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Read Harder: An Audiobook of Poetry

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Ashley Holstrom

Staff Writer

Ashley Holstrom helps make books at Sourcebooks. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color. Newsletter: Crooked Reads. Twitter: @alholstrom.

This list of recommendations of poetry audiobooks, for the 2020 Read Harder Challenge, is sponsored by TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations.

TBR is Book Riot’s subscription service offering Tailored Book Recommendations for readers of all stripes. Been dreaming of a “Stitch Fix for books?” Now it’s here! Tell TBR about your reading preferences and what you’re looking for, and sit back while your Bibliologist handpicks recommendations just for you. TBR offers plans to receive hardcover books in the mail or recommendations by email, so there’s an option for every budget. Visit to sign up today.

Reading poetry can be intimidating. You know what’s not intimidating? Having someone read an audiobook of poetry to you. You don’t have to worry about the meter. You don’t have to walk around your living room reading it aloud to yourself to understand it better. You can just sit back and let the beautiful words pour over you.

These poetry audiobooks are all wonderful. We’ve broken the list down into contemporary poetry, classic poetry, and novels in verse. Let’s get ready to listen harder.

Contemporary Poetry Audiobooks

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson,
narrated by Laurie Halse Anderson

Twenty years after the bestselling young adult novel Speak, we get Shout. It’s Laurie Halse Anderson’s call to action—a shout to action, advocating for sexual assault survivors. It’s a deeply beautiful, powerful, emotional poetry memoir about sexual assault and the culture that surrounds it, as well as a story about how to reclaim and find your voice.

IRL by Tommy Pico,
narrated by Tommy Pico

IRL is a poem composed like one big text message about love and life and dating and drinking and history and how the internet messes with it all. Tommy Pico, aka Teebs, is a reservation-born queer NDN weirdo just living his life and figuring things out, one string of words at a time.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur Book CoverMilk and Honey by Rupi Kaur,
narrated by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur is a big part of the resurgence of poetry going on right now, and if you haven’t read milk and honey yet, now’s the time. It is a gorgeous and powerful audiobook of poetry about violence, love, abuse, loss, survival, femininity, and everything in between.

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan ParkerThere Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker,
narrated by Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker uses pop culture references to discuss politics and what it means to be a Black American woman in this world. She’s vulnerable but ruthless in her powerful poems about feminism, media, consumption, racism, and, of course, Beyoncé.

Classic Audiobooks of Poetry

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Eagles,
narrated be Ian McKellen

The Odyssey began as an oral story, so it’s only fitting to listen along to this hero’s journey. And what better way than with Ian McKellen reading to you? Even if—especially if—you’ve read this epic too many times to count (thanks, every literary history class I’ve ever taken), it’s the perfect choice for an audiobook of poetry.

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver,
narrated by Mary Oliver

Team Riot loves Mary Oliver. Dog Songs is a lovely collection of the poet’s favorite pieces about the dogs in her life. With laughter, love, heartbreak, and grief, these poems span the wonderful connection between humans and animals.

Novels in Verse

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo coverThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo,
narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X is the powerful story of Xiomara, a teen who dreams of being a slam poet. She carries her leather notebook around with her, pouring out all the frustration and passion that belongs in a teen girl. She’s trapped by her family’s rules and religion, but refuses to remain silent. Slam poetry is her way of expressing herself to the world.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds,
narrated by Jason Reynolds

This stunning novel in verse takes place in the 60 seconds while 15-year-old Will decides whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother. He takes his brother’s gun and heads to get revenge. As he rides the elevator down, stopping on each floor, someone connected to his brother gets on and gives Will another piece of the puzzle of his brother. Now he needs to decide what to do with that information.

other words for homeOther Words for Home by Jasmine Warga,
narrated by Vaneh Assadourian

Other Words for Home is a gorgeous middle grade novel-in-verse about a young girl who must leave Syria and move to the United States. Jude and her mother head for the States, leaving her brother and father behind. Life in America is scary at first, but Jude soon finds her way—even when she’s labeled as “other” and “Middle Eastern,” which she’d never considered for herself.

Need more? Check out these YA poetry audiobooks read by the author, poetry books like Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, and the 50 must-read books of poetry.

Find all the Read Harder 2020 content here.