All Ears: Top Audiobook Titles for Summer and Fall | Audio Spotlight

Audiobook consumption among library patrons continues to rise. Barbara Hoffert’s 2017 materials survey found that circulation of downloadable audio was up more than nine percent overall, and the budget for downloadable audio has doubled in two years (though it’s still small, at four percent). In addition, media—physical and downloadable audiobooks, movies, and music—account for more than a quarter (27 percent) of materials budgets for the first time. Its budget share has grown nearly ten percent since 2006, when LJ began tracking materials breakdowns.

With that in mind, this summer and fall will see a plethora of extraordinary titles on audio, with something for every listener, from podcast enthusiasts to historical fiction fans to theater devotees. Information about narrators is included where available.


CRIME FICTION

Mystery, suspense, and other crime-related titles are reliable favorites on audio. Listeners interested in writing in the genre may benefit from The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction (Recorded Bks., Jun.), an entry in the “Great Courses” series in which David Schmid of the University of Buffalo explores, in a series of lectures, how and why various works in the genre are so compelling. Investigators putting his theories into practice include cop-turned-PI Frank Marr in David Swinson’s latest mystery, Crime Song (Hachette Audio, May; read by Christopher Ryan Grant); the chief inspector of the Ghanaian federal police, Darko Dawson, in Kwei Quartey’s Death by His Grace (Recorded Bks., Aug.); Isa Wilde, a new mother whose past catches up with her, in Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game (S. & S. Audio, Jul.); and the ex–national coroner of Laos, Dr. Siri Paiboun, who travels to Moscow for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Colin Cotterill’s The Rat Catcher’s Olympics (Recorded Bks., Aug.) and gets caught up in the investigation when a Lao athlete is accused of murder.

This summer will see highly anticipated series installments from Sue Grafton, who turns in the 25th entry in her “Alphabet Mysteries,” Y Is for… (Books on Tape, Aug.), and Louise Penny, whose 13th Armand Gamache mystery, Glass Houses (Macmillan Audio; read by Robert Bathurst), will be out in August. Treasure Hernandez introduces characters from both her “Baltimore Chronicles” and “Flint” titles in Return to Flint (Recorded Bks., Aug.; read by Diana Luke) as Tiphani Fuller returns to the hometown she swore she’d left behind. Fiona Barton and B.A. Paris are both releasing their second novels after wildly successful debuts (The Widow and Behind Closed Doors, respectively). In Barton’s The Child (Books on Tape, Jun.; read by Mandy Williams, Rosalyn Lander, and Jean Gilpin), the discovery of an infant’s ­remains leads to the unraveling of a web of mysteries, while Paris’s The Breakdown (Macmillan Audio, Jul.; read by Georgia Maguire) sees its protagonist losing her memories and living in fear.

The bond between parents and children is the driving force behind several upcoming titles. Gin Phillips’s heroine in Fierce Kingdom (Books on Tape, Jul.; read by Cassandra Campbell) must protect her son by hiding in a zoo at night. Joanne Fluke, best known for her cozy “Hannah Swensen” series, takes a walk on the dark side with The Stepchild (Recorded Bks., Aug.), in which a young woman must figure out whether the nightmares that plague her are memories of her mother’s murder—and whether her stepmother did the deed. The heroine of Agnete Friis’s What My Body Remembers (Recorded Bks., Aug.; read by Susan Boyce) also grapples with childhood memories of her mother’s murder and must figure out whether her father was wrongfully convicted. There’s no question that the father in Karen ­Dionne’s The Marsh King’s Daughter (Books on Tape, Jun.; read by Emily Rankin) is guilty of murder, and said daughter is the only one who can track him in the Upper Peninsula marshlands where he’s hiding.


FICTION OF NOTE

Nearly 20 years after The God of Small Things won the Man Booker Prize, Arundhati Roy releases her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Books on Tape, Jun.; read by the author), which examines the intertwined lives of numerous characters in India and beyond. Nobel Prize winner ­Orhan Pamuk’s The Red-Haired Woman (Books on Tape, Aug.) features a close friendship between a master well digger and his apprentice, temptation by the titular female, and a death with which the apprentice takes years to come to terms.
Robin Sloan’s second novel (after Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore), Sourdough (Macmillan Audio, Sept.), features a software engineer–turned–baker who must navigate the cutthroat world of Bay Area farmers markets. In Tracey Lindberg’s debut, Birdie (Recorded Bks., Jun.; read by Alyssa Bresnahan), Cree woman Bernice “Birdie” Meetoos travels from northern Alberta to Gibsons, BC, to recover from tragedy and build a new life. Alyssa Cole’s An Extra­ordinary Union (Recorded Bks., Aug.; read by Karen Chilton) is a romance between a slave–turned–Union spy and a Pinkerton detective, while Stef Penney’s Under a Pole Star (Recorded Bks., Sept.) is set in northern Greenland, New York, and London at the end of the 19th century as polar exploration began to capture the public’s imagination.

Life either just before or in the wake of a cataclysmic event continues to be a vibrant theme in fiction. In Benjamin Percy’s The Dark Net (Recorded Bks., Aug.), an ancient darkness is gathering strength in the depths of the anonymous online realm known as the dark net, and a disparate group that includes a well-intentioned hacker, a technophobe journalist, and a 12-year-old girl whose wearable tech helps her see must stop the demons from breaking out into the real world. John Jantunen’s A Desolate Splendor (Recorded Bks., Jun.; read by Graham Winton) is set after the collapse of civilization as an isolated family finds a ray of hope in their young son.

