Best Audiobooks and DVDs of 2018

LJ editors and reviewers and our Fast Scans columnist have chosen the year's best audiobooks and films for those continually popular media collections. One thing is clear: Mr. Rogers is a hit no matter the format. 

Audiobooks and video continue to circulate widely. These 20 audiobooks, selected by LJ editors and reviewers, represent some of the best recorded literature published between November 2017 and October 2018. They include literary fiction, crime fiction, romance, self-help, memoir, and true crime. Jeff T. Dick’s Best Video list includes rereleases of classic movies, exceptional documentaries, and the year’s best foreign and indie films. One subject achieved excellence across formats in 2018: Mr. Rogers. Maxwell’s King’s biography The Good Neighbor appears on the audio list, whileWon’t You Be My Neighbor? is one of Dick’s Best Documentaries. Stephanie Klose
 


Best Audiobooks 2018


FICTION 
 

Faye, Gaël. Small Country. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525633600. Read by Dominic Hoffman.
In this debut, Faye transforms his own background into an impressive, searing coming-of-age novel about a Burundian family’s implosion during the 1990s. Hoffman embodies youthful Gaby with a chilling mix of exuberance and fear; he’s equally affecting as Gaby’s elders—from dismissive colonial expats and demanding foreigners to abusive militia and petrified victims. ( LJ 9/15/18)

Goenawan, Clarissa. Rainbirds. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681689524. Read by David Shih.
Set in an imagined Tokyo suburb, ­Goenawan’s moving debut, a well-crafted literary mystery, features a younger brother coming of age after the murder of his beloved older sister. Shih’s tempered narration perfectly matches the deliberate, spare prose, introspective feel, and slow unraveling of the events in this suspenseful, character-driven novel. (LJ 6/1/18)

Green, Hank. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525641803. Read by Kristen Sieh & the author.
April May is walking down a New York City street one night when she encounters a giant Transformers statue. She and her best friend Andy post a video in which she names the statue “Carl.” The next day, Carls have appeared all over the world, and April May finds herself an unwilling celebrity. Sieh conveys copious amounts of humor with an expert hand. The last chapter is read by Green. (LJ 12/18)

Hoang, Helen. The Kiss Quotient. Dreamscape. ISBN 9781974900466. Read by Carly Robins.
Hoang’s debut deftly weaves a love story featuring characters whose realities include autism, cancer, dreams denied, familial disappointment, and sex work in a way that is both refreshingly realistic and disturbingly hilarious. Robins is equal to the task and does an excellent job of voicing the disparate cast. (LJ 9/1/18)

Howard, Catherine Ryan. The Liar’s Girl. Blackstone. ISBN 9781504782487. Read by Alana Kerr Collins, Alan Smyth, & Gary Furlong.
Alison Smith was a freshman at St. John’s College, Dublin, when her boyfriend Will was charged with murdering five women, including her longtime best friend. Ten years later, the Dublin Garda contact Alison, asking her to talk with Will. Similar murders are taking place again, and Will refuses to engage with the police until he can speak with her. All of the Irish voice artists do a top-notch job. (LJ 6/15/18)

Stone, Victoria Helen. Jane Doe. Brilliance. ISBN 9781543682229. Read by Nicol Zanzarella.
Steven targets new hire Jane as a workplace conquest, oblivious that she is stalking him. Steven’s mental cruelty instigated the suicide of Jane’s best friend; now, in the guise of a data entry clerk with low self-esteem (precisely Steven’s type), Jane is in town just long enough to exact revenge. Zanzarella’s spot-on narration flips adeptly between the apologetic cooing of Jane-in-disguise and the real Jane’s candid, acid-tinged running commentary. (LJ 11/1/18)

