Best narrators and how audiobooks improve our mental health

Happy Thursday, audiobook lovers,

Whatchyall listening to?

There are so many audiobooks I can’t wait to listen to but I just started Vox by Christina Dalcher and narrated by Julia Whelan (who, as far as I can tell, narrates at least half of all audiobooks everywhere). Y’all, it is SO GOOD (at least so far, as I write this, I’m about two hours into the 9 and a half hour book). Out next Tuesday, Vox is set in a not-too-distant future in the United States and will undoubtedly be compared to The Handmaid’s Tale. When the novel begins, it’s been one year since every woman and girl has had a counter locked around their wrist. The device monitors how many words are spoken throughout the course of the day. Each woman and girl are permitted no more than 100 words per day. If they speak too much and the counter goes past 100, they receive an electric shock. The shock gets stronger for every word spoken over the limit.

Prior to the restrictions, Jean McClellan was Dr. Jean McClellan, a neurolinguistic at the top of her field. When the President’s brother gets into a skiing accident, Dr. McClellan is in a position to help. But should she? Will she? And what might she ask for in return?

Sponsored by I Know You Know by Gilly MacMillan.

Gilly Macmillan digs in deep and gets right to the heart of her characters in this rich and engrossing novel. Vivid, smart, and propulsive, I KNOW YOU KNOW transported me to Bristol and held me captive through every twisting street and dark alley. A thoroughly immersive thriller of the first order.”

— Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Under My Skin

From Gilly Macmillan, New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew, comes this original, chilling and twisty mystery about two shocking murder cases twenty years apart, and the threads that bind them.

Performed by Steven Brand, Steve West, and Imogen Church.

Book Riot Discussions

As always, Book Riot is chock-full of excellent audiobooks posts, and I wanted to highlight two recent posts. Rioter Mary Kay McBrayer talks about the qualities that make a good audiobook narrator. She says  “there’s something about a well-acted audiobook that makes the writing jump off the page and onto the screen in your mind’s eye. Not every book adapts well into the audio format, but when you have voice actors like these audiobooks do, well, the odds are much more in our favor.”

She outlines the three traits she believed are the most important for excellent audiobook narration: 1) reads slowly 2) reads emphatically 3) reads with a tone reflective of the narrative itself.

I think breaking down what makes a good audiobook narrator is super interesting. Because it’s all a balance right? Mary Kay is completely right that those are super important. Of course, reading too slowly, or too emphatically would be annoying.

So it’s the third that I think is the most interesting. “Reads with a tone reflective of the narration itself.” My mind is blown with how on-point this description is. For example, one of my all-time favorite audiobook, which I’ve droned on about endlessly in this newsletter is The Good House. The narration is so excellent because Mary Beth Phelan conveys Hildy Good’s attitude just through her voice. It positively drips with all the judgment and world-weary disdain for everyone from psychiatrists to members of Alcoholics Anonymous.

So what does reading with a tone not reflective of one the narrative itself sound like? In my opinion, it’s best exemplified of the things that irritates me so much about the way Jim Dale does Hermione’s voice in the (otherwise excellently narrated) Harry Potter books. It’s so breathy, it makes her sound like an airhead–-very un-Hermione like.

I’m curious what y’all think, newsletter readers. Do you think those three qualities are the most important when it comes to audiobook narration? If not, what do you think is more important and which audiobooks have had the best narrators? Let me know at or on twitter at msmacb.

And don’t forget to check out Mary Kay’s 10 best narrators here.

Another thought-provoking post that went up recently is from Rioter Margaret is Rioter Margaret Kingsbury How Audiobooks Helped Me Through My Postpartum Depression. In this moving post, Margaret talks about the depression that set in after the birth of her child. She says, “With the depression, my reading didn’t just decrease, it almost stopped altogether. In the month of Marian’s birth, I read three tiny books. The same goes for January. And February. In my mind, any moment not spent on Marian—even when she was sleeping—made me a bad mother. I felt overwhelming guilt over every moment to myself.” Once she got on the proper medication, Margaret started to feel better and realized she missed reading. But, she says, “at the time, Marian was resisting naps except when I took her on walks. Only then would she sleep. I also started working two days a week. So when and how to read?”

The solution? Audiobooks! Which got me thinking about the ways audiobooks have helped with my mental health.

You try getting this fabulous tub o lard to move quickly.

Personally, audiobooks help me have patience when I take my dog out. Sally, who is small and fat and lazy (see the picture of my beautiful angel on the left), likes walking but she is a SLOW WALKER. She will sniff every blade of grass before slowly moseying to the next one. It’s hard enough to get me out of the house because my work is inside and I always have more work to do.

So when Sally takes nine hours to walk half a block, it’s easy for me to get stressed and frustrated about all the work I could be doing. But if I have an audiobook? Those nine hours are a pleasure. A luxurious break from work, an escape into a totally different world. What could be better? It’s not just about being entertained either. The thing is, I need those walks as much as Sally does (though, to be fair, I won’t pee on the carpet if I don’t get one). When I let myself go on a long walk with Sally, I come back more refreshed, happier, calmer. As someone who struggles with depression, this is invaluable.

Read Margaret’s full post here.

So, if you’re willing to share, how do audiobooks help with your mental health? Let me know (again, at or twitter) and make sure to say if I have permission to use it in a future newsletter. If I get enough responses, I’ll put together a fun little thing about all the unexpected ways audiobooks boost our mental health.

Until next week,



New Audiobooks for August: Part 2

Heya, audiophiles!

It’s part two of the New Audiobooks for August list, so let’s dig right in.

BUT FIRST: Don’t miss your chance to win 16 books recommended on the Recommended podcast! Enter here by August 31st!

As part of Season 2 of our podcast series Annotated, we are giving away 10 of the best books about books of 2017. Go here to enter for a chance to win, or just click the image below:

New Audiobooks for August Part 2 (publisher’s descriptions and/or publication reviews in quotes)

Cherry by Nico Walker; narrated by: Jeremy Bobb; release date: 08-14-18

Cherry is an Amazon Best Book of 2018; Al Woodworth, who reviewed the title says, “While at times bleak, this is a novel of our time, a story about a Midwestern boy who falls in love, enlists in the Army (because school is not for him and what else is he going to do), returns from war and falls prey to the escapes of heroin. An explosively cutting and page-turning debut.”

