Can you believe summer is almost over? The year 2021 has flown by, and so far it has been a big one for books—or in my case, audiobooks! I’ve always been an avid reader, but during the height of the pandemic, I got really into audiobooks to keep my daily walks entertaining. Now I’m hooked! This year I’ve been listening while doing chores, riding on the subway, and getting ready for bed because they’re such an easy way to fit books into my busy schedule. Whether you’re new to the audiobook world or you’re a seasoned veteran, check out my list of recommendations below to discover your next must-listen.
I’d been told by so many different people to pick up THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO—and I’m glad I took their advice! The aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life: the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine. Taylor Jenkins Reid knows how to hold your attention, building each scene off the previous one until the final shocking twist. Narrators Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, and Robin Miles elevate her skillful writing, creating a collection of lovable, maddening, complex characters.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“If you’re looking for a book to take on holiday this summer, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has got all the glitz and glamour to make it a perfect beach read.” —Bustle
From the New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & the Six—an entrancing and “wildly addictive journey of a reclusive Hollywood starlet” (PopSugar) as she reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
“Heartbreaking, yet beautiful” (Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is “Tinseltown drama at its finest” (Redbook): a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth.
Stephen Graham Jones and narrator Cara Gee are a phenomenal pairing, resulting in the explosive, propulsive, and astonishing audio edition of MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW. On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a harrowing portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life. I lost hours of sleep staying up late to find out what happened next, and I have zero regrets about it.
In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones.
“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”
Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.
Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw “a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.” On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.
Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.
Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.
WHY FISH DON’T EXIST is part biography, part memoir, and part scientific adventure. Ichthyologist David Starr Jordan is credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish known to humans in his day. When his specimen collections were destroyed by disaster, instead of giving up hope, Jordan rebuilt his collection. NPR reporter Lulu Miller looks to him as a model for how to go on when all seems lost. Miller’s candid, upbeat narration is enhanced by her radio background, which left me feeling inspired to tackle my own personal battles head-on.
A Best Book of 2020: The Washington Post * NPR * Chicago Tribune * Smithsonian
A “remarkable” (Los Angeles Times), “seductive” (The Wall Street Journal) debut from the new cohost of Radiolab, Why Fish Don’t Exist is a dark and astonishing tale of love, chaos, scientific obsession, and—possibly—even murder.
“At one point, Miller dives into the ocean into a school of fish…comes up for air, and realizes she’s in love. That’s how I felt: Her book took me to strange depths I never imagined, and I was smitten.” —The New York Times Book Review
David Starr Jordan was a taxonomist, a man possessed with bringing order to the natural world. In time, he would be credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish known to humans in his day. But the more of the hidden blueprint of life he uncovered, the harder the universe seemed to try to thwart him. His specimen collections were demolished by lightning, by fire, and eventually by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—which sent more than a thousand discoveries, housed in fragile glass jars, plummeting to the floor. In an instant, his life’s work was shattered.
Many might have given up, given in to despair. But Jordan? He surveyed the wreckage at his feet, found the first fish that he recognized, and confidently began to rebuild his collection. And this time, he introduced one clever innovation that he believed would at last protect his work against the chaos of the world.
When NPR reporter Lulu Miller first heard this anecdote in passing, she took Jordan for a fool—a cautionary tale in hubris, or denial. But as her own life slowly unraveled, she began to wonder about him. Perhaps instead he was a model for how to go on when all seemed lost. What she would unearth about his life would transform her understanding of history, morality, and the world beneath her feet.
Part biography, part memoir, part scientific adventure, Why Fish Don’t Exist is a wondrous fable about how to persevere in a world where chaos will always prevail.
Stephen King’s latest novel is narrated by Paul Sparks—star of Castle Rock, Boardwalk Empire, and House of Cards—and his expert acting brings this story to a whole new level. Billy Summers is a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out, but first there is one last hit. This audiobook is classic King with plenty of new twists, and Sparks is fantastic at portraying the distinct voice of each character.
#1 New York Times Bestseller
From legendary storyteller Stephen King, whose “restless imagination is a power that cannot be contained” (The New York Times Book Review), comes a thrilling new novel about a good guy in a bad job.
Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?
How about everything.
This spectacular can’t-put-it-down novel is part war story, part love letter to small town America and the people who live there, and it features one of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It’s about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.
You won’t put this story down, and you won’t forget Billy.
EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM WILL SOMEDAY BE DEAD made me laugh, cry, and feel so many emotions in between. This hilarious and profound audiobook follows Gilda, a twentysomething atheist, animal-loving lesbian who cannot stop ruminating about death. She stumbles into a job as a receptionist at a Catholic church and becomes obsessed with her predecessor’s mysterious death. Emily Tremaine’s narration paired with Austin’s writing perfectly captures the intricacies of mental illness, religion, and death.
