‘Tis the Season for Audiobooks
I’ve never been a huge fan of audiobooks, always preferring the act of reading to that of listening. In fact, up until the last couple of years, audiobooks were relegated to long road trips and flights. However, more recently I have found that while I may not always have as much time as I would like to sit down and read a book, it is still possible to get my fill of books by opting for the hands-free audio version and multi-tasking while walking the dog, cleaning the house, or sitting on the couch trying to crochet a cactus (a pandemic project).
To me, there are three factors to consider when choosing an audiobook. First off, we obviously need a good story. However, not all books that make for good reading make for equally good listening. Non-fiction audiobooks can sometimes be a challenge for me, as I find myself getting burned out on the subject matter halfway through. That said, a good memoir seems to be a safe bet. Similarly, the length of an audiobook is important. In general, I feel that many books could benefit from a solid edit, and this is something that often becomes even more noticeable when a book is read aloud (exhibit A, the 48-hour audio version of the Ulysses S. Grant biography, ‘Grant’). Given my shortened attention span, I prefer books that are in the 15 hours or less range to prevent myself from overcommitting. Lastly, and most importantly, is the narrator. Nothing ruins an audiobook like a narrator who reads too slowly or worse, tries to distinguish characters with terrible and often offensive accents. However, find yourself a book with an engaging narrator, and it’s hard to take the headphones off.
With the holidays and winter travel season upon us, you may be in search of a good book to listen to on your next adventure, whether that takes you to the couch, around the block or around the world. To get you started, I’ve pulled together an eclectic list of the most ‘binge-worthy’ audiobooks I listened to this year, all with good stories and solid narration, and most of which can be finished while driving between Seattle and San Francisco.
Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-to-Guide
Written and narrated by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark (with Paul Giamatti)
Length: 6 hours, 31 minutes
While these authors are best known for their podcast, ‘My Favorite Murder’, their book is an odd but winning mix of true crime, self-care and personal development. Narrated by the authors’ themselves, Kilgariff and Hardstark delve into their own pasts to share intimate stories of addiction, depression, and struggles with eating disorders. While this may seem like pretty heavy subject matter, their delivery really lightens the mood, highlighting their characteristic dry wit and humor. At turns laugh-out-loud hilarious and poignant, what I thought was going to be an extended version of their podcast turned out to be a meaningful, relatable, and touching listen.
Man’s Search for Meaning
Viktor Frankl, Narrated by Simon Vance
Length: 4 hours, 44 minutes
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Frankl’s 1946 memoir, a quick listen that packs an emotional punch. In the first part, Frankl, a psychiatrist, shares in significant yet detached detail the horrifying experience of fighting for his own survival in several Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He then segues into how this experience led him to the development of a new form of psychotherapy, logotherapy, based on the idea that while life is full of suffering, our ability to find meaning in even the most miserable of circumstances can allow us to cope with challenges that would otherwise be too difficult to bear. While the discussion of logotherapy does get a bit tedious at times, overall, this remains a fascinating and insightful listen, especially for those seeking to find meaning in their own lives.
Big Little Lies
Liane Moriarty, narrated by Caroline Lee
Length 15 hours, 55 minutes
This audiobook is all about the narration. In fact, I only started listening because I had read an editorial describing how a good narrator, notably Caroline Lee, can take a story on the page and turn it into something vivid and delicious and nearly impossible to ‘put down’. And indeed, Ms. Lee is a narration force to be reckoned with. In her lilting Australian accent, she gives each individual character a unique voice (and there are a lot of them) and infuses such energy into the material, that I managed to listen to this nearly 16-hour audiobook in a weekend. When combined with its juicy story line about soccer moms, their exes, and the lies they tell, this gossip-fueled gem read by Ms. Lee is definitely worth a listen.
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
Rebecca Traister, narrated by Candace Thaxton
Length: 11 hours, 39 minutes
Despite what I said previously about non-fiction, I found Traister’s book, which documents the rise of the single American woman throughout modern history, to be an easy and engaging listen. We learn that when women were given opportunities outside of an early heterosexual marriage and motherhood, they not only gained power over their own lives but made significant contributions to some of the greatest social movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. Incorporating anecdotes and interviews with some of the most famous single women of the last hundred years as well as drawing on the experiences of American women across class, race, and sexual orientation, this well-researched, balanced and thought-provoking listen advances the conversation around the role and impact of single women in our society.
Know My Name
Written and narrated by Chanel Miller
Length: 15 hours, 24 minutes
In this powerful and raw narrative, Ms. Miller details being sexually assaulted on the Stanford campus in 2015 and her years-long struggle navigating, and ultimately being failed by, the American justice system. We hear through her own voice of her fight to keep her humanity and identity as Chanel Miller while the press reduced her to a caricature as Emily Doe. We hear the shame and isolation she felt in the aftermath of the assault and during the trial proceedings. And we hear her strength and courage, which ultimately led her to come forth and share her victim impact statement and her real name with the world, becoming a source of hope and inspiration for assault survivors everywhere.
So that’s a wrap, for this post and for the year. GeekGirlCon is wishing you and yours the best that the holidays have to offer. We look forward to bringing you more great content in 2022!