2005 booklist editors choice media


Video & DVD

Broadway: The American Musical. 6hr. PBS, VHS, $59.99 (0-7936-9974-6); DVD, $59.99 (1-4157-0236-5).

Loaded with performance footage, film clips, and interviews, this comprehensive, chronologically arranged (1893 to 2004) history of Broadway musicals is a must-see for theater fans and drama students.

Einstein’s Big Idea. 2hr. WGBH, VHS, $19.95 (1-59375-316-0); DVD, $19.95 (1-59375-317-9).

Beautifully filmed dramatizations depicting a young, dynamic Einstein, as well as numerous scientific pioneers who paved the way for Einstein to develop the iconic e=mc2 formula, counterbalance John Lithgow’s informed narration and interviews with physicists, historians, and authors in this stunning program. (Top of the List winner—Video & DVD.)

February One. 61min. California Newsreel, VHS & DVD, High schools & public lib., $49.95 each; Colleges & univ., $195 each.

Deftly weaving archival black-and-white photographs, film clips, and realistic reenactments, this stirring program pays tribute to four courageous black college students who staged a peaceful sit-in at an all-white lunch counter on February 1, 1960.

Horns and Halos. 79min. Go Kart/Koch, DVD, $24.98.

This compelling documentary captures the controversy surrounding an unauthorized 1999 biography of George W. Bush that was quickly recalled by a major publisher and subsequently re-released by self proclaimed “punk of publishing” Sander Hicks.

The Man Who Walked between the Towers. 10min. Weston Woods, VHS, $60 (0-349-76699-0).

PreS–Gr. 3. With lilting carnival music and a touch of computer animation, this delightful adaptation of Mordicai Gerstein’s 2004 Caldecott Medal winner brings to life the true story of French trapeze artist Philippe Petit’s balancing act between the World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974.

My Architect: A Son’s Journey. 116min. New Yorker, VHS, $24.95 (1-56730-371-4); DVD, $29.95 (1-56730-372-2).

Nathaniel Kahn, the illegitimate son of famed architect Louis I. Kahn, sets out to meet the father he never knew in this riveting documentary that not only includes interviews with the late architect’s colleagues and family members but also visits to well-known Kahn-designed buildings.

RFK. 2hr. PBS, DVD, $24.99 (0-4157-0185-7).

Directed by filmmaker David Grubin, this moving two-part American Experience title documents the life of charismatic Robert F. Kennedy, whose 1968 assassination shocked an already fragile nation.

The Staircase. 6.5hr. Docurama, DVD, $39.95 (0-7670-8231-1).

Containing more plot twists than an Agatha Christie murder mystery, this gripping documentary investigates an alleged murder. Did North Carolina journalist Michael Peterson kill his wife or didn’t he?

Super Size Me: An Educational Tool of Epic Portions. 100min. Hart Sharp, DVD, $39.99.

You may think twice before entering the Golden Arches after viewing this educational version (“removal of certain language and scenes”) of the hit documentary that chronicles Martin Spurlock’s month-long experiment in which he ate only McDonald’s fast food.

Tupperware! 60min. PBS, VHS, $24.98 (0-7806-4718-1); DVD, $29.98 (0-7806-4717-3).

Loads of vintage clips, stills, home-movie footage, and Kathy Bates’ smooth narration entertainingly capture the rise of the Tupperware empire, including the culture and role of women in the 1950s.

V-Day: Until the Violence Stops. 73min. Docurama, DVD, $26.95 (0-7670-7855-1).

This sensitive, humorous documentary chronicles the grassroots antiviolence crusade called V-Day, spawned by playwright Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.

Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh. 95min. Docurama, DVD, $26.95 (0-7670-8339-3).

British actor John Hurt’s voice-over readings of Vincent van Gogh’s correspondence to younger brother Theo accompany spectacular footage, art prints, and period reenactments that paint a vivid portrait of the venerated artist.

Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? 30min. Weston Woods, VHS, $39.95 (0-439-76719-9).

Gr. 4–6. Atmospheric background music, ambient sounds, and narrator John Brooks’ perfect pacing enliven this stellar adaptation of Jean Fritz’s book (1976) about the wealthy Bostonian who emerges as a likable historic figure.

The World’s Greatest Fair. 2005. 2hr. Civil Pictures, DVD, $20.

Compelling voice-over narration, eyewitness accounts, pristine photographs, archival footage, and thoughtful commentary by historians celebrate the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition (held in St. Louis and commonly called the World’s Fair) in this well-researched program.

