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In Search of Thomas Browne by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

thomas-browneThe extraordinary life and ideas of one of the greatest?and most neglected?minds in history.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682) was an English writer, physician, and philosopher whose work has inspired everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Jorge Luis Borges, Virginia Woolf to Stephen Jay Gould. In an intellectual adventure like Sarah Bakewell’s book about Montaigne, How to Live, Hugh Aldersey-Williams sets off not just to tell the story of Browne’s life but to champion his skeptical nature and inquiring mind.

Mixing botany, etymology, medicine, and literary history, Aldersey-Williams journeys in his hero’s footsteps to introduce us to witches, zealots, natural wonders, and fabulous creatures of Browne’s time and ours. We meet Browne the master prose stylist, responsible for introducing hundreds of words into English, including electricity, hallucination, and suicide. Aldersey-Williams reveals how Browne’s preoccupations?how to disabuse the credulous of their foolish beliefs, what to make of order in nature, how to unite science and religion?are relevant today.

In Search of Sir Thomas Browne is more than just a biography?it is a cabinet of wonders and an argument that Browne, standing at the very gates of modern science, remains an inquiring mind for our own time. As Stephen Greenblatt has written, Browne is “unnervingly one of our most adventurous contemporaries.”

Here is the Earphone award winning AudioFile magazine review:

This fine audio production illustrates the great appeal of audiobooks today, not just for mainstream titles but also for those pockets of interest that seemingly target only a narrow range of listeners. Essayist, stylist, and prolific word-maker Sir Thomas Browne is almost forgotten in literature today, but he’s a fascinating personality, and his life and writings prove highly illustrative of his age, especially its medical practices and beliefs. Simon Vance is adept at balancing the author’s contemporary approach with Browne’s famously baroque style. This reflective biography is probably not for everyone, but for those who love the unique and obscure and odd, as Browne did, this title offers many pleasures. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Mainered_earphones

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Euphoria by Lily King

euphoria-book-cover-flatRead with the wonderful Xe Sands

From Booklist

Just after a failed suicide attempt, Andrew Bankson, English anthropologist studying the Kiona tribe in the territory of New Guinea, meets a pair of fellow anthropologists fleeing from a cannibalistic tribe down river. Nell Stone is controversial and well respected. Her rough Australian husband, Fen, is envious of her fame and determined to outshine her. Bankson helps them find a new tribe to study, the artistic, female-­dominated Tam. Nell’s quiet assurance and love of the work, and Fen’s easy familiarity, pull Bankson back from the brink. But it is the growing fire between him and Nell that they cannot do anything about. Layered on top of that is Nell’s grasp of the nuances of the Tam, which makes it clear that she will once again surpass Fen. Set between the First and Second World Wars, the story is loosely based on events in the life of Margaret Mead. There are fascinating looks into other cultures and how they are studied, and the sacrifices and dangers that go along with it. This is a powerful story, at once gritty, sensuous, and captivating. –Elizabeth Dickie

 

Here is the Earphone award winning AudioFile magazine review:

In a perfect marriage of words and voice, narrators Simon Vance and Xe Sands join author Lily King to produce an extraordinary audiobook experience. Inspired by events in the life of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, King has fashioned a haunting novel of love, ambition, and obsession, focused on three anthropologists off-map in New Guinea just before WWII. Delivering the alternating chapters of Mead’s stand-in, American Nell Stone, and Englishman Andrew Bankson, Sands and Vance perform the stupendous feat of creating memorable versions of the same characters. Their performances offer nuanced interpretations of the different personalities and echo, but do not copy, each other’s approach. Also, each uses a unique narrative pace that enhances the listener’s understanding of this unforgettable tale. A.C.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Mainered_earphones

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The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock_HolmesSir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales are rightly ranked among the seminal works of mystery and detective fiction.  Included are all four full-length Holmes novels and more than forty short masterpieces—from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes to The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes and more. At the center of each stands the iconic figure of Holmes—brilliant, eccentric, and capable of amazing feats of deductive reasoning. By his side is Dr. John Watson, his steadfast assistant and our trusty narrator.

About the Author

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best remembered for the creation of Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most famous fictional detective, though in his lifetime Doyle also penned essays, poems, short stories, science fiction, nonfiction, historical novels, political treatises, and lectures on Spiritualism.

