STARRED REVIEW
November 30, 2020

Audiobooks: Don’t know what to listen to next? We’ve got some ideas

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Calling all runners, crafters, road warriors and vigorous house-cleaners: If you’re in need of a new audiobook, read on for some of the best new nonfiction productions. All true stories, all extraordinary listens.
STARRED REVIEW
November 30, 2020

Audiobooks: Don’t know what to listen to next? We’ve got some ideas

Feature by
Calling all runners, crafters, road warriors and vigorous house-cleaners: If you’re in need of a new audiobook, read on for some of the best new nonfiction productions. All true stories, all extraordinary listens.
November 30, 2020

Audiobooks: Don’t know what to listen to next? We’ve got some ideas

Feature by
Calling all runners, crafters, road warriors and vigorous house-cleaners: If you’re in need of a new audiobook, read on for some of the best new nonfiction productions. All true stories, all extraordinary listens.
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Calling all runners, crafters, road warriors and vigorous house-cleaners: If you’re in need of a new audiobook, read on for some of the best new nonfiction productions. All true stories, all extraordinary listens.

All Creatures Great and Small (15.5 hours)

It’s been more than 50 years since James Herriot’s beloved stories were published, stealing hearts with his humorous tales about the 1930s Yorkshire Dales, where he served the memorable townsfolk as a young country veterinarian. This January, fans will settle in for PBS Masterpiece’s adaptation of the series, but this tie-in, read by star Nicholas Ralph, will transport you while you wait. Is there anything better than cozy stories told in a Scottish accent? Don’t be surprised if, while walking your dog, for example, you’re stopped by a stranger across the street who asks what you’re listening to because you just look so dang happy.

Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee (7.5 hours)

Shannon Lee, daughter of kung fu master Bruce Lee, shares the stories behind her father’s guiding philosophy to “be water,” to accept oneself rather than try to go against one’s nature. As Lee explains, water is “soft yet strong, natural yet able to be directed, detached yet powerful, and above all, essential to life.” Lee’s book entertains as it inspires, and she sounds like an old pro as its narrator, confidently inviting us to join in this philosophy of self-acceptance.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (14.5 hours)

Robin Miles narrated Isabel Wilkerson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Warmth of Other Suns, and she delivers another smooth, energetic performance for Caste, Wilkerson’s latest masterpiece. In Caste, Wilkerson spins years of research into an accessible yet profound case for an unacknowledged caste system within the United States. More than race, more than class, Wilkerson believes that the language of caste best describes the hierarchy of power in our country, and she thoroughly demonstrates this claim through insights about the similar caste systems in India and Nazi Germany and through personable anecdotes from her own personal experience. These stories, brought to life by Miles’ trademark clarity, warmth and gravitas, provide readers with a new lens on the world that, once peered through, will change the way they see things forever.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Discover more of our most highly recommended audiobooks.


The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X (18 hours)

For a listener seeking a full immersion in history, we recommend you download this monumental, National Book Award-winning biography from Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Les Payne, a 30-year project completed after Payne’s death by his daughter, Tamara Payne. This book embroiders the full canvas surrounding the story of Malcolm X, providing a total sense of context, complete with corrected historical records and rewind-that-back-and-listen-again revelations. Award-winning narrator Dion Graham is one of the finest in the business, and he commands your attention, warmly but firmly demanding, Listen up—this is the story of Macolm X like you’ve never heard before.

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are (5 hours)

Funny woman and TV genius Rachel Bloom (you know her from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) narrates her own memoir about awkwardness and fame, and it’s everything you could hope for. Her writing runneth over with personality, and her audiobook nearly explodes with it. She does hilarious voices, she makes audio-related asides to translate a text-only quip, and she cannonballs through her most irreverent jokes with such glee such that you have no choice but to laugh till it hurts.

