Library Journal Best of 2010

Audio-books

Fiction 
Blake, Sarah. The Postmistress.
Actress/narrator Orlagh Cassidy (The Piano Teacher) superbly renders the characters in Blake’s (Grange House) “quietly powerful” narrative set during the lead-up to America’s entrance into World War II; the Putnam hc also received a starred review, LJ 12/09. (LJ 6/1/10)
Coes, Ben. Power Down.
With his adroit narration of former White House speechwriter Coes’s “visceral, gut-wrenching” debut thriller, actor/narrator Peter Hermann (Private) remarkably manages to endear listeners to a hero who doesn’t hesitate to kill and mistrusts nearly everyone who tries to help. (LJ 1/11)
Cronin, Justin. The Passage.
Scott Brick’s (see Behind the Mike, LJ 10/15/09) reading of PEN/Hemingway Award winner Cronin’s postapocalyptic trilogy starter is “nothing short of masterly.” (Edward Herrmann reads the abridged Random Audio version.) The Ballantine hc was an LJ Editors’ Spring Pick and an LJ Best Book of 2010; expect a film adaptation from Ridley Scott. (LJ 10/1/10)
Fforde, Jasper. Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron.
Multiple Audie Award winner John Lee perfectly renders Fforde’s (www.jasperfforde.com) imagined future dystopia, in which people’s social statuses are governed by their degrees of color perception. This brilliant satirical novel, whose Viking hc also received a starred review, is the first of a projected trilogy. (LJ 5/1/10)
Francis, Dick & Felix Francis. Crossfire.
This last novel from the late Edgar Award winner Dick Francis (www.dickfrancis.com) “is fast out of the starting gate and will keep listeners enthralled to the finish line.” Actor/Audie Award winner Martin Jarvis gives a sterling performance as Capt. Thomas Forsyth; a fitting farewell to the Grand Master. (LJ 11/15/10)

Galloway, Steven. The Cellist of Sarajevo.
Welsh actor/narrator Gareth Armstrong (The Defector) does a tremendous job of movingly conveying the perspectives of three Sarajevans struggling to retain their sanity and humanity in Canadian author Galloway’s third novel, an international best seller inspired by actual events. (LJ 5/15/10)

Gudenkauf, Heather. The Weight of Silence.

