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Four awesome audiobooks (listen to them now!)

I’ve recently developed a deep devotion for audiobooks. The key, I’ve found, is to be picky. A strong plot, well-cast narrator and not too long. That’s the winning combo.

I love how audiobooks can transport me to another place while I do commonplace and mundane jobs: painting capacious walls, walking a stubborn dog, driving un-picturesque motorways. These are the perfect opportunities to be wrapped up in another world.

I try to go for library loans through Borrowbox (free and guilt-free) where I can and then as a fall back, Audible (which is neither of those things being owned by Amazon).

Here are four audiobooks guaranteed to give you aural pleasure…

My Sister, the Serial Killer

by Oyinkan Braith

This was listed as one of The Guardian‘s best audiobooks for 2019 so far. I loved everything about this audiobook: the setting (Lagos), the themes (sister rivalry and loyalty), the humour (dark), the narrator (Weruche Opia) and the length (4.5 hours). I literally couldn’t predict how this story would end. This is one of those books that the less you know, the more you’ll enjoy it. So I simply say: get hold of a copy.

The True History of the Kelly Gang

by Peter Carey

I love historical fiction, and I love it especially when it bends the rules. This is an amazing account of Ned Kelly, the most notorious bushranger in Australian history, but it’s told in the first person from Ned’s point of view. Peter Carey worked with some primary source material, and then just made up the rest. I love the temerity! I thought it worked so well, bringing a one dimensional folk hero into animated and spirited life. The book has received tonnes of accolades, including the Booker Prize in 2001. This narration does it perfect justice.

Ghost Wall

by Sarah Moss

There is something about Christine Hewitt’s narration that makes this fundamentally disturbing tale … enjoyable? Or at least satisfying. Another short book at just under 4 hours, this packs a weighty punch in its themes – mysogyny, classism and mob mentality as starters. I felt deeply connected to the Northumberland landscape and the well-drawn, if largely unlikable, characters. It’s a superbly balanced, tightly controlled gem of a book and I highly recommend it. I will most definitely be looking out Sarah’s back catalogue of books.

Washington Black

by Esi Edugyan

This is a wonderful book about the filial love between a Barbados slave boy and a white abolitionist. I listened to this while on holiday in Cairns, so there was a lovely confluence of listening in the tropics about a tale about the tropics. Although, the story is a roving one moving from Barbardos to Virginia (via a hot air balloon), to the Artic and then to Nova Scotia, London, Amsterdam and Morocco. It’s a story in which slavery and racism cast a long shadow, but refuses to be shackled by them. It’s an ambitious tale that unfolds in an enchanting and satisfying way and despite its sprawling plot, worked well as an audiobook.

So…. what you can recommend to me? What should I be listening to next? I’d love to compile a long list….

This is a site about books and about tea, and how we should read more books and drink more tea. Sometimes, it's hard to know what books to read and what tea to drink. This is where I can help out.

6 Comments

  1. I’m a fan of audiobooks too – they keep me sane when I’m on the treadmill…. Borrowbox has some good choices though it’s hard to get them. They seem to get snaffled by other users so quickly

    • They do don’t they, but I reserve a bunch in advance and am put in the queue. They eventually come through, often in nice timing.

  2. I’ve read Kelly Gang but not the others, and all I’m interested in. I’ll look out for them on audio – my library has a fairly poor audio selection however I have just joined the library in a neighbouring suburb (they let anyone in, not just residents of the area) and their collection is huge – I’m spoilt for choice!

    • That’s so great! I’m quite envious. It’s interesting how it differs between different municipalities with Borrowbox – I noticed that when I moved from Bundoora to Central Goldfields.

  3. I’m not sure about audiobooks. I have a friend who keeps trying to persuade me to try them (he’s the sort of person who thinks that because he thinks something is great, everyone will think it’s great; the stubborn mule in me automatically rejects his proselytising). I’ve never given one a go because I find reading an immersive experience and the words on the page conjure up images in my mind and voices for the characters so strongly that I have the idea that someone else reading to me couldn’t compete with that.

    I like what you say about being picky and using audiobooks as a way of reading while doing something that means you can’t read a physical book. How do you make your choices? How do you assess that an audiobook will be right for you? Is there an option to listen to a clip, the equivalent of reading the first page of a book, to see if you like the style?

    The older I get, the more traditional I realise that I am! I don’t like online shopping, I like going to shops to look at clothes and try them on. I think that’s how I feel about audiobooks.

    • I’m totally with you about the immersive experience of books, and the funny thing is, while I was painting a small room (hours of time on my own) I listened to “Night Circus” and “Slaughterhouse 5” and was more immersed in those than I would’ve been had I read a few chapters at a time of an actual book. That’s one of my tricks, listen for at least 20-30 minutes at a time, otherwise (like in hard copy) you lose track. But, the way that the narrator reads the book absolutely influences my perception of it and the characters, depending on how much they ‘act’ out the roles. So I guess you have to be okay with that.

      On Audible (boo!) you can listen to a sample clip, but since I try and borrow them, there is certainly a lot less to lose. I have tried a couple of books that I know I’ve enjoyed in print, but just coudn’t appreciate aurally. Trial and error I guess.

      In the end, I tend to go for books that I want to read, but am just not going to get to. (Slaughterhouse 5 has been in my TBR list for years and I would never have got to it but for this audio version- win win for me!)

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