Memorial Drive (5 hours)

Former U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey narrates her debut memoir, Memorial Drive, with both steady skill and heart-wrenching tenderness. As a poet, she understands the subtle power of phrasing, emphasis and a well-timed pause. Yet as she tells the story of her mother’s murder by Trethewey’s ex-stepfather when Trethewey was 19, there is an understandable rawness just below the surface. Her voice catches with deep emotion as she recounts the story of why it took her 35 years to turn this harrowing story of fear, loneliness and loss into a memoir. The content is tragic, but Trethewey’s lingering Mississippi inflection is soothing as she lays out her tale, and listeners will feel totally at ease as they tune in to hear a master at work.

Notes on a Silencing (11 hours)

How do you talk about something that you’ve been forced to stay silent about? Lacy Crawford does the seemingly impossible in her memoir: She tells the full story of her rape by two boys while at a New England boarding school, and then narrates it for the audiobook. Her clear voice provides her younger self with a level of truth that has too long been withheld and offers moments of levity amid the darkness. The younger Lacy is likable and bold as she navigates her trauma and the cruelty of her school. This memoir is a masterful depiction of how to tell a story, especially the hardest one you could ever think to write.

★ Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America (12 hours)

The history of immigration in America gets a personal and, through author Maria Hinojosa’s narration, supremely entertaining and moving treatment in this part memoir, part work of social science. Hinojosa’s family immigrated to the United States from Mexico when she was an infant, and she tangles her history with the nation’s to offer one of the finest audiobooks of the year.

Hinojosa is the anchor and executive producer of "Latino USA" on NPR, and she knows how to spin a story, boldly capturing moments of triumph and pain, and performing voices that conjure the unexpected strength of her mother, that mock the unjust or the racist and that transport the listener to each and every event she recounts here. She understands exactly what America offers and how it has failed immigrants, and she packages the story in journalistic objectivity and an arresting, honest performance.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Maria Hinojosa reveals what it was like to narrate her memoir: “I am the character, she is me!”


Vesper Flights (10.5 hours)

Helen Macdonald’s collection of nature essays offers a balance of comfort and clear-eyed concern, Some of the essays are short and sweet (a vignette on her father and a goat is laughably brief), but her pieces that connect her love of nature to the wider world are when this book really shines. She draws threads between migraines and climate change, between nostalgia for the natural world and Brexit, and between flocks of birds and our own relationship to the changing environment. With deep affection and a frank yet gentle tone, she shares her wide knowledge and unique perspective like the gifts that they are.

Where I Come From: Stories From the Deep South (7.5 hours)

For Southern listeners, to hear Rick Bragg narrate his own missives from the Deep South is to be transported to a porch on a summer evening. This collection combines some of his finest columns from Southern Living and Garden & Gun, in which he explores down-home topics such as Tupperware, trucks and the importance of a good knife. There’s nothing quite so calming as a rhythmic Southern drawl, capturing the most romantic bits of a rural life.

All Creatures Great and Small
By James Herriot, Nicholas Ralph
Macmillan Audio

ISBN 9781250796875

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are
By Rachel Bloom
Grand Central

ISBN 9781538745366

Notes on a Silencing
By Lacy Crawford
Little, Brown

ISBN 9780316491556

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Get the Books

All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and Small

By James Herriot, narrated by Nicholas Ralph
Macmillan Audio
ISBN 9781250796875
Be Water, My Friend

Be Water, My Friend

Flatiron
ISBN 9781250206688
Caste

Caste

By Isabel Wilkerson
Random House
ISBN 9780593230251
The Dead Are Arising

The Dead Are Arising

By Les Payne & Tamara Payne
Liveright
ISBN 9781631491665
I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are

Grand Central
ISBN 9781538745366
Memorial Drive

Memorial Drive

By Natasha Trethewey
Ecco
ISBN 9780062248572
Notes on a Silencing

Notes on a Silencing

By Lacy Crawford
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316491556
Once I Was You

Once I Was You

By Maria Hinojosa
Atria
ISBN 9781982128654
Vesper Flights

Vesper Flights

By Helen Macdonald
Grove
ISBN 9780802128812
Where I Come From

Where I Come From

By Rick Bragg
Vintage
ISBN 9780593310809

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