Best audiobooks of 2010
By Tom Rachman
Recorded Books, 9 1/2 hours, 7 CDs, www.recordedbooks.com, buy: $44.95; rent, $17.50; audible.com download, $27.99
It would be hard to come up with a better narrator than Christopher Evan Welch for Tom Rachman's saga of the birth, life and death of a newspaper. By turns bitter, sweet, icily callous and very funny, the novel covers half a century and a large number of characters. Welch distinguishes between the characters mostly by mood and register, but so adeptly that he conveys personality and predicament as well as any thespian.
By Thomas Powers
Tantor, 21 hours, 17 CDs, $54.99, 2 MP3 CDs, $39.99; audible.com download, $38.49
This latest account of the murder of Crazy Horse of the Lakota Sioux in 1877 is a complex, detailed and multilevel tale of greed, bad faith, racism and miscomprehension on both sides. John Pruden reads Thomas Powers's long book in a calm, unhurried voice. His pronunciation of the formidable Indian expressions and names is deft and unstrenuous. Though the voices of many are heard from letters, journals and interviews, Pruden does not embellish them; he maintains the narrating voice, avoiding complications in an already complicated but revelatory account.
By R. D. Blackmore
Unabridged, Naxos, 26 hours, 20 CDs, $115.98; Naxos download, www.naxosaudiobooks.com, $80
First published in 1869, this great tale of well-born brigandage, yeoman valor and maiden peril set in Restoration England's West Country, Devon and Somerset, gives full expression to mid-Victorian longing for a vanished agricultural past. Its audio form releases the language from the page thanks to Jonathan Keeble, an extraordinarily skilled voice actor who takes on the archaic Devon accent as though born to it - which, as a native of the region, he was. The novel's quietly droll passages and paeans to nature are greatly enhanced by his country aplomb. Moreover, the dialect that snags the reader in print ("Whoy, dudn't ee knaw . . . as Jan Vry wur gane avore braxvass") emerges here as fluid speech, its cadence a joy to hear.