Celebrating Audiobook Month

June is Audiobook Month!  Of course, for me, pretty much every month is audiobook month, because audiobooks are the primary way I enjoy a story—not to mention the fact that I get to hand-pick dozens of audiobooks each month for our Brilliant Books Monthly Audio subscribers.  There are lots of reasons why audio works well for me, but here are five of my favorites.


1. I can multi-task

You know that scene in the classic Mary Poppins film where she says "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun?"  (Followed by a musical number in which the nursery tidies itself?)  Well, audiobooks aren't exactly the key to getting my house to self-clean, but it certainly does make the work much more enjoyable.  I listen to audiobooks while I cook, clean, garden, drive...pretty much any time there isn't someone talking to me, I'm listening to an audiobook.  I struggle to sit down and just read a book in print when I know I have other tasks that need to be done, and since I need to keep up on what's happening in the literary world, the fact that audiobooks let me do other tasks while enjoying the story is a serious win-win for me.


2.  I like the surprise of it

With physical books, you get physical cues to the arc of the story.  When you're holding it, it's obvious you're halfway through the story when you've got half the pages left, but unless you're playing close attention to the meter on your audiobook (and I never do), you're reliant entirely on the author's (and narrator's) ability to draw you along into the story.  It does mean that those cliffhanger endings are a bit of a sucker punch, but for me, it's worth it to just ride the narrative as it unfolds without any external cues. 


3.  I love Libro.fm's selection

This will probably come across as totally commercial since Brilliant Books is a Libro.fm partner, and, as a bookseller, I also get early access to a selection of titles to listen and review before they're released, but hear me out.  There are lots of options for digital audiobooks today, but Libro.fm is unique in that it both supports indie bookstores and offers a full range of titles.  In fact, the only titles I've ever been unable to find on Libro.fm are Audible Exclusives, which, as the name implies, are not available on any other platform.  I've had Brilliant Books Monthly subscribers request obscure topics, little known translations, older works, and smash hit bestsellers, and almost every time I'm able to meet those requests.  It's a fantastic platform and I'm a big fan personally as well as professionally.


4.  Narrators are amazing

I have a whole host of favorite narrators, including the remarkably prolific George Guidall (check out The Golem and the Djinni and the new sequel, The Hidden Palace), the incredibly talented January LaVoy (The Diviners series is fantastic!), and late great Roy Dotrice (who, alas, passed away before he could read all of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series).  Narrators can take a book that I might have found so-so in print and elevate it to a whole new level.  The way they use silence and tone to transform words on a page is astounding to me, especially when they're creating a whole cast of characters.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a full cast recording as much as the next listener, but there's something virtuosic about a narrator who can bring multiple voices to life so well you forget you're not listening to several people in conversation.


5.  I like being read to

This is maybe the most basic reason why I love audiobooks.  I grew up with books on tape (yes, actual casettes!) and parents who read bedtime stories (and after-school stories, and mid-morning stories, and pretty much every other time of the day stories as well).  I was a teller of ghost stories at sleepovers and around campfires.  I used to read aloud with friends in school, even into college when my study group would take turns reading aloud from our required literature texts so the rest of us could take a break.  Even today, I read aloud to my pets.  (They are not impressed, but they're a pretty tough crowd.)  I like to watch the story unfolding inside my own head, like a personal screening of a film I've directed myself.  A story that's told aloud is ephemeral, leaving only the pictures in my mind.  In fact, I've found that in books I later go back and read in print, I don't connect the characters I've envisioned in my mind to the way their names look on the page, at least not until I'm well into the book.  It's a different way to process a story, and it works better with some books (and for some people) than others, but for me, it's an absolute delight, and I am so glad for an excuse like Audiobook Month to get to talk about audiobooks some more!

So, in honor of Audiobook Month, here are ten audiobook recommendations to enjoy.  Hope you like them as much as I did!

The Blacktongue Thief

Fantasy fans, rejoice!  While you're waiting on the next book from epic fantasy mainstays like Rothfuss and Martin, Buehlman's fantasy debut delivers all the action you could hope for, from a wise-cracking thief in debt to his guild to a witch who lives in a gravity-defying upside down tower to a blind cat who's more than he seems.  This is an adventure that snowballs from minor to epic, much to the characters' occasional dismay.  Bonus points!  The audiobook is performed by the author.

