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Audible Essentials: Honorable Mention

As integral parts of our original Essentials list, these books hold a special place in our hearts.

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  • The Darling

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Russell Banks
    • Narrated By Mary Beth Hurt
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The Darling is Hannah Musgrave's story, told emotionally and convincingly years later by Hannah herself. A political radical and member of the Weather Underground, Hannah has fled America to West Africa, where she and her Liberian husband become friends and colleagues of Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord and now ex-president of Liberia. When Taylor leaves for the United States in an effort to escape embezzlement charges, he's immediately placed in prison.

    Ellen says: "Complex and compelling"

    Why we think it's Essential: Mary Beth Hurt's performance of this novel is simply marvelous. As an aging revolutionary she recounts her sins and her fate with controlled intensity. So perfectly attuned is she to the rhythm of Russell Bank's fine prose that I often lingered in my driveway with the rest of my carpool, just to finish whatever chapter we were on. –Corey

  • Peter Pan

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By J. M. Barrie
    • Narrated By Tim Curry
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    J.M. Barrie's classic tale, completely unabridged, features a boy who refuses to grow up, Tinker Bell the fairy, and the Darling children: Wendy, John, and Michael. Their great adventure begins on the night that Peter flies into the Darling home looking for his shadow and teaches Wendy, John, and Michael how to fly with him back to Neverland, where adventures happen every day.

    D. Berzack says: "Simply wonderful"

    Why we think it's Essential: This is a rare instance of two outstanding recordings of the same source material being considered for this list of essentials. But while we all enjoyed Jim Dale's enthusiastic performance, it was Tim Curry who most captivated us with his rendition of this classic children's tale. Curry's ability to evoke sheer childhood joy one moment and hide-under-the-sheets menace the next creates a far richer Peter Pan than Disney ever dreamed of. —Ed W.

  • Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson's Secret White House Tapes, 1964-65

    • ORIGINAL (6 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Michael Beschloss
    • Narrated By Lyndon Johnson, Michael Beschloss

    Reaching for Glory lets us eavesdrop on LBJ's private, often tortured thoughts during the most crucial year of his presidency - when his dreams of being hailed as the equal of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt were destroyed by the war in Vietnam. These original recordings, presented side by side with the stories behind them, offer unprecedented insight into the Johnson presidency.

    Jonah says: "An intimate glimpse into history"

    Why we think it's Essential: Little did President Johnson imagine that one of his legacies would be an outstanding audiobook. But the recordings of his phone conversations provide authenticity that can't be found in print transcripts. Historian Michael Beschloss sets the stage with a clear presentation of the tumultuous issues of the mid 1960s, but Johnson steals the show with emotional, earthy, and crude conversations with Jacqueline Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., J. Edgar Hoover, and others. Hearing LBJ negotiate, flatter, and scold is like being a fly on the wall in the White House. —Beth

  • Hit Man

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Lawrence Block
    • Narrated By Robert Forster
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Keller possesses all the qualities of a professional killer. He's cool, confident, reclusive, icy, and ruthlessly efficient. But this seasoned hit man is also prone to self-doubt as he finds himself caught in the clutches of a mid-life crisis.

    Sunshine says: "Surprisingly Terrific"

    Why we think it's Essential: After hearing Robert Forster's narration, it would be hard to imagine anyone else playing Keller, the contract killer suffering a mid-life crisis. Forster manages to elicit empathy for a cold-blooded murderer, while perfectly capturing the wry wit of Lawrence Block's writing. —Steve

  • Restless

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By William Boyd
    • Narrated By Rosamund Pike
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    It is the summer of 1976 in Oxfordshire, England, and someone is trying to kill Sally Gilmartin. The only person she can trust is her daughter, Ruth, a young single mother struggling with her own demons. Now Sally must tell her daughter the truth: She is actually Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian émigré recruited for the British Secret Service in 1939.

    Susianna says: "Favorite Book of 2007"

    Why we think it's Essential: William Boyd has crafted an espionage thriller that's as good as anything by John Le Carré. Even better, it's narrated by Rosamund Pike, whose careful, measured, and precise performances as the novel's two main characters held me spellbound. Not surprisingly, this production was a multiple Audie Award nominee and winner. –Corey

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything

    • ABRIDGED (5 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Bill Bryson
    • Narrated By Bill Bryson

    In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson takes his ultimate journey - into the most intriguing and consequential questions that science seeks to answer. It's a dazzling quest, as this insatiably curious writer attempts to understand everything that has transpired from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization.

    Robert says: "Listen to this book with your kids!"

