WSIRN Ep 209: Cracking the audiobook code

Today’s guest is Jamie Freeman, a reader who was led to audiobooks by her favorite true crime podcasts… and has since made serious space in her life to read with her earbuds in. 

Today we’re chatting about spine-tingly crime nonfiction and historical romance, because like many readers, Jamie’s tastes are both deep and wide, we gush about our favorite audiobook narrators (and I marvel at the sheer quantity of audiobooks Jamie reads each year), and we tackle a frequently asked question: how to get into an audiobook when you’re finding it hard to focus. 

Let’s get to it! 

What Should I Read Next #209: Cracking the audiobook code with Jamie Freeman

You can find Jamie Freeman on Instagram @jamie.of.all.trades

Click here to read the full episode transcription (opens in a new tab).

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Books mentioned in this episode:

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Books mentioned:

My Oxford Year, by Julia Whelan, w/narration by Julia Whelan
Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White, w/narration by Meryl Streep & others
● Narrator Scott Brick
The Nix, by Nathan Hill, w/narration by Ari Fliakos
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, w/narration by Ari Fliakos
Beartown, by Fredrik Backman
Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, A Dream, by H. G. Bissinger
The Kennedy Debutante, by Kerri Maher
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara
The Power, by Naomi Alderman
Code Name Helene, by Ariel Lawhon
Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide, by Karen Kilgariff
Hellhound On His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr., and the International Hunt for His Assassin, by Hampton Sides
The Stranger Beside Me: The Classic Case of Serial Murder, by Ann Rule
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know, by Malcolm Gladwell
Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding, by Hazel Gaynor
The Girl in White Gloves: A Novel of Grace Kelly, by Kerri Maher

Also mentioned: 
Serial podcast
My Favorite Murder podcast
The Murder Squad: Jensen and Holes podcast
Monster: The Zodiac Killer podcast
The Atlanta Monster podcast
WSIRN Episode 162, w/Traci Thomas


What do YOU think Jamie should read next?

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  1. Patti says:

    “Born a Crime” by Trever Noah is the best audiobook I’ve ever heard. I wasn’t a fan of Trever Noah – neural / ambivalent about him – but it was the best performance and story I’ve heard on audio.

  2. Sarah Hun says:

    I’m excited for the new Charlotte’s Web, but I highly encourage anyone to listen to the original Charlotte’s Web audiobook, narrated by E. B. White. He had an amazing accent, and I really felt like I was just sitting on a front porch with E. B. White telling me the story. It was so wonderful! It’s one of my top favorite audiobooks I’ve listened to!

  3. Rhonda says:

    Thank you so much, you’ve given me quite a gift list for a friend of mine for holidays and birthdays. She and Jamie could be reading twins.

  4. Amy says:

    I feel like Jamie is my reading twin. I too discovered podcasts and audiobooks in 2016 when I had a 3 hour daily commute. Pods and audio kept me sane and changed my already good reading life for the better. I’ve read so many books on audio that I think I would have considered and/or enjoyed in print (I now listen more than physical reading and I’ve flipped to 65% non-fiction vs. fiction).
    We’re also twins in the true crime aspect. Some of my recent favorites are:
    Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides (mentioned in this episode- can’t recommend enough on audio)
    Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
    Red Notice by Bill Browder
    The Crime of the Century by Dennis Breo

  5. Kelsey says:

    I think you might enjoy “Furious Hours” by Casey Cep- where true crime meets Harper Lee. I read a physical copy, so I can’t speak for the audio book, but I had a hard time putting it down.

  6. Lauren D. says:

    I love this episode and particularly the part when Jamie is discussing her favorite audiobook narrators. I’m going to second the above recommendation for “Bad Blood.” I can’t stomach much of the type of true crime that Jamie enjoys (Hello, marriage and children…) but “Bad Blood” is corporate crime and is narrated by one of my all-time favorites: Will Damron. If you haven’t yet listened to “The Goldfinch” narrated by David Pittu, I will highly recommend that, also. The performance is INCREDIBLE (plus – crime! albeit fictitious).

  7. Holli Petersen says:

    While I can’t speak to its audiobook credit, a true crime novel that I unexpectedly enjoyed this year is The Yoga Store Murder by Dan Morse. I was FASCINATED and it definitely made me want to read more.

    In that same vein, I would recommend The Fact of a Body even though it is VERY triggery. It sounds like you can handle it. I really didn’t want to handle it but I was reading it for a challenge so I pushed through.

    Also great for fiction is The Body in Question. Very eery, sparse and a total character study. But, I happened to enjoy it. 🙂

  8. Rachel says:

    Great episode. I have been in an audiobook funk lately and this episode has made me excited to listen to a few of these suggestions immediately. The best audiobook I have listened to is The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne. So good.

