7 more audiobooks for those who walk, vacuum, do laundry, etc.


7 Great Audiobooks to Listen to This Month

By Marshall Heyman, June 26, 2021

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Publishers

The audiobook category is expanding every day, and I certainly can’t listen to everything. The goal of this monthly column is to steer you toward audiobooks that I hope will provide the best experiences, pop-culture value, and something to talk about on your next Zoom.

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

The Anthropocene Reviewedby John Green$25$28 now 11% offPhoto: Publisher

Length: 10 hours, 3 minutes
Read by: The author
Speed you can listen: At least 1.6x

The conceit of this essay collection from the star YA author can sound like a bit much. Recognizing that our whole culture circles around the concept of “reviewing” (note the purpose of this column), Green waxes and wanes on several random topics, eventually giving them starred reviews on a scale of one to five. However, his personal ruminations on such things as The Great Gatsby, sunsets, and Diet Dr. Pepper (his beverage of choice) are very moving, not to mention emotionally, historically and intellectually perceptive. Also: Have you ever sung along with an audiobook? There’s a moment when Green asks you to join him in singing the war anthem “We’re Here Because We’re Here.” I sang along, alone, outside, just me and John Green. It put me at peace with the universe. And yes, I wept, okay? Though I’d really love to know what Green thinks of the newly released Dr. Pepper Zero, I give this audiobook five stars.$25 AT AMAZON

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris$21$24 now 13% offPhoto: Publisher

Length: 13 hours, 33 minutes
Read by: Aja Naomi King and others
Speed you can listen: At least 1.9x

I’ve been wondering why there’s been such an appealing array of thrillers set in the book world over the past few months. There’s been Who Is Maud DixonThe Plot, and now this bestseller. It’s about Nella, a Black woman who finds her position at Wagner Books undermined by Hazel, a new hire. I don’t know the answer to my own question, but I will say Harris’s is a worthy entry with some nice twists and turns. King, who has appeared on How to Get Away With Murder, instills the narrative with a lot of grounded anxiety that kept me questioning where it all was going. The 13-and-a-half-hour running time is a bit of a red flag, though. I’d argue the book should be a lot tighter — and the sharp turn out of reality the novel takes at the end feels a bit incongruous. Still, it’s a fascinating character study.$21 AT AMAZON

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston$22$26 now 15% offPhoto: Publisher

Length: 12 hours, 10 minutes
Read by: Natalie Naudus
Speed you can listen: At least 2x

McQuiston’s last novel, Red White and Royal Blue, about the son of the American president falling for the Prince of England, was just an audio delight. For the most part, McQuiston’s follow-up is equally breezy. August moves into a flat in New York with a ragtag band of random roommates, and she also picks up a job at a 24-hour retro diner. In between all that, she meets a captivating, retro woman named Jane on the subway, who is maybe stuck on the train and also in time. It’s a light read that’s hindered by its length, especially when you know where it’s all going to end up, but Naudus (and August) are pretty pleasant company, filled with allusions to ’70s rock, hipster Brooklyn references, and fairly explicit love scenes.$22 AT AMAZON

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night by Riley Sager$25$28 now 11% offPhoto: Publisher

Length: 9 hours, 1 minutes
Read by: Savannah Gilmore
Speed you can listen: At least 2x

This enjoyably canny thriller is kind of Freeway meets Shadow of a Doubt. At the start, college student Charlie Jordan is mourning the loss of her best friend, who was murdered by a serial killer — a very relatable setup. To get out of town, Charlie accepts a long ride home with Josh, a fella she doesn’t know who turns out to be someone she really doesn’t want to know. A groovy summer listen, Survive the Night is set in 1991, before mobile phones — so no help there. As in most stories in the woman-in-jeopardy genre, Charlie is unreliable. She’s always accidentally blacking out and seeing the “movies in my mind,” an expression that sounds like a Barbra Streisand number but is actually a song from Miss Saigon. Though I hated the way Gilmore pronounced the word “noir” — as in “film noir” — her brisk narration sufficiently racked my nerves (you know, in a good way), to the point that I would not advise listening to this book on a road trip, whether or not you’re alone in the car.$25 AT AMAZON

Double Blind by Edward St. Aubyn

Double Blind by Edward St. Aubyn$17$19 now 11% offPhoto: Publisher

Length: 7 hours, 46 minutes
Read by: Benedict Cumberbatch
Speed you can listen: At least 1.7x

Apparently Anthropocene is a buzzword this month, thanks to John Green (above) and the several times the expression appears in this new stand-alone from the author of the terrific Patrick Melrose novels. Despite how often it has popped up, I still don’t understand what Anthropocenemeans, but apparently it “relates to the current geological age.” But you haven’t quite heard the word Anthropocene until Benedict Cumberbatch (who played Patrick Melrose on the Showtime series) says it into your ear. Also, the way he says “chanterelle” and “epigenetics” is erotically on par with the TV adaptation of Normal People. I couldn’t get through a galley of this book, which is about … well, I don’t really know what it’s about. Turns out its show-offy wordiness is much better suited to Cumberbatch’s very sophisticated air, though even his take on the many characters that overpopulate this short narrative lost me around the six-and-a-half-hour mark.$17 AT AMAZON

The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman

The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman$25$28 now 11% offPhoto: Publisher

Length: 9 hours, 31 minutes
Read by: The author
Speed you can listen: At least 2x

Steadman has appeared on a ton of British television shows I’ve never heard of, save for Downtown Abbey (season five). Still, her acting chops are put to great use in reading aloud her own novel. This is especially the case when she switches to all these tinny and flat Southern Californian accents. After all, this is a book about a British actress named Mia who flees to Hollywood for some auditions after a particularly jarring breakup. Are her strange encounters in Los Angeles really happening, or is it her fragile emotional state? It’s easy to ignore the obvious unreliable-narrator tropes in this summer thriller just because the L.A. story of mistaken identities and terrorizing producers is clever and compelling. I forgave Steadman for the plot point where Mia’s ex is off making a film adaptation of Catcher in the Rye and also for the one where Mia goes to a gifting suite at the Sunset Tower. We all know those things would never happen! Warning: As with other books this month, the ending is a bit of a letdown, but it’s a good ride till then.$25 AT AMAZON

Rememberings by Sinead O’Connor

Rememberings by Sinead O’Connor$17$20 now 15% offPhoto: Publisher

Length: 7 hours, 15 minutes
Read by: The author
Speed you can listen: At least 1.6x

Sometimes you read a book to feel a teensy bit less insane, and this is one of those books that might make you feel a whole lot less insane. You know, for a few hours at least. I was never a fan of the singer Sinead O’Connor, and I don’t think Rememberings turned me into one. But she has some chutzpah. That’s pretty evident in the introduction, where she declares, “I’ve left some people out because I know they prefer privacy, and others cause I want them to be pissed when they look in the book and don’t find themselves.” Sinead O’Connor saying “pissed” is about as symphonic as you can get. There’s a lot of lyrical Shuggie BainAngela’s Ashes stuff to wade through here, but every so often there’s a real gem of a story — like when she does the weirdest Prince interpretation you’ll ever hear — and a throw-down shocker of a zinger. For instance, on her own institutionalization: “I get to call it a nut house, because I’m a nut.”$17 AT AMAZON


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