAD. Douglas Preston. Lincoln Child. Time Warner Books. There’s a reason this final part of the Preston-Child trilogy has become a bestseller, eagerly devoured by fans in all four corners of the world: This is a tightly-woven action-thriller that captivates through the evolution of its characters. Everything is here: murder and suspense; betrayal; the mysteries of death; the world beyond earth. As a segment in a three-part saga, readers will be well-served to find the preceding volumes (“Dance of Death” released in 2005 will at least give readers/listeners the foundation through which to infiltrate the changing waves of this story). Insofar as production, this recording stands out: Rene Auberjonois (“Boston Legal”) is simply impeccable in his reading, as his vast stage background lends itself beautifully to the plot twists and abrupt shifts of voice. Auberjonois brings a multitude of resonant Old-English-inflections to his performance, each rising passage almost Shakespearean in tone, meant to recreate a far-away world in the privacy of your own living room. Over 6 hours on 5 CDS.

A KNOCK AT MIDNIGHT. The Original Recordings of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Edited by Clayborne Carson and Peter Holloran. Time Warner Audio Books. In light of the shape of the world today (as war-torn Iraq forces us to recall the worst days of Vietnam), the Reverend Martin Luther King’s speeches and sermons serve as a sacred beacon meant to enlighten and illuminate. Dr. King’s message was born in vision, self-restraint, and peace, his message commanding us to mend old wounds through a deeper awareness of these myriad states of the self. Accordingly, our world leaders today would be well served to take a long and thoughtful tour through this audio book, since it contains the best of Doctor King’s sermons. And probably none are more piercing, compelling and poignant than “Unfulfilled Dreams,” a piece which speaks to the class wars and the separation of nations — a captivating and chilling statement that says every person deserves a chance to find himself and his own place in the world. Also prescient is “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution” (introduced by Desmond Tutu). In this selection, Dr. King offers a priestly examination of the place of the person within falling structures of government. Dr. King’s beauty as a Reverend and as a man was in the way that he dedicated his life to protecting individual freedoms. And these essays bring back his vision in his own perfect voice — riveting and intense, calling us back to our secret selves. Original recordings of Dr. King; also read by Keith David and Jay Gregory. On 8 CDS.

A BROTHER’S JOURNEY. Surviving Childhood Abuse. A Memoir. Richard B. Pelzer. Time Warner. This is a hugely important book that leaves an immediate imprint upon its reader. The subject of childhood abuse, for many years, was the ultimate taboo — something that we whispered about behind closed doors and never spoke of with open hearts. Instead, both victims and abusers were cloaked in ringlets of shadows, afraid of the light, afraid of who and what they were. More than any other book I’ve seen (or heard) on the subject, Brother’s Journey speaks about abuse in direct, poignant and startling terms. Rather than drowning in transparent psychoanalysis like so many of these projects do, Pelzer writes in a clear, honest and human way, never disguising this dark animal pain, never glazing over his terror. You see, for children who have been abused, the secrecy is often as bad as the beatings they take. Afraid to talk, they become programmed to suppress their feelings and make excuses for the people who are terrorizing them. However, by writing down his own story and identifying the toll it took on himself and his brother, Pelzer is first able to exit the jails of the mind and then absorb himself in the enrichment of the healing process. Read by Joshua Gates. Introduced by the author. On 3 CDs.

TODAY MATTERS. John C. Maxwell. Time Warner. Motivational teacher John Maxwell synthesizes his lectures here, offering a list of steps people can take to better organize/manage their lives. Maxwell’s book is about discipline and using self-awareness and mental prowess to eradicate chaos from daily life. Once this is done, folks naturally have more time for family and self. The key is to reclaim today and forget the future and the past. As trite as it may sound in this jaded era, it’s valuable and meaningful advice. Read by the author in an engaging voice. 3 hours on 3 CDS.

RICH DAD’S WHO TOOK MY MONEY. Robert T. Kiyosaki, with Sharon Lechter. Time Warner Audio. This book, part of the “Rich Dad’s” series by Kiyosaki, is a terribly important selection in this uncertain economic climate. The volatility of the stock market during the last 40 months has showed that the way people saved money for retirement in the past is not feasible today. Security is all about properly planning for the future, and that’s the crux of this book – it provides a blueprint on how to compentently invest your money for the highest possible return. Read by Jim Ward. 3 hours on 3 CDS. 

One of the most practical and well-realized business books we’ve seen this year. The fact that it’s an audio title as well makes it all the more worthwhile, since readers can gain from its advice “on the run.

