Audiobooks are a new addition to my reading life. Considering audiobook use went up 20% last year worldwide, I have a feeling I am not alone.
People frequently ask me for audiobook recommendations. My answer used to be that I mostly only listened to nonfiction on audio but recently, I have discovered some fiction (especially mystery/thriller) works for me in this format.
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How Do I Listen to Audiobooks?
There are many different ways to enter into the wonderful world of audiobooks. These are the ones I find to be the most accessible and easy to use.
There are many different ways to listen to audiobooks. If you want to purchase them, you can listen with a paid subscription service like Audible (Amazon). This one is nice but it does require a monthly subscription. However, you do get one “free” credit each month with that subscription which really does pay for itself if you are going to be buying audiobooks at all. What we do in our family is my husband and I share our audible account and take turns from month to month using the “free” credits. Sometimes, they have deals available where you can purchase several credits for a lower price (2 for 1, etc.) so we often take advantage of those sales as well.
Another way to listen is through a newer audiobook company called Libro.fm. This one has the lovely feature of being connected to your local independent bookstore so they will get a percentage from your purchases. If you don’t have one locally, you can also choose to connect to a bookstore that is not local to you. It also has a monthly subscription fee, but it’s a great way to support independent bookstores.
This one is my favorite: Libby. Libby (by Overdrive) is how I listen to free audiobooks through my local library. I also get e-books through Libby, but I will write about that another day. All you have to do is download the app and connect it to your library card. If you have trouble, the library staff is usually very helpful in getting you set up.
Chirp is a new way to get audiobooks for less. It’s free to join and I am a member, but I will admit that I am usually so full of material to listen to between using the three above options that I have not taken advantage of this one too much yet. However, I do get their daily emails and have seen several interesting audiobook deals there, so it’s only a matter of time, right?
When Do I Listen to Audiobooks?
I pretty much constantly have an audiobook going so I can listen in the car, while folding laundry or even in the shower. I use this wireless (and water proof) speaker which is perfect for toting around the house. I also love listening while I am running (I have these wireless headphones).
Many of my friends say they listen while making dinner, but when I tried that, I had a little mishap. I got very distracted by the highly engrossing book I was listening to and completely botched our dinner for that night. It was pretty hysterical, but alas, I don’t listen to audiobooks while making dinner anymore (sigh).
Regardless, audiobooks have become an essential way to get more reading into my life. Below are the ones I first listened to that helped sell me on this reading medium and are now among my most recommended audiobooks.
(This post about my most recommended audiobooks was originally posted on February 10, 2019, but has been updated with new content for 2020.)
My Most Recommended Audiobooks
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Book Store by Matthew Sullivan
I don’t remember where I heard about this one, but I adored this first novel by Matthew Sullivan. It was one of the first books I listened to in 2018, and it has stuck with me since then as a favorite. It tells the story of Lydia Smith who at the beginning enters the bookstore where she works and finds one of their regular patrons, Joey McGinty, has committed suicide in the store. Lydia then finds out he has left all of his possessions to her. Her research into his life brings about a connection they have in their past. It’s a past that contains a really dark and scary trauma that she is forced to relive when learning more about Joey and their connection. The reader is taken on a really dark and twisty ride through both her search for how she is connected to this young man and also finding her way through to the other side of her own tragedy.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
The true crime hit of 2018, I listened to this one on a rare road trip (sans kids) with my hubby. It starts with the story of the “East Area Rapist” (EAR) who terrorized the east side of Sacramento in the 70s. It seems he then moved on to murder, as the EAR turned into the Golden State Killer, a moniker she invented. McNamara reveals through her research and collaboration with other investigators and law enforcement a trail of homicides that will really make you think twice about locking your doors and windows.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
This one was just such an unbelievably engrossing story about a young Irish girl, Lavinia, on a Southern plantation. The book’s title comes from her place in “The Kitchen House” which is the working house closest to the owners’ main house where the house slaves live and prepare meals for the big house. Becoming a part of the plantation as one of the slaves (really more of an indentured servant) but being set apart because of her white skin, Lavinia straddles two worlds. She bonds with Belle, the plantation owner’s illegitimate daughter and the rest of her adopted family, but is looked on as more of an equal by the owners of the plantation. I was hooked from the beginning, dying to know what would happen next in this dramatic story.
The Dry by Jane Harper
This is Harper’s first novel and it’s a doozy. About a grisly murder in a small, tired Australian town, this one is a runner-up for my favorite books of all time. It is so good on audio (Aussie-accented narrator) that I can’t help but wonder if it would have had the same effect on me had I read it instead of listened to it. It is the story of Aaron Falk, who is called back to his hometown by the father of his childhood best friend, Luke. Luke has not only allegedly shot and killed himself, but he has also murdered his loving wife and one of his two children. From the moment Falk returns, coming into the funeral, the townspeople are whispering and staring. Thinking there is no way their son could have committed such a heinous act, the distraught Hadlers ask Falk, now a federal investigator, to look into the crime on their behalf. Facing certain issues in his own past – there is a major event in his childhood that happened in this town – Falk searches for the truth about what happened that day on the Hadler farm. (This one is also a runner-up on my all-time favorites list.)
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
In 1920s Oklahoma, members of the Osage Indian tribe, wealthy from their ownership of oil-rich land, started turning up dead. Called the Osage “reign of terror,” the FBI, then a fledging government agency lead by the infamous J. Edgar Hoover, was called in to investigate to bring the perpetrators to justice. Especially engrossing is the background of the lead FBI agent, Tom White, who is sent to Oklahoma by Hoover to investigate and build the Federal case. Three were actually three different narrators used, which was different but served this book well given that the book has three distinctive sections and each section has its own tone and feel. In particular, the second narrator, Will Patton, does an amazingly awesome job of making you feel the erie-ness of the murders and the case.
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (March 2019, Ballantine Books)
This is a new addition to this list and the first hyped book I have ever read that I found actually lived up to the hype. Reid writes this story through a series of interviews with the fictional 70s band “Daisy Jones and the Six” as they look back on their lives and their rise to fame. The effect of this writing technique (similar to the beloved VH1’s “Behind the Music”) is compelling and keeps you on the edge of your seat. From the creative process of writing and performing songs to the dynamics of the egos and relationships involved in a wildly popular band like this, I was completely sucked in to the story and along for the wild ride of partying, performing and just what it is like to live in the world of rock stardom. The audio, done dramatically with a series of amazing actors (Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt, Judy Greer, to name a few), is probably one of the best I have ever listened to. This is by no means one of my favorite genres, but this book transcends genre (and also landed as an alternate on my all-time favorites list).