Zoop! Zoop! 10min. WGBH, VHS & hardcover, $29.95 (1-59375-301-2).

PreS–Gr. 2. Containing an edited version of a Between the Lions episode and Pete Seeger’s picture book Abiyoyo, this literacy kit introduces youngsters to the story before featuring short vignettes that reinforce the “oo” sound. Perfect for beginning readers.

Audio for Adults

1776. By David McCullough. Read by David McCullough. 12hr. Recorded Books, CS, $89.75 (1-4193-3411-5); CD, $119.75 (1-4193-3413-1).

In his familiar, confident tones, McCullough comfortably narrates this historical account that documents a pivotal year in U.S. history.

Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties. By Marion Meade. Read by Lorna Raver. 11hr. Blackstone, CS, $65.95 (0-7861-2877-1); CD, $81 (0-7861-8298-9).

Edged with flapper flair, Raver’s husky tones and delicately turned intonations are a strong match for Meade’s biographies of Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, and Edna Ferber.

The Closers. By Michael Connelly. Read by Len Cariou. 12hr. Books on Tape, CS, $63 (1-4159-0818-4); CD, $81 (1-4159-0819-2).

Cariou’s husky, abrupt, unsentimental reading generates a vibrant picture of cynical police detective Harry Bosch, who returns to the LAPD to work a cold-case file.

Death on the Nile. By Agatha Christie. Read by David Suchet. 8.5hr. Audio Partners, CS, $29.95 (1-57270-203-6); CD, $31.95 (1-57270-475-6).

Suchet brings depth and charm to his reading of one of Christie’s best-loved mysteries, which takes place on a jorney down the Nile.

Grifter’s Game. By Lawrence Block. Read by Alan Sklar. 5.5hr. BBC/Sound Library, CS, $39.95 (0-7927-3668-0); CD, $59.95 (0-7927-3669-9).

A con man seems to meet his match when he gets involved with a sultry married woman in this noir tale, atmospherically narrated by Sklar, whose no-nonsense bass tones conjure up dark and gritty scenes, scams, and surprises.

The Hot Kid. By Elmore Leonard. Read by Arliss Howard. 7hr. Harper, CD, $39.95 (0-06-078998-0). Recorded Books, lib. ed., CS, $69.75 (1-419-3405-49); CD, $89.75 (1-419-3405-65).

Howard’s laconically gritty and dryly ironic reading, complete with a tinge of a southern drawl, adds to the novel’s Oklahoma dust-bowl sense of place as Carl Webster, deputy U.S. marshal, comes up against outlaw Jack Belmont.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. By Susanna Clarke. Read by Simon Prebble. 32hr. Audio Renaissance, $59.95 (1-59397-741-7). BBC/Sound Library, lib. ed., CS, $119.95 (0-7927-3530-7); CD, $139.95 (0-7927-3531-5).

Prebble’s tour de force reading (he even seamlessly incorporates the footnotes) captures the tension and interplay between characters in this brilliant first novel. His wide range of accents and styles individualizes the large cast, leading listeners through the complex, interwoven story lines with panache. (Top of the List winner—Audio.)

Let Me Go. By Helga Schneider. Read by Barbara Rosenblat. 4hr. Blackstone, CS, $33 (0-7861-2831-3); CD, $32 (0-7861-8380-2).

Schneider attempts to reconcile with her 87-year-old mother, who abandoned her family to become a Nazi SS officer. Rosenblat’s narration captures the boastful, pitiable, and unrepentant mother in a matter-of-fact style that is both chilling and disturbing.

A Long Way Down. By Nick Hornby. Read by Scott Brick, Kate Reading, and Simon Vance. 9hr. Penguin, CD, $39.95 (0-14-305760-X). Books on Tape, lib. ed., CS, $63 (1-4159-2144-X); CD, $81 (1-4159-2145-8).

Told in the voices of four suicidal characters, ably portrayed by Brick, Reading, and Vance, this outstanding audio is by turns enormously funny and gut-wrenchingly sad.

The Plot against America. By Philip Roth. Read by Ron Silver. 13hr. Houghton Mifflin, CD, $41 (0-618-50929-1). Recorded Books, lib. ed., CS, $89.75 (1-4193-1891-8); CD, $109.75 (1-4193-1893-4).

Silver’s riveting narration conveys the heartfelt humanity as well as the main characters’ outrage and shock as the country falls under newly elected U.S. President Lindbergh’s spell in this disturbing what-if story.

Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders. By John Mortimer. Read by William Wallis. 6hr. BBC/Sound Library, CS, $39.95 (0-7927-3437-8); CD, $59.95 (0-7927-3438-6).

British actor Wallis provides a first-rate rendition of indefatigable Horace Rumpole, perfectly suggesting both the present-day hero and the fledging barrister during his early days at Old Bailey Court.

Audio for Youth

America the Beautiful. By Katharine Lee Bates. Read by Wendell Minor. 14min. Live Oak, Hardcover and CS, $25.95 (1-59112-952-4); Hardcover and CD, $28.95 (1-59112-956-7).

Gr. 1–3. This exceptional recording and accompanying picture book enliven the stirring poem that celebrates the American landscape Bates observed during a train trip in 1893.

Around the World in 80 Days. By Jules Verne. Read by Jim Dale. 8hr. Listening Library, CS, $40 (0-307-20628-9); CD, $55 (0-307-20682-3).

Gr. 7–10. Dale transports listeners to faraway places in his extraordinary reading of Verne’s classic adventure tale featuring enigmatic Phileas Fogg and French servant Passepartout.

Artemis Fowl, #4: The Opal Deception. By Eoin Colfer. Read by Nathaniel Parker. 7.5hr. Listening Library, CS, $40 (0-307-24331-1); CD, $50 (0-307-24333-8).

Gr. 4–8. The terrific audio of the fourth Artemis Fowl book is always firmly in British actor Parker’s grasp as he paces his reading to the pitch of the action, ranging from breathlessly fast to deliberate.

The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. By Paula Danziger. Read by a full cast. 3hr. Full Cast, CS, $20 (1-932076-55-7); CD, $28 (1-932076-56-5).

Gr. 5–8. Danziger’s 1974 novel about an overweight teenager is perfect for a multicast performance as it contains plenty of dialogue and memorable characters. All the readers, especially Caitlin Brodnick, who plays overweight Marcy to perfection, shine in this timeless audio.

Color Wheel Cartwheel. 20min. Green Kid, $16.

PreS–Gr. 2. Eight original songs by Laura Freeman form their own rainbow of musical styles. Between each cut, a narrator repeats the colors of the rainbow in a particular language, augmenting the performance.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. By J. K. Rowling. Read by Jim Dale. 18.5hr. Listening Library, CS, $60 (0-307-28366-6); CD, $90 (0-307-28367-4).

As the recognized voice of this blockbuster series, Dale moves with seamless agility among a large group of diverse characters, amplifying the story’s delicious, shivery suspense and humor with perfectly timed pauses and mesmerizing character voices.

The House at Pooh Corner. By A. A. Milne. Read by Peter Dennis. 3hr. Blackstone, CS, $24.95 (0-7861-2926-3); CD, $27 (0-7861-8197-4).

Gr. 3–6. British actor Dennis’ memorable reading of this classic imbues Milne’s intricate and challenging prose with a formidable intelligence as he distinguishes the characters, including slightly dense Pooh and bouncy Tigger.

How I Live Now. By Meg Rosoff. Read by Kim Mai Guest. 4hr. Listening Library, CS, $30 (0-307-20722-6); CD, $38 (0-307-20723-4).

Gr. 9–12. In this 2005 Michael L. Printz Award–winning title, narrator Guest confidently inhabits the voice of New York teenager Daisy, who is sent to live with relatives in England just before war breaks out.

Inkspell. By Cornelia Funke. Read by Brendan Fraser. 19hr. Listening Library, CS, $65 (0-307-28291-0); CD, $85 (0-307-28292-9).

Gr. 7–10. Fraser breathes life into this sequel to Inkheart (2003) in a strong narration rich with emotional undertones and filled with authentic accents, ranging from harsh Russian to a soft Scottish brogue.

Scat like That: A Musical Word Odyssey. 42min. Rounder Records, CD, $14.98.

PreS-Gr. 2. Grammy Award–winning performers and songwriters Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer shine in their latest collection of 14 high-energy, fun songs.

When Marian Sang. By Pam Muñoz Ryan. Read by Gail Nelson. 30min. Live Oak, CS and hardcover, $25.95 (1-59112-944-3); CD and hardcover, $28.95 (1-59112-948-6).

Gr. 1–3. Nelson reads clearly, allowing listeners to savor illustrator Brian Selznick’s magnificent sepia-tone drawings in this tribute to singer Marian Anderson, who emerges “like rain, sprinkling high notes.”

Awards Won

Title Year
Booklist Editors' Choice: Media 2005 - Selection(s)