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Alan Minskoff's AudioFile Reviews

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Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 Cover Image
By Ibram X. Kendi (Editor), Keisha N. Blain (Editor)
ISBN: 9780593134047
Availability: On Our Shelves Now in Boise or Caldwell
Published: One World - February 2nd, 2021

The brilliant cast brings these essays and poems vividly to life. Of the many incandescent performances JD Jackson (“Upon Arrival”) Kenneth R Free (“Cotton”), January LaVoy (“Sally Hemmings”) and Robin Miles (“Maroons and Marronage”) are masterful. But at least a dozen more could be mentioned. Ninety entries, including ten poems, encapsulate the African-American experience from 1619 to 2019. The authors tell stories both little and well known that together give the listener a symphony of voices who bring the complex, often horrific, history of black people in the US into relief. Many of the accounts depict incredible sacrifice, heroism and others supply context. All are revealed and enhanced by the remarkable narrators. The intense rhythm of the poetry enriches this fine chorus of voices.

Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735221253
Availability: On Our Shelves Now in Boise or Caldwell
Published: Penguin Press - November 10th, 2020

Abernathy reads with a hint of the south and the listener can almost feel the humidity and smell the Kentucky countryside at the core of this celebration of American bourbon.  He captures the southern intonations subtly and well. His is a most compatible voice for author and ESPN writer Thompson who hails from Mississippi. Chris Abernathy reads thoughtfully. It is the tale of the rise, fall and revival of the justly famous--and extraordinarily expensive-- Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon.  Both a biography of Julian Van Winkle III and a memoir of Thompson, it is a compelling American origin story and an insightful examination of family values. This audiobook has a complementary afterward by Van Winkle, who has an international reputation for his expertise and savvy.

Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate Cover Image
ISBN: 9781938340864
Availability: On Our Shelves Now in Boise or Caldwell
Published: Patagonia - March 3rd, 2020

Kurlansky reads his powerful audiobook straightforwardly. His narrating style sounds hewn from his experience teaching and giving readings. An award-winning and renown journalist, his tone and cadence reflect his background. In this appreciation of the world’s most athletic, and iconic fish, he describes how mankind and this anadromous wonder have coexisted--the salmon rarely the better for human attention. Despite climate change, urbanization, industrialization and the destruction of Atlantic and Pacific salmon’s habitat, Sockeye, King, Coho, among others, still live and die in great numbers in places like Alaska and eastern Russia. Kurlansky calls the salmon’s fate a “barometer” for the planet’s future. If ever a noble species needed a voice, it is the salmon; in Mark Kurlansky, it has found its champion.

The Vixen: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780063012141
Availability: On Our Shelves Now in Boise or Caldwell
Published: Harper - June 29th, 2021

Tristan Morris inhabits the youthful protagonist/narrator of this fine audiobook. His  measured pacing and thoughtful tone work well to create the mood of this novel set in the 1950s at the height of the Red Scare. The deliberate cadence and earnest style add to the revelation of the mystery at the center of this complex, textured and richly detailed novel. Prose has created a splendid cast of characters who inhabit the demimonde of New York publishing. Simon Putnam, the narrator/protagonist (a recent Harvard grad whose name and appearance belie his Jewish roots) takes a low-level job at a prestigious publishing house. When he’s inexplicably given an anti-communist pot boiler to edit, the plot unspools. This historical fiction provides a grand listening experience.

Legends of the North Cascades Cover Image
ISBN: 9781643750101
Availability: On Our Shelves Now in Boise or Caldwell
Published: Algonquin Books - June 8th, 2021

Ballerini’s clear and evocative delivery works splendidly. He reads with the right pace for this Thoreauvian story of modern trauma. Equally convincing when he recreates the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist, Dave Cartwright, or emulates the tone of his eight-year-old daughter Bella, the real heroine of the novel, or imitates the hyper speech of Dave’s real estate developer brother Travers, Ballerini performs masterfully. The novel exists on several planes: the inner and outer life of Iraq-war vet and former star football player, Dave; and a legend of long ago centered on the native woman, S’tka  cast out by her clan who survives on the edge of the ice with her son, N’ka plus reports on Dave’s flight to the mountains from various locals.

The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374158453
Availability: On Our Shelves Now in Boise or Caldwell
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - April 20th, 2021

Narrator David Colacci approaches this opinionated, engrossing audiobook with a practiced voice that lets its numerous stories tell themselves without fanfare. He adroitly captures the author’s shifts in tone—from professorial to chatty, for example—and keeps the listener’s attention on this broad-brush look at the cultural history of the Cold War. The narration moves the intertwining topics forward, not an easy task in a kaleidoscopic work that ranges from the Beat poets to CIA shenanigans and to analyses of art and philosophy, music and the media. Menand is especially good on matters relating to literature, political thought and modern art (especially abstract expressionism) and. It should be noted that architecture and sculpture are given little attention. That said, this audiobook is a monumental work. (125) A.D.M.

Food Americana: The Remarkable People and Incredible Stories Behind America's Favorite Dishes (Humor, Entertainment, and Pop Culture) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781642505863
Availability: On Our Shelves Now in Boise or Caldwell
Published: Mango - May 4th, 2021

Yen is an engaging and engaged narrator of this tour of American foods. He reads with energy, enthusiasm and just the right tone for tracking the many restaurateurs and locals who enhance the histories in this audiobook.  Read with a conversational style and informative manner, Yen well serves the text. Author David Page, the show runner for Dinners, Drive-ins and Dives, has a real feeling for comfort food and understands how folkways work. A fine interviewer, he is especially good at finding the folks who still own the historic eateries. His audiobook charts the origin stories of pizza, bagels, caviar, oysters, lobster roll and, of course, burgers. It includes lots of profiles and each section ends with a recipe.