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.

 

Advertisements

Top 10 Books of 2017

I read so many fantastic books this year, it is impossible to choose only 10! Honestly, I really couldn’t narrow it down, so I decided to do two posts. I read a lot of new publications this year, so this is my top 10 books of 2017 that were actually published in 2017, and I’m planning to follow up with another 5 of my favourite non-2017 publications that I read this year. So without further ado, here we go:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Fiction)

Hands down, Beartown tops my list this year. I get most of my books from the library, but I went out and bought this one because I just HAD to own it! Fredrik Backman is a Swedish writer best known for A Man Called Ove, which I read last year along with Britt-Marie was here. Both novels were touching stories centred around ornery old people who you grow to love, so I was surprised to read the synopsis for Beartown, which sounded like something totally different from what Backman usually writes. In retrospect, it did have a lot of the same elements and examines the impact individuals can have on their community, but it tackled a lot of different issues.

Beartown is obsessed with hockey, namely the high school boys hockey team. This is supposed to be their year to finally win the championship and the community will do whatever it takes to help get them there, until a shocking event occurs that polarizes the community and threatens their chance to finally put Beartown on the map. It’s a fantastic story and study in character development. The novel has a huge cast of characters and somehow Backman made me care about each and every one of them. But holy smokes, this book was all about the writing for me. I thought it was just the most beautiful style of writing and had such insight into individual and community dynamics. Highly recommend to everyone – READ THIS BOOK!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Fiction)

This is Celeste Ng’s second book – I read her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, in 2015, which was a slow-build family drama about a mixed-race family in the 1970’s. Even though it wasn’t very fast-paced, I loved Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere proved to have the same magic. It’s also a slow-build family drama and takes place in the community of Shaker Heights in the 1990’s (Ng’s real-life hometown). The story looks at the “perfect” Richardson family and their 4 kids and how they are impacted by the arrival of single mother/artist Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl. Mia and Pearl live in the Richardson’s rental property and unintentionally find themselves wrapped up in the Richardson’s family secrets.

Everyone seems to get along until a local scandal makes headlines when a young Chinese women contests the legitimacy of the adoption of her baby by the Richardson’s neighbours. Pearl begins to suspect her mother has been keeping her own secrets and friendships and relationships are challenged. Similar to Beartown, the writing is what made this a win for me. Ng is so perceptive and I love how she explores familial, platonic, and romantic relationships throughout the novel. I can see how this book might not be for everyone, but I absolutely loved it.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (Historical Fiction)

I know Lisa See has a huge fan base out there, but this was the first time I had heard of her. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane had so many good reviews that I begrudgingly picked it up. For some reason I had it in my mind that this one was over-hyped and I wasn’t going to like it, but I’m a sucker for historical fiction and this book had so much to love!

This is the story of a poor, indigenous (Akha) Chinese girl, Li-yan, who grows up picking tea leaves in a small village in Yunnan province. The novel takes place at the height of the one-child policy and when Li-yan becomes pregnant out of wedlock, she feels forced to give up her daughter in order to maintain her place in the community and chase after an education. The book flashes back and forth between Li-yan’s daughter as she grows up in American and Li-yan as she tries to make a life for herself and escape the poverty she was born into. Lisa See explores so many different issues and did a beautiful job writing Li-yan’s character. I’ve never found tea more interesting than I did in this book!

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (Non-Fiction)

The Radium Girls is a non-fiction book that reads like fiction, and damn is it ever devastating. Kate Moore tells the true story of hundreds of girls and women that worked as dial painters in American factories in the 1920’s that died of radium poisoning. Radium-based paint was used to paint everything from watch faces, to airplane dials, to military equipment because it was luminous. While the extent of the harmful effects of radium was not totally known, their employers definitely knew the paint was dangerous and in many cases, purposefully hid it from their female employees.

The girls eventually starting getting sick and many of them died horrible deaths. When their illnesses were finally attributed to radium poisoning, many of the girls began to sue and fight back against the Radium Corporation. This is the story of their struggle and how they changed the laws surrounding workers rights and subsequently likely saved the lives of thousands of future workers. It is very well researched and written. It’s a tough read as it is infused with a lot of emotion, but so important to women’s history.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Young Adult)

This is such an important book for teenagers (and probably even more so for adults). Black men and women are routinely stopped, questioned, and made to feel unsafe by law enforcement. As was the case in The Hate U Give (and Dear Martin, which I also read this year), black men are often (unjustly) the victims of police violence. Starr Carter’s world is turned upside down when her best friend, Khalil is shot and killed in front of her because the officer thought his hairbrush was a gun.

Starr is traumatized by the event and fears that it may have catalyzed her community. She wants to speak out, but is frustrated by the way her words are twisted and how her best friend is villainized by the media and her white friends. I do think Angie Thomas wrote this book with white people in mind, which is why I think every teenager should read it. It’s a good introduction to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s important for white people to realize the ways in which our privilege protects and blinds us, and it’s important for people of colour to have stories, characters, and authors they can relate to and look up to.