JOHN PAUL II. Rise, Let Us Be Our Own Way. John Paul 11. Time Warner Audio. This release from Time Warner captures the impact of John Paul II — one of the most popular Popes in history. John Paul’s death last month was an epic event, and it drew the attention of millions from around the world (random individuals whom the Pontiff had touched with his devout wisdom). In this selection (brilliantly read by theater veteran Kristoffer Tabori), Pope John Paul tells his own story in a beautifully lilting style that so captures this modest and gracious leader. In the beginning chapters, we are greeted with autobiographical information detailing the origins of John Paul, and then proceed with him through his rise through the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Along the way, we come to receive a truly intimate glimpse into the religious beliefs and gentle soul of a man who time will never forget. Will be important to persons of all denominations for its honesty and deep conviction. Five hours unabridged on 4 CDS.

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY. A Lifetime in The Game. Red Auerbach and John Feinstein. Time Warner Audio. As we head deeper into the 2005 NBA playoffs, fans of the game will enjoy this tour through the life and times of Arnold “Red” Auerbach — legendary leader of the Boston Celtics’ glory years. Auerbach coached the famed Celts to nine NBA championships (8 in succession); along with Phil Jackson, Red is regarded as the best NBA coach there ever was. This book presents Red Auerbach in Auerbach’s own colorful style — telling us the story that began on the playgrounds of old-town Brooklyn and proceeded to the top of the American sport’s scene. Now 87, Auerbach has so much to look back on: the championships with Russell and Cousy, the years of frustration his teams laid on the great Chamberlain, the modern years of Bird and Parish (now watching from the sidelines as a spectator). Basketball fans will adore this book — as vibrant and passionate as Coach Auerbach in his prime. Read by Arnie Mazer (Law and Order). 3 hours on 3 CDS.

THE ABC’S OF REAL ESTATE INVESTING. Ken McElroy. Time Warner Audio. About the only thing that hasn’t unraveled in the current economy is the Real Estate market, as houses and commercial properties are selling at a staggering rate, in turn, driving commerce. Given these radical changes, the world of real property investment is no longer the territory of professional investors. Instead, it’s anybody’s game now, and there’s a profit to be made by everybody — no matter your level of experience, no matter the level of capital available. This book by investor and property management expert Ken McElroy details how the first-time investor should go about exploring the market. Here, McElroy shares valuable information on how to find and evaluate property with investment potential, negotiate the best deal for your situation, and then manage the property for income potential once you’ve made the purchase. A highly informative book which does not require an MBA in order to be digested. 3 hours total running time.

THE NARROWS. Michael Connelly. Narrated by Len Cariou. Time Warner. Former journalist Michael Connelly is a captivating writer who has mastered the feat of keeping us at the edge of our seats. This novel is no exception — thrilling and hard-edged, Narrows tells the story of a deep and intellectual serial killer, the authorities in hot pursuit. More than your garden-variety mystery, The Narrows keeps its audience’s attention through its deep examination of the concepts of good and evil, the ideals of love and hatred pitted against each other. Cariou’s reading is natural and evocative, fitting tight around the words like a tight and shapely glove. 11 hours unabridged on 9 CDS.

Recommended for true crime lovers. Perfect for that long commute home.

Penguin Audio

THE AGE OF TURBULENCE. Alan Greenspan. Penguin Audio. Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, has seen a hell of a lot of history over the course of his life. What’s more, he’s had a hand in shaping some of that history, charged with keeping a fragile economy on the straight and level. As most will concede, running the Fed is probably the most powerful position in the country – for the Fed Chairman is literally at the helm of much of the world economy; simply, he is the captain at the wheel and his decisions have the power to make or break the world of Wall Street in addition to those tiny personal worlds far beyond what the national media sees. Accordingly, it takes a bright, strong and intuitive man to do this job well – and Greenspan proved to be all of those things and more as he steered the United Stateseconomy through its most stressful times since the Great Depression and World War Two. Here, Greenspan also shows himself to be a gifted writer with the deft ability to compel his reader’s complete attention as tells the story of our collective political lives. In Turbulence, Greenspan blends a tale about his own life with analysis of America’s economic ‘face’ from the last 30 years. It’s a gripping read, indeed – Greenspan moving through dialogues about the country’s greatest economic challenges (how to fund baby-boomer retirements and balance the bloated budget) with incisive jabs at the Bush administration’s glaring failures (such as engaging the country in an unwinnable war over oil) in a book that shows the true depths of the turbulent path we are now on. As Greenspan writes his way through the songs of his life, we cross many thresholds (the stock market crash of  1987; the Clinton-growth years; 9-11) on our way to our tallest hurdles still to come (namely, recovering from a war that has divided the country with its pointlessness and tragic waste). Through his long tenure as Fed Chair, Greenspan was nothing if not gutsy (a man fiercely determined to do what he believed was right without succumbing to partisan politics). In Turbulence, Greenspan steadfastly refuses to waver from this course, writing the same way he steered America’s economic engine – with resolve and candor and impeccable insight. Read by Robertson Dean, whose voice mirrors the inner-drive of Greenspan:  deep and relentless yet ever-so-sensitive to the shifting focus of the 21st century. 20 hours on 16 CDS.

