The Best Audiobooks for Women in 2020November 12, 2019 • By Tara Ziegmont
The best audiobooks for 2020 for women – Includes romance, Christian lit, historical fiction, memoirs, and non-fiction; both fiction and non-fiction. Great ideas for libraries, including some new books and older ones.
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 1 regular title plus unlimited titles from the Prime library), and I get to keep the books in my library forever. I upgraded to the 2 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).
Currently Listening to:
Pretty Things – I am only a couple hours into this book, and so far, it’s about a con woman and her boyfriend/partner in crime. Her mother has cancer, and her treatments are both very expensive and not covered by insurance, so the woman is thieving to pay for the care. From the Amazon description, I know another woman is going to enter the picture soon, but like I said, I’m not very far in yet.
One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces – The Jesus Calling series of devotionals has partly ruined me for other devos. Those books have a short paragraph for every day. Five minutes, and your devotional for the day is done, and you can stew on it the whole day but the active part of the task is over. (Does that sound too much like checking a box? I don’t mean it that way if it does.) But what I like about Ann Voskamp’s devotional is that the devos are not short, not at all. Some of them are three or four pages or even longer. But they are beautiful and thought-provoking and, if I’m honest, I might even like them more than Jesus Calling because they are so much richer. I’m digesting this in very small bites and not every day.
My Recent Favorites
The Girls Weekend – This book is about a troop of five old college friends seventeen years after they graduated. They’ve mostly grown apart and have very little in common. One of the five, a very rich and famous author, invites them all to her palatial estate for a girls weekend. Someone turns up missing the night after some drunken antics, and the mystery unfolds from there. 3 1/2 stars.
Sometimes I Lie – I loved this twisty turny book. The first lines are: “My name is Amber Reynolds. I’m in a coma. Sometimes I lie.” and you question every single statement the whole way through the book. Except that you get sucked into the story and forget to question it, and then you’re left in the end with your mouth agape, wondering what exactly is happening. I thought I knew what happened after finishing, but then I went back and listened to the second half a second time. I thought I knew what happened even then, but then after convincing a coworker to listen to it, I heard a completely different perspective that left me questioning what I thought. This book is nuanced with great character development. So good. 5 stars.
A Good Marriage – This one starts out slow but turns out to be so good. It’s got two parallel storylines. In the first, a man is accused of murdering his wife, and his lawyer (an old law school friend) tries to find evidence that he didn’t do it. The second storyline tells his now dead wife’s story starting a couple of weeks before the murder. Every time it seemed like there was an answer to the question of the crime, the story pivoted and left me totally surprised. 5 stars.
The Half Sister – Imagine you’re having dinner at your mother’s house with your sister and her family when a stranger walks in and says she’s your dead father’s child. Wait, what? That’s what happens in the very beginning of this story. One sister immediately trusts her, and the other remains skeptical and accusatory. I went through all kinds of theories as to the identity of the interloper, and they all proved to be wrong. 4 stars.
Safe – This book was c.r.a.z.y. It’s about an 18-year-old girl who shows up claiming to be the 6-year-old who had been abducted from her front lawn twelve years earlier. She is interrogated by the police to make sure she’s legit, and she goes to trauma counseling. Her brother is openly hostile toward her, and she can’t understand why. The end was so good and explained everything all the way around. I don’t want to tell you more because it will ruin the surprise for you, but I really liked this book. 4 stars.
The Last Flight – This was about an abused wife who is found out by her husband just before her making an escape using a fake identity. She was talking to her best friend on the phone at the airport when a stranger offers to exchange tickets with her, effectively trading identities. They do, and you don’t know whether the mysterious other woman got on the flight or not until the very end. That flight goes down, killing everyone aboard. The wife goes on to Berkeley, California, where the other woman lived, and assumes most of the other woman’s life. As she discovers more of the other woman’s life, she learns that she may be in danger. It was a great story. Really liked this one. 5 stars.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Prior to reading this book, I did not know that there were people in the United States whose skin was as blue as a sapphire. But there used to be, and this story is about one of the last of them. It’s fiction but based on a real family in the Kentucky hills in the 1930s. The main character is a book woman with the traveling pack horse library, and she faces all sorts of dangers in her job. Her father marries her off to a white man against her wishes, and that does not go well at all. The story is one of hardship and tragedy but ultimately hope. It’s got some sad parts (but not so sad that I cried), but it is uplifting and wonderful. 5 stars.
