Each month throughout 2020, for your literary listening pleasure, our friends at AudioFile Magazine are bringing us the cream of the audiobook crop.
This month’s haul of amazing audiobooks (all of which are Earphones Award-winners) includes N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became (read by Robin Miles), Barbara Ehrenreich’s Had I Known (read by Suzanne Toren), and Colum McCann’s Aperiogon (read by the author).
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin | Read by Robin Miles
Robin Miles gives voice to everything New York in this fantastical celebration of the city’s spirit. As the novel opens, New York City is going through a transformation—it’s becoming sentient, embodied by six human avatars who represent the city’s five boroughs plus New York as a whole. In the midst of this fragile transition, a hostile entity from another universe is invading the city. New York’s avatars must find each other and work together to reject the alien threat. Miles goes all-in with her energizing performance, making listening a joy.
Apeirogon by Colum McCann | Read by Colum McCann
National Book Award-winning and bestselling author McCann narrates this blending of the fact and fiction of a Palestinian and an Israeli father who both lost children to the Middle East conflict. McCann tells this complex and heartbreaking story with compassion and empathy for people strafed by the worst thing that can happen to a parent, the loss of a child.
Actress by Anne Enright | Read by Anne Enright
Man Booker Prize winner Anne Enright’s delivery of her heartrending novel ranks with the best of author/narrator performances. Growing up with a beautiful mother is hard for any girl, but when her mother’s a famous, unpredictable actress, the psychological complexities are stunning. Written with heart and intelligence, the story will carry listeners on a deeply emotional voyage.
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste | Read by Robin Miles
Robin Miles gives a flawless emotional narration of this superb novel, set in Ethiopia in 1974 and in 1935, on the eve of Mussolini’s invasion. The story, both epic and deeply personal, is told from the point of view of a woman who is looking back on her and her country’s tumultuous past through the lens of hard-won experience. Miles makes this reminiscence an auditory treat.
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, Susan Bernofsky [Trans.] | Read by Lisa Flanagan
Lisa Flanagan uses a calm tone and pace to deliver this gripping story about African immigrants in Berlin, Germany. The audiobook focuses on Richard, a retired widower and classics professor who discovers a group of African refugees staging a hunger strike. He begins an inquiry that transforms his life—and theirs. Flanagan’s delivery is ideal, and her style is perfect for dialogue that, while often disconcerting, reveals the commonality of human existence.
Humanology: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Amazing Existence by Luke O’Neill | Read by Ruairi Conaghan
Narrator Ruairi Conaghan has unflappable charisma and dry wit to spare—he’s that professor you wish you’d had in college. O’Neill, a biochemist, has written a fascinating work that offers insights about the nature of human existence, how we’ve come to survive as a species, how the concept of gender was socialized, how automation may have a positive impact on humanity, and how we should just embrace death. Conaghan’s performance is a perfect match.
Big Wonderful Thing by Stephen Harrigan | Read by George Guidall
Narrator George Guidall bestows his abundant gifts on this sprawling audiobook on the history of Texas. His melodious tone well serves the often outsized events and unusual folklore of The Lone Star State. Author Harrigan has written a monumental paean to his state. By turns travelogue, political treatise, and thoughtful guide to personalities, this audiobook leaves the listener fully satisfied.
Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Mallory Ortberg | Read by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Fans of Ortberg will welcome his signature wit in this impossible-to-classify audiobook. Though newcomers may feel slightly adrift, Ortberg’s narration is undeniably powerful. He combines memoir, Biblical exegesis, and trans retellings of fiction and myth into a book about gender and transition unlike any other. His narration is multilayered and alive. Every moment of this audiobook is a joy to listen to.
Had I Known: Collected Essays by Barbara Ehrenreich | Read by Suzanne Toren
Narrator Suzanne Toren does a masterful job of capturing a distinctive authorial voice in this wide-ranging essay collection. Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich has been commenting on social, political, and economic life in the U.S. for more than four decades. Her work is represented here through a thematic compilation across that timespan. Toren’s narration is laced with acerbic wit and sly humor, which pair perfectly with Ehrenreich’s sharply observant writing.
The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration by Bernd Heinrich | Read by Rick Adamson
To the joy of audiobook listeners and naturalists, Rick Adamson returns to narrate Bernd Heinrich’s latest work. The program is filled with descriptions of how various species find, use, and return to their homes. Adamson’s pacing keeps listeners engaged as he delivers scientific details, along with personal interludes. His varied inflections pull listeners into the natural world and the curious mind of Heinrich.