STAFF PICK: Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Title: Killing Commendatore
Author: Haruki Murakami
Narrator: 
Kirby Heyborne

Killing Commendatore sees Japan’s most celebrated author return with a lengthy, surreal homage to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved The Great Gatsby.

The novel opens in typical Murakami fashion with a perplexing prologue of a faceless man looking to have his portrait painted. As the opening draws to a dreamy end, the narrative dives into the life of a disillusioned, mildly successful portrait painter who leaves Tokyo after his marriage abruptly falls apart. After a weeks-long meander along the Japanese coast, he settles in the mountains in the secluded home of Tomohiko Amada, a famous Japanese painter. As our uninspired, nameless narrator attempts to reinvent his artistic career, a series of surreal incidents disrupt the thus-far tame and simple narrative.

Late one night, a rustling prompts the protagonist to investigate the attic, and it is there that he discovers a painting titled “Killing Commendatore” wrapped snugly in paper and tucked into a corner. The painting—a vivid portrayal of the titular murder in Mozart’s Don Giovanni—captivates the protagonist and he spends weeks basking in its presence. Then, his enigmatic neighbor—a tech mogul with a shock of white hair who is a thoroughly convincing Gatsby—orders his portrait painted. Before long, the narrator begins to hear a bell echoing through the night beginning precisely at 1:45 a.m., and thus follows a series of strange events involving a two-foot tall idea of a man, a missing thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt, and a journey into the underworld.

Killing Commendatore is a return to the poetic magic realism that Murakami is known for. It is a novel bursting with elements that will seem familiar to his fans: an unnamed, disillusioned male narrator, flashes of the surreal, an abundance of metaphors, and, of course, pasta and cats.

At 28 hours and 30 minutes, this nearly 700-page brick of a novel develops in slow, mystifying fragments which often meander into inaction. Yet, consuming the book never feels like a chore. Murakami teases the mystery with each mounting chapter, and Kirby Heyborne’s exquisite narration draws listeners immediately into the ever-more bewildering life of our anonymous narrator.

Although Killing Commendatore will not appeal to everyone, the novel is nevertheless a reminder that at age 69 with a plethora of novels and short stories under his belt, Haruki Murakami is still at the top of his game.

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Page to Screen in October 2018

Going to the movies this October? Get the best experience by listening to the books they were based on before seeing the film adaptations.

 

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin
Expected release date: October 5, 2018 (limited)

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

2. Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey through His Son’s Meth Addiction by David Sheff, narrated by Anthony Heald
Expected release date: October 12

Before meth, David Sheff’s son, Nic, was a varsity athlete, honor student, and award-winning journalist. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole money from his eight-year-old brother, and lived on the streets. With poignant candor, Sheff traces the first warning signs—denial, 3 a.m. phone calls—the attempts at rehabilitation, and, at last, the way past addiction.
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3. First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, narrated by Jeremy Bobb
Expected release date: October 12

When Apollo 11 touched down on the Moon’s surface in 1969, the first man on the Moon became a legend. Based on over fifty hours of interviews with Lance Armstrong, who also gave Hansen exclusive access to private documents and family sources, this “magnificent panorama of the second half of the American twentieth century” is an unparalleled biography of an American icon.
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4. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, narrated by Bernadette Dunne
Expected release date: October 12

Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.
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5. Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel, narrated by Jane Curtin
Expected release date: October 19

In 1990, Lee Israel made a bold and irreversible career change: inspired by a letter she’d received once from Katharine Hepburn, and armed with her considerable skills as a researcher and celebrity biographer, she began to forge letters in the voices of literary greats. Between 1990 and 1991, she wrote more than three hundred letters and sold the forgeries to memorabilia and autograph dealers.
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6. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat, narrated by Samin Nosrat
Expected release date: October 19

In the tradition of The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything comes Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, an ambitious new approach to cooking by a major new culinary voice. By explaining the hows and whys of good cooking, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will teach and inspire a new generation of cooks how to confidently make better decisions in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients, anywhere, at any time.
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September’s Top 10 Audiobooks.com Member Downloads

Listen to last month’s roundup of the top fiction and non-fiction titles downloaded by Audiobooks.com members.

