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Thirteen-year-old Weldon Applegate (as remembered by 99-year-old Weldon Applegate) is the unlikely hero of Josh Ritter’s The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All (7 hours). Set in Cordelia, Idaho, a lumber town at the end of the lumberjack era, and populated by ghosts, witches and demons, this rollicking tall tale is as true and honest as the honed edge of a jack’s favorite ax.  

Ritter is a renowned singer-songwriter, and his language is exquisite, especially when describing the grandeur of a winter forest or the subtle evil of a greedy man. His nuanced narration gives an authentic voice to both young and ancient Weldon, endowing him with wisdom, humor and valor while never losing sight of the terrible beauty of his vanished world. Ritter’s talents as a ballad singer make this audiobook, which includes an original song, a special pleasure.

Josh Ritter’s talents as a ballad singer make this audiobook, which includes an original song, a special pleasure.

A Spanish queen. A Florentine printer. An English wool merchant. A disgruntled German monk. A Genoese explorer. According to Patrick Wyman, author and narrator of The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years that Shook the World (11.5 hours), these are among the actors who gave birth to the modern world. Wyman argues that from 1490 to 1530, a series of economic, religious and state-building revolutions transformed Europe from a backwater into the dominant global power. And like the song says, it was money—in the form of increasingly available credit—that made the world go round.

Creator of the podcast series Tides of History and Fall of Rome, Wyman is a skilled performer with obvious enthusiasm for his subject. His reading is also enhanced by the book’s structure: Each chapter focuses on a particular historical figure who in some way acted as a midwife to the new age, and Wyman’s narration emphasizes their humanity, warts and all. As a result, he makes this economic history of Europe an entertaining and informative audiobook.

Podcaster Patrick Wyman skillfully narrates his engaging economic history of Europe.

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.

A Carnival of Snackery (17 hours) collects highlights from David Sedaris’ diaries from 2003–2020, read by the author and British-born actor Tracey Ullman. Sedaris’ diary entries reflect much of what we love most about his short stories and essays—observations about the unusual people he meets on his travels, anecdotes about awkward situations and tales about his family—all filtered through the lens of the last two decades, with backdrops that range from Brexit to protests against the Iraq War and George Floyd's murder.

In the introduction, Sedaris explains that Ullman will narrate the portions of the audiobook set in England, to capture the local charm in a way he cannot. She does a wonderful job portraying Sedaris and the broad range of accents he encounters while across the pond, from a haughty horseback rider to a teenage troublemaker. Sedaris hardly needs help: He doesn’t perform as many voices in his sections, but his emphasis and timing get right to the humor at the heart of his diaries.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our starred review of the print edition of ‘A Carnival of Snackery.'

David Sedaris and actor Tracey Ullman get right to the humor at the heart of his diaries in the audio edition of A Carnival of Snackery.

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.

Don’t confuse Tana French’s skillful debut In the Woods with Harlan Coben’s latest, The Woods, though there are a few grisly similarities. French serves up an intriguing, genre-bending psychological thriller in the form of a solid police procedural. Dublin murder squad detective Rob Ryan narrates as he and his bright, buoyant partner, and closest friend, Cassie Maddox, investigate the murder and rape of a 12-year-old girl, whose body was left on a Bronze Age altar at an archeological site in the woods near Knocknaree. Twenty years before, detective Ryan had played in these very woods until the ghastly day when his two best mates disappeared and he was found in blood-soaked sneakers, mute, never able to remember what happened. Keeping his childhood trauma a secret from everyone but Cassie, he works this increasingly complex case, looking for links to the past, hoping that lost memories might surface.

Reader Steven Crossley gets the voices right, gives the characters depth and keeps you involved.

Don’t confuse Tana French’s skillful debut In the Woods with Harlan Coben’s latest, The Woods, though there are a few grisly similarities. French serves up an intriguing, genre-bending psychological thriller in the form of a solid police procedural. Dublin murder squad detective Rob Ryan narrates as he and his bright, buoyant partner, and closest friend, Cassie Maddox, […]

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