Narrators Eliza Foss, Therese Plummer, Tony Ward, Andy Paris, Jim Colby, and Cassandra Morris beautifully inhabit the multiple perspectives in Gudenkauf’s highly compelling debut novel, giving each a unique voice, in this audiobook “that will be hard to forget.” (LJ 5/1/10)
Hall, Tarquin. The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing.
Hall’s second novel to feature PI Vish “Chubby” Puri—following The Case of the Missing Servant (2009)—is an engaging mystery featuring fascinating characters and a rich presentation of the many complexities of modern Indian life. Bombay-born actor Sam Dastor’s agile narration is “critical” to this title’s success. (LJ 10/1/10)
Hartnett, Sonya. The Midnight Zoo.
Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award–winning Australian writer Hartnett’s fablelike work of crossover adult/YA historical fiction gets an ace reading from Audie Award winner Richard Aspel, who provides adeptly variations of the male and female, human and animal voices. (LJ 11/1/10)
King, Stephen. Blockade Billy.
King’s highly entertaining baseball novella is infused with colorful details of the game. Actor Craig Wasson is “delightfully grumpy” as the Newark Titans’ avuncular third-base coach, “comically raising his voice to convey displeasure with the post-1957 world.” (LJ 9/15/10)
Koryta, Michael. So Cold the River.
Edgar Award nominee Koryta’s captivating work of supernatural horror is masterfully read by actor Robert Petkoff (robertpetkoff.com), who renders the characters with “veridical insight.” (LJ 10/15/10)
Lynds, Gayle. The Book of Spies.
Lynds’s (www.gaylelynds.com) sixth stand-alone novel is a thrilling tale of intrigue featuring at its center a legendary collection of rare, priceless books. Actress/narrator Kate Reading (The Agency) “brilliantly captures” Lynds’s colorful descriptions. The St. Martin’s hc was an LJ Best Book of 2010. (LJ 7/10)
Min, Anchee. Pearl of China.
A gorgeous fictionalized biography of Pulitzer and Nobel prize winner Pearl S. Buck in which author Min (www.ancheemin.com) and narrator Angela Lin together give the character of Pearl “the warmth and humanity Buck always gave her own characters.” (LJ 9/15/10)
Rahimi, Atiq. The Patience Stone.
Filmmaker/novelist Rahimi’s 2008 Prix Goncourt–winning tale gets a heart-wrenching performance from narrator Carolyn Seymour (An Education), who expresses the full range of human emotion in conveying everyday reality for women living under the Taliban regime in present-day Afghanistan. The Other hc also received a starred review, LJ 11/15/09. (LJ 11/1/10)
Slaughter, Karin. Broken.
Slaughter’s (www.karinslaughter.com) second novel to combine the “Grant County” and “Atlanta” series, following Undone (2009), is “absolutely riveting”; Natalie Ross’s “phenomenal” facility with the male and female voices, young and old, further makes this an exceptional listening experience. The Delacorte hc also received a starred review, LJ 6/1/10. (LJ 9/15/10)
Quartey, Kwei. Wife of the Gods.
Ghana-born Quartey’s debut novel is a “mature, richly plotted mystery with a fully rounded protagonist who compares favorably with the best in modern detective fiction.” Eleven-time Audie Award nominee Simon Prebble’s consistently strong narration of this masterpiece, whose Random hc also received a starred review, LJ 5/15/09, is “a joy to hear.” (LJ 6/1/10)
Non-Fiction
Alexander, Larry. In the Footsteps of the Band of Brothers.
Alexander (Biggest Brother) embeds listeners with the legendary Easy Company, 101st Airborne in this fascinating work that is part historical memoir and part travelog. Narrator Norman Dietz’s (Power, Faith, and Fantasy) impressive, respectful performance “will recall for today’s generation the heroic contribution of U.S. soldiers in World War II.” (LJ 8/10)
Bartlett, Allison Hoover. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession.
Bartlett’s fascinating first book is the true story of rare-books thief and his pursuit by a rare-books dealer–turned–amateur detective. Veteran voice artist Judith Brackley brings essential calm and gravitas to this engaging, fast-paced work, whose Riverhead hc was an LJLJ 4/15/10) Best Book of 2009. (
Braestrup, Kate. Marriage, and Other Acts of Charity: A Memoir.
The memoirist’s own lively narration in this “touching, entertaining, and poignant” follow-up to Here If You Need Me (2007) “mak[es] for the best kind of storytelling.” (LJ 5/1/10)
Conover, Ted. The Routes of Man.
National Book Critics Circle Award winner Conover’s exceptionally well-written and perceptive observations about the role of roads in civilization throughout the centuries receive a rich and vivid narration by three-time Audie Award winner Dick Hill (www.dickhill.com). (LJ 9/1/10)
Fox, Michael, J. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future…Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned.
Fox’s third memoir, following the LJ Best Seller/Grammy Award winner Always Looking UpLJ 7/10) (2009), is “comical, genial, and trademark Fox.” The author himself reads, “bringing warmth to our hearts with his familiar voice.” (
 Hunt, Mame. Unquestioned Integrity: The Hill-Thomas Hearings.
Listeners will be struck by Ella Joyce, Paul Winfield, and Edward Asner’s “nuanced and powerful” performances in reenacting the circuslike atmosphere of the historic 1991 Senate Confirmation hearings in this invaluable recording of Hunt’s 1993 play that stays loyal to the transcripts. (LJ 5/15/10)
James, P.D. Talking About Detective Fiction.
Actress/writer Diana Bishop does an extraordinary job of narrating nanogenarian James’s immensely enjoyable Edgar Award–winning book on the history, development, and craft of detective fiction; her British accent is “crisp and lucid,” and her pacing “is perfect for optimal understanding by American audiences. (LJ 7/10)
Listen to an audio clip.