THE MISTRESSES’S DAUGHTER. A.M. Homes. Penguin Audio. The Mistress’s Daughter, by acclaimed novelist A.M. Homes, is a very intimate story about the ultimate life-journey, as Homes records what happened when her birth-parents came looking for her 30 years after they had placed their infant daughter up for adoption. To say that this book is piercing would be a gross understatement, for it simply guts its listener at the core, cutting to the psychology of what it means to have a family history, cutting to the soul of what it means to have your adult-identity stalked and manipulated. After Homes’ birth-parents made contact with her, the novelist’s entire world was turned upside down as she was suddenly confronted with people who wanted a piece of the child they walked away from decades before. In addition to causing readers to re-examine the concept of adoption and the immense responsibility that comes with having a child, this book will compel you to look back into your emotional drawer of secrets (as you grapple for the courage to confront your own past demons). In The Mistress’s Daughter, Homes proves to be a skillful writer who is able to simultaneously put her own story front-and-center and then retreat into the objective eye of a journalist, effortlessly observing the whys and reasons of her own life’s road. This audio is brilliantly read by actress Jane Adams: Assuming Homes’ voice, Adams propels the story forward, sweeping us into its bittersweet landscape, drenching us in the dark-stained dramas of the icy and stark human condition. 5-plus hours on 5 CDS.

Ten Minutes With Author A.M. Homes

Let’s begin with a bit about your background.

Well, I grew up in Washington D.C. and went to public schools there. I began writing seriously fairly early, I would say by the age of 15 (and actually had a play produced at 19). I went to college at Sarah Lawrence, and then to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop where I studied literature and drama. As I said, I was writing seriously at an early age – and even wrote a novel at the age of 19 (however it wasn’t published until a decade later). Right now I live and work in New York City [working on staff at Vanity Fair].

The Mistresses’s Daughter is a compelling and, I believe, a socially important work – how did you come to decide to commit this personal story to paper?

I am not by nature someone who writes autobiographically. My fiction is not autobiographical, and really, I don’t like writing this way. But in terms of this story, I had to write the events down to make sense of them. I also thought it was an incredibly important thing to do in that the book could have meaning for many other people in similar situations.

Do you think you will find a place for these themes in your fiction?

I really don’t know the answer to that. A writer’s path is in many ways hard to describe and define. I don’t intend that I will write about them, but then again, they might find their way into a future story or project on some level. I just don’t know….

How long did it take to get the book done?

The story took about 45 years to create – which is how old I am. The actual writing took about 10 years. It took so long because I would have to write for awhile and then stop because the process would just become too difficult. Then one day I came to realize that I just had to finish the book, since time does indeed change things (and my purpose was to create a document of events as they happened).

It’s really a psychologically daunting circumstance – having your birth parents contact you decades after they’d put you up for adoption. So many emotions must have been at war in your head. But specifically, did it impact your relationship with your adoptive parents in any substantive way?

There was definitely an intensity about everything that was happening, and each of us had our own feelings about things. My [adoptive] parents I think worried about losing me to the other family; I think they were worried [going though] this could hurt me more than I’d already been hurt. My feelings were so complicated that I really couldn’t talk to them about what I was thinking; I just worked through it alone…

Tell me, how would you counsel someone who is going through a similar ordeal? What could you say to them?

That it is a very difficult thing to go through on many levels, and that every person’s situation is different. I guess I would also say that the passing of time does change things, causing feelings to shift. You can take some comfort in knowing that the feelings you are going through now won’t always be so hard to cope with.