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua; narrated by Jennifer Lim; release date: 08-14-18

When Scarlett Chen becomes pregnant with her boss’s child, he’s thrilled. He will finally have the boy he’s always wanted. TO ensure his child has every opportunity, he ships Scarlett off to the United States, far away from her native China. “Holed up with other mothers-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles…Then a new sonogram of Scarlett’s baby reveals the unexpected.”

Keeper’n Me by Richard Wagamese; narrated by Deneh’Cho Thompson, Sam Bob; release date: 08-14-18

Keeping with the theme if displaced young adults, we have Garnet Raven, who was three years old when he was taken from his home on an Ojibway Indian reserve and placed in a series of foster homes. After he becomes a teenager, he escapes the foster homes at the first opportunity and eventually lands himself in jail. There, someone from his native family sends him a letter.

“The sudden communication from his past spurs him to return to the reserve following his release from jail. Deciding to stay awhile, his life is changed completely as he comes to discover his sense of place, and of self. While on the reserve, Garnet is initiated into the ways of the Ojibway – both ancient and modern – by Keeper, a friend of his grandfather, and last fount of history about his people’s ways.”

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles: Growing Up in America’s Secret Desert by Karen Piper; narrated by Rebecca Lowman; release date: 08-14-18

Like (I’m assuming) many people, I’m simultaneously intrigued and terrified when I think about our missiles and other big, potentially destructive military things. “But people who make missiles and other weapons are regular working people, with domestic routines and everyday dilemmas, and four of them were Karen Piper’s parents, her sister, and – when she needed summer jobs – herself…Her memoir is also a search for the truth of the past and what really brought her parents to China Lake with two young daughters, a story that reaches back to her father’s World War II flights with contraband across Europe. Finally, it recounts the crossroads moment in a young woman’s life when she finally found a way out of a culture of secrets and fear, and out of the desert.”

Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, written and read by Omarosa Manigault Newman; release date: 08-14-18

“The former Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison in the Trump White House provides a jaw-dropping look into the corruption and controversy of the current administration.”

Okay, okay, okay, okay. If you are aware of Omarosa from before (or honestly, even after) she joined the Trump White House, you probably have some thoughts about her as a person…and possibly her credibility. I have thoughts about those things. But I am also 100% shameless when it comes to feasting my eyes (or ears) on questionably sourced political gossip. Am I going to spend money on this book? I don’t know. Will I eagerly scour the internet for all the juiciest bits? Absolutely.

Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks; release date: 08-21-18

I’m not a parent, but if I were, I am 1000% certain I would live every single day in paralyzing fear (as opposed to just every other day, which I do all by myself). Brooks explores this fear in her new book:

“In Small Animals, Brooks asks: Of all the emotions inherent in parenting, is there any more universal or profound than fear? Why have our notions of what it means to be a good parent changed so radically? In what ways do these changes impact the lives of parents, children, and the structure of society at large? And what, in the end, does the rise of fearful parenting tell us about ourselves?”

Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina, Camilo A. Ramirez – translator; narrated by Robert Fass; release date: 08-21-18

The year is 1968 and James Earl Ray has just shot Martin Luther King, Jr. For two months he evades authorities, driving to Canada, securing a fake passport, and flying to London, all while relishing the media’s confusion about his location and his image on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Eventually, he lands at the Hotel Portugal in Lisbon, where he anxiously awaits a visa to Angola. But the visa never comes, and for his last 10 days of freedom, Ray walks around Lisbon, paying for his pleasures and rehearsing his fake identities.

Using recently declassified FBI files, Antonio Muñoz Molina reconstructs Ray’s final steps through the Portuguese capital, taking us inside his feverish mind, troubled past, and infamous crime.”

Housegirl by Michael Donkor; narrated by Adjoa Andoh; release date 08-28-18

This book is already getting tons of praise/buzz and I’m personally super excited because the narrator also narrates one of my all-time favorite audiobook, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.

The website The Millions selected this title as one of their most anticipated books of 2018 and here’s what they said about it, “In this debut novel, Donkor follows three Ghanaian girls: Belinda, the obedient; Mary, the irrepressible; and Amma, the rebel. For her part, Amma has had about enough of the tight-laced life in London that her parents want for her and begins to balk at the strictures of British life. But when she is brought to London to provide a proper in-house example for willful Amma, sensible Belinda begins to experience a cultural dissociation that threatens her sense of self as nothing before ever had.”

Whew, we did it!! Which new August audiobooks are you most excited about getting in your ears? Let me know or just say hi at or on twitter @msmacb.

Until next week,



New Audiobooks for August!

Happy August, Audiophiles,

August may be the sleepy, end of summer month everyone simultaneously dreads (because it means summer is ending) and wants to last forever (because more summer, please) but when it comes to audiobook publishing, August is firing on all cylinders. In other words, there are a TON of new audiobooks to get through. So many, in fact, that I’m going to do a two-parter: Audiobooks coming out in the first half of the month will be in this newsletter, audiobooks in the second half of the month will be next week. In both cases, I’ve tried to pick some of the lesser known titles/ones you may not have heard of.

We’re giving away 16 of the books featured on Recommended! Click here, or on the image below to enter:

But first, because it is sadly this time of year in California, I want to send a heartfelt thanks to all the firefighters out there. I love California so much and watching it burn, watching your family, friends, neighbors lose everything is heartbreaking. And yet there are still people running into the flames, trying to help. This picture, of firefighters resting in the backyard of a house they just saved before heading back to keep fighting the Carr Fire, brings me to tears. Thank you, firefighters. And thanks, newsletter readers, for indulging me this sentimentality.

WHEW, ON A LIGHTER NOTE! You can win 16 awesome books featured on the Recommended podcast! Enter here by August 31.

New Audiobooks for August: Part 1

(publisher’s description in quotes)

Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT Leroy by Savannah Knoop; narrated by Kristen Stewart; release date: 08-01-18

“In January 2006, the New York Times unmasked Savannah Knoop as the face of the mysterious author JT LeRoy. A media frenzy ensued as JT’s fans, mentors, and readers came to terms with the fact that the gay male-ex-truck stop prostitute turned literary wunderkind was really a girl from San Francisco whose sister-in-law wrote the books…Telling her side of the story for the first time, Savannah reveals how being perceived as a boy gave her a sense of confidence and entitlement she never had before.” I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a Kristen Stewart movie but I’m excited to hear her narration of this.

Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton; narrated by Kirsten Potter; Release date: 08-01-18

Goddamn, I’m a sucker for anything related to Ernest Hemingway–-not least his wives, all of whom are fascinating in their own right. Martha Gellhorn met Ernest Hemingway when he was married to his second wife. Gellhorn, an accomplished war correspondent and journalist, began a love affair with Hemingway. “Beautiful Exiles is a stirring story of lovers and rivals, of the breathless attraction to power and fame, and of one woman – ahead of her time – claiming her own identity from the wreckage of love.”

American Conspiracy Theories by Joseph E. Uscinski, Joseph M. Parent; narrated by Tristan Morris; release date: 08-07-18

Our world is saturated with conspiracy theories. As I write this newsletter, I’m listening to a podcast called “The RFK Files,” about the murder of Robert Kennedy. But why are conspiracy theories so prevalent and what does a preoccupation with conspiracy theories say about where we’re at as a culture? “ Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent…address crucial questions, such as similarities and differences in the nature of conspiracy theories over time, the role of the Internet and communications technologies in spreading modern conspiracy theories, and whether politics, economics, media, war, or other factors are most important in popularizing conspiratorial beliefs.”

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein, S. Bear Bergman; narrated by Kate Bornstein; release date: 08-07-18

If you aren’t familiar with Kate Bornstein, I am honored to be able to introduce you to her work. Gender Outlaw was first published 20 years ago and it’s as relevant as ever. “On one level, Gender Outlaw details Bornstein’s transformation from heterosexual male to lesbian woman, from a one-time IBM salesperson to a playwright and performance artist. But this particular coming-of-age story is also a provocative investigation into our notions of male and female, from a self-described nonbinary transfeminine diesel femme dyke who never stops questioning our cultural assumptions.”

Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything by Randi Hutter Epstein MD; narrated by Donna Postel; Release date: 08-07-18

Hormones are one of those things I don’t think about a lot unless I’m faced with pictures of myself as an angry, acne-faced, awkward teenager. But hormones control so much more. “Metabolism, behavior, sleep, mood swings, the immune system, fighting, fleeing, puberty, and sex: these are just a few of the things our bodies control with hormones. Armed with a healthy dose of wit and curiosity, Randi Hutter Epstein takes us on a journey through the unusual history of these potent chemicals and their discovery, from the London laboratory where the concept of hormones was identified to a basement filled with jarred brains to a canine sex lab.” Look, brains in jars and canine sex labs aren’t necessarily my thing. But it’s worth it to learn the mystery of why we crazy humans (among other species) behave the way we do.

Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert; narrated by Maya Barton; release date 8-07-18

This YA novel sounds like a heartbreaker (but like a really good heartbreaker).

“Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.

Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle…When Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she has to make the most difficult decision yet about her future.”

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim; narrated by Greta Jung, Keong Sim; Release date: 08-07-18

“When the communist-backed army from the north invades her home, 16-year-old Haemi Lee, along with her widowed mother and ailing brother, is forced to flee to a refugee camp along the coast. For a few hours each night, she escapes her family’s makeshift home and tragic circumstances with her childhood friend, Kyunghwan. Focused on finishing school, Kyunghwan doesn’t realize his older and wealthier cousin, Jisoo, has his sights set on the beautiful and spirited Haemi – and is determined to marry her before joining the fight. But as Haemi becomes a wife, then a mother, her decision to forsake the boy she always loved for the security of her family sets off a dramatic saga that will have profound effects for generations to come.”

Alright, that’s it for me this week! More next week and in the meantime, you can always say hi on twitter, where I’m msmacb or via email at



Notable Audiobook News

Sponsored by Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

A battle of wills between mother and daughter reveals the frailty and falsehood of familial bonds in award-winning playwright and filmmaker Zoje Stage’s tense novel of psychological suspense, Baby Teeth, read by Gabra Zackman.

Hey there audiobook lovers,

I just finished listening to the first novel in the Red Sparrow Trilogy, which I picked up because both my parents raved about the book. Aside from the fact that I’m slightly weirded out by the fact that my parents won’t stop talking to me about how much they enjoyed this Very Sexy Spy novel, I have to say I mostly agree with them. It’s a really entertaining thriller, and was definitely a trip to be listening to when the news about Maria Butina broke.

What are y’all listening to? Loving? Hating? Let me know either via twitter at msmacb and/or email at

Notable Audiobook News

The folks at St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio are blending a podcast and a novel. They’ve created The Girls, a Young Adult fiction thriller podcast based on Courtney Summers’ forthcoming YA novel, Sadie.

“Alternating between narrative and podcast script, Sadie dives into the dark side of teen lives, following the story of a young girl on a mission to bring her sister’s killer justice. The Girls podcast brings Sadie to life, following the journey of West McCray (a radio personality captivated by Sadie’s story) as he follows in her steps, determined to track her down before she becomes the killer’s next victim.”

The publishers are hoping to get audiences hooked on the story before the book’s release in September. They say, “What’s so unique about this series is that the podcast and book complement each other and drive audience back and forth. The podcast stands alone–and you don’t need to read the book to understand it. But if you listen to the podcast first, you’ll want to read the book to get Sadie’s unique perspective in her narrated chapters. If you read the book first, you’ll want to listen to hear the (30+!) voices scripted into the podcast chapter and how the characters come alive in audio.”

Yes, this is in part a really good way to drum up hype for the September release of Summers’ book. But Summers’ also writes excellent books and this is a really interesting idea. I’m looking forward to see how it turns out.

Over at BoingBoing, the great Cory Doctorow is celebrating Google’s commitment to DRM-free audiobooks. As he (rightly) states:

“Audible controls more than 90% of the audiobook market, making it the last bastion of DRM in audiobooks — competitors like Downpour and sell all the same books without DRM, and the audiobooks you get at your local library have been DRM-free for years…Once you control 90% of a market, you are more likely to lose users than gain them, and so anything you can do to lock those users in to your platform helps you more than it hurts. It’s a signature Big Tech move, the kind of thing that monopolies use to shore up their dominance for the long term.”

