My Favourite Audiobooks

I started listening to audiobooks about a year and a half ago, so I’m still pretty new to them, but I’ve read around 30 audiobooks and wanted to take some time to highlight some of my favourites. I think audiobooks face additional challenges in being well liked and rated because not only does the writing have to hold up to being read aloud (sometimes writing styles just do not sound as good aloud as they do written) and it has to have a good narrator. Narrator is so important and you’ll notice that the narrator played a key role in my enjoyment of some of my favourite audiobooks.

Before I dive into my list, I just want to say that I believe that reading an Audiobook is no different than reading a paperback book or an e-book. I consider both of them to be reading. There’s some reading purists out there who don’t think audiobooks count as reading, to which I say, that is very privileged of you. Audiobooks open up the world of reading to so many more people who may struggle with reading physical books for various reasons, and I can only see that as a good thing. Anyways, without further ado, here is my list (in no particular order):

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed (read by Rebekkah Ross)

The perfect example of a good story paired with a good narrator. The Nowhere Girls features 3 main characters, all with very different perspectives and life experiences. Grace, Erin, and Rosina are all high school students in the same school where their former classmate was basically driven out of town when she accused one of the school’s football team of raping her at a party. When the girls find out that other women have had similar experiences, they band together to seek justice. It’s very diverse and I highly recommend to young adults.

Not That Bad by Roxane Gay (read by various writers)

Not That Bad is an anthology of essays written by various writers about rape culture. The essays were collected and edited by Roxane Gay and represent an extremely diverse mix of stories and perspectives. The premise of this book is that we need to talk more about rape culture and that sometimes we suppress our stories out of a feeling that they’re not as bad as what happened to someone else or not bad enough to warrant making a fuss about. This collection re-iterates the idea that it is all that bad and that all stories deserve to be told and heard.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (read by Joanne Froggatt)

If you regularly read my blog, you’ll know that I became totally obsessed with Wuthering Heights and Joanne Froggatt this year. I didn’t expect to like this classic, but Joanne Froggatt does such a FANTASTIC job narrating this that I became totally enthralled with the audiobook. Froggatt’s narration is an Audible exclusive, so you will have to go to Audible if you want to listen to this version. But it is worth it because she does such an excellent job at bringing this classic to life. Audible is also a really good service, despite being a little expensive.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez (read by Kyla Garcia)

A lot a people have mixed feelings about this book. The main character is pretty unlikable, which hampers some people’s enjoyment, but I’ve come to the conclusion over the last year or two that I tend to like books with unlikable characters. Julia is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who is grieving the death of her older sister, Olga. Her grief makes her very confrontational and she pushes back against her friends, teachers, and parents. I understand why people don’t like it, but I thought it was such an accurate portrayal of a teenager suffering from grief and the expectations of her parents. I’m also obsessed with Kyla Garcia’s reading of this book. I thought she did such a wonderful job capturing Julia’s character and tone and it made this book so much more enjoyable.

Everything’s Trash, But it’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson (read by Phoebe Robinson)

I love books that are actually read by the author. This is Phoebe’s second book and I thought it she really stepped in up in this one. It’s a series of essays about America, Phoebe’s life, and what it means to be a black women in America. Phoebe is famous for her podcast with Jessica Williams, Two Dope Queens, so she’s a pro at being recorded and it shows. She is extremely funny and woke and really, who better to narrate your audiobook than you. This book is worth reading for her essay on White Feminism alone. A funny and thoughtful collection.

What Happened by Hillary Clinton (read by Hillary Clinton)

This audiobook is perhaps a little dated now (crazy considering it only came out a year and a half ago), but I still recommend it because it made me cry and stoked my righteous anger. I’m sure everyone knows this is Hillary’s perspective of what happened in the 2016 election, which at this point seems a little bit like, who cares anymore. But I think it is so important for us to try and understand what did happen in that controversial election and the gender and societal prejudices that worked against Hillary so that we can aim not to repeat those mistakes in the next election. 5 women have already announced they will be running for president in the primaries and we need to make sure that we support, critique, and hold them accountable in fair and equitable ways. Though Hillary didn’t win, she inched the door open that much further for the women coming behind her.