Johnson, Marilyn. This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All.

Audie Award nominee Hillary Huber (A Field of Darkness) gracefully slips into Johnson’s (marilynjohnson.net) persona as she discusses the technological, political, social, and practical obstacles librarians face daily in their mission to serve the public; a “lively and immensely enjoyable” performance. (LJ 5/15/10)
 Kean, Sam. The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements.
Science magazine writer Kean’s love of invention, investigation, and discovery are brightly apparent in his authoritative first book, to which Audie Award winner Sean Runnette provides an aptly “lucid, energetic” narration. (LJ 11/1/10)
Kirkpatrick, Sidney. Hitler’s Holy Relics: A True Story of Nazi Plunder and the Race To Recover the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire.
Kirkpatrick’s (sidneykirkpatrick.blogspot.com) incredible-but-true account follows the 1945 search for the pillaged symbols of Germanic glory. Narrator Charles Stransky’s (Red Moon Rising) “tension-filled performance is spectacular.” (LJ 7/10)
 Lapierre, Dominique. A Rainbow in the Night: The Tumultuous Birth of South Africa.
Internationally best-selling writer Lapierre’s (A Thousand Suns) account of South Africa’s history of apartheid is greatly enhanced by Stefan Rudnicki’s narration in this work that “beautifully translates” to audio. (LJ 4/1/10)
Macintyre, Ben. Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory.
Multiple Audie Award winner John Lee delivers an exceptional performance of historian Macintyre’s fascinating account of the origins, planning, implementation, outcome, and aftermath of Operation Mincemeat, “clearly and masterfully” voicing this complex work. (LJ 9/1/10)
Parker-Pope, Tara. For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.
New York Times blogger Parker-Pope (The Hormone Decision) deftly translates scientific findings into practical advice on such hot-button topics as sex, parenting, and financial problems, while actress/Audie Award winner Cassandra Campbell’s “easy, conversational tone” makes the narration of this thoughtful, valuable work feel “like the guidance of a trusted friend.” (LJ 9/1/10)
Remnick, David. The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.
The audio edition of Pulitzer Prize winner/The New Yorker editor Remnick’s biography is superior even to the essential print version; from his timing to his timbre, narrator Mark Deakins (The Hunted) is “superb,” sounding “just like” the President. The Knopf hc also received a starred review, LJ Xpress Reviews, 4/2/10. (LJ 8/10)
Shelden, Michael. Mark Twain: Man in White.
Pulitzer Prize nominee Shelden’s (michaelshelden.com) biography of the most eventful period of Twain’s life is “ideal” for the audio format, especially as read by Andrew Garman. The Random hc is an LJ Best Book of 2010. (LJ 10/15/10)
Wilde, Oscar. The Oscar Wilde Collection.
This L.A. Theater Works audio recording of full-cast staged productions of four of Wilde’s lighthearted social satires and his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, will keep audiences “laughing and engaged through multiple listens”; the well-executed musical scores are a boon to the production. (LJ 11/1/10)

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DVDs
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Video Games 
BEST LITERARY GAME
Limbo
Platform:
Xbox 360 (XBLA)
ESRB Rating:
M (ages 17 and up)
Puzzle platformers—games that focus more on solving logic- and physics-based puzzles than on executing tasks of dexterity and timing—are very popular. The highlight of the genre is the challenging Limbo, which is unforgiving in its difficulty and sometimes even forces gamers to kill off the main character just to get a clue as to how to solve their given predicament. What makes this a literary game is its presentation: in black-and-white shadowbox style, it tells a sparse narrative of a boy traveling through dangerous locales and fighting hideous enemies in search of his sister. Limbo is a beautiful and thought-provoking game that invites much discussion of death, loss, and the nature of reality amid its game-play challenges. Ideal for a discussion group made up of mature gamers.
WATCH the game trailer:
 
BEST GAME FOR AN OLD-SCHOOL BEATDOWN
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game

