Because so many readers are always on the hunt for not just good reads but good listens, I thought it would be fun to share an assortment of what I’ve been enjoying lately in that format.
When it comes to a great listening experience, I’m looking for a great story, well told. I generally prefer fiction and memoir on audio—perhaps that’s no surprise given today’s list! The proliferation of books prominently featuring fine arts is entirely a coincidence, but one I certainly enjoyed and was delighted to notice.
I’ve been on a roll with audiobooks lately. My theory is that since I’ve consciously maintained a nice list of audiobooks I might want to listen to next, I don’t get stuck in that dreaded “between books” space. Instead, when I finish one book I’m ready to queue up another listen immediately. I hope today’s post helps us all fill our audio TBRs!
I haven’t LOVED every single title I’ve read in this format, yet I haven’t listened to a book that hasn’t been worthwhile in some way. And while I’ve listened to many short selections (I do love a good six-hour story, I’m all ears for your recs in comments!), I’m proud of myself for trying several ten, twelve, and even sixteen hour audiobooks recently!
I started reading this in print back in the spring, but it wasn't until I picked up the audio version narrated by Julia Whelan—at her urging—that the story really grabbed me. This is the decades-long story of a wealthy Brooklyn family and their triplets—the smart one, the weird one, and the girl—conceived with the help of IVF. For a bevy of reasons this family never quite gelled, and the siblings carry not a trace of affection for each other. Everything changes when the triplets reach college age, and their mother, yearning for some semblance of familial love, decides to thaw the fourth and only remaining embryo and have another child. The arrival of that child—the latecomer—blows up the whole family. Julia called Korelitz's follow-up to The Plot "the definition of a brilliant slow build," and I so enjoyed watching her patiently setup the explosive reveal at a Martha's Vineyard birthday celebration that takes place in September 2001. An unexpected bonus was the thread of modern art that runs through the book: I googled so many artists and works along the way! 16 hrs 19 mins. More info →
This contemporary novel follows Sama and Hadi, Syrian refugees who fall in love at school in Boston and who then get separated under the worst possible circumstances. This is about their struggle to be reunited, which is all but impossible due to the implementation of the very real executive order issues on January 27, 2017. The story unfolds in alternating narratives from each partner's perspective, as well as texts, newspaper clippings, voice mails, and office memos. It's an emotional journey that unfolds over a short span of time yet manages to feel sweeping. I enjoyed this on audio, as narrated by Fajer Al-Kaisi, Ali Andre Ali, and Suehyla El-Attar. This is our flight pick for our October MMD Book Club selection The Arsonists' City Narrated by Fajer Al-Kaisi, Ali Andre Ali, Suehyla El-Attar. 6 hrs 10 mins. More info →
I've been meaning to read Tanabe's latest since it was published last summer; this is the first of her novels I've listened to on audio. Katharina Edgeworth leads an enviable life: her surgeon husband is handsome and rich, her Fifth Avenue apartment is luxe, her two young boys are darling. But she longs to return to her exciting work at the United Nations, where she served as a translator before she quit to make her new husband happy. Then one day an FBI agent appears, asking her to serve her country by insinuating herself into the life of an ex-boyfriend who he alleges is a Russian spy. Rina is desperate to escape her gilded cage—and so she says yes. I wasn't particularly interested in the character's internal struggle but enjoyed the depictions of the early Cold War climate of the mid-1950s. This was easy to follow on audio, as narrated by Jennifer Jill Araya. 13 hrs 15 mins. More info →
The frequent comparisons to Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place convinced me to give this debut collection of eight interconnected short stories a try. Banneker Terrace stand at the corner of 129th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, and it houses "a little bit of everybody." Rents are rising steeply, and gentrification is on everyone's minds. One by one, we hear from eight tenants, all of whom are Black, each dealing with their own struggle. My favorite story is "Ms. Dallas" (3C), voiced by a paraeducator increasingly exasperated with her job in a failing school, followed closely by "Federation for the Like-Minded" (2E), voiced by elderly Mr. Murray who just wants to play sidewalk chess in piece but the neighborhood police have other ideas, and he's not especially appreciative of the crusade launched by the building's busybodies to "assist" him. Readers should know content warnings abound: some stories are absolutely brutal, all are laden with compassion. I'm so glad I listened on audio: the full cast narration featuring Bahni Turpin, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Dominic Hoffman and more was outstanding and brought Fofana's Black English Vernacular narrative to vivid life. 6 hrs 4 mins. More info →
I added this to my list after several MMD Book Clubbers called it their "best book of summer so far" in our July event by the same name; I opted for audio because Marin Ireland is a favorite narrator. The tone and style remind me of J. Ryan Stradal, with a notable addition: the story is told in part by an aging octopus named Marcellus, who muses on the human condition from his tank at the aquarium. Marcellus is not long for this world, but before he goes he is determined to assist in solving two early mysteries pertaining to the humans he's grown fond of. I enjoyed this and it worked well on audio; Michael Urie joins Marin Ireland to narrate. 11 hrs 16 mins. More info →
Daniel Silva has become a late summer tradition for me: in his new Gabriel Allon spy novel (#22 in the series!), all's fair in love and forgery: the retired Israeli intelligence officer emerges from a blissful retirement to investigate the suspicious sale of a newly discovered and extraordinarily valuable painting by an Old Master—or so it seems. Allon soon finds himself in the midst of a deadly game of cat and mouse, as he races to prove the existence of a Ponzi scheme in which forged art is the ultimate collateral. This wasn't my favorite on audio, though the art crime setting made it enjoyable. I've been told I should skip the newer Allons for now and go back to the beginning of the series: I just might do that next. Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini, 10 hrs 16 mins. More info →
I'm doing an event at Bookmarks NC with Brendan Slocumb next month, and read this book to prepare: I'm so glad I got the nudge to do so! The story begins with a bang: Ray McMillian may be the most talented young musician in the world. Two weeks before the most important competition of his life, he opens his violin case after getting off a flight and discovers his $10 million dollar Stradivarius is gone—replaced by a white Chuck Taylor and a ransom note. I was hooked! Slocumb then takes us back in time to show us how Ray, a young Black man from North Carolina who doesn't have the family wealth or privilege so many of his classical music peers do, fell in love with both music and his great-great grandfather's fiddle, and came to devote his life to winning the Tschaikovsky Competition—and how he came to own a $10 million Strad! We also experience many painful and heart-pounding instances of the racism Ray experiences as a Black man moving through a space that's predominantly white—and how his Blackness is used against him by those who wish to claim his violin as their own. I loved this, and JD Jackson's narration was the icing on the cake. 12 hrs 4 mins. More info →
After finishing the new Daniel Silva, I had no idea what to listen to next. So I popped over to our What Should I Read Next patreon community and asked for recommendations... which led me to this book, which had been halfheartedly lingering on my TBR for a while. I had been under the mistaken impression it was a comedy work, but nope, that was completely wrong. I plunged in, as advised, knowing little but definitely intrigued by the inclusion of Lyle Lovett as a narrator. (All I will say is: he plays himself.) Forgive me if you already know this, but this is a memoir, written by an anonymous author, who explains how and why she came to operate the pseudonymous twitter account @DuchessGoldblat. I LOVED it. (I was surprised at the many intersecting themes between this and another recent read, This Is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch.) You'll definitely see this on my Best of the Year list come December. Narrated by Gabra Zackman, J. Smith-Cameron, and Lyle Lovett, 5 hrs 31 mins. More info →
What have you been listening to lately?Please share your titles and fill up our audiobook TBR lists in the comments section!
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