One Day We’ll All be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Saachi Koul (read by Saachi Koul)

A lesser known essay book written and read by Buzzfeed writer and Indian-Canadian immigrant, Saachi Koul. I didn’t really know anything about Saachi, but I ended up really liking her collection of essays on what it means to be the daughter of Indian immigrants and the struggle of reconciling that with also being a Canadian millennial who grew up with a different set of values and interests. I always appreciate a good book by a Canadian author and I thought this collection had a really good balance of funny, but thoughtful, essays.

The Feather Thief by Kirk W. Johnson (read by MacLeod Andrews)

This is the oddest book selection for me. It’s about an avid fly-tier (someone who makes “fly-ties” for fly fishing to attract fish) who broke into the British Museum and made off with 300 rare bird specimens so that he could use and sell their feathers for fly-tying. It’s an odd topic and one of the weirder heists I’ve heard about, but the book was absolutely fascinating! It’s not a long book and I listened to the entire thing in a single weekend because I was so entranced in the world of fly-tiers and naturalists. The author seeks to understand what happened to the stolen feathers and gives us lots of background on fly-tying and the scientific value of the stolen birds so that the reader can better understand both worlds. The narrator was terribly bad at accents, but otherwise did a great job.

 

Special Mentions:

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (read by Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber)

I’ve listened to a bunch of historical fiction audiobooks and most of them have not translated well into audiobooks. Before We Were Yours is the best one I’ve read and had a strong narrator and a really interesting, but dark, story.

 

 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (read by Meera Syal)

I didn’t love the ending of this book because I felt it tried to tackle too much in one short book. But the narrator for the audiobook is fantastic and with the exception of the ending, the story is really funny and interesting.

 

October Summary

I totally killed it this month, setting a new PB for most pages read in a month. I have Sarah J. Maas to thank because I’ve been re-reading her Throne of Glass series and those books are monsters. Plus, I flew through her 1,000 page finale! Here’s my summary:

Books read: 10
Pages read: 5,077
Main genres: Fantasy
Favourite book: Kingdom of Ash
Favourite Re-read: Empire of Storms

October and November have to be some of the best months for new book releases. I have so many anticipated reads spread over the last month and into next month that it’s hard to keep track. I started off the month with one of my most anticipated reads of the last 3 years with JK Rowling’s new book in the Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book forever and it did not disappoint. I love the balance Rowling strikes between the mystery investigation and Robin and Strike’s personal lives. My only regret is reading this one too fast.

Also new this month was the companion novel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, similarly named The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy; the new graphic novel Check, Please! #Hockey; and a novel about Boko Haram, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree. The latter was probably my favourite of the three. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is a tough read about the atrocities Boko Haram is committing  in Nigeria, but important, I would recommend to everyone.

Check, Please! #Hockey is an absolutely adorable graphic novel about freshman hockey player Bitty’s first year in college. He’s gay, loves nothing more than baking, and has a huge fear about being checked. It’s a great book about friendship and the pressures of college and sports. I really liked it and can’t wait for part 2 to come out next year! Unfortunately I didn’t love The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy quite as much as it’s predecessor. It was still a fun read packed full of meaningful observations about 17th century women, but it wasn’t quite as funny and I thought the plot was a little lacking. All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover was my one romance read of the year and I was pleasantly surprised by it. It is a romance novel, but it packs a punch by addressing several other little talked about issues in the plot.

My book club pick of the month was Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. I decided to listen to this as an audiobook and ended up loving it! It wasn’t a favourite at my book club, but I thought it was a really fun read that actually packed a really meaningful punch about traditional and modern culture. My other audiobook of the month was The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Weiss, which is about women’s fight for the right to vote in America. I’ve been working on this audiobook for several months and while I liked that this book exists, I struggled with the audiobook being really boring. I wrote a brief review on my goodreads page, but I haven’t decided if I will share it on my blog or not because it’s hardly a review.

