At present, I’m waiting for Michael Bennett to catch up with the serial killer he has just identified. A good thriller makes for nice commutes to and from the city. Not that James Patterson’s Tick Tock would be my normal choice for car reading, but it is engaging, of course. And engagement is one key factor in choosing an audiobook.
I listen to books in the car most of the time. In fact, it’s only if I don’t plan ahead that I end up without a book in the car. I have audiobooks in the car like I have a book in my bag at all times.
So today, I bring you my top ten audiobooks.
1. Straight Man by Richard Russo – As a former academic, I found this book to capture so much of what I saw both as a student and a professor. The way the halls of an English department become so fraught, and the world so insular, like any workplace. One of the funniest books I’ve ever read.
2. A Widow for One Year by John Irving – Irving’s stories are complex and layered, and this quest narrative is no different. It’s a great book for commuting where, most of the time, the scenery becomes too rote. Here, you can travel as you, well, travel.
3. Sour Puss by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown – So Rita Mae Brown’s books are set near where I live, and thus, it’s fun to hear the places I’m driving through described. But the best part of any Brown book on audio is the voices, especially of the animal characters. As always, Pewter’s voice is my favorite.
4. Roots by Alex Haley – This book is hard – but it’s so powerful because of it’s honesty and because of it’s scope – spanning centuries of one family’s arrival as slaves and spanning to today (controversy over the factual accuracy aside). As an audiobook, it completely captured me. (You can read more about my thoughts on the book here.)
5. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow – So I”m not a technophile nor do I really know anything about anime or manga, but I loved the apocryphal bent to this story. 1984 told for young people.
6. Switched by Amanda Hocking – I’m a sucker for a good supernatural young adult series, and Hocking’s didn’t disappoint. It’s great for an audio read because it’s just good plotting – trylle (we might call them trolls) and intrigue, kingdoms, and teenage angst. Good stuff.
7. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon Reed – This book is dense and well-written and engaging. That said, I might not have read it on paper just because it is, well, quite long. But I’m thrilled to have had the experience of Gordon Reed’s wonderful writing, and I’m even more thrilled to know more about the Hemings family than is often told in the Sally Hemings-Thomas Jefferson discussions.
8. On Beauty by Zadie Smith – I can still remember sitting on a Baltimore street so that I could hear the end of one of Smith’s chapters. A powerful family story – all identity and struggle and the depth of love.
9. At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson – This is one of the few audiobooks that I wish I’d read on the page, not because it was bad on audio – I love listening to Bryson’s voice – but because I wanted to take notes. If you’re interested in the history of the home, in the reasons we have kitchens and staircases and such, this is a great book.
10. The Hippopotamus Pool by Elizabeth Peters – Anything with Amelia Peabody as the detective is a win for me, especially when on audio because the voices – hers and Emerson’s in particular – are amazing. Egyptian history, murder mystery, and some great couple’s humor.
So these are my favorites. What are yours? Any great books I should request on audio from my local library?
Just a reminder that you can get a FREE copy of my forthcoming book about the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. Sign up at the top-right corner of this page, and I’ll send it right over as soon as it’s ready. Thanks.