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2021 turned out to be sort of a strange year for me with audiobooks. I felt like I hadn’t listened to as many as usual, but when I looked at my stats, I really had. For the last several years, audiobooks have made up about a third of my reading and I think that’s an ideal balance for me. Still, I found myself much more impatient with audiobooks. They really needed to grab me quickly. I feel like I was more willing to give books in print a long try, but audiobooks I wanted to work immediately. So, you can be sure that the nine favorites I’m sharing today were all excellent.
Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad – This is the memoir of a Jaouad’s four-year long fight for her life, through multiple rounds of chemotherapy, countless hospitalizations and a bone-marrow transplant. It’s also the story of what comes after all that. How does one learn to live again? It is an up close and personal look at what this level of illness does to the patient, her family, her love, her friendships, everything. It goes beyond the disease and into the toll taken on one’s life, not just during the disease, but after, too. (my review)
Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond – This memoir is so unique, at times so unbelievable that it almost reads like fiction. For me, that’s the best sort of nonfiction. It’s the telling of a life on the run. From her earliest memories Diamond’s family was always on the run, moving from country to country, taking on different names, different identities. For her it was the norm, but as she grew older Diamond began to question her parents and their life more and more, putting herself and the life she’d known in danger. (my review)
Voices From the Pandemic by Eli Saslow – I initially felt like it was too soon. We are still in the midst of this pandemic, so looking back felt a little premature, but I was wrong. We know our own stories, and those of our friends and relatives, but there are many, many more stories out there. Journalist Saslow interviewed a cross-section of Americans, gathering a wide swath of pandemic experiences. He showed how very divergent our experiences really have been. Some of the chapters took me completely by surprise, others I expected, many moved me, and several made me cry. (my review)
Narration: This book was beautifully read by a large cast of talented narrators. In that, and many other ways it reminded me of 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘖𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘗𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘬𝘺 by Garrett Graff, both strong oral histories. Amazon Libro.fm
Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano – This would not initially seem like my type of book. Light thrillers generally are not my thing, but I loved the unexpected debut. Finlay is a newly single mom who gets in over her head through a misunderstanding. That mistaken impression has her and her nanny ending up as paid assassins. I know. It sounds like a real reach, but Cosimano made it all believable enough to keep it fun and I only rolled my eyes a couple times. That’s the mark of a great thriller in my book! (my review)
Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews – This book came out in March, but somehow it escaped my radar until August. In it, a young writer wannabe falls into the job of a lifetime: personal assistant to “Maud Dixon,” a celebrated novelist writing under a pseudonym. She becomes one of only a few people who know Maud’s true identity. Her life is transformed, and then completely upended after she’s in a car accident on the coast of Morocco and “Maud” is nowhere to be found. (my review)
Narration: I absolutely loved this book and suspect I enjoyed it even more because I listened. The narration by Therese Plummer was stellar, making this one of those audiobooks I couldn’t stop listening to. Amazon Libro.fm
The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas – It took me a while to get to this book, but from the very beginning, I knew I was going to love it. It follows Rose, a woman who has always known she doesn’t want to have a child. Her husband was in complete agreement, until he wasn’t. What follows are nine different iterations of Rose’s life, beautifully exploring motherhood: what it means to be a mother, what it means to have a mother, what it means to choose motherhood, and what it means to choose not join the ranks of motherhood. Sounds complicated, but it really wasn’t. (my review)
Narration: Because of the nine lives, I think this book might be easier for many in print, but Kristen Sieh did a wonderful job with all Rose’s lives, keeping me totally engaged throughout. Amazon Libro.fm
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave – This audiobook ended a something of a listening slump for me and did so in a “can’t stop listening” sort of way. The story of a woiman who’s husband has gone missing, leaving her with his teenage daughter, hit the sweet spot for me as far as domestic thrillers go. The set up and basic premise was well thought out, the characters interesting, and I don’t think anything in the story required an eye-roll. What more could you possibly want? (my review)
God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney – While listening to this book, I came to realize that I seem to be drawn to this sort of sub-genre: coming-of-age in a deeply religious, but flawed family. This one is told by 18-year old Caroline over a summer she and her older sister spend alone on their family ranch. They flee there to put distance between themselves and their parents. While at the ranch, the sisters try to hold onto their faith, but question everything else, bringing them closer and closer together. (Instagram review)
The People We Keep by Allison Larkin – This was one of those gems that came at a perfect time for me. The story follows 16-year old April who has been dealt a terrible hand in life. Her parents are almost nonexistent and from where she is, she can see no path to a better life. All April really has going for her is a talent for singing. After fleeing her hometown, April embarks on a long journey: singing gigs, meeting strangers, learning what’s important to her, growing up, and finding what home really means. (my review)
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