This hilarious and profound debut for fans of Mostly Dead Things and Goodbye, Vitamin, follows a morbidly anxious young woman—“the kindhearted heroine we all need right now” (Courtney Maum, New York Times bestselling author)—who stumbles into a job as a receptionist at a Catholic church and becomes obsessed with her predecessor’s mysterious death.
Gilda, a twenty-something, atheist, animal-loving lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist Grace.
In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman, who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.
A delightful blend of warmth, deadpan humor, and pitch-perfect observations about the human condition, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a crackling exploration of what it takes to stay afloat in a world where your expiration—and the expiration of those you love—is the only certainty.
A Lisa Jewell novel narrated by Joanne Froggatt, star of Downton Abbey? Yes, please! This story is a riveting work of psychological suspense about a beautiful young couple’s disappearance on a gorgeous summer night and the mother who will never give up trying to find them. I was listening to this one on the subway, and it took everything in me to maintain my composure with all the twists and turns. Froggatt’s careful pacing and intonation kept me quite literally on the edge of my seat.
“Utterly gripping with richly drawn, hugely compelling characters, this is a first-class thriller with heart.” —Lucy Foley, New York Times bestselling author
“Insane suspense.” —Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author
“Her best thriller yet.” —Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another riveting work of psychological suspense about a beautiful young couple’s disappearance on a gorgeous summer night, and the mother who will never give up trying to find them...
On a beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend.
One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favorite area for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”
Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?
With her signature “rich, dark, and intricately twisted” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) prose, Lisa Jewell has crafted a dazzling work of suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page.
Selected as a Reese’s Book Club pick, INFINITE COUNTRY is an audiobook full of heartbreak and hope. This story follows two countries and one mixed-status family. Mauro and Elena leave Bogotá, Colombia, with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa. They have two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil before Mauro is deported, taking Talia to Colombia with him. Narrator Inés del Castillo gives an empathetic, heartfelt performance, painting a full portrait of a family fractured by borders.
A REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK AND INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“A knockout of a novel…we predict [Infinite Country] will be viewed as one of 2021’s best.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 from Esquire, O, The Oprah Magazine, Elle, GMA, New York Post, Ms. Magazine, The Millions, Electric Literature, LitHub, AARP, Refinery29, BuzzFeed, Autostraddle, She Reads, Alma, and more.
I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.
Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the north.
How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogotá in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America?
Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.
DAMNATION SPRING is an intimate, compassionate depiction of a community clinging to a vanishing way of life amid the perils of environmental degradation. For decades, the herbicides the town’s logging company uses were considered harmless. But Colleen is no longer so sure. What if a growing pattern of miscarriages isn’t because of isolated strokes of bad luck? A full cast of narrators showcases the perspectives of the family of Rich, Colleen, and Chub. Each character feels deeply human due to the care and nuance each voice actor puts into their narration.
A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK: Entertainment Weekly, Oprah Daily, Vogue, Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, CNN, Harper’s Bazaar
“A glorious book—an assured novel that’s gorgeously told.” —The New York Times Book Review
“An incredibly moving epic about an unforgettable family.” —CBS Sunday Morning
“[An] absorbing novel…I felt both grateful to have known these people and bereft at the prospect of leaving them behind.” —The Washington Post
A stunning novel about love, work, and marriage that asks how far one family and one community will go to protect their future.
Colleen and Rich Gundersen are raising their young son, Chub, on the rugged California coast. It’s 1977, and life in this Pacific Northwest logging town isn’t what it used to be. For generations, the community has lived and breathed timber; now that way of life is threatened.
Colleen is an amateur midwife. Rich is a tree-topper. It’s a dangerous job that requires him to scale trees hundreds of feet tall—a job that both his father and grandfather died doing. Colleen and Rich want a better life for their son—and they take steps to assure their future. Rich secretly spends their savings on a swath of ancient Redwoods. Colleen, desperate to have a second baby, challenges the logging company’s use of herbicides that she believes are responsible for the many miscarriages in the community—including her own. Colleen and Rich find themselves on opposite sides of a budding conflict that threatens the very thing they are trying to protect: their family.
Told in prose as clear as a spring-fed creek, Damnation Spring is an intimate, compassionate portrait of a family whose bonds are tested and a community clinging to a vanishing way of life. An extraordinary story of the transcendent, enduring power of love—between husband and wife, mother and child, and longtime neighbors. An essential novel for our times.
Photo credit: iStock / itakdalee