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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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  • Crocodile on the Sandbank: The Amelia Peabody Series, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Elizabeth Peters
    • Narrated By Barbara Rosenblat

    Amelia Peabody inherited two things from her father: a considerable fortune and an unbendable will. The first allowed her to indulge in her life's passion. Without the second, the mummy's curse would have made corpses of them all.

    Carrie says: "Nice break from the usual-"

    Why we think it's Essential: Barbara Rosenblat's expert performance as Egyptologist Amelia Peabody is imaginative, witty, and fun. With tremendous vocal range, she ably captures many characters of different genders and ethnicities. This rich and lively story is the first in Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series, and I can't wait to listen to the rest of them. —Diana D.

  • A Hat Full of Sky: Discworld Childrens, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By Terry Pratchett
    • Narrated By Stephen Briggs
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Tiffany Aching, the boldest heroine ever to swing a frying pan against the forces of evil, is beginning her apprenticeship in magic. She expects to work hard, learn spells, and become a witch. She doesn't expect to find herself doing chores, caring for the careless, and trying to outthink an ill-tempered nanny goat. There must be more to witchcraft than this!

    Joyce says: "More Crivens!"

    Why we think it's Essential: Interpreting an imagination as outrageous (and beloved) as Terry Pratchett's poses interesting challenges: What exactly does a Feegle sound like? Luckily, narrator Stephen Briggs is up to the task, and gives voice to witch-in-training Tiffany Aching and the wildly magical characters of Pratchett's third young adult novel with delight, panache, and a bit of playful abandon. Listeners have called Brigg's rendition of Rob Anybody his crowning achievement. —Ed W.

  • Reagan in His Own Voice: Ronald Reagan's Radio Addresses

    • ORIGINAL (5 hrs and 29 mins)
    • By Ronald Reagan
    • Narrated By Ronald Reagan

    From 1975 to 1979 Ronald Reagan gave more than 1,000 daily radio broadcasts, the great majority of which he wrote himself. These addresses transform our image of Reagan, and enhance and revise our understanding of the late 1970s - a time when Reagan held no political office, but was nonetheless mapping out a strategy to transform the economy, end the Cold War, and create a vision of America that would propel him to the presidency.

    Jean says: "Freedom"

    Why we think it's Essential: This collection of short radio addresses written and read by Ronald Reagan demonstrate why, as President, he was called the great communicator. His clear and straight-forward manner, his empathy for ordinary people, and his personal warmth come across loud and clear. These pre-presidency talks reveal many of the ideas and themes that made Reagan so popular as president. Adding context to the radio addresses are Nancy Reagan, George Schultz, and others from Reagan's inner circle. —Beth

  • David Sedaris Live at Carnegie Hall

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 14 mins)
    • By David Sedaris
    • Narrated By David Sedaris

    If you are driving, pull over. If you are at work, close your door, unless you don't mind your colleagues seeing you doubled over, in tears, on your office floor. With this recording, taped before a delirious sold out audience at Carnegie Hall, you are there as David Sedaris performs new stories from his upcoming book. A parrot who mimics an ice maker, lovers quarreling over a rubber hand, and a Santa Claus who moonlights from his job as bishop of Turkey, the cast of characters is like no other.

    Richard says: "Material that exists on other books."

    Why we think it's Essential: There is no funnier way to soak in David Sedaris' humor than through his own voice. This stand-up show encompasses the best tales from his many book collections, and, told in David's hilariously deadpan whine, this is the essential Sedaris, for old fans or newbies alike. —Chris D.

  • Horton Hears a Who

    • UNABRIDGED (16 mins)
    • By Dr. Seuss
    • Narrated By Dustin Hoffman

    Horton, the lovable elephant, tries to protect tiny creatures on a speck of dust.

    RiahWillow Daniels says: "My Nine Month Old LOVES this!!"

    Why we think it's Essential: I could talk a bit about Dr. Seuss' mastery of verbal wordplay, or how he awakens the kid in all of us, but let's face it: he's just plain fun. And that has never been truer than when he is read here by Dustin Hoffman. With two collections of celebrity Seuss reads available, we had plenty of great choices, but Hoffman's endearingly persistent Horton earned him our vote. Give a listen and try not to smile. —Ed W.

