Forget the Oscars. On June 4, the Audio Publishers Association hosts the ninth annual Audies, with awards in 26 categories. We gave a listen to the nominees for the top prize, Audiobook of the Year. Good luck in your office pool.
The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare (The Audio Partners, $600) It weighs 13 pounds, comes packed in a black case, and costs $600. But this magnificent production of the Bard's 38 plays -- dramatized by 400 actors, from John Gielgud to Joseph Fiennes -- would be cheap at twice the price. It's a lifetime of great listening. A+
David Sedaris Live at Carnegie Hall (Time Warner, $17.98) The puckish writer and NPR commentator reads his own inimitable work -- about Santa Claus, his ever-entertaining sisters, and shopping for slacks in the women's department -- to an appreciative New York City audience on this very droll, very sweet, very short CD. A-
A Patriot's Handbook, Selected and Introduced by Caroline Kennedy (Hyperion, $24.98) A worthy sampler of inspiring words about America, from the Emancipation Proclamation to Martin Luther King Jr.'s ''I Have a Dream.'' But does Ronald Reagan's '89 farewell or Ted Kennedy's wooden speech on the Americans With Disabilities Act really rank with the Gettysburg Address? B+
The John Cheever Audio Collection (HarperAudio, $29.95) Listen to more than a couple of these masterful, melancholy tales at one sitting and you may crave a stiff drink -- like so many Cheever characters. Cheever reads two tales in an awkward, mannered voice; the rest are narrated with panache by the likes of Blythe Danner and Meryl Streep. B+
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (Listening Library, $75) Jim Dale has won a cult following for his boisterous reading of the Harry Potter series. In the latest, a 27-hour installment, the British actor brings to life a whopping 134 characters, from surly teen Harry to sage Dumbledore. It's great fun. But it ain't Shakespeare. A-