Jacket Copy

Books, authors and all things bookish

Category: audiobooks

Grammy nominees include audio books from Tina Fey, Betty White

Tinafey_bn_bookTwo audio books of memoirs by comediennes, read by the authors themselves, received Grammy nominations this week. Tina Fey's "Bossypants" and Betty White's "If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't)" are both in the running in the Spoken Word category.

The three other nominees aren't books at all, but a variety of audio performances. One is "Fab Fan Memories: The Beatles Bond," a collection of fan reminiscences about the Beatles; another is a recording of "Hamlet" performed by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and "The Mark of Zorro," an audio drama  featuring Val Kilmer.

In recent years, however, audio books have taken the award. Former President Clinton's "My Life" won the 2005 Spoken Word Grammy, followed the next year by future president Barack Obama's "Dreams from My Father." Obama's "The Audacity of Hope," read by Jacob Bronstein, won the award in 2008. Political books have done well: Jimmy Carter's "Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis" was one of two winners of the 2007 award and Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" won in 2009.

Celebrity and comedy have also had some recent success. Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Audiobook)" won in 2011, and the 2010 winner was Michael J. Fox's "Always Looking Up." Maybe that means that the chances of winning are equally good for White and Fey.

The Grammy Awards will be presented Feb. 12 at Staples Center; the audio books category may not make the Kanye-and-Adele-studded telecast.


Exclusive audio excerpt: Tina Fey reads "Bossypants"

Betty White voted America's "most trusted" celebrity

Tina Fey's "Bossypants": precise, professional, hilarious

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Tina Fey at a book signing of "Bossypants" in April in New York. Credit: Jim Spellman / Getty Images


Samuel L. Jackson reads 'Go the F --- to Sleep'

Writer Adam Mansbach's childrens book parody "Go the F--- to Sleep" is the gift that keeps giving. Digital galleys of the book, which was released on Tuesday, went viral in early May helping it to shoot to the top of the Amazon best seller list before it was even printed. And now Samuel L. Jackson has recorded an audio version of the book, which is available, for free, on Audible.com.

Why all the hullabaloo around this book? Because any parent who has tried to put a toddler down to sleep has inevitably felt the need to curse, a lot. As Jackson says in the beginning of the recording, "Everyone tells you that reading stories will put kids to sleep, but it never works. It didn't in my house.... I did say go the 'F' to sleep to her a lot. And then she would look at me and say, 'Go the F to sleep, daddy?' And I would say, 'Yeah. Go the 'F' to sleep.' "

As if that weren't awesome enough, Gothamist has a video of comedian Judah Friedlander reading "Go the F--- to Sleep" at a party for the book's release earlier this week, and the site is reporting rumors that Werner Herzog has also expressed interest in making a recording.

Will more celebrities get on board? We'd like a woman's voice to get in the mix -- after all, moms can get just as frustrated as dads when their kids won't go to sleep. Our vote is for Karen O.


From fatherly frustration to bestseller

Keith Richards' "Life" wins top award at the 2011 Audies

The 1970s classic 'Once Upon a Potty' goes digital

-- Deborah Netburn

Image: The cover of "Go the F-- to Sleep." Credit: Akashic Books.

Photo: Samuel L. Jackson at the 65th annual Tony Awards. Jackson has recorded and audio version of the book. Credit: Charles Sykes / Associated Press

Keith Richard's 'Life' wins top Award at the 2011 Audies

On Tuesday night the Audio Publishers Association held its 16th annual Audies Gala in New York City. The press release says the event is often referred to as the "Oscars of the spoken word entertainment." I'm not sure about that, but it is an awards ceremony that honors audio books in 30 different categories including Multi-Voiced Performance, Audiobook Adaptation, Humor and Inspirational/Faith-Based Fiction.

Keith_richards_audiobook The Audiobook of the Year award went to one of the year's highest profile audiobooks-- "Life," the best selling autobiography of Keith Richards, narrated by Johnny Depp and Joe Hurley with Keith Richards (Hachette Audio). The Audies jury selected the book in part because it introduced new audiences to the audio-book format.

Alan Cumming won the award for Solo Narration-Male for his reading of the children's book "Zorgamazoo" by Robert Paul Weston, and Emma Thompson won the Narration By the Author prize for her reading of "Nanny McPhee Returns." "Old Jews Telling Jokes"  edited by Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman and narrated by Sam Hoffman with Eric Spiegelman and an ensemble cast beat out David Sedaris's "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary" read by David Sedaris, Elaine Stritch, Dylan Baker and  Siân Phillips among others.

The Distinguished Achievement in Production award—which honors a production that shows off the best the medium has to offer in listening experience went to "Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices" by Walter Dean Myers and narrated by a large cast. A spokesperson for the event wrote, "This celebration of Harlem beautifully presented by 13 distinguished narrators was accompanied by jazz music and sound effects to add to the sense of time and place, and impressed the Audies jury."

For more information on the awards, the winners, and to hear sound clips, go to www.theaudies.com.


