This weekend I got a call from one of my oldest friends, Dana, asking for a good audiobook recommendation for a couple of lengthy car drives. Particularly since having my first child last year, audiobooks are SO my jam. As you can likely tell, I am a pretty obsessive reader, and the thought of not being able to read as much as I wanted to was a big fear heading into child delivery. However, audiobooks (and a good pair of wireless headphones) transformed my Mat leave into one in which I was able to read almost 400 books – mainly because someone else read all of them to me. I’d wake up with my daughter Lyla (sometimes at truly ungodly hours of the morning) and turn on a new book; then we would go about our day: nursing, walking, nursing, going to get coffee, nursing, going to appointments, nursing, laundry x10, dinner (for my husband and I this time), etc. – except all with an audiobook on in the background, which I could both listen to, and care for my child who was more or less incapable of doing anything. For those of you who have had newborns, I’m sure this schedule is familiar to you. It honestly saved my sanity and my life on maternity leave, and continues to be a dominant part of my day whenever I’m not at work. Or sometimes when I am at work, as sometimes colleagues in the staff room are wont to point out (yes, the wireless headphones have followed me there too!).
So if you’re a newbie, or a veteran, how should you go about exploring the wonderful world of audiobooks?
First of all, find a good app for that. Audible is of course the tried and true version, and it just came up with a Canadian version, so that’s awesome. It has every book under the sun that you could dream of, and I’ve been using it happily for about 3 years. However: it is very expensive. At the tune of $15/ month for 1 book expensive.
Recently, I uncovered a new service which thankfully has finally worked out enough of its kinks that I can recommend it to others AND so much so that I’ve taken the plunge and cancelled my expensive Audible membership. That is Playster, which is a media player for all kinds but has in the past 6 months upped their audiobook inclusions to about 98% of what Audible offers, for $13/ month – but it’s unlimited. That’s right. Unlimited. You should see the ridiculous amount of audiobooks I have downloaded to listen to here. As it’s a streaming service, you don’t actually OWN any of the books, and if you cancel your membership I’m certain those books disappear. But in the meantime, you can have almost any book under the sun read to you in the car, as you’re cleaning, as you’re nursing, or basically whenever else the urge strikes you.
So, what should you be listening to?
A good audiobook is a similar and different beast all at the same time from just a good book. A good book can be read by the most monotonous or annoying voice and POOF: there’s a good book ruined. So, for whatever strikes your fancy:
- Feeling like something light and fluffy on a rainy Sunday, that will both occupy you but not be too heavy?
- The Royal We by Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks – an enchanting book that I listen to over and over and over again, read by the fantastic Christine Lakin, focusing on the thinly-veiled rocky road to romance of HRH Will and Kate.
- Any of the Crazy Rich Asians series by Kevin Kwan, narrated by Lydia Look. The best part about this is the accents AND the footnotes which are explained in the best “aside” voice known to audiobooks.
- The storied life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, narrated by Scott Brick. SO GOOD. So light, so enjoyable, so passionate about books that it bleeds through into every word.
- The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, read by Katherine Kellgren. Basically I love anything that Katherine Kellgren narrates, and this book about a woman who returns from a medical leave to find her traditional magazine overtaken by Silicone-valley-type startups is delicious storytelling at its best.
- Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, read by Grayce Wey. A heartwarming tale of a mother and child in abject poverty in NYC in the 1970s. Will have you crying in the produce section of your local supermarket (not that that happens to me a lot or something …)
- The Martian by Andy Weir. Guys: this is the ultimate example of the good work of an audiobook. This book is very fast-paced, exciting, and difficult to put down. It’s also not that well-written. However, in audiobook form, it doesn’t matter. The narrator is excellent, he voices Mark Watney in such a way as to bring the character alive and to hide some of the weirder writing nuances … honestly, it’s amazing. And it’s better in audiobook form than it is in regular book form. I once stayed awake until 4 am to finish this book, so … it’s good. Trust me.
- Love historical fiction?
- Look no further than the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett, read for you by John Lee. John Lee is the one of the audiobook greats. Trust me on this one. And as each book is 35 hours+, you really have to want to listen to his smooth and mellow voice. And trust me, you will.
- Her Royal Spyness series (there are 9 books!) by Rhys Bowen, read for you by Katherine Kellgren. My personal favourite audiobook narrator (with the notable exception of Jim Dale of Harry Potter fame) brings alive the story of Lady Georgiana, a minor royal in the 1930s caught in the tumult of the interwar period and poverty. Light and comedic, this is absolutely a way to go.
- If you have a really long car ride coming up?
- Harry Potter. What else? Read for you by Jim Dale, the greatest narrator in history of the world, the many characters and voices and twists and turns come alive in his capable … hands? Point is: all hail the king.
- Anything from the Great Courses (available on Audible): this amazing series takes university professors and has them record lectures in a series about a single topic. I am pretty obsessed. My personal favourites are the Rise and Fall of Modern China and the Skeptic’s Guide to American History.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Suzanna Clarke, narrated by Simon Prebble. Roughly 32 hours of book, this is an amazing book and will set you up all the way from Toronto – Florida, if you are so inspired.
Anything I’m missing?
Happy reading! xo