Audio Book Essays Written
Audiobooks have come a long way: where once I used to hope that a book would someday be available as an audiobook now I find myself having the conundrum of deciding whether I want to read recent releases with my ears or eyeballs (or both!). The publishing industry has obviously realized how many audiobook lovers there are and thanks to technological advances we’re getting a lot more selection–and ways to listen. And it’s awesome. Especially with so many great 2016 audiobook releases. Here’s what we’re loving so far.
The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman: Neil Gaiman’s voice – deep, calm, with a patient British accent – makes for a delightfully soothing listen to an incredible collection of nonfiction works. I wandered through bookstores in New York City while listening to him talk to me about the importance of libraries, his own experience reading as a child, and how no book for a child is a “bad” book for a child. His essays are fantastic and you’ll want to highlight your copy of the book up and down, but I highly recommend listening to the audiobook – it brings you sort of one step closer to the personal stories and anecdotes Gaiman shares. —Nicole Brinkley
The Fireman by Joe Hill: Joe.Hill.narrated.by.Kate.Mulgrew. Need I say more? Okay… I will. Not only did this book inspire in me feelings of outrage, stress and, ultimately, hope, but Mulgrew’s narration added a tension to Hill’s story that only enhanced the feeling that I was experiencing Harper’s situation myself. Kate Mulgrew should narrate all the things and Joe Hill should write all the things. /gavel —Elizabeth Allen
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: This audiobook might be the surprise of the year for me. I don’t listen to a ton of audio because I have a short attention span for listening, and some of the author-read books I’ve tried have been big disappointments. Jahren’s memoir of her life in science is a delight, and the pop-science combined with her reading of it pushes it over the edge into “great” territory. It’s readily apparently that she is in love with science and discovery, passionate about the people on the journey with her, and I loved getting to know her as well as gaining a better understanding of the science of plants. I didn’t realize just how fascinating that could be. — Andi Miller
Shrill by Lindy West: If you are a person who appreciates unapologetic feminism, body positivity, and a well-placed poop joke, Lindy West’s Shrill might wind up being the best book of essays you have ever listened to in your life. Sandwiched between HILARIOUS jokes about reading high fantasy by Robert Jordan on the bus, and the situation with deeply disturbing high school choir outfits, Lindy has gifted us a “fat feminist abortion manifesto” (her words), because “people don’t expect to hear from women like that. And I want other women to see me do that and I want women’s voices to get louder.” I’ve long loved Lindy West’s amazing comedic timing in her writing for The Stranger, Jezebel, and The Guardian, and listening to her deliver her jokes on audio was kind of the most fantastic thing ever. She confesses that she never wanted to be the poster child for fighting virtual trolls and calling out rape jokes, yet she does it every day for everyone who wants women’s voices to get louder. She’s doing it for me, and she’s doing it for you. Thank you, Lindy West <3 —Rachel Smalter Hall
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz, Madeleine Maby (Narrator): I have a terrible habit of listening to murder mysteries/thrillers while driving alone through long, isolated stretches of highway. So when I put on Lisa Lutz’s The Passenger during a drive to Tahoe, I thought I was facing several nights of sleeping with the lights on. The opening lines were not reassuring: “In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death.” Well, great, glad I’m taking this narrator with me to a cabin in the woods. I needn’t have worried. Lutz’s protagonist, Tanya, certainly has skeletons in her closet but they’re more mysterious than creepy. As she flees her past, Tanya slips from identity to identity and meets an increasingly unpredictable cast of characters. Though I never completely trusted Tanya as a narrator, I was glad to be along for the ride. —Katie MacBride
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig: About 90% of my “reading” these days come from audiobooks and I’ve come to appreciate the recordings that are non-intrusive, where I can listen without really realizing I’m not reading a book myself. That is much easier said than done, but Kim Mai Guest nails it every time. Her narration let me sink in to this wonderful world of magic-based time travel, pirate ships, complicated family relationships, and a mixing pot of mythologies by perfectly, inobtrusively rendering the beautiful prose. —Sarah Nicolas
And my picks for best audiobooks of 2016 so far are:
The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales: A smart, bonkers, and awesome book filled with lady assassins, a mechanical arm wielding character, an Oracle, and great fight scenes that had me cheering for fighting–and was literally what the title says it is about. The delivery of the narrators (Sarah Scott, Natasha Soudek, Susan Hanfield, and Mike Chamberlain) was so spot-on that every time there was an f-bomb dropped I’d laugh out loud (the real kind not the online lol kind).
