Anna Zeitlin

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Author Elaine Castillo proposes an open-minded and inclusive approach to literature and film in her radical, refreshing book on critical thinking, How to Read Now (9 hours). Castillo urges writers and readers to understand that nonwhite characters don’t exist for the sole purpose of teaching empathy to white people, and that the excuse “it was a different time” holds no water for stories that perpetuate colonialist worldviews, even when written by such cherished literary figures as Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling and Joan Didion. But How to Read Now isn’t just a takedown of outdated concepts; it’s also a celebration of the works that get it right, such as the films of Wong Kar-wai and the poems of Tommy Pico.

As both writer and narrator, Castillo expresses her strong point of view well. She is at her best when recalling personal stories, from growing up Filipina in a majority Asian American community, to attending a lauded graduate program that failed to meet her expectations. This is an audiobook for readers ready to shake things up, to open their eyes and ears, and to grow as lovers of stories.

Read our Q&A with Elaine Castillo on ‘How to Read Now.’

This is an audiobook for readers ready to shake things up, to open their eyes and ears, and to grow as lovers of stories.
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Alexis Hall leaps from the world of contemporary romantic comedies to the realm of Regency romance with A Lady for a Duke (15.5 hours).

Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood, has been moping around his family’s country estate ever since his closest friend died at the Battle of Waterloo. What Gracewood doesn’t realize is that his friend is not dead but finally living as her true self, Viola Carroll, a transgender woman. When Viola reluctantly accompanies her employer to Gracewood’s home, she is thrown into a complicated plot filled with secrets and yearning.

Hall puts his characters through the wringer, making their hard-won happily ever after all the more satisfying. British transgender voice actor Kay Eluvian delivers on the moodiness and longing of Hall’s novel, portraying Viola with feminine strength and Gracewood as a dashing, brooding hero. As they come together, their joy feels radical in the best way.

Read about how Alexis Hall is seizing his moment.

Transgender voice actor Kay Eluvian delivers on the moodiness and longing of Alexis Hall's novel, portraying Viola with feminine strength and Gracewood as a dashing, brooding hero.
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Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir Situation (14 hours) takes listeners through Hannah Gadsby’s life up to the release of “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette,” her groundbreaking 2018 Netflix special, in which she declared her intentions to quit comedy while offering a razor-sharp commentary on the industry’s dark side. 

As an autistic lesbian arts historian whose best friends growing up were her elderly neighbors in Tasmania, Gadsby has a unique perspective to share. From barely making it through school to mingling with Jennifer Aniston at Hollywood parties, she’s had quite the journey. Gadsby is a marvelous storyteller, and as a narrator she guides us through the sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious story of her life with good humor and a dry wit. Her impressions of her Mum are very funny and give us a real sense of the woman’s charmingly brusque personality. 

Four years after “Nanette,” Gadsby continues to bring eye-opening insight to the art of storytelling.

Hannah Gadsby is a marvelous storyteller, and as the narrator of her memoir's audiobook, she guides us through heartbreaking and hilarious moments with good humor and a dry wit.
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Good Omens (12 hours) is the most fun you’ll have at the apocalypse. Amazon adapted the 1990 novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett into a TV series in 2019, and while fans wait for the second season, they’re rewarded with this audiobook update featuring an all-star cast, including the show’s two lead actors. David Tennant reprises his role as Crowley, a demon tasked with overseeing the end times but who is rather enjoying life on Earth. His portrayal comes off as part sardonic badass, part buffoon. Likewise, actor Michael Sheen returns as foppish and erudite Aziraphale, the angel who is happy to help Crowley thwart Armageddon despite their supposed enmity. Both actors have a long list of Shakespearean stage credits to their names, and their performances here are some of the best character work ever recorded on audiobook.

Rebecca Front, known for her BAFTA-winning role in the British comedy series “The Thick of It,” provides the perfect narration to balance the weight of the topic with the silliness of the execution. An ensemble cast rounds out the other characters.

Good Omens would make great listening for a road trip, especially for families with precocious tweens and teenagers.

An updated audiobook with an all-star cast, Good Omens is the most fun you’ll have at the apocalypse.
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The new audiobook of Melissa Lenhardt’s groundbreaking 2018 novel, Heresy (14 hours), will transport you to the Old West of the 1870s through stellar performances from a diverse cast. Telling the tale of a gang of female bandits, the seasoned group of seven narrators (Barrie Kreinik, Bailey Carr, Ella Turenne, Nikki Massoud, Natalie Naudus, Imani Jade Powers and James Fouhey) brings their characters to life, whether reading from the journals of gang leader/former aristocrat Margaret Parker or from a 1930s interview with elderly former outlaw Hattie LaCour.