Platforms:
PS3, Xbox 360 (XBLA)
ESRB Rating:
T (ages 13 and up)
Sadly, newer gamers don’t have memories of spending endless hours (and quarters) in their arcade or on the couch in front of their eight- and 16-bit consoles mashing buttons as they guide their player characters on a quest to beat up as many crooked thugs as possible. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, based on the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley (which was also adapted into a 2010 film starring Michael Cera), brings back some of that old-school game play, wrapped up in a pop-culture package as quirky and engaging as the source material. Up to four players adopt the roles of characters from the series to help Scott Pilgrim defeat the seven Evil Exes of Ramona Flowers, his absolute dream girl. The game play is a tried-and-true, side-scrolling beat-’em-up affair, and with retro-styled graphics and a chiptune soundtrack by the band Anamanaguchi, this title serves as homage to gaming’s past while still offering plenty for today’s young and hip players. A great addition to any game day at your library.
WATCH the game trailer:
BEST GAME FOR SOCIAL INTERACTIVITY & SHARED CREATIVITY
Lord of the Rings Online

Platform:
PC
ESRB Rating:
T (ages 13 and up)
In massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), players meet one another in a virtual space and work together to accomplish common goals while sharing resources. They build social skills and leadership skills, and the role-playing element (taken more seriously by some gamers than others) allows participants to let their imagination run wild. In other words, they’re near-perfect for inclusion in library services. Lord of the Rings Online has been around for a while, but in 2010 it was given something of a new beginning when it moved from a monthly subscription model to a free-to-play model. While having to pay for additional content does establish something of a barrier to this game, it still allows for plenty of options for casual gamers to explore without having to pay a penny. They can master the arts of combat, learn music, or spend their days as a farmer or cook, among many other options. Plus what better services for libraries to offer than a chance to explore one of the oldest and most fully realized fantasy worlds ever to be found in literature?
WATCH the game trailer:
BEST GAME FOR THE HARD-CORE
Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Platforms:
PC, PS3, Xbox 360
ESRB Rating:
M (ages 17 and up)
Hard-core gamers crave competition; they thrive on games that demand tactical precision, teamwork, and fine-tuned coordination. No 2010 release better satisfies these needs than Battlefield: Bad Company 2. In the game’s multiplayer mode, players can team up as opposing armies and try either to capture enemy territory or annihilate enemy forces. Gamers can choose to play as a frontline assault trooper, a medic, a long-range sniper providing support from a distance, or an engineer whose job it is to repair vehicles and equipment. All roles are vital to a team’s success, so everyone shares in a victory, even if they don’t have the most impressive kill count. The variety of game modes allows libraries hosting online or in-house tournaments to sponsor some truly exciting competitive events and sends a message to the gamers in your community that there’s more to gaming at the library than family-friendly fun. For those libraries with online consoles and computers for gaming: a wired connection is recommended for this title, as the one complaint often levied against it is unstable connections to the game’s online servers.
WATCH the game trailer:
THE GAME YOU SHOULD NOT BE WITHOUT
Minecraft

Platform:
Java
[Not Rated]
Minecraft is perhaps the single best video game of 2010, and it’s not even completely finished yet (it entered into the beta phase in late December). It was developed by one Markus “Notch” Persson, who worked independently and without the usual big bucks that drive the success of triple-A titles. Imagine being stranded on a planet that is eight times the size of Earth and is covered in vast landscapes composed of numerous elements. You can mine these elements and reassemble them however you like, creating structures limited only by your imagination. You can also combine them to make tools, weapons, armor, chests, and fuel. Armed only with those items you make, you can kill wandering animals for food and clothing. Dangerous creatures emerge at night to hunt you down: zombies, giant spiders, skeletons armed with bows and arrows, and mysterious reptilian monsters that explode on contact. This game, more than any other before it, exemplifies sandbox game play. What’s more, it’s a subtle examination of primitive survival. Still being in the alpha phase, it has more than a few bugs present, but even in its current state it is a more fun and engaging game than most other big-name titles. As long as gaming is part of your service offerings, Minecraft belongs in your library.
WATCH the game trailer [fanmade]:

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