by John Aiello

IT’S CALLED WORK FOR A REASON! Your Success is Your Own Damn Fault. Larry Winget. Penguin Audio. Larry Winget is a no-nonsense kind of guy, premising his life on self-confidence and self-realization, premising his life on the belief that there is no bad luck (it’s only a lack of motivation that causes people to lose sight of themselves and their goals). In this audio, Winget brings his unique perspective to the forefront of the public consciousness as he sets out to educate both business owners and employees at all levels on how to find greater fulfillment in their careers. In essence, Winget is about taking responsibility for yourself and your own path. Stop making excuses, Winget says; instead, look to accentuate your strengths, looking for ways to make your strengths resonate with value. Easier said than done? No necessarily. In this book, Winget shows you how to do it by explaining the reasons things happen: By explaining why your past approaches have failed, Winget is also showing you how to do it differently and how to do it so it will succeed. It’s Called Work is a notable because it moves away from the formula of other how-to business books. Rather than using abstract concepts that paint a rosy picture of a financial windfall, Winget puts the responsibility back on the individual. Simply, it’s up to you to make things work – there’s no good-fairy out there to save day. It’s all about work and working at finding some success (evaluating your life in practical terms). It’s all up to you, it’s always been this way and it’s never going to change. Read by the author, whose nickname (‘the pit-bull of personal development’) seeps through every distinct passage. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

ON THE COUCH. Lorraine Bracco. Penguin Audio. Lorraine Bracco first gained real fame for her portrayal of Karen Hill in the Martin Scorsese mob-epic, “Good Fellas” (1989). After a brief respite from the spotlight, she gained instant recognition as Dr. Jennifer Melfi on the classic HBO series, “The Sopranos.” In this wonderful and shapely autobiography/memoir, Bracco comes clean in truly poignant and compelling terms, sharing her history, recounting her rise to the crown-top of Hollywood. Bracco grew up in Brooklyn and was somewhat of a “plain-Jane” kid — apparently a bit gawky and unassuming, hardly the image we envision for an A-List actress. However, Bracco slowly turned her life and persona around through deep focus and hard work, her every breath teeming with grit and guts and iron-will (she was, after all, married to Harvey Keitel!). Accordingly, Bracco tells her story in beautiful lines, this audio silhouetted by her supple-soft and resonant voice that brings scenes to life so that we not only hear them but see them as well. Like all great thespians, Bracco has the knack to take her heartache to the stage and then use it to personalize her characters, bringing the essence of the fire to the flame. In Couch, she sits bare naked in front of us and uses her life as an inspirational point of purpose for the benefit of her audience. In contrast to her characterization of Dr. Melfi, Bracco-the-author is warm and inviting and telling, a best friend speaking to her fans from the security of the evening “couch.” Read brilliantly by the author, whose training as an actress pours through every second of this recording. 6 hours on 5 CDS.

DARK LIGHT. Randy Wayne White. Penguin Audio. Randy Wayne White’s work as a novelist might be overlooked by some, but they will get a revealing jolt of deep imagination should they ever give one of his books a chance. Dark Light is part of White’s “Doc Ford” series, and it may be the best Ford-centered installment yet. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, our interest in tropical storms is at an all-time high. In the wake of that horrific disaster, people all over the world can’t help but be drawn to stories where control over their environment is suddenly stripped away. In Dark Light, White fits his plot around a severe Hurricane that rocks the Florida coastline, a storm so angry that it actually changes the complexion of the oceans and her structures. It is here that biologist Doc Ford emerges to investigate a wreck in the water, happening on a scene populated with ghosts and wrapped in invisible mirrors, these reflections leading him on a journey through the over-grown jungles of the universal subconscious. What’s best about White’s writing is in how he constructs his “mysteries.” These aren’t only action-based “whodunits?” but rather intricately balanced books that develop characters in thought-provoking detail, painting the faces in his stories with actual pieces of his readers, in turn creating a reality that proves impossible to walk away from. Read by actor Henry Strozier (“Homicide”). Over 12 hours on 11 CDS.

JOHN PAUL THE GREAT. Remembering A Spiritual Father. Peggy Noonan. Penguin Audio. The thing that’s most profound about Pope John Paul is the way he was able to transcend religious lines and impact the spirit of the world and its people. Here, Noonan is able to use her own spiritual journey as a means to record the story of the most influential Pope we have known. It’s not an easy assignment to write an original work about this Pope — so much has been said about him that the subject has become stale, almost tired. Notwithstanding the undeniable greatness of the man, the story itself has simply been over-told.Until this book, that is. Using interviews with other Catholics and then setting their perspective against her own perceptions of the late John Paul, we come to taste the true essence of his spirit — a spirit that led through sweet humility, offering us the chance to accompany him on his journey as we came to terms with our own holy questions of faith. What made Pope John Paul so amazing was that he deemed all people worthy of hearing his electric message of God; rather than drive people away, he welcomed them to come and listen, to search and discover, to sit in silence and contemplate along side him. And that’s why people from the four corners of the world loved him. And that’s just what Peggy Noonan’s book so gracefully documents — her prose as ethereal and soothing as her subject. Read by the author, a long-time veteran of the New York Times Bestseller’s list. 8.5 hours on 7 Cds.

