6 audiobooks for road trips this summer

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In the midst of a messy divorce and plagued by writer’s block, Emily accepts an invitation from her longtime best friend, Chess (now a lifestyle guru), to spend the summer at a luxurious Italian villa. It turns out, however, that the villa has a sordid history: Nearly 50 years earlier, in the mid-1970s, it was the site of a scandalous celebrity murder that in turn inspired a bestselling feminist horror novel. Emily’s growing obsession with the villa’s history inspires her to write at long last—but investigating that long-ago crime and its aftermath opens up old fissures in her relationship with Chess. Will the villa’s dark history repeat itself? 

Rachel Hawkins’ gothic novel The Villa (8 hours) has a wonderfully complicated narrative: Inspired by everything from Fleetwood Mac and Mary Shelley to the Manson murders, it includes not only two separate narratives with two sets of characters but also a novel-within-a-novel, podcast episodes, blog posts and more. Aided in some moments by music, the talented narrators—Shiromi Arserio, Julia Whelan and Kimberly M. Wetherell—prove more than up to the task of guiding listeners through the emotional atmosphere that Hawkins has so superbly created.

Three talented narrators guide listeners through the complicated emotional atmosphere that Rachel Hawkins has so superbly created in The Villa.
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Rose Josten feels like something’s missing from her life, even though she’s got her family, a consultant career on the fast track and a successful ASMR video channel. (ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response” and refers to a calming, tingly reaction to auditory stimulation.) Ash Stewart is a struggling filmmaker wrestling with heartbreak when she gets the chance to pitch a film concept to a major investor. Brought together by chance, Rose and Ash might be able to make the movie a reality—and find love along the way.

Memories and conversations drive Karelia Stetz-Waters’ romance novel, Behind the Scenes (10 hours), making sound an incredibly important part of the book. Narrator Lori Prince rises to this challenge with creativity and flexibility, giving the large cast of characters distinct voices with unique timbres and tones. She also performs Rose’s ASMR videos, pulling the reader into the story. 

Prince brings this story to life and makes it easy to follow the fun. If you’re looking for an immersive, mature romance, go Behind the Scenes.

Read our starred review of the print edition of Behind the Scenes.

Lori Prince brings Karelia Stetz-Waters’ novel to life and makes it easy to follow the fun. If you’re looking for an immersive, mature romance, go Behind the Scenes.
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Jessica George’s debut novel, Maame (10 hours), explores the complexities of immigrant families through the story of Maddie, who lives in London with her Ghanaian family and seeks to balance responsibility and self-discovery. Maddie is her father’s primary caretaker while her mother spends most of the year in Ghana. At work, Maddie deals with an impossible boss and an environment where she is consistently the only Black person in the room. 

Maame grapples with cultural contradictions, familial expectations, xenophobia and racism while exploring the power to be found in kinship and pleasure. In the audiobook, George’s delightfully delicate command of language is enlivened by visual artist and actor Heather Agyepong’s brilliant narration, which brings the characters to life with nuanced voices that reveal not only variations in Ghanaian and British accents but also emotional worlds. Agyepong animates the distance and desire for closeness in these relationships, allowing listeners to feel the full scope of familial bonds in diaspora. 

Together, George’s words and Agyepong’s voice encourage listeners to approach Maame with openness, and as they melt into this complicated world, they will discover a riveting story.

Also in BookPage: Read our review of the print edition of Maame.

Jessica George’s words and Heather Agyepong’s voice encourage listeners to approach Maame with openness, and as they melt into this complicated world, they will discover a riveting story.
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When his beloved older brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Patrick Bringley sought a refuge—and found it at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he took a job as a security guard. He worked there for 10 years, watching both people and art, and all the while noticing fine details that others were too busy or preoccupied to see. His memoir of his career at the Met, All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me (6 hours), is a moving reflection on not only art but also all the messy, mundane, tragic, glorious and moving aspects of our lives.

Bringley’s reading of his book is sensitive and gentle. His soft-spoken narration reflects the profundity that comes from years of humbly observing and interacting with this magnificent museum, the works it houses, the people who serve it and the visitors who explore it. The accompanying PDF contains lovely sketches of the works Bringley reflects on, adding extra layers of enjoyment to this extraordinary audiobook.


Also in BookPage: Read our review of the print edition.

Patrick Bringley’s soft-spoken narration reflects his years of humbly observing and interacting with the Met, the works it houses, the people who serve it and the visitors who explore it.
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Jojo Moyes’ novel Someone Else’s Shoes (12.5 hours) starts with a lighthearted premise—the accidental swap of two nearly identical bags belonging to two very different women, Sam and Nisha—but soon takes on weightier themes. These include explorations of the ebb and flow of both long marriages and female friendships, as well as considerations of mental and physical illness and emotional abuse. 

With excellent pacing and expression, British actor Daisy Ridley (whose deep alto voice will be familiar from her role as Rey in the Star Wars saga) capably narrates both the humor and serious undertones in Moyes’ novel. Ridley pulls off Nisha’s American accent and brings to life a range of voices for a well-rounded cast of secondary characters, including Sam’s longtime best friend and her clinically depressed husband, and both women’s professional colleagues. 

Although the novel is long, the story breezes by, propelled by the plot’s steadily mounting tension that’s relieved by moments of levity and even some slapstick elements. Listeners will relish this uplifting story of transformation and second chances.

British actor Daisy Ridley (whose deep alto voice will be most familiar from her role as Rey in the Star Wars saga) capably narrates both the humor and serious undertones in Jojo Moyes’ novel.
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Margot Douaihy’s heartfelt crime novel, Scorched Grace (10 hours), follows a tattooed queer nun named Sister Holiday after an arson attack on her school in New Orleans. The devastating events at Saint Sebastian’s activate the unconventional nun’s already determined nature, compelling her to uncover the culprit—but in order to do so, she must reckon with the life she left behind. 

Actor Mara Wilson (best known for her roles in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire) brings a buoyant spirit to her performance of Sister Holiday, accentuating the nun’s sardonic nature. In a steady, sometimes sensuous tone that shifts seamlessly into a New Orleans accent when needed, Wilson delivers Sister Holiday’s fierce sensibility, leans into the emotional landscape created by Douaihy’s gorgeous, descriptive language and emphasizes the well-paced novel’s intimacies and contradictions. Gripping, subversive and sincere, Scorched Grace is sure to captivate listeners.


Read more: How Margot Douaihy turned to noir’s hard-boiled past—and looked to its future—to create Sister Holiday.

Actor Mara Wilson (best known for her roles in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire) brings a buoyant spirit to her performance of Sister Holiday.

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