    Why we think it's Essential: An ambitious title to say the least. But Bryson, arguably the best author-narrator around, gives us all an entertaining history lesson delivered in that voice-of-an-old-friend that has made all Bryson's work so enjoyable. Not a travelogue, as we are used to from Bryson, but it's more about life than any other history you'll hear. —Chris D.

  • A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 30 mins)
    • By Edited by Clayborne Carson, Kris Shepard
    • Narrated By Andrew Young, Rosa Parks

    These 12 moving speeches voiced by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are original recordings collected here for the first time ever. Plus, listen to MLK deliver some of his most famous sermons in A Knock at Midnight.

    Inge A Rese says: "A King size speech"

    Why we think it's Essential: The iconic moments of Dr. King's oratory echo in our aural consciousness; this collection offers a unique opportunity to move beyond those moments. Backed by eye-opening introductions from Dr. King's inner circle, these 12 speeches trace the growth of a man, a voice, and a movement. From the rarely heard Birth of a New Nation speech to King's final thrilling I Have Been to the Mountaintop, I am reminded that spoken word can truly change the world. —Ed W.

  • Billy Collins Live: A Performance at the Peter Norton Symphony Space, April 20, 2005

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 15 mins)
    • By Billy Collins
    • Narrated By Billy Collins

    In this exclusive audio publishing event, Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate, shares an evening of his poetry in a benefit reading for WNYC, New York Public Radio. Often compared to Robert Frost, his poetry has been embraced by people of all ages and backgrounds, and his readings are most often standing room only.

    Mel says: "Does Not Get Better Than This"

    Why we think it's Essential: If you prefer your poetry dry, stale and dusty, stay clear of this program. However, if you prefer it to be warm, funny, and exciting, you are in luck. Or, if you don't know if you like poetry, I can assure you, you will enjoy Collins' accessible work. This former poet laureate offers such a wonderful performance that he upstages the introductory banter by comedian Bill Murray. —Beth

  • Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By George Crile
    • Narrated By Christopher Lane
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Charlie Wilson's War is the untold story behind the last battle of the Cold War and how it fueled the rise of militant Islam. George Crile tells how Charlie Wilson, a maverick congressman from east Texas, conspired with a rogue CIA operative to launch the biggest, meanest, and most successful covert operation in the agency's history.

    William Lorenzen says: "The Afghan War:Last Nail in the Soviet Coffin"

    Why we think it's Essential: With shades of both Tom Clancy and Dr. Strangelove, Charlie Wilson's War is the incredible true story of a gregarious Texas Congressman, a shadowy CIA operative, and their campaign to fund the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. Christopher Lane's smooth narration compliments George Crile's well-researched chronicle...right through to a riveting coda that reminds us of the operation's very real ramifications. —Ed W.

  • Stardust

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 23 mins)
    • By Neil Gaiman
    • Narrated By Neil Gaiman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. One crisp October night, as they watch, a star falls from the sky, and Victoria promises to marry Tristran if he'll retrieve the star and bring it back for her. It is this promise that sends Tristran on the most unforgettable adventure of his life.

    Rebecca says: "This is an ADULT fairytale"

    Why we think it's Essential: How nice that Neil Gaiman writes fairy tales for adults. And how lucky for us that he tells the story in his own cackling, drawling, hissing, and murmuring voices. My commute, exercise regimen, and 21st century urban existence vanished as I was drawn into Gaiman's story of quest, romance, murder, and adventure. This is not Mother Goose - this is a wondrous world of magic glass, witches, ogres, and unicorns that I didn't want to leave. —Beth

  • Beowulf

    • UNABRIDGED (2 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Robert K. Gordon, translator
    • Narrated By Robertson Dean
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Beowulf is considered the finest heroic poem in Old English. It celebrates the character and exploits of Beowulf, a young nobleman and warrior, as he proves his superhuman strength and endurance. He also represents the ideal lord and vassal, rewarding his men generously and accomplishing glorious deeds to honor his king.

    JerryT says: "Translator Preferred"

    Why we think it's Essential: The oldest epic in the English language was passed down for hundreds of years as an oral tale, so there is no better way to experience the saga of Hrothgar and Beowulf and Grendel than by listening to it. Robertson Dean's narration is lively and admirable, and the production makes it more powerful than a 10th century bard ever could. —Chris D.

  • Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori, Book One

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Lian Hearn
    • Narrated By Kevin Gray, Aiko Nakasone
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    A tour-de-force novel set in ancient Japan filled with passion, fantasy, and feuding warlords. The first volume in the highly anticipated Tales of the Otori trilogy.

