G. Robert Frazier

To enjoy James Patterson and Dolly Parton’s Run, Rose, Run (10.5 hours) to the fullest, you must listen to the audiobook. Not only is it a necessary companion to Parton’s album of the same title (featuring songs inspired by the novel), but the cultural icon also voices one of the main characters, veteran country music star and bar owner Ruthanna Ryder.

With her unmistakably sweet Southern drawl (which she once cheekily described in Rolling Stone magazine as “a cross between Tiny Tim and a nanny goat”), Parton imparts wisdom and warnings alike through Ruthanna’s character. Up-and-coming singer-songwriter AnnieLee Keyes, expertly voiced by country pop singer Kelsea Ballerini, brings youthful exuberance and hopeful naivete to the story, providing a counterpoint to Ruthanna’s sage advice about navigating the music industry.

AnnieLee’s pursuit of country stardom in Nashville, from the dive bars on lower Broadway to the business-minded studio executives on Music Row, is a familiar story, but Parton’s involvement as author and performer elevates Run, Rose, Run a thousand times over. Additional characters come to life through the voices of Soneela Nankani, James Fouhey, Kevin T. Collins, Peter Ganim, Luis Moreno, Ronald Peet, Robert Petkoff, Ella Turenne and Emily Woo Zeller, creating an ensemble experience for book listeners to enjoy.

With narration from country stars Dolly Parton and Kelsea Ballerini, Run, Rose, Run is a must-listen ensemble audiobook.

Margaret Atwood, the prolific Booker Prize-winning author best known for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, was selected in 2014 as the first author to include a piece of fiction in the Future Library Project. This undertaking collects previously unreleased works from 100 authors, one each year until 2114, at which point the pieces will be published.

In one of the 50-plus essays included in Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces, 2004 to 2021 (19 hours), Atwood writes, “How strange it is to think of my own voice . . . suddenly being awakened after a hundred years.” But Atwood shouldn’t worry about how her voice will be received a century from now. As evidenced by the huge cast for the audiobook of Burning Questions, appreciation for Atwood’s literary contributions is far-reaching. With such support, it’s unlikely her words will ever be silenced.

Atwood narrates the introduction of her audiobook, and 36 other people read her essays, including actor Ann Dowd (who plays Aunt Lydia in the Hulu adaption of “The Handmaid’s Tale”), editor Lee Boudreaux, journalists Robyn Doolittle and Yasmine Hassan, and authors Naomi Alderman, Esi Edugyan and Omar El Akkad. While it is a bit odd to hear the occasional male reader giving voice to one of Atwood’s essays, her thought-provoking observations and sense of humor are unmistakable. Whether she is ruminating on climate change, women’s issues, the zombie apocalypse or Ebenezer Scrooge, or paying tribute to authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Alice Munro, her insights will encourage readers to return to these essays again and again. As Atwood writes, “Have a listen. Confront the urgent questions. Feel the chill.”

Read our starred review of the print edition of Burning Questions.

As evidenced by the huge cast for the audiobook of Burning Questions, appreciation for Margaret Atwood’s literary contributions is far-reaching, and with such support, it’s unlikely her words will ever be silenced.
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The characters in Chris Pavone’s thrillers often find themselves trying to bury the past in an effort to begin anew. In his latest novel, Two Nights in Lisbon, Ariel Price thinks she has successfully left her old life behind. But after she wakes up in their Lisbon hotel room to find that her husband has vanished without a trace, she is confronted with all the secrets he was apparently keeping from her. We talked with Pavone about this ongoing theme, his approach to creating characters and his transformation from book editor to novelist.

What was the initial inspiration for this novel, and why did you choose Lisbon as the setting?
A few years ago my family spent a handful of nights in Lisbon, in a sun-flooded suite facing a charming square, an absolutely beautiful place to start the day, and I thought: This is almost too perfect, something horrible should happen here. I love novels that seem at first like one type of story, then turn out to be something very different, and I developed a vision of this perfect-looking hotel room as the launching pad for characters who seem extremely lucky but aren’t; for a story that looks romantic then isn’t (but then ultimately is); for a narrative that looks like it’s about a missing man but is about something else entirely.

The plot of the book began to develop when the “Access Hollywood” tape revealed that Donald Trump seemed to have committed sexual assault regularly, as a sort of hobby. To me this wasn’t a question of politics. I simply could not understand what it was about these sex crimes that made it so easy for people to excuse them as so-called locker room talk, to dismiss them as partisan attacks. I despaired about what was so broken with our society, and what could be done about it.

