Nothing tops getting lost in a captivating book. Well, perhaps one thing: Having it read to you during a long drive, a brisk walk through the neighborhood, or as you’re sipping a favorite holiday beer in front of the fire.
Traditional reading is a wonderful thing and is always deeply encouraged. Yet, we love to multitask and that’s where the hands-free audio book truly plays a part. Plus, listening to a book can allow you to appreciate a different side of it, a certain cadence, choice word, or other literary tool you might otherwise miss if it was you gobbling up the words.
Sometimes you need a helping hand from a good narrator when reading something dense (Jonathan Franzen comes to mind, or the brilliant American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis). Other times, it’s just nice to hear a familiar voice (Mathew McConaughey, for example). And the kid in us all simply adores being told a tale.
Here are the ten best audio books to sink your ears into:
A Promised Land
This book from former President Barack Obama is settling and, well, presidential during a rather tumultuous time. It’s honest and deals in Oval Office goings-on but also touches on the importance of family and Obama’s own quite interesting childhood. Better still, there’s a second installment planned for the future.
How to Be an Antiracist
If you don’t follow Ibram Kendi’s incredible and ongoing body of work, you should. The author and essayist is responsible for some of the most informed and biting stories about race and life in America out there. This book has essentially become a guide to doing better in 2020, a must-read (or must-listen-to) for all.
My Own Words
Regardless of your political views, the nation lost a genuine heroine in Ruth Bader Ginsburg earlier this year. This memoir is a combo of RGB’s own writing along with officially sanctioned content from her biographers. It further showcases the former Supreme Court justice as an unbelievably driven, sharp-as-a-tack legal mind.
This book by naturalist Helen MacDonald is refreshing in its glimpse of nature. It tracks various wild critters through a family of essays and reveals the world as a wild and beautiful place we can always learn from and be floored by.
Yes, it’s wonderful to hear Mathew McConaughey read his own work and it’s practically meta. But there’s also some real substance here. More than just an iconic actor tooting his own horn, the book is thoughtful and drifting, like a reflective journey through the desert. It’ll make you want to have a beer with the guy even more than you already do now.
The Cold Millions
Many book critics are calling this the release of the year and while the format doesn’t really matter (physical book, digital book, audio book), it might be easiest to just take it in while you’re wrapping up chores or commuting. It’s the eighth and arguably best novel from Jess Walters, one that deftly navigates timeless inequities and the power of profit. It also keeps you on your toes with a plurality of various narrators.
Sometimes you just want a relatively quick read that covers all the bases. This story by Jean Kyoung Frazier is incredibly relatable in its coming-of-age existentialism. And, with a teenage pregnancy and shaky familial life at the fore, there’s plenty of touching dysfunctional drama.
How to Write One Song
Who would know better than one of the best working songwriters? Here, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame dives into songwriting and the creative process, something especially relevant as we look to stay mentally involved and inventive during a pandemic.
The House of the Spirits
We could all use some magical realism these day and standout Chilean author Isabelle Allende is the best in the business. This modern classic from 1982 is Allende’s debut and is nothing short of breathtaking, inspired equal parts by family, mortality, and Marquez’s fantastic One Hundred Years of Solitude.
This absolute classic by Herman Melville is extremely long. So much so that it clocks in at about 24 hours of nonstop reading by even the most efficient narrator. Enjoy it in pieces as there’s a lot to savor in and around the dense, expertly written prose. It’s from 1851 but as fitting and complex of a metaphor as ever these days.
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