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5 Great Audiobooks to Listen to This Month

Photo-Illustration: Vulture

People will occasionally tell me they think listening to an audiobook is “cheating.” Cheating on what? Physical books? One of the great things about reading is you can’t do anything else while you’re reading. One of the great things about listening to audiobooks is you can. You can do lots of other things, all while enjoying one of the best books of the year. You can go for a walk, drive to Florida, do laundry, put together a jigsaw puzzle, lie on your bed in complete and total despair. If I play Candy Crush while I’m listening to Pamela Anderson’s memoir, I’m accomplishing something, even if that accomplishment is absorbing Pamela Anderson’s memoir.

Over the years, I’ve learned that some books make satisfying listens and some just don’t. Sometimes an audiobook doesn’t work because of the narrator; other times the book is overcomplicated and confusing. I find that the best audiobooks are experiences in themselves. The goal of this column is to try to send you on your way each month with a few of them.

November Picks

Read by: the author
Length: 48 hrs, 14 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

I hope it’s not my biggest accomplishment of 2023, but I listened to a full two days of material from the original Funny Girl herself. My mom, who grew up in the Bronx, preferred Bette Midler, and that trickled down to her sons. Shoot me: I’ve never seen Yentl. It’s a great credit to Ms. Streisand’s sharply tuned view of her own accomplishments that I still enjoyed returning to her endless — and I mean endless — descriptions of how and why she made the movies she made. She gets way granular, almost to the point of performing The Way We Were, The Prince of Tides, and the unmade Normal Heart from top to bottom. She could have also cut the litany of direct quotes from what critics, friends, and admirers have said about her over the years. We get it, Babs! You’re a talent! But there are enough disarming moments of surprise and levity here to make at least 14 hours worthwhile, like the number of times she mentions McConnell’s coffee ice cream and spare ribs. How in an early encounter with her husband James Brolin, he wore a Hawaiian shirt, “and I hate Hawaiian shirts.” An entire chapter about her flirtatious conversations with Marlon Brando is just flat-out bananas. Yes, in exchange for these gems, I listened to 30 minutes about the cinematography of Nuts. I’m okay with that. The pinnacle comes early on, involving a fight she had with Walter Matthau on the set of Hello Dolly. He told her he had more talent in his “f-a-r-t-s” than she does in her whole body. It’s hilarious to imagine this exchange, but it’s even funnier that Streisand won’t say “farts” out loud. So she just spells it. “I don’t like the word,” Streisand quips. “I’m embarrassed to say it.”

Read by: the author
Length: 38 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.2x

The poems in this book by the Jennifer’s Body star chronicle an abusive relationship she thankfully abandoned. It’s a real curiosity, maybe a good palate cleanser between Olivia Rodrigo albums. (They’re about the same length.) Some of the pieces are perplexingly short and sound like Alanis Morissette lyrics, but as the book goes on, a few more substantive poems pop up, and Fox, clearly damaged from her experience, grows more spirited in her performance. Perplexingly, the best poem has the worst title: “Why I Wish I Was Gay.” That’s a surprise because Fox’s titles are frequently more evocative than the poems themselves: “The Last Will and Testament of a Selfish Prick,” “You’d Be So Much More Handsome If You’d Get an Exorcism,” “Greek Tragedies Lose Their Poetry When You Live Them.” Even if this content is self-abnegating and morbid, it’s fun to hear Fox tackle them in her trademark flat monotone. My favorite line, which Fox delivers perfectly: “If I had a nickel for every time you showed up for me, I would have exactly zero nickels.”

$18

Read by: Lauren Ambrose
Length: 8 hrs, 23 mins
Speed I listened: 1.8x

This sequel to Prose’s novel The Maid is not as good as the first, which included a stellar performance by Ambrose. The Six Feet Under star is back for another adventure in the life of Molly Gray, the seemingly neurodivergent head maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. This time, author J.D. Grimthorpe drops dead unexpectedly and Molly, who knew him in her childhood, helps solve the crime. Once again, Ambrose’s narration — as Molly, her late grandmother, and a host of other characters — elevates a could-be corny concept into something far more layered. The book’s coda is especially charming.

