Whether you’re walking the dog, sitting in a hospital waiting room, or packed in like a hot sardine on your first flight in years, audiobooks are the perfect way to keep your mind occupied. Below are some of the best summer listens available, from timeless classics to horrifying new thrillers.
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
(Reported by Dion Graham; 10:35 a.m.)
Compared to Colson Whitehead’s two emotionally devastating (but brilliant) previous novels, Harlem mix feels positively pleasant. Something akin to a caper, he brings 1960s Harlem to life in a tale as old as time – the classic spinoff of a heist gone wrong. It is hard to imagine a better time in the company of such crooks, schemers, crooks and stinky thugs.
sea of tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
(Reported by Arthur Morey, Dylan Moore, John Lee, Kirsten Potter; 5:46)
With extraordinary economy of language, Emily St John Mandel weaves an expertly crafted time travel tale spanning centuries that feels epic despite the short length. Heavily colored by his previous work, with nuances by Terry Gilliam 12 monkeys, it’s a hugely satisfying and moving story about our primal need for human connection. Apologize in advance to friends and family – you won’t be able to shut up about this book.
Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern World by Mary Beard
(Reported by author; 10:11 a.m.)
We generally know many emperors of ancient Rome; Ambitious Caesar, majestic Augustus, mad Caligula. In Twelve Caesars, Mary Beard overturns many of our assumptions by examining how these rulers have been depicted in art, from antiquity to the present day. It’s a clever and entertaining exercise that helps us reframe how we think about the distant past. The audiobook comes with a handy PDF with images discussed inside.
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
(Reported by David Pittu; 24h 22min)
Her best novel since The corrections, Franzen’s latest has all the wit and scalpel insight we’ve come to expect with the added, surprising warmth of an Anne Tyler book. Scenes of excruciating embarrassment will have you screaming; others will break your heart. The narration is great except for a surprisingly irritating voiceover given to one of the characters, but it’s pretty easy to forgive when everything else is so good.
Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are? band Frans de Waal
(Reported by Sean Runnette; 10:35 a.m.)
Don’t let the clunky title put you off – this is an illuminating and scholarly examination not only of animal intelligence, but also of how humans have historically failed to measure and understand that intelligence. One of the world’s most renowned primatologists, de Waal is also an excellent writer. Not a minute goes by that you don’t marvel at the wonders of the natural world or learn a fascinating nugget of animal behavior.
A ghost in the throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa
(Reported by Siobhán McSweeney; 7h 52min)
It’s hard to sum up A ghost in the throat in a sentence. Doireann Ní Ghríofa writes beautifully and honestly about his own life and that of Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, the 18th century poet and composer from Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire. Although separated by centuries, the lives of these two writers now feel intimately and inextricably linked. Even if you’ve already read the book, the audio version is still worth listening to – it almost feels like, like the Lament of Sorrow and Rage itself, it was always meant to be read. aloud.
How the one-armed sister sweeps her house by Cherie Jones
(Reported by Danielle Vitalis; 8:41 a.m.)
The story of three weddings on the deceptively beautiful island of Barbados, How the one-armed sister sweeps her house can be a harrowing listen at times, filled with domestic abuse, rape, murder, and violence. A counterpoint to all this misery, and what ultimately makes it bearable, is the beautiful storytelling. With a singsong accent, Danielle Vitalis speaks little more than a whisper, imparting an air of kindness and sweet intimacy that becomes much-loved as the story progresses.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
(Reported by Edoardo Ballerini, Marin Ireland, Dion Graham; 4:39 p.m.)
In 1950s Nebraska, two young brothers must fend for themselves when their father dies and the bank seizes the family farm. In this very American tradition, they decide to start a new life in the west, but fate leads them in the opposite direction, towards New York. A natural storyteller, Towels spins the plot well in a solid vacation listen intended for the big screen.
French braid by Anne Tyler
(Reported by Kimberly Farr; 9 hours and 4 minutes)
Another Anne Tyler novel, another sweet family drama set in Baltimore. You might think things are getting repetitive now, but the opposite turns out to be true. It’s becoming increasingly clear that we live in the darkest timeline, so each new Anne Tyler book feels more necessary than the last. These are the comfort blankets we need in a world that is ashamed to admit the need for comfort blankets. We follow the Garret family there, from a stay in 1959 to the present day, and it is still as wonderfully observed.
