Audiobooks read by their authors

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In her new book of autobiographical essays, Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives (7 hours), Mary Laura Philpott writes with gusto and pathos about navigating two extremes: practicing for what will never happen and postponing the inevitable. From removing turtles from her doorstep to dealing with middle-of-the-night emergencies, from controlling cholesterol to shopping for cashmere, Philpott assembles a trustworthy menagerie of lessons for daily life.

Philpott reads her own audiobook with a Southern lilt, at times laughing or on the verge of tears, and she builds an easy connection with her reader as she details a variety of struggles and triumphs. When she describes coming to terms with being identified as “mom” in public, she is as real and reassuring as the best kind of parent.

Written as the author’s oldest child was getting ready to venture off to college, Bomb Shelter offers hope for a better future.

Read more: Mary Laura Philpott discusses her favorite bookstores, real or imagined.

Author Mary Laura Philpott reads her own audiobook with a Southern lilt, at times laughing or on the verge of tears.
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The dystopia envisioned in singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe’s third album, Dirty Computer, provides the backdrop for her first story collection, The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer (12 hours).

New Dawn, a totalitarian regime that rules through surveillance and memory erasure, has deemed that only the “clean” are worthy. Others—particularly members of the LGBTQ community, people of color and their allies—are labeled “dirty computers” and must be reprogrammed or destroyed. The five stories of The Memory Librarian, each written in collaboration with a distinguished speculative fiction author (Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado and Sheree Renée Thomas), describe the fear of living under such a regime as well as the joy and courage that can be found in a community of resistance.

Monáe’s narration of the preface and first story is elegant and measured. Her reading of “The Memory Librarian” is particularly taut, reflecting the balancing act that the librarian Seshet must perform between her duties under New Dawn and the hidden memories and desires of her inner life. Voice actor Bahni Turpin’s performance of the remaining four tales is electrifying, particularly in the finale, “Time Box Altar(ed),” in which three children learn to dream of a better future, and then fight for it.

Elegantly narrated by author Janelle Monáe and voice actor Bahni Turpin, The Memory Librarian explores the joy and courage that can be found in a community of resistance.
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Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir Situation (14 hours) takes listeners through Hannah Gadsby’s life up to the release of “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette,” her groundbreaking 2018 Netflix special, in which she declared her intentions to quit comedy while offering a razor-sharp commentary on the industry’s dark side. 

As an autistic lesbian arts historian whose best friends growing up were her elderly neighbors in Tasmania, Gadsby has a unique perspective to share. From barely making it through school to mingling with Jennifer Aniston at Hollywood parties, she’s had quite the journey. Gadsby is a marvelous storyteller, and as a narrator she guides us through the sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious story of her life with good humor and a dry wit. Her impressions of her Mum are very funny and give us a real sense of the woman’s charmingly brusque personality. 

Four years after “Nanette,” Gadsby continues to bring eye-opening insight to the art of storytelling.

Hannah Gadsby is a marvelous storyteller, and as the narrator of her memoir's audiobook, she guides us through heartbreaking and hilarious moments with good humor and a dry wit.

Author Mohsin Hamid’s haunting performance of his powerful 2007 novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, leaves listeners with much to ponder about their own visceral reactions to the story’s balancing act between peace and paranoia, pensiveness and fear.

Changez is the charming, mannered yet disquieting Pakistani narrator of this first-person story. He’s dining with an unnamed American at a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan, and over the course of the evening, Changez acknowledges and sympathizes with the American’s discomfort at being in a foreign setting—and at having Changez for an uninvited dinner guest.

Changez tells the American about how he left Lahore for the promises of the United States, graduated from Princeton University, landed a job at a highly respected firm and began to feel like he belonged to his adopted country. But after 9/11, fueled by xenophobic rhetoric and misunderstanding, many Americans began to question Changez’s identity and loyalty.

Hamid’s narration marries a sense of calm with the possibility of ill will that begins to crescendo over the course of the novel. Is Changez a threat to the American? By wondering this, are we, the listener, responding in an unfairly distrustful and shameful manner? What is the danger, and how are we participating in it? Hamid’s enlightening new recording highlights the lasting relevance of this provocative novel.

Read our interview with Mohsin Hamid on his “one-man play.”

Mohsin Hamid’s enlightening new recording of The Reluctant Fundamentalist highlights the lasting relevance of his provocative 2007 novel.

The 1990s may be a decade often lamented for its generation of “slackers” and eternally epitomized in the TV series “Seinfeld” (frequently described as “a show about nothing”), but Chuck Klosterman has found a treasure trove of history, nostalgia and pop culture relics to explore in The Nineties (12.5 hours). Each chapter is devoted to a defining characteristic or experience of Generation X, from VHS tapes and Blockbuster video stores to the strange phenomenon dubbed “the Mandela Effect,” in which whole swaths of people remember things differently than the way they actually happened. Klosterman narrates the audiobook in an almost tongue-in-cheek fashion, with acclaimed voice actor Dion Graham reading the footnotes and quotations.

Klosterman discusses the ’90s with both the intimacy of someone who lived through the decade and the authority of the beloved pop culture commentator that he has established himself as through 12 previous books. The Nineties provides a fascinating, granular look at a defining period of history, and if you’re listening on your smartphone, you’ll connect even stronger with Klosterman’s examination of an era that marked the “end to an age where we controlled technology more than it controlled us.”

The Nineties provides a fascinating, granular look at a defining period of history, and author Chuck Klosterman narrates in an almost tongue-in-cheek fashion.

