The Best Audiobooks for Women in 2020November 12, 2019 • By Tara Ziegmont
I listen to audiobooks every single day on my 60 minute walk around the neighborhood. If you’ve seen any of my Instagram live videos or Insta stories, you’ve probably seen me talking about the latest book and how much I love it.
I’ve been really lucky lately as far as audiobooks go. I’ve listened to a lot of awesome ones, and there have only been a couple that I wouldn’t recommend.
One thing I also want to mention is that I have sent most of these books to Old Grandma who is 91. She devoured each one in less than a day and enjoyed them all. I share this because I think they are books with appeal to many different ages, but mostly to women.
I get all of my audiobooks through Audible. The rates are easy on the budget ($14.95 per month for 3 titles), and I get to keep the books in my library forever. I upgraded to the 4 books per month plan, and it’s still relatively inexpensive. Start your free trial today!
So, without further ado, here are the books I’ve been listening to, in order of my listening (newest at the top).
My Recent Favorites
As I mentioned below, my brain and emotions were wrecked after I finished the third book in the Tale of Ancient Rome series. I couldn’t bear to read anything with any significant drama or emotion. So, I dived into my Audible library and found My Favorite Half-Night Stand, a light and breezy romance about anonymous online dating complicated by IRL friendship. There was conflict and smut but it was all predictably wrapped up in the end.
I liked that book so much that I went looking for some others by the same author and found Roomies. Roomies is about a man and a woman who get married for green card status. Like Half-Night Stand, it is light and breezy with some conflict and smut but it is all wrapped up predictably in the end. Both were fun reads that really captivated my attention but likely won’t stick with me for a long time.
I am currently listening to a third by this author, but I’m not loving it so far. We’ll see.
The Wedding Shroud is the first in a trilogy about a woman in ancient Rome. I say woman because she’s treated like a woman, but she’s really a teenager. Anyway, she is a wealthy orphan who is married off to the wealthiest man in a rival city in order to broker a peace treaty. The book follows her as she adjusts to her new life and yearns to go back home. The first two books are really good, but the third one (while also really really good) is tragic and left me haunted. In fact, the only thing I could bear to listen to after finishing Call to Juno was a smutty romance. I just couldn’t with anything with any substance.
This series is loosely based on real events in the years between 406 and 396 BC between Rome and Veii, but still, I would not have listened to Call to Juno if I had known how it would turn out ahead of time. So do yourself a favor and read only the first two and email me if you want to know how the author intended the series to end.
A Mother’s Reckoning is really well written. The author is Sue Klebold, mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters in 1999. I don’t know what I expected, but hers is a sad story of a boy who was beloved and cherished and yet went astray in a horrendous and enormous way. By the end of the book, you will wonder whether you can ever really know your kids, and I promise that you will pay way more attention to their mental well-being and inner selves than you ever thought you could. It’s not an easy read, but I highly recommend this one for any parent.
An Anonymous Girl is slow and plodding, a lot like The Girl on the Train below. I bought it because Audible recommended it to me, and I’m glad I did. It’s a psychological thriller but not at all scary. The story goes like this: Jessica lies her way into a study on morality, and the researcher decides to pursue her for a tangential study that needles its way into her real life outside the study. It’s crazy and full of plot twists up to the very last minute. Some I saw coming, but most were total shockers. In all honesty, this wasn’t my favorite book of the year, but it was good and I am glad I read it. I finished it yesterday, and I’m still haunted by the ending.
The main character in The Cactus is prickly and not all together likable, but despite wanting to grab her shoulders and shake her, I really liked the book. There were several times when I thought, “You are positively never going to be happy, and it’s your own fault!” And I really disliked her. But then something else would happen, and I’d come around and feel sorry for or even like her a little bit. By the end of the book, I had lots of warm fuzzies. I saw the end coming a mile away, but the author made me second guess myself because the conflict wasn’t resolved until the very last minute. This was a nice, light summer read from Reese’s Book Club.
