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Vocal stars bring favorite books to life

By By Elizabeth Fraser, Susan Maguire and Dana Smook
WV Book Team

You probably didn’t know it, but June is Audiobook Month.

Audiobooks are sweeping the nation and hot as fire in our multitasking world.

Summer is a great time to try an audiobook if you haven’t before, or to find a new favorite if you have.

Did you know there are audiobook awards? They are called, appropriately, the Audies, and the 2014 winners were just announced. To see the full list go to

Billy Crystal’s memoir, “Still Foolin’ ’Em” won Audiobook of the Year — is it any wonder, when the comedian narrates the book?

Having just turned 65, Crystal looks back on his childhood on Long Island, starting out in stand-up comedy in New York, from his long career in show business, “Saturday Night Live” to “When Harry Met Sally …” to hosting the Academy Awards.

And he’s noticing some changes in himself — he can’t fall asleep like he used to — as he embraces grand-fatherhood and how old his friends are getting. This is Billy Crystal, so some of the language is a little salty, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying this hilarious trip down (his) Memory Lane.

Library patrons can’t stop raving about Ruth Reichl’s debut novel, “Delicious!”

Reichl is a well-known food critic with three food-related memoirs under her belt, so it’s no surprise that “Delicious!” takes place in the world of food. In it, Billie Breslin is new to New York, but she is immediately enamored of its foodie scene, from the restaurants to the specialty stores to her job at the prestigious food magazine Delicious!

But when the magazine folds, Billie is the sole remaining employee, answering reader recipe questions despite the fact that she does not cook. Then she finds a hidden stash of letters from a plucky 12-year-old to famous chef James Beard during World War II, and it opens a whole new set of possibilities for the present.

Narrator Julia Whalen ably represents different accents and time periods with her skilled narration. Check this out and see if it will be one of your favorites for 2014.

In the world of audiobooks, narrators are just as well-regarded as the authors are — they can make or break your listening experience.

Mention names like Barbara Rosenblat, Jim Dale and George Guidall to an audiobook listener, and you may experience some narrator-squee.

Be sure to check out Bernadette Dunne, who most recently narrated “A Star for Mrs. Blake,” by April Smith.

You’ll be amazed at how she captures the emotional intensity of this story of five Gold Star mothers, American women who visit their sons’ European graves following World War I.

Cora Blake is raising her sister’s small children in an isolated fishing village in Maine, but when she goes to France to grieve for her son, Sammy, she is unprepared for the many ways the journey will change her life.

Sometimes it takes more than one narrator to do a story justice; that’s why Max Brooks’ “World War Z” was re-released with a full cast of readers. For nearly a decade, Earth has been threatened by a plague that turns nice people into flesh-eating zombies.

“World War Z” is narrated by soldiers and civilians who survived, and they are voiced by some of the hottest nerd talent around — Nathan Fillion, Jeri Ryan, Mark Hamill and Simon Pegg, to name a few — as well as Henry Rollins, Martin Scorsese, Alan Alda — and that’s just the beginning of the cast list. You’ll never hear all of these stars in one place again! (Especially after that zombie plague …)

Audiobook Month coincides nicely with the beginning of summer vacation travel. Maybe you’ve got a family road trip planned, and there are only so many games of I Spy that the kids will sit through.

You’re in luck because Penguin Audio has released new versions of Roald Dahl classics, read by some of Great Britain and Ireland’s most fabulous talent.

Try Kate Winslet reading “Matilda,” the tale of a 5-year-old reading and math whiz whose parents and school principal will do anything to get her not to learn.

How about “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” read by Chris O’Dowd — that collection also includes Stephen Fry reading “The Enormous Crocodile.” For something without an accent, try Andy Behrens’ “The Fast and the Furriest,” read by Sean Runnette, about an overweight, clumsy son of a football star whose overweight, clumsy dog becomes obsessed with agility competition.

Whether you’re new to audiobooks or a seasoned listener, June is a great time to find a new favorite author — or narrator. And don’t forget, your friendly neighborhood librarians are here to help!

For more information on these audiobooks or others, contact the main branch of the Kanawha County Public Library at 304-343-4646 or visit

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