It was in 1887’s A Study in Scarlet that Sherlock Holmes and his trusty companion, Dr. John Watson, first appeared. Doyle eventually became weary of the stories, hugely popular with both British and American readers, and killed off Holmes in the 1893 short story “The Final Problem”—only to resurrect the character years later in The Hound of the Baskervilles. On July 7, 1930, Doyle died in England of heart failure. His stories of the very logical Sherlock Holmes, which so precisely reflect the latter part of nineteenth-century Victorian England, still capture the imaginations of readers today.AW logo

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The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence

Elephant_WhispererIn 1999, Lawrence Anthony welcomed some troubled wild elephants to his game reserve. Simon Vance’s British voice takes on a gentle reminiscing tone that makes for an inviting account of a man’s growing relationship with the elephants. Vance captures Anthony’s concern early on when an escape almost cost him the herd and his joy as he realized the elephants were becoming accustomed to–and even welcoming–his presence. Occasionally, there are lighter moments, as when a kitten fearlessly tangles with the elephants. Listeners will find themselves rooting for Anthony–and his herd as well. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: MARCH 2013]

From Publishers Weekly

In 1998, prize-winning conservationist Anthony (Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo) purchased Thula Thula, “5,000 acres of pristine bush in the heart of Zululand, South Africa,” transforming a rundown hunters’ camp (dating to the 19th century) into a wild animal preserve and a center for eco-tourism. In 1999, Anthony agreed to take in a herd of “troubled” wild elephants, the first seen in the area in more than a century. Winning their trust, becoming deeply attached, and even learning how they communicate (deep, rumbling “whispers,” sensed rather than heard), Anthony took enormous risks in the form of enraged elephants, distrustful neighbors, and poachers. Over time Anthony succeeds in his larger goal, winning support from the six Zulu tribes whose land borders the reserve (“most Zulus … had never set eyes on an elephant”); they eventually join Anthony’s venture as partners in a larger conservation trust. An inspiring, multifaceted account, Anthony’s book offers fascinating insights into the lives of wild elephants in the broader context of Zulu culture in post-Apartheid South Africa. 8 page color photo insert.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

From Booklist

Anthony, conservationist and author (Babylon’s Ark, 2007), owns a wildlife reserve in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. A former hunting preserve, rumored to be part of the legendary Shaka’s exclusive hunting territory, it has become a game reserve with a lodge for ecotourists. Home to Zululand’s full suite of wildlife, Thula Thula had everything—except elephants. When he was offered a herd from another game reserve Anthony accepted wholeheartedly, despite the fact that these elephants were known escape artists. During their first night at the park the traumatized elephants broke out, and after days on the run had been given a death sentence by the local wildlife authorities, only averted when the author pleaded for one more chance. The story of how Anthony saved his elephants by making friends with them, reversing their negative perceptions of humans and earning their trust, is both heartwarming and heartening. Life on a game reserve is never easy, particularly when elephants are added to the mix, but Anthony’s enthusiasm and obvious love for the bush shine through in hair-raising, sad, and funny tales. This life with elephants is a real winner. –Nancy Bent AW logo

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The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope

This is #5 in the Palliser series by Anthony Trollope:

Despite his mysterious antecedents, an unscrupulous financial speculator, Ferdinand Lopez, aspires to marry into respectability and wealth and join the ranks of British society. One of the nineteenth century’s most memorable outsiders, Lopez’s story is set against that of the ultimate insider, Plantagenet Palliser, Duke of Omnium, who reluctantly accepts the highest office of state, becoming “the greatest man in the greatest country in the world.” The Prime Minister is the fifth in Trollope’s six-volume Palliser series and a wonderfully subtle portrait of a marriage, political expediency, and misplaced love.

AudioFile Magazione Review:
This substantial text is the fifth in what is known as Trollope’s Palliser Novels, but one needn’t wait to enjoy THE PRIME MINISTER for it doesn’t require an understanding of the earlier installments. Initially, this audiobook may intimidate the listener with its lengthy sentences and majestically voiced narrator. However, before long, the listener will be immersed in all the elements of good storytelling, especially Simon Vance’s superior narration. Vance’s performance underscores this timeless study of human nature with its interwoven subplots, social commentary, political intrigue, and well-developed characters. There are subtle notes of humor and irony as well. Vance’s character distinctions are nuanced and effective, much like Trollope’s prose style. L.B.F.AF logo

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Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?