If you love the action and grittiness of this genre but long for more novels about the women, people of color and Indigenous people who shaped the American West, then this is the audiobook for you. Women didn’t have many options in the Wild West, but this gang of outsiders carves their own path, taking the law into their own hands and forming strong bonds along the way.

Read our review of the print edition of ‘Heresy.’

The new audiobook of Melissa Lenhardt’s groundbreaking 2018 novel will transport you to the Old West through stellar performances from a diverse cast.
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A Carnival of Snackery (17 hours) collects highlights from David Sedaris’ diaries from 2003–2020, read by the author and British-born actor Tracey Ullman. Sedaris’ diary entries reflect much of what we love most about his short stories and essays—observations about the unusual people he meets on his travels, anecdotes about awkward situations and tales about his family—all filtered through the lens of the last two decades, with backdrops that range from Brexit to protests against the Iraq War and George Floyd’s murder.

In the introduction, Sedaris explains that Ullman will narrate the portions of the audiobook set in England, to capture the local charm in a way he cannot. She does a wonderful job portraying Sedaris and the broad range of accents he encounters while across the pond, from a haughty horseback rider to a teenage troublemaker. Sedaris hardly needs help: He doesn’t perform as many voices in his sections, but his emphasis and timing get right to the humor at the heart of his diaries.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our starred review of the print edition of ‘A Carnival of Snackery.’

David Sedaris and actor Tracey Ullman get right to the humor at the heart of his diaries in the audio edition of A Carnival of Snackery.
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Top Pick
A Malaysian woman of Chinese descent, Yangsze Choo is an enchanting storyteller, and she ably narrates her own novel, The Night Tiger, set in the melting pot of 1930s colonial Malaya. Her narration is more than a reading; Choo has a deep empathy for her characters, and these emotions come out in her telling. The book weaves together the stories of Ren, a young houseboy on a mission to find his dead master’s severed finger and reunite it with his body in time for his soul to be at peace, and Ji Lin, a dressmaker’s apprentice and dance-hall girl who dreams of being a doctor and comes to possess the finger. Meanwhile, there seems to be a pattern to a series of tiger attacks. Are they magic or something else? Part mystery, part love story, The Night Tiger is draped in folklore, as traditions of the past butt up against a modern world of hot rods and tango dances. It deals with themes of death, family, marriage and ambition and questions what we owe the dead.

The New Me follows Millie, a 30-year-old temp who starts planning a whole new life for herself when she mistakenly believes she is being offered a full-time position. Her best friend barely tolerates her, and she rubs her co-workers the wrong way. She has an acerbic sense of humor but can’t gauge when to rein it in. Halle Butler narrates her own novel with a wickedly cynical tone that adds to Millie’s characterization and helps explain why the world seems to have it out for her. With glimpses from more well-adjusted characters’ perspectives that reinforce Millie’s disillusionment, The New Me is a funny, tragic portrait of an ambitionless millennial woman, as well as a dark vision of capitalism and consumerism.

Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth broke the mold in 1961 with its humor and respect for young readers’ intelligence, curiosity and playfulness. A new audiobook of the classic begins with an introduction from the now-89-year-old author, originally penned for the 50th anniversary edition. Juster shares the story behind the book, and it feels like he’s letting you in on a secret: What began as a short story inspired by a conversation with a young boy about infinity turned into the piece of literary canon we have today. The story itself—which follows a boy named Milo on an adventure through Dictionopolis and Digitopolis and over the Mountains of Ignorance to reunite the Kingdom of Wisdom—is narrated by Rainn Wilson (Dwight from “The Office”), who does a fantastic job. His original voices for each character fit perfectly, and he adroitly navigates all the wordplay to add a richness to Juster’s imagined world. This story may have been written for children, but it merits a listen at any age.

Top Pick A Malaysian woman of Chinese descent, Yangsze Choo is an enchanting storyteller, and she ably narrates her own novel, The Night Tiger, set in the melting pot of 1930s colonial Malaya. Her narration is more than a reading; Choo has a deep empathy for her characters, and these emotions come out in her […]
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TOP PICK
Mitchell S. Jackson (The Residue Years) is a stunning writer, and his personal memoir, Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family, ties his experience of growing up in Portland, Oregon, to the stories of his family members and to the larger black experience throughout American history. None of the challenges his family faced are isolated events; they are all part of a bigger picture, wrapped up in history, tradition and laws trenched in racism. For example, he begins a section on his mom’s drug problems by taking us through the entire history of cocaine. Jackson does a beautiful job connecting all the puzzle pieces, and his rhythmic, poetic narration enhances the written word and demonstrates his mastery of language. Yes, it’s a personal memoir, but it tells a much larger story.

