With commutes, road trips and errands, audiobooks are great for book lovers—although, when given the time, we’d all prefer a physical book in our hands, the crisp swish of pages, the aroma of wood, vanilla and glue, the sanctity of reading words from the hearts of trees. So each month, SheReads editorial director Lauren Wise curates a list of binge-worthy audiobooks, new and old. An added bonus: as the She Writes Press and SparkPress associate publisher, she also highlights the indie author audiobooks you should listen to now.
Feature Image Credit: @thebookishalix
Answer Creek by Ashley E. Sweeney
Ada is a woman of great determination, but survival and willpower often don’t go hand-in-hand. In this enticing account of the Donner-Reed party, Ada must battle the elements of nature when she and her companions are stranded in a blizzard-filled winter in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Many won’t make it, and those who do survive will never be the same. Mastered with a pioneering spirit and gripping loss, only twists of fate will decide the destiny of Ada and her traveling party. The 2021 IPPY Awards Gold Winner in West Mountain – Best Regional Fiction, Answer Creek was researched with impeccable detail and filled with imagery as wide as the western prairie. It blends history and hearsay in an unforgettable story of challenging the limits of human endurance and experiencing the triumphant power of love. It highlights the challenges faced by women during the late 1800s, and I particularly loved the ending.
That’s Not a Thing by Jacqueline Friedland
This book swept gold medals in New Adult Fiction and Romance, and rightfully so. It explores the messy concept of closure, all the types of love we encounter in our lives, and the person we all hope to grow into after those loves. Engaged to a former Ivy League football player and baby-saving doctor, Meredith Altman had it all. She didn’t always though, this being her second engagement after her first one ended disastrously and left her completely shattered. She’s past that now, though … or so she thought. When Meredith has a chance encounter with her ex-fiance and learns he’s been diagnosed with ALS, she begins to fall under his spell once again—but is it as a romantic love or as an overprotective friend? A true-to-heart story about finding love, losing love, and discovering one’s self, That’s Not a Thing‘s characters are richly drawn, realistic and relatable, and also inspiring. It’s a delicious escape.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better? In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting blockbuster novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place. This New York Times best-selling phenomenon is an amazing feel-good read.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
In this award-winning read, Trevor Noah tells his wild coming-of-age tale during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa. It’s a story that begins with his mother throwing him from a moving van to save him from a potentially fatal dispute with gangsters, then follows the budding comedian’s path to self-discovery through episodes both poignant and comical. Noah’s virtuoso embodiment of all the characters from his childhood, and his ability to perform accents and dialects effortlessly in English, Xhosa, and Zulu, garnered the Audie Award for Best Male Narrator in 2018. Nevertheless, Noah’s devoted and uncompromising mother—as voiced by her son—steals the show. This book is an amazing reminder of gratitude, a first-hand account of the horrors of the apartheid, and the polygot makes the Xhosa and Zulu languages of his homeland sing in a way that couldn’t happen on the page.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian-American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band – and meeting the man who would become her husband – her Korean-ness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was 25, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her. This memoir is super straight-forward, poignant, a tender—and as a foodie, I love the book’s descriptions of the Korean delicacies and the way food ties us to those who have passed.
A Dream to Die For by Susan Z. Ritz (Sept 9)
This award-winner crosses multiple genres—crime, fantasy, romance and sci-fi—and is ideal for fans of creepy suspense and murder mysteries. Celeste had a dream, a very strange dream about a woman in a window and lilacs and someone’s hands around her neck. It was odd, but Celeste hoped her therapist, and Cult leader, would help her understand it. Until she finds him dying, with his files of intimate dreams and secrets of the town missing. When she becomes the primary suspect, she enlists the help of an old friend and tries to clear her name. It proves difficult though, as they become the killer’s next target. Darkly comic and compelling, I love creepy cult stories that don’t cross over into disturbing—so this was the perfect read to quench a thirst for a thriller.
Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
Part puzzle, part revenge tale, part ghost story, this kaleidoscopic novel spins half a century of Vietnamese history and folklore. 1986: The teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family loses her way in an abandoned rubber plantation while fleeing her angry father and is forever changed. 2011: A young, unhappy Vietnamese American woman disappears from her new home in Saigon without a trace. The fates of these two women are inescapably linked, bound together by past generations, by ghosts and ancestors, by the history of possessed bodies and possessed lands. Alongside them, we meet new characters and timelines that bring us one step closer to understanding what binds them all. This audiobook is thrilling and witty, with magic that ranges from lovely to benevolent. And as someone who loved traveling through Vietnam, Kupersmith indelibly illustrates the ways in which Vietnam’s legacies of colonialism, war, and violence against women continue to haunt.
This 2017 Audie Award Finalist for Audiobook of the Year is written and narrated by the megatalented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder Shonda Rimes. It chronicles how saying yes for one year changed her life – and how it can change yours, too. The ubertalented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say no when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No. And there was the side benefit of saying no for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear. Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: Just for one year, try to say yes to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed – and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life – and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes. Rimes’ narration is hilarious, uplifting, and inspiring.
No Rules by Sharon Dukett
In this multiple award-winning memoir, author Sharon Dukett has to grow up faster than she thought when she leaves her sheltered home life at sixteen to join the hippies. Throughout the early 1970s, Sharon is finding her way through the US and Canada and experiencing life at a higher level than most teenagers. It may have seen like a rebellious streak, but her life is now a reminder and example of empowerment for girls and women everywhere; of the courage and right that every girl has to grow, learn, and become the woman she wants to be. It’s an illuminating coming-of-age account of a counterculture journey, exploring intergenerational trauma, love, and finding ourselves despite unconventional paths. Even famous author Amy Ferris stated “Give it as a gift to every woman who needs to believe in the greatness of her own life.” It’s a must-listen, even if it’s only for the fun memories and fast-paced transformation of a young girl to an outspoken woman before her time.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
This is a gripping mystery about a woman who thinks she’s found the love of her life – until he disappears. Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers – Owen’s 16-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother. As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity – and why he really disappeared. Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future – one neither of them could have anticipated. With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and evocative family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me is a riveting mystery, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn.
Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as a Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford
Heat is a marvelous hybrid: a memoir of Buford’s kitchen adventure, the story of Batali’s amazing rise to culinary (and extra-culinary) fame, a dazzling behind-the-scenes look at a famous restaurant, and an illuminating exploration of why food matters. From an incredibly interesting literary figure – former editor of Granta, former fiction editor at The New Yorker, acclaimed author of Among the Thugs – this is a sharp, funny, exuberant, close-up account of Buford’s headlong plunge into the life of a professional cook. Told in a fast-paced, candid narrative, Buford describes three frenetic years of trials and errors, disappointments and triumphs, as he worked his way up the Babbo ladder from “kitchen bitch” to line cook…his relationship with the larger-than-life Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters…and his immersion in the arts of butchery in Northern Italy, of preparing game in London, and making handmade pasta at an Italian hillside trattoria. As someone who took a two week cooking course in the middle of nowhere in Tuscany, I savored this book and its colorful descriptive writing: what shines through is the story of Bill Buford falling in love with food, and his passionate journey of learning.