Finally, I re-read Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms in anticipation of Sarah J. Maas’ new book and epic series finale, Kingdom of Ash. I have been loving my re-read, but thank god it is now over because it was so emotionally draining at the end and now I really just need to read anything that is not fantasy. Surprisingly I didn’t love Queen of Shadows quite as much as I remembered on my re-read, but I think I may have loved Empire of Storms even more. I finally pinpointed what I liked about it so much, which is that the main characters are actually all together for most of the novel. I’ve gotten used to them being separate for the last few books, but it was great seeing them all come together in Empire of Storms. It made for a much faster paced book, and boy was it ever intense!

Kingdom of Ash is finally out there in the world. Despite actually quite liking the finale, I did write a bit of a critical review of it. I thought there were a few problematic elements and parts that I didn’t like, but overall it was a pretty fast paced and emotional finale. I liked the ending and I feel mostly satisfied with how the series finished.

I’m thrilled now for November because it is my favourite reading month! The Goodreads Choice Awards were just announced yesterday and I love challenging myself to read and vote in as many categories as possible, so I just added a ton of books to my TBR!

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Balli Kaur Jaswal
Genres: Fiction
Pub date: Jun. 2017 (read Oct. 2018 on Audible)

Whoa! This was WAY more intense than I was expecting and had a lot more depth. I’ve been seeing this book going around for a while nice since it was featured by Reese Witherspoon’s book club, and my book club decided to pick it for our October read.

I really didn’t know what the book was about, but based on the title I was expecting a light-hearted story and a few laughs. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows definitely delivered on the laughs, as well as copious amounts of blushing! I wasn’t actually expecting erotic stories, but I definitely got them.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is about the Sikh community living in Southall, London. It features 22 year old Nikki, who dropped out of law school, moved out of her parents house, and has been making ends meet by bartending at her local pub. She considers herself a “modern girl”, scoffing at her older sister for seeking an arranged marriage. When she sees a posting for a creative writing teacher at the temple, she applies, seeing it as a great opportunity to make some extra money and to help women. But due to a miscommunication, it turns out to be a basic English literacy class, attended primarily by Punjabi widows.

The widows aren’t enthused about learning to write and roll their eyes at Nikki’s learning exercises. But they are interested in storytelling, and in their loneliness as widows, they have a particular interest in sharing erotic stories.

There was a lot that I liked about this book. First off, the widows are hilarious and I love that Jaswal breathed such life into these (mostly) elderly characters. Society forgets about widows and seniors, especially in Southall where the women are seen as irrelevant without their husbands. There’s a limited amount of literature about elderly people and I loved how the author created these smart and dynamic characters. Sure, they couldn’t read and they were afraid of Nikki’s “modern” ways, but they were also funny, clever, and kind. They were very much mired in tradition, but the sharing of their stories was incredibly empowering for them. Reminding them of their commonalities, and the power of community, of standing up and supporting one another.

I also liked that the book had a lot more depth than I expected. Jaswal explores the challenges of breaking free of traditional, cultural beliefs, but she also explores the merits of those beliefs as well. Nikki’s feminism felt radical to the widows, and their conservatism was frustrating to Nikki, but the more they all got to know each other, they were able to realize they weren’t so different. Nikki discovered there are merits to having strong community values and a support network, and the widows discovered their own brand of feminism.

Believe it or not, this book also has a mystery element to it, as well as a romance. I liked that Jaswal kept adding additional layers to the story. While the story is mostly narrated by Nikki, some parts are narrated by Kulwinder, Nikki’s boss at the temple who recently lost her daughter. It was hard to relate to Kulwinder initially, but I enjoyed learning more of her story and where she was coming from.

While I mostly loved this book, there were a few things I didn’t like about it. I found it dragged a lot in the middle. There were a lot of erotic stories shared by the widows, but after a while I didn’t think it really added that much to the story. It also got really intense, really fast at the end, which I had trouble buying. It was a little too dramatic for this type of story and I didn’t think it fit that well with the tone of the rest of the book. I also would have liked to see a better resolution of Mindy’s attempts at arranged marriage and more growth from the brotherhood. They cast a foreboding shadow over a good part of the book, but ended up seeming not that relevant to the story. I wanted the characters to shake the brotherhood up a little bit more, although that might not have been the most realistic.

But overall I really liked this book. I listened to it as an audiobook and the narrator was fantastic! It provided some fascinating insight into Sikh culture and I really liked the dichotomy between conservative traditionalism and feminist awakening!