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Top 10 Favorite Audiobooks

JuneHeaderIn honor of June is Audiobook Month (JIAM), I’ve decided to share a list of my favorite audiobooks. This was hard! There are a lot of good ones out there. If you haven’t tried an audiobook before, here are a few you might want to try.

1. Three Junes by Julia Glass. What I said: “The narrator, John Keating, was nearly perfect. I loved his brogue and his Fenno was wonderful.”

2. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. What I said: “The three performers -Nick Sullivan, Lorna Raver, and Mark Bramhall – were absolutely perfect; I felt like I was listening to a script reading. The voice of Clem, in particular, was superb. This may be the best audio production I’ve ever listened to.”

3. Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout. What I said: “The performer, Bernadette Dunne, had the accents down perfectly and really imbued the voices with personality and character. She brought Strout’s words to life so convincingly that at times I felt as though the characters were in the room with me. This is one of the best audiobook narrations I’ve listened to, ever.”

4. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. What I said: “[T]he narration by Peter Altschuler is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Great delivery and perfect accents. Mrs. Ali was the weak link, the errant thread of the Turkish rug. But the others were great.”

5. A Good American by Alex George. What I said: “The audio is terrific. Great narrator – Gibson Frazier. In fact, I think it was the audio version that kept me interested – I am not sure I would have stuck with this book if I hadn’t been listening to it.”

6. Faith by Jennifer Haigh. What I said: “The narrator, Therese Plummer, has a perfect Boston accent, and she vividly brought Faith‘s characters, male and female, to life. The audiobook forced me to ingest this novel more slowly than if I had read it, prolonging the pleasure of experiencing the book.”

7. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: What I said: “Hope Davis is an excellent narrator. She conveys a range of voices perfectly – from Marina’s terror brought on by drug-induced nightmares to the infallible tone of Dr. Swenson.”

8. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. What I said: “I highly recommend the audio. It was narrated by Ferris, and he’s a great reader. I love listening to authors read their own works – who understands the words better than they do? Who else knows exactly where the emphasis lands in a sentence, and the tone of voice a character should take when talking to someone else?”

9. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta. What I said: “It didn’t hurt that I listened to this book on audio narrated by the sublime Campbell Scott. I wouldn’t complain if he narrated every single audiobook in the library. His deep voice, which verges on (but never reaches) flatness, was the perfect vehicle for Perrotta’s understated sarcasm and jabs. I especially enjoyed Scott’s narration of Pastor Dennis – just perfect.”

And finally, the audiobook that got me into audiobooks…

10. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. What I said: “This book is narrated by Kristoffer Tabori, an accomplished actor, and I give him credit for embodying so many diverse voices throughout the 21 hours of Middlesex. His narration is fluid and vibrant, his voice highly capable of conveying the range from humor to desperation. To me, the weak link was his female voices, especially that of Cal’s grandmother Desdemona, who bordered on caricature. But this is a minor complaint. There were times when I was tempted to read ahead in my print copy of Middlesex, but I developed a strong appreciation for and loyalty to Tabori as I was reading, and felt that it would be betraying him NOT to experience every word through his narration.”

What are your favorite audiobooks? Please share them!

A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME by Wiley Cash

There are a couple of genres of fiction in which I am particularly non-well-versed. One of those is Southern Gothic. In fact, I had to Google the term to make sure that the book I just read was, in fact, Southern Gothic. (Turns out it was.) What is Southern Gothic, you ask? From Wikipedia:

[A] subgenre of Gothic fiction unique to American literature that takes place exclusively in the American South. Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or disorienting characters, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or coming from poverty, alienation, racism, crime, and violence.It is unlike its parent genre in that it uses these tools not solely for the sake of suspense, but to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the American South, with the Gothic elements taking place in a magic realist context rather than a strictly fantastical one.


The book in question is Wiley Cash’s debut novel A Land More Kind Than Home. It takes place in a small town in western North Carolina in the 80s, though it feels timeless, due to its rural, bleak setting. It is about the hold that religion (and alcohol) can take on people searching for meaning and direction and the misplaced trust that a small-town congregation placed in its sinister pastor. When the book opens, an eleven year-old mute boy is dead, leaving behind questions of how he died and why it happened at his mother’s church. The story is told by three narrators: the boy’s younger brother Jess, the town’s sheriff Clem, and the town’s elderly midwife Adelaide. The three narrators spin a sad, dark tale of regret, secrets, betrayal and loss that is deceptively simple in its delivery but rich with tension and conflict.

This is an impressive debut by Wiley Cash, who captured the diction and pace of this North Carolina backcountry perfectly. He has a gift for detail – the sweat of a beer bottle recently pulled from the fridge; the crunch of a police car’s tires spinning in the snow; the gentle clicking of a rattlesnake skin – that makes his writing breathe just under the surface. The book is well-paced, building slowly but inevitably to the climax you’ve expected from the first page. Yet Cash takes his time with his characters, teasing out their pasts slowly and frugally until they become filled in and in focus.

I also have great admiration for the audio version of A Land More Kind Than Home. The three performers were absolutely perfect – I felt like I was listening to a script reading. The voice of Clem, in particular, was superb. This may be the best audio production I’ve ever listened to.

A Land More Kind Than Home is certainly a departure from my usual fare, but I am glad I picked it up. It was a powerful, memorable read, and one that is sure to provoke discussion among those who read it.

Thank you to William Morrow for the review copy and to HarperAudio for the audiobook.