The Cuckoo’s Calling is formally written by Robert Galbraith, but that’s just a pseudonym adopted by the mega author JK Rowling. It’s a mystery in which private detective Cormoran Strike investigates the presumed suicide of a famous model. I don’t usually listen to mysteries, but I really liked this one. It’s full of twists and turns and incredibly detailed characters and situations. The Silkworm is the second in the CB Strike series, and it’s just as good as the first.
There are four books in the series all together, and I have now listened to all four. They were excellent, and the series did not end in the way I’d imagined. Towards the middle of the third book, I couldn’t put it down. I binged the third and fourth books and loved every minute.
Then She Was Gone was a little slow for the first half hour or so, but then it gripped me tightly and I listened to it practically 24 hours a day until I was done. It’s about a mother whose favorite youngest daughter disappears at age 15 without a trace. 10 years later, the mother meets a man and discovers that his 9-year-old daughter looks just like her vanished one. The mystery unfolds with all kinds of twists and turns and the end left me saying “WOW. Just wow.” I hung on every word and couldn’t stop. So so so good.
I also want to say that I saw the major plot twist in this book coming, and I think the author intended me to. It’s pretty predictable in that sense, but the story that got to that point was well worth listening to. I never would have imagined what happened and how this person died and what happened to that person. The story left me reeling.
Like The Only Woman in the Room (below), The Huntress captivated me from the first 5 minutes. It tells 3 stories in the late 1940s and early 1950s – a teenage daughter of a single dad with a mysterious new love interest who quickly becomes her step-mother, an English Nazi hunter determined to make people pay for their crimes, and a decorated female fighter pilot from Russia. As you might have imagined, their stories eventually intersect in very interesting ways. The ending is perhaps a wee bit predictable, but the ride to get there is so entertaining and enjoyable and full of twists and turns that you won’t mind at all. Loved every minute of this one from the very first to the very last.
Also, this is the newest from Kate Quinn who also wrote The Alice Network (also below), and the main character (Eve) appeared in The Huntress for about three minutes which was a nice touch. The Huntress is also narrated by the same woman who narrated The Alice Network.
The Only Woman in the Room grabbed me from the first five minutes. It’s historical fiction based on the real life of Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian-born Hollywood film star from the World War II era. I. can’t. stop. listening. It’s so so so good and so juicy a story that I am totally obsessed (but no smut). In the beginning, Hedy was the Jewish star of a famous theater in Austria when she is wooed by the richest man in the nation, a Catholic munitions dealer who is in cahoots with its dictator in the shadow of Hitler’s Germany.
Gone Girl might be my new favorite, but I don’t want to tell you much about it because I don’t want to ruin the surprises for you. It’s a twisty turny story about a man and his wife. At the very beginning of the story, the wife disappears. That’s all I want to tell you, except that several times during the story, my eyes went wide, and I thought, “What the heck?!?” and the ending left me gaping and wholly unsatisfied in the best possible way. It was NOT the ending I wanted or expected, but it was so so good.
Oh, one more thing. This book has A LOT of colorful language, so if you are upset or offended by that, or if you can only listen in earshot of your kids, you may not want to listen.
I loved the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. This story of a single, youngish writer in London immediately after World War II who becomes penpals with a large group of friends on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. The story is rather complicated, and involves two broken engagements and a lot of backstory, but it is absolutely wonderful in the way it weaves the tale through a series of letters, all letters, no prose at all. There is a Netflix movie of the book, and I liked it a lot, too, but it lost the letter nature of the book that made it so endearing. This one is not to be missed. Oh, and it is narrated by about fifteen different people, as each letter writer has his or her own voice. That made it very interesting.
