boston.com Arts & Entertainment your connection to The Boston Globe

Of Scrooge, Santa, and other favorites

Nothing so captures the spirit of Christmas as Charles Dickens's timeless fable, ''A Christmas Carol." A slightly truncated version, brilliantly narrated by Patrick Stewart, was released by Simon & Schuster in 1992 and was long considered the supreme rendition among audiophiles.

Stewart's version, though still compelling, has been bumped aside this year by Jim Dale, the Grammy-winning narrator of the ''Harry Potter" books. As is typical for a Dale narration, he conjures up a cast of characters and breathes life into the pages of this 160-year-old novel. His normal speaking voice is rich and enticing; by the time he finishes the first few pages, you are hooked. (Listening Library; unabridged fiction; three CDs; three hours; $19. Also available on two cassettes; $19; or as a download from www.audible.com for $14.95.)

One of the best-produced audiobooks in the last decade is a witty and imaginative version of ''The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr. Seuss Favorites." It is narrated by agile-voiced actors and accompanied by original, amusing music and sound effects. All of Theodor Geisel's magic has been captured, as these humorous, rhyming tales are as relaxing and comforting as you remember. (Imagination Studio; unabridged edition fiction; two CDs; two hours; $19.99, performed by John Cleese, Billy Crystal, Ted Danson, Kelsey Grammer, Dustin Hoffman, John Lithgow, Walter Matthau, and Mercedes McCambridge. Also available on two cassettes; $18.)

As has become more and more common every year, new audiobooks directly related to Christmas are added to a growing pile of reissues. All are sweet, sentimental, and harmless.

One of the best in this year's crop is ''The Red Suit Diaries: A Real-Life Santa on Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike Faith." Author Ed Butchart, who performs his work with a deep, gravelly, and very warm voice, reveals what it is like being a professional Santa Claus, including reading the letters he receives at the North Pole. This man, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the American vision of Old Saint Nick, runs a charitable organization that distributes wheelchairs to needy kids and adults. (Brilliance Audio; abridged nonfiction; three CDs; three hours; $19.95. Also available on two cassettes; $17.95.)

Jan Karon, she of Mitford fame, has written a third holiday novel set in that fictional North Carolina town. In ''Shepherds Abiding," Father Tim revitalizes his life and his faith by restoring an antique Nativity scene. With his inviting manner and pleasant voice, John McDonough is very easy on the ears. (Penguin Audiobooks; unabridged fiction; six CDs; six hours and 30 minutes; $34.95. Also available on four cassettes; $25.95.)

For a little Christmas spirit, just listen to the stories, songs, and poems on ''The Presence of Christmas." The carols are sung by the late Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/composer Harry Nilsson while British narrator Bruce Heighley narrates holiday stories from the Bible as well as the works of Shakespeare, Ogden Nash, Clement Moore, and others. (New Millennium Audio; unabridged material; one CD; 55 minutes; $15.98.)

For something both intelligent and very witty, consider ''The Pleasure of My Company," written and read by Steve Martin. Like his ''Shopgirl," this is a modern-day comedy. Martin gets inside the head of Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a man emotionally crippled by obsessions and neuroses, but yearning to break free, even if it means leaving his house and having to deal with -- curbs. The writing is clear and colorful, and Martin's narration is rich and evocative. (Hyperion Audiobooks; unabridged fiction; four CDs; five hours; $31.98. Also available on three cassettes; $25.98; or as a download from www.audible.com for $16.95.)

For a Hanukkah gift, look no further than Rochelle Krich's ''Dream House," the second in a smart series featuring Crime Sheet columnist Molly Blume. Blume tracks down both an arsonist and a missing woman while sorting out her love life. The feisty, flawed Blume is an Orthodox Jew whose rituals and customs provide a refreshing change from the usual LA detective story. (Brilliance Audio; unabridged fiction; seven cassettes; 10 hours; $32.95. Also available abridged on four cassettes; six hours; $24.95.)

Rochelle O'Gorman is editor-in-chief of AudiobooksToday.com.

SEARCH GLOBE ARCHIVES
 
Globe Archives Sale Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months