But never fear, Doctorow continues, “Google has just launched a DRM-free audiobook store that duplicates nearly the entire catalog at Audible. When you buy your audiobooks from Google Play you can download them to any device, play it on any device, convert them, archive them, back them up. If you decide you don’t want to use Google products in the future, you won’t lose your audiobooks. It’s fucking amazing.”

Read the whole article here.

I may have written about these folks before, but I’m kind of an accessibility nut so I think it’s worth mentioning their good work again:

WE4U is a volunteer organization working in Odisha, Delhi, Bangalore and West Bengal for eight years providing audio textbooks to visually challenged students. At a press conference one of the organization’s members, Abhaya Mohanta, said, “Audiobooks are the only way to study for visually impaired students apart from Braille textbooks. There are 30 million blind students all over India but only 19 Braille Presses across India. We are converting all textbooks into audio format so that school and college students can listen to it and study. We are covering entire Odisha and some other states. Around 500 books have converted into audiobooks so far.” Read the full article here.

Audible is investing in the audiobook talent of the future:

Drama school LAMDA has announced a three-year partnership with Audible aimed at developing the “next generation” of acting talent.”

“Audible will give the school £150,000 to the school “to develop acting talent through scholarships and training opportunities in audio entertainment. As part of the collaboration, LAMDA students will develop original audio plays in collaboration with Audible.

The audiobook seller will also fund a scholarship to support an undergraduate student on LAMDA’s BA Professional Acting course, covering the full three years of tuition fees. The scholarship will be provided to a student who requires financial assistance and has an interest in audio recording.

LAMDA and Audible will provide audio skills training workshops at Audible’s studios, which will include classes on microphone technique, creating voice reels and career advice. Audible will also fund new technology to be installed at LAMDA’s training facilities.”

Listen, Audible may be a behemoth and one of Corporate Overloads but you’re (probably) never going to hear me complain about a corporation giving a school a bunch of money. Read the full article here.

I always feel a bit weird when so many of the news links involve one specific company (in this case, and in most cases, Audible/Amazon) but there’s no getting around the fact that Audible has largely cornered the audiobook market (though perhaps that will change if Google continues to step up; see above).

While Amazon’s “Prime Day” is over, a significantly discounted Audible membership is available through the end of July. Getchyer discount while the getting is good and then take a look at this list of 2018 books you may want to buy with those brand new Audible credits (or your Google audiobooks credit, or download from your local public library!) No joke, every single one of the books on this list is a book I am hoping to read (and in some cases, already have lined up in my queue.

Prime Day: 12 Great Audiobooks You Should Listen To Right Now

That’s all your audiobook news for the week!

Until next week,



Rioters Writing about Audiobooks

Heya Audiophiles,

Happy Thursday! I’m on the road this week, so howdy from toasty Colorado! It’s been a busy couple of months of traveling for me, which means I haven’t had as much time to keep up with the audiobooks posts on everyone’s favorite site, Book Riot. So I thought we could take a look at some of the Book Riot Audiobook posts that I, and perhaps you as well, may have missed over the past few months.

We’re giving away $500 of the year’s best YA! Click here, or on the image below to enter:

As you may know, there are few things that bug me more than when people claim that listening to audiobooks is somehow “less than” reading the print book. Not only is it ablest, it’s just not accurate. Rioter Dana breaks it down in this Audiobooks vs. Reading post, but I wanted to highlight one particularly interesting note here:

“There’s a fair amount of research on the subject of comprehension in audiobooks vs reading. The most helpful and positive of these that I came across was that of Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, of the University of Texas, Austin and Austin NPR’s Two Guys on Your Head. On reading: ‘When you read something, you are looking at symbols on a page, and your brain is busy filling in all the blanks. Like the sounds of the voices, the scene, the inflection, the deeper meaning, the plot, etc.’ On audiobooks: ‘Because you can’t go back and reread something, you’re much more likely to do a better job of trying to extract the gist of what someone meant when you’re hearing them than when you’re reading.’”

Danika Ellis has discovered that few sounds get her to sleep more than the sound of whispering. This prompted her to ask our fellow Rioters if there were any audiobooks that were particularly soothing and voila; 13 Soothing Audiobooks to Fall Asleep To was born!

Do yourself a favor and read this beautiful piece from Rioter Gretchen about the closest thing she has to a “spiritual practice.” Check out the lovely excerpt below and then read the whole thing here: The Salve of Beach Glass and Audiobooks.

“The voices of the book along with the rhythm of my glass hunt drown out my ordinarily noisy brain. With my mind quiet, I can watch the terns with their black streaked heads dive for food, I can watch the storm clouds build over Lake Michigan with angry unnameable grace. Sometimes, for a moment, or an hour—beauty.”

The Infamous Kelly Jensen has 3 Award-Winning YA Audiobooks for your Summer Enjoyment here.

Love audiobooks but not being tied to a single book for 23 hours? Never fear, shorter audiobook lover! Rioter Laura Sackton has 50 Must Read Audiobooks under 10 hours for you to choose from. The list includes some of my personal faves, like Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Where’d You Go Bernadette?

One of my favorite things about audiobooks is that you can learn stuff while doing other, boring but necessary things like folding laundry or commuting to work. Rioter Sarah has 12 Audiobooks to Listen to On Your Commute to Make You Sound Smart. One of Nichols’ suggestions? So You Want To Talk About Race by the brilliant Ijeoma Olou. Nichols says, “ contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the ‘N’ word.” Bonus: this book is narrated by one of my favorite fiction narrators, Bahni Turpin.

Because Pride Month should never really be over, Laura Sackton has 15 Audiobook Memoirs Written and Read by LGBTQ authors.

And if you want to listen to a good mystery on audiobook while road tripping, like I did when I listened to The Passenger on my way to Tahoe and arrived in the woods by myself, certain I was about to be murdered? Great! Rioter Emily has the Best Mystery Audiobooks for Road Trips for all your nailbiting (but keep at least one hand on the wheel!) needs.

Love Fantasy? Alex Acks has 35 of The Best Fantasy Audiobooks (and Series)! What does that mean? Alex explains, “This list runs the gamut from epic to contemporary fantasy, from the dark to the light, because fantasy as a subgenre is a wonderfully open sandbox for authors to play in. Look for gods and monsters, heroes and villains, and a lot of ordinary people who have had greatness and plot complications thrust upon them.”