What Happened by Hillary Clinton (Memoir)

Look, I know Hillary is polarizing for people. Some of you hate her or think she’s a corrupt politician, but you can’t deny she is persistent. I’m Canadian, so I never could have voted for her, but we’re still waiting for our first elected female Prime Minister in Canada too and we are largely impacted by American politics (as is most of the world), so it matters to me that Trump is President. I know a lot of people aren’t interested in hearing about Hillary’s “losing” story and think she blames everyone and anyone but herself for her loss, but that is not true and if you read this book, you’ll see how much harder she had to work to be taken seriously and how much harsher she is judged (and judges herself).

I listened to this as an audiobook. I usually only listen to audiobooks when I run, but I found myself carrying my phone around with me everywhere so that I could listen to this non-stop. Is Hillary perfect? no, but she still inspires me. I loved getting the opportunity to actually learn about her policies, which got virtually no airtime during the election, and learn about her experiences as a female politician. This book with fill you rage, but it will also fill you with hope. I found parts of it very upsetting, and I imagine it would be even harder to read as an American directly impacted by Trump’s policies. But whether or not you read this book, start engaging in politics and supporting the amazing women in your community, because Hillary has at the very least built a stepping stool to get us that much closer to smashing the damn glass ceiling.

Warcross by Marie Lu (Science Fiction)

In the past I’ve been pretty rough on Science Fiction and Marie Lu, but I might have to start changing my tune because Warcross was fantastic! It’s set in a futuristic Japan, where a virtual reality game called Warcross has enveloped the globe. Emika Chen is living in New York and is down on her luck when she decides to hack into the Warcross opening games to make a quick dollar. She is caught and quickly whisked off to Japan to try and track down other hackers that are wreaking havoc in the game.

This book was so vibrant and fast paced! It was so easy to believe that our world could evolve in the same way as the world Marie Lu has created and I loved reading all about this futuristic version of Tokyo. The characters were really well written, although some could be more developed. However, this is only the first book in the series and I’m fully expecting to see some wonderful character growth in the next one!

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (Graphic Novel)

The Best We Could Do is a graphic memoir of Thi Bui’s family, their escape from war-torn Vietnam in the 1970’s, and their eventual relocation to America. I think it’s definitely comparable to Maus and Perspepolis (which are both great), but I think this might be my favourite of the three. The opening scene in the book is Bui giving birth to her first child with the support of her mother, and the scene was just so gritty and honest that I felt like I was in the delivery room with them.

Bui goes on to reflect on her journey from Vietnam to America and the struggles she’s faced with both of her parents. The graphics are great and she was just so honest in the telling of her history that I really empathized with her family.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (Young Adult)

I used to love Robin Benway as a teenager, so when I saw this one had won the National Book Award, I had to give it a read! In my opinion it was very deserving of its win. Far From the Tree switches between 3 different teenage narrators – Joaquin, Grace, and Maya. Joaquin has been in the foster child system since he was very young and Grace and Maya were both adopted at birth. When Grace becomes pregnant at 16 and decides to give her daughter up for adoption, she goes in search of her own birth mother and along the way discovers the existence of her 2 siblings.

Joaquin, Maya, and Grace are all struggling with their own challenges and begin to lean on each other for support. There’s a lot of stuff going on in this novel, but the writing was so wonderful and the stories so moving. I was hooked from the first chapter and even though I have almost nothing in common with Joaquin, Grace, or Maya, their characters and pain were so well written that I had no problem relating with any of them. I loved every minute of this novel and I would highly recommend to anyone who loves a good well written, emotional story.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (Fantasy)

I read 4 full trilogies this year and started several other series that are only 1 or 2 books in. So even though I’ve only listed one fantasy novel on my top 10, it was actually my most-read genre. It was hard to pick a favourite. Actually, it was easy, but my favourite fantasy series of the year wasn’t published in 2017, so I’m saving it for my follow-up post. Even though I didn’t like the first two novels in this series as much as some of the other books I read, I settled on A Conjuring of Light as my top fantasy novel of 2017. It was such an epic conclusion to the Shades of Magic trilogy.

I absolutely love the characters in this series. In a nutshell, the plot of the series is about these 4 parallel versions of London, the dark magic that is slowly escaping between them, and our protagonist’s (Kell) attempt to stop the spread of evil. But the plot was really secondary to the character development for me. The series had some truly kick-ass characters, my favourite of which was Lila, a cross-dressing pirate. Every character is fully realized, even the villains, and the relationships they developed were so real and beautiful. I did struggle a little with the first novel, but this one definitely got me!

Shout-out to Now I Rise, from the Conqueror’s Saga, which was a close second for the final spot.

What Happened


Rating:
 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Hillary Clinton
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Feminist
Read: Sept. 2017 on audiobook

 

Last year I attended a panel discussion featuring female leaders in STEM and one of the women said something which has been particularly memorable for me. She spoke about how being the first woman to do something means nothing if you don’t pave the way for those behind you.

Hillary talks a lot in this book about being the first female presidential nominee. After a while I kind of just wanted to roll my eyes, but you know what, women are never allowed to celebrate their accomplishments. We’re told to be humble, not to brag, and we’re perceived as vain if we talk too much about ourselves. Hillary has had many, many accomplishments and she should be able to talk about and celebrate those successes, especially in the aftermath of such a devastating loss.

