Update: I originally only had three books on this list, but I recently finished Hollow Kingdom and just knew I had to add it!
One of my goals following graduation this past May was to make more time for reading. And while that’s definitely still a goal for me to keep working towards in 2020, I did find a way to absorb more novels via audiobooks.
Audiobooks, of course, have been around for several years now and I know I’m a little bit late to the game. For a long time I was a stickler about reading physical books and found myself preemptively deciding that I wouldn’t like them. I still have some reservations about the format, namely that physical reading allows you to absorb the books more at your own pace and that it’s very easy to have an odd voiceover throw off the tone of an audiobook. However, as many others have already caught on to, finding the time and mental capacity to sit down with a trusty paperback isn’t always realistic.
I use a free app called Libby, which pairs with your library card to provide access to downloadable audiobook files depending on what’s available at your local library. Since it’s free, I’ve found the selection to be pretty limited. However, I was able to find each of the following books on there, which I definitely enjoyed. If you’re new to the audiobook game, I would suggest checking that out.
4. Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
This book in two words: Cute, comedic
Only Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham could produce a novel as simultaneously goofy and charming as this one, which follows an up-and-coming young actress in 1990s New York City. It’s a bit more light-hearted than the types of books I am usually drawn to, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It made for a really fun escape at the end of the work day, allowing me to fall into the imagery of the Big Apple and of the musings of this young girl who’s struggling to decide if she’s really tough enough to make down the career path she’s been dreaming of.
Although my own ambitions lie pretty far from Broadway, I found the main character to be relatable and funny.
3. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
This book in two words: Nuanced, thoughtful
The Immortalists tells the story of four siblings who, in 1969, decide to pursue the adventure of meeting with a psychic who’s rumored to be able to tell you the date of your death. She meets with each of the kids individually, and they each are told a date on which their life will end. The resulting novel follows each individual sibling on their journey through life, some of whom have taken their death day to heart, while others continue on with their lives relatively unbothered, never really believing that what the psychic said was true. This book is unique because it spans such a long period of time and is carefully threaded with historical American events, a touch that I personally loved.
Chloe Benjamin finds a way to showcase how each of the siblings grow up to be uniquely their own person, even though they always remain tied together by the unescapable bond of relation, and it feels as though you’re actually reading four different books in one for that reason.
It is the type of story that makes you ponder both mortality and morality in a way that leaves you more thoughtful than sad – which is a delicate balance to achieve given the general theme of the book.
2. Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
This book in two words: suspenseful, heart-wrenching
My wife initially rolled her eyes when I told her I was enjoying a post-apocalyptic story, but trust me when I say that this book is an apocalypse like I’ve never heard it told before. Kira Jane Buxton put a very special twist on the stereotypical zombie thriller by having the story be told not just by a plucky, comedic survivor, but by a comedic survivor that is a crow. Yes, that’s right, a bird – not a human – is the main character of this story, which follows his journey through the aftermath of Seattle when humanity falls prey to a gruesome plague.
Raised as a domestic pet, the main character “S.T.” teams up with his owner’s bloodhound to venture outside of their home for the first time once their owner succumbs to a mystery disease. Over time, S.T. learns more about the natural world while picking up clues as to what caused the downfall of humanity, meeting a huge cast of interesting animals along the way. The audiobook performance features incredibly varied voices for each new character, bringing each of them to life (my favorite was an infamous feline who was all too full of himself).
This story expertly retells a zombie apocalypse in a way that successfully manages to ensnare you with dry humor, carefully crafted action scenes and hope.
1. Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This book in two words: Gritty, heartfelt
This book was very enthusiastically recommended to me, specifically in its audio format, and is one of the main reasons I decided to give listening to books a try. My friend who recommended it isn’t alone in her avid love for the story; it’s become incredibly popular over the course of the last year and is currently being made into a limited Amazon series (produced by Reese Witherspoon, of all people!).
Daisy Jones & the Six is set up to read (or sound) like a documentary following a 1970s rock band. The band itself is completely fictional, but the story is woven into the historic events and places of the time, name-dropping real rock gods who came of age during the same era along the backdrop of the famous Sunset Strip. The audiobook is read with a full cast, so you’re basically listening to all the seven members of this band – and their crew – relive their glory years in a series of interviews. It very creatively portrays the rollercoaster ride that was rock ‘n roll in 1970s America, from the mania of drug-fueled parties to the tension and subsequent heartbreak of band member romances.
It is one of the most well-written books I’ve encountered in a long time, even if you take away the incredibly unique format of the way the story is told. Audiobooks as good as this one have taught me that it’s possible to look forward to my commute, and for that reason, it is my favorite book of 2019.