There is no doubt that Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary is a superbly written book. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013, it’s elegant, imaginative, and steeped in grief. It’s a brave interpretation of one of the most hallowed and loved figures in history, Mary, mother of Jesus. Toibin gives new life to the flawless, soft and ever-obedient figure she’s typically portrayed as, making her into a strong and compassionate woman, at times cautious and fearful, at others, resistant and angry. Her relationships with her husband, her son and his disciples, and the other women in town all take on deep thought-provoking complexities. Toibin’s Mary challenges the agreed-upon history of events that took place leading up to and during her son’s death. I love historical re-imaginations, this one was written with insight, imagination and mastery. That kind of book, when being recorded as an audio book, requires a certain caliber of narrator—and Meryl Streep certainly fits the bill.
Streep was perfectly cast in this role. An Academy Award-winning actress, it’s castings like these that force regular audio book listeners to re-evaluate their idea of a “good narration”. Streep’s years of acting experience are present here in full force: I was told by a co-worker that she was exceptional, but I still wasn’t prepared for her expertise and skill. She caught me from the first words (literally, within the first 10 seconds), and held me, minute by minute, through the entire 3 hours. She does not simply narrate this book: it’s a performance, a one-woman show, bolstered by incredible words and a fascinating character, but brought to a new level by the woman delivering it. I almost never say this, but the audio version of The Testament of Mary is a cut above the print version, as good as it is. Streep imbues Toibin’s words with much more emotion, fragility, tenuous strength and love than my silent inner narrator ever could. Sometimes people worry that the narrator influences their personal interpretation of a story too strongly, but in this case, that influence is a gift.
Which audio books do you think are better than the printed versions?
Title: Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired—And Secretive—Company Really Works Author: Adam Lashinsky Narrator: Adam Lashinsky Length: 6 hours, 52 minutes
Inside Apple, written and narrated by Adam Lashinsky, lets us in on what makes Apple so innovative and what sets them apart from every other successful company on the planet. He dishes on everything from corporate culture to business successes and uncovers Apple’s systems, tactics and leadership strategies. Everyone is dying to know Apple’s secret sauce and this is a great listen for people looking to incorporate some of Steve Job’s genius into their corporation, career or entrepreneurial endeavor.
If what you really want is the dirt on Apple, you’ll enjoy Lashinsky’s insights into the secretive nature of the company—secrets so guarded that it’s rumored that undercover agents would monitor employees while they were grabbing a beer at the local pub and listen in to make sure they weren’t discussing project or company information.
Here’s a little more gossip:
At Apple, geek equals chic. The stereotypical high school hierarchy is turned upside with iOS engineers at the top of the heap.
If you’re hired at Apple, you better be tech-savvy or have a friend in IT on speed dial. No one helps new employees set up their computers on Apple’s network .
It’s not the tech version of Willy Wonka’s factory that most of us believe it to be. According to Lashinsky, “Almost nobody describes working at Apple as being fun.”
The book does a great job at examining what sets Apple apart from the rest, both good and bad, but we have a little intel ourselves—Inside Apple is completely unauthorized. All of the information is based off secondary sources, so listen with a grain of salt.
If you enjoyed this, you’ll love listening to the exclusive biography of Steve Jobs.
If you’re looking for something to listen to at the gym or on your commute, we’re loving AudioFile Magazine’s Earphones Award Winnersfor January 2012. The top industry mag named their favourites this month, looking for audio books that didn’t just reflect the written text, but actually offer an above-and-beyond performance of a great book.
We’re fans of all 16 picks but you definitely won’t want to miss out on our top pick, Red Flags by Juris Jurjevics.
If you’re in the market for something more family-friendly, the Odyssey Award recognizes audio books geared to kids and young adults. This year, they honoured Young Fredle (best for kids 8 and up) and Okay for Now, a tween tale that’ll resonate with kids 10 and up. Their choice for the top prize goes to Rotters, a title best suited to teens – don’t expect to get that Harry Potter vibe from this story about a teen grave-robber.
Title: Be the Miracele: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible
Author: Regina Brett
Narrator: Regina Brett
Length: 6 hours 46 minutes
Regina Brett has written another timeless collection of inspirational essays that will almost certainly change the way you view the world. Complimenting her own stories of hardships with those of people she’s met along the way, Brett takes us through 50 life lessons that teach us to see the miracle in our everyday existence. Throughout her narration, Brett conveys a sense of conviction and passion that will leave you with a heightened sense of optimism and empowerment.
Be the Miracle introduces you to seemingly ordinary people among us who cease to merely exist in their day-to-day lives. They strive to live their dreams, change the world, and be the miracle most of us wait a lifetime to see. With her beautifully written words and poignant delivery, Regina Brett inspires us to believe that the ordinary can be extraordinary.
Do you have any life lessons to add to Regina’s list?
Warning: Not suitable for children, redheads or people with a conscience.
Title: Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea
Author: Chelsea Handler
Narrator: Chelsea Handler
Length: 6 hours 15 minutes
In the book Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, Chelsea Handler recounts her life through a collection of outrageous and offensive stories that had me laughing out loud throughout the entire audio book. Chelsea makes inappropriate jokes, drinks way too much vodka, lies a lot and consistently finds herself in absurd situations.
If you are quick to take offense, I would pass on this one. However, if you are someone who appreciates utter ridiculousness, you will find this book horribly funny.
A huge part of what makes this audiobook so hilarious is that Chelsea narrates the stories herself. She’s uninhibited, really fun to listen to and only Chelsea has the ability to make her wicked sarcasm and deadpan sense of humour translate into the perfect narration.
Once you’ve finish listening to this audio book, download Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me (her latest release) and let the ridiculousness continue!
What did you think of this audio book? Was it offensive and over the top? Or the perfect amount of hilarity?
Title: The Night Before Christmas
Author: Rabbit Ears
Narrator: Meryl Streep
Length: 46 minutes
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”
Not quite! The night before Christmas usually involves last minute shopping, wrapping gifts, stuffing stockings and baking cookies for Santa. The hustle and bustle of Christmas always seems to leave people feeling a little less than merry and bright!
The one tradition I can always count on to put the magic back into my holidays is listening to holiday favourite The Night Before Christmas. This timeless story is narrated by the fabulous Meryl Streep who delivers an incredible performance. The artistry of her voice, combined with a whimsical score, makes the characters of this story come to life!
So, this Christmas Eve, forget about the stresses of Christmas, pour a cup of hot cocoa, cozy up around the fireplace and put on The Night Before Christmas audio book. Watch your children’s eyes light up with excitement when they hear the prancing and pawing of each little hoof and listen to them giggle when they find out Santa’s belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly!
This story guarantees to warm your heart and remind you of what the holiday season is all about!
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!”
Audiobooks.com has many holiday classics to bring the magic back to your holiday season. What are some of your favourites?