Read by: the author
Length: 4 hrs, 41 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

This new memoir from Wilco’s lead singer is a combination of autobiographical moments and descriptions of how and why certain songs have affected him. The audiobook’s quiet beauty comes from Tweedy’s simple, bare-bones way of telling these stories, which is elevated by his kind, meditative tenor. It’s calming to spend time with Tweedy and his contemplative thoughts, and the book has a lot more wisdom than you’d expect.

$14

Read by: J.C. Mackenzie
Length: 4 hours, 35 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.6x

I haven’t caught up with the continuing oeuvre of the psychotherapist Phil Stutz since he and Barry Michels released The Tools. Just the idea that Jonah Hill made a documentary about him makes me anxious. But, as the lonely holiday season approaches and the world continues to erupt into flames, this is a good vehicle for perking up. There’s a lot of very usable, straightforward advice about how to handle the complications life throws at you. Mackenzie has a doctorly kind of voice that makes it all go down smoothly. Once I finished it, I imagined myself a little bit stronger of spirit. Can you ask anything else from an audiobook? I don’t think so.

October Picks

$18

Read by: The author
Length: 9 hrs, 22 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.1x

I had a hunch that the Fonz was charming, but I didn’t think he was this charming. Winkler tracks his story from Yale Drama School and Happy Days to his first Emmy win, in 2018, for Barry. He does this with such amiable vocal aplomb that it’s hard not to fall for him. He just comes off like a decent, generous kid from the Upper West Side who just happened to end up playing opposite Adam Sandler quite often. He’s also pretty neurotic, and I appreciate his advice about never finishing a negative thought once it starts. Tell that negative thought, “I have no time for you!” Winkler says. Going forward, I will always have time for the Fonz, though.

$18

Read by: Michelle Williams
Length: 5 hrs, 31 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.9x

In an introduction to her new book, a must-listen for anyone interested in celebrity memoirs, Spears says writing it was so “exciting, heart-wrenching, and emotional” that she couldn’t handle reading it out loud. Instead, she thanks “the a-mayyyy-zzzing Michelle Williams” for doing it for her. Spears narrates maybe 85 seconds in total, most of which includes an odd scene-setting prologue about walking outside among the rocks as a kid in Louisiana. Williams, who has played Marilyn Monroe onscreen, takes the rest of the five and a half hours. As directed by her husband, Thomas Kail, Williams is low-key enough to make you sometimes forget you’re not listening to Spears herself. Her performance only gets heightened when describing Spears’s head-shaving incident. Still, things like her overarticulation of the “h” in words like “who” and “while” gives Williams’s acting pedigree away. There’s a lot of fascinating weirdness here — when Spears continuously refers to herself as “clueless,” for instance, and just how madly in love she was with Justin Timberlake. By the end, one can’t help wishing Spears found the strength to read the book out loud herself. It would certainly have made discovering “the woman in me” more real and powerful. Having a five-time Academy Award nominee do it is an interesting experience, sure, but it kinda just reminds you how much a celebrity memoir is just another performance anyway.

Read by: The author
Length: 8 hrs, 44 mins.
.Speed I listened: 1.85x

If you loved Rob Lowe’s memoir Stories I Only Tell My Friends from over a decade ago, this new book from Uncle Jesse on Full House is a worthy companion. Who’d have thunk it, but John Stamos is a real romantic. He cares about legacy, so his pals include lots of old Hollywood characters, like Don Rickles, meaning there are a lot of great anecdotes. He talks about chugging Dimetapp and his childhood dream of a “life in puppetry.” He’s also refreshingly honest about his career, his marriages, the death of his parents, and how much he disliked Dave Coulier when they first met. And you can hear that refreshing honesty in his voice, especially when he chokes up about the death of Bob Saget. This is a real sleeper, a charming winner in a sea of celebrity biographies this fall.

$20

Read by: Edoardo Ballerini
Length: 9 hrs, 2 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.9x

When I was much younger, I read The Firm during a bout of mono, when I was stuck home from school. It wound up being a true gateway drug to becoming the reader I am today. In the intervening years, I thumbed my nose at Grisham, but recently, thanks to how well his books play on audio, I’m once again a proselytizer. The Exchange is a sequel to The