The Light We Lost – At first, I was confused by this book because it’s a very long letter from a woman to a man she used to be in a relationship with and still loves. She has moved on and married and had children, but she never really moved on at all. She tells about the life they had together and the life she had after their breakup, and it all comes together very neatly in the end. I had big feelings about the ending, but I don’t want to tell you because spoilers. 4 stars.
A Serial Killer’s Daughter – I almost always listen to fiction, and this one is a real life memoir, but it reads almost like fiction. It’s written by the daughter of the notorious BTK serial murderer. (He called himself BTK because that’s how he attacked his victims – bind, torture, kill. Partway into this book, I felt compelled to research him and his crimes.) She does not describe his crimes at all; she only tells her story as she tries to reconcile her odd but loving father with the heinous criminal she heard about from the police and in the media. It’s a story of redemption and peace as she comes to terms with his double life and heals herself. 3 stars.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz – I read this book in paperback form, but the audiobook is supposed to be really well done too. It is a love story about two Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. The main character of the book is a man, Lale, who through a series of fortunate coincidences becomes the tattooist of Auschwitz, a cushy job that allows him considerably more freedom than the average prisoner. As he tattoos a prisoner number on her arm, he looks into the eyes of Gita and falls in love at first sight. The story is both about how they survived and how their love blossomed in the bleakest of circumstances. This novel is based on a true story, and I read it in under a day because it was so good and so compelling. Cilka’s Journey, below, is the sequel. 5 stars.
Cilka’s Journey – Cilka is a minor character in The Tattooist of Auschwitz above, and that book ends with a one line note about how she was convicted as a conspirator of the Nazis and sent to a Soviet labor camp for 15 years after Auschwitz was liberated. This story was even more painful than the Tattooist for me, I think because she was imprisoned not once but twice for doing nothing wrong, just for living and surviving in the best way that she knew how. But like the Tattooist above, this is a story of hope and survival. Even though the subject and background are very heavy, I loved this story of survival in the worst of circumstances. I also learned a great deal from this novel which is based on the life of a real woman. I finished this book in a day. It was gripping. 5 stars.
The Summer House – This book is light even while dealing with the very real issues of love and loss. It centers around two women, one younger and one older, and the two men who pursue them and try to mend their broken hearts. Both women are mourning the loss of their marriages (one recently and one decades ago), and the two men are patient but insistent in their quests to show the women that good and faithful men really do exist. This one will renew your faith in the power of love and good men. It’s in the Christian romance category, so no smut here but still a really nice story with good characters. 3 stars.
One Little Lie – This is about a woman who is appointed Chief of Police in a quiet Alabama town when her father retires. But then two murders rock the town, and she has to figure out what’s going on despite evidence that threatens and implicates her dad. Her sidekick through all of this is a male journalist who’s been given permission to make a documentary about her work. This book is the first of a trilogy that’s supposed to be released over the next year. I can’t wait for the other two because the ending of this one seems unfinished and was definitely not the resolution I wanted! (The next one comes out in September 2020 I believe.) 4 stars.
The Water Keeper – This book is captivating, and once you start, you will NOT want to stop. It’s about a former priest who gathers a rag tag group of people and a dog as he tries to rescue a girl from the world of human trafficking. There’s the girl’s damaged but beautiful mother, a mysterious orphaned runaway, a convicted murder who’s now free but dying, and the ashes of the former priest’s best friend and mentor. It sounds heavy, but is a wonderful story with many lighthearted moments, and behind all the action of the rescue, there is a beautiful love story. I loved the book but hated the ending which was real and appropriate to the story and so very painful. 3 stars.
The Friend Zone – I don’t usually recommend books with a lot of bad language, and this one has tons of it, but I liked the characters and the story. It’s a romance about a woman who has been told she can’t have children and the man she’s secretly in love with who has made it clear he wants a whole mess of them. He makes no secret of his feelings for her, and she spends the entire book rebuffing his advances. 4 stars.
The Happy Ever After Playlist – As much as I liked The Friend Zone above, this book was even better. It’s the sequel, so read Friend Zone first and then this one. It has just as much bad language, but it has an even better story and the same interesting and nuanced characters. This one is about Sloane, whose fiancée dies days before their wedding at the end of Friend Zone. She spends the next two years wallowing in her grief, until a stranger falls into her lap and they start a whirlwind romance by mid-book. But then a lot of complications happen, and it seems like their relationship can’t possibly weather the storm. 5 stars.
