Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

April Showers Bring…May Audiobooks?

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Katie MacBride

Staff Writer

Katie MacBride is a freelance writer, librarian, and weird dog lady living in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she’s not hunched over her computer, she’s teaching writing to high school students or reading in the bathtub. She’s hoping to one day update this bio with the title of a forthcoming book. Read her work at or follow her on Twitter: @msmacb

A version of this post previously appeared in the audiobooks newsletter. Sign-up for any of the Book Riot newsletters here

May is here and the audiobook gods have lots of exciting new releases in store. As always, publisher’s description in quotes.

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain; narrated by January LaVoy; release date: 05-01-18

The author of The Paris Wife is back with another fictionalized account of one of Ernest Hemingway’s wives—in this case his third wife, Martha Gellhorn. As with The Paris Wife, McLain bases the fictionalized account on what we know of Gellhorn, who died in 1998.

Gellhorn was a war reporter and “In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the turbulent backdrops of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest’s relationship and their professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man’s wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that could force her to break his heart, and hers.”

Fun fact: For Whom the Bell Tolls is one of my all-time favorite audiobooks!

Miss Subways by David Duchovny; narrated by David Duchovny, Téa Leoni; Release date: 05-01-18

“Taking inspiration from the myth of Emer and Cuchulain and featuring an all-star cast of mythical figures from all over the world, David Duchovny’s darkly funny fantasy audiobook Miss Subways is one woman’s trippy, mystical journey down parallel tracks of time and love. On the way, Emer will battle natural and supernatural forces to find her true voice, power, and destiny.  

While recording this audiobook, Duchovny had the idea of bringing his ex-wife, Téa Leoni in to voice the female characters in the book. I love Téa Leoni and what I love most about Téa Leoni is her voice. I know this is a weird thing to say, but I feel like if any people can understand what I’m talking about, it’s my audiobook pals. After watching the first season of Madam Secretary, in which Leoni is the titular character, I “watched” it again, letting it play in the background while I worked from home, just because I like her voice so much. Weird, right? But maybe you also understand? Anyway, having her as a narrator is a huge selling point for me. Also, Leoni and Duchovney got their two kids, West and Miller, to read the chapter openings and other sections. Pretty cute, right?

The Mars Room written & read by Rachel Kushner; Release date: 05-01-18

The author of the critically acclaimed Flamethrowers is back with another California-centric novel. “It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living.”

I’m Just Happy to Be Here: A Memoir of Renegade Mothering written and read by Janelle Hanchett; Release date: 05-01-18

Y’all know I love me a good getting sober memoir—especially one that deviates from the traditional “I got sober, now everything is perfect” formula, and Hanchett definitely does that. “Hers is a story we rarely hear—of the addict mother not redeemed by her children; who longs for normalcy but cannot maintain it; and who, having traveled to seemingly irreversible depths, makes it back, only to discover she is still an outsider…Hanchett’s memoir calls out the rhetoric surrounding ‘the sanctity of motherhood’ as tired and empty, boldly recounting instead how she grew to accept an imperfect self within an imperfect life.”

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam; narrated by Vanessa Johansson Release date 5-08-18

When Rebecca Stone has her first child, she’s overwhelmed. She loves her newborn boy, of course, but she’s also lost and overwhelmed. When Priscilla Johnson agrees to take a position as a nanny for the new mom, Rebecca is grateful. And she soon learns that Priscilla, who is black, has a lot to teach Rebecca, who is white, about privilege.

“When Priscilla dies unexpectedly in childbirth, Rebecca steps forward to adopt the baby. But she is unprepared for what it means to be a white mother with a black son. As she soon learns, navigating motherhood for her is a matter of learning how to raise two children whom she loves with equal ferocity, but whom the world is determined to treat differently.” 

Tin Man written and read by Sarah Winman; release date: 05-15-18

At first, the description of this book reminded me a bit of another EXCELLENT audiobook—Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe. It reads, “Ellis and Michael are 12-year-old boys when they first become friends, and for a long time, it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day, this closest of friendships grows into something more.”

So far so good, right? Until this: “But then, we fast-forward a decade or so to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question: What happened in the years between?” I, for one, would like to know.

So Lucky written and read by Nicola Griffith; release date: 05-15-18

Mara Tagarelli is successful. She’s the head of a multi-million dollar AIDS foundation, accomplished in martial arts, and, frankly, used to kicking ass. Then, on the heels of her wife leaving her, Mara is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her family and friends immediately treat her differently—overnight she’s gone from strong woman to weak victim. She wants to fight that narrative, but her body has become untrustworthy and foreign, and frankly, so have the people around her. “Mara makes a decision and acts, but her actions unleash monsters aimed squarely at the heart of her new community.”