The Devourers by Indra Das: Beautifully written, intense, original, brutal, and a captivating story about a professor and the mysterious half-werewolf man he meets who has a strange request: to transcribe a hell of a tale involving a shape-shifter and the woman he rapes. Matching the lush writing is Shishir Kurup’s delicious voice and Meera Simhan’s lovely narration which makes the vulgarities, violence, and exploration of what makes us human vs monster go down smoother.
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings: I recently have seen people making comments about how women under a certain age have no right writing memoirs and I could not disagree more. Jazz Jennings is a teen with a story everyone should read. She’s smart, funny, compassionate, and shows that even with a supportive family the world is still full of hurdles for the transgender community. She’s also a fantastic narrator.
American Housewife: Stories by Helen Elli, Kathleen McInerney (Narrator), Lisa Cordileone (Narrator), Rebecca Lowman (Narrator), Dorothy Dillingham Blue (Narrator): The women and stories in this collection were so funny and entertaining I ended up volunteering to organize my basement so I could spend the day listening. (First time I’ve read an entire short story collection in one sitting—technically standing on a ladder.) From dumpster diving reality show contestants, to a ridiculous neighbor war, to a bra size fitter, and the behind the scenes of a book club I loved every story and moment of this book and its smart, dark humor.
Do you have a favorite 2016 audiobook?
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With so much school work to do, it may seem impossible to get any extra reading in, but luckily, there are free audio books available to help you out. Whether you need to catch up on reading that you skipped over in high school or would enjoy expanding your horizons with books you haven’t read but feel you should have, download these books and listen any time.
Literature from the UK
British, Scottish, and Irish writers of some very impressive literature are included among these books you should have read.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.
Listen to these tales, which were originally created to be heard, not read.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
Probably the most famous love story, if you haven’t read this yet, then be sure to listen to it now.
The Tempest by William Shakespeare.
One of Shakespeare’s most magical plays, The Tempest is best heard aloud.
Emma by Jane Austen.
Listen to Austen’s popular comedy of manners here.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Another popular Austen novel, this one revolves around five sisters in English society.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Discover the secrets and passion in this popular, yet unusual tale of romance.
Howards End by EM Forster.
This book about class and society in turn-of-the-century England is not to be missed.
Silas Marner by George Eliot.
Be sure to listen to Eliot’s classic about love, friendship, and community.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.
This story was first written to highlight some of the horrors taking place in society during the 1800s and has become a popular classic.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Perhaps one of the most popular Christmas stories, this is worth a listen.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
Listen to this story, which was the basis of the movie Apocalypse Now.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.
This story will take you on a fun ride as two young men attempt to woo their ladies through a bit of deception that brings much confusion and hilarity.
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.
Get stranded on a tropical island with this story–considered to be the first novel written in English.
Chrome Yellow by Aldous Huxley.
Perhaps more famous for his Brave New World, Huxley’s Chrome Yellow showcases the wit and social satire that make up most of his early work.
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle.
Hear the story of this famous archer and his exploits.
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.
Satire and adventure abound in this classic story.
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.
Listen to this famous Christian allegory that has not fallen out of favor since it was published in 1678.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.
This semi-autobiographical novel tells of a young man coming of age and becoming an artist.
Night and Day by Virginia Woolf.
Perhaps one of her lesser-known novels, Night and Day explores themes typical in Woolf’s writing, including marriage, love, and woman’s role in relationships and society.
Listen to the works of Willa Cather, who grew up and went to college in Nebraska, New Jersey native Stephen Crane, and F Scott Fitzgerald, who spent time in Minnesota, among other esteemed American writers with these free audio books.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
A short novel, this story tells of a woman who feels constrained and unfulfilled until she reaches out for something different.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London.
Go north with London’s story of Buck, who becomes a sled dog in Alaska and eventually heeds the call of the wild.
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather.
