Picks and Pans Review: Talking Books

updated 04/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>The business of books on tape is blooming. While classics and poetry have long been available on cassette in limited release, bookstores are now making space for the spoken word. Here is a sampling of wares, each abridged to 180 minutes:

MY, TURN: THE MEMOIRS OF NANCY REAGAN by Nancy Reagan and William Novak Read by Nancy Reagan

The former First Lady takes her turn to whitewash the black marks on her tenure in the White House. In an apologetic tone, she cites misunderstandings about her interest in astrology, table settings and designer duds. The Raisa problem, the Don Regan problem, her prickly relations with her children are all neatly polished and presented like a sterling tea service. In spite of its shallow narration, Reagan's memoirs are often compelling as she describes the historical moments-in-the-making she witnessed from a privileged perch. (Random House, $14.95)

POODLE SPRINGS by Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker Read by Elliott Gould

Gould sounds like a man with mashed potatoes up his nose. The crisp plot and breezy dialogue in this Philip Marlowe mystery, which Chandler left unfinished at his death in 1959 and which Parker completed in 1989, suffers from Gould's mushy one-note delivery. Under the circumstances, this is a story that is more fun to read than to hear. (Dove, $14.95)

THE ANASTASIA SYNDROME by Mary Higgins Clark Read by Lynn Redgrave

Here is a tale told with great finesse. Even vintage Clark lines like, "His kiss, deep and demanding, awoke feelings and desires she had resolutely put away when she lost Kenneth," seem apropos coming from Redgrave. She lures listeners into this romantic suspense set in London, taking convincing command of each character, among them: a stuffy PM hopeful, a winsome child, a lowbrow lover, an earnest Scotland Yard sleuth and a creepy psychiatrist bearing an accent thick mit schlag in this first-rate recording. (Simon and Schuster, $14.95)

PROFILES IN COURAGE by John F. Kennedy Read by John F. Kennedy Jr.

JFK Jr. gives a competent but uninspired reading of his father's 1955 Pulitzer prizewinning work. The production is only slightly tarnished by fluctuations in sound that suggest the words were not recorded in a single sitting. Kennedy's narration calls to mind a history professor reading a lecture. The two-tape lesson offers portraits of such American political figures as John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Sam Houston and Robert Taft. Kennedy gets an A for attempting the project. (Caedmon, $15.95)

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