If your smarty-pants needs weren’t met by those books to listen to on your commute, Sophia Lefevre has 20 History Audiobooks You’ll Want To Listen To. Sophia says, “Reading a traditional history book (a work of nonfiction, not a textbook) felt flat and dry. Deciding to make one last effort, I tried history audiobooks. This turned out to be the “Just Right” solution for me.” Check out which she thinks are the best of the best here.

That’s all for me this week! As always, feel free to get in touch with me on twitter where I’m msmacb or my email at

Until next week,




Ears and Tears: Audiobooks That’ll Make You Cry

Howdy audiobook lovers,

Whatcha been listening to? Thanks to the wildly effusive reviews of the Book Riot Insiders during our last Audiobooks Chat, I’m listening to Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Although it seems like I am the last person on earth who hasn’t read the books or watched the show, I’ll give a quick summary (no spoilers, I promise).

Just for Book Riot readers: sign up for an Audible account, and get two audiobooks free!

Claire Randall and her husband are on a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands in 1945, celebrating her return from war, where she was a nurse, when she walks through an ancient, standing stone circle. Immediately, she’s transported to the year 1743, where she’s a “Sassenach—an ‘outlander’—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans.”

This is not the type of book I normally gravitate towards–-I’m not much of a historical fiction, fantasy, or romance reader and Outlander is definitely a mashup of those three genres. I am, however, really enjoying the Scottish accents and the writing is excellent. I don’t know that I’ll make it through all of the books, but I’m way more intrigued than I would have thought and also…it’s a pretty steamy read, at least so far.

Now, I may have mentioned this a time or two, but I spent many years as a young adult librarian at a public library. And in addition to thinking teens are pretty freaking great, I’m also a huge fan of YA literature. Which is why I am especially jealous of all of you who can enter this giveaway: We’re giving away $500 of the year’s best YA fiction and nonfiction so far. $500 is a LOT of books and whoever wins will be set for reading material for the foreseeable future. Could it be you? Enter here.

A few newsletters ago, I mentioned an article that said audiobooks produce a more emotional reaction in readers than film adaptations of the same title. Some of you chimed in with stories of your most emotional listens.

Becky says, “Since I get emotional watching movies or TV and reading a book or article, listening to audiobooks get the same treatment. One memorable experience for me happened while I was listening to The Kite Runner in the car while I was driving somewhere by myself. By the second CD, I was distraught by the horrors of what was happening and needed to pull into a rest area to read the back of the cd box to help me decide whether to keep going with the novel. Strangely enough, I was relieved to discover it was a fiction book and not someone’s true story. Even though I know much of what happened in The Kite Runner really did take place, hearing a fictionalized version gave my emotions a little buffer space. Tears still fell, but I wasn’t distraught.”

This is kind of the opposite reaction that I had listening to Star of the North. It’s a fictional novel, so I assumed some of the worst/hardest to believe parts about North Korea’s government were exaggerated or outright fabricated. When I got to the end and read that everything was based on actual accounts of prisoners/programs implemented by the government, etc., it was even more chilling. It’s interesting how fiction can be a buffer for our emotional distress and the various reactions we have when we find out how much of the story is true. Also, I’m clearly desperate for someone to talk about Star of the North with. Have you read it? Tell me your thoughts @mamacb or email me at

Danni mentioned that, like my friend Emily, she didn’t cry at either the movie or the book of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (literally how is this possible?!). But she has a rec that might just crack even Emily’s cold, dead heart. She says, “I never never never cry at books or movies… I didn’t cry at the PERKS movie or book. But I was absolutely SOBBING uncontrollably while listening to Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley (highly recommend!).”

As for me, here are the last three audiobooks I remember shedding tears while listening to but still loved.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
So the kind of stuff that makes me cry isn’t when a character has some kind of deep, intense, trauma (and it’s not spoiling anything to tell you that Eleanor indeed has that) but more often it’s petty cruelty that does me in (and Eleanor faces plenty of that in this novel as well). See, Oliphant is a bit of an odd duck, both in terms of her behavior and looks. Unfortunately for her, she works in an office where the social dynamics are akin to a high school cafeteria.

However, it’s not just mean/sad stories that get my waterworks going but also when someone refuses to play that horrible game and shows genuine kindness and caring to the aggrieved party. And that’s really when I started to lose it. The kindness that her fellow coworker, Raymond, shows Eleanor and the way they develop a deep, meaningful friendship made me grateful I was listening to the audiobook and didn’t end up with embarrassing tear blotches on the pages of the book.

HungerHunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Ok, sometimes the big trauma makes me cry, too. I don’t know what my reaction would have been reading this in print, but hearing Gay narrate it made me lose. my. shit. You can hear her voice crack as she recounts the most painful experiences of her life and the impact they had on the rest of her life. It’s not easy listening but, like everything Gay does, it’s brilliant and deeply meaningful.

not my fathers son by alan cumming coverNot My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
It’s easy to think the successful actors we see on TV are trauma-free, well-adjusted individuals who get to go to fancy parties and collect big paychecks. This is especially true if they aren’t the type of celeb to cause a scene in hotel rooms or brawl with paparazzi. But that’s not always the reality and Alan Cumming is an example of a brilliant, successful actor who had it anything but easy growing up.

As the publisher notes, “Alan Cumming grew up in the grip of a man who held his family hostage, someone who meted out violence with a frightening ease, who waged a silent war with himself that sometimes spilled over onto everyone around him. That man was Alex Cumming, Alan’s father.”

What moved me so much about this book is how palpably you can feel Cumming trying to work through his complicated feelings about his father on the page.

He’s also, as one might expect, an excellent narrator and this smart, funny, and moving book will definitely make you shed a tear or…300.

I’m on the road next week, so I’ll be sending the next newsletter from Colorado!

Until then audiophiles, happy listening!



New Audiobooks for July!

Happy July, Audiophiles! Hope you are enjoying the summer sun (don’t forget sunscreen!) or, like me, hiding indoors from heat, bugs, and other outside summertime things. But whether your indoors or out, there are plenty of new audiobooks to keep you company.

Just for Book Riot readers: sign up for an Audible account, and get two audiobooks free!

But first! We’re giving away $500 of the year’s best YA fiction and nonfiction so far. THAT IS A LOT OF YA BOOKS, Y’ALL! Enter here.

