Every last word Unabridged audios offer hours and hours of unabridged pleasure and make great gifts for the listeners on your list. Here are a few recent arrivals you might consider. Hearts in Atlantis (Simon and Schuster Audio, $59.95, 0671582356), Stephen King's latest, is a brilliant collection of five interconnected narratives. Though the stories move in time from 1960 to 1999, it is, at heart, a '60s saga, shadowed by the Vietnam War and its hollow, haunting aftermath. The reading, by Mr. King and William Hurt (who make a dynamite duo), runs for 21 hours on 16 cassettes.
Simon Winchester's highly acclaimed bestseller, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (HarperAudio, $29.95, 6 1/2 hours, 0694522430), was released in abridged form last year. Now, fortunately, the linguistic detective story of the decade is available in its fascinating entirety, read by the author and including an interview with him.
The same happy fate awaited Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, one of the most extraordinarily instructive and entertaining audios I've ever heard. Lucky listeners who find this new, unabridged version in their Christmas stockings will hear Donal Donnelly read for eight wonderful hours.
Michael Lewis's old thing was the provocative Liar's Poker; his new thing, The New New Thing (Brilliance, $29.95, 9 hours unabridged, 1567404464), is a detailed profile of Jim Clark, the quintessential techie genius and mastermind of new new things, which in his case includes Silicon Graphics, Netscape, and Healtheon. Lewis, as insightful as ever, follows this fascinating billionaire-geek on his triumphal march through Silicon Valley, the economic frontier of the '90s, where new new things are poised to change the world and where the creators of new new things are poised to make big big money.
Sukey Howard reports on spoken word audio each month.