    Jody R. Nathan says: "Wonderful epic story"

    Why we think it's Essential: At the heart of Lian Hearn's beautiful saga of samurai, enchantment, and passion in feudal Japan is the story of two ill-fated lovers, brought to poignant life with the dual performances of Kevin Gray and Aiko Nakasone. Trading chapters as their stories intertwine, Gray and Nakasone anchor the action with their alternating voices, underscoring the very personal stakes amidst the epic tale of feuding warlords. —Ed W.

  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Laura Hillenbrand
    • Narrated By George Newbern

    Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail.

    Janice says: "See you in the winner's circle"

    Why we think it's Essential: Like many people, I love an underdog story which is why I was drawn to Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit. What I received was a captivating story of an extraordinary horse, his millionaire owner, bizarre trainer and unlikely jockey with an entrancing glimpse into American history. With Hillenbrand’s words and George Newbern's performance, my heart pulsed, jumped and raced until the bitter end. –Tyler

  • Ulysses, Volume 1: Episodes 1-3

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 54 mins)
    • By James Joyce
    • Narrated By Jim Norton

    Ulysses is regarded by many as the single most important novel of the 20th century. It tells the story of one day in Dublin, 16 June 1904, largely through the eyes of Stephen Dedalus (Joyce's alter ego from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) and Leopold Bloom, an advertising salesman. Both begin a normal day, and both set off on a journey around the streets of Dublin, which eventually brings them into contact with one another.

    Timothy says: "This book shouldn't be"

    Why we think it's Essential: To say I trudged through Ulysses the first time I read it would be an understatement. But this, the first unabridged production of the modern classic, brings Joyce's tale to comprehensible (and even enjoyable) life. Jim Norton reading Joyce's language aloud adds the power and sense that the work deserves, and this recording could very well open the classic up to a whole new realm of fans. —Chris D.

  • The Green Mile

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By Frank Muller
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    At Cold Mountain Penitentiary, the convicted killers on E Block await their turn to walk the Green Mile and keep a date with the electric chair. Paul Edgecombe has seen his share of oddities in his years working as a guard on the Mile, but he's never met anyone like John Coffey.

    Bryan J. Peterson says: "An excellent narrator and an excellent story."

    Why we think it's Essential: If you've seen the Tom Hanks movie, you know this is a great story. But do yourself a favor and listen to it. Frank Muller, chosen to narrate by King himself, turns each character into flesh and blood with the pitch and pacing of his voice. I spent a Saturday with my headphones on because I couldn't turn off the story before finishing it. (I apologize for my rudeness to the person who called me that afternoon. You couldn't have known that I was dealing with life and death issues.) —Beth

  • Inspired By.The Bible Experience: New Testament

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Inspired By Media Group
    • Narrated By Angela Bassett, Cuba Gooding Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, and others

    Like never before, you can experience the beauty and life-changing power of the Bible. Unique among audio Bible productions, The Bible Experience is a captivating performance of the Bible presented by a stellar ensemble of today's top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers. This historic production also features a cinematic musical score, unparalleled sound design, and the highest production value. The Bible Experience is truly theater of the mind and spirit.

    Mark says: "Very Satisfied"

    Why we think it's Essential: The Bible's stories were meant to be heard. They are powerful accounts of passion and drama. This recording, with an all-star cast, glorious music, and full sound effects, weaves the stories into a rich and compelling theatrical presentation. Whether you know the Bible well or haven't read it in quite some time, you will be captivated by this edition. —Beth

  • Altered Carbon

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By Richard K. Morgan
    • Narrated By Todd McLaren
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In the 25th century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Now, assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person's consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or "sleeve") making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.

    Jake Williams says: "Altered Carbon"

    Why we think it's Essential: Hardwire William Gibson into Dashiell Hammett and you get the unique universe that has earned Richard K. Morgan a legion of Audible fans. Todd McLaren wisely taps into the noir undercurrent for his narration - moving the action forward at a steady clip, letting the characterizations do the work, and treating high concepts like sleeving (downloading your personality into a new body) with a dead-pan legitimacy that makes them feel all the more real. —Ed W.

  • The Bluest Eye

    • ABRIDGED (2 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Toni Morrison
    • Narrated By Toni Morrison, Ruby Dee

    Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in. Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife.

    deidre says: "Terrible Abridgement"

    Why we think it's Essential: The only thing better than hearing Ruby Dee give voice to this heartbreaking first novel by Toni Morrison, is to hear the author herself exchange lines of dialogue with the veteran actress and narrate key passages. Although the journey I took with Pecola (the main character) through this novel was difficult, it was also important—something I'll never forget. –Corey

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