The COVID-19 pandemic has left indie bookstores and authors in need of reader support more than ever. Libro.fm is an audiobook subscription service that directly benefits your local indie to your local indie. If you want to start listening but aren’t sure what to read, we’re here to help! The NetGalley team shared a few audiobooks we’ve listened to and loved lately—and don’t forget you can also listen to audio excerpts on NetGalley!
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, narrated by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis
An American Marriage tells the story of a newly married couple, Celestial and Roy, who are torn apart when Roy is wrongly incarcerated. Through their letters to each other, we see how Celestial’s life continues to move forward, while Roy’s is standing still, and how this changes their relationship forever. The book is narrated by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis, who both do an incredible job of pulling you into the story and making you feel as though these characters are your close friends. This is an absolutely stunning story and one I cannot recommend highly enough.
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, narrated by Julia Whelan
A friend recommended I read Evvie Drake Starts Over, and a few minutes into the audiobook I could see why she knew I’d love it. The story follows the titular Evvie Drake, who is struggling with a mix of guilt and grief after the death of her not-so-beloved husband, and her new tenant Dean Tenney, a former pitcher with a case of the yips. Julia Whelan narrates the audiobook and perfectly nails Evvie’s wit and dry humor. Within the first ten minutes of listening I knew that I was in for a great time, and sure enough, I found myself pressing play at every opportunity over the next few days. My romance-loving heart enjoyed watching Evvie and Dean start to fall for each other, and I particularly appreciated the dynamic Evvie had with her best friend Andy. This is a story about moving on from different kinds of loss, learning to accept change, and not being afraid to ask for the help you need. I loved Evvie, and I bet you will too.
Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson, narrated by Korey Jackson, Nile Bullock, Adenrele Ojo, and Adam Lazarre-White
I love both single narrators and full casts when it comes to audiobooks, but there is something really special about books that pair a group of fantastic narrators with an engaging story—like with Tiffany D. Jackson’s Let Me Hear a Rhyme. This YA novel begins with a funeral for a young Black boy named Steph. He was an aspiring rapper, and after his death his sister Jasmine and two friends Quadir and Jarrell team up to make his dreams come true by sharing his old mixtapes with the world. Meanwhile, they’re also picking up clues to discover who killed Steph and why. The story is broken into alternating chapters (each with their own narrator), including flashbacks from Steph. Each character is hiding a secret and I love the way Jackson unravels her mysteries to keep you guessing until the very end. The musical component of the book made this especially fun on audio!
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, narrated by Lisa Flanagan
Inspired by the fairytale “Rumpelstiltskin,” Spinning Silver follows Miryem, the daughter of a moneylender. Miryem’s family is nearly bankrupt because her father is far better at loaning money than collecting it. Miryem steps in to take control of their finances and soon becomes tangled with a dangerous king. This is not only a magical tale; it’s also a thoughtful exploration of anti-Semitism and the ways that women use the tools they’re given to gain independence in a world determined to keep it from them. The narration of this audiobook is lovely. It instantly transported me, capturing a feeling of sitting in front of a crackling fire and hearing a passed-down tale by a gifted storyteller. If you loved The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, this is a must-read.
Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, narrated by Ramon de Ocampo
Confession: I have listened to the audiobook of Red, White & Royal Blue three times in the past six months. To understand just what a departure that is for me, realize that I almost never read romance novels and, apart from a few longtime favorites like the Harry Potter books, I don’t re-listen to audiobooks. What made this one so special? It hit all the right notes. The character voices were spot-on, the dialogue as written was hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking, the plot was sweet, sexy, and enchanting. I laughed out loud for nearly the entire first half of the book and cried through the fabulous ending. There were literary quotes, and nerdy quotes (“Never tell me the odds!”); in short, it was a perfect diversion from real life. Written with such charm and wit, this romance makes me realize I could easily see myself becoming a long-term fan of the genre.
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, narrated by Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt, Judy Greer, and Pablo Schreiber
2019 was the year everyone raved about all things Taylor Jenkins Reid and I resolved to start reading her books in 2020. A friend recommended the audiobook of Daisy Jones & the Six and I’m so glad that I picked this format to experience this novel. This book is told through interviews from the various members of a band that reached peak fame in the 1970s, but then fell apart. It follows all of the drama and conflicts that ensued between specific members. The reason the audiobook is so fantastic is that there are celebrity actor narrators who bring this story to life with so much emotion that you really connect with the rollercoaster of struggles that the band goes through.
With the Fire on High written and narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo
With the Fire on High is the second novel from National Book Award winner Elizabeth Acevedo, and it follows teen mother Emoni, who has started a cooking course at her high school and is struggling to earn enough to go on the course’s class trip to Spain. Emoni is dedicated to her family and passionate about cooking. She’s the kind of character that you root for and want everything to turn out great for. I really loved the audiobook because it’s narrated by the author, who was absolutely fantastic. Since she has a poetry background, her narration style has a natural rhythm to it that really brings the story to life. Acevedo’s accent and tone also helped demonstrate where Emoni comes from and her culture in a way that I would’ve missed if I had read this book in a physical format.