Tina Fey Reads 'Bossypants'

Woody Allen's 'Without Feathers' read by Woody Allen

--Deborah Netburn

Photo credit: Courtesy of Hachette Audio


Exclusive audio excerpt: Tina Fey reads 'Bossypants'


Near the end of Tina Fey’s audio recording of her book “Bossypants,” the actress, writer and comedian discusses the last six weeks of the 2008 election when she regularly portrayed Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live.” The second time she appeared as Palin on the show, she was slated to do the scene "in one," which means by herself, talking straight into the camera. Instead, she requested that her friend Amy Poehler be included in the scene as Katie Couric.

 "...my background is improvisation not stand-up," Fey explains. "I really prefer the buddy system on stage."

And this is why listening to Fey read her memoir might not be as hilarious as one expects. The ability to humorously, incisively spill your guts into a microphone, the quality that unites the greatest stand-ups, is not her strength, and she never pretends it is.

Still, there are reasons to hear Fey rather than read her -- especially for what it's like to be a normal looking person at a fashion magazine photoshoot (listen to our exclusive clip, below) or for her Palin impression.

Audio clip: Click here to hear Fey on being photographed for fancy magazines

Fey includes the whole audio of the first sketch she ever did as Palin, when she stood alongside Poehler who portrayed Hillary Rodham Clinton. As she talks about this time in her life she switches back and forth between her own voice and Palin's distinctive accent.

This audio book also includes a moment when Fey makes a pretend phone call away from the microphone, and another when her voice is altered to sound like it’s coming over a loudspeaker. Aside from these, however, Fey makes little use of the audio format, which is too bad. Instead, imagine Liz Lemon reading from a memoir: It's funny, sure, but probably not as funny as one might hope.

Audio clip: Click here to hear Tina Fey on meeting Lorne Michaels


-- Deborah Netburn

Photo: Tina Fey at a book signing of "Bossypants" earlier this month in New York. Credit: Jim Spellman / Getty Images



Now you can listen to Woody Allen's 'Without Feathers' read by Woody

Woodyallen_cannes2010Today Audible offers up for sale a quartet of digital audio books by Woody Allen, all read by Woody Allen himself. Allen recorded the audio versions of all four books --  "Side Effects" (1971), "Without Feathers" (1975),  "Getting Even" (1980) and "Mere Anarchy" (2007) -- earlier this year. It's the first time the writer-director has lent his New York-accented voice to an audio version of his written work.

Some of these pieces are, as Allen himself might wryly joke, his earlier, funnier work. "Without Feathers" includes "The Whore of Mensa" and "No Kaddish for Weinstein," and "Side Effects" includes "The Kugelmass Episode."

Some of the short stories can be purchased individually, for $1.95 each; one -- "My Apology" from "Side Effects" -- is free. Each book is $12.95 each; all four can be purchased for $34.95.

Woody Allen's film work has moved, in recent years, into glossy dramas and sophisticated bedroom farces such as "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," which opens in September. These books, however, are more like his 1973 film "Sleeper" -- slightly bent and giddy with goofy humor.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Woody Allen with Josh Brolin, left, and Naomi Watts, right, two stars of "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," at Cannes in May. Credit: Lionel Cironneau / Associated Press

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Lend me your ears: Audio books


Audio books are popular for a variety of reasons. Not only are customers drawn to them for their traditional raison d'etre – as an aid for the blind -- but also because they help book lovers stay current on their reading even as they do housework or make the dreaded daily commute to work (not to mention filling the long hours of family road trips this summer).

Audio books “help maximize my reading time,” explains Jen Forbus at Devourer of Books, which hosted an Audio Book Week in June. She sums up a widespread viewpoint: “Before, time spent driving, knitting, washing dishes, folding clothes … was all wasted reading time…. [Now} I can consume more books as I’m doing a whole variety of activities that don’t allow me to hold a book in front of my face.”

Sunday's book coverage scratched the surface on this topic, and Publishers Weekly has surveyed an enormous number of new and forthcoming audio titles catering to every reader's taste and preference, and that means every taste. Not only are there familiar favorites like new Michael Connelly or Jonathan Franzen novels, but also timely (and unexpected) ones. Example: A new audio title "Spirituality and the Oil Spill" comes from Marianne Williamson: The spirituality author takes her New Age insights and shows people affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster how to use the 12-step recovery to heal.

PW's coverage also points out something else: Though audio books are extremely popular, that market has been affected by the economy, just like every other segment of publishing.  PW directs readers to a report from the Audio Publishers Assn., pointing out that, despite APA’s optimistic declaration — “Audiobook sales increase in 2009” — profits have been undercut by digital downloads. Downloads, writes Rachel Deahl, “which are historically cheaper than CDs, are rising to create higher unit sales, but less money is coming in."

It's understandably disappointing news for audio manufacturers, but isn't there still an upside? Audio CDs can get very expensive: If you can't get a retail discount for, say, a box set of Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point," "Blink" and "Outliers," the list price is $79.98, compared to picking up the three paperbacks for about $50. So isn't it good that consumers, thanks to downloads, are still getting a cheaper way to read as they do the dishes?

-- Nick Owchar

Photo: An iPod can turn a tedious chore into high-quality reading time. Photo credit: Ian Waldie/Getty Images



Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


Explore Bestsellers Lists





Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.