Listening to the Classics

Listening to the Classics

Written on 02/22/2021

Author: Lorilee Craker

David Copperfield

By Charles Dickens; narrated by Richard Armitage

David Copperfield, Charles Dickens’ own “favorite child” book, appealed to me because it is a semi-autobiographical novel of how Copperfield (essentially Dickens) became a writer. So when I heard that British actor Richard Armitage had narrated this book, I was in. His gold-standard narration of this massive classic gives vivid life to a grand cast of characters: a greasy Uriah Heep, a kooky yet kind great-aunt (Betsy Trotwood, if you please) and stouthearted allies, such as the salt-of-the earth Peggotty. Now when I regard the brick-thick tome lying on my mantle, I smile, because I now regard young Copperfield and his friends and foes alike as intimate friends. (36 hours, 30 minutes)

Island of the Blue Dolphins

By Scott O’Dell; narrated by Tantoo Cardinal

I had never read the 1961 winner of the Newbery Medal, but listening to it was just the balm I needed in 2020. From the book’s description: “Karana is the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Hers is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.” Tantoo Cardinal, a Canadian actress of Métis and Cree descent, is the perfect narrator. Her subtle accent and pronunciations lend an authentic underpinning to Karana’s story, You will be inspired by Karana coming of age alone on an island and surviving by her wits and grit. (3 hours, 55 minutes)

Little House on the Prairie

By Laura Ingalls Wilder; narrated by Cherry Jones

This second book in the Little House series finds Ma, Pa, Laura, and Mary leaving their cabin in the Big Woods and setting out for Kansas. We travel with them in their covered wagon and listen as they face the hardships and rewarding moments of pioneer life. Cherry Jones does a crackerjack job of narrating different ages and genders, differentiating between Pa and little Laura effectively. One treat of this narration is the weaving in of Pa’s fiddle throughout the book. Jones has a rich, soothing voice that lingers in one’s mind. In the words of Read Aloud Revival’s Sarah Mackenzie, “these are truly some of the very best audio books I’ve ever heard.” (8 hours, 50 minutes)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Written and narrated by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s majestic writing is resplendent with prose that demands a reread—or a re-listen. As I listened to the story of Angelou’s upbringing in a small Arkansas town, I felt as if I was there with her, which is probably why the terrible scenes of her sexual abuse are so searing. Not every writer is a good narrator, but Angelou is superb. Her deep voice rings with emotion and certainty as she narrates her own powerful story. As a poet, Angelou knew just how to deliver a line with perfect pace. (10 hours, 11 minutes)

Check our Mixed Media reviews online for reviews of other first-rate classics in audiobook form, including Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, and The Odyssey, by Homer.

Transcendent Kingdom (Audiobook)

By Yaa Gyasi, narrated by Bahni Turpin

Reviewed by Michelle Lloyd-Page

Gifty’s Ghanaian parents migrated to a small town in Alabama before she was born in search of a better life. When Gifty’s mother joined the local First Assembly of God congregation, her two children in tow, they were the only Black family in the church. Rather than feeling God’s presence there, Gifty feels disconnected. The disconnection deepens when her brother has “an accident” and dies. Where was God? Experiencing the realities of racism, mental illness, addiction, and poverty—as Gifty’s family did—can try anyone’s faith. Gifty’s faith was tried. How does it end? You will have to read the book or listen to it. (Bahni Turpin’s voicing of Gifty’s Ghanaian mother in the audiobook seemed spot-on although some of her voices were off.) Note: This book has a sprinkling of profanities. (Random House Audio.  8 Hours, 41 minutes)

Wonder Woman 1984

Reviewed by Cynthia Beach

Gal Gadot brings her evident smarts once more to the Diana Prince / Wonder Woman role. For me, a middle-aged and somewhat sexism-stymied female, I thrill to see a woman saving the day. Yes, it’s empowering. Kristin Wiig appears as Barbara Minerva / Cheetah, a longtime villain in the DC Comics universe. Pedro Pascal co-stars as a different antagonist, and Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen return to their Amazon warrior roles. Even Lynda Carter, the original TV Wonder Woman, sends a smile to us.

Chris Pine reprises his role as pilot Steve Trevor. I was glad, too, until I noticed little spark in his scenes. What could have been deeply poignant wasn’t. And what of the plot and theme? It’s not complicated. We go to see the good “gal” win. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Library’s Most Wanted

By Carolyn Leiloglou, illustrated by Sarah Pogue

Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

In this humorous Western-themed children’s picture book, young Libby is made deputy librarian by her Aunt Nora. Libby has a deputy sheriff’s badge prominently displayed on her shirt and takes her job very seriously as she patrols the children’s section. Soon, Libby becomes annoyed with a boy who returns a dog-eared novel, irritated with a toddler who gnaws on a board book, and displeased with the children who mess up the Wild West display. In this playful, winsomely illustrated children’s picture book with an underlying serious message, author Carolyn Leiloglou writes in the endnotes, “While I hope my readers enjoy the fun Western theme in this story, I really hope they realize that libraries aren’t about corralling books. They’re about rounding up readers!” (Pelican)

SHE (Podcast)

By Jordan Lee Dooley

Reviewed by Kayleigh Fongers

SHE is a faith-based personal development podcast for women, covering a variety of topics that span many different stages of life. Listeners can learn business advice, self-confidence tips, health and wellness information, relationship guidance, and so much more. Each episode of the SHE podcast is like chatting with a friend over coffee—a friend who gives great advice and wants you to experience personal growth and change. Though the SHE podcast is delivered from a Christian perspective, it’s sure to provide encouragement for any listener. The podcast tagline says it all: “Come invited. Leave ignited.” New episodes of the SHE podcast are released weekly and can be streamed or downloaded from most podcast platforms.

The Lowdown

Orchard House: Two women, one living in present-day Massachusetts and another in Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House soon after the Civil War, overcome their own personal demons and search for a place to belong. (Tyndale)

For Fans of Virgin River: Best friends Tully and Kate support each other through good times and bad with an unbreakable bond that carries them from their teens to their 40s. Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke are inseparable pals in this romantic drama based on Kristin Hannah’s bestselling novel Firefly Lane. (TV-MA, Netflix)

Sequel to Blockbuster 1980s Movie: Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) is set to become King of Zamunda when he discovers he has a son he never knew about in America—a street-savvy Queens native named Lavelle. Honoring his royal father’s dying wish to groom this son as the crown prince, Akeem and Semmi set off to America once again in Coming 2 America. (PG-13, Amazon Prime, March 5)

Memories Are Made of This: In Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting, Neuroscientist Lisa Genova (Still Alice) explores how memories are made and how we retrieve them, explaining why we remember, why we forget, and how to help protect our memory. (Harmony, March 23)

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