Akhil Sharma and Jeffrey Eugenides are both releasing short story collections. Sharma’s A Life of Adventure and Delight (HighBridge, Jul.) features such characters as an older divorced man attempting to learn to be a better partner by reading women’s magazines and a woman in an arranged marriage who suddenly realizes she is in love with her husband. Eugenides’s Fresh Complaint (Macmillan Audio, Oct.) finds a failed poet becoming an embezzler and a son feeling guilty about putting his mother in a nursing home.


PODCAST TIE-INS

Audiobooks are a natural next step for podcast fans, particularly when the books are extensions of popular shows. Manoush Zomorodi’s “Note to Self” podcast explores ideas connected to preserving humanity in the digital age. In Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self (Macmillan Audio, Sept.; read by the author), she encourages listeners to unplug, allow themselves to get bored, and see what creative thinking ensues. Krystyna Hutchinson and Corinne Fisher, who cohost “Guys We F*cked: The Anti Slut-Shaming Podcast,” share their findings in F*cked: Being Sexually Explorative and Self-Confident in a World That’s Screwed (HarperAudio, Oct.). And listeners can return to their favorite offbeat town in It Devours! (Harper Audio, Oct.; read by Cecil Baldwin), the latest from “Welcome to Night Vale” creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor.

Speaking of offbeat towns, Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier (Macmillan Audio, Oct.) will appeal to those fans for whom Showtime’s limited series, the first episode of which airs May 21, merely whets their appetite for cherry pie, black coffee, quirky characters, and murder.


LIFE SENTENCES

Several upcoming memoirs describe the experience of navigating the world from inside the author’s specific body. Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (Harper Audio, Jun.; read by the author) is an account of living inside what Gay refers to as her “wildly undisciplined” body; Kimberly Rae Miller’s Beautiful Bodies (Brilliance, Jul.) combines research into historical standards for the ideal body with Miller’s present-day pursuit of one. Naoki Higashida, a nonverbal man with autism, wrote The Reason I Jump when he was 13. Nine years later, he continues to share his unique view of the world in Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man’s Voice from the Silence of Autism (Books on Tape, Jul.).

The death of the author’s mother drives a number of upcoming titles. Sherman Alexie won both the National Book Award for his semiauto-biographical novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and the Odyssey Award for its audiobook, which he narrated. In You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me (Hachette Audio, Jun.; read by the author), he writes about his complicated relationship with his mother, Lillian. In We Are All Shipwrecks (Recorded Bks., Sept.), Kelley Grey Carlisle investigates her mother’s murder and recalls her own unusual upbringing with her porn store–owning grandparents. Sarah Perry also writes about her mother’s untimely death in After the Eclipse: A Mother’s Murder, a Daughter’s Search (HighBridge, Sept.). Comedian/actor Eddie Izzard was six years old when his mother died; the effects of that loss on the rest of his life are among the topics he considers in Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens (Books on Tape, Jun.; read by the author). Edwidge Danticat’s The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story (Recorded Bks., Jul.) explores both her mother’s death from cancer and the act of writing about the end of life.


THE WRITTEN WORD

John McPhee also looks at the act of writing in Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process (Recorded Bks., Sept.; read by the author). The essays depict the writing process from reporting to drafting through several rounds of revision. Those in the revision process may benefit from David Crystal’s grammar guide Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar (Recorded Bks., Jul.), in which the author aims to dispel the notion that grammar is dull and intimidating, while those having trouble getting started might turn to Edward O. Wilson’s The Origins of Creativity (Recorded Bks., Sept.), which probes what Wilson calls “the unique and defining trait of our species.” Bruce Handy considers the act of reading in Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult (HighBridge, Aug.), as he revisits classic works of American children’s literature by such authors as L. Frank Baum, Eric Carle, and Beverly Cleary.


THE LIVES OF WOMEN

This summer will see several group biographies of women. Elizabeth Norton’s The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women: A Social History (HighBridge, Jul.) looks at the lives of Tudor women from birth to old age, drawing on examples including Elizabeth Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister; Cecily Burbage, Elizabeth’s wet nurse; influential widow Mary Howard; and Elizabeth Barton, a peasant girl who became a seer. Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas by Donna M. Lucey (HighBridge, Aug.; read by Elizabeth Wiley) uses letters and diaries to survey the lives of women whose portraits were painted by John Singer Sargent: Elsie Palmer, Elizabeth Chanler, Sally Fairchild, and Isabella Stewart Gardner. ­Alison Weir casts her gaze back to the Middle Ages for Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens (Recorded Bks., Sept.), profiling Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror, and Empress Matilda, the mother of King Henry II, among others.

Rebecca Solnit follows up Men Explain Things to Me with the essay collection The Mother of All Questions (Tantor, May; read by Tanya Eby), in which she devotes herself to such topics as rape jokes, gender-based violence, and the masculinity of the literary canon. In A Uterus Is a Feature, Not a Bug: The Working Woman’s Guide to Overthrowing the Patriarchy (Harper Audio, Nov.), Sarah Lacy posits that working mothers, far from being distracted or weak, are focused, decisive, and tremendous assets to their organizations.

A collaboration among seven playwrights and seven female activists, Seven (L.A. Theatre Works, May) relates true and inspiring stories of overcoming adversity. Written by Paula Cizmar, Catherine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Carol K. Mack, Ruth Margraff, Anna Deavere Smith, and Susan Yankowitz, it is performed by an all-star cast: Shannon Holt, Jossara Jinaro, Alex Kingston, Emily Kuroda, Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris, Annet Mahendru, and Sarah Shahi.

Merely the tip of the season’s audiobook iceberg, these titles will provide listeners with hours of enjoyment.

Stephanie Klose is Media Editor, LJ

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.

Comments

  1. Jane says:

    This reads like an ad for Recorded Books…a bit more diversity with other audio publishers would be nice. Thank you.

  2. Hey Stephanie, thanks for the article. This is best covered best collections for the audio books.

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