Mari Carlson

Like her hit 2020 debut, Migrations, Charlotte McConaghy’s second novel spirals into the recesses of the heart, exploring climate change and human behavior through the story of one woman’s fraught life.

In Once There Were Wolves (8.5 hours), Inti keeps more company with animals than with people. Her work involves releasing wolves into the Scottish Highlands, a controversial venture that arouses suspicion—and then violence—from farmers. The wolves’ presence will allow forests to regrow by forcing deer to keep moving, but the local villagers can’t see beyond the threat to their lives and livestock. Having grown up between a hardline, back-to-the-land father and a mother whose professional expertise is in domestic abuse, Inti’s nurtured cynicism competes with the kindness and goodness she experiences from her sister and a handful of other close relationships.

In the audiobook, master voice actor Saskia Maarleveld keeps the book’s intrigue high. Her breathless delivery captures Inti’s sensitivity and other characters’ misgivings of one another, heightening the tension between domesticity and wildness. Maarleveld also drives home the book’s global expanse through a medley of expert accents, including Canadian, Australian and Scottish.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our starred review of the print edition of ‘Once There Were Wolves.'

Master voice actor Saskia Maarleveld keeps the intrigue high in Charlotte McConaghy’s second novel, which spirals into the recesses of the heart.

In her autobiography, All In (18 hours), Billie Jean King tells of her triumphs and struggles both on and off the tennis court, from her hardscrabble childhood in Long Beach, California, to her present-day life in New York City.

Growing up in the 1960s, King’s inquisitive and rebellious spirit reflected the era, as she refused to wear white skirts as a young player. Later, she launched the Women’s Tennis Association and built a career with her husband and business partner. But years of keeping her sexual orientation a secret took a toll on King, physically and emotionally. Her book celebrates the honesty, hard work and love that bolstered her and encouraged her to fight for inclusion and equity.  

In the energetic audio production, King brings her punchy, passionate personality to her percussive narration. Her voice is compassionate and down-to-earth as she relates her experiences of forging relationships with a colorful cast of characters who have joined her in her journey. In moments of pain and joy, King connects deeply with her audience through audible tears and laughter, culminating in an inspiring and cathartic listening experience.

In the energetic audiobook edition of her autobiography, Billie Jean King connects deeply with her audience through audible tears and laughter.

The audiobook of Natalie Baszile’s We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy (13.5 hours) explores farming by Black Americans, past and present, through essays, interviews and poetry from farmers and historians, wordsmiths and activists. The expansive project, born out of Baszile’s extensive research for her 2014 novel, Queen Sugar, is bookended by the author’s own words about her family and her creative process. In between, we learn about the Black community’s enduring connection to the land despite slavery’s disenfranchisement and northern and urban migration, among other factors.

Tina Lifford, an actor in the TV adaptation of Queen Sugar as well as the series “Parenthood” and “South Central,” captures the book’s soulful tone through her deep voice, slow delivery and an array of accents. Her performance pays tribute to the Black community’s oral history tradition, which is referenced throughout the book. 

With rich descriptions of crops, recipes, family meals and current efforts to revitalize Black farming and land ownership, this audiobook inspires, empowers and enlightens through the spoken word.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of the print version of We Are Each Other’s Harvest.

With rich descriptions of crops, recipes, family meals and more, this audiobook inspires, empowers and enlightens through spoken word.

Nathan Harris’ Civil War-set debut novel, The Sweetness of Water, paints a timeless portrait of warring factions seeking peace.

As the novel opens, white landowner George Walker encounters brothers Landry and Prentiss, recently freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, on the outreaches of his property. George invites the brothers to join him as paid laborers on his Georgia peanut farm, which incites the ire of his rural neighbors. George’s wife, Isabelle, expects his interest in the brothers to wane, like it has toward all his other ventures. But George proves her wrong. 

Work on the farm is well underway when the Walkers’ son, Caleb, unexpectedly returns from war. As a deserter, Caleb gives the town one more reason to dislike the Walkers. A fiery standoff ensues, after which Isabelle emerges as a quiet heroine pursuing ideals of friendship, liberty and justice.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: For the audiobook edition, William DeMeritt performs with such skill that the listener will be able to envision Nathan Harris’ character’s faces just by the way their voices sound.


There is a shared longing at the heart of Harris’ novel. Caleb and Prentiss both love people they can’t have. Landry is continually drawn to and inspired by a stone fountain on the plantation from which he escaped. To him the fountain conveys majesty and magic, comfort and joy, “something mysterious and fine . . . operat[ing] endlessly. On and on, just like life.” George, too, is driven by something he can’t capture; he searches for the elusive source of his restlessness, represented by a mythical beast he’s sure abides in the forest.

Harris draws readers into this sense of longing by exploring silences: George’s meditative hunts, Landry’s muteness, Caleb’s hidden trysts, Prentiss’ pent-up anger and Isabelle’s secluded mourning. Insinuating dialogue, delivered with eloquent Southern reserve, and hostile eruptions between the Walker household and the Confederates explore the flip side of silence.

Celebrating all manner of relationships that combat hate, this novel is a hopeful glimpse into the long legacy of American racial and civil tensions.  

Nathan Harris’ Civil War-set debut novel celebrates all manner of relationships that combat hate.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones’ Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual (8 hours) is a candid, can-do guide to making the world a better place by cultivating a better you. Narrated by the bestselling author, three sections—“Be,” “Say” and “Do”—detail steps toward understanding the core of yourself and making decisions based on those crucial personal values. Jones describes her own process and experiences, draws inspiration from her Nigerian heritage and shows what it looks like to live authentically in a judgmental world, with her grandmother as her favorite example.

Famous for her blog posts, podcast and TED Talks, Jones will hype up even the most fearful listener with her commanding, cheerful voice. She recommends that professional-troublemakers-in-the-making find friends or aunties to “gas [them] up” and cheer them on in their journey, and for the length of this audiobook, she is that friend. With special audio-only features such as a recording of Jones’ aunt speaking in Yoruba, it is impossible not to be won over by Professional Troublemaker’s empowering message that fighting fear is finding freedom.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of the print version of Professional Troublemaker.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones’ commanding, cheerful voice will hype up even the most fearful listener.

From the veteran author of such uplifting books as Help, Thanks, Wow and Hallelujah Anyway comes Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage (4 hours), a collection of essays addressing hope in a time of unrest. Touching on topics that range from climate change and political divisiveness to the COVID-19 pandemic and her own recent marriage, Anne Lamott concerns herself less with offering solutions than with pointing to the earth’s dependable rhythms for signs of hope.

Lamott narrates the audiobook, and her gently warbling voice pairs well with the vibrant words she uses, such as sag, plop and love, to create a comforting aural atmosphere. She describes reaching out to friends during times of trouble, and her voice is like that of a friend, warm and supportive and slightly melancholic. Her essays are humorous, with metaphors of Life Saver candies and junk food, as well as profound, as when she reaches into biblical narratives and her own experiences to cull ageless wisdom and provide sage encouragement for future generations. This audiobook is the soundtrack for feeling better in the midst of a troubled landscape.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Anne Lamott shares some ideas for how to get by when the world seems especially dark.

Anne Lamott’s narration of Dusk, Night, Dawn is the soundtrack for feeling better in the midst of a troubled landscape.

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