New Audiobooks for July (publisher description in quotes)

It All Falls Down by Sheena Kamal; narrated by Bahni Turpin; release date: 07-03-18

The suicide of Nora Watts’ father filled her life with grief and unanswered questions. Her journey to understand the truth of his father’s life and death takes her from the “hazy Canadian Pacific Northwest to the gritty, hollowed streets of Detroit.” While Nora tracks down the secrets of her father’s life she thinks might help fill in the gaps of her own identity, back in the Pacific Northwest, the mistress of a billionaire turns up dead from an apparent overdose. The woman’s death has a connection to Nora, one that could end up killing her. I don’t usually write about sequels (this one is a sequel to The Lost Ones) and, having just started, I can tell you that if you want to listen to both, you should listen to The Lost Ones first because the ending revealed in the beginning of It All Falls Down. But I’m digging it so far!

The Future of Terrorism: ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the Alt-Right by Walter Laqueur and Christopher Wall; narrated by Christopher Price; release date: 07-03-18

We don’t always get the audiobooks we want, we get the ones we deserve. Terrorism isn’t a pleasant thing to read or think about but it’s something that we all reckon with–-whether we’re following coverage of the latest terrorist attack on the news or it happens down the street from where we live. Publishers Weekly says of The Future of Terrorism, “A brief, fast-paced historical overview leads to probing and provocative ruminations on the multifarious factors that draw young men toward violence in the service of an ideology … The authors’ nuanced perspective on a complex phenomenon will appeal to readers interested in what lies beyond the headlines.”

Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home by Anita Hill; narrated by Bahni Turpin; release date: 07-03-18.

Narrator Bahni Turpin is having a helluva month! She’s also the narrator of It All Falls Down and The Healing by Gayl Jones (mentioned below). But I’m thrilled to see Anita Hill’s book–-I’ve long felt that she was among the first two stand up and say #MeToo and #TimesUp, before there were hashtags and movements around issues of workplace sexual harassment.

In this book, the subject is not sexual harassment but the “crisis of home.” Hill “exposes its deep roots in race and gender inequities, which continue to imperil every American’s ability to achieve the American Dream…The achievement of that ideal, Hill argues, depends on each American’s ability to secure a place that provides access to every opportunity our country offers.” I’m really interested to hear her thoughts on this.

The Occasional Virgin by Hanan al-Shaykh; narrated by Soneela Nankani; release date: 07-10-18

The Occasional Virgin follows two women, Yvonne and Huda, “both women spent their childhoods in Lebanon—Yvonne raised in a Christian family, Huda in a Muslim one—and they now find themselves torn between the traditional worlds they were born into and the successful professional identities they’ve created.” More successful in career than relationships, the two women meet in London and “ a chance encounter with a man at Speaker’s Corner leads to profound repercussions for them both. As the novel continues, each woman will undertake her own quest for love and romance, revenge and fulfillment.” Revenge and fulfillment? YES, PLEASE!

If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi: Stories; written and read by Neel Patel; release date: 07-10-18

I know people say not to judge a book by its cover, but I am judging it by the title and I LOVE IT. I’m also a sucker for linked stories which, when I was writing fiction, was what I wanted to do. “In 11 sharp, surprising stories, Neel Patel gives voice to our most deeply held stereotypes and then slowly undermines them. His characters, almost all of who are first-generation Indian Americans, subvert our expectations that they will sit quietly by. We meet two brothers caught in an elaborate web of envy and loathing; a young gay man who becomes involved with an older man whose secret he could never guess; three women who almost gleefully throw off the pleasant agreeability society asks of them; and, in the final pair of linked stories, a young couple struggling against the devastating force of community gossip.”

The Healing by Gayl Jones narrated by Bahni Turpin; release date: 07-10-18

“Harlan Jane Eagleton is a faith healer, traveling by bus to small towns, converting skeptics, restoring minds and bodies. But before that she was a minor rock star’s manager, and before that a beautician. She’s had a fling with her rock star’s ex-husband and an Afro-German horse dealer; along the way she’s somehow lost her own husband, a medical anthropologist now traveling with a medicine woman in Africa. Harlan tells her story from the end backwards, drawing us constantly deeper into her world and the mystery at the heart of her tale – the story of her first healing.”

The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump by Michiko Kakutani; narrated by Tavia Gilbert; release date: 07-17-18

The New York Times’ infamous (former) book critic is back for a meditation on how to deal with our “post-truth” world. I know I’m not alone in feeling constantly overwhelmed by the way in which fact no longer seem to matter so if Kakutani can help us see our way through this, I’m all ears.

You’re on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir written and read by Parker Posey; release date: 07-24-18

I feel the need to personally apologize to each and every newsletter reader because HOW COULD I NOT KNOW PARKER POSEY WAS WRITING AND NARRATING AN AUDIOBOOK?! I love Posey so much. I’ve loved her since Party Girl–-the best ’90s movie about a wannabe librarian you’ll ever see–-but anyway, she’s hilarious and smart and I expect this audiobook will be the same.

“Parker takes us into her childhood home, behind the scenes of the indie film revolution in the ’90s, the delightful absurdity of the big-budget genre thrillers she’s turned into art in a whole new way, and the creativity that will always be part of both her acting and her personal life. With Posey’s memorable, hilarious and poignant voice, her audiobook gives the listener a feeling of traveling through not only a memoir, but an exploration, meditation, and celebration of what it means to be an artist. Buckle up and enjoy the journey.”


Trevor Noah Talks Audiobooks, and More Audiobook News

Happy Thursday, audiobook fans!

Greetings from Oklahoma! I’m writing this on Tuesday from the great state of Oklahoma–-I’m here because I’m working on a documentary about medical cannabis and the state is voting on a medical cannabis bill today. By the time you read this, we’ll know what happened! Time! It’s wild! Sorry, I’m a little punchy. Sleep hasn’t been much of a thing for me recently. But, as my 10th grade English teacher (shout out to Mr. Faggi!), AVANTI!

Just for Book Riot readers: sign up for an Audible account, and get two audiobooks free!

Trevor Noah’s audiobook, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, was chosen for Newark, New Jersey’s first citywide high school listening club. First, it’s just freaking awesome that the city created a high school listening club. I love that so much. And I think this is an excellent choice to introduce (or further expose) teens to the delights of audiobooks. If you haven’t listened to Born a Crime, I strongly recommend adding it to your list.

