‘Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story,’ by Bono

Singer, songwriter and social activist Bono, narrates his own memoir, a book that will appeal chiefly to his fans. He begins his story with his open-heart surgery and ends it with his birth and a song of praise to the Lord. The intervening 20 hours cover the soul-scarring death of his mother when he was 14, his difficult relationship with his father, the formation, ascent and adventures of U2, his marriage — now 40 years strong — the inspirations for his various songs, his dreams and his indefatigable promotion of various causes. His book reminds you that you can admire a man for his virtuous deeds — and Bono’s are heartfelt, extravagant and legion — but still find his grandiose self-presentation, penchant for specious profundities (“the greatest deceit is authenticity”) and monumental wordiness wearing at this length. Still, the audiobook excels over the print version in presenting Bono’s voice, not only reading in a moderate Dublin accent, but singing substantial portions of his songs. (Random House Audio, Unabridged, 20 ½ hours)

The 10 best audiobooks of 2022

‘The Philosophy of Modern Song,’ by Bob Dylan

Although the audiobook lacks the print version’s arresting photographs and a bit of the text, it still has the genuine article in Dylan’s husky, stuffy-nosed voice unrolling great swaths of lowdown, hardscrabble hokum and off-kilter exegesis. In his mind, Webb Pierce’s 1953 “There Stands the Glass” concerns a soldier’s war crimes in Vietnam, “The Street Where You Live,” stalking a harlot, and “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” a swindler “responsible for bringing poison and pestilence into the homes of millions.” A feeling of apocalyptic devastation pervades the work. Ten celebrities add their voices to Dylan’s in covering the old troubadour’s engagement with — or intrusion upon — 66 of his favorite songs and their singers. Among the big names here, Jeff Bridges, Sissy Spacek and Rita Moreno are best suited to expounding Dylan’s views of the songs they cover, while the most comical is Helen Mirren bringing her fastidious, cut-glass accent to bear on “Pump It Up” and “Money Honey.” Listening to this book puts one in mind of Dylan’s verdict on Elvis Costello’s work: “Too many thoughts, way too wordy. Too many ideas that just bang up together.” (Simon & Schuster, 6 2/3 hours)

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‘Chuck Berry: An American Life,’ by RJ Smith

RJ Smith’s sympathetic, high-octane biography of Chuck Berry shows the great musician “dragging country music into the boogie-woogie woods” and ushering in what became rock ‘n’ roll. Born in St. Louis in 1926, Berry was a key player in a transformative chapter in American social and cultural history. Musical genius, innovator, and “a prophet of Black mobility,” Berry was also a difficult man, sometimes shockingly so when it came to sex, money and retaliating against a racist society. Except for a rather goofy rendition of British accents, actor Phil Morris’s narration dovetails perfectly with Smith’s flamboyant style. His voice is alive with restrained excitement and energy, while his rendition of Berry’s speech, manner, and even his shout and laugh are truly superb. This is a wonderful, rousing performance. (Hachette, 14 hours)

Katherine A. Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.

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