Follow this family from Sweden that creates a place on the American frontier.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Despite being a novel written by a middle aged white woman, Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been credited for changing the views of slavery in the north.
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.
This story details the confusion, cowardice, and ultimately, peace of mind of a soldier in the American Civil War.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn.
Frequently taught in high school, if you missed this book, then listen to it here.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
If this whale of a book seemed too large to tackle, listen to this audio version instead.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Make sure your understanding of this story comes from the source and not TV shows or cartoons that have distorted the tale.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
Not only is this book acclaimed for its accurate portrayal of upper-class society in New York of the early 20th century, it also earned Wharton the first Pulitzer Prize given to a woman.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F Scott Fitzgerald.
This story, taken from Fitzgerald’s book, Tales of the Jazz Age, tells the story of a man who ages backwards and encapsulates the blithe lifestyle of the period.
From Kafka’s Metamorphosis to Hesse’s Siddhartha, be sure to listen to these incredible European works.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
This short novel details the unusual change a man unexpectedly goes through upon waking one morning. Discussed widely for its deeper meaning, this story is sure to provide you with a few ideas of your own.
Candide by Voltaire.
Don’t miss this biting commentary on society that is known for it’s satirical wit.
Anton Chekhov: Collected Stories.
Listen to these stories written by famed Russian dramatist, Anton Chekhov.
Don Quixote, Volume 1 by Miguel de Cervantes.
This story of imagination will keep you listening as you await the next adventure.
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.
Siddhartha sets out on a journey to find the Buddha, and discovers himself in the process.
The Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy.
Experience the master’s revelation as he and the peasant struggle through a blizzard.
Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Listen to this story, the ravings of a bitter, isolated madman.
Classic Mysteries and Thrillers
Find well-known thrillers such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula as well as some less well-known but still popular mysteries such as The Red House Mystery written by AA Milne.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Listen to this classic tale of Frankenstein’s creation of a monster and what happens when he fails to take responsibility for what he has made.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
This famous tale of a man with two personalities is as likely to send chills down your spine as it did for readers in the 1800’s.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Follow along as Sherlock Holmes solves this famous mystery.
Dracula by Bram Stoker.
You really can’t miss listening to the original tale of Count Dracula.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
Give this ghost story a listen to see what becomes of a governess and her two charges.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.
Don’t lose your head over this story, just be sure to listen to it if you haven’t already read the book.
The Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs.
You may never want to have three wishes again after listening to this story.
The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe.
Locked safely away from the plague, the prince and his court hold a masquerade, to which a mysterious stranger attends.
War of the Worlds by HG Wells.
Listen to Wells’ famous tale of martians taking over Earth and imagine hearing its adaptation broadcast over the radio as it once was, possibly setting off widespread panic.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy.
Follow the daring exploits of the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel in this adventure story that has stood the test of time.
The Red House Mystery by AA Milne.
Famous for being the creator of Winnie the Pooh, this novel is the only mystery written by Milne and still enjoys publication today.
Biographies and Autobiographies
Listen to these outstanding books about famous people such as Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller.
Find out how Helen Keller overcame her obstacles to become a famous author, lecturer, and political activist.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
Listen to Thoreau’s experience as he lived on Walden Pond in an experiment to better understand society by isolating himself from it.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass.
Born into slavery, Douglass escaped to the north, where he began a life lecturing against slavery.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin.
Written in four parts and left unfinished, this book is considered one of the most influential autobiographies written.
The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Henry Ketchum.
This biography is written by the cartoonist famous for creating Dennis the Menace, and while he takes on the subject with all seriousness, the story is a delight to hear.
Personal Memoirs of US Grant by Ulysses S Grant.
Learn about Grant’s life and the American Civil War with his memoirs, finished just weeks prior to his death.
The Boy’s Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Hermann Hagedorn.
Written with the blessing of the Roosevelt family, this book tells the fascinating story of Theodore Roosevelt.
The Life of PT Barnum by Joel Benton.
Learn about the life of this innovative entrepreneur and founder of one of the most famous circuses ever.
The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Hear this book about one of the great masters.
You really should have read these books by now, but if you haven’t, then by all means, take the time to listen to these classics.
Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum.
Download this free podcast from iTunes to listen to this timeless story.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Follow Alice and her adventures with this free audio recording.
