I *Heart* Audio Books

Seira Wilson on January 09, 2019
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I am an audio book evangelist. I first fell in love with the format when I had a long commute for work.  Leif Enger's Peace Like a River, read by Chad Lowe. To Kill a Mockingbird read by Sissy Spacek. I was hooked. But this was back in the days before digital music and I can't tell you how often I would lose one of the CDs or it would fall under the seat when I was fumbling to plug in the next one. Then Audible came into my life. Yes, it's an Amazon company, but I would love it even if it wasn't.  Now my audio books are literally at my fingertips via my phone, whenever I might find myself wanting to listen. 

I do housework, garden, and cook with an audio book coming through my headphones. But listener beware: not all audio books are created equal. Do your homework. Which in this case means listen to the audio sample.  I've learned this lesson the hard way, buying an audio book without hearing the reader and then discovering I don't like their voice or the way they narrate. The audio samples are long enough that you'll know if the reader is someone you want to spend hours listening to.

I listened to a lot of audio books last year and some of them were really exceptional.  I often choose mysteries and nonfiction in this format, but my Audible library has a wide range of genres represented.  Here are a few of my favorites from 2018. 

(I've started the new year with The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey.  Loving it.)

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Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart, read by Arthur Morey and Soneela Nankani

I laughed out loud listening to this. The novel is narrated by two characters: hedge-fund manager Barry Cohen and his wife Seema. There are two readers for the audio edition and they do a fantastic job of capturing Shteyngart's characters in tone and emotion as the story goes along. Lake Success is a whip-smart satire--if you liked Bonfire of the Vanities, try this one.

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My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, read by Adepero Oduye

A couple of my colleagues read this and raved about it. I was swamped with other reading so took a listen to the audio sample and decided that was the way to go. The story is set in Lagos, Nigeria and the choice of narrator is perfect; her accent and pronunciation made this so much more interesting than it would've sounded in my own head. The sister who cleans up the messes made by her murderous sibling tells the story, and though this is one of the shorter audio books I've listened to (4+ hours), it was so good I wished it were longer...

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Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown, read by the author

I love Brené Brown's voice. It's only with the last couple of titles that she began reading her own audio books, and I'm so glad she did (not all authors are good at this...).  Dare to Lead is a natural extension of the work Brown has been doing over the past two decades, using research and examples to help us understand how great leadership at work takes courage (and not in the way you might think) and heart.  There's value here for anyone in the workplace, not just those in management.

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Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak, read by the author

Okay, I know I just said not all authors are good audio readers--and that's true--but I really loved listening to Markus Zusak's Australian accent. This was a book that I read about a third of on paper, but it was kind of a struggle so I decided to try listening to the audio. The skies cleared, it all made sense, and by the end I was in tears because the story was so moving. I honestly don't know that I would've had the same experience had I read it rather than listening to it.


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