Tami Orendain

Brené Brown invites listeners to get vulnerable in Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience (8.5 hours). Drawing from her research and personal experiences, Brown offers a new framework for building healthy relationships by analyzing common emotions such as compassion, fear and anger.

Brown narrates this audiobook with gentleness and expertise, and when she speaks about serious topics, she is sincere without being somber. Because Atlas of the Heart is a highly visual book, she’s taken steps to ensure that the audiobook is just as engaging as the print edition, with extra examples and stories that are exclusive to the recorded version. This small touch is a microcosm of Brown’s earnest intentions as a writer and narrator.

Listening to Atlas of the Heart is like sitting down with a trusted mentor. With both humility and authority, Brown helps readers stay engaged and encouraged, even as her book dives into difficult, tender ideas. Tune in for a challenging and inspiring listen.

Because Atlas of the Heart is a highly visual book, Brené Brown assures listeners that she's taken steps to ensure that the audiobook is just as engaging, with additional stories exclusive to the recording.

Minah Okar is content with the home that she and her father have built in Brooklyn, New York. With her hilarious best friend, Nikki, and loving boyfriend, Mike, by her side, Minah feels that she has left her old life in Obsidian, Michigan, behind for good. But when Minah learns that her estranged mother has died, Minah is forced to reconcile memories she’d much rather forget. She returns to Obsidian for the first time in five years to confront the truth about her family’s deepest secrets.

Break This House, the second novel from National Book Award finalist Candice Iloh (Every Body Looking), explores Minah’s joys and heartaches through her immersive first-person narration. Minah is insightful as well as observant, offering vivid descriptions of everything from the smells on New York City subway cars to the cacophony of songs that play simultaneously from different speakers at a family party. Neither the humor nor the horrors of her family’s past escape the broad scope of her pensive reflections.

Iloh’s visceral depictions of Minah’s inner and outer worlds make Break This House’s themes of loss and grief all the more impactful. As Minah sifts through her muddled memories and her family’s fragmented recollections, she begins to determine what she really thinks about herself, her parents and her faith. Suspended between her past and her future, she must craft an identity that honors her family but gives her the agency to make her own choices.

Break This House is a tender, poetic story about what it’s like to experience loss and learn to continue living anyway. It’s heart-wrenching to follow Minah as she tries to answer impossible questions that everyone eventually faces: What must we leave in the past, and how can we move forward without it?

When Minah learns that her estranged mother has died, she travels back to her hometown to confront her family's secrets in this poetic, heart-wrenching novel.

Dorothy “Doe” Saltpeter and her friends are ready to make their senior year at the Weston School for girls their best yet, which means pulling the most outrageous pranks on Winfield Academy, the rival boys’ school across the road. But when the two schools announce a shocking merger, Doe is forced to interact with Winfield students, including smug, wealthy Three, her sworn enemy.

To aggravate Three, Doe proposes a fake relationship with his cousin, Wells, who has his own reasons for agreeing to the ruse. As Doe’s and Wells’ lies begin to unravel, Doe uncovers a dark secret plaguing the Weston School, which forces her to rethink her commitment to pranks and rivalries and decide where her priorities truly lie.

This May End Badly is a fun, insightful novel that introduces an instantly appealing heroine. Doe and her group of prankster girlfriends are easy to root for, their pranks ingenious and clever, and her witty relationship with Wells is buoyant and charming.

Yet for all the levity offered by dueling schools and prank wars, This May End Badly thoughtfully explores serious issues as well. During the course of Doe’s school year, debut author Samantha Markum examines harmful family dynamics, childhood trauma and sexual harrassment. Doe must learn to take responsibility for her actions and use her voice, even when that means partnering with people she once considered enemies.

This May End Badly captures the excitement and transitions experienced by many teens during their final year of high school. Doe finds it difficult to say goodbye to her childhood and step into adulthood, which is compounded by the huge changes her friends and beloved school are undergoing. At first, she stubbornly clings to her adolescence and is willing to go to great lengths to keep every aspect of her life, including her relationships, school and responsibilities, exactly how it’s always been.

But as her friends choose colleges, the Weston School enters a new era and Doe’s love life blooms, Doe begins to acknowledge that it’s time to grow up. Along the way, she discovers that becoming an adult isn’t so bad—especially when it means growing with the people you love.

Debut author Samantha Markum’s This May End Badly is a fun, insightful novel about the challenges and rewards of saying goodbye to adolescence and growing with the people you love.

Novelist Jami Attenberg invites readers to join her in reflecting on relationships, creativity and the nature of home in her first essay collection, I Came All This Way to Meet You (6.5 hours). Her vignettes intertwine stories of her growth as an author with funny and honest ruminations on a life filled with travel and art.