Aimee Sinclair is a London-based actress who is wrapping up a film shoot when her husband goes missing. The police find it suspicious when she continues to live her life as if nothing has happened, and she quickly becomes the primary suspect. But Aimee has a complicated past: She was kidnapped as a child. I Know Who You Are splits the narrative between her experience with her kidnappers and the current day, when her life is once again unraveling around her. Aimee has killed before, but she doesn’t understand how she could possibly be responsible this time. Maybe she’s going crazy. Alice Feeney’s latest thriller is a compelling listen that had me on the edge of my seat to the very end. Narrator Stephanie Racine deftly portrays characters from a variety of regions and classes across the U.K. and Ireland. She shines in this first-person narration, capturing Aimee’s self-doubt, worry and determination. 

In Too Much Is Not Enough: A Memoir of Fumbling Toward Adulthood, theater and TV star Andrew Rannells recounts his life and career from his first audition as a young boy to his first role on Broadway in his late 20s. From dinner theater in Nebraska to summer stock theater and finally Broadway, he tracks his career through a series of humorous and touching vignettes. A misguided tip to drop off his headshot at every stage door on Broadway surprisingly leads to his first Broadway audition. He shares lessons learned from failed romances, and you won’t believe which rock star he met in full Star Trek regalia during “kink night” at the bar. As a narrator, Rannells lets his peppy personality shine as he dishes about bad acting experiences and stooping to playing a stereotype in the musical adaptation of a children’s cartoon. This audiobook is a must-listen for fans of musical theater.

TOP PICK Mitchell S. Jackson (The Residue Years) is a stunning writer, and his personal memoir, Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family, ties his experience of growing up in Portland, Oregon, to the stories of his family members and to the larger black experience throughout American history. None of the challenges his family faced […]
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Starred Review
The new novel from Balli Kaur Jaswal, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, is a quietly radical feminist story of three estranged sisters who travel from the U.K. and Australia to their parents’ home country, India, to fulfill their mother’s dying wish. Their mother leaves them a detailed itinerary with activities meant to teach them about being better people and better sisters. Each sister is facing her own crisis at home. One is freaking out about becoming a grandmother, as her son has barely finished high school; another is an actress who has become an unfortunate YouTube sensation; and the youngest has a very traditional husband and an overbearing mother-in-law. They learn to embrace the old ways but are also confronted with very modern issues. Great narration by Soneela Nankani and Deepti Gupta are fun when they need to be but also carry an emotional weight.

If you didn’t have the chance to see Tony Kushner’s Angels in America on Broadway, this is the next best thing. Originally staged on Broadway in 1993, the play is set at the height of the AIDS crisis in 1986 New York City and follows several characters whose lives are impacted by the disease as they confront mortality, loyalty, religion and Reagan-era politics. The audiobook features the full cast of the 2018 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival, and performances by Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane, Susan Brown, Denise Gough, Beth Malone, James McArdle, Lee Pace and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett are masterful, as you would expect from actors who have spent hundreds of hours in these roles. Stage directions, spoken by Bobby Cannavale and Edie Falco, help orient the action without slowing anything down. This is an important documentation of an era and a valuable story to retell for future generations.

Normal People, the second novel by Sally Rooney, makes for absolutely stunning listening. Her writing style is measured and tight, and she understands her characters as psychologically rich, full beings. The story follows Marianne and Connell, the smartest in their small Irish town’s high school class. However, he’s popular and she’s not, and she’s rich and he’s not. Their love affair begins as a secret and ebbs and flows through their time at Trinity College and after. Their story is an honest and focused portrait of two people becoming adults together and the ways life can get in the way. Aoife McMahon’s heartfelt narration is perfect. Her Irish accent adds to the sense of place and the class aspects that are so important to the novel.

Starred Review The new novel from Balli Kaur Jaswal, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, is a quietly radical feminist story of three estranged sisters who travel from the U.K. and Australia to their parents’ home country, India, to fulfill their mother’s dying wish. Their mother leaves them a detailed itinerary with activities meant […]
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Starred review
Beth O’Leary’s debut novel is a cute, cozy work of British pop fiction that’s hard to put down. After a bad breakup, Tiffy moves in with Leon, a nurse who works the night shift, because he only needs his flat during the day. She can’t afford her own place in London, and he needs the extra cash for his brother’s legal fees. They share a bed at opposite hours but don’t meet for months, communicating through notes left around the apartment. Tiffy publishes craft books, and she throws a bit of quirky chaos into Leon’s orderly apartment and life. The Flatshare (9.5 hours) switches perspectives between Tiffy and Leon, with narrators Carrie Hope Fletcher and Kwaku Fortune providing their voices. Fletcher and Fortune each do their own versions of all the characters’ voices, as heard from Tiffy’s or Leon’s point of view, which takes getting used to but totally works. It’s a sweet, charming love story.

