Narrators make an audiobook, and this month’s selections are standouts, including a husband-and-wife duo telling their own parenting story.
★ The New One
Comedian Mike Birbiglia describes his reluctant journey to fatherhood in his funny and brazenly honest The New One (5 hours), a truly special audiobook interspersed with short poems by his wife (and co-narrator), J. Hope Stein. Birbiglia shares his doubts, fears and joys experienced while transitioning from a happily child-free existence to the mysteries of caring for a baby, and Stein’s sweet interludes capture the experience of new motherhood with playfulness and vulnerability. Birbiglia has written and starred in multiple comedy specials and movies, and his narration has the feel of an extended comedy set. You’ve probably never heard a more creative reading of a book’s acknowledgments, as Birbiglia and Stein tag-team their thank-you’s.
Sex and Vanity
Paying homage to A Room With a View, Sex and Vanity (9.5 hours) uses a captivating story of young love to deliver a hilarious and astute commentary on the upper classes. Nobody name-drops and describes designer fashion quite like Kevin Kwan, whose latest novel opens at a lavish destination wedding on the idyllic island of Capri and explores themes of Asian American identity and the pressure to live up to familial expectations. Narrator Lydia Look has her work cut out for her with this jet-setting cast, and she brings dimension and heart to every voice, from American heiresses with British lilts to well-traveled Chinese characters with Australian-tinged accents.
Clap When You Land
Novel-in-verse Clap When You Land (5.5 hours), written and narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo and co-narrated by Melania-Luisa Marte, is about two teenage half sisters who’ve never met. Camina lives in the Dominican Republic, and Yahaira lives in New York City. Everything changes when their father suddenly dies on his way to visit his Dominican family. Each girl processes her grief and comes to a new understanding of who their father really was, all while dealing with typical teenage drama. As the story switches between the sisters’ perspectives, both narrators deliver natural, evocative performances that flow with the rhythmic verse and are never constricted by the form. The result is utterly original, heavy but ultimately hopeful.