About Emma

Emma can (and does) listen to audiobooks all day. Her friends are tired of hearing about Davina Porter.

STAFF PICK: Brotopia by Emily Chang

Title: Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley
Author: Emily Chang
Narrator: Emily Chang

Bloomberg Technology reporter Emily Chang confronts Silicon Valley’s rampant sexism, which has excluded women from the greatest wealth creation of our generation.

For a really terrifying listen this Friday 13th, look no further than Brotopia. From the very beginning, this book had me riled! It features example after example of women systemically being excluded from the tech industry. From unconscious bias to very conscious harassment, the industry is at best unwelcoming and has led to women dropping out of tech at a rate 45% higher than men, if they can even breach the walls at all.

With each new stat and story, I grew increasingly agitated. I’m quite good at multitasking with audiobooks, but here and there this one required me to pause to absorb the gravity of what she was saying. During some parts my jaw dropped and I glared at my audio-producing phone as if it would return my incredulous expression.

The narration feels unsurprisingly like a news report, which is not my preference but was subtle and suited the book’s content. Emily Chang is clear and steady, just as you’d expect from a trained reporter.

While it may make your blood boil, it ends on a high note, with encouraging stats and advice to build the solution’s momentum. Whether you’re in the tech industry or not, you can benefit from what Chang has to say. This listen certainly won’t brighten your day, but it will broaden your perspective.

Brotopia

 

 

Read more and listen to a sample here!

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4 Ways Audiobooks Beat Print for Travelling

On long journeys (or short journeys), what better way to pass the time than getting lost in a story? You’re confined to your tiny airplane seat, so you pull out a novel. Here’s the question: Is your novel in print or audio?

I love print as much as the next bookworm, but audiobooks have advantages that just can’t be beat. I just returned from vacation, so the joys are fresh in my mind. In my nobly unbiased opinion, here are the ways that audio has the edge as a travelling companion:

No motion sickness
I am one of the unfortunate cases that suffer from motion sickness. As a child, I would try books on road trips but never passed half a chapter before regretfully closing them. But I can listen! Audiobooks prevent the queasiness caused by focusing your eyes on something still while your body’s in motion. Plus, it frees up your eyes, which brings me to the next point…

Enjoy the view
Audio lets you gaze out the window while listening. Your eyes aren’t locked onto a book or screen, so you can take in the passing landscapes. Depending on where the book is set, your view might even inspire better visuals in your imagination.

You always have your phone
But you don’t always have capacity to travel with loads of books. Even if you’re an eBook reader, phone screens are tiny for reading, phones are easier to transport than e-readers, and you’re guaranteed to have it on you in a pinch.

Stock up on listens ahead of time
You can load your phone with as many books as you want ahead of time so you’re prepared no matter how long you’re travelling for. No added weight, and no data required!

We’ve long seen audiobooks as the superior form of travel, so I hope this post helps you see the light, along with the view.

BONUS: Looking for the perfect travel companion? Here are some of our faves this spring!

RainbirdsRainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut opens with a murder and shines a spotlight onto life in fictional small-town Japan. Ren Ishida is nearly finished with graduate school when he receives news of his sister, Keiko’s, sudden death. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl, Ren struggles to find solace in the void his sister has left behind.

 

The Room on Rue AmelieThe Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel

International bestselling author Kristin Harmel tells the tale of an American woman, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in occupied Paris during the tumultuous days of World War II. Rich with historical drama and emotional depth, this is an unforgettable story that will stay with you long after the final word.

 

Happiness

Happiness by Aminatta Forna

From award-winning writer Aminatta Forna, a stunning novel bringing an American scientist and a Ghanaian psychologist together in London in a hunt for a missing boy. A tale of loss, hope, love, compassion, culture, and the true meaning of happiness.

 

 

Laura & Emma

Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead
Literary Fiction

Laura hails from the Upper East Side of Manhattan. One weekend in 1981 she meets Jefferson. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she’s pregnant. Enter: Emma. An insightful exploration of class and family warfare from a new author whose sensibility, wit, and prose celebrate what makes us human.

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STAFF PICK: Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Title: Speak No Evil
Author: Uzodinma Iweala
Narrators: 
 Prentice Onayemi and Julia Whelan 

Speak No Evil is a new release from the author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation. Protagonist Niru is a successful student. He received early acceptance to Harvard, is a star track athlete, and is gay. The last bit was a secret, but when it’s accidentally revealed to his conservative Nigerian father, Niru’s life turns upside down.

As this plays out, there is friction with his best friend. Niru tries to cope with the World’s expectations and his conflicting desires without the support of the one person he’s always had by his side. The book brims with confusion and pain. He juggles his father’s shame, his pastor’s preaching, and his personal desires. When he begins to find happiness, his family’s words resonate in his head and he distances himself. His torment piles onto the pressure of high school, and despite Niru’s conscientious attitude, it gets to be too much.