 

Fiction

1. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, narrated by Lynn Chen

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is she will soon be initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, narrated by Cassandra Campbell

In late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl who haunts Barkley Cove. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life—until the unthinkable happens. Read more and sample the audio.

 

3. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, narrated by Ann Marie Lee

Reporter Camille Preaker must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her mother or to the half-sister she barely knows. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

4. A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell, narrated by Xe Sands, Andi ArndtMatthew Waterson

It starts with a simple favor. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. But, when Emily doesn’t come back from her high-demand job in Manhattan, Stephanie knows something is wrong. Then, she receives shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.
Or is it? Read more and sample the audio.

 

5. Texas Ranger by James Patterson, narrated by Christopher Ryan Grant

Across the ranchlands and cities of his home state, Rory Yates’s discipline and law-enforcement skills have carried him far: from local highway patrolman to the honorable rank of Texas Ranger. He arrives in his hometown to find a horrifying crime scene and a scathing accusation: he is named a suspect in the murder of his ex-wife, Anne. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

 

Non-Fiction

1. Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward, narrated by Robert Petkoff

Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files, and documents. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

2.The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson, narrated by Roger Wayne

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people. With academic research and well-timed poop jokes, Manson argues that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Read more and sample the audio.

 

3. In Pieces by Sally Field, narrated by Sally Field

Sally Field has stunned audiences time and time again with her artistic range and emotional acuity. Yet there is one character who always remained hidden: the shy and anxious little girl within. With raw honesty and the fresh, pitch-perfect prose of a natural-born writer, Field brings readers behind-the-scenes of her life and career. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

4. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Leif BabinJocko Willink, narrated by Jocko WillinkLeif Babin

Leif Babin and Jocko Willink, two U.S. Navy SEAL officers who led the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War, demonstrate how to apply powerful leadership principles from the battlefield to business and life. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

 

 

5. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari, narrated by Derek Perkins

Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a probing and visionary investigation into today’s most urgent issues as we move into the uncharted territory of the future. Harari addresses the challenge of navigating life in the face of constant and disorienting change and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to survive. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Title: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Narrator: Derek Perkins

A mere half-decade ago, a brilliant albeit obscure Israeli professor of history took the literary world by storm. Published first in Hebrew in 2011 and translated into English in 2014, Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens transformed the history of humankind—a gargantuan topic in itself—into a household conversation piece. In 2016, Harari published a follow-up, Homo Deus, which extended the scope of Sapiens to examine the future of humankind. Now, he has turned his sights to the present with 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which reflects on topical issues plaguing the here and now.

Harari poses some big questions in his introduction: “What are today’s greatest challenges and choices? What should we pay attention to? What should we teach our kids?” The book, broken into five sections that cover technology, politics, fear, truth, and resilience, attempt to examine the major forces that will influence the future of our planet. The scope of the book is huge, yet Harari acknowledges the lessons and issues he grapples with within 300 pages is not exhaustive of all that we could learn. Rather, 21 Lessons for the 21 Century is, as he puts it, a stepping stone to “help readers participate in some of the major conversations of our time.”

Harari delves into topics ranging from immigration to religion to artificial intelligence with eloquence and clarity. As was made clear in Sapiens and Homo Deus, the true mark of his talent as a scholarly writer is his ability to delineate information in an accessible and engaging manner. Much of the content builds on what he has discussed before in Sapiens and Homo Deus, so readers familiar with Harari’s previous works will recognize certain arguments and strands of thinking.

Derek Perkins is, as always, an exquisite narrator. If I close my eyes, I can almost imagine I am once again sitting in a grand lecture hall at university, listening to a particularly captivating professor muse about the predicament of our world. Perkins, without fail, manages to transform Harari’s words into a lively conversation.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century may not be an exhaustive book, but it is a crucial book for anyone who wishes to join the global conversation. Those who have read Harari’s previous works will not be disappointed, and those discovering him for the first time may well stumble upon a new favorite.

 

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Page to Screen in September 2018

Going to the movies this September? Get the best experience by listening to the books they were based on before seeing the film adaptations.

