I love novels! I enjoy them so much that I want to know how they end long before I get to the last chapter. I know! It’s terrible, but I’ve skipped to the end of most novels I’ve read. Luckily, audiobooks make that nasty habit technically difficult. So, I’ve learned to listen to novels the first time through. After the ending surprises me, I can go back and read the print versions.
Here are some of my favorite audiobooks of the fiction variety. Prefer nonfiction? Try this list.
Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson, 2021; 12 hours, 51 minutes
Joshilyn Jackson is an award-winning writer rom Decatur, Georgia who until a couple of years ago wrote mainly Southern fiction. Her book Between, Georgia is one of my top 10 favorite books. Recently, Jackson has tried her hand at thriller novels and so far, I’m impressed. The first one, Never Have I Ever, came out in 2020. I listened to it too and found it riveting, though some would say it should come with a trigger warning. Be advised: the twist in NHIE is enough to make you lose your lunch. Her next thriller, With My Little Eye, comes out in April 2023.
But back to Mother May I. Jackson’s second thriller deals with subjects such as intricately premeditated murder and sexual exploitation and rape. It is not for the faint of heart. For me though, it was so compelling that I basically listened to it straight through. Yep, I worked out and cleaned my house thanks to this little gem!
Jackson always crafts interesting, multifaceted characters. I appreciate this about her and found it especially thought-provoking in this novel. I never saw the ending coming–thanks in large part to the fact that audiobooks won’t let me skip ahead as I so often do in the print versions. Full disclosure, I have most of Jackson’s books on my bookshelf and have read them multiple times.
By the way, I’ve listened to almost all of Jackson’s audiobooks and each one is fantastic. She has training as a voice actor and does a wonderful job bringing out the individuality of her characters.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, 2018; 12 hours, 12 minutes
Speaking of thrillers, holy moly this one is a doozy! It’s spent about a hundred years on the NYT Bestsellers list and for good reason. Author Delia Owens, PhD, is a world traveler with deep southern roots and (as I understand it) lives somewhere fairly near me in the NC mountains now. She spent much of her life studying wildlife as a zoologist and before she took a stab at fiction, she was already a NYT bestselling author. Her nonfiction accounts of life on the plains of Africa are wildly popular.
But y’all! This book. I mean it is beyond compare. I have not seen the movie based on the book, but I kid you not, Owens’ writing is so vivid that I feel like I watched the story unfold live. For example, I recall the audiobook including the sounds of water slapping the sides of the boat, the birdsongs in the distance, and the rustling of papers as the protagonist turns the pages of her art books. It doesn’t though! The textual illustrations are just that realistic.
Kudos also to the narrator, Cassandra Campbell, who lends Owens’ characters her voice. The audiobook is an experience you will not want to miss. But do plan on buying the print copy too. You’ll want to read your favorite parts over immediately upon completing the audio version.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, 2017; 11 hours, 2 minutes
The minute I finished this beauty, I looked up Gail Honeyman to see what else she had written. I found nothing. Nada. Zip. The most recent information I found about her is from 2019. That is to say, be sure you have longterm access to Eleanor because it is superb. You’ll like Eleanor and her friend Raymond so much you’ll want to visit them again and again.
The audiobook is delightful, in great part to the talented narrator, Cathleen McCarron. McCarron brings Honeyman’s writing to life, making the characters feel like people you already know. Consequently, the fondness you are sure to feel for Eleanor may catch you off guard; she is so very off-putting in the beginning. Expect to be surprised by her and by your growing crush on the unlikely leading man, Raymond. You’ll root for socially inept Eleanor as she comes to terms with the great injustices she’s experienced, events that have left her painfully scarred both physically and emotionally.
Listen to this one and then hit replay. You might want to buy the paperback as well. You know I did.
My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, 2015; 11 hours, 2 minutes
Fredrik Backman is my newest favorite author. I was introduced to him through A Man Called Ove, the novel that Tom Hanks’ movie A Man Called Otto projects on the big screen. I’m not sure which one of his books I read next, but I’ve now read the whole collection, save one that is in my cart. It was hard to pick one of Backman’s to focus on here, but I settled on MGAMTTYSS because of its unique premise.
Seven year old Elsa is grieving the death of her best friend, her 77 year old grandmother who she calls Granny. They live together with Elsa’s family in an apartment building full of other interesting folks, people Granny came to know in ways few others did. Before her death, Granny writes a series of apology letters for Elsa to deliver. In Elsa’s quest to fulfill her beloved Granny’s request she gets to know her grandmother in ways that were not available to her during Granny’s lifetime.
I thought it was clever and inventive and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation by narrator Joan Walker who also reads MGAMTTYSS’ stand-alone sequel Britt-Marie was Here. Walker has also performed over 150 other audiobooks, so she is skilled at distinguishing characters by tone and inflection. I loved this one. What about you? Do you have a favorite Backman? Let’s talk!
Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, 2011; 19 hours, 1 minute
I know this requires quite a time commitment. It’s worth it. I’ve listened to this masterpiece by Alice Hoffman three times and read the print copy as well. Set in and around 70 CE, the story takes place predominantly at the fortress known as Masada in Southern Israel. Held by about 1000 Jewish Zealots, Masada withstood the onslaught of the mighty Roman army for approximately two years. Hoffman places her story in the midst of that chaotic time. Her meticulous research and creative storytelling delivers this historical fiction in technicolor.
The author intertwines the stories of four women who find their way to Masada in 70 CE. They come to the fortress by different paths and have surprising connections that draw them to one another despite obstacles that would drive lesser women apart. Theirs is a story of triumph over adversity and chosen family. It is captivating.
The audio book has four narrators who give distinction to each of the women. I really appreciated this style. It helped me to keep the stories separate while I worked out their intersections.
Incidentally, I’ve read reviews that compared Dovekeepers to The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. The Red Tent, a fictional interpretation of the biblical story of Jacob and his four wives, fell short of the mark in my opinion. I couldn’t finish it despite getting almost 75% of the way through. Dovekeepers, a fictional interpretation of historical events, was a much more satisfying read to me. In fact, I think I’ll read it again now!