The narrators are excellent. I’ve listened to and enjoyed Prentice Onayemi‘s narration before, and his performance here does not disappoint. The transition between American and Nigerian accents is smooth and clear, and he amplifies the story’s emotion. When the perspective changes and Julia Whelan takes over, the emotion is not lost. 

Uzodinma Iweala brings hard topics front of mind, and left me feeling somber but thoughtful. The writing is elegant and despite the difficult subject matter, I rushed through it. Have you read it? Share your thoughts!

Speak No Evil

 

 

Read more and sample the audio here!

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4 Narration Considerations when Choosing an Audiobook

Audiobook lovers know the importance of a good narrator. Narrators have the potential to expertly enhance a book, or, unfortunately, to sometimes drag it down. It can be tricky for audio publishers to find a voice that suits both the book and everyone’s preferences. (A sweet, bubbly voice doesn’t belong in scenes of gore, just as ragged, ominous voices have no place in light-hearted fairy tales.)

As listeners, we need to know ourselves and our narration tastes in order to opt for books that suit us, so we’ve come up with a quick guide to test a narrator. While listening to samples as you’re browsing for your next audiobook, here are some things to consider.

Pace:
Does the narrator match your preferred pace? Are they reading too quickly during scenes that need better build up? Do they take too long during descriptive paragraphs? If the pace doesn’t quite fit, try changing the playback speed to see if it improves the experience.

TECH TIP! To change playback speed, tap the 1x icon on the player screen in the Audiobooks.com app. 

Pitch and Intonation:
Very important in regards to narration is the delivery. Is the reader too monotone? Do they exaggerate dialogue to the point where it’s cheesy? Is the pitch of the voice suitable? Even if the pace suits you, inappropriate intonation could make a potentially great audiobook personally unbearable.

Accents:
This one is a little more difficult. You may have a preference for certain accents during general narration, but when it comes to dialogue, accents are an important part of the character. Depending on where you’re from, you may be more tolerant of narrators putting on certain accents. Those accustomed to a North American accent may cringe if a British narrator fails to imitate a Southern character. Similarly, people in the UK may be distracted from the story when an American narrator portrays someone from Ireland.

Background noise:
While this last one isn’t in the narrator’s power, it’s worth considering that some audiobooks have sound effects and music in the background as a way to enhance the audio. To some, this is a welcome addition that turns the experience up a level, but others find it distracting and unnecessary. Determine the side you relate to and listen for it in the sample.

TECH TIP! To sample an audiobook before committing a credit to it, simply press play on a title in the Audiobooks.com app. After the set sample time is up, you’ll be prompted to apply a credit and keep listening, or choose to keep browsing. 

What do you think? Do you look for similar factors when sampling audio? What are your listening preferences? Let us know!

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Oprah’s Latest Book Club Pick

Since 1996, Oprah’s gifted us with timeless and thought-provoking recommendations. Most recently we were delighted with Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers. Today Oprah is making waves once again with her latest selection: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones!

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together. This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward-with hope and pain-into the future.

An American Marriage

 

Listen to a sample and find the full story here!

 

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STAFF PICK: Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

Title: Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them
Author: Jennifer Wright
Narrator: Gabra Zackman

Disease isn’t funny. But this book made me laugh. If you listen to Get Well Soon, you’ll understand. Jennifer Wright takes us on a journey through some of history’s worst plagues, descriptively noting their symptoms, causes and cures, but more importantly noting the reaction of society and of medical professionals.

She talks about pustules and lobotomies, of death and corpses. She talks about cultures that created an atmosphere conducive to healing as well as those that made the situation far worse. She draws parallels to modern society and hints at ways we’re susceptible if another plague was afoot. That doesn’t sound amusing at all, but the ridiculousness of “cures” and “expert opinions” truly are. Wright’s matter-of-fact tone, laced with dark humor, makes it all the better. Some of the images conjured by her explanations really made me laugh aloud on my drive. Here’s one such excerpt :

‘The dancing plague of 1347 was supposedly halted by a priest holding open the mouth of each suffering person and shouting into their mouths, “praise the true God, praise the Holy Ghost, get thee hence, thou damned and foredoomed spirit.” (When your boss suggests you try new ideas and think outside the box, you could consider yelling into your coworkers mouths.)’

My entertainment was amplified by Gabra Zackman’s narration, which was both straightforward and sassy, breathing extra hilarity into the remedies of yore. Her voice is steady and very enjoyable, even when I sped her up to 1.25x.

We learn history so we don’t repeat its mistakes. This audiobook lends a hand toward that goal, describing how societal reactions to disease have not grown much since the 1600’s, despite medicine’s leaps and bounds. It will benefit any listener by spreading awareness of what helps and what harms. Even if you have a firm grasp of plague best-practices, this book will lend perspective from history. I promise it’s worth it if just for the laughs… but maybe don’t listen during lunch.

Get Well Soon Audiobook Cover

 

Listen to a sample (and then the full title) here: Get Well Soon

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