Audiobooks have come a long way: where once I used to hope that a book would someday be available as an audiobook now I find myself having the conundrum of deciding whether I want to read recent releases with my ears or eyeballs (or both!). The publishing industry has obviously realized how many audiobook lovers there are and thanks to technological advances we’re getting a lot more selection–and ways to listen. And it’s awesome. Especially with so many great 2016 audiobook releases. Here’s what we’re loving so far.
The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman: Neil Gaiman’s voice – deep, calm, with a patient British accent – makes for a delightfully soothing listen to an incredible collection of nonfiction works. I wandered through bookstores in New York City while listening to him talk to me about the importance of libraries, his own experience reading as a child, and how no book for a child is a “bad” book for a child. His essays are fantastic and you’ll want to highlight your copy of the book up and down, but I highly recommend listening to the audiobook – it brings you sort of one step closer to the personal stories and anecdotes Gaiman shares. —Nicole Brinkley
The Fireman by Joe Hill: Joe.Hill.narrated.by.Kate.Mulgrew. Need I say more? Okay… I will. Not only did this book inspire in me feelings of outrage, stress and, ultimately, hope, but Mulgrew’s narration added a tension to Hill’s story that only enhanced the feeling that I was experiencing Harper’s situation myself. Kate Mulgrew should narrate all the things and Joe Hill should write all the things. /gavel —Elizabeth Allen
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: This audiobook might be the surprise of the year for me. I don’t listen to a ton of audio because I have a short attention span for listening, and some of the author-read books I’ve tried have been big disappointments. Jahren’s memoir of her life in science is a delight, and the pop-science combined with her reading of it pushes it over the edge into “great” territory. It’s readily apparently that she is in love with science and discovery, passionate about the people on the journey with her, and I loved getting to know her as well as gaining a better understanding of the science of plants. I didn’t realize just how fascinating that could be. — Andi Miller
Shrill by Lindy West: If you are a person who appreciates unapologetic feminism, body positivity, and a well-placed poop joke, Lindy West’s Shrill might wind up being the best book of essays you have ever listened to in your life. Sandwiched between HILARIOUS jokes about reading high fantasy by Robert Jordan on the bus, and the situation with deeply disturbing high school choir outfits, Lindy has gifted us a “fat feminist abortion manifesto” (her words), because “people don’t expect to hear from women like that. And I want other women to see me do that and I want women’s voices to get louder.” I’ve long loved Lindy West’s amazing comedic timing in her writing for The Stranger, Jezebel, and The Guardian, and listening to her deliver her jokes on audio was kind of the most fantastic thing ever. She confesses that she never wanted to be the poster child for fighting virtual trolls and calling out rape jokes, yet she does it every day for everyone who wants women’s voices to get louder. She’s doing it for me, and she’s doing it for you. Thank you, Lindy West <3 —Rachel Smalter Hall
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz, Madeleine Maby (Narrator): I have a terrible habit of listening to murder mysteries/thrillers while driving alone through long, isolated stretches of highway. So when I put on Lisa Lutz’s The Passenger during a drive to Tahoe, I thought I was facing several nights of sleeping with the lights on. The opening lines were not reassuring: “In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death.” Well, great, glad I’m taking this narrator with me to a cabin in the woods. I needn’t have worried. Lutz’s protagonist, Tanya, certainly has skeletons in her closet but they’re more mysterious than creepy. As she flees her past, Tanya slips from identity to identity and meets an increasingly unpredictable cast of characters. Though I never completely trusted Tanya as a narrator, I was glad to be along for the ride. —Katie MacBride
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig: About 90% of my “reading” these days come from audiobooks and I’ve come to appreciate the recordings that are non-intrusive, where I can listen without really realizing I’m not reading a book myself. That is much easier said than done, but Kim Mai Guest nails it every time. Her narration let me sink in to this wonderful world of magic-based time travel, pirate ships, complicated family relationships, and a mixing pot of mythologies by perfectly, inobtrusively rendering the beautiful prose. —Sarah Nicolas
And my picks for best audiobooks of 2016 so far are:
The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales: A smart, bonkers, and awesome book filled with lady assassins, a mechanical arm wielding character, an Oracle, and great fight scenes that had me cheering for fighting–and was literally what the title says it is about. The delivery of the narrators (Sarah Scott, Natasha Soudek, Susan Hanfield, and Mike Chamberlain) was so spot-on that every time there was an f-bomb dropped I’d laugh out loud (the real kind not the online lol kind).
The Devourers by Indra Das: Beautifully written, intense, original, brutal, and a captivating story about a professor and the mysterious half-werewolf man he meets who has a strange request: to transcribe a hell of a tale involving a shape-shifter and the woman he rapes. Matching the lush writing is Shishir Kurup’s delicious voice and Meera Simhan’s lovely narration which makes the vulgarities, violence, and exploration of what makes us human vs monster go down smoother.
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings: I recently have seen people making comments about how women under a certain age have no right writing memoirs and I could not disagree more. Jazz Jennings is a teen with a story everyone should read. She’s smart, funny, compassionate, and shows that even with a supportive family the world is still full of hurdles for the transgender community. She’s also a fantastic narrator.
American Housewife: Stories by Helen Elli, Kathleen McInerney (Narrator), Lisa Cordileone (Narrator), Rebecca Lowman (Narrator), Dorothy Dillingham Blue (Narrator): The women and stories in this collection were so funny and entertaining I ended up volunteering to organize my basement so I could spend the day listening. (First time I’ve read an entire short story collection in one sitting—technically standing on a ladder.) From dumpster diving reality show contestants, to a ridiculous neighbor war, to a bra size fitter, and the behind the scenes of a book club I loved every story and moment of this book and its smart, dark humor.
Do you have a favorite 2016 audiobook?