Peter Pan by JM Barrie.
You may have seen any number of movie versions of this story, but listen to the book too.
Five Children and It by E Nesbit.
Listen to this magical tale of the children and their discovery of a sand-fairy.
Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen.
Listen to 18 fairy tales, some popular and some not so well known, written by Andersen.
Grimms’ Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm.
Get even more fairy tales with these from the brothers Grimm.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
The four sisters in this story will warm your heart and stay with you forever.
The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi.
Don’t rely on Walt Disney’s version of this story when you can listen to the original.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The ultimate in adventure stories, this is great tale for young and the young-at-heart.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.
Don’t miss this classic story of boyhood and the adventures of a bygone era.
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.
Learn the origin of many animals and events from the fantastical tales here.
Black Beauty – The Autobiography of a Horse by Anna Sewell.
Not originally intended just for children, this book tells of compassion and kindness.
The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik.
Without the use of his legs, this prince relies on his magic cloak for adventures.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
Listen to this popular tale of human-like animals living in the English countryside.
The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear.
This nonsensical poem tells the story of four animals, two of which marry after setting off to sea.
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery.
Follow the adventures of this spunky girl and her life at Green Gables.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.
This famous bunny gets himself into trouble, but his mom is always there for him.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri.
Heidi finds herself living in the alps with her grandparents and steals the hearts of all she meets.
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney.
This story tells of the Pepper family and how they always make the best of their difficult life circumstances.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco.
This tale of love and loss as told through a child’s stuffed rabbit is one that is certainly not to be missed.
These works of poetry are definitely not to be missed and include such powerhouses as The Raven, The Waste Land, and Leaves of Grass.
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.
This poem just begs to be read aloud, so be sure to listen to Poe’s famous tale of nevermore.
Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience by William Blake.
Allen Ginsberg performs these poems with musical accompaniment.
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.
Explore the medieval view of the afterlife as explained by Dante in his famous poem in three parts.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge.
Listen to this poem about loneliness, repentance, and hardship asea.
Death Be Not Proud by John Donne.
Donne overcomes fear by reducing death to a natural consequence with no power in this famous poem.
The Waste Land by TS Eliot.
Full of literary allusions, this influential poem is worth hearing, whether you’ve read the poem several times or never at all.
The Odyssey by Homer.
Listen to this Greek epic poem that details Odysseus’ eventful journey to return home.
Sonnets by William Shakespeare.
All 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets are included in this audio recording.
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.
Lose yourself in the sensual poetry of Whitman with this audio recording.
Beowulf by Anonymous.
This ancient poem tells of battles and dragons and is one of the cornerstone pieces of literature.
Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson.
Listen to the poems penned by this famous spinster.
Selected Poems by Robert Frost.
These poems by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet will remind you why Frost remains a favorite.
From American history to the essays of Francis Bacon and everywhere in between, these non-fiction books are some you need to hear.
Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.
Discover Nietzsche’s beliefs in this philosopher’s popular book.
The Souls of Black Folk by WEB Du Bois.
This collection of essays highlights both the repression of racism and the strength of the African American people as they rise to overcome.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.
From Woolf’s famous talk on women and writing, listen as you learn what Woolf says women need in order to be successful writers.
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.
This political treatise offers advice on how a prince can avoid overthrow.
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx.
Whether or not you buy into Marx’s theory, this is one you should have read by now.
The Essays of Francis Bacon.
These famous essays written in the early 1600’s by Francis Bacon cover philosophy, science, history, and law.
Relativity: The Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein.
If you’ve ever wondered about the theory of relativity, then give this book a listen.
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol I by Edward Gibbon.
Learn about the end of the magnificent Roman Empire here.
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville.
Visiting from France, de Tocqueville describes what he sees as the reason democracy was succeeding in America despite its failure in other countries.
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death by Patrick Henry.
Listen to this famous speech that convinced many of America’s founding fathers to send troops to fight in the American Revolution.
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln.
If you somehow made it through middle school without having read this famous address, then you should take this chance to listen to it here.
History of the United States by Charles Austin Beard.
This famous recounting of American history takes the somewhat unusual perspective of the founding fathers being motivated more by money that philosophical beliefs.