Circe by Madeline Miller, narrated by Perdita Weeks
I recently read The Song of Achilles for our book club and knew that I needed to read more of Madeline Miller’s work. I listened to Circe via audiobook and I highly recommend it since it helps with the Greek pronunciations. Circe was such a beautiful story. At times heartbreaking, it focuses on a female character who didn’t have a voice in classic Greek myth. Circe’s mainly known for being a witch who turns some of Odysseus’ men into pigs when they arrive on her island. It’s a sweeping story; we see so much of Circe’s life: her birth, her first love, how her family treated her, and her rage leading to this moment that she’s known for. I loved the ending—Miller leaves the reader with a beautiful hopefulness about the human condition from this immortal character.
The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole, narrated by Regina Hall, Mindy Kaling, Feodor Chin, Therese Plummer, Dina Pearlman, Neil Hellegers, Adenrele Ojo, and Kyla Garcia
Alyssa Cole is one of my favorite romance authors, so I was extremely excited to listen to her first Audible original novella The A.I. Who Loved Me. Cole is a master at novella writing and you truly get a full love story despite the small package. This novella was even more fun in that it has sci-fi elements and a lot of action. I found the romance between Trinity and Li Wei to be so sweet and didn’t expect all of the twists that happened at the end. The audiobook listen was fantastic thanks to unique sound effects and the star-studded cast. If you’re looking for a fun listen to escape into, I highly recommend The A.I. Who Loved Me.
Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey, narrated by Caitlin Kelly
I rarely listen to audiobooks because I’m afraid I’ll zone out and get distracted and miss everything. Still, I decided to give the Unspeakable Things audiobook a try and I was hooked from the start! The story follows Cassie, a poor, middle school girl living in a small 1980s Minnesota town, which is being plagued by a sudden string of kidnappings. Cassie’s story is painful, yet warming. When she’s terrified of her abusive father, so are we. When she’s over her teenage sister being totally boy crazy, so are we. When she feels the strong mother-daughter bond she has with her mom, so do we. Cassie is reminiscent of Kya from Where the Crawdads Sing—a young, quirky, but lovable girl coming of age in a poor dysfunctional home amid serious crimes they are somewhat tied to.
Becoming written and narrated by Michelle Obama
In all my years of loving books, I never found the window I needed to dive into the audiobook world… until Michelle Obama wrote and then narrated Becoming. I knew I couldn’t just read this book, I needed to hear her experiences—and it’s a privilege to have her confident and powerful voice fill my home. Through Michelle’s life stories, but also her tone and patient speech, she creates a vivid and accessible picture of how she has, and continues to, live a purposeful life. I highly recommend reading or listening to this beautiful memoir—I guarantee you will walk away feeling empowered by her strength and humanity.
Half Empty written and narrated by David Rakoff
I first encountered David Rakoff as a contributor to This American Life, so I’ve always known his voice. This is the first time I’ve ever listened to one of his essay collections, and I loved it. He is acerbic and observant. He is funny and curious, and very aware that humor and curiosity in others protects himself from his own anxieties and vulnerabilities. These essays range from screeds against the musical Rent to the very real possibility that he may lose his arm as part of his cancer treatment. He sadly died of cancer in 2012, and if you’re looking for a quick place to start with his work, listen to “Our Friend David,” the memorial episode from This American Life.
Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, narrated by Erin Mallon
It is dark times, folks! I very seriously needed a break from some heavy fiction about troubled people making bad decisions and thank goodness Christina Lauren was there to provide some much-needed sweet and charming romance. As teenagers, Macy Sorensen and Elliot Petropoulos have an intense bond that’s always on the border of dating. They spend whole summers reading together and talking about everything. They share a rare honesty, and Elliot is the only one who can really get Macy to open up about her mother’s death. Then, after a disastrous night, they go 11 years without speaking until they run into each other in a coffee shop. After that, Macy’s whole world gets shaken up. She has to learn that in order to really be happy and to find the big, raucous, boisterous family she has always wanted and a love that feels all-consuming, she’s going to have to take some emotional risks.
Norse Mythology written and narrated by Neil Gaiman
During a long car ride, I listened to the audiobook of Norse Mythology, narrated by Neil Gaiman himself. His retelling of the myths was witty and engaging, and his reading style was delightful. It was especially fun to listen along with my daughter, who has gobbled up all of Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series and loved hearing about some of the same characters. Dare we dream that Gaiman might give the same treatment to Greek and Roman mythology? We’d be so lucky!
I second the Circe recommendation. The book is terrific, but the audio version is even better!