In an interview with CBS News, Noah talked about the power of the spoken word. “What I loved seeing how different people connect with the story when it is spoken to them. I’ve always been a storyteller. I come from a culture of storytellers. And so to have my book as part of the curriculum but as an audiobook is a completely different way for learners to learn not just about my story but also about South Africa’s story. A story of belonging, a story of segregation, a story of overcoming a lot of those obstacles.”

This storytelling prowess obviously helped Noah in his path to The Daily Show but it also helped him narrate the audiobook. In fact, narrating it gave him a new appreciation for his own words. He told CBS This Morning, “It forced me to visualize everything. When you’re writing a book, you’re in the words. You see the words, and you think through in a different way. When you’re performing the audiobook, I think the reason this became the biggest selling audiobook on Audible was because I poured my heart and soul in it…. I spent hours and hours going back (to the studio) for weeks,” he said. “I remembered each person in such a vivid way because I had to embody them for the story.”

The high school students of Newark, New Jersey are in for a treat (and so are you if you haven’t listened to Born a Crime yet!)

More Audiobook News

A new study claims that “audiobooks are better at eliciting an emotional response than movies or TV.” The University College of London (partnering with Audible) had “102 participants listen to or watch gripping scenes from eight major books: Alien by Alan Dean Foster, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and The Silence of the Lambs by Richard Harris. The audiobook scenes raised pulses, body temperatures, and the skin’s electrical conductance higher than corresponding scenes from film and TV adaptations. However, The Guardian notes that ‘participants reported that the videos were ‘more engaging’ than the audiobooks by about 15% on average.’”

I very much want to make my friend Emily who did not cry at the end of The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie. I won’t reveal any spoilers, I’ll just say that I had read the book before seeing the movie and was therefore prepared for the emotional stuff at the end of the movie and still SOBBED LIKE A BABY. The first thing I had to do when I got home from the movie was throw my sweatshirt in the wash because the sleeve was covered in my snot and tears. But Emily? Didn’t shed a single tear. I’m wondering if that would be different if she listened to the audiobook or if she is really, truly dead inside (I’m 99% sure she doesn’t read this newsletter, but I guess I’ll find out for sure after this!)

Which audiobooks have made you the most emotional? What m Let me know (or just say hi!) on twitter at msmacb or at

The new Apple Books redesign will have a dedicated Audiobooks tab as well as a feature that lets users keep track of their audiobook listening progress. Via MobileSyrup

Buzzfeed contributor Maris Kreizman outlines some of her favorite author-narrated audiobooks. Via Buzzfeed

In a similar vein, Bustle has a list of “11 New Books That Are Even Better as Audiobooks.” Notice that David Sedaris’ “Calypso” made both this and the Buzzfeed list? I may have to add this to my TBR list–-I do enjoy some good Sedaris Snark.

Roadtripping this summer? The Manual offers some thoughts on the “12 Best Audiobooks for Road Trips” and Bustle has a list of “9 New Audiobooks For Road Trips To Keep You Entertained On The Long Drives Of Summer.”

Happy listening and until next week,



Reader Recommendations and A North Korea Reading List

Hello Audiophile friends, I missed you!

I hope you have all been listening to fabulous books as your summer kicks off! I listened to a book that was so good that I’ve chosen to center this entire newsletter around it. BUT FIRST!

Sponsored by Macmillan Audio

From B.A. Paris, author of the New York Times bestsellers Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown comes the new twisty, gripping audiobook Bring Me Back.

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Listen to an excerpt now!

Newsletter reader Harise has some recommendations to share:

“You mentioned a reality show was involved [in The Favorite Sister].  This reminded me of a really good audio I heard recently, Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld.  It is actually a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, but engaging (pun intended) even if you were not familiar with the Austen novel.  Eligible’s reality show is only part of the story but a big part and it gives an interesting behind the scenes look at a show like “The Bachelor”.  But the story is satisfying and well written and well narrated.”

I also listened to the audio of Eligible and think Harise’s description is very accurate. It’s a super fun, satisfying listen.

Harise also recommends “The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan, [a book] about diamonds, rings and engagements, based on a real pioneer of women in business, Frances Gerety, who worked for DeBeers and I believe came up with the slogan that put diamonds on the must-have list for the hopeful bride. (I needed to look up some details and I swear, while the reviews are good, the reviewer saw some things I either missed or took differently)  There are several in-depth couples profiled in the book, fictional and fascinating. The story of Frances, I believe is mostly real but probably a little embellished.”

OK, So I spent a good chunk of last week listening to The Star of the North by D.B. John and HOLY GUACAMOLE I COULD NOT STOP.  It’s got all the things I like in a thriller: politics, a female protagonist (kicking ass), and spies. It also has a lot of things I definitely don’t like: descriptions of torture and truly appalling human rights abuses. But I digress.

The book begins in 1998 when a Korean American teenager is kidnapped from a beach in South Korea by North Korean operatives. “Twelve years later, her brilliant twin sister, Jenna, is still searching for her, and ends up on the radar of the CIA. When evidence that her sister may still be alive in North Korea comes to light, Jenna will do anything possible to rescue her–including undertaking a daring mission into the heart of the regime.” Jenna’s story is interwoven with two other narratives: one from a high ranking North Korean official and another from an older woman who starts trading in a rural area of North Korea.

So, this is a great novel. And I was planning on doing a standard paragraph talking about it in the newsletter. And then I got to the epilogue and found out a whole bunch of stuff I assumed was either exaggerated or made up was real. While it was disturbing to realize that (I’m being annoyingly vague, I know, but I don’t want to give too much away), it was also fascinating and made me want to learn more.

The author of Star of the North, D.B. John, anticipated that folks might be curious about the facts behind various parts of the novel and offered some suggested reading. I’ve pulled a few books from his list and added a few of my own for…

A North Korea Reading List

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa & Risa Kobayashi; narrated by Brian Nishii

This one has been on my TBR for awhile (I may have even mentioned it here before) but for some reason haven’t gotten around to it yet. It’s one of the more recently published books on the list: “In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life.”

The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Kang Chol-Hwan & Pierre Rigoulot; narrated by Stephen Park

This title was mentioned more than once in the epilogue and while it’s not going to be an uplifting listen, it is the story of the first survivor of a North Korean “re-education” camp. The author managed to escape the camp and write his story, giving us one of the girl looks into life in a North Korean gulag.

