5 of the Best Audiobooks for Your Next Sick Day

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Kendra Winchester

Contributing Editor

Kendra Winchester is a Contributing Editor for Book Riot where she writes about audiobooks and disability literature. She is also the Founder of Read Appalachia, which celebrates Appalachian literature and writing. Previously, Kendra co-founded and served as Executive Director for Reading Women, a podcast that gained an international following over its six-season run. In her off hours, you can find her writing on her Substack, Winchester Ave, and posting photos of her Corgis on Instagram and Twitter @kdwinchester.

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If you’ve ever been ill for an extended period, you may be familiar with the situation where you find yourself stuck on the couch for days or weeks at a time. When this happens to me, I find myself listening to about a dozen different audiobooks, jumping back and forth, rarely settling on a single story for very long. Having a disabling chronic illness can make me feel discouraged or frustrated that I can’t get up and do other things. But my silver lining is having the opportunity to spend hours with so many of the audiobooks being published these days. Here are some of the audiobooks for a sick day that captured my attention enough that I stayed with them until the very end.

Growing Up Disabled in Australia Edited by Carly Findlay, Narrated by the Author

I often feel encouraged by listening to the stories of other disabled folks. There’s just this sense of solidarity being ill, stuck on the couch, while listening to other people describe experiencing the same thing. Growing Up Disabled in Australia, a recent favorite of mine, features a diverse range of disabled, chronically ill, Deaf, and neurodivergent writers who share their life experiences. Carly Findlay put together such a beautiful anthology, and her narration is fabulous too!

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Narrated by the Author

Since I was small, I’ve always loved learning about the natural world around me. So when I first heard about Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, I knew it was in the center of my wheelhouse. Kimmerer uses both her skills as a botanist and her cultural background as an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation to describe the life of plants, weaving together an incredible look at nature, her community, and the larger world around her. This is an audiobook to be savored and mulled over. Often, I would listen to a chapter and pause to think over her words, often flipping back in a physical version to reread sections. There are few essay collections or memoirs that have captivated me like Braiding Sweetgrass.

Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic by Eric Eyre, Narrated by Michael David Axtell

When my chronic illness flares up and I can’t go anywhere, I usually begin missing my home in Appalachian Ohio. Right now in Appalachia, like much of the country, folks are fighting back against the opioid crisis, and journalists like Eric Eyre are raising awareness and pointing out the corruption of the drug manufacturing and distribution companies that played such a huge role in creating the dire circumstances Appalachia is in today. In particular, Eyre tells the story of Kermit, West Virginia, where a single pharmacy distributed over 12 million opioid pills during a three-year period to a town with a population of just 382 people. Eyre won a Pulitzer for his reporting, and it shows in his writing and eye for detail.

Lot by Bryan Washington, Narrated by the Author, Dion Graham, JD Jackson, and Bahni Turpin

I may be slow to the bandwagon, but I am finally here to celebrate Bryan Washington and his incredible work. Though his novel Memorial came out most recently, I wanted to start with his short story collection, Lot. Each and every story in this collection captures your attention from the first few minutes. The rotating series of narrators helps listeners move from one story from another. Washington’s characters are so vivid as he reveals their quirks and eccentricities detail by tiny detail.

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden, Narrated by the Author

As a huge T Kira Madden fan, I may be 100% biased in stating this, but Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is one of my favorite memoirs in the last few years. The first time I read this memoir, I read it in print, so this time I wanted to make sure I listened to the audiobook, which Madden narrates herself. In print, I noticed her concise word choice and engrossing descriptions. On audio, I heard the nuance of her tone and rhythm, somehow communicating a whole new aspect of her story.