Our favorite audiobook picks for summer will have you laughing and crying – in no particular order.
By David Adams
This summer, we’re hunting for a man-eating jaguar in the Amazonian rainforest, uncovering the shocking secrets of a Florida reform school, flying first-class with a “filth elder,” and exploring the current cultural moment with a writer who just might be her generation’s Joan Didion.
When their 18-year-old daughter Stella is accused of brutally killing a much older man, Adam and Ulrika Sandell rush to her defense. Adam, a pastor, makes a spur-of-the-moment decision that leads to a profound crisis of faith. Ulrika, a criminal defense attorney, takes charge of Stella’s case—and ends up feeling as if she herself is on trial. Meanwhile, Stella struggles to understand how her awful predicament connects to a long-buried family secret.
Told from the perspectives of all three members of the Sandell family, and expertly voiced by a trio of talented British actors, this riveting legal thriller asks profound questions about the meaning of family, the persistence of memory, and the nature of guilt.
Not only is The Whisper Man one of the most anticipated thrillers of the summer, it’s also one of the most exciting audiobooks. British actor and ninth Dr. Who Christopher Eccleston brings to life the story of a father and son, who move to quaint English village after the death of their wife and mother. They quickly find themselves caught in the crosshairs of an investigation that involves serial killer and child kidnapper The Whisper Man. Good luck falling asleep after listening to this one.
Bummed you don’t have an exotic adventure planned for this summer? You’ll be happy you stayed home when you listen to this rip-roaring thriller set in the Amazonian rainforest. Stranded in Cochabamba, Bolivia, 19-year-old Lily Bushwold falls hard for a handsome local mechanic. When he’s called back to his remote village to join the hunt for a man-eating jaguar, she goes along—despite being wholly unprepared to set foot in the jungle. From a stomach-churning plane ride to spiders the size of a dinner plate and a gang of murderous poachers, Lily soon learns that in a world teeming with life, death lurks around every corner.
In this gripping tale of family secrets and racial injustice, Billie James returns to Mississippi to claim her inheritance—the shack and surrounding property where her father, a renowned poet, lived after he left her and her mother. Billie is shocked to learn that she was with her father on the night he died 30 years ago, and that she had been reported missing. Where was she? Why can’t she remember anything about that night? Was her father’s death really an accident?
The horrific true story of the Florida School for Boys, a juvenile reformatory where students were abused, tortured, and even murdered by staff members, serves as the inspiration for this novel from the National Book Award-winning author of The Underground Railroad. Elwood is a straight-A student and idealistic admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Turner is a streetwise survivor, who refuses to believe that it’s possible to change a corrupt and racist system. When the two boys meet at the notorious Nickel Academy, their fates become tragically intertwined.
Read by veteran actor and audiobook performer J. D. Jackson, this promises to be the must-listen of the summer.
Of all the impressive praise quotes on Binnie Kirshenbaum’s website, an anonymous Amazon reviewer’s commentary on her fifth novel, The Scenic Route, gets pride of place: “I haven’t hated a book this much since Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger.”
If you think that’s funny, you’ll love Kirshenbaum’s latest, a laugh-out-loud chronicle of clinical depression. After months of not leaving her apartment, Bunny, a 40-something writer, attends a Times Square-adjacent New Year’s Eve party. Disaster ensues. Bunny ends up in a psych ward, where she clashes with her doctors and provokes her fellow patients.
Narrator Hillary Huber does a brilliant job voicing a character who is equal parts infuriating and irresistible.
It’s no surprise that the first book from the creator of Netflix original series BoJack Horseman is funny, sad, honest, cynical, weird, and deeply relatable; the same delirious blend of sensibilities has made his animated show a cult hit. From a bride and groom struggling to decide how many goats to sacrifice on their wedding day to the grisly choose-your-own-adventure story “Lunch with the Person Who Dumped You,” Bob-Waksberg holds a funhouse mirror up to the rituals of modern love—and discovers that while the heart cannot be denied, it should never be trusted.
Read by a full cast of veteran Hollywood performers, this is the perfect audiobook for a road trip with your funniest friends.
The inimitable Pink Flamingos and Hairspray director dishes on life, art, Hollywood, and dropping acid at age 70 in this wonderfully titled collection of autobiographical essays. Waters has a bon mot for every occasion—from air travel (“The main goal of your entire life should be to be able to somehow fly first class one day”) to creative longevity (“Learn to milk whatever success you’ve had. You can keep doing the same thing over and over as long as you have a sense of humor about not having a new idea”). Best of all, he delivers his material with the flair and precision of a stand up-comic. You’ll be laughing so hard you won’t realize how much good advice you’re absorbing.
Regular readers of The New Yorker will recognize Jia Tolentino as one of the magazine’s most stylish and incisive new staff writers, a delightfully sharp-tongued decoder of pop music, social media, and millennial culture. The former Jezebel and The Hairpin contributor has also written trenchantly about the #MeToo movement, abortion rights, and her experience growing up with one foot in a Houston megachurch and the other in the city’s Ecstasy-fueled club scene. For her first book, Tolentino has written nine original essays that touch on the defining pathology of our times: self-delusion. We’re excited to hear what she has to say.