AudioFile Magazine Review:
This second volume in Hilary Mantel’s planned trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, right-hand man to Henry VIII of England, is a perfect marriage of the written and spoken word. As her awards and wide readership attest, Mantel writes wonderfully. She also writes long. Thus, we hail Simon Vance, whose silken tones and expert pacing keep us engaged throughout. In this volume, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. While we all learned the outcome in high school history class, Mantel still fascinates with Cromwell’s view of the machinations of king and court. Vance enhances the story with instructive vocal portraits of key players and a listenable tempo that keeps us clear and entranced until the end. A.C.S.AW logo

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Dracula by Bram Stoker (Multivoice)

Because of the widespread awareness of the story of the evil Transylvanian count and the success of numerous film adaptations that have been created over the years, the modern audience hasn’t had a chance to truly appreciate the unknowing dread that readers would have felt when reading Bram Stoker’s original 1897 manuscript. Most modern productions employ campiness or sound effects to try to bring back that gothic tension, but we’ve tried something different. By returning to Stoker’s original storytelling structure – a series of letters and journal entries voiced by Jonathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing, and other characters – with an all-star cast of narrators, we’ve sought to recapture its originally intended horror and power.
This production of Dracula is presented by what is possibly the best assemblage of narrating talent ever for one audiobook: Emmy Award nominees Alan Cumming and Tim Curry plus an all-star cast of Audie award-winners Simon Vance (The Millenium Trilogy), Katherine Kellgren (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Susan Duerden (The Tiger’s Wife), John Lee (Supergods) and customer favorites Graeme Malcolm (Skippy Dies), Steven Crossley (The Oxford Time Travel series), Simon Prebble (The Baroque Cycle), James Adams (Letters to a Young Contrarian), Nicola Barber (The Rose Garden), Victor Villar-Hauser (Fun Inc.), and Marc Vietor (1Q84).

AudioFile Magazine Review:
Followers of the popular vampire literary and film interpretations of recent years might be blasé about another performance of the exquisitely written novel that started it all. But listening to this full-cast performance turns out to be remarkably suspenseful and chilling. The superlative cast lends this powerful production the diversity that is required by the structure of the novel, which includes journal entries and letters. Each actor employs various accents, infusing into the characters vibrant emphasis, urgency, and dread. The famed vampire Count Dracula leaves a swath of exsanguinated bodies in his wake as he attempts to relocate from Transylvania to England in 1897, stalked by the brave Van Helsing. A.W.

This book received 2 Audie 2013 nominations and won in both:AW logoAW logo

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The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

Tao_of_Poohred_earphonesThe Tao of Pooh starts with a description of the vinegar tasters, which is an actual painting portraying the three great eastern thinkers, Confucius, the Buddha, and Laozi over a vat of vinegar. Each tasting the vinegar of “life,” Confucius finds it sour, the Buddha finds it bitter, but Laozi, the traditional founder of Taoism, finds it satisfying. Then the story unfolds backing up this analogy.

Hoff presents Winnie-the-Pooh and related others from A. A. Milne’s stories as characters that interact with him while he writes The Tao of Pooh, but also quotes excerpts of their tales from Milne’s actual books Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, in order to exemplify his points. Hoff uses many of Milne’s characters to symbolize ideas that differ from or accentuate Taoist tenets. Winnie-the-Pooh himself, for example, personifies the principles of wei wu wei, the Taoist concept of “effortless doing,” and pu, the concept of being open to but unburdened by experience. In contrast, characters like Owl and Rabbit over-complicate problems, often over-thinking to the point of confusion, and Eeyore pessimistically complains and frets about existence, unable to just be. Hoff regards Pooh’s simpleminded nature, unsophisticated worldview and instinctive problem-solving methods as conveniently representative of the Taoist philosophical foundation. The book also incorporates translated excerpts from various prominent Taoist texts, from authors such as Laozi and Zhuangzi. (This material is from Wikipedia)

This book has been nominated in three Audie categories!