One Day in December – The subtitle of this book is “A Christmas Love Story” and so I almost didn’t listen to it in the middle of May, but something prompted me to keep going. I’m so glad I did. It’s about a man and a woman who spot each other through the window of a city bus. The woman searches for the man everywhere she can think of for the next year, and never finds him – until he shows up with her best friend as the BFF’s new beau. The man and the woman then spend the next 10 years dancing around each other as friends, missing opportunity after opportunity to be together. This book seemed a lot like real life to me, full of hard choices and real, flawed but lovable people. I really liked this book a lot. 5 stars.
The Giver of Stars – This is about a newlywed woman in an unsatisfying marriage in Tennessee in the 1930s. She volunteers to become a traveling librarian in the town as a way to get out of the house and escape her ever present boredom. She finds a community of wonderful people who challenge and then rescue her. It’s a wonderful story that I didn’t want to put down. Loved it. 5 stars.
This Is Not How It Ends – This is a love story, but perhaps the most heartbreaking one I’ve ever read. If you have ever lost someone you loved to cancer or a similarly traumatic and predictable illness, you will identify with every emotion the main character describes. I lost my mom in 2013, and I wept through the second half of this book. It validated emotions that I didn’t know bothered me even after all these years. I listened to it straight through in just a couple of days because I couldn’t wait to hear what happened next. I even stayed up until 2 in the morning listening and then got up early the next day to listen to the last hour before work. This Is Not How It Ends wrecked me in the best possible way and also made me feel like all those feelings I felt when my mom was dying were totally normal and okay. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful book. Very powerful. 5 stars.
The Secrets We Kept – This was a solid book although not my favorite on the list. It’s about a whole cast of characters, but primarily two women who were spies in the early days of the CIA. They were in the typing pool and then pulled out to go on missions. It was interesting to me to get a glimpse of how women were treated back then (even ones with Ivy League engineering degrees were in the typing pool – what an injustice!). Simultaneous to those two women were Boris Pasternack and his mistress and muse, Olga, trying and failing to live under the radar in Cold War Russia. He is the author of Doctor Zhivago, and Olga was imprisoned twice over his book, the first time for three years and the second time for ten years (I think). The women never meet the Russians, but they try to spread the book back to Russians (where it has been banned) after its publication. There is love and intrigue, but this book never really gripped me. I wanted to know what happened and listened dutifully, but it wasn’t as compelling as some of the others on the list. 3 stars.
The Nightingale – I guess I have a thing for historical fiction. A coworker recommended this book to me, and once I started, I binged it until I was through. It’s about two sisters in World War II in Nazi-occupied France. One starts out in Paris, and the other lives in the countryside outside of Tours. As with any war story, tragedies abound, but the women are not victims. One becomes famous for leading dozens of downed airmen to safety over the mountains into Spain, and the other adopts the son of her Jewish best friend in order to save him from extermination, all under the nose of Nazi officers living in her home. I don’t want to tell you anything about the ending other than it gave me big, big feels. It was the perfect resolution to this beautiful and moving story. 5 stars.
Big Little Lies – I have two work friends with whom I frequently talk books. We swap recommendations all the time, although truthfully, it’s usually ME telling THEM what to read next. One of them suggested I read this book; she had read it a few weeks earlier and loved it. I have to admit that I like it just fine, but I wasn’t as in love with it as she was. It’s about a gaggle of women who all have children in the kindergarten class at a fancy Australian public school. Jane is a single mom with a mysterious past. Celeste is super rich but has a troubling secret. Madeline is average but super feisty. And they’re all in a big drama with Renata who believes that Jane’s sweet son is bullying her gifted daughter. It’s basic mama drama, but the writing is nuanced and interesting enough for me to stay engaged. There’s also an HBO series that goes along with the book. I will tell you honestly that I liked the TV show better than I liked the book (for maybe the first time EVER), but I think having read the book made the TV show make more sense. Not a bad read but definitely not my favorite from the list. 3 stars.