Attenberg’s vulnerability in these essays, paired with narrator Xe Sands’ quiet, confident voice, makes listening to I Came All This Way to Meet You an intensely personal experience. Sands adds a shade of wistfulness to Attenberg’s wisdom with cool vocal tones, and elevates the author’s witty quips with a cheeky sensibility. Listeners will lean in to enjoy the full range of sentimentality and playfulness. It’s like sitting down with a clever friend to hear stories over cups of tea—nostalgic, conspiratorial and comfortable.

I Came All This Way to Meet You is a relaxing audiobook that will incline the listener toward restful reflection, encouraging them to discover inspiration in even the smallest moments of everyday life.

Read our starred review of the print edition of ‘I Came All This Way to Meet You.’

Nostalgic and conspiratorial, I Came All This Way to Meet You is a relaxing audiobook that will incline the listener toward restful reflection.

Because its military ranks have been decimated by a devastating famine, the Bayt-Sajji empire has expanded its squire training program to enlist young people from conquered territories. Aiza is a member of the Ornu people, who are treated like second-class citizens. She is deeply familiar with the oppression and discrimination that plague the empire but still dreams of becoming a knight.

Once Aiza joins up, her visions of grandeur and heroism are quickly replaced by the harsh reality of grueling training, complicated new relationships and pressure to keep her Ornu identity a secret. As Aiza learns more about the empire, she realizes that its knights may not be as noble as she once thought. Eventually, she is forced to decide where her loyalties truly lie.

Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas’ Squire takes readers on a heart-pounding adventure set in a fantasy world inspired by the history and cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. Aiza is charming and spunky, and although she can seem naive as she chases her lofty dreams, she also admirably clings to her desire to do good.

As Aiza makes her way through training, she meets a diverse and appealing cast of characters. Her fellow trainees include serious but encouraging Sahar, who comes from poverty and wants to support her family; Husni, a lighthearted jokester who longs to prove himself to his father; and Basem, the son of a senator, who is determined to beat his father’s record and become a squire faster than anyone ever has.

Squire explores complex, ambitious questions as Aiza is confronted by the lengths the empire is willing to go to achieve the greater good: What do we do when our dreams don’t turn out to be like we imagined? Who has the ability to create history, and whose stories are left out or lost? What should we do when we are ordered to compromise what we believe is right?

Alfageeh’s illustrations brim with lush backgrounds and charming details. She excels at drawing expressive characters and conveying a range of emotion and movement, from silly banter between friends to fast-paced battle scenes bright with action and feeling. This is a graphic novel with detailed, poignant illustrations worth lingering over.

Shammas and Alfageeh have created a story that successfully balances both exciting fantasy and resonant realism. Squire demonstrates how anyone, from earnest heroes to sneaky villains, can become tangled up in webs of social and political systems bigger and more powerful than a single person. But it also shows how, sometimes, it just takes one person to make a meaningful difference in the world.

A heart-pounding graphic novel, Squire is a fantasy adventure filled with poignant illustrations, silly banter between friends and fast-paced battle scenes.

Four years ago, after attracting the unwanted attention of Poseidon and being cursed by Athena, Medusa and her sisters fled to a distant island. Her winged sisters take to the skies every day, leaving Medusa alone with only the snakes on her head for company. One day, Medusa discovers Perseus, a handsome boy stranded on the island. Slowly, they open up to each other, unaware that their blossoming relationship will become the spark of a tragedy.

Jessie Burton’s Medusa is a feminist retelling of the classical Greek myth of Medusa and Perseus, brought to life with full-color illustrations by Olivia Lomenech Gill. The book adds complexity to a character many readers may know only as a monstrous Gorgon, famously capable of turning anyone who looks at her into stone. Here, readers meet Medusa not as a monster but as a hopeful girl who bears both psychological and physical scars. 

Burton’s narrative powerfully explores the effects of abuse. Medusa tells her story, giving readers a firsthand glimpse into the trauma she’s experienced, its long-term ramifications and the twisting rationalizations that others use to defend her abusers. As she transitions to adulthood and navigates healing, identity and romance, she often looks to the women in her life for guidance and insight. Medusa’s sisters, Stheno and Euryale, and even Athena herself offer varying perspectives on maturity and femininity, and Medusa is able to consider their conflicting views while also developing her own way forward. 

Gill’s illustrations provide visual representations of Medusa’s thoughts and feelings. Sketches of birds and ocean life ground the story in the seaside isolation of Medusa’s island. Some of the images, such as one of Medusa and her sisters flying into the night sky, have a collage-like quality that endows the story’s mythical subjects with genuine human emotion. Gill’s colors mirror Medusa’s emotional journey: Medusa’s joy shines through in vivid blues and greens, her curiosity about Perseus is a soft yellow, and her horrific past is a dark and bloody red. 

Throughout the book, Burton’s prose and Gill’s art work in harmony to offer two intertwined ways of learning who Medusa really is. By placing her at the center of the tale, they give an epic voice to victims whose stories often go ignored and untold. Readers who love nuanced retellings of myths will not want to miss it.

Medusa adds complexity to a character typically known only as a monstrous Gorgon, and readers who enjoy nuanced retellings of myths will not want to miss it.

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