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Here is the wonderful review from AudioFile Magazine:

With his delicious British accent, Simon Vance is the perfect choice for this beguiling gem. His crisp diction offers clarity while maintaining a warmth that invites the listener to settle back and enjoy another–albeit grown-up–adventure with friends from A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood. But don’t dismiss this as a children’s story. Hoff’s text is ingenious as he uses these childhood icons and their tales to present Tao’s message of simplicity, tolerance, and peace. With his unerring sense of pacing, Vance delivers instructive passages in a conversational tone, then seamlessly becomes Pooh, Eeyore, Owl, and Rabbit. Hoff and Vance have created an audio classic, offering a unique and delightful experience that gently instructs as it entertains. M.O.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The Cold Commands by Richard K.Morgan

With The Steel Remains, award-winning science fiction writer Richard K.
Morgan turned his talents to sword and sorcery. The result: a genre-busting
masterwork hailed as a milestone in contemporary epic fantasy. Now Morgan
continues the riveting saga of Ringil Eskiath—Gil, for short—a peerless warrior
whose love for other men has made him an outcast and pariah.
Only a select few have earned the right to call Gil friend. One is Egar, the
Dragonbane, a fierce Majak fighter who comes to respect a heart as savage and
loyal as his own. Another is Archeth, the last remaining daughter of an
otherworldly race called the Kiriath, who once used their advanced technology to
save the world from the dark magic of the Aldrain—only to depart for reasons as
mysterious as their arrival. Yet even Egar and Archeth have learned to fear the
doom that clings to their friend like a grim shadow . . . or the curse of a
bitter god.
Now one of the Kiriath’s uncanny machine intelligences has
fallen from orbit—with a message that humanity faces a grave new danger (or,
rather, an ancient one): a creature called the Illwrack Changeling, a boy raised
to manhood in the ghostly between-world realm of the Grey Places, home to the
Aldrain. A human raised as one of them—and, some say, the lover of one of their
greatest warriors—until, in a time lost to legend, he was vanquished. Wrapped in
sorcerous slumber, hidden away on an island that drifts between this world and
the Grey Places, the Illwrack Changeling is stirring. And when he wakes, the
Aldrain will rally to him and return in force—this time without the Kiriath to
stop them.
An expedition is outfitted for the long and arduous sea
journey to find the lost island of the Illwrack Changeling. Aboard are Gil,
Egar, and Archeth: each fleeing from ghosts of the past, each seeking redemption
in whatever lies ahead. But redemption doesn’t come cheap these days. Nor, for
that matter, does survival. Not even for Ringil Eskiath. Or anyone—god or
mortal—who would seek to use him as a pawn.

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The Good Thief’s Guide to Vegas by Chris Ewan

From Publishers Weekly: Charlie Howard, the self-mocking narrator of Ewan’s Good Thief Guide series who’s both a mystery writer and smallscale thief, once again shows he’s not terribly good at either in his diverting third outing (after 2008’s The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris). Set largely in the fictional Fifty-Fifty hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nev., the book opens with Howard picking the pocket of Josh Masters, the casino’s resident magician. Armed with Masters’s wallet, Howard visits Masters’s suite (with a nice bit on breaking into the magician’s personal safe) only to discover what appears to be a dead body floating in the bath. The stakes rise when Masters disappears during his own magic show– during a trick using Howard’s literary agent, Victoria, as a volunteer–and the casino’s security men detain the pair. Those looking for suspense or intricate plotting will be disappointed, but fans of light comic capers will be rewarded. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Booklist: Ewan, whose earlier Good Thief guides have visited Paris and Amsterdam, continues on his merry way. Charlie Howard, the crime writer who moonlights as a thief (or maybe it’s the other way around), is in Sin City, planning to make off with healthy cache of casino chips belonging to a third-rate illusionist. But the dead body in the magician’s bathtub ain’t no illusion, and now Charlie has to pull off the toughest robbery of his career or face the consequences. The comic caper novel isn’t exactly something new (Donald Westlake was doing them 40 years ago, and he didn’t invent them, either), but Ewan, through a combination of engaging characterizations, suspenseful stories, and sharp writing, makes the Good Thief novels feel fresh and exciting. The comparison to Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr series, also full of comedy and also starring a good-hearted thief, is entirely appropriate, though Ewan is no mere Block imitator. This novel will definitely appeal to fans of comic mysteries and caper novels. –David PittAF logo

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