Thompson-Spires, Nafissa. Heads of the Colored People. HighBridge. ISBN 9781684413706. Read by Adenrele Ojo.
Thompson-Spires focuses on the quirky, the obnoxious, and the tragic as her characters navigate the tricky terrain of race and class in modern America. She explores ideas ranging from police brutality and attempted suicide to fetishizing the disabled; her protagonists are black, inhabiting mostly white spaces. Ojo’s narration captures their emotional intensity. ( LJ 10/1/18)

Urrea, Luís Alberto. The House of Broken Angels. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781549196492. Read by the author.
The matriarch of the sprawling de la Cruz family dies just as her eldest son, Miguel Angel, is about to celebrate a farewell birthday blowout before he succumbs to terminal cancer. Over the funeral/party double-header weekend, the extended clan gather in San Diego to eulogize and revel in the decades spent as family and strangers, as loved ones and pariahs. ­Urrea’s outstanding ability to individualize his extensive cast adds yet another layer to his already spectacular novel. (LJ 7/18)

Ware, Ruth. The Death of Mrs. Westaway. S. & S. Audio. ISBN 9781508251705. Read by Imogen Church.
Harriet “Hal” Westaway is in a state of panic: she’s received a threat from a loan shark and news of a recently deceased grandmother’s bequest. Though family records confirm long-dead Marion—not wealthy Hester—as her grandmother, Hal resolves to join the “other” ­Westaways at Trepassen Hall to ply her formidable people-reading skills and forge inheritance paperwork. ­Adept at imparting both dread and charm, Church lends a compelling delivery and rich vocal tone. (LJ 9/1/18)

Zumas, Leni. Red Clocks. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781549116353. Read by Karissa Vacker & Erin Bennett.
Zumas considers an America where abortion is a crime, single women are not allowed to adopt, and in vitro fertilization is illegal. Four central characters are identified mainly by their roles: the Biographer, the Daughter, the Mender, and the Wife. Their stories intertwine in many ways, and the matter-of-fact storytelling makes the grim realities of each woman’s existence even more tragic, with their lack of choice disabling in every way. Vacker’s and Bennett’s implacable styles add to the inevitability of the events. (LJ 4/1/18)

 


 

NONFICTION 

Diamond, Michael & Adam Horovitz. Beastie Boys Book. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781984828224. Read by the authors and various narrators.
This wildly strange and entertaining history of the groundbreaking hip-hop band moves from their origins as trouble­making teens who achieved success too early to know what to do with it to their latter days as skilled musicians who never stopped having fun. Horovitz and Diamond narrate about half the chapters and pop in frequently to comment on each other’s narratives via footnotes (usually with a healthy dose of snark). The book features a dizzying array of celebrity guest readers, including Snoop Dogg, Elvis Costello, Maya Rudolph, Jon Stewart, and Bette Midler. (LJ 12/18)

Fraser, Caroline. Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Recorded Bks. ISBN 9781501969607. Read by Christina Moore.
This heavily researched examination of Wilder’s life shows the homesteaders’ endless, soul-crushing struggle against starvation and financial ruin. Squarely placing the “Little House” novels in their historical, cultural, and ecological context, including the heartbreaking treatment of Native Americans, Fraser demythologizes and deepens our understanding of Wilder’s sunny tales of American opportunism and self-­sufficiency. Maintaining a warm, enthusiastic mood and smoothly switching between detailed historical accounts and Wilder family stories, Moore offers an exceptional performance. (LJ 2/1/18)

Harris, Dan & Jeffrey Warren with Carlye Adler. Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-To Book. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525631033. Read by the authors.
Journalist Harris partners with meditation instructor Warren to teach people too busy, too suspicious, or convinced that meditation won’t work for them. The result is a set of techniques and advice based on science and common sense, with a healthy dose of humor. Harris handles the bulk of the narration, with frequent contributions from Warren. Both are clear, friendly guides who won’t intimidate novice meditators; the audio edition includes an appendix of guided meditations led by Warren’s calm, confident voice. (LJ 3/15/18)

