10 Recommended Audiobooks From the Past Year

Deal W. Hudson
December 3, 2016

This kind of lists are normally entitled “The Best,” but since I can only vouch for the ones I’ve heard I will stay with “Recommended.” One thing I have learned from my years of listening is that narrators ‘make or break’ a book. Many of books that I would like to hear are passed over because of bad narration. Fortunately, both Audible and Downpour, the two main sources of audiobooks, allow you to listen to a few minutes of a book before pushing the “Buy” button. I can tell in less than a minute if the narration will keep my attention for 5, 10, 15, 20, even 30 hours. Thus, what I offer here are audiobooks content and narration are both superb, making the hours investing in listening to a delight. (All the titles are unabridged.)

The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945
By Max Hastings
Narrated by Steven Crossley
Length: 30 hrs and 39 mins
Release Date: 05-10-16

No one tells the story of war better than Max Hastings, and in this volume, he reveals the massive and often messy, network of espionage and intelligence-gathering on all sides in World War II.

A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel
By Amor Towles
Narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith
Length: 17 hrs and 52 mins
Release Date: 09-06-16

An intriguing and delightful story set in St. Petersburg after the Russian Revolution where a cultured and urbane Russian aristocrat has been ordered to in a commodious hotel and never leave the premises.

The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
By Thomas Asbridge
Narrated by Derek Perkins
Length: 25 hrs and 32 mins
Release Date: 08-16-16

If you want to make sense of the all the successive waves of Crusaders beginning in 1095, I strongly recommend Asbridge’s account for its structural clarity and colorful portraits of the Christian and Muslim leaders who kept the quarrel over Jerusalem alive for four centuries — the 25 hours flew by.

The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End
By Robert Gerwarth
Narrated by Michael Page
Length: 10 hrs and 49 mins
Release Date:11-15-16
Publisher: Tantor Audio

I’ve not read a better account, and there are many, of the destructive reverberations, set off by the disastrous Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I, which was signed by men, including Woodrow Wilson, who knew it was a guarantee that the World War would have to be fought all over again, and in the not-too-distance future.

The Romanovs: 1613-1918
By Simon Sebag Montefiore
Narrated by Simon Beale
Length: 28 hrs and 47 mins
Release Date: 05-03-16

The Romanovs ruled for three centuries over a vast empire that was introduced by to modernity by the progressive Alexander II (1818-1881), but what he started with his Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861 led inexorably to downfall, and murder, of the last Czar, Nicolas II, and his family — Russia’s journey from a medieval empire to a Bolshevik state is presented by Montefiore with probing sympathy,

Razor Girl: A Novel
By Carl Hiaasen
Narrated by John Rubinstein
Length: 12 hrs and 19 mins
Release Date:09-06-16
Publisher: Random House Audio

Hiaasen’s South Florida form of ribald humor may not be to everyone’s taste, but I find Hiassen’s writing not only funny but also the inventor of attention-holding plot lines whose deviant characters make expert comic narration a must — John Rubinstein delivers!

Jean Renoir: Projections of Paradise
By Ronald Bergan
Narrated By Jean Brassard
Length: 14 hrs and 56 mins
Release Date: 02-29-16

Since Renoir’s “Rules of the Game” (1939) is my favorite film, I took a chance with this biography and was delighted to find Bergan traces the director’s life in the larger context of French history and culture, particularly the Nazi occupation and its aftermath — I also learned a great deal about French cooking! For both film buffs and Francophiles.

The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy
By Anthony Gottlieb
Narrated by Derek Perkins
Length: 10 hrs and 38 mins
Release Date:08-30-16
Publisher: Blackstone Audio

Gottlieb has written a near-ideal introduction to culture we call the “Enlightenment,” because his narrative, pitched for the general reader, not scholars, borrows freely from science, literature, mathematics, and the arts, in addition, of course, to philosophy — this is an opportunity for the listener to get back in touch with his or her philosophical wonder.

The Last Days of Stalin
By Joshua Rubenstein
Narrated by Arthur Morey
Length: 8 hrs and 46 mins
Release Date:04-28-16
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Rubenstein’s opening chapters describe the inner circle of Stalin awaiting his death, hoping for his death, but terrified that Stalin will live on and, perhaps, make them the final victims of his tyrannical, but detached, wrath — there is almost a comic quality to the way those attending his illness scheme to take control of the Soviet Union once Stalin’s body finally turns cold. A man named Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev prevails.

The Wright Brothers
By David McCullough
Narrated by David McCullough
Length: 10 hrs and 2 mins
Release Date: 05-05-15

This is the last and the best of the ten audiobooks I recommend — McCullough is a born storyteller, and possesses a mellifluous voice, who sees in the Wright Brothers a saga of the American character. Not to be missed. The Wright Brothers only fault is that it wasn’t longer.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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