    Also The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P Kiernan. Another WWII book but listened to it in one day.

  9. Catherine says:

    Dear Jamie and Anne,
    I was thrilled to hear you chose “The Kennedy Debutante” as one of your favorite books, Jamie. Kerri is a close friend who I have known since she was a young girl. She is an amazing person and you are going to love her next book, “The Girl in the White Gloves.” Her books are incredibly well-researched and she visits every setting she possibly can. She is at work on her third novel of historical fiction. Follow her on Instagram for clues as to her next female protagonist.
    Anne, Kerri would be a spectacular guest on the podcast! The story of the name under which she writes is very special, her journey to become a published writer would interest your audience, and she is an articulate, very bright person to talk with. My book club Face Timed with her after we read her debut novel and everyone still talks about what a fascinating conversation it was.
    With appreciation,

  10. kristen says:

    I agree with your guest. Scott Brick is incredible! I think I would listen to him narrate a cereal box for me. Listening to him narrate Erik Larson books is an amazing experience!

  11. Nancy says:

    As I’m constantly in audiobook listening training (for whatever reason I struggle with aural listening but I will prevail!!), I perk up at any new suggestion that is helpful to the task. I really appreciated the suggestion about needing to listen differently if I’m at the beginning of the book. I’m going to try and not multi-task at the beginning. So excited! Thanks as always!

  12. Georgia says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I have to recommend some books to you! My favourite audiobook this year has been Sadie which is structured like a podcast with alternativing chapters from the perspective of the podcast host doing research on a story of a missing girl and the alternate chapter for the persepctive of the missing girl. That sounds incredibly vague but I don’t want to give too much away! The production of this audiobook is so good and the story kept me for highly gripped.
    Also, a non fiction recommendation is Savage Appetities: Four true stories of women, crime, and obsession. I think you’d love both of them!

    • Georgia says:

      Whoops, left out the authors names.
      They are, Sadie by Courtney Summers.
      And, Savage Appetities: Four true stories of women, crime, and obsession by Rachel Monroe.

      • Jessica says:

        Yes, I was also thinking Sadie would be good for Jamie! Also, I thought Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber might be another good one that fits that “fictional story of a true crime podcast” niche!

  13. MsMeglet says:

    I will talk ad nauseam about The Dresden Files (see pitch for the books below). The audio versions are delightfully narrated by James Marsters, of Buffy and Angel. His schedule prevented him from recording book 13 and the fans kind of complained a lot. After around 4 years Marsters recorded the audio and the original audio was retired (my husband liked the other narrator, but, there you go). Marsters just IS the voice of Dresden to me, and many others.

    The actual books are about Harry Dresden, a wizard working as a private detective in Chicago. If you aren’t afraid of a little urban fantasy and un-true crime, this might work for you.

  14. I was SO excited to hear Jamie mention I’ll Be Gone in the Dark! <3 I have some recommendations for more true crime.

    For books, another one I'd highly recommend is Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen. He's who helped finish Michelle's book, so the style of his own book is similar. I would second Anne's recommendation of SSDGM, though that's more of a bio/self help book than crime focused in my opinion. I'd also recommend A Monster Of All Time: The True Story of Danny Rolling, The Gainesville Ripper
    by J.T. Hunter.

    For Podcasts, True Crime Bullsh*t is a chilling podcast a bit like Serial, but this one discusses Israel Keyes. Just be careful with that one if you don't like hearing recordings from the monsters themselves… Bear Brook is another well researched series covering the case of the individuals found in barrels in the woods of New Hampshire. Root Of Evil is another serialized podcast that discusses the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia. This one is difficult to listen to because of the incest that occurred in the family, but it's a powerful one! The Murder Squad is one similar to MFM, where each podcast features one case. This one features Billy Jensen and Paul Holes.

  15. Jana Botkin says:

    Jamie, I think you would enjoy a set of 3 audiobooks called “The Glock Grannies” by Shannon VanBergen. They might be called “cozy mysteries” (not quite sure what that is exactly). They are written in first person, and the narrator makes it come alive, with subtle humor and a believable main character, a woman in her 30s who is visiting her grandma in Florida, who solves crimes with a group of quirky older women.

  16. Kelly says:

    Wow, listening to this episode made me feel like I was listening to my reading twin. I almost exclusively read audiobooks (with Libby, always have things on hold and what I have available is what I read next), loved Beartown, couldn’t get into The Power, etc. etc. Can’t wait to read the books recommended! A few of my favorite audiobooks are Born A Crime, Homegoing, and Where the Crawdads Sing.

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