Havari, Yuvel Noah. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525639879. Read by Derek Perkins.
The author identifies various complex issues challenging the world today, among them artificial intelligence and information and biological technologies, and unpacks them with foresight and clarity. The narration is masterfully handled by Perkins. (LJ 11/15/18)

Khan-Cullors, Patrisse & Asha Bandele. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781427294722. Read by Patrisse Khan-Cullors.
Black Lives Matter may have been born at a time of anger, but it’s a movement rooted in love. This memoir is a heartfelt narrative about cofounder Khan-Cullors’s experiences with police, prisons, and poverty and the lack of community resources that marginalizes people of color. Khan-Cullors narrates, the sincerity in her voice drawing listeners in so they see through her eyes and hear through her own words what it’s like to grow up black and poor in America. (LJ 3/15/18)

King, Maxwell. The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers.  Oasis. ISBN 9781640910850. Read by LeVar Burton.
Listeners who grew up watching Mr. ­Rogers’ Neighborhood may be surprised to learn just how much care, thought, and research went into the programs Rogers created. He was fierce in his determination to give children the chance to feel and express their fears, concerns, and thoughts. He had a way of communicating at their level with love and respect that had never been seen before on television. Burton is the perfect narrator for this wholly engaging book. His lively, warm reading fully involves the listener. (LJ 11/15/18)

McNamara, Michelle. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. Harper Audio. ISBN 9781538498910.
Read by Gabra Zackman.
This gripping (and posthumously published) book chronicles McNamara’s research into the unsolved rapes and murders of the Golden State Killer in California. McNamara meticulously covers the investigation, giving equal attention to the detectives who worked the case and the terror the victims faced. Zackman delivers a stellar performance. Her steady and calm narration helps to ramp up the suspense and passion. (LJ 5/1/18)

O’Brien, Keith. Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History. HighBridge. ISBN 9781684412587. Read by Erin Bennett.
In the 1920s and 1930s, fliers Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, Louise Thaden, Ruth Elder, and Florence Klingensmith fought for the same opportunities as men in the fledgling aviation industry. Bennett agilely switches pace as she relates the compelling backgrounds of the women, the excitement of early aviation, and the tragedy that often followed. (LJ 11/15/18)

Smith, Tracy K. Wade in the Water. HighBridge. ISBN 9781681689029. Read by the author.
The newest work by America’s current Poet Laureate not only addresses issues the United States is facing today—attitudes toward immigrants and water poisoned by corporate greed and indifference, for example—but also gives voice to enslaved people in the Civil War era. That these poems are read by Smith herself gives them extra vibrancy, allowing listeners to hear the nuances of meter and stresses as the poet wishes us to hear them. ( LJ 7/18)

True Crime from Texas Monthly. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525593539. Read by various narrators.
Texas Monthly has a long history of exceptional true crime writing. Some of the stories collected here received national attention, such as the woman who hired an assassin to kill the mother of her daughter’s cheerleading rival, while others, such as the accountant who embezzled $17 million from a fruitcake company, were best known regionally. Narrators Pam Dougherty, Bruce DuBose, Staci Snell, ­Karissa Vacker, Mallorie Rodak, and Lydia Mackay convey these pieces perfectly. (LJ 2/15/18)
 


Best Video 2018
 

LJ video reviewer/Fast Scans columnist Jeff T. Dick celebrates his favorite discs, focusing on feature films—fiction (except for “Classic”) and nonfiction—shown theatrically in 2018. Although ineligible, a shout-out goes to the British made-for-TV movie The Child in Time (LJ 6/15/18), one of three (!) worthy adaptations of Ian McEwan novels coming a decade after the marvelous Atonement. For this list, On Chesil Beach got nudged out by The Children Act.