OH THE GLORY OF IT ALL. Sean Wilsey. Scott Brick. Penguin Audio. This Wilsey novel has it all — intrigue, sex, cultural exploration, the hunt for spirituality, the depths of desolation. A sprawling plot-line, yes, and quite an undertaking for any novelist. And believe it or not, Wilsey is actually able to pull it off with an ease and power that reminds the reader of the Thomas Pynchon years in American literature. This story is about a family separated by the sight of its own wealth — a story about losing one’s soul, finding it momentarily, and then losing it all over again. It’s a story about the pomp and pretension of money and how it rots away the real core of “family” and “honor” and “faith.” It’s a story about salvation and the loss of redemption in an out-of-control world. Captivating in the way that we found the characters on “Dallas” captivating. All the elements are here to hold the reader spellbound for hours. Read by actor/writer Scott Brick. 22 hours on 18 CDS.

THE LAST SEASON. A TEAM IN SEARCH OF ITS SOUL. Phil Jackson. Read by Stephen Hoye. Penguin Audio. Phil Jackson is more than a coach. This guy’s an acutely intelligent man who knows people and understands how to motivate the psyche. His methods are without question: after winning 9 championships in 10 tries, who can question him? Moreover, the fact that the Lakers failed to make the playoffs this year was as much a result of the fact that Jackson wasn’t at the helm as it was due to the fact that Shaq wasn’t in the middle of the key. You see, Jackson is a leader with smarts and cunning and he can read a basketball court like no other. This book tells the story of his last season with the Lakers — the contentions he endured with superstar Kobe Bryant. His struggle to bring the disparate elements of a star-studded team together for a last shot at a ring. Interestingly, as this review is being written, the Lakers are contemplating rehiring Jackson: a fact that serves as indisputable evidence of the man’s power on the court. In the end, The Last Season opens the door a crack, and allows us to see what his players see: a coach driven to excel, a man who will settle for nothing less than perfection from his team. Brilliantly read by Hoye, who gives the recording a passion and intensity that is often only seen on the stage. 8 hours on 7 CDS.

THE INNOCENT. Harlan Coben. Read by Scott Brick. Penguin. This book by Coben is truly a fun read – -although a novel, it moves with the dark and sticky intensity of true crime. Unabashed with passion, the story is propelled by a Mickey Spillane-type-turmoil that drives the characters toward their doom and redemption. The Innocent presents the story of Matt Hunter, an “innocent” guy who ends up in jail for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After doing his 10 year stint in jail, he finds himself on the outside again. But he is not free. A stranger appears and begins to stalk the tranquillity of Matt’s suburban life. This story has a lot of twists and surprises and will keep the reader guessing. It’s ultimate lesson shows that there are no guarantees that our lives will remain quiet and perfect and peaceful. 14 hours on 11 CDS. Veteran narrator Brick brings deep and subtle power to the recording.

THE RUNES OF THE EARTH. Stephen R. Donaldson. Penguin Audio. Probably more than any other novelist in the last 30 years, Stephen Donaldson’s vision as a writer has changed the way the fantasy novel takes shape and tells itself. Similar to Thomas Pynchon, Donaldson’s work (especially the international best-seller “The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant”) is known for its intricacies of character and the multi-layered dimensions of plot. These are not the “Lost In Space” tales of post World War Two America; instead, they’re original stories of immense depth and detail that captivate and capture the audience, recreating the world, giving the lost ones a place to go. The Runes of the Earth begins in the time after the death of Thomas Covenant (the holy writer who lived his last hours in a dream state, safe between the soft edges that bridge heaven and earth). But Runes makes it clear: even though Covenant is gone, his connection to the spirits of the infinite are not. And this is where the story begins: with Covenant’s son trying to connect with his invisible father through a toy on the floor – moving through time and space towards a land that is predicated on the deep vision of the eyesRunes is simply a fantasy masterpiece, a book populated by rich characterizations and stunningly evocative detail, steeped in history, over-boiling with imagination, drunk on the breathlessness of ghosts. Be forewarned, the questions unleashed are deeply profound: Where do we go when we sleep? Do dreams carry us to the hollow edge of death? Do softer worlds await those who flounder amid the tired bones of earth? Runes poses these questions and many more, taking its readers on a marvelous journey. Read by actor/writer Scott Brick. 28 hours on 22 CDS.

Order these selections at amazon.com, or go to audiorenaissance.comharpercollins.comtwbookmark.com/audiobookssimonsays.comnaxos.compenguin.comtantor.com, or randomhouse.com.

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