Are you on the hunt for an audiobook so good you won’t be able to press pause? Look no further.
I’m always on the lookout for an audiobook that will draw me right in and allow for some successful bookish multitasking–reading while taking a walk or folding laundry. Here are five of my recent audiobook favorites:
1. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Narrated by Julia Whelan
From the bestselling author of The Nightingale, The Great Alone is hands down my favorite audiobook of the year. I found myself looking forward to rush hour Boston traffic just so I could hear one more scene. The novel opens in 1974 when 13-year-old Leni moves to Alaska with her parents. The family is woefully unprepared for the emotional and physical challenges of this harsh, beautiful landscape. Leni must learn how to survive in her new surroundings–while navigating the complexities of her parents’ troubled relationship. Kirkus Reviews writes that Hannah “re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska’s homesteaders in both of the state’s seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America. A tour de force.” Hannah’s novel is a rare combination of exquisite writing, a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and characters that will stick with you. I highly recommend the audiobook version, Julia Whelan’s performance was exceptional.
Kristin Hannah discusses the real life inspiration behind The Great Alone in this video:
You can also listen to this interview with Kristin Hannah from WNYC:
2. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Read by Guy Lockard
My one regret about Ghost by Jason Reynolds is that I didn’t pick it up sooner! This standout middle grade title is the first in Reynolds’ Track series and was a National Book Award finalist back in 2016, when the judges noted “In Ghost, Jason Reynolds flawlessly delivers eloquent moments of terror, anticipation and fun—clear to the finish line—without an extra word to spare. We are immersed in the backdrop of believable characters from the night Ghost Crenshaw runs for his life, to his struggle to silence the “scream inside him.” Ghost will stay with you.” I couldn’t agree more and the engaging audio narration had me hooked from chapter 1–and fittingly–adding serious mileage to my morning walk so I could listen longer. At various times the protagonist Ghost Crenshaw broke my heart and had me laughing out loud. I cannot wait to recommend this one to the kids and teens in my life and I’m sure this will be a top contender for this year’s Massachusetts Children’s Book Award program here in my state. You can also vote for Ghost as part of PBS’s Great American Read.
An excerpt of the Ghost audiobook is available to preview:
You can watch Jason Reynolds discuss Ghost and the importance of reading on this Author Imprint video from PBS:
3. Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam
Read by the author
Conversational, practical nonfiction books are my favorite audiobooks to listen to and Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done is exactly that. If you are a podcast listener looking to dip your toe into audiobooks, I would suggest this new title by time management expert Laura Vanderkam. (In fact, you may have heard of Vanderkam from her podcast Best of Both Worlds). In her latest book, the author of 168 Hours and I Know How She Does It turns her attention to spending our free time wisely. She wrote about her inspiration for her book on her blog, “I first got the idea for this book in July 2016 when I was running in Bar Harbor, Maine. I had no immediate obligations for the day, and so that phrase popped into my head. I was off the clock — just like when I punched out after a shift back in my teenage minimum wage days. I wanted to explore this concept of time freedom: what makes it possible? How do busy people who feel relaxed about time structure their lives?”. For Off the Clock, Vandarkam had 900 people track their time on one day, March 27th, 2017–then analyzed the relationship between how people spent their time and how they felt about their time. Vandarkam’s findings will inspire you to turn off the television, put down your phone and invest time in the relationships and experiences that lead to a more satisfying life.
You can hear an excerpt of Off the Clock read by Vandarkam herself:
You can also listen to Vandarkam discuss the book on her Best of Both Worlds podcast with cohost Sarah Hart-Unger:
4. Wishree by Katherine Applegate
Narrated by Nancy Linari
Katherine Applegate is the Newbery award-winning author of the The One and Only Ivan, one of my all-time favorite middle grade books. In Wishtree, Applegate turns her attention to a special talking tree and tackles issues of intolerance and immigration. Red, a 216-year-old oak tree and our narrator, tries to intervene after a hateful message–aimed at a Muslim family new to the neighborhood–is carved into her trunk. In a starred review Booklist calls Wishtree “Timely, necessary, and brimming with heart”. Wishtree would be an excellent choice for a classroom read aloud and the audiobook would be engaging listening for a family road trip. This one is sure to spark meaningful discussions with the kids in your life. Make sure to mention the connection to The One and Only Ivan to prospective young readers–Applegate’s earlier book is beloved.
You can listen to an excerpt of the Wishtree audiobook:
The trailer for Wishtree is extremely well done and has sparked so much enthusiasm for reading the book when I’ve shown it to 4th/5th grade classes:
5. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Narrated by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis
Listening to An American Marriage by Tayari Jones instead of reading the print book happened by chance. I often place library holds for the print book and audiobook and read whatever becomes available first. In this case, I am so happy the audiobook won out because it was incredibly well done. The book is narrated by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis, who read the parts of newly married Roy and Celestial–two characters whose stories take abrupt turns when Roy is wrongfully committed of a crime and sentenced to twelve years in prison. As The Washington Post notes, the questions around Celestial and Roy’s ties and responsibilities toward one another (they have only been married eighteen months) are “spun with tender patience by Jones, who cradles each of these characters in a story that pulls our sympathies in different directions.”
You can watch Oprah share this title as her book club pick and hear Tayari Jones discuss her inspiration for the book in this clip from CBS This Morning:
What audiobooks would you recommend? Let me know in the comments or on your favorite social media platform. I’m @ABookishHome.
Laura Szaro Kopinski