It takes a certain kind of book to really work on audio. Some books aren’t great on audio because of the level of attention they require (The Gunslinger comes to mind) and others work better when read with your eyes because of the narration (The Library Book- just wasn’t my favorite). I tend to only like authors reading their own books if it’s memoir (for example, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History would have made for a much better audiobook listening experience if an experienced audiobook narrator read it instead of the author, in my opinion). Conversely, if I see Arie Fliakos narrate pretty much anything, I’ll pick it up because I know it means I’m in for a listening treat.
I listen to a ton of audiobooks- 30 last year and 16 so far this year. Since June is audiobook month- I wanted to share a list of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to over this past year. And hopefully, I’ll convince you that you need to listen to them too!
I do most of my listening via the library or Libro.fm. As always, if you’d like to make the audiobook switch from the big audiobook company to one that directly supports independent bookstores, use code TBRETC to get 3 books for the price of 1. They were also kind enough to share my FAVORITE audiobook recs in a playlist- so cool to see my recommendations on their site!
Best Audiobooks I've Listened to This Year [so far]:
The Huntress | Written by Kate Quinn, Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld | A Russian fighter pilot and private investigator come together to find one of the most heinous and notorious WWII criminals, The Huntress. | Why audio? This was a slow burn with well developed characters- but I would have given up on this one if not for the superior narration!
Red, White, and Royal Blue | Written by Casey McQuiston, Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo | An enemies to lovers troupe- only these characters happen to be the First Son of the President of the United States and the Prince of Wales. It's steamy but not too steamy and the perfect summer romance! | Why audio? Great narrator and the dialog truly made me laugh.
Washington Black | Written by Esi Edugyan, Narrated by Dion Graham | Washington Black is a field hand who’s forced to leave his island after he gets blamed for a crime he didn’t commit. What follows is a decade long adventure to the US, the Arctic, Canada, England, Amsterdam, and Morocco. | Why audio? Dion Graham, a Golden Voice Narrator. He’s so talented. His interpretation of Wash’s character was so vivid, I can still hear him saying “Titsh!” in my head. Other books narrated by Dion Graham: American War; Black Leopard, Red Wolf, We Cast a Shadow. He's a star.
Looker | Written by Laura Sims, Narrated by Katherine Fenton | A woman separates from her husband and becomes fixated on a famous actress that lives in her neighborhood. | Why audio? Listening to this was unsettling! Hearing this woman fall into her downward spiral was an experience like no other.
Our Kind of Cruelty | Written by Araminta Hall, Narrated by Eleanor Matsuura & Nick Hendrix | Our Kind of Cruelty and Looker would play well together. A man tells the story about how he managed to create the perfect life for his girlfriend. Only thing is, she's marrying someone else. | Why audio? The format lent itself so well to it- it was extra creepy to listen to this story told from first person narration.
The Stranger in the Woods | Written by Michael Finkel, Narrated by Mark Bramhall | This is one of those the truth is stranger than fiction stories! A man walks into the Maine woods and goes 27 years without interacting with another human. | Why audio? I love investigative journalism books and the narrator made me feel like he was telling me a personal story about how he came to know the hermit. I felt like a voyeur, but I couldn’t stop listening.
Becoming | Written and Narrated by Michelle Obama | This book is incredible. There is a reason this book is on its way to becoming (heh) the best selling memoir in history. She tells her story in such an authentic way- she made me proud to be from the south side. She shares real stories and real fears about her husband being in the role of President- this is one I want to come back to | Why audio? You have to hear the former First Lady tell her story in her own words.
City of Girls | Written by Elizabeth Gilbert, Narrated by Blair Brown | Vivian, a now 89-year-old woman living in NYC, tells the story of on her life via a letter to someone's daughter. It starts in the theater district in the 1940s and we get taken through her life as a costume maker, during WWII, and finally as she comes into her own. | Why audio? Fantastic narration- you can tell the woman was a performer. When I looked to see who read it, it turns out Blair Brown is a well known theater and film actress- I know her as Judy from Orange is the New Black!
Bonus- Here are the two books that I wish I had listened to instead of reading with my eyes!
Daisy Jones and the Six | Written by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Narrated by Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt, Judy Greer, & Pablo Schreiber | The story of a fictional bands’ break-up is one of my favorite books of the year. | Why audio? I LOVE ensemble narration- and the oral format structure of this book really lends itself to working well in this format.
On the Come Up | Written by Angie Thomas, Narrated by Bahni Turpin | A young girl who’s getting into hip hop works to get out from under the weight of her community and her father’s shadow. | Why audio? Bri is a rapper and I hear that the narrator does a great job with these sections!
What’s one of the best audiobooks you listened to this year?
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