Little Fires Everywhere – I devoured this book. It begins with a fire in a rich woman’s home and three of her four children watch in awed horror. Then it rewinds a few months to explain how the rich woman had a tenant who was a single mom and struggling artist, and how the single mom and her daughter became entangled with the rich mom and her four children. I love love loved the ending. A hulu tv series has been made out of this book with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, and the series is deliciously good, but it is so different from the book that the story is almost unrecognizable. Read the book, then watch the show. 5 stars.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – On my first #coronavacation weekend, I watched this movie on Starz. I was surprised at how much really offensive racial content there was, but it is authentic for the time in Alabama in the 1930s. The book is really old, from the 1980s I think, but I read it once 20 years ago and loved it, and I loved the movie, so I’m excited to dig into it again. As you might imagine, the book’s story is so much richer than the movie’s story, and I was surprised that there were so many huge differences. I liked the book better. 4 stars.
The Wife Between Us – This is a suspenseful story about a jealous ex-wife and her replacement. I don’t want to say too much about it because it’s got a lot of twists and turns, and I don’t want to ruin it for you. It reminded me a lot of The Last Mrs. Parrish (which I really really liked), but because of that parallel, the overall arch of the story was a little predictable. But still, there were a lot of surprises and the epilogue left me saying, “Wait, what??” It was kind of crazy. If you like non-scary suspense stories, you will like this one, but I personally would only give it 3 stars.
The Silent Patient – This audiobook had an interesting storyline that hooked me from the first couple of minutes. The narrator is a forensic psychotherapist who is obsessed with a convicted murderer who hasn’t said a single word since committing her crime. His goal is to help her to speak again. The story is quick and interesting, and there are two different storylines: his work with the murderer and his crumbling marriage. The ending of this book left me with my mouth agape and my mind reeling. Not since Gone Girl have I sat in such disbelief at the end of a story. This book didn’t end the way I wanted, but the ending was delicious and appropriate to the characters. 5 stars.
The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock – This one wasn’t as gripping as some of the others on the list, but I think that’s sort of the point of it. It’s about a middle-aged funeral director who is secretly in love with a married floral designer who gets sick and dies. Her husband finds her journal and discovers that she was secretly in love with Oliver, too, and he confronts Oliver with the truth. The rest of the book is about his coming into himself independent of his domineering mother and breaking free from the memory of the woman he loved (but not really) and lost. 3 stars.
The Marsh King’s Daughter – This was an interesting book that reminded me both of Educated and Where the Crawdads Sing (both reviewed below). It’s about a woman whose mother was kidnapped by her father at 14. They live as husband and wife on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in a remote cabin in a marsh. Helena’s father covers her in tattoos – even her face – and he raises her to be a wild woman, knowing about how to hunt, track, and live off the land. She eventually escapes, changes her name, gets married, and has 2 daughters of her own, never having told the truth of her childhood to her husband. Then her father breaks out of prison and comes after her and her children. This story is suspenseful and interesting. It has two simultaneous storylines, one of present day as Helena pursues her dad who is pursuing her, and the other as she flashes back to her childhood and all the things that built up to her and her mother escaping the cabin. I finished this one in three days, and it was not short. 4 stars.
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are – I read this book when it first came out, almost ten years ago. I love Ann Voskamp’s wordy prose, and to have her read the book with her own inflection and voice was beautiful. I was putting the finishing touches on the Bible study I wrote on gratitude when I listened to this book, and I wanted to pause and highlight pretty much everything I heard. Now, having said that, I thought the first half of this book was amazing and the second half was just so-so. It’s like she said everything that was important in the first half, and then the second half was just rehashing the first half for the sake of making a longer book. I don’t want to deter you from listening to this one, because the first half is just so so so good, but know that you might be underwhelmed by the second half. 4 stars.
The Good Dream – This book was solid, although a bit heavy in parts. It deals early on with the sodomy and physical abuse of a young boy, but from there, it goes on to a love story between a 30-year-old “Old Maid” who is lonely after both of her parents die and a youngish and equally lonely widower. But the two of them getting together isn’t the end of the story as this mysterious little boy threatens to tear them apart again. I’ll be honest. I had a really hard time listening to the beginning of this book because of the way the little boy (who was either 6 or 8, I don’t remember and didn’t write that detail down) was treated. He was small and so badly abused, and my heart hurt for him. But then, he is taken in by the main character, and his life does a 180. It was a really nice story in the end, and I’m glad I stuck it out and listened to it. 4 stars.