To enjoy James Patterson and Dolly Parton’s Run, Rose, Run (10.5 hours) to the fullest, you must listen to the audiobook. Not only is it a necessary companion to Parton’s album of the same title (featuring songs inspired by the novel), but the cultural icon also voices one of the main characters, veteran country music star and bar owner Ruthanna Ryder.

With her unmistakably sweet Southern drawl (which she once cheekily described in Rolling Stone magazine as “a cross between Tiny Tim and a nanny goat”), Parton imparts wisdom and warnings alike through Ruthanna’s character. Up-and-coming singer-songwriter AnnieLee Keyes, expertly voiced by country pop singer Kelsea Ballerini, brings youthful exuberance and hopeful naivete to the story, providing a counterpoint to Ruthanna’s sage advice about navigating the music industry.

AnnieLee’s pursuit of country stardom in Nashville, from the dive bars on lower Broadway to the business-minded studio executives on Music Row, is a familiar story, but Parton’s involvement as author and performer elevates Run, Rose, Run a thousand times over. Additional characters come to life through the voices of Soneela Nankani, James Fouhey, Kevin T. Collins, Peter Ganim, Luis Moreno, Ronald Peet, Robert Petkoff, Ella Turenne and Emily Woo Zeller, creating an ensemble experience for book listeners to enjoy.

With narration from country stars Dolly Parton and Kelsea Ballerini, Run, Rose, Run is a must-listen ensemble audiobook.
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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.

Bestselling author John Darnielle’s most bizarre novel to date, Devil House (11.5 hours), is an odd amalgam of crime fiction, buried memories and investigative journalism. As the audiobook’s narrator, Darnielle performs the story in a steady voice, combining the otherwise disjointed series of events into a cohesive, fascinating whole.

Assuming the voice of true crime writer Gage Chandler, Darnielle describes a 1980s cold case involving a pair of satanic murders that occurred at a decrepit house in Milpitas, California. While researching the crime for his next book, Gage has moved into the house as part of a thinly disguised publicity stunt to bolster sales. But the deeper he delves into the house’s illustrious and mysterious history, the more its story takes on a life of its own, affecting Gage, and by turns the listener, in unique ways.

Shirking a linear structure, the novel slowly weaves from past to present and from character to character before coming together at the end. A singer-songwriter for the Mountain Goats, Darnielle brings a lyrical, literary tone to a novel that’s part true crime, part horror and wholly original.

Read our starred review of the print edition of ‘Devil House.’

John Darnielle reads the audiobook for his most bizarre novel to date, combining a seemingly disjointed series of events into a cohesive, fascinating whole.
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Like a game of hide-and-seek, Kathryn Schulz’s memoir is both whimsical and a little terrifying. In three seemingly innocuous sections, titled “Lose,” “Find” and “And,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning author develops a fugue, incorporating etymology, personal narrative, philosophy and even a meteorite. But the heart of Lost & Found (7.5 hours) is Schulz’s focus on herself, the father she loses and the partner she finds.

With the same exquisite precision as her New Yorker articles about the Pacific Northwest and other topics, Schulz explores settings ranging from Cleveland hospital rooms to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but her heart and mind are the real landscapes to discover, and she does so with tenderness, humor and aplomb. She reads her own audiobook, delivered with a slight lisp and certain breathlessness, and nearly every sentence comes through in a meditative, soothing cadence.

Schulz invites listeners into a bittersweetness that’s as mundane as it is cosmic. Like a childhood game, no one will want it to end.

Read our starred review of the print edition of ‘Lost & Found.’

In Lost & Found, read by author Kathryn Schulz, listeners are invited to discover a bittersweetness that’s as mundane as it is cosmic.
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Silvia Vasquez-Lavado is a truly impressive individual: She’s a philanthropist who’s worked in Silicon Valley’s tech industry, and she’s one of the few women to have climbed all Seven Summits, the Earth’s highest mountain peaks. But as her immersive, inspiring memoir, In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage (15.5 hours), makes clear, her accomplished resume only hints at her remarkable story. Scenes from her life—including her childhood in Peru, her sexual abuse by a trusted adult and her later estrangement from her mother following her coming out as a lesbian—are interspersed with scenes from a climb on Mount Everest, where she’s accompanied by fellow sexual violence survivors who, like the author, have found healing and empowerment through physical challenges.

Through her narration, Vasquez-Lavado, whose first language is Spanish, conveys a lifetime of warmth, humor and steely determination.

Read our starred review of the print edition of ‘In the Shadow of the Mountain.’

Silvia Vasquez-Lavado narrates her memoir, In the Shadow of the Mountain, with warmth, humor and steely determination.
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British author Bernardine Evaristo narrates the audiobook of her inspirational memoir, Manifesto: On Never Giving Up (6 hours). She reads in a measured, clear voice and steady, unwavering tone that serve some parts of the book more than others. When she tells stories—episodes of her childhood in a biracial home, for example—or connects identity, politics and creativity with truths that resonate especially with creatives of color, the clarity of her narration enhances the listening experience. However, her slow pace and lack of variation in tone cause other sections to drag, especially when they’re not as relevant to the inspirational theme at the heart of the book. Some listeners may prefer to play this audiobook at an increased speed, perhaps while engaged in other activities, so as not to lose momentum.

For focused listeners seeking an audiobook for edification, not for leisure or relaxation, Manifesto is a smart choice.

Read our review of the print edition of ‘Manifesto.’

For focused listeners seeking an audiobook for edification, not for leisure or relaxation, Manifesto is a smart choice.

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