The Girl With Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee & David John; narrated by Josie Dunn

“As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom, and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life…Aged 17, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be 12 years before she was reunited with her family…And 12 years and two lifetimes later, she would return to the North Korean border in a daring mission to spirit her mother and brother to South Korea on one of the most arduous, costly and dangerous journeys imaginable.”

Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home written and read by Laura Ling and Lisa Ling

The author of Star of the North didn’t mention this book in his epilogue, but it’s hard to see how the story couldn’t have had an influence on the premise of his book: an abducted sister hidden away inside North Korea and the other sister’s quest to get her back. Laura was working on a documentary about citizen fleeing North Korea for China when she was abducted from the border and sentenced to twelve months in a labor camp. “This riveting true account of the first-ever trial of an American citizen in North Korea’s highest court carries readers deep inside the world’s most secretive nation while it poignantly explores the powerful, inspiring bonds of sisterly love.”


June’s Best New Audiobooks

Happy anniversary, audiophiles!

You probably don’t know this, but it’s our one year anniversary! Last year at this time, I took over the audiobooks newsletter and it has been so much fun getting to know some of you and sharing all my weird, random thoughts about audiobooks and hearing yours. So happy anniversary to us!

Sponsored by Flatiron Books and Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Legendary is the sequel to the bestselling breakout audiobook Caraval by Stephanie Garber. After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister, Scarlett. They should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t quite free yet. She made a bargain with a criminal to deliver Caraval Master Legend’s true name. The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more. Welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun. Listen to an audiobook excerpt to hear more.

To celebrate our anniversary, I got you this contest/giveaway! Ok, fine, all the newsletters are promoting this contest, but you could still win $500 to your favorite bookstore and that’s a kickass present, no matter what the reason is! So use this link and enter to win!

So right after our anniversary, I’m abandoning you. My sister is getting married next week, so I am going to be out of town the next two weeks doing wedding shenanigans. The newsletter will still arrive in your inbox on Thursday but I wanted to give you all a taste of the new audiobooks for June before I take off. So without further ado, here are some good lookin’ audiobooks coming out in June.

Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survivalby Kelly Sundberg; narrated by Andi Arndt; release date: 06-05-18

You know I love me a good memoir about something terrible and painful (and, hopefully, coming out on the other side). This one sounds like it’s got all those things in spades. “Kelly Sundberg’s husband, Caleb, was a funny, warm, supportive man and a wonderful father to their little boy Reed. He was also vengeful and violent…To understand herself and her violent marriage, Sundberg looks to her childhood in Salmon, a small, isolated mountain community known as the most redneck town in Idaho. Like her marriage, Salmon is a place of deep contradictions, where Mormon ranchers and hippie back-to-landers live side-by-side; a place of magical beauty riven by secret brutality; a place that takes pride in its individualism and rugged self-sufficiency, yet is beholden to church and communal standards at all costs.” It sounds like this will be a good pick for those who enjoyed Educated by Tara Westover (which I definitely did!).

The Boy on the Beach: My Family’s Escape from Syria and Our Hope for a New Home by Tima Kurdi; narrated by Soneela Nankani; release date: 06-05-18

At the risk of being too preachy (which I definitely am), I really think we could all benefit from reading more stories from refugees and immigrants. “Alan Kurdi’s body washed up on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea on September 2, 2015, and overnight, the political became personal, as the world awoke to the reality of the Syrian refugee crisis. Tima Kurdi first saw the shocking photo of her nephew in her home in Vancouver, Canada. But Tima did not need a photo to understand the truth – she and her family had already been living it.”

What follows is the story of Tima’s happy childhood in Damascus and her emigration to Canada when she was 22. At first, the memoir is a story of the adjustments of a new life in a new world. But as the situation in Syria deteriorates, Tima starts trying to help her family back in Syria leave. “Although thwarted by politics, hounded by violence, and separated by vast distances, the Kurdis encountered setbacks at every turn, they never gave up hope. And when tragedy struck, Tima suddenly found herself thrust onto the world stage as an advocate for refugees everywhere, a role for which she had never prepared but that allowed her to give voice to those who didn’t have an opportunity to speak for themselves.”

Florida written and read by Lauren Groff; release date: 06-05-18

The author of Fates and Furies is back with a collection of short stories about her home state. “The stories in this collection span characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but Florida – its landscape, climate, history, and state of mind – becomes its gravitational center. Storms, snakes, and sinkholes lurk at the edge of everyday life, but the greater threats and mysteries are of a human, emotional, and psychological nature.” I was really impressed by the slow, magnificent burn of Fates and Furies and I’m really excited to hear these stories. (Also yay for the author narrating it!)

The Secret Life of Cows written and read by Rosamund Young; release date: 06-12-18

The book title and cover alone sold me on this (I mean it’s the secret life of cows! COWS!) but after reading the description, perhaps it should come with a warning? Personally, I don’t eat beef BUT if you don’t want to hear about the awesomeness of the animal in your tummy, you may want to consider if you can handle hearing about “how these creatures love, play games, and form lifelong friendships.” But if you’re more comfortable with the circle of life than I am, it sounds like there’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from the book. “She imparts hard-won wisdom about the both moral and real-world benefits of organic farming. (If preserving the dignity of animals isn’t a good enough reason for you, consider how badly factory farming stunts the growth of animals, producing unhealthy and tasteless food.)”

The Black Album by Hanif Kureishi; narrated by: Waleed Akhtar; release date: 06-14-18

“Shahid is a clean-cut student trying to make an impression on his college lecturer, Deedee Osgood, who gives his spirits a lift when she takes him to a naked rave party. Shahid’s academic prospects are threatened by the intervention of his gangster brother, Chili, who, with his Armani suits and Gucci loafers, moves into Shahid’s bedsit as a hideout, bringing unnecessary danger and excitement with him. Set in London in 1989, the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fatwah, The Black Album is a thriller with a characteristically lively background: raves, ecstasy, religious ferment and sexual passion in a dangerous time.” NAKED RAVE PARTIES IN 1989 LONDON?! YES, PLEASE!!

What are you most looking forward to listening to in June? Let me know at or on twitter at msmacb.

I’ll see you in two weeks unless I die in a fiery plane crash which I am definitely extremely terrified of happening!