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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Winner, Non-fiction, 2008

It begins with a birth in an African village in 1750, and ends two centuries later at a funeral in Arkansas. And in that time span, an unforgettable cast of men, women, and children come to life, many of them based on the people from Alex Haley's own family tree.

When Alex was a boy growing up in Tennessee, his grandmother used to tell him stories about their family, stories that went way back to a man she called the African who was taken aboard a slave ship bound for Colonial America.

As an adult, Alex spent 12 years searching for documentation that might authenticate what his grandmother had told him. In an astonishing feat of genealogical detective work, he discovered the name of the "African" - Kunta Kinte - as well as the exact location of the village in West Africa from where he was abducted in 1767.

Roots is based on the facts of his ancestry, and the six generations of people - slaves and freedmen, farmers and lawyers, an architect, teacher, and one acclaimed author - descended from Kunta Kinte.

©1974 Alex Haley. Renewed 2004 by Myran Haley, Cynthia Haley, Lydia Haley, and William Haley; (P)2007 BBC Audiobooks America

Critic Reviews

"Being the consummate actor, [narrator Avery] Brooks has immersed himself into the role of narrator. In fact, it is difficult to describe what Avery Brooks does in this audiobook. He neither narrates nor performs, rather, he conjures. He brings the plethora of characters to life as memory, as history, as the pawns of diaspora. His narration begins in reverential tones as an homage to a literary masterwork, yet he ends it as a roar against racism." (AudioFile)

What members say

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Please DO NOT look up this book on Wikipedia before reading it! It will dilute the impact of the story. Trust me! I haven't read such a lengthy novel since World Without End and this is comparable. The time frame spans around 200 years. This story gives the reader a renewed perspective of slavery and racism and heightens our sensitivity to the issue. The narrator did a superb job handling the African accents as they transformed into American southern accents. There were some harsh interjections of historical accounts that felt forced, but added to the situation. I listened comfortably on 1.5X speed. Overall, I wouldn't hesitate to use a credit on this one. If any of this review helped, please click YES below. Later.

61 of 64 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Danica
  • Lansing, IL, USA
  • 01-11-08

A Masterpiece

Avery Brooks is a master narrator. He takes on dozens of characters each with such distinction and rhythm it's as if, following the heart of the book, this story is being told to you instead of read to you. At times I was convinced Mr. Brooks had memorized this entire book, his reading so smooth and eloquent. He is the perfect choice for such an important work. Roots was Excellent in every way.

38 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story


A lot of you probably think that Jim, The Impatient would not listen to a book 30 hours long. You would be wrong. If well written I can listen forever. This is very well written, is interesting and should be required reading in our schools. Just like the Holocaust, we should be reminded just how evil man can get, in order to keep us from doing it again. You can read books of history which give you the numbers and the straight facts, but only in a book like this can you live it and half way understand. This story will remain in my head until I die.

The first couple of hours are good, but not as good as the rest of the book. The story really starts to happen when the main character grows up. The introduction is poor. The individual that does the intro, makes it sound like the book has all it's facts wrong and makes you wonder if you should listen on. Listen on. The last chapters do seem rushed and makes you believe Haley should have finished the book earlier and written another book to cover the rest of the material. The last hour is Haley explaining what he went through to write the book. I always appreciate it when the author does that.

The narrator is excellent.


22 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story


Alex Haley's masterpiece comes to life on audio with this narration by the very talented Avery Brooks. Roots is a must read/listen to everyone in my opinion and I gained a new found perspective of African-American culture after revisiting Roots. Emotionally taken over at times, I listened with tears in my eyes.

Of the well over a hundred audio books I've listened to, Avery Brooks is hands down the best narrator I've ever heard. His cadence, accents, and personalities given to the characters is just outstanding.

41 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • John
  • Plantation, FL, United States
  • 09-14-08

Wonderful Listen

I know that since its publication there has been a good deal of controversy surrounding this book. Alex Haley was accused of plagarism regarding a few paragraphs from a book titled THE AFRICAN. He was reported to have paid a settlement as a result. Also, many question the historical veracity of some of the characters and details in the story, of which Haley makes no apology, employing necessary poetic license to bring this story to life. And he succeeded marvelously in his effort.

Roots is a tremendous novel, beautifully written and entirely engaging througout. The reader, Avery Brooks does a masterful job, actually enhancing the listening experience. I was amazed at how he effortlessly switched between the accents of the Africans, slaves and southern whites.

Without hesitation, I recommend this audiobook.

42 of 46 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Words can't express...

How incredible this story is. I wish it could be a mandatory read for older teens...There is so much to learn in it's pages. Avery Brooks is phenomenal..This is a story that will have you crying and laughing and wondering how these things could have happened. I did see the movie many years ago and can safely say the book goes deeper and tells the story in a much larger way... I'm not a writer and I don't have adequate words to express how wonderful this listen was...I can only highly recommend...

42 of 48 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mark
  • Occoquan, VA, USA
  • 09-04-09

Outstanding Story, History, and Narration

I don't typically write reviews, but this book was so powerful that I felt compelled to encourage others to listen to it. I saw the mini-series decades ago, but hearing the full story narrated really captures the imagination and allows you to enter into the world of what it might have been like being a slave. Although slavery is not an enjoyable topic--the lives and integrity of the characters rises above the topic and you find yourself engrossed in the storyline. Give this one a listen!

29 of 33 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Why did I wait?

Why did I wait so long to read Roots? I don't remember the mini-series, but this book was terrific. Not only is the story powerful, but I found it very interesting when the characters lives are placed in an historical perspective -- for example, when the characters discuss Washington's presidency or Lincoln's addresses. The narration is excellent. Could have gone another 30 hours without issue!

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Jay Cook
  • Nashville, TN, United States
  • 01-24-13

AMAZED By How Much I Dug This Book

I'm not sure what finally got me to read this. As a white southerner, I went into this with the expectation of being hit in the head again and again with the injustices of my ancestors. In this I was correct. And yet...

The story itself is first-rate. I have never read anything else by Haley (the Playboy interviews were published long before I was interested in any of the written material ), but the plot and the prose were both sufficient to keep me interested and make the endeavor feel more literary than mere popular fiction. The only part I felt dragged on a bit was the initial portion, when Kunta is in Africa and has not been captured yet. The subsequent story moves with relative speed across several hundred years of American history.

The white "masters" are not single dimensional. There are random and touching acts of kindness by them, mixed up with random acts of cruelty and the constant systemic injustice. At no point is the utter wrongness of the peculiar institution downplayed, but there are some touching scenes of basic human compassion breaking through the societal and legal norms. Perhaps most poignant is the scene where the white nabobs of Lauderdale County ask Haley's grandfather to assume ownership of the town lumber mill with their financial backing.

The narration is excellent. Avery Brooks sounds a lot like James Earl Jones and has the perfect voice for this story. I would pay to hear him read the telephone book out loud.

I was a little disappointed to read, after finishing the book, assertions that Haley had fabricated certain key elements of the story which had been presented as true. And yet even if he made the whole thing up, it is still an interesting and compelling read.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

the best of both worlds

The story is so compelling, one hardly notices that it's 30 hours long.(The next-to-last part even feels rushed.) But what makes this story really shine is the narrator, who puts in a great deal of effort in making the various speech styles sound authentic (at least to an untrained ear, they all sounded like the real deal). I wish more titles read by Avery Brooks were available.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful