My Year of Audiobooks, Part 2: Book Recommendations

If you haven’t listened to a lot of audiobooks, but you’re thinking about it, here are some recommendations, organized by  some of the categories I like best by audio.  For discussion of how audiobooks differ from print books, see Part 1.

Category 1: Memoirs

So far, memoirs are probably my favorite type of book to listen to rather than read in print. Mainly because you can usually get them read by the author, which really adds depth to their story.   I’ve included two books here that I read but didn’t listen to, Becoming and Know My Name, because everyone says the audio versions are excellent.

 

Category 2: Mysteries and thrillers

They are fun to listen to and can be very atmospheric.  I especially recommend Ruth Ware’s books, read by Imogen Church.

  • Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
  • The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
  • Conviction by Denise Mina
  • The Lost Man by Jane Harper
  • Sadie by Courtney Summers

 

Category 3: Books set in other countries or books about other cultures

I love listening to accents, maybe because I find linguistic differences really interesting, and I like to try to figure out what different words mean.  Some recommendations:

 

Category 4: Literary fiction

Initially I thought I’d much rather read, rather than listen to, literary fiction – but I’ve found that with a great narrator, a powerful book can be even more resonant and memorable by audio.  Here are some of my favorites.  I think these books work so well because they are very introspective and emotional.  I just finished My Dark Vanessa – I tore through it this weekend and can’t stop thinking about it.  

  • Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  • Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

 

Category 5: Romance

Romances are a lot of fun to listen to, because they tend to be dialogue-driven and don’t have a lot of complicated characters and places you have to keep track of.  Some of my favorites recently have been The Hating Game, Bringing Down the Duke, and Get a Life, Chloe Brown (though I had mixed feelings about the narration in that one, I absolutely loved the story).  Romances aren’t always light and fluffy, but I find them a nice break in between books with much heavier topics.  I will say that listening to a romance novel can be kind of strange because some of them get pretty steamy, and having sex scenes read out loud feels very different from reading them yourself.  It’s one thing to be nestled under your covers while reading those scenes, and a whole other experience while walking through a park, surrounded by families.  If you’re looking for something a bit less graphic, The Unhoneymooners and Don’t You Forget About Me were good stories.  

Category 4: Books that have a performance element in their story

These are books where the story focuses on something you listen to, like music or poetry.  Two of my favorite audiobooks featured a podcast within the story (Conviction and Sadie).  Daisy Jones and the Six was a story all about music, and the book centers on interviews, so I’ve heard that’s a great audiobook.  I’ve also heard The Poet X is excellent by audiobook, and I wish I’d listened to it.

Category 6: Multi-cast and celebrity narration

One last thing to look for are multi-cast audiobooks and celebrity narrators, since they are higher budget productions and you can expect particularly skilled narrators.  A good example was Tom Hanks narrating The Dutch House.  You always know he’s Tom Hanks, but his reading is so damn good you just forget about it.  I suppose that’s how he is in movies as well.  I was less enthused by Judith Light’s reading of The World That We Knew.

A lot of people really love the multi-cast in Daisy Jones and the Six. I really loved the narration in Sadie.  I find that a lot of times, audiobook narrators aren’t as good at voicing different characters (for example, sometimes a female narrator will have trouble doing male voices, or vice versa).  I think a really good audiobook narrator can differentiate different types of voices — but books that really rely on alternating perspectives will benefit from multiple narrators.

Those are my audiobook recommendations.  These are only based on the roughly 40 audiobooks I’ve listened to, and a few I’ve heard great things about.  For more audiobook recommendations, you can check out the Audie Awards.  What types of audiobooks do you like  to?  I’d love to hear some of your favorites.

 

 

  4 comments for “My Year of Audiobooks, Part 2: Book Recommendations

  1. May 11, 2020 at 7:23 pm

    One of the best audio books I am listening to is “Victoria the Queen” by Julia Baird.

  2. May 11, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    I want to read Daisy and big six and now I am conflicted rather to read it or listen to it…

  3. May 13, 2020 at 10:55 am

    I’ve just finished my latest audiobook and am casting around for something new to listen to, so this is very helpful! (It was The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright, which was quite hard to keep track of – lots of different names, dates, places. Detailed history or politics is something I think I’d struggle with on audio; I have a much more visual memory.)

    • May 14, 2020 at 11:19 am

      I hope you find something you like here! I just finished My Dark Vanessa, which I can’t stop thinking about. An intense read. I think emotional books work better for me on audio than detailed factual books.

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