Picks and Pans Review: Stick It in Your Ear: Books on Tape

updated 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

>HEARD ANY GOOD books lately? A lot of people have—commuters, joggers and people who like to be entertained with their eyes closed. Spoken-word audio could exceed $850 million in retail value this year. A typical package contains two tapes of about 90 minutes each. Caveat: Books are heavily abridged.

SAINT MAYBE John Lithgow's lucid reading of Anne Tyler's moral fable is intermittently marred by a tendency to caricature in the dialogue. But he paces the narrative beautifully, and he makes the pivotal moment when the protagonist, staring at himself in a mirror, hears his brother commit suicide, more arresting to listen to than to read. (Random House, $16)

MAXIMUM BOB Who is trying to kill Palm Beach County judge "Maximum Bob" Gibbs? The possible assassins in Elmore Leonard's touch-of-the-occult whodunit are sketched by Brian Dennehy with artful economy. (Bantam Audio, $15.99)

WISDOM OF THE NINETIES George Burns's wisdom would be more toothsome if he were doing all the reading instead of just interrupting Harvey Korman occasionally. When Burns is on, you want to say, "Goodnight, Harvey." (Harper Audio, $16)

GINGER MY STORY

Ginger Rogers takes a few minutes to hit her vocal stride, but once there she proves she's still a trouper's trouper as she wades disarmingly—and sometimes hoarsely and tearfully—through an ardent and eventful life. (Harper Audio, $16)

ME Katharine Hepburn's voice is now a platinum rasp, but she brings to her autobiography all the brash and classy exuberance that made her famous. (Random House, $16)

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