 


CLASSIC FILM 

Birdman of Alcatraz. b/w. 149+ min. John Frankenheimer, dist. by Olive Films. Blu-ray UPC 887090139915.
Tough-as-nails prison inmate Bob Stroud (Burt Lancaster) becomes a self-taught ornithologist credited with discovering avian-disease cures in an idealized version of real events. Remastered in HD, 1962’s Bird soars on its starring performance. (LJ 5/15/18)

 

Judgment at Nuremberg. b/w. 186+ min. Stanley Kramer, dist. by Kino Lorber. Blu-ray UPC 738329225711.
A sobering account of meting out justice to four German judges on trial for their part in Nazi atrocities. Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, and Maximilian Schell lead an impressive cast in this remastered 1961 courtroom drama debuting in high-def. (LJ 7/18)

A Matter of Life and Death. 2 discs. color & b/w. 104+ min. Michael Powell, dist. by Criterion Collection. DVD ISBN 9781681434841; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781681434834.
A World War II RAF pilot (David Niven) miraculously escapes his burning plane, falling in love with an American radio operator (Kim Hunter), but a heavenly trial decides whether to correct the cosmic mistake. The restored 1946 rom-com earns its wings. (LJ 10/15/18)

The Passion of Joan of Arc. 2 discs. b/w. 81+ min. French intertitles w/English subtitles. Carl Theodor Dreyer, dist. by Criterion Collection. DVD ISBN 9781681434155; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781681434148.
Accused of heresy by conniving clergy­men, saintly Joan of Arc (the radiant Renée Falconetti) is tormented and finally martyred in this 1928 silent-film magnum opus restored to its complete and uncensored glory. ( LJ 7/18)

2001: A Space Odyssey. 139+ min. Stanley Kubrick, dist. by Warner Bros. Blu-ray UPC 883929642212. Rated: G.
Human evolution from early ape-man to spacefarer and, ultimately, to Star Child—assisted along the way by a mysterious black monolith and hindered by a computer gone rogue. Feting the 50th anniversary of the “Ultimate Trip” in a 4K restoration.


 

DOCUMENTARY

Dark Money. 98 min. Kimberly Reed, dist. by PBS. DVD UPC 841887038072.
An intrepid newspaper journalist uncovers how anonymous donors exploit the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision to collude with political campaigns in order to elect candidates beholden to the agenda of their backers.

Jane. 90+ min. Brett Morgan, dist. by National Geographic. DVD-R UPC 024543483373. Rated: PG.
Digitally enhanced archival footage plus recent interview scenes contrast young primatologist Jane Goodall working and living among chimpanzees in Tanzania with her 84-year-old self reflecting on her extraordinary research-centered life.

RBG. 98+ min. Betsy West & Julie Cohen, dist. by Magnolia Home Entertainment. DVD UPC 876964016223; Blu-ray UPC 876964016315. Rated: PG.
Confirmed as the 107th Supreme Court Justice in 1993—only the second woman—Ruth Bader Ginsburg established her legacy as a progressive icon, championing gender equality from her lawyerly roots to 84-year-old iron-­pumping opera buff. (LJ 10/15/18)

Three Identical Strangers. color & b/w. 93+ min. Tim Wardle, dist. by Universal Home Entertainment. DVD UPC 191329074893; Blu-ray 191329074909. Rated: PG-13.
Reunited by chance after being separated at birth and raised by different families, triplets eventually learn that they were the subject of secret studies examining the age-old question of nature versus nurture in an ethically challenged ­experiment.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? color & b/w. 95+ min. Morgan Neville, dist. by Universal Home Entertainment.
DVD UPC 191329052181; Blu-ray UPC 191329079119. Rated: PG-13.
Minister–cum–children’s TV host Fred Rogers talks to—not down to—his PBS audience via puppets and special guests about difficult subjects and the need for love, kindness, and understanding in an unashamedly sentimental bioportrait. (LJ 11/15/18)

 

FOREIGN FILM

A Fantastic Woman. 104+ min. In Spanish w/English subtitles. Sebastian Lelio, dist. by Sony. Blu-ray UPC 043396529717. Rated: R.
A transgender nightclub singer (Daniela Vega) falls under routine police suspicion after the death of her older boyfriend and endures threats from his bigoted family for attempting to attend the funeral in this foreign-language Oscar winner.

