For me, summer is book reading season. I’ve always loved to read, and loading up on books for my summer reading list is a habit I’ve never been able to quit.
Sometimes, though, to sit and read seems impossible. I find this to be true especially during the school year. It’s like my brain is full and reading one. more. word. will do me in. I started an Audible subscription almost two years ago on the recommendation of my Department Chair, and I have enjoyed the experience immensely. It’s been fun to experience books I love in a new way, and it makes my daily commute pretty darn enjoyable. My mom (who has twice the commute time I have) shares my Audible account and has joined in on the fun. She says audiobooks have changed her life!
Audiobooks have certainly changed my reading habits for the better. And, happily, the research supports that listening to audiobooks can be just as effective as reading.
I’ve put together a list of my favorite audiobooks I’ve listened to as an audio-bibliophile. If you’re even remotely interested in the audiobook experience, consider dipping your proverbial toe in the water with one of these gems.
1. True Grit by Charles Portis / Read by THE Donna Tartt
A modern American classic; the hero’s journey; a western. Whatever you think it is, True Grit is even more.
Mattie Ross is a worthy protagonist, and Tartt’s southern drawl expertly captures Ross’ haughty tones as well as Portis’ biting wit. Tartt is a legendary writer in her own right, and I loved hearing her take on what she calls her favorite novel.
2. Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns / Read by Grover Gardner
A sweet story about a family in fictional Cold Sassy, Georgia at the turn of the twentieth century. Will Tweedy is our narrator, and he walks us through the changes his family and town undergo after his grandmother’s death. Will matures throughout the story and provides incredible insight into the human experience. Make sure to have a few tissues close by as you listen.
Gardner perfectly articulates Will’s thoughts and captures the humor and depth of Will’s family members and Cold Sassy townies.
3. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling / Read by Jim Dale
This recommendation might be considered cheating because I can’t recommend only one book from the HP series. Harry Potter is a series for a reason, and all seven books are so worth your time! I love these novels because Rowling is writing about the hero in us all: we are all Harry, and we want love to conquer all.
Jim Dale offers just the right amount of whimsy for the magical setting, but he also provides depth to what appears to be a simple children’s story at the outset.
A caveat: Although the series is marketed to children, I’d recommend reading or listening to them yourself first if you have a young kiddo in mind. The themes, while ultimately about good triumphing over evil, are dark at times. Additionally, Harry begins the series at eleven years old and ends when he is seventeen years old, and the maturity required for each novel increases.
4. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie / Read by Hugh Fraser
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was my first Agatha Christie read and it has remained my favorite of her works. It’s quintessential Christie: a murder, apparent air-tight alibis, a quirky detective (Hercule Poirot), and an incredible twist. Murderous fun delivered with Hugh Fraser’s distinguished English lilt. You’ll love it.
5. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys / Read by Jorjeana Marie, Will Damron, Cassandra Morris, and Michael Crouch
I read Salt to the Sea on one of my student’s recommendations. Plagued with my school-year ADD when it comes to reading after hours and with an Audible credit burning a hole in my pocket, I snagged the audio version and it blew my mind.
If you enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, you’ll love Salt to the Sea. In her New York Times review, fellow author Sabaa Tahir says that Salt to the Sea is, “Brutal. Beautiful. Honest.” I agree. Sepetys’ historical fiction is told from the perspectives of four young people whose stories converge on the doomed voyage of the Wilhelm Gustloff at the end of World War II.
6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood / Read by Claire Danes
I wanted to read The Handmaid’s Tale before the Hulu series came out (I still haven’t watched it…. oops), and was stoked when I saw that Claire Danes narrates the audio version. Danes does not disappoint! What a harrowing story. Danes’ crumbling cry face in her physical acting repertoire is replicated here in her shake voice and perfect characterization of Offred (or June?). It’s now one of my favorite books ever. Get it, then we’ll have to watch it on Hulu together.
7. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery / Read by Rachel McAdams
I read and enjoyed Anne of Green Gables as a girl, but I fell in love with Montgomery’s story as an adult. Anne is smart, hilarious, exhausting, tragic, and heroic all at once. McAdams impeccably captures each character’s voice: Matthew’s “Well now,” Ms. Rachel’s snooty gossip, Marilla’s stern but loving reprimands, and Anne’s own exasperated gasps. Anne’s wisdom surpasses her young age; yet as Anne grows, McAdams’ cadence changes to accommodate Anne’s newfound maturity. Now I can’t imagine Anne’s voice any other way.
8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë / Read by Thandie Newton
Jane Eyre is probably my favorite book ever. (Don’t make me choose!) I’ve read it at least one thousand times. I always get caught up in the romance, the ghost… Not to mention it has one of my favorite lines in all of English literature (spoiler listed here). But Thandie Newton’s understated take on Jane’s “tale of woe” is fantastic. If you haven’t read Charlotte Brontë’s classic yet, Newton’s audio version is the way to go.
9. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand / Read by Edward Herrmann
My only nonfiction choice! Unbroken is the incredibly true story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic athlete and survivor of a Japanese WWII POW camp. If you saw the 2014 movie version of Unbroken, you missed the most important parts of Zamperini’s story, as well as Hillenbrand’s beautiful and suspenseful retelling. Save yourself the trouble: forego the film version and listen to Mr. Richard Gilmore himself (Edward Herrmann) read it to you.