Last week I shared my favorite books of 2019. To make it easier on myself, I divided my favorites list into favorite print books and favorite audiobooks.
For me, the mark of a truly great book—and a great listening experience—is that I’m still thinking about the story, even months later. Bonus points to any book that makes me want to run another mile, fold another load of laundry, or sit in my car in the driveway so I can keep listening.
Last year I divided my favorites into fiction and nonfiction picks, but—just like in my favorite printed books of 2019—this year’s list is fiction-heavy. (There’s just one nonfiction selection here, and I read it back in January!)
I listened to this audiobook on a road trip down to Memphis, and it made the miles fly by: I was engrossed in the story of 15-year-old Brianna, who is confident in her dreams—and has a chance of making them come true—but first has to navigate a whole slew of pitfalls, both the ones forced upon her and the ones of her own making. If you appreciated The Hate U Give, add this to your TBR immediately. Bri is an aspiring rapper, and rap battles feature prominently in the plot: for that reason I'm so glad I listened to this instead of reading it on the page. Bahni Turpin's narration is exceptional. More info →
The Alice Network author Quinn takes on WWII's aftermath in her latest historical release. Inspired by a true story she stumbled upon in the historical archives (which would totally spoil the big reveal—you're going to have to read the Author's Note to learn all!), Quinn weaves together three perspectives to tell a gripping story: Jordan is a Boston teenager who works in her father's Boston antiques store, Ian is a British journalist determined to bring his brother's killer—known as "the Huntress"—to justice, and Nina is a Russian fighter pilot and the only woman alive who can identify the Huntress. There's no weak link in the story; each thread is fascinating, and distinct on the audio—and when they began to come together I couldn't listen fast enough. A mesmerizing tale of war crimes, coming of age, love and fidelity, and the pursuit of justice, with stirring implications for today. A 2019 Summer Reading Guide selection, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld. More info →
A moving, inspiring, engaging listen, and one that's meaningful and FUN to hear in Michelle Obama's own voice. The former First Lady recounts growing up on the South Side of Chicago, meeting her husband Barack, and exactly what it's like to watch your husband run for and then win the presidency. I was surprised and delighted by some of the topics she chose to cover, like the practical difficulties of managing White House play dates and her stint on Carpool Karaoke. She doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of her story, such as miscarriage and the racism she's encountered over the years, and reflects on how her experiences have shaped her and the woman she's still becoming. More info →
This book was such a fun surprise for me: I devoured this on audio. I was thrilled to recommend it in one of our very first Patreon-only bonus episodes of One Great Book. In the ten years she's known her, Lucy has never felt her mother-in-law Diana approved of her—an especial disappointment because she'd hoped Diana would finally be the mother she'd never had. Yet she’s distraught when the police show up to announce that Diana has died by apparent suicide—and even more so when they reveal that the evidence points to possible murder. As we get to know the family members, we discover each of them had a motive to harm Diana, and stood to benefit from her death. A wholly satisfying domestic mystery, perfect for Liane Moriarty fans, that kept me guessing till the end. Narrated by Barrie Kreinik. More info →
This new title from the author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest follows several generations of a Minnesota family as they establish themselves in the brewing industry—and fall to pieces in the process. Despite the family feud and plenty of tense moments, the tone is relentlessly hopeful, and the story hugely listenable. I walked six miles just so I could get to the end! A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer. (Fun fact: I relied heavily on protagonist Diana when I taught a session on using the Enneagram to write better fictional characters last month.) Narrated by Judith Ivey. More info →
In 1953 Tehran, a young man failed to meet his betrothed in a Tehran square. Sixty years later and half a world away, the woman, now grown old, is about to discover why. This sweeping love story spans 60 years and two continents, taking the reader between contemporary New England and 1953 Tehran, thoroughly immersing the reader in the volatile political climate of 1950s Iran. This is easily one of the best books I've read this year: listen to me recommend it on Episode 194 of What Should I Read Next ("No plot, no problem!"), and we'll be reading it in the MMD Book Club in January, where we'll pair it with A Place for Us. If you enjoyed either of these books, add the other to your TBR right now. Narrated by Mozhan Marnò, whose voice I recognized from her role as Samar on The Blacklist. More info →
This novel combines so many elements I love: it's a literary mystery, a book about books, a coming-of-age story, a tale of adventure and suspense and revenge. I recommended this on a recent episode of WSIRN: episode 196 with Anudeep Reddy as a gateway fantasy, a fantasy novel for people who don't like fantasy. Creative and inventive and lots of fun. Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club members, this is our February pick. The narration by January LaVoy (yes, you read that right!) is mesmerizing. More info →
Kevin Wilson's latest is about an important political family that has a tiny little problem—their kids catch fire when they get mad. It's the perfect blend of the very real emotional family and the bizarre, which lets the author address serious things—life, work, power, ambition, relationships—without getting precious about it. This was the first bonus episode of the season for One Great Book and then I turned right around and recommended it on episode 201 of What Should I Read Next of WSIRN. Marin Ireland hit just the right notes with her narration, and if you're eager to finish another book before the end of the year, it's only 6 hours 40 minutes. More info →
This is the first installment in a new series from seasoned historical novelist Gregory, in which she focuses on what the lives of everyday people might have been like centuries ago. The characters all live in the Tidelands, a part of England that can't be mapped because land and water are constantly shifting due to the movement of the tides. They live on an island accessible only by ferry; there's one way in, one way out, and one family that controls all these comings and goings. The unstable mood and atmosphere permeate the story, and Louise Brealey's narration draws you right in to this world. In the background, King Charles is imprisoned on the Isle of Wight, but the story centers on a midwife and herbalist whose husband's follies have plunged her into a socially and economically perilous position. I tried this book out of curiosity, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. More info →
Special note, added after reading your comments: I loved The Dutch House on audio! I first read the print version, and then listened to the audio for a re-read, so I included it in my favorite (print) books of 2019 list. It felt a little over-the-top to include it in both places.
Since #200, I have LOVED the recent episode with my husband Will, #214: Deconstructing your best reading year yet. Readers, it’s just SO FUN. (And of course it added books to my TBR, I’m reading one of them right now!) Listen wherever you get your podcasts, or click the play button below.
I also loved our episode with Kate DiCamillo, #213: Art, fear, and discovering great books, and I’m not alone: so many of you told us some version of Caroline’s blog comment, which says, “This might be my all-time favorite episode of any podcast ever.” Thank you for that, and I hope you’ll listen. (Click the play button below.)
Readers, what were YOUR favorite audiobooks of the year?