While I can never give up the pleasure of cracking open a physical book, sometimes a trusty audiobook does the job. Like when I’m traveling. Or going on a solo walk, stirring a pot of risotto, or folding laundry. Or just lying on the bed in a heap of exhaustion. But what makes an audiobook worthwhile, anyway? A gripping story, of course. Even more importantly, a narrator whose voice you want to listen to for hours at a time. Here are some suggestions to get you started…
Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
In her memoir, writer and podcaster Ashley C. Ford takes readers through the story of her childhood, from the absence of her incarcerated father to a harrowing event she experienced as an adult. It’s an amazing story of forgiveness and family and you should get your hands (or ears) on it as soon as possible. I’d suggest the audiobook, though, because it includes a bonus conversation between the author and writer Clint Smith where the two discuss how to process and transfer family stories for future generations. In her narration, Ford’s sincerity and vulnerability come through loud and clear.
Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica
This captivating thriller is a great companion for whatever ride you’re taking. A quiet community is shocked by a series of missing persons events only to discover a deep web of secrets within the neighborhood. The tension and suspense increases with each chapter and the narrators do an excellent job of playing into the drama. You’ll get so into it, you might even want to increase the speed to 2x.
Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology by Zibby Owens
Since we’re still dealing with pandemic life, you might as well embrace the fact that we’re all in this together. The editor of this collection, Zibby Owens, lovingly narrates essays from women in all walks of life as they tackle what it means to be a mother during a pandemic. The book is divided into sub-themes inspired by five things moms — pretty universally — don’t have time to do: eat, read, work out, breathe, and have sex. You’ll laugh and sigh in recognition throughout your listening then pass it onto every single one of your mom friends.
The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi
Finally, a movement we can all get behind. Kendra Adachi, the creator of the Lazy Genius movement, encourages readers to be strategic about what matters in their lives and be lazy about what doesn’t. Whether it’s your morning routine, relationships, work, or piles of mail, her approach helps you get through the important stuff and skip the rest. Her voice is super-friendly, and listening to the book will feel like having a long (albeit one sided) conversation with a girlfriend.
Stranger Care by Sarah Sentilles
It’s almost a shame to listen to this book since the floral cover would look so lovely on your nightstand. But it’s definitely worth the listen. Sarah Sentilles chronicles her experience as an adult navigating the foster care system in this beautiful love letter to her foster daughter, Coco. With the lightest touch, Sentilles draws from the natural world to weave parallels between her family and the wider world. It’s both heart-shattering and hopeful. And the fact that it’s narrated by Sentilles herself makes it all the more moving.
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I am so glad we didn’t have to wait long for Silvia Moreno-Garcia to release another book. Fans of Mexican Gothic will want to dive into her latest story, a lush noir thriller about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome officer, and the mystery of a missing woman they’re both desperate to find. What else do you need in a plot? Plus, it’s narrated by actress Gisela Chipe, whose voice I love.
Live Your Life by Amanda Kloots
Broadway performer Nick Cordero was the first celebrity I remember hearing about dying from Covid, and I remember equally well the subsequent shock that took hold of everyone. He was so young and had no pre-existing conditions. His wife, actress Amanda Kloots, has released a book that tells the story of their fairytale marriage, their experience with Covid, and how she’s now caring for their young son, Elvis, while navigating grief. Yes, if you’re listening while driving, you might have to pull over for a good cry. But there’s also a positive bent to her message that addresses the overall power of community to come together during times of need.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro has gifted us with a sci-fi story of a girl who happens to be a robot named Klara. Her mission is to save the human girl who chose her as an AF, or “artificial friend.” There are themes of AI consciousness and free will here that will stick with you long after the book is over. Narrator Sura Siu and her vibrant performance add to the unforgettable experience of listening to this story.
Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad
You’ll want to be sitting for this one. A heartfelt, deeply moving memoir of illness and recovery that traces the journalist’s journey from Leukemia diagnosis to remission and, ultimately, a trip of healing and self-discovery. The audiobook is read beautifully by the author herself and might move you to pick up a physical copy as well so you can get in there and underline some of the more profound passages.
The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson
If you’re looking for a way to tear your teen away from her screens to bond…over another screen, try listening to this fun and twisty mystery together. Stevie Bell, a modern day Nancy Drew, gets invited to work on a true crime podcast only to get caught up in a new muder case. The Truly Devious series is totally worth devouring in its entirety—there are four installments now—but The Box in the Woods is a stand-alone story, and the narrator is pitch perfect.