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The Only Way I Know

By Cal Ripken Jr.

Read by Sam Fontana

Penguin AudioBooks, $16.95

2 cassettes, 3 hrs., abridged

Carl Ripken's autobiography is really a baseball lover's book, not just another egocentric sports biography. Ripken describes himself as a guy who loves the game and "loves to play the game" as his most-consecutive-games-played record attests. He also loves the enthusiasm of the fans, when they're both for him or against him. Ripken embodies much of the spirit of baseball that has been lost with its modern evolution.

In the very choice of narrator for the audiobook, not Ripken himself but actor Sam Fontana, something is revealed about the Baltimore Oriole star - his desire to focus on his work. Fontana's voice is vigorous and youthful as he tells of growing up in a baseball family with coach and manager Cal Sr., and later his brother Billy.

Fontana speaks convincingly for Ripken, and we believe we're getting a firsthand account. Still Ripken manages to stay out of the limelight, speaking articulately of how the "business" of baseball distracts players. What he is glad to share is his ethic for working hard and delighting in the game.

Ben & Jerry's Double-Dip

By Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield

Read by the authors

Simon & Schuster Audio, $18

2 cassettes, 3 hrs., abridged

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have a superb flair for marketing. In the process of growing their Ben & Jerry's ice-cream business into a multimillion-dollar enterprise, their social mission evolved alongside their financial one.

Cohen and Greenfield's natural enthusiasm is immediately apparent, and the listener wonders whether they are about to sell you a new flavor.

In a sense they are. The product is values-led business, and the two entrepreneurs make a compelling case. Their commitment to this progressive philosophy is carefully thought through and presented in a program well suited to audio listening.

Taking turns in the narration, Cohen and Greenfield discuss values-led marketing, human resources, and production. The program has a certain evangelical tone, but this suits their counterculture views. Cohen and Greenfield have the charisma to sell their ideas, and the audio format provides a compelling vehicle for them.

Garrison Keillor's Comedy Theater, by Garrison Keillor

Performed by the author

and a full cast

HighBridge Audio $19.95 (cassette), $30 (CD)

3 cassettes, 3 hrs., audio program

Add this latest recording from Garrison Keillor to your collection of prized recordings from "A Prairie Home Companion." The tapes offer skits and songs from radio shows broadcast from 1994-1996. Some careful post-production editing seems to have enhanced the timing from piece to piece and suppressed the live audience, enabling audio listeners to hear the material better.

Favorite characters from The Cafe Boeuf, Guy Noir, and This Man and This Woman make appearances, and Keillor's extraordinary ability to host a program is evident. His infectious humor and good writing, plus a talented cast, make a program that those of all ages will enjoy.

A particular treat in this set is a tape from one of Keillor's 1996 Joke Shows. Lamenting that "they don't tell jokes the way they used to," Keillor supplies listeners with a repertoire to learn and retell.

Audio programs may have a new calling - it's so much easier to learn a joke by listening a couple of times than by reading it! The zingers are there to be loved and retold.

The Perfect Storm

By Sebastian Junger

Read by Stanley Tucci

Random House AudioBooks, $18

2 cassettes, 3 hrs., abridged

In October 1991, a confluence of weather conditions combined to form a killer storm in the North Atlantic. Caught in the storm was the sword-fishing boat Andrea Gail.

Magnificent foreshadowing and anticipation fill this true-life drama, while minute details of the fishing boats, their gear, and the weather are juxtaposed with the sea adventure. Journalist Junger carefully researched the New England fishing industry and created a fascinating account of the ill fated ship and its crew. The story is superbly read by actor Stanley Tucci, who expresses the human drama and the cold facts with a brilliant presentation.

A parallel story of the plight of a 32-foot sailboat and an amazing sea rescue by the Coast Guard gets shorter treatment, as do the meteorological data. Tucci succeeds, not only because the story is vividly written, but also because his artistic choices in the narration match the intention of the author so precisely.

A Night To Remember

By Walter Lord

Read by Martin Jarvis

Audio Partners, $17.95

2 cassettes, 3 hrs., abridged

Audiobooks offer a great opportunity to republish a work popular at the time of publication but possibly difficult to find in a bookstore today. Walter Lord's account of the fateful sinking of the Titanic published in 1955, has long been a source of general knowledge about the disastrous event. With recent salvage attempts and a new movie scheduled for release, interest in the Titanic is renewed, and Lord's story is happily reintroduced here.

Martin Jarvis, one of the most talented British narrators, received the Reader of the Year Award from the British Spoken Word Association in 1996. Depicting the ultra class-conscious scene on the decks of the Titanic with aplomb, his crusty accents and perfect timing set the scene for impending disaster.

Lord's book also details the aftermath of the tragedy, and Jarvis is equally adept at discussing the ramifications and changes that occurred after the sinking. Jarvis ably captures Lord's particular style of dramatic storytelling and careful research.

* Robin Whitten is the founder and editor of AudioFile, a monthly magazine of reviews and information on audiobooks. For more information call 800-506-1212 or

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