 

You by Caroline Kepnes, narrated by Santino Fontana
Expected release date: September 9

How far would you go for the perfect love? When aspiring writer and recent Brown graduate Guinevere Beck strides into the bookstore where Joe works, he’s instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: she’s gorgeous, tough, razor-smart, and as sexy as his wildest dreams. Joe needs to have her, and he’ll stop at nothing to do so. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

The Bad Seed by William March, narrated by Elizabeth Wiley
Expected release date: September 9

There’s something special about eight-year-old Rhoda Penmark. With her carefully plaited hair and her sweet cotton dresses, she’s the very picture of old-fashioned innocence. But when their neighborhood suffers a series of terrible accidents, her mother begins to wonder: Why do bad things seem to happen when little Rhoda is around? Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, narrated by Jennifer Ikeda
Expected release date: September 14 (UK)

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Read more and sample the audio.

 

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell, narrated by Xe SandsAndi Arndt, Matthew Waterson
Expected release date: September 14

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. But, when Emily doesn’t come back from her high-demand job in Manhattan, Stephanie knows something is wrong. Then, she receives shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.
Or is it? Read more and sample the audio.

 

The Children Act by Ian McEwan, narrated by Lindsay Duncan
Expected release date: September 14

Fiona Maye, a fiercely intelligent, well-respected High Court judge in London faces a morally ambiguous case involving a seventeen-year-old boy’s life while her own marriage crumbles. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

 

 

 

The Predator by Christopher GoldenMark Morris, narrated by James Patrick Cronin
Expected release date: September 14

For centuries Earth has been visited by warlike creatures that stalk mankind’s finest warriors. These deadly hunters kill their prey and depart as invisibly as they arrived, leaving no trace other than a trail of bodies. When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal Hunters’ return to earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race. Read more and sample the audio.

 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, narrated by Edward Herrmann
Expected release date: September 14

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

 

The House with a Clock its Walls by John Bellairs, narrated by George Guidall
Expected release date: September 21

When Lewis Barnavelt, an orphan, comes to stay with his uncle Jonathan, he expects to meet an ordinary person. But he is wrong. Uncle Jonathan and his next-door neighbor, Mrs. Zimmermann, are both witches! Lewis is thrilled until he accidentally discovers a clock built into the walls of the house that could obliterate mankind. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, narrated by John Pruden

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn’t share his brother’s appetite for whiskey and killing, he’s never known anything else. But, as the brothers embark on their journey, Eli begins to question what he does for a living–and whom he does it for. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

The Old Man and the Gun by David Grann, narrated by Mark Deakins
Expected release date: September 28

In this mesmerizing collection, David Grann takes the reader on a journey through some of the most intriguing and gripping real-life tales from around the world. Read more and sample the audio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: The Piranhas by Roberto Saviano

Title: The Piranhas: The Boy Bosses of Naples
Author: Roberto Saviano
Narrator: Edoardo Ballerini

Seduced by easy money and pushed by a complex reality, Nicolas Fiorillo is the 15-year-old protagonist of The Piranhas: The Boy Bosses of Naples, which exposes the real-life phenomenon of youth gangs, or paranza. Paranza refers not only to gangs, but to the “boats that go out to catch fish through trickery of light… It takes possession of it, and the fish come looking for it.”

The author, an Italian journalist who grew up in Naples, saw his first murder victim at 13. His own father, a doctor, suffered a beating for trying to help an 18-year-old left to die in the street, who was a victim of the Camorra, an Italian Mafia-type crime syndicate.

Saviano begins his stunning novel with a profound statement:

“What you are about to read actually occurred. Facts have been modified and connected to others in order to make a violent and complex world more comprehensible…”

Violent and brutal and glamorous, The Piranhas is weaved with details found in his international crime classic, Gomorrah, which traced the decline of Naples under the Camorra rule. Since its publication, he has been placed under police protection.

Nicolas, an ambitious and promising teenager from the slums of Naples, has a dark desire to acquire power and wealth. Backed by a group of loyal friends, he sets out to create his own paranza, roaming the streets while learning how to become gangsters. What begins with small-time cheating and stealing soon becomes shooting semiautomatic pistols and AK-47s. Saviano succeeds at reminding listeners of the stark reality of child gangsters, such as having Nicolas and his friends play PlayStation in between committing crimes.

Narrator Edoardo Ballerini‘s ability to portray a variety of characters made listening a smooth and entrancing experience. Filled with inevitable consequences that all criminals face while climbing to the top, The Piranhas will leave you in awe of Naples while also grieving for it.

The Piranhas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more and sample the audio.

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