I loved Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows so much, I sent a hard copy to Old Grandma. And Old Grandma finished it in less than 12 hours and then passed it on to my cousin who read it in three days and passed it on to someone else. It’s a delicious story about a twenty-something Punjabi girl in London who answers an advertisement for a creative writing teacher, except the course to be taught was really a basic English literacy course and the ad was a misunderstanding. And then, the widows in the course find a book of erotic stories. There’s a little bit of mystery and a human interest story that rivals any fiction I’ve read. Love love loved this one.
The Alice Network is historical fiction, based on some events that really happened. As I understand it, the Alice Network really existed as a network of female spies in France during WWI. This story started out a little slow but turned into one of my favorites of the whole year. There were times when I simply couldn’t turn it off, and I may have ignored my family a time or four because I just couldn’t bear to leave the characters in the place where they were when I should have turned it off.
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry started a little slow, like a lot of the books on my list, but once it got going, it was a really nice story. It wasn’t exactly my normal kind of book because it wasn’t much about feelings and romance, but it was a solid story about flawed people. It starts out about a book shop owner who is in his early thirties but a widower and determined to drink himself to death. A teen mom leaves her baby in his shop with a note that she wants him to raise her, and that baby changes his entire life in a way that no one would ever have predicted. It’s a lovely story with a surprise ending.
Michelle Obama. Need I say more? I preordered this one but was so engrossed in my fiction selections that I didn’t get around to listening to it for months and months. I had heard wonderful things about it, though, and wanted to jump in. I’m so glad I did. M.O. is an amazing writer who can twist words into the most beautiful, though provoking, and inspiring thoughts. I was hooked within the first ten minutes. She talks about her childhood as a poor, black kid in Chicago in an area that’s now become the slums. She spent most of that time living on the upper floor of an aunt’s house. It’s fascinating to think that the kid she describes grows up to live in the White House. Only in America.
The audiobook is read by M.O. herself which makes it even richer and more wonderful. Get this one. You won’t regret it. But be warned – it is LONG. I ended up listening to it in bits and pieces, like 10 hours here and then fiction and then another 10 hours and then more fiction. I prefer fiction to non-fiction and needed to break up the reality, even though this was a really really excellent book.
I loved Next Year in Havana, too. The characters were interesting and there’s a little spark of romance which I love to read, but there’s also a mystery and even some history of American-Cuban relations and what it was like to live in Cuba just before and during the revolution there. Great story with a perfect ending that’s all tied up and happy.
I loved Eleanor Oliphant because she’s a lot like me. She is awkward and not very social. She doesn’t get people, and she doesn’t really mind that she doesn’t. People don’t get her, either, until she is thrown together with a coworker as they help an elderly man who collapses on the sidewalk. Very very good. Loved this one.
The Last Mrs. Parrish was a delicious mystery about a con woman, Amber Patterson, whose mark is an ultra rich married man with the perfect life. She weasels her way into the inner circle of his current wife, Daphne Parrish, a wonderful and kind and trusting woman. The first third of the book is from Amber’s perspective, the second third from Daphne’s, and the final third are a mix of the two. Loved this one.
Love Does is the only audiobook I’ve ever listened to more than once. Bob Goff’s books don’t read like Christian commentary or even Christian anything because he’s writing about life and living and loving and being. He’s talking about living love and being like Jesus because Jesus was love. I absolutely adored this book – it is positive, optimistic, and full of charm. I want Bob Goff to be my uncle or next door neighbor.
Waterfall is a young adult book, but don’t hold that against it! It’s like the Christian version of Outlander complete with a girl who goes through time and a handsome prince from the past. It’s well written and interesting, and I completely got into the story very quickly. I breezed right through the whole series, although books 4 and 5 aren’t available in audio (but they’re worth reading).
Y’all. (I have never said y’all in my life, but Melanie Shankle says it, so it must be right.) Melanie Shankle will feel like your best friend after you listen to her read her books to you. They’re all memoirs of a sort, series of vignettes about her life and loves, and she weaves them together in a hysterical way that will totally make you feel normal. I have loved every one of her books (except not really Church of the Small Things which I found a little odd), and I have even listened to some of them with Joe in the car. The Antelope in the Living Room is her book about marriage, and it was my favorite of all of them.