Part memoir, part pop culture criticism, Mr. Know-It-All (10 hours) is one of those books that you definitely should listen to on audiobook over reading the printed book. Director and screenwriter John Waters is a fantastic storyteller and spends much of his time these days giving talks across the country. My favorite parts of his new book are when he digs really deep into tiny niches of popular culture, breaking down the teenage death pop songs of the 1950s and ’60s and suggesting, “Aren’t all country songs novelty songs in a way?” Waters also gives great background on his guerrilla filmmaking career and reveals how he convinced studios to give him funding after so many box-office misses. He even provides details about some of his movie pitches that never got made. I’m still holding out for the mod Hairspray sequel!

You don’t have to be a fan of the HBO series “Veep,” which A Woman First: First Woman (6 hours) is based on, to enjoy listening to it. Although a familiarity with the show will add to the experience, you just need a healthy sense of humor about American politics. In the show, Selina Meyer serves as vice president before becoming president for a term, and she is running for president again when this book is set. Julia Louis-­Dreyfus is hilarious as Selina, who reads this (clearly ghostwritten) book about her life and passes off the boring bits to her dutiful personal aide, Gary, who is played by Tony Hale. Autobiographies have become de rigueur for anyone considering a run for office, and this book does not go easy on the genre. It’s a shockingly funny takedown of political self-
importance and a biting satire of the political memoir.

Starred review Beth O’Leary’s debut novel is a cute, cozy work of British pop fiction that’s hard to put down. After a bad breakup, Tiffy moves in with Leon, a nurse who works the night shift, because he only needs his flat during the day. She can’t afford her own place in London, and he […]
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Waiting for Tom Hanks
In this charmingly sweet romance from Kerry Winfrey, a lovable aspiring screenwriter named Annie Cassidy is obsessed with Nora Ephron movies and finding her own Tom Hanks. To Annie, Tom Hanks—the star of several of Ephron’s most beloved romantic comedies—represents her dream man. He’s an everyman who believes in love at first sight and maybe even lives on a houseboat à la Sleepless in Seattle. In contrast, Annie lives with her Dungeons & Dragons-loving uncle, and her dating prospects are looking grim. When a movie production takes over her neighborhood, it brings with it several men who vie for her attention. Will she end up with the grip who checks all her boxes, or with the handsome movie star she keeps bumping into but couldn’t possibly have a chance with? With fun, engaging narration from Rachel L. Jacobs, Waiting for Tom Hanks is a pure delight from beginning to end.

Out East
Out East
 is a memoir about one summer in the Long Island beach town of Montauk, where John Glynn, his friends and some loose acquaintances go in together on a summer home. Glynn feels like the odd man out in a group mostly populated by women, gay men and Wall Street bros. But as feelings develop for one of his new friends, it turns out he might fit in better than he thought. Glynn has a knack for details, is skilled at place-setting and displays a true love of language, which he deploys effortlessly. It’s a small, personal story about Glynn figuring out who he truly is over one wild summer of weekends away from the city. Michael Crouch lends an earnestness to the narration. As focused as the story is, he makes everything feel big and new.

The Lesson
A strong debut from Cadwell Turnbull, The Lesson does what all the best science fiction does: It uses the supernatural to reveal something true about our world. The book is set in the U.S. Virgin Islands five years after the Ynaa, an advanced alien race, arrived to study humans. The Ynaa live mostly peacefully with humans, at least for the time being. Most people are willing to put up with the occasional killing at the hands of the Ynaa in exchange for their science and medicine, but eventually enough is enough. Narrators Janina Edwards and Ron Butler do a fantastic job setting us in the islands, and their accents draw extra attention to the colonial elements of alien invasion that mirror our own history. It’s worth a listen for anyone with an interest in sci-fi.

★Waiting for Tom Hanks In this charmingly sweet romance from Kerry Winfrey, a lovable aspiring screenwriter named Annie Cassidy is obsessed with Nora Ephron movies and finding her own Tom Hanks. To Annie, Tom Hanks—the star of several of Ephron’s most beloved romantic comedies—represents her dream man. He’s an everyman who believes in love at […]

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