Matrix by Lauren Groff
(Reported by Adjoa Andoh; 8 hours and 52 minutes)
When Marie de France is driven from the royal court of Eleanor of Aquitaine, she is sent to a dilapidated English abbey. The place is riddled with disease and deprivation, but Marie decides to redress the situation of the abbey and create a kind of feminine utopia. A beautiful and seductive novel that transports the listener completely and completely into another world.
gas man by Colin Black
(Reported by author; 9:30 a.m.)
Sacred surgeons. Why do they get all the credit? Ask any anesthetist and they’ll tell you who the real heroes in the OR are. In gas manA highly entertaining and revealing account of what happens when you’re cold on the stretcher, Colin Black takes us from accidental medical student to consultant pediatric anesthesiologist at Crumlin Children’s Hospital.
The only good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
(Reported by Shaun Taylor-Corbett; 8:37 a.m.)
Four young men set out to hunt moose in a forbidden part of their tribe’s territory. Ten years later, what they did that day comes back to haunt them, metaphorically and quite literally. Part dark meditation on Native American guilt, part satisfying macabre horror tale, The only good Indians is best enjoyed at night with the lights off. Sit around a campfire, if possible.
Sundial by Catriona Ward
(Reported by Katherine Fenton; 12:58 PM)
Who doesn’t love a good psychological gothic horror about a particularly disturbing and toxic mother-daughter relationship? Sundial is one of those books you’ll get the most out of going blind – it’s filled with twists, turns, mystery and paranoia. Part of the fun is guessing where he’ll go next, and hoo-boy does he go to some pretty dark places. Not one for the family road trip to Clara Lara, then. Do people still go to Clara Lara?
War and peace by Leo Tolstoy
(Reported by Thandiwe Newton; 60 hours 14 minutes)
An often overlooked benefit of listening to audiobooks is how they can enrich your life in the most unexpected ways. You could be lying on your couch, being too hungover to even get dressed, dying of acute dehydration, and eating a cold pizza you don’t even want. But stay a while War and peace and bingo bango — you’re actually accomplishing something!
The parcel by Jean Hanff Korelitz
(Reported by Kirby Heyborne; 10:43 AM)
Sometimes you’re not in the mood to War and peace, and it’s good. Sometimes you just want a no-fuss three-star thriller to pass the time on a long drive. Walk in The parcel. When a struggling writer steals someone else’s plot for their new novel, it shoots straight to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Things start to go off the rails when he receives an email that simply says, “You’re a thief.” Crazy and enjoyable in equal measure.
The night watchman by Louise Erdrich
(Reported by author; 1:33 p.m.)
If you listen to audiobooks on your phone, you’ll have noticed a handy button that lets you skip back 30 seconds (or however long you set). Sometimes you’ll use it because you missed a central plot point. Sometimes you’ll use it because you were dreaming and have no idea what the narrator just said. And sometimes, as if listening The night watchman, you’ll use it to bask a little longer in the warm glow of stunning prose. Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, it follows a tribe of Native Americans in North Dakota facing government-ordered termination in the 1950s.
The promise by Damon Galgut
(Reported by Peter Noble; 10:12 a.m.)
To listen The promise it does not take long to realize that we are in the presence of a Great Novel. A searing portrait of a white South African family through the decades, it keeps a close eye on wider political and social injustices. Peter Noble narrates beautifully – clipped cadences, rolling praetorian Rs and stretched Afrikaans vowels give the whole thing a warm authenticity.
Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Over Russia Then Attacked the West by Catherine Belton
(Reported by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart; 6:21 p.m.)
The ongoing tragedy in Ukraine cannot be understood without first understanding Vladimir Putin and his savagely corrupt and ruthless regime. Catherine Belton, a former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, has produced an extraordinarily detailed and well-researched account of Putin’s rise to power. It can be dense at times and it’s easy to lose track of all the unfamiliar names, but it’s an audiobook that everyone should listen to.
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
(Reported by author; 6:06 p.m.)
You’ve no doubt heard of the current opioid crisis in America. Recent reports show that over a million people have now died from an opioid overdose. This is an astonishing number, and in empire of pain we learn more about OxyContin, Purdue Pharma and the insanely wealthy and insensitive family behind it all. Prepare to be furious at some Montgomery Burns levels of evil capitalism and outright contempt for the poor.