Surprised by Motherhood is the memoir of a woman who lost her own mother in her late teens, and then she had to learn to become a mother sort of on her own. I didn’t expect to love it, but I did. It made me laugh and cry and appreciate what my own mother did and did not do for me. I identified with the author in a lot of ways because my mom passed away, but also because I did a lot of things very differently from the way my own mother did them, so I was sort of making my own way all along. It’s complicated, but I really loved the book.
I used to read John Grisham and watch Law & Order and lived and breathed crime dramas. I also had nightmares and irrational fears. A few years ago, I stopped all that nonsense and felt almost instantly better. I’m not sure what made me pick up Sharp Objects – I don’t think I really knew what it was about. It is about a Chicago journalist who goes back to her podunk small town to investigate two child murders. But it didn’t give me nightmares because the ending is so satisfying. There are twists and turns all through, and the ending will leave you with mouth agape. Loved it and recommended to a coworker who also loved it.
Also, there is an 8 episode HBO series produced by the author which is haunting, follows the story very closely, and is so so good. You’ll love it. Find it on Amazon.
I would listen to Bob Goff read the phone book. His voice makes me smile, and it’s always pleasant and optimistic and upbeat, even when he’s talking about a devastating housefire or the loss of his original book manuscript in a break-in. I love his writing, too, and his words match the tone of his voice. In Everybody Always, he talks about how Christians are called to love everybody, always, and how that can plan out in our lives. Full disclosure: I didn’t love this one as much as Love Does, but it was still very good and worth listening to. See also, the note about Bob Goff reading the phone book.
I would be remiss to leave this one off. I never got into Harry Potter when the books first came out because I’m not really into the whole fantasy genre. But I did think my kids at least needed to know something about HP, and I purchased the first book on a lark a few months ago. Well, they dived headfirst into all things HP and we have flown through all the rest of the books. And, I have to admit that I like them, too. They’re very good and I want to listen even when the kids aren’t around. I don’t, but I want to.
Educated was disturbing, but in a car wreck that you can’t keep your eyes off way. When I finished, I researched Tara Westover all over the internet because I wanted to know more about her and her wacko family. The book was good if a little slow. I just wanted her to break free from her dad’s influence, and it kept almost happening and then, oops! Not really. But it was good, very thoughtful, and a book I would recommend.
I bought The Girl on the Train on the recommendation of a coworker who had just finished it and said it was awesome. I can’t say that I loved it like she did, but it was pretty good. It’s about a girl who sees a woman she knows is married, kissing another man, all from the safety of the metro. She doesn’t really know the woman, the husband, or the lover, but she inserts herself into their lives, all while her own is falling apart. It’s really interesting and has lots of plot twists, but the plot moved a little slowly for me which is why it’s in the “just okay” section of my list. The end, however, was entirely satisfying and made the whole book worthwhile. Read it just for the ending. Seriously.
Call the Midwife is a memoir, but it’s really just a series of vignettes about various midwifery clients the author saw over a period of years in a very poor district of London immediately after World War II. It’s very well written, and the audiobook is excellently narrated. The only thing I didn’t love about it was that I missed the overarching story that most of the other books on my list have. I missed a compelling start, middle, and end. For what it is, Call the Midwife does have lovely characters and stories, and I found myself both laughing and crying at different times. I think there’s also a tv show, maybe on Netflix?, based on this book and the others in the series.
I love Sally Clarkson, and the only thing that would make Own Your Life better is if she were the narrator. As it is, this is a non-fiction book about life, about doing it the right way with God’s help and living out your purpose with honor, integrity, and conviction. Sally is a popular Christian author and speaker, and she writes from a place of deep peace and contentment. I never miss anything she writes.
Have you listened to any good audiobooks recently? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
© 2019, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.