  • John Gielgud's Hamlet (Dramatized)

    • ORIGINAL (3 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By William Shakespeare
    • Narrated By John Gielgud

    This outstanding historical recording made in 1941 for radio is widely regarded as one of the finest Hamlet performances ever, and one of John Gielgud's greatest moments. Though he went on to record it for commercial release, nothing matched this recording in the BBC studios, made before the days of editing.

    Michel says: "Wonderful!!!"

    Why we think it's Essential: In considering which Shakespeare recording was most essential, we found ourselves caught between Gielgud's Hamlet and Richard Burton's MacBeth (which, ironically, was directed by Gielgud). In the end, we chose Gielgud because, as a radio production (unlike Burton's stage performance) it was meant for the ear, not the eye. As a result, Gielgud delivers what may be the best Hamlet we've ever heard. —Steve

  • Plaza Suite

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 41 mins)
    • By Neil Simon
    • Narrated By JoBeth Williams, Edward Asner, Hector Elizondo, and others

    Hilarity abounds in this portrait of three couples successively occupying a suite at the Plaza Hotel. A suburban couple takes a suite while their house is being painted, a Hollywood producer calls a childhood sweetheart for a little sexual diversion, and a mother and father fight about the best way to get their daughter, the bride, out of the bathroom and back to the wedding.

    John Lane says: "I wish I could see the original play"

    Why we think it's Essential: With snappy dialogue and laugh-out-loud moments, Neil Simon's classic stage play is one of many great audio productions by reknowned troupe L.A Theatre Works. Ed Asner is pitch perfect playing a hothead father on the day of his daughter's wedding; JoBeth Williams his equal in dual roles as jilted wife and nervous mother-in-law to be. I've seen this play before in the theatre and on film, but this audio production trumps them both. –Corey

  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Audiobook): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction

    • ABRIDGED (3 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Jon Stewart, The Writers of The Daily Show
    • Narrated By Jon Stewart

    Jon Stewart, host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show, and his coterie of patriots deliver a hilarious look at American government.

    Connie says: "Runs hot and cold..but when it's hot...it's hot"

    Why we think it's Essential: Funny. Irreverant. Historic. If American history had ever been presented this poignantly, more of us might have paid attention. Stewart and friends run the gamut: republicans and democrats, deadpan and laughable, serious and totally absurd. The vast array of comedians each deliver hilarious soundbites and yet the book comes together with stunning coherence. —Chris D.

  • The Places in Between

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Rory Stewart
    • Narrated By Rory Stewart
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    In January 2002, Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan, surviving by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers. By day, he passed through mountains covered in nine feet of snow, hamlets burned and emptied by the Taliban, and communities thriving amid the remains of medieval civilizations. By night he slept on villagers' floors, shared their meals, and listened to their stories of the recent and ancient past.

    James says: "Nice Choice"

    Why we think it's Essential: Imagine a stout-hearted adventurer weaving a magical tale by the campfire, and you'll get a sense of Rory Stewart's account of his solo walk across Afghanistan. Full of memorable characters, evocative settings, visceral danger, and valuable insight. —Steve

  • Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer

    • ABRIDGED (9 hrs and 10 mins)
    • By James L. Swanson
    • Narrated By Richard Thomas

    The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history, the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild 12-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.

    F. Elizabeth Hauser says: "Fascinating!"

    Why we think it's Essential: If only all history lessons were taught by Richard Thomas, who elevates James L. Swanson's impeccably researched account of capturing John Wilkes Booth with this masterful performance. Thomas' pacing and nuanced narration make Manhunt seem more like a gripping thriller than a history tome. —Diana D.

  • Letting Go of God

    • ORIGINAL (2 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Julia Sweeney
    • Narrated By Julia Sweeney

    Julia Sweeney says she was a "happy Catholic girl" when, one day, she walked into church and signed up for a Bible-study course. "What an eye opener that was!" she says. Equally comedic and insightful, Letting Go of God is Sweeney's brilliant one-woman show about her struggle with her faith.

    Mark says: "A Brilliant Personal Journey of Discovery"

    Why we think it's Essential: Anyone who thinks that Julia Sweeney is just the comedian who played Pat on Saturday Night Live, doesn't know Julia Sweeney. Letting Go of God, an elegantly written and beautifully performed monologue about her loss of faith, made me laugh - a lot - and think even more. Far from being an angry atheistic screed, it is an uplifting journey of the heart. —Steve

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