It’s been a while since I reached for an audiobook, but since moving to a new city (and almost immediately turning into a local because of the sheer number of complaints I have about the transit system), I’ve realized that I have certain requirements for my audiobooks:
1. Not Too Many Asides:
There are three things I do not like dealing with while on transit: one, the sound of trucks hurtling by the bus stop. Two, the unnecessarily shrill conversations about co-workers while on the bus. And three, the average of five PSAs on the trains—four of which are completely pointless, thank you very much. I would turn the volume up all the way if I didn’t have a not-so-unjustified fear of turning into exactly the type of person I would love to throw off the train.
So, the key is to find an audiobook that does not require you to fiddle with the volume in reaction to every external disturbance. Ideally, you want a book where the author doesn’t whisper at exactly the moment some human-sized rat is leaning on the horn. And rewinding an audiobook is such a pain. Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime fits this first requirement perfectly. Noah’s narrative voice is crisp, clear, and there is very little in the way of mumbling or whispering. You may yet turn out to be a menace to society what with the bursts of laughter and tears, but once you pick the volume, you never have to change it again. Plus, it’s a brilliant memoir.
2. Gripping! But Wait, No, Not That Gripping:
This is a subjective one. Because my commutes are on the short-side (for a city like Toronto, at least), I find that I cannot deal with audiobooks that are action-packed or involves a heist or two. Listening to Six of Crows on audio has made me hate both work as well as home because it’s such a drag to remove my headphones when I reach my destination.
On the other hand, I found Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee, read by Emily Zoo Weller, to be the perfect pacing for the short bursts of listening time. The novel is very character-driven—such fantastic, complex characters! voiced so perfectly!—and is written around a real disaster; it requires that you periodically deal with your riot of emotions before diving back in. Perfect for short, but frequent train rides.
3. Please Don’t Make Me Cry In Public:
I feel so conspicuous already, especially since I don’t believe in dressing down for any occasion, that crying in public is simply unacceptable. It’s just that I am completely hopeless at picking books that won’t make me cry. It doesn’t help that my tear ducts don’t listen to reason. For example, I managed to hold it together while listening to Outrun the Moon—Earthquake! Death! Racism!—but completely fell apart while listening to Jason Reynold’s As Brave As You, read by Guy Lockard. It follows two boys’ summer, visiting their grandparent in Virginia. Sure, it deals with some difficult questions about masculinity and familial bonds, but what parts do I cry at? The happy ones. So, if you’re anything like me, you could try something comedic? I wish I could help here, but I’m too busy pretending that I didn’t just swipe a tear off my cheek.
If, however, you’d like to test your eye-ducts by listening to a heart-wrenching novel, have you tried The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, lovingly rendered in audio format by Bahni Turpin, Raymond Lee, and Dominic Hoffman?