I listen to audiobooks every single day on my 65 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 (Robin, more on that below, and a couple others that aren’t worth mentioning).
One thing I also want to mention is that I have sent most of these books to Old Grandma who is
90. 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.
So, without further ado, here are the books I’ve been listening to.
Note (5/1/2019) – To keep things organized for those of you who check here regularly, I am going to start putting the new books at the top of each list (favorites & just okay) so that you can tell what’s new since the last time you visited. I was keeping them more or less in order from most liked at the top to least liked at the bottom, but some readers complained that they couldn’t tell what was new. So from now on, newest will be at the top of the list.
My Recent Favorites
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. I’m just a little over halfway through it. There are four books in the series all together, and I’m pretty sure I’ll listen to all of them before I move on to something new.
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.
Others I’ve Liked
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.
Okay, Robin. This is the only book on the list that I didn’t finish. I love Robin Williams. I remember him on Mork & Mindy way back when, and I respected him all through the years. I thought I would love getting to know him better through this biography. Trouble is that he wasn’t the wholesome Mork or the perfect Genie that I wanted him to be. He was vulgar and lecherous, among other things. So I guess the reason I didn’t like this book and eventually quit listening is that it brought a larger than life man I respected and admired down to the status of fallible human, and I didn’t like that one bit.