Where the Crawdads Sing – I have loved most of the books on this list, but this one ruined me for all 87other books. It is by far and away my favorite on the entire list. I binged it and listened to the entire book in under four days because I. just. couldn’t. get. enough. I needed with my whole heart to know what would happen next. The story is about a girl who is six when her mother walks away from the family, and then all her brothers and sisters fade away, too, leaving her with an abusive, alcoholic father in the swamps of North Carolina in the 1950s and 60s. She treasures the marsh and all its inhabitants, and she squirrels away treasures from her explorations which become important later in the story. Despite all odds, she grows up into a beautiful but backward and highly intelligent woman. Then simultaneous to her coming of age story is a murder mystery in which she is the chief suspect. Knowing the end, I listened a second time just for the fun of noticing more details. This book is so good. So so good. My new all time favorite book. 5+++ stars.
The Accident – This book is also chilling. I mean, I could see how it could happen in real life, and it would be anyone’s worst nightmare. The story starts with a woman and her new friend killing a man in a drunk driving accident. The driver’s life quickly goes to hell, and the twists and turns just keep coming and coming and coming. At one point, I wanted to shake the main character and say, “Just go to the police already and end all this drama!” But I couldn’t, of course, and it just kept going. This story is on the shorter side, under 7 hours, and like the one below, my mouth was left agape at the end. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and I won’t tell you another word because I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises for you. Lots and lots and lots of bad language in this one which somewhat detracts from the story, but I still really liked it. 3 stars.
A Nearly Normal Family – This is a chilling book about a teen who is accused of murder, and her parents – a pastor and a lawyer – who attempt to prove her innocence. Through the course of the book, both parents do things they never imagined they would do, violating their morals in justifiable ways. The book, like many in the suspense genre, moved a little slow in some parts, but I really enjoyed the story overall. The ending left me with my mouth agape. 4 stars.
Brain Over Binge – I am still (!!!) struggling with food issues and still (!!!) determined to get them under control. Binge eating is definitely one of several issues I’m dealing with, and I thought this book might help. It is incredibly motivating and uplifting, and together with the Recovery Guide (paperback workbook) written several years later, I think it has the power to help me. I really enjoy listening to the author’s story, and her explanation of the brain and eating disorders is both in-depth and easy to understand. Highly recommend this one if you know someone who struggles with binge eating. 5 stars.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – I thought this book was a romance, but it isn’t. Or at least, not like some of the other books on the list. It’s a wonderful story of two people who are unlikely friends but develop a friendship all the same. Major Pettigrew has the full life of a retired Army widower, and Mrs. Ali has the full life of a shopkeeper’s widow. There is drama and conflict, and there are beautiful kindnesses and lovely relationships. This book was so refreshing, and I sent it to Old Grandma who also loved it. 5 stars.
The Dressmaker’s Gift – After listening to the light and breezy romances below, this story was pretty heavy, but it was also wonderful. It’s primarily about three young seamstresses in Nazi-occupied Paris. They all fight with the Résistance, each in her own way, and each with her own consequences. Then at the same time, one of the women’s granddaughter is in Paris decades later looking for clues to her family history, and the story is told as she discovers bits and pieces of the past. This story is beautiful and very well put together. I really loved it. 5 stars.
The Hiding Place – This is sort of out of order because I read this book after The Dressmaker’s Gift above, but it makes more sense listed below. I have been interested in reading more about Corrie ten Boom ever since hearing a quote attributed to her, “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” I still don’t know if she really said that, but I am glad I read her memoir. In short, she lived a very plain and mundane life as a spinster living with her sister and father, but then the Nazis invaded Denmark (where she lived), and her family built a secret room to hide Jews. They ended up getting caught and the entire family except for Corrie died in prison or concentration camps. The story is powerful and moving and a testament to God’s wisdom and might in even the most evil of situations. 4 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
I also listened to The Unhoneymooners by the same authors, but I didn’t love it. I spent 3/4 of the book disliking the main character which wasn’t pleasant. I loved the ending, but the whole of the book wasn’t good enough to recommend.
The Wedding Shroud (4 stars) 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 (4 stars except for the last bit) 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. (3 stars)
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. 3 stars.
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. 2 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 4 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 4 stars.
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. 4 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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). 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 5 stars.
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. 4 stars.
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. 4 stars.
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. 5+++ stars.
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. 4 stars.
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. 4 stars.
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. 3 stars.
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. 3 stars.
Have you listened to any good audiobooks recently? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
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