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel; narrated by Rebecca Lowman; release date: 05-15-18

A note on this one: I attended a writing residency with Aja in 2015. But even if I hadn’t, I would still think this book sounds really good and also has a gorgeous cover.

“Brit is the second violinist, a beautiful and quiet orphan; the viola is Henry, a prodigy who’s always had it easy; the cellist is Daniel, the oldest, the angry skeptic who sleeps around; and on first violin is Jana, their flinty, resilient leader. Together, they are the Van Ness String Quartet.

“In The Ensemble, each character takes the spotlight and picks up the melody, from the group’s youthful rocky start through to middle age, through both devastating failures and wild success. As they navigate heartbreak and marriage, triumph and loss, betrayal and enduring loyalty, they are always tied together—by career, by necessity, by the intensity of their art, by the secrets they carry together, and by choosing each other over and over again.”

This is the book Aja was working on during that residency in 2015 and, honestly, I can’t frikking wait to listen to it.

The Storm by Arif Anwar; release date: 05-15-18

On the verge of his U.S. visa expiring and being sent back to his native country of Bangladesh, Shahryar wants to get everything he can out of his remaining weeks with his American daughter. “Shar reflects upon his family’s history, beginning in a village on the Bay of Bengal, where a poor fisherman, Jamir, and his wife, Honufa, prepare to face a storm of historic proportions. With a narrative sweep mirroring the storm’s devastating path—leading to the eye’s calamitous landing—The Storm explores hope, loss, sacrifice, and the many ways in which families honor, betray, and ultimately love one another.”

How to Change Your Mind written and read by Michael Pollan; release date: 05-15-18

I’ll admit it, when I first heard about micro-dosing, or using psychedelics to treat depression and/or a host of other ailments, I was skeptical. But I’ve looked into some of the research behind it and it sounds promising. “When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction, and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most personal book. But upon discovering how these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to explore the landscape of the mind in the first person as well as the third.” I am super excited to listen to this. I don’t know if psychedelics are the answer to depression. But I know that many of us, myself included, have tried all the pills and therapy in the land and many of us are still suffering. I’m really eager to hear about Pollan’s experience.

Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura; narrated by Brian Nishii; release date: 05-22-18

Inspired by the 1995 sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway (what?!), Cult X explores how a person becomes radicalized or drawn to extremism. “When Toru Narazaki’s girlfriend, Ryoko, disappears, he tries to track her down, despite the warnings of a private detective he’s hired to find her. Ryoko’s past is shrouded in mystery, but the one concrete clue to her whereabouts is a previous address where she lived: in a compound in the heart of Tokyo, with a group that seems to be a cult led by a charismatic guru with a revisionist Buddhist scheme of life, death, and society. Narazaki plunges into the secretive world of the cult, ready to expose himself to any of the guru’s brainwashing tactics if it means he can learn the truth about Ryoko. But the cult isn’t what he expected, and he has no idea of the bubbling violence beneath its surface.”

Well, That Escalated Quickly written and read by Franchesca Ramsey; release date: 05-22-18

OK, first, if you’re not following Franchesca Ramsey on twitter, do that. She’s smart and funny and has incisive commentary this crazy world in which we live. “Well, That Escalated Quickly includes Ramsey’s advice on dealing with Internet trolls and low-key racists, confessions about being a former online hater herself, and her personal hits and misses in activist debates with everyone from bigoted Facebook friends and misguided relatives to mainstream celebrities and YouTube influencers. With sharp humor and her trademark candor, Ramsey shows readers we can have tough conversations that move the dialogue forward, rather than backward, if we just approach them in the right way.”

So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know written and read by Retta; Release date: 05-29-18

I mentioned this title in my most anticipated audiobooks of 2018 newsletter and it’s not just because I am Parks and Recreation’s #1 fan (though that is certainly true). “Whether reminiscing about her days as a contract chemist at GlaxoSmithKline, telling “dirty” jokes to Mormons, feeling like the odd man out on Parks, fending off racist trolls on Twitter, flirting with Michael Fassbender, or expertly stalking the cast of Hamilton, Retta’s unique voice and refreshing honesty will make you laugh, cry, and laugh so hard you’ll cry.” It sounds like Retta has got some stories and I want to hear them. (And yay! She narrates it!)

What are you most excited to listen to in May? Let us know in the comments or ping me on twitter where I’m msmacb.