Featured image from Canva free stock images
As someone who spends a decent amount of time commuting to work each week, audiobooks have been my saviour when it comes to smashing out my Goodreads goal and feeling like I haven’t just wasted an hour sitting in traffic.
While some people consider audiobooks to not be ‘real reading’, they offer an accessible way to read literature to those who may not be able to access traditional print options. Sites such as VisAbility offer an extensive library catalogue of over 70, 000 titles, formatted using the worldwide standard of DAISY, “specifically [designed] for people who have a print disability.”
Another great reason to listen to audiobooks is the way in which you are totally immersed into the world of the story, whether it be through narration, music or sound effects. The production value of each audiobook differs greatly, however, audiobooks released by the larger publishing houses tend to be the best quality. You might even get to hear your favourite celebrity read your book to you!
Here’s a list of the 9 best audiobooks I listened to in 2018, and the ones I think you should add to your TBR next year:
Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song by Sara Bareilles
I’ve been a huge fan of Sara Bareilles’ music since 2007, when I stumbled across her album Little Voice at the tender age of 12. Since then, her songs have been in steady rotation on my Spotify playlists and have accompanied me through heartbreak, marriage and everything in between. Musical theatre fans might know her as the songwriter for the hit musical Waitress (I highly recommend you check out Jessie Mueller’s Tony Awards performance of She Used to be Mine!), or otherwise you might know her chart-topping hits Brave, Love Song or Gravity.
Each chapter starts with her singing an excerpt of a song that inspired the accompanying essay, and the audiobook adds a sense of intimacy that you wouldn’t otherwise get while reading a print copy. It’s also always nice to listen to a memoir read by the author themselves!
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
By far the best author-read memoir I have listened to! Anna Kendrick exudes this cute, nerdy, funny-girl vibe throughout the entire audiobook, and her comedic timing and delivery are what make this book awesome. If you’re a fan of Yes, Please by Amy Poehler or Bossypants by Tina Fey then give this book a listen. There are moments that are totally relatable and hilarious, mixed with some poignant parts that give us an insight into what it’s like to transition from child star (Anna was a Broadway star by the time she was in middle school!) and come out the other side with a successful career. I found myself giggling uncontrollably to myself at the traffic lights while listening to Anna spill details about the behind-the-scenes of Hollywood and recounting her awkward childhood.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
This YA book was all over Booktube recently, and for good reason. This audiobook is ideal for fans of true crime podcasts, and the audiobook format adds even more dimension and intrigue to the story. Out for revenge for her sister’s disappearance, lead character Sadie is on a path of destruction, leading her to also disappear from her trailer park home in her small town. When she goes missing, journalist West McCray begins a speculative podcast, Up and Vanished-style, titled The Girls. He follows the leads left behind by Sadie in an attempt to find out what happened to her sister, and where Sadie went. The book alternates between Sadie’s perspective and a podcast episode, complete with intro and outro music, interview-like audio and a narration by McCray. The production value of this audiobook is outstanding. I was blown away by the quality of it, and the story does not disappoint either.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Confession time: I’m not a huge fan of classics. I have such a hard time getting into the story, and the writing is often flowery and dense. This was my first Christie novel, and I was pleasantly surprised by the atmospheric worldbuilding and intrigue constructed in what could be considered a difficult setting to do so. Almost the entirety of the book is set on the Orient Express train, however Christie’s writing kept me hooked on every word and desperately needing to know whodunnit. The edition of the audiobook I listened to was narrated by Kenneth Branaugh, and I loved the way he took each character and gave them personality and charm. I had listened to this book in preparation of watching the movie, not realising that he also plays Hercule Poirot in the latest imagining of the story, which added a sense of connection between myself and Poirot as a character. This book is one of many Poirot stories, but you still feel as though you learn about him as a person as the story progresses. Fans of old-timey British crime stories, this one’s for you!
A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
I’ve already raved about this book in my Character List, but let me just toot this book’s horn one more time. One of the only 5-star reads for me this year, this book is YA historical fiction at its finest. Rompy, cheeky and action-packed, A Gentleman’s Guide is a deliciously immersive start to what I can only describe as the 1700s’ answer to a road-trip adventure. Not only is it diverse LGBT-wise, with Henry identifying as bisexual, it also features a strong female character in the form of his sister Felicity. The character development in this book is one of the best plot arcs I have seen in a book in a long time.
In terms of the audiobook, the reason I recommend this one is due to its narrator. Read by Christian Coulson (Tom Riddle from the Harry Potter movies), it’s kind of nostalgic and reminiscent of my childhood, watching Chamber of Secrets and being scared out of my mind by the Basilisk. Coulson also injects a huge amount of personality into Henry’s character, creating a witty, flawed character that you learn to love over the course of the book.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I had a hard time not thinking this was nonfiction while listening to the story of Old Hollywood film star, Evelyn Hugo. It follows Monique, a young journalist asked by Hugo to write her exclusive memoir, as she sits down with Evelyn and recounts all seven of her marriages over the years.
The way in which this is written is so immersive and realistic that I found myself Googling Evelyn’s films in the hopes of finding out more, only to realise that the entire story is fiction. Evelyn’s character is so well fleshed-out and researched that you just listen intently to her stories, your mind wandering to the glittering, glamourous days of black-and-white films and bleach-blonde film stars, completely forgetting reality. This book isn’t so much a love story, but rather a story of a woman learning to be strong and independent, and using her sexuality to get what she wanted. The love stories in the book are equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful, and I truly fell in love with each character as they grew old and struggled through life’s hardships. I cried, laughed and reminisced alongside Evelyn, and the ending was truly unforgettable. If you’re a historical fiction reader, absolutely add this one to your list.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
My Goodreads review for this book is as follows, and perfectly sums up my feelings towards this work of nonfiction:
“What a brilliant book. As someone fascinated with true crime and all things morbid, this book made me think about what happens after we die, and how powerful the funeral industry truly is in the way in which our final wishes are implemented. By the end of the book I was contemplating my own mortality, and it helped me understand certain events in my life regarding death. I’m more at peace with the idea of mortality thanks to this book.”
Caitlin Doughty, also known as Ask a Mortician on YouTube, recounts her career as a crematory operator in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. It’s an honest, sometimes funny look at the funeral industry and death, and gives an insight into what happens behind the scenes after someone dies. While the anecdotes in this book often make light of the death industry and the more morbid aspects that go along with it, I found myself struck by the profound nature of the deeper message of the book. When the audiobook finished, I just sat in my car and stared out the window, contemplating my own relationship with death and dying. If you’re a reader of true crime, I recommend giving this a listen to get a different perspective on death (especially when there are no sinister intentions involved). It’s one of those books that makes you look introspectively at yourself.
Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee
Another one for true crime readers, and it’s one that offers an incredibly important perspective on Australia’s legal system. Bri Lee is an outstandingly brave author, showing the pitfalls of the legal system from her own perspective as both a judge’s associate and survivor of sexual assault. Truly heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful, Eggshell Skull is a poignant reminder that the stigma of sexual assault still runs deep, so deep that the systems put in place to protect victims is flawed and desperately needs changing. It puts a mirror up to Australia’s legal system as well as society. One quote stuck with me the most while reading, which stated that most female jurors had to excuse themselves from sexual assault trials because they too had experienced such assault in some capacity.
Helen Garner said it best when describing this book: “Scorching, self-scouring: a young woman finds her steel and learns to wield it”.
The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sara Krasnostein
I think it’s becoming increasingly obvious that I have a proclivity for all things morbid, but bear with me. This book is more than just gratuitous descriptions of crime scenes and hoarder’s houses. The Trauma Cleaner is an Australian nonfiction book about the gutsy, tough-as-nails Sandra Pankhurst, and her cleaning business that helps the downtrodden get back on their feet again and remove the “emotional scars that are written on their houses”. It’s full of hope and humanity, detailing Sandra’s tumultuous life story while showing the reader that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter what you are going through.
Like Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, it’s a book that offers an alternate perspective on parts of society that we may forget even exist, or turn a blind eye to. It is likened to When Breath Becomes Air, as well as the podcast S-Town, and I can certainly see why.