The Book of Accidents

I will admit, I did not love Chuck Wendig's last book, Wanderers.  Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but there was a lot going on—too much for one book, in my opinion.  At first, I thought this book might have the same tendency, as the three main characters all have very different roles to play and have very different perspectives on the story as a whole.  But instead, the disparate threads wind tighter and tighter until the whole weave takes on a new shape.  It's a horror story, to be sure, but also refreshing in that the characters don't spend too long denying the weirdness that's happening around them, and, best of all, they believe (and believe in) one another.  I hadn't expected a horror story to make me quite so introspective about family dynamics, but it does a very good job of that, too.

Nothing to See Here

For me, the narration absolutely makes this book.  In print, it would be funny, but the humor is only highlighted by Marin Ireland's dry, sarcastic delivery.   The world-weary tone of she adopts for Lillian, the story's narrator, makes her instantly relatable, even for those of us who have not found ourselves nannying for a pair of unwanted stepchildren with very unusual abilities.

The Maidens

I will admit, I am recommending this one solely on the strength of Michaelides previous book, The Silent Patient.  I enjoyed the twists and turns of that one immensely and was particularly impressed given that it was Michaelides' debut novel.  I'm looking forward to seeing how he weaves in academia and classics into this next story when it's released next Tuesday!

Why Fish Don't Exist

I can't actually tell you what this book is about.  Not because it would spoil the book, but because it covers so much ground.  It does literally explain why "fish," as a concept, don't actually exist, but that's such a tiny part of this story that it hardly bears mentioning.  Perhaps the easiest description is to say that it's about identity.  How do we identify and define ourselves, each other, our world?  Does it matter?  Lulu Miller weaves together her own story with that of her subject: David Starr Jordan, taxonomist and founding president of Stanford University.  The story meanders through existential questions, museum collections, and navigating modern relationships, all without losing the narrative thread that draws it all together.  It's a masterful example of storytelling and worth a listen for anyone who sat up late in college debating the great "why's?" of life with friends.

Deadly Education

I knew Novik was an excellent storyteller, but I didn't realize her work could be quite so humorous.  The stakes in this story are high (students at a school of magic where being maimed or devoured by monsters is a daily hazard), but the dry, sarcastic wit of her protagonist and the resignation with which she faces dire situation after dire situation keeps the book from feeling heavy or overly dark.  I am very much looking forward to the sequel, The Last Graduate, out this September.

The Echo Wife

Initially, I was puzzled by the choice of Xe Sands as narrator for this one.  It was billed as a thriller, and Sands' quiet, understated narration felt a bit removed from the story.  But the more I listened, the more I realized what a masterful choice she was.  Evelyn, the story's protagonist, is a brilliant scientist whose skills and devotion to her work have left her husband feeling overshadowed.  Rather than celebrate her strengths, or try to improve his own capabilities, he takes a different approach: using Evelyn's own work to create a clone of his wife whose personality is better suited to his desires.  There's murder, manipulation, and a cover-up.  There are questions of personhood, of womanhood, of motherhood.  There is a lot going on in this brief little book, and, entertaining as it is, it's worth thinking about, too.


As someone who watches superhero movies and wonders who's going to clean up the mess left after the heroes win, this book was right on the money.  After all, the difference between superhero and supervillain is only a matter of public perception.  After a run-in with a superhero leaves her injured and out of work, Anna discovers that perception can be manipulated.  But will a PR campaign be enough to take down a superhero bent on "doing good" no matter what the cost?  This book is funny and scary and brilliantly blends comic book elements with real-world impacts in a way that's both thought provoking and entertaining.

The Bright Lands

I am not a sports person.  I am very, very not a sports person.  I actually passed over this book for far too long because it appeared to be a football book, and that's just not my thing.  But horror, on the other hand, is very much my thing, and as it turns out, the intense insularity, toxic masculinity, and cultural pervasiveness of a Texan high-school football team is the perfect setting for some very scary things, both natural and supernatural. 

The Plot

I was a bit skeptical when I read the cover blurb for this one.  Writing about an author who is writing a #1 bestselling blockbuster of a book carries the risk of feeling unbelievable.  You can get by if the details of that story-within-a-story aren't critical, but in this case, the whole point of the book is the plot of that meta-narrative, which is so good, so twisty, and so inventive that out-of-ideas novelist Jacob Finch Bonner can't help but steal it.  So does Jean Hanff Korelitz create a plot that's just that good? 

Yes.  Yes, she does.