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Playing the holidays by ear, with CDs, tapes, and more

As technology has improved, so has the ease with which we can find a slew of gift-giving options for our favorite audiophiles.

Much like the DVD service Netflix, Simply Audiobooks allows you to open an account, pay a monthly fee, and rent as many audios as desired, depending on the plan you choose. There are no due dates, late fees, or delivery charges. The company offers an impressive selection of over 2,000 titles in 30 categories. With packaging and postage included, all you have to do is pop your finished audiobook in the mail, and the next title on your list is sent out. Gift certificates are available in any increment. Contact the company at or 877-554-4332.

Since Books on Tape is discontinuing its rental program, Recorded Books is one of the few places to turn for an enormous selection of rental titles. The company has 11 imprints, ranging from Spanish-language audiobooks to British imports and any manner of fiction. It also offers the erudite Modern Scholar Series. Contact the company at 800-638-1304 or

For an environmentally sound gift, you can always give a gift certificate to, which offers a wide selection of audiobooks, periodicals, original programs, and only-on-audio productions. There are certificates for $20, $50, and $100, good for downloading audiobooks, for an AudibleListener Membership, or for gear. Contact the company at or 888-283-5051.

One of the best holiday titles this reviewer has ever heard is the late Jean Shepherd's ''A Christmas Story," read by Dick Cavett.These warm and funny stories were the inspiration for the 1983 movie, which Shepherd co-wrote and narrated, about young Ralphie Parker. Cavett adopts different voices and attitudes, all the while enhancing the humor with a perfectly timed delivery. Christmas music and slyly witty sound effects are used to great advantage. This really is a Yuletide treat.

Satisfy the foodies in your life with one of three memoir-cookbooks recently released on audio. The print versions are cookbooks with essays, but only the author's remembrances have been transferred to audio, though five recipe cards come with each title.

Looking back on the feast that was her life in ''Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes," Maya Angelou ladles up a rich serving of food-infused stories. Each recipe is presented with a back story and made all the more enticing by the author's lilting delivery and joyous laughter. Of the three food-inspired memoirs, this is the most enticing.

''Prince of Tides" author Pat Conroy claims his ''passion for eating springs from a childhood not deprived of food, but deprived of good food." He expresses that lusty passion in ''Recipes From My Life," written with Suzanne Williamson Pollak, which features favorite Southern childhood recipes and luscious offerings from Italy and France. His narration is somewhat slurry and takes getting used to, but it's balanced by his obvious love for his subject.

Frances Mayes narrates her fourth audiobook (co-written with husband Edward Mayes), ''Bringing Tuscany Home," in the same dulcet Southern voice now so familiar to her listeners. Though recipes are included, this is more of a guide to Tuscany than a cookbook. A lovely diversion, it offers advice on gardens and wines as well as decorating and travel tips.

And finally, for those looking for mainstream fiction, fear not; many established authors have audiobooks on the shelves this winter. To name a few, there are ''The Plot Against America," by Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin Audio), ''The Falls," by Joyce Carol Oates (HarperAudio), ''I Am Charlotte Simmons," by Tom Wolfe (Audio Renaissance), and ''Villages," by John Updike (Random House Audio).

Rochelle O'Gorman is editor in chief of

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