Hillary was the first. But please God don’t let her be the last. I’m not even American and I was totally devastated when she lost. It was heartbreaking to watch America tear down the first candidate to ever look like me. It was terrifying that nearly half of Americans (Hillary still won the popular vote, yo) would rather have a man who incites violence and hatred as their president than a *gasp* woman!

“But her emails” – I can’t even really talk about the emails because they really are just a stupid excuse for people to hide their misogyny behind and Hillary is right when she talks about how her emails were given way too much media attention in the election. If you think her emails are worse than any of the million offensive things Trump said and did, then you need to check your privilege and priorities.

So yes, Hillary was first, and as upsetting as it was to see her lose, I do think she has tried to pave the way for those behind her. She went into more detail than I cared to know on parts of her journey and parts of the book got repetitive towards the end, but I really enjoyed hearing about all the people she met throughout her campaign and how she worked with those people to draft her policies. I was particularly moved by the group of mothers that she met with to draft her policies on gun violence. She met with the mothers of black men, women, and children that have been killed by law enforcement, such as Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin. These women formed their own coalition and campaigned with her on the road as she took on the NRA.

I was so inspired by some of the people Hillary met and worked with and I just kept thinking how awesome women are and I appreciated Hillary for shining a light on all these amazing individuals. I love that woman are taking all the insults Trump throws at them and using them as tools for empowerment. Call Hillary a nasty woman? Fine, we’ll turn it into a meaningful awareness campaign. Enact a gag order on organizations that provide abortions and try to take away our reproductive freedoms? We’ll march in the damn street.

I loved the parts of this book that Hillary devoted to talking about what it means to be a woman in politics. How she struggled to communicate in a way that wasn’t considered “offensive” for a woman. I struggle with this myself. I am passionate about equality and a lot of things make me frustrated and angry. It’s hard not to talk about them without becoming animated. When women get impassioned about things society calls them “angry” or “shrill” – whereas men are “passionate” or “charismatic”. I knew that Hillary had to act a certain way in front of the cameras. It’s so obvious at the debates that she’s putting in an effort to always be smiling and keep her voice even and soft. But it’s so damn frustrating that women can’t speak out in the way that they want because they run the risk of being labelled an “angry woman” and therefore someone who can be dismissed.

I was fascinated when she talked about her rallies and how high the energy of her crowds would be. She wanted to go out there and match the energy of the crowd, to be loud and passionate, as any man would be (seriously, think of any moving speech given by a man, they’re always loud and expressive). But she couldn’t because that’s not what people expect from a woman. Women should be able to express their passion in the same way that men do. Women should be able to show outrage without being labelled “angry”. Hillary had to work so much harder than any male nominee because she had to be so critical of every tiny thing she did and said lest she be perceived as too masculine or too feminine.

I’ve read a lot of criticism that Hillary blames Bernie for her losses in this book, but I did not find this to be the case. She mentions Bernie a few times and there is 1 or 2 (of 97!) chapters that focus on her experience running against Bernie. Of course she’s going to talk about Bernie, he was a huge part of her experience and of course she’s going to have some criticism, they ran against each other and on different platforms. Of course she feels differently than Bernie. But I don’t think it’s fair to say she blamed Bernie. She is very critical of herself in parts of this book and repeatedly blames herself for her loss and for the all the women she feels she let down as a result. She talks about the mistakes she made and the things she wishes she’d done differently.

I also loved that she talked about her policies. She is right when she talks about how little media attention her political agenda actually got during the election. Everything was focused on her emails or whatever new offensive thing Donald Trump had done most recently. I liked when she talked about fairness in reporting. In journalism you often want to remain unbiased and present both sides of the story, but this does not work when one of your candidates makes a mistake about how she sends and stores her emails and the other candidate is a sexist, racist, xenophobic menace who can’t complete a single sentence without insulting at least 3 minorities (or who honestly just can’t complete a sentence, period).

You can’t talk about Hillary’s emails in every single newscast and treat them like they have the same gravity as all of Trumps transgressions just to keep things equal. It is unfair and irresponsible. It was like Trump could do no wrong because no matter how many insulting things he said and lies he made up, the media always compared it to one of Hillary’s mistakes (ie, emails emails emails). And the media let Trump dominate the news – no matter how much he shocked you, he was bound to surprise you again. The candidates platforms were rarely covered, which is a real shame because Hillary spent an incredible amount of time hosting round tables and listening to people in order to develop her policies. I loved that this book actually gave the chance to hear Hillary talk about her policies, even if we won’t see them come to fruition. It’s too bad they got overshadowed by the rat race of the election.

So what next? Hillary was first, but I do think she has tried to pave the way for those behind her. It was a brutal and devastating defeat, but she is still optimistic about the future, so I will try to be too. It would appear that this book can only be rated 1 or 5 stars on goodreads, so 5 stars from me because Hillary Clinton is a boss lady and she still inspires me.

“never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”