AudioFile’s May Earphone Award Winners

AudioFile Magazine gives Earphone Awards to the best new audiobooks: listens that combine blow-you-away narrations with standout writing. Read these AudioFile reviews for the May 2019 winners and find your next listen!

Cemetery Road

By Greg Iles
“Those who listen to this marvelous audiobook discover quickly that Bienville is not a sleepy Mississippi town. Rather, Scott Brick’s masterful narration highlights every nuance of Greg Iles’s captivating novel about Marshall McEwan, a Bienville native who left the town and became an award-winning journalist. When McEwan returns to care for his ailing father, he renews relationships with former lovers and others while also uncovering dark secrets about the Poker Club and others who control every aspect of the town. Brick’s ability to imbue the story’s characters with credible Southern accents is particularly effective. But it’s his perfect timing, coupled with the cadence of his delivery, that transforms this audiobook into a must-listen.”

AudioFile Review

Save Me The Plums

By Ruth Reichl
“Like her lively writing, Ruth Reichl’s performance is inviting and engaging. Reichl’s latest memoir is a juicy account of her decade as the editor in chief of the fabled culinary magazine GOURMET. Her fans will be happy to discover that, once again, she narrates her own work, and new listeners are in for a treat. Her clear affection for her co-workers, her passion for food and food writing, and her anger and dismay over the magazine’s abrupt closure resonate in her natural-sounding narration. Foodies will find much to enjoy, but Reichl also recounts with warmth and bemusement the experience of working for media behemoth Condé Nast, where glamour and big personalities were the norm. A must-listen for anyone interested in publishing, writing, and, of course, food.”

AudioFile Review

Wicked Saints

By Emily A. Duncan
“Two narrators deliver the dual perspectives of Nadya, a Kalyazi cleric capable of casting spells, and Serefin, high prince of Tranavia and an immensely powerful blood mage. Tristan Morris captures Serefin’s lighthearted charm and Russian-inspired accent, but Natasha Soudek steals the show as Nadya. While running from Serefin and his soldiers, Nadya reluctantly allies herself with a mysterious Tranavian defector. Soudek’s depiction of the defector is sultry, deep, and tinged with an irresistible Russian accent. The listener empathizes when Nadya finds herself pulled toward his tragedy, his intrigue, and his dark mystery. Soudek also provides a dynamic range of accents and strong personalities for a plethora of other characters, including an entire pantheon of gods.”

AudioFile Review

The Path Made Clear

By Oprah Winfrey
“Fans of Oprah Winfrey’s TV show, or more recently her two podcasts, will have this title on their playlist for months. She dips in and out of interview clips with trailblazers across various industries with her characteristic warmth, wit, and candor. Winfrey draws us close in this inspiring topical guide focused on self-motivation. We feel as though we are sitting in the living room with her and Deepak Chopra or any of the dozens of guests featured in snippets scattered throughout the listening experience. At times, the transitions from one conversation to another can feel slightly jumpy, but those who favor nuggets of wisdom over breadth of discussion will appreciate the ground that she covers in twenty-minute sections.”

AudioFile Review

The Pioneers

By David McCullough
“Those who count the works of David McCullough among their richest listening experiences will welcome what is sure to be one of this year’s most popular and lauded audiobooks. As narrator, John Bedford Lloyd possesses many of McCullough’s familiar virtues, in particular, a deep-throated calm and a balanced tone free of dogma and bias. Lloyd shows what a skilled narrator can do working with simple pacing, inflection, and moderation of tone. The result is a highly measured performance that’s defined by the text, rather than imposed upon it. The history of the post-Revolutionary War drive into the Ohio Territory is an American drama on an epic scale, a reconstruction of events and personalities equal to McCullough’s great histories of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal–a feast for the ear, the mind, and the heart.”

AudioFile Review

Sisters Matsumoto

By Philip Kan Gotanda
“With poignant grace, Keiko Agena, June Angela, and Suzy Nakamura lead a stellar cast, playing three Japanese-American sisters who find hope, heartache, and hard-won humor when they return to their family farm in California after four long years locked away in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. They had planned to pick up where they left off, but their father and mother are gone, and even the deed to the farm has turned to dust. Listeners can hear the pressures of politics, racism, and family separation. The performance is followed by an excellent panel discussion focusing on how 120,000 U.S. citizens were “relocated” to camps during the war. The discussion features Japanese-American artists, including George Takei of “Star Trek,” who was 5 years old when he was interned. Important and powerful.”

AudioFile Review

A Gentlewoman's Guide to Murder

By Victoria Hamilton
“Heather Wilds delivers an intense narration that never slows down. Emmeline St. Germaine, in the guise of the “Avengeress,” sneaks through nighttime London of 1810 to rescue a 13-year-old scullery maid from being raped at knifepoint by her master, Sir Henry Claybourne. The next morning Emmeline awakens to the news that Sir Henry has been murdered–with the Avengeress as the chief suspect. Wilds deftly navigates the unique voices and accents of people from many regions of England and stations in society as Emmeline questions those of all backgrounds in her search for the murderer and those behind an organized pedophile ring. The story is gripping, and with Wilds’s performance, the audiobook becomes all the more exciting.”

AudioFile Review

The Test

By Sylvain Neuvel
“Providing memorable, distinct, and believable voices for every character, narrator Neil Shah creates the atmosphere of the live stage for this chilling dystopian story. A third-world immigrant who believes he’s taking a British citizenship test so that he and his family can safely stay in England soon finds himself plunged into a nightmarish world. Shah is especially adept at handling the philosophical repartee between the mystified refugee and his ruthless tormentor, who demands that he make impossible choices. In the tradition of George Orwell’s 1984, this novella places listeners in the uncomfortable position of having to consider making those impossible choices themselves. Thoughtful, timely, and an absolutely mesmerizing listening experience.”

AudioFile Review

We Must Be Brave

By Frances Liardet
“Narrator Jayne Entwistle outdoes herself with this moving story, which takes place in England from WWII to 2010. Ellen Parr methodically assists bombing survivors brought to her village. Entwistle captures the kind, childless Parr when she discovers abandoned 4-year-old Pamela. Descriptions of the rattled evacuees, kindly townsfolk, and bewildered Pamela are atmospheric. Listeners also learn what Parr has overcome and meet her memorable circle of friends. Entwistle particularly shines as precocious Pamela and demonstrates Parr’s growing love for the child. It’s heartbreaking when Pamela’s father, a widower, arrives. Parr’s rich life–friends, nature, food–along with her constant sense of loss is impeccably conveyed. Juliet Mills’s spirited narration begins in 2010, when Parr and Pamela are finally reunited in a conclusion that is satisfying without being sentimental.”

AudioFile Review

The Other American

By Laila Lalami
“The mosaic of American experiences is expertly captured by an ensemble reading of Pulitzer Prize winner Lalami’s superb new novel. Moroccan-American Nora is summoned to her family home in the California desert after the hit-and-run death of her beloved father. The tragedy resonates among a circle of people: Nora; her mother and sister; Efrain, an illegal Mexican immigrant who witnessed the accident and fears coming forward; Jeremy, a high school friend of Nora’s and a former marine suffering from his own losses; and the police detectives investigating the crime. Mozhan Marno as Nora and Ozzie Rodriguez as Efrain stand out among this first-rate group of narrators, each capturing the raw emotion of their character. A highly relevant and entertaining listen.”

AudioFile Review

Madi Mullen is the Social Media Manager at She enjoys reading and listening to books, writing, and playing beach volleyball. As a PNW native, she loves every season and gets outside as much as possible to enjoy it with her family and friends.

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