“I thought: This is almost too perfect, something horrible should happen here.”

Anyone who reads one of your books knows that you keep chiseling away at your characters over the course of the story. Two Nights in Lisbon’s Ariel is particularly surprising. Did any of her secrets come as a shock to you?
I needed to know all of Ariel’s skeletons from the get-go, because her secrets are the underlying framework of the whole story, and their reveals needed to be organized in a way that supported everything else without being coy or blatantly withholding. I think one of the greatest challenges of writing suspense fiction is to withhold in a way that’s not too obvious. If you’re flagrant, it erodes the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief and makes the whole thing feel contrived and the ultimate revelations unearned.

Ariel often thinks about status signifiers and the way she’s perceived by others. Do you think we worry too much about how people perceive us?
I’m definitely not qualified to be prescriptive about how all of humanity should behave. But I do wish we could somehow reconsider how we value one another. We heap tremendous rewards on dubious achievements, not to mention things that aren’t achievements at all; being young, rich and beautiful is the opposite of an achievement, it’s just luck. It’s probably unavoidable for most people to envy good fortune, but should we admire it?

Our culture increasingly celebrates fame for its own sake, completely divorced from any talent or skill or contribution to anything, while at the same time encouraging women to pursue careers in being beautiful, creating a dangerous dynamic of objectification and self-objectification that to me looks both exhausting and terrifying. Just walking down the street, getting a coffee, browsing in a bookstore—you’re always about to be ogled, accosted, propositioned. And that’s not the worst of it. Not by a long shot.

If you scratch beneath the ticking clock thriller plot of Lisbon, these are some of the themes you’ll find. But you can also just tear through the pages to see what the hell happens. This isn’t homework.

Read our review of ‘Two Nights in Lisbon’ by Chris Pavone.

At one point in the novel, Ariel says she and John don’t participate in social media because it’s ruining the world. Do you share her opinion?
I think social media has made it way too easy—irresistible, for some people—to lie with impunity, to fabricate alternate realities, eroding the very idea of truth. One of the things that seems most broken about America now is that we all exist in hermetically sealed echo chambers, driven largely by social-media feedback loops that reinforce opinions we already have and keep out any evidence to the contrary. A lot of us now refuse to leave our comfort zones altogether, and there are fewer and fewer shared cultural touchstones, less and less agreement on the fundamental facts of the world.

I think every time someone posts a picture of themselves in a fake private jet, they’re contributing to this insidious erosion of truth, one that’s just as dangerous as a disinformation campaign by a hostile foreign power. We’re losing the capacity to distinguish between truth and lies and, even worse, the ability to care.

I don’t participate in social media very assiduously. I’m there mainly for videos of dogs, for photos of my friends’ adorable children and to keep in touch with people. I’m pretty sure that I won’t end up on my deathbed wishing I’d been more self-promotional on Instagram.

“The world doesn’t need more novels. I think what readers truly want are better novels.”

Two Nights in Lisbon

As a former book editor, do you find yourself editing your own drafts? What advice do you have for writers who struggle to prioritize production over perfection?
I edit constantly. I edit every day while I’m writing a first draft; that’s how I start the writing day. After I eventually type “the end,” I spend more time editing and revising subsequent drafts than I did writing the first.

I don’t accept the idea that writers should prioritize production over perfection. The world doesn’t need more novels. I think what readers truly want are better novels. Or at least that’s what I want—not more choices but better choices. This isn’t journalism, and there’s no clock on it. The crucial thing is to write a great novel, not just to write a novel.

People like to throw around the advice that while you can edit a bad page, you can’t edit a blank page. Maybe so. But that philosophy only works if you do the necessary editing of the bad pages. It’s very hard to kill your darlings, especially for writers who don’t have a lot of experience with rigorous, ruthless editing.

With five books under your belt, would you say that your transition from editor to writer is complete, or are you still learning things? What’s something you wish you’d realized earlier on?
I’ve now been a full-time writer for a decade and a half, and it still feels largely new to me. I’ve accepted that imposter syndrome might be permanent. It seems so unlikely that I’m allowed to earn my living by sitting around and writing made-up stories; sometimes it seems impossible that anyone could be this lucky.

I wished I’d realized earlier how much revising I’d do, on everything. For my first couple of books, all this work felt sometimes like failure. Why do I have to keep fixing this goddamned manuscript? I thought I was doing something wrong, and I hoped that next time I’d nail the novel on the first draft, or even second. But revisions are apparently a big part of how I work. I can’t see what’s missing from a manuscript and which aspects could be much better until I get to the end and look back. I no longer think of this as a problem that I need to fix; it’s the way this process works for me, and it’s a luxury that I’m thankful to indulge.

