Soneela Nankani has one of those voices that I could listen to all day long. When I first started listening to audiobooks, she was an immediate standout as a narrator, and I began to peruse her impressive body of work, looking for novels to add to my TBR. A trained actress who has performed in many prestigious theater troupes, she’s a dynamic and flexible voice artist, narrating everything from nonfiction to YA to fantasy, nearing 200 different titles. She’s the voice behind beloved kids books like Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi, the Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie, as well as a personal favorite, The Widows of Malabar Hill bu Sujata Massey. Basically, is there any story she can’t bring to life beautifully? I think not. Here are five great novels narrated by Soneela Nankani you should download now!
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
This was the first book I ever listened to narrated by Soneela Nankani, and it put her on my radar! Amani Al’Hiza is a poor orphan in the desert, where her town is at the mercy of the soldiers who invaded when she was small and rumored beasts roam the deserted areas. She wants out of her town, and so she enters a sharpshooting contest that could give her the means to leave — and that’s where she meets Jin, a mysterious stranger who changes all of her plans. Before she knows it, Amani is fleeing the only home she’s known and heading straight for magic, danger, and a destiny she couldn’t have imagined. Nankani’s narration captures the adventure and romance of this book so well, and she reveals the dramatic twists in the plot perfectly.
The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel
Liyah is an anomaly and a scandal in her traditional community because she has a high-powered job, moved out of her parents’ house as soon as she could, and has no intention of submitting to an arranged marriage. When a trick meeting with Jay Shah, a very eligible lawyer, sends Liyah running, she hopes that her parents get the message that she is not interested. But then she discovers that Jay is the lawyer who is sent to help out her struggling company, and she’s forced to face him. As they spend more time together — at first reluctantly, then willingly — Liyah discovers she likes Jay a lot. But can she be with him without giving up her own hard-won identity? I loved the emotion that Nankani put into this narration, especially as this is a romance novel that deals with heavy topics such as assault, rape culture, domestic abuse, and family estrangement. Bonus — this is a dual POV novel where Nankani also narrates’s Jay’s perspective, and I think she did a great job with his voice.
Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
Nima is a teenager who is still angry and upset that her mom left her and her father months earlier, and hasn’t made contact in all that time. When she and her best friend head to their town’s summer festival, Nima discovers a tent full of drag performers who are all confident and dazzling in their abilities, and she is swept up in their world. Soon, she’s flirting with a very cute drag king, making friends with a drag queen, and trying out drag performing for herself. But she’s also neglecting her best friend and pushing herself way outside of her comfort zone, with unexpected and sometimes disastrous results. The thing I love about this book and Nankani’s narration is that it contains some of the most painfully awkward and embarrassing moments for Nima, and Nankani captured that awkwardness perfectly, making it easy to listen even as I was cringing for Nima.
Snapped by Alexa Martin
Soneela Nankani narrates the bulk of this audiobook (another actor narrates just the prologue), which follows Elliot, a young biracial woman who has landed her dream job as a publicist for the Denver Mustangs. But she walks into a PR nightmare when, in her first weeks on the job, star quarterback Quinton takes a knee during the national anthem. While Elliot is sympathetic to and agrees with his protest of racial injustice, she is also under pressure from her boss to “fix” the situation. Elliot and Quinton clash spectacularly at first, but as Elliot learns more about Quinton’s history, they find themselves falling for each other, even as the situation at work gets even more complicated. This is another standout romance that deals with heavy topics and mirrors current events, and Nankani did a great job of narrating all of the nuance that this book touches upon.
Internment by Samira Ahmed
In this YA dystopia set in the near future, an increasingly volatile political situation and an Islamaphobic administration decree that all U.S. Muslims must relocate to internment camps. Layla is horrified when she and her parents are forced out of their home, and she struggles to keep in contact with her boyfriend on the outside. But through the friends she makes in the camp, and the connections she cultivates outside, she and those who are wrongfully imprisoned begin to fight back against the camp and its director, demanding that their voices be heard. From the very beginning of this tense novel, Nankani’s voice captures the anguish and tension of the political situation, but also the tender moments between Layla and those she loves.
Some other great books that Soneela has narrated that I read in print include Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao and Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed! Want more recommendations of audiobooks narrated by Nankani? We’ve got you covered.