In the Fade. 107+ min. In German & Turkish w/English subtitles. Fatih Akin, dist. by Magnolia Home Entertainment. DVD UPC 876964015905; Blu-ray UPC 876964015912. Rated: R.
Grief and desperation spur a native German woman (Diane Kruger) who loses her Turkish husband and young son in a racially motivated terrorist bombing to pursue justice, culminating in an act of vengeance that is unexpected yet perfectly fitting. (LJ 7/18)

The Insult. 113+ min. In Arabic w/English subtitles. Ziad Doueiri, dist. by Cohen Media Group. DVD UPC 741952842798; Blu-ray UPC 741952842897. Rated: R.
Pride is the pitfall in an ethnic tiff in which words matter and apologies come hard when a Lebanese auto mechanic (Adel Karam) and a Palestinian refugee (Kamel El ­Basha) working as a construction foreman in contemporary Beirut trade insults. (LJ 7/18)

Loveless. 127+ min. In Russian w/English subtitles. Andrei Zvyagintsev, dist. by Sony. Blu-ray UPC 043396534650. Rated: R.
Oblivious to the detrimental effect of an impending divorce on their young son (Matvey Novikov) until he turns up missing, a self-absorbed Russian couple (Alexey Rozin, Maryana Spivak) forge an uneasy truce in an effort to find him.

Thelma. 117 min. In Norwegian w/English subtitles. Joachim Trier, dist. by Passion River. DVD UPC 888608667975.
Afflicted with seizure-driven telekinesis, a shy coed (Eili Harboe) attracted to a fellow student (Kaya Wilkins) finds her extraordinary power can be directed for intentional good not just inadvertent bad in this Carrie-ish psychological thriller. (LJ 6/15/18)


INDIE FILM

The Children Act. 105+ min. Richard Eyre, dist. by Lionsgate. DVD UPC 031398293972. Rated: R.
A workaholic British family-law judge (Emma Thompson) who orders a blood transfusion for a minor (Fionn Whitehead) against his religious beliefs finds his unexpected reaction hard to dismiss even as she deals with her faltering marriage.

I, Daniel Blake . 2 discs. 100+ min. Ken Loach, dist. by Criterion Collection. DVD ISBN 9781681433929; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781681433912.
Recovering from a heart attack, a carpenter (Dave Johns) dealing with a denial of unemployment benefits assists a single mother (Hayley Squires) and her two kids coping with their own desperate financial straits in a critique of the welfare system. (LJ 4/15/18)

Lean on Pete. 122+ min. Andrew Haigh, dist. by Lionsgate. DVD UPC 031398288084; Blu-ray UPC 031398288114. Rated: R.
A restless teenage boy (Charlie Plummer) with an unsteady home life bonds with an aging racehorse at the local stable where he works, leading him to take drastic measures when the animal is sold to a slaughter­house in this harrowing journey.

Puzzle. 103+ min. Marc Turtletaub, dist. by Sony. DVD UPC 043396544345. Rated: R. An unassuming wife and mother (Kelly Macdonald) finds escape from humdrum domesticity in jigsaw puzzles. Partnering with a seasoned pro (Irrfan Khan), she prepares for a competition, piecing together her newfound independence as well.

Tully. 96+ min. Jason Reitman, dist. by Universal Home Entertainment. DVD UPC 191329044902; Blu-ray UPC 191329058060. Rated: R.
After the birth of her third child, a stressed-out suburban mom (Charlize Theron) reluctantly agrees to the services of a “night nanny” (Mackenzie Davis) who turns out to be an alter ego also helping to provide perspective on Mom’s sense of marital self.


This article was originally published in Library Journal's Winter 2018 issue

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