“I’ve accepted that imposter syndrome might be permanent.”

Ariel says she wants to be a person without fear. What are you afraid of, and have you conquered those fears?
A novel is a very personal piece of creativity. It’s your voice, your worldview, your whole personality on the page, and publication is opening up that personality not only to reasonable professional criticism but also to deeply personal and sometimes irrational attacks, even the vitriolic hatred of strangers. (Thanks again, social media!) It’s a little bit like going to a giant party filled with everyone you’ve ever met, then having those people write reviews of you to be posted on the internet for everyone to see.

I used to be afraid of being hated, as both a real person in the real world and also as a writer of made-up stories. But I’ve accepted that there are many people out there with whom I disagree about nearly everything, so it makes sense that I’ll disagree with their judgment of my book, too, not to mention their judgment of me. I still don’t enjoy being hated, and I hope I never do. But I’m not afraid of it anymore.

What’s the next step in the evolution of Chris Pavone? Where do you go from here?
My twins are about to graduate from high school and go off to college, ending this long stage when parenting has been the organizing principle of my life. This makes me both ecstatic and morose, every single day. I have no idea where I go from here.

Picture of Chris Pavone © Sam McIntosh.

Two Nights in Lisbon dives into challenging topics such as the erosion of truth and the ambient misogyny that haunts women's lives, but don't worry, "This isn't homework."

The 1990s may be a decade often lamented for its generation of “slackers” and eternally epitomized in the TV series “Seinfeld” (frequently described as “a show about nothing”), but Chuck Klosterman has found a treasure trove of history, nostalgia and pop culture relics to explore in The Nineties (12.5 hours). Each chapter is devoted to a defining characteristic or experience of Generation X, from VHS tapes and Blockbuster video stores to the strange phenomenon dubbed “the Mandela Effect,” in which whole swaths of people remember things differently than the way they actually happened. Klosterman narrates the audiobook in an almost tongue-in-cheek fashion, with acclaimed voice actor Dion Graham reading the footnotes and quotations.

Klosterman discusses the ’90s with both the intimacy of someone who lived through the decade and the authority of the beloved pop culture commentator that he has established himself as through 12 previous books. The Nineties provides a fascinating, granular look at a defining period of history, and if you’re listening on your smartphone, you’ll connect even stronger with Klosterman’s examination of an era that marked the “end to an age where we controlled technology more than it controlled us.”

The Nineties provides a fascinating, granular look at a defining period of history, and author Chuck Klosterman narrates in an almost tongue-in-cheek fashion.

Bestselling author John Darnielle’s most bizarre novel to date, Devil House (11.5 hours), is an odd amalgam of crime fiction, buried memories and investigative journalism. As the audiobook’s narrator, Darnielle performs the story in a steady voice, combining the otherwise disjointed series of events into a cohesive, fascinating whole.

Assuming the voice of true crime writer Gage Chandler, Darnielle describes a 1980s cold case involving a pair of satanic murders that occurred at a decrepit house in Milpitas, California. While researching the crime for his next book, Gage has moved into the house as part of a thinly disguised publicity stunt to bolster sales. But the deeper he delves into the house’s illustrious and mysterious history, the more its story takes on a life of its own, affecting Gage, and by turns the listener, in unique ways.

Shirking a linear structure, the novel slowly weaves from past to present and from character to character before coming together at the end. A singer-songwriter for the Mountain Goats, Darnielle brings a lyrical, literary tone to a novel that’s part true crime, part horror and wholly original.

Read our starred review of the print edition of ‘Devil House.’

John Darnielle reads the audiobook for his most bizarre novel to date, combining a seemingly disjointed series of events into a cohesive, fascinating whole.

The iconic actor Sydney Poitier once said, “So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness.” Peter Swanson’s new mystery, Nine Lives, provides a perfect example of this sentiment as it doles out a series of inexplicable murders.

Nine individuals, ranging from an actor to a professor, from a father to a nurse, receive a cryptic one-page letter in the mail containing a list of their names. None of the people on the list are familiar with one another or have any apparent connection, past or present. Most don’t even live in the same state. Swanson swiftly moves from one character’s point of view to another’s, establishing the core cast in short chapters that provide compelling sketches of all nine intended targets. 

Since the letter had no return address or other instructions within, several of the recipients naturally dismiss it. But then people on the list suddenly start dying: A retired bar owner is drowned while another man is shot in the back while jogging near his home. FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who is one of the names on the list, races against the clock to identify the other recipients and the killer before she too becomes a victim.

Nine Lives is in many ways an heir to Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit And Then There Were None, in which eight random individuals are invited to a remote island only to be stalked by a killer. But where Christie made clear that her characters had all committed crimes and the killer was out for revenge, the motives and location of Swanson’s killer are terrifyingly opaque. Swanson creates a rollercoaster for readers, offering clues only to upend everything that was supposedly certain moments earlier. And all the while, the number of remaining victims is counting down, from nine to zero.

Peter Swanson’s latest mystery is an unpredictable rollercoaster that boasts a compelling cast of characters.

How can anyone take this man seriously? Answer: You can’t. Nor should you. And nor does he, for that matter. Mel Brooks—the multiple Tony, Academy Award and Emmy Award-winning comedian, writer, filmmaker and Broadway showman—has found reasons to laugh all his life and, thankfully, has shared that laughter with the public. Now he’s doing it again, this time with his memoir, All About Me! My Remarkable Life in Show Business (15 hours).

In his raspy, unmistakable voice, Brooks reveals his enduring passion for such comedy classics as Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs and History of the World, Part I, as well as his respect for his relationships with showbiz luminaries Sid Caesar, Gene Wilder, Anne Bancroft and more. Even Brooks’ most personal memories of growing up in Brooklyn are peppered with his trademark sense of humor.

It’s easy to hear that Brooks had fun telling these stories, which clearly hold a distinct place in his heart. They’ll find a way into yours, too.

Mel Brooks has found reasons to laugh all his life and has shared that laughter with the public. Now he’s doing it again, this time with his memoir.

The success of Amazon Prime Video’s adaptation of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is enticement enough to revisit his epic fantasy novels, which debuted in 1990. But even more exciting is listening to the new audiobook of book one in the series, The Eye of the World (33 hours), narrated by Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning British actor Rosamund Pike. Pike stars in the series as Moiraine Damodred, whose quest is to find a hero to defeat the Dark One, and she brings a unique familiarity to the characters and storyline.

Previously recorded by narrators Michael Kramer and Kate Reading for the 2004 audiobook, The Eye of the World benefits from Pike’s smooth voice and dramatic, slower-paced rendering, which extend the length of this edition by almost three hours. She gently invites the listener into Jordan’s richly detailed world before powerfully amplifying the high stakes and tension.

Through her smooth, dramatic performance, award-winning actor Rosamund Pike amplifies the new audiobook of book one in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Happy days are here again. Or perhaps should we say, happier days.

That’s the first impression when listening to the soft-spoken, down-home tones of Ron Howard, better known to the world as forever young Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham of “Andy Griffith” and “Happy Days,” respectively. In The Boys (13 hours), Howard takes turns with his brother, Clint, also a child actor in “Gentle Ben,” to reminisce about their memories of being icons to millions of adoring viewers in the 1960s and ’70s.

Both Howards emphasize how their parents guided their lives as child actors through encouragement and strong values, even at the expense of their own Hollywood careers. Ron’s dulcet tones are offset to a degree by Clint’s grittier voice, but somehow the pair complement each other to perfection. Their sincerity and admiration for their parents’ influence echo in every memorable, heartfelt passage.

If you didn’t know better, you’d swear you were sitting at the family dinner table as the Howard boys regaled you with stories of their early days in Hollywood.

If you didn’t know better, you’d swear you were sitting at the family dinner table as the Howard boys regaled you with stories of their early days in Hollywood.

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl’s memoir, The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music (10.5 hours), is as raw and unfiltered as his music.

The two-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, guitarist and drummer reads his book in a gruff, sometimes hoarse voice, discussing his lifelong passion for music, his rock influences, his early experiences in Nirvana and the thrill of standing center stage before 50,000 screaming fans. Largely self-taught, Grohl explains how his life has been and will forever be defined by sound, “like an unfinished mixtape waiting to be sent.” His love for making music, which he describes as being in his DNA, is surpassed only by the pride he expresses in his daughter’s fledgling interest in rock music.

If you love the Foo Fighters’ signature wall of sound, you’ll find Grohl’s delivery of his life story to be intensely upbeat and inspiring.

If you love the Foo Fighters’ signature wall of sound, you’ll find Dave Grohl’s delivery of his life story to be intensely upbeat and inspiring.

Beth Rivers stumbles upon more trouble in the tiny community of Benedict, Alaska, in Paige Shelton’s thrilling whodunit, Dark Night. The third installment in the Alaska Wild series finds Beth, who is working as the community’s lone journalist, investigating a case of domestic abuse that may have resulted in murder.

Known to the world at large as best-selling author Elizabeth Fairchild, Beth wants nothing more than to keep a low profile to avoid attracting any attention from her former abductor, who remains at large. Shelton quickly brings readers up to speed on these details and the events of the previous two novels in the series (Thin Ice and Cold Wind) in the opening chapter, just before unveiling the murder of local resident Ned Withers. Ned, who has abused his wife, Claudia, is found dead in what amounts to the town square, having been murdered in the middle of the night.

Initial suspicions naturally fall on an outsider: census taker Doug Vitner, who received a less than hearty welcome from Ned and the community at large and disappeared shortly after Ned’s death. (“We were all a secretive bunch. It wasn’t just me,” Beth muses at one point.) Along with her mother, a self-styled private investigator on the trail of her own missing husband, and police chief Gril Samuels, the only one in town who knows Beth’s secret, Beth begins piecing together the clues that will reveal the killer before they can escape, or worse, strike again.

Though she’s best known for her cozy mysteries, Shelton displays a talent for ratcheting up the tension in this series. As Beth’s fears and paranoia increase, events unravel at a rapid pace. Isolated from the Alaska mainland and cut off by an approaching winter storm, it’s increasingly difficult for Beth to know who she can trust—if anyone. You’ll want to bundle up against the cold dread, suspense and tension that permeate this mystery.

You’ll want to bundle up against the cold dread, suspense and tension that permeate this mystery.

Bestselling author Erik Larson’s first work of fiction, No One Goes Alone (7.5 hours), is a ghost story that’s available only on audio. In 1905, experts from the Society for Psychical Research arrive on a remote island to investigate the disappearance of a vacationing family. The researchers are immediately beset upon by strange occurrences, from the seemingly mundane to the deadly serious. The investigators offer scientific explanations for the increasingly bizarre happenings, but an abundance of disconcerting events edge closer to the paranormal.

British actor Julian Rhind-Tutt narrates in a smooth, even tone. Adding twinges of doubt and fear at just the right moments, he delivers a performance so convincing that the listener is likely to believe the impossible before all is said and done.

This eerie turn-of-the-century adventure will please fans of haunting tales like “The X-Files” and listeners nostalgic for radio dramas.

For Erik Larson’s audio-only work of fiction, narrator Julian Rhind-Tutt is so convincing that the listener is likely to believe the impossible.

In late ’90s Brooklyn, simple actions have a long-lasting impact, and not always for the better. The dynamic cast of characters in William Boyle’s turbulent crime thriller Shoot the Moonlight Out learn that the hard way.

Consider teenager Bobby Santovasco. Along with his friend Zeke, the pair do what kids do: They wreak havoc for fun. In their case, it’s throwing objects off a bridge at passing cars on the Belt Parkway. First, it’s harmless. Aluminum cans. Water balloons. But it’s not enough. So, the boys up the stakes—with rocks. 

The result is the death of a young woman, Amelia Cornacchia. 

Flash forward five years to 2001, where we find Charlie French. A brutish debt collector, he steals a horde of cash from a reluctant client, and stashes it with his friend Max Berry for safekeeping. Bobby, who now works for Max, falls for Francesca Clarke, who inspires him to rob Max’s safe so they can escape the oppressive confines of the neighborhood.

Unbeknownst to Bobby, his stepsister, Lily, has fallen for Jack Cornacchia, a student in her writing class. Jack is a self-styled neighborhood vigilante, who just so happens to be Amelia’s father.

Boyle (A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself) slowly introduces each of his players in chapters from their perspective, deepening the reader’s empathy for each member of the large cast as he digs into their individual losses, hopes and loves. Hailing from Brooklyn himself, Boyle imbues the setting with an air of authenticity and stark realism as his characters leap from the page. Readers can only grasp at the slimmest of hopes in this grim, modern-day noir, but the determination of Boyle’s characters defies expectations. He increases the suspense and intrigue of the story across alternating chapters, seemingly checking in with characters at random as Shoot the Moonlight Out subtly builds towards a collision of lives intertwined and fates inextricably linked.

William Boyle’s stark and turbulent crime thriller boasts an endlessly fascinating and empathetic cast of characters.

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