A self-diagnosed slow reader, I could never get through five books in a month. But since I discovered audiobooks, it’s become an important component of my literary diet and an enjoyable activity on my long commute. When I’m rambling on about my latest audiobook obsession, people usually tell me they could never “listen to a book.” Well, then gauntlet thrown. Trust me, you’ll fall in love with at least one audiobook, if not all of the five best audiobooks I listened to last month.
Louisa Clark has been through a lot. In ME BEFORE YOU, she got her first real job as an aide and companion to the ornery but (let's face it) extremely lovable Will Traynor. In AFTER YOU, she endured the loss of a loved one, moved out on her own, nearly died, and fell in love again. In STILL ME, Louisa takes on her biggest obstacle yet: New York City. While the challenges of life don't exactly let up, this third installment of Louisa's story is a beautiful ode to self-discovery. I relate so much to her growth as a woman: moving to a large city to find herself, learning to love again, and embracing the setbacks of life and turning them into victories.
Read by Anna Acton
You may know The Daily Show host Trevor Noah from his hilarious commentary on racial injustice, politics, and pop culture. All fascinating. The story of his extremely humble and very, very unorthodox beginnings: spellbinding. Listening to Noah, in his own voice, talk about literally being born a crime—born of a black Xhosa mother and white German father, illegal in apartheid South Africa—I was captivated from the very beginning. Noah exhibits the humor we all know and love but also a surprising resilience, even in the face of hardship and tragedy. His mother, a primary character in this memoir, is just as fascinating. She's witty, strong-willed, and heroic. Lupita Nyong'o is slated to play Noah's mother in a film adaptation of BORN A CRIME and, having listened to and loved this audiobook, I 100 percent endorse this casting choice.
Read by Trevor Noah
Part memoir, part teaching, I AM NUMBER 8 is Pastor John Gray's inspiring story about growing up isolated, undervalued, and overlooked. Gray tells his story parallel to David in the bible—yes, David of Goliath-slaying fame—who was the eighth born and spent his early years banished to the field to work as a shepherd. Then suddenly, he was anointed king of Israel over his seven brothers—viable candidates for king. According to biblical numerology (I never knew such a thing existed), seven is the number of perfection, but eight is the number of new beginnings. Gray uses David's story, and his own, to illustrate the life of a number eight who typically spends long-suffering years in the fields of life never really understanding their worth or purpose. Yet all the while, number eights are gaining the wisdom, skill, and strength they'll need for the ultimate promotion.
Read by John Gray
Have you noticed a certain "beastly" actor appear on several of our audiobook lists? I must confess—since I learned Beauty and the Beast actor Dan Stevens reads audiobooks, I've lobbied to have him included in as many Off the Shelf audiobook lists as I could manage. Honestly, Stevens could read the phone book and I'd find it enthralling—but a classic, cozy mystery will do just fine. In his performance of Agatha Christie's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE—like in his performance of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS—Stevens puts on several different accents (pretty flawlessly), making this whodunit an obsessive listen.
Read by Dan Stevens
"A writer to be reckoned with" according to Roxane Gay, Morgan Jerkins is only 26 and yet the wisdom packed in her essay collection is transcendent. THIS WILL BE MY UNDOING is a brutally honest account about what it means to be black woman in America. Existing at the intersection of two marginalized groups (black Americans and women), Jerkins touches on the many unique obstacles black women encounter in the world at large. My favorite essay is her letter to Michelle Obama, who was often subject to a particular brand of ridicule during the Obama administration and even since. Ridicule that compared her to an ape, questioned her credentials (Michelle Obama, one of the most educated and accomplished First Ladies), and undermined her experience as a black woman. Jerkins notes Obama's unfair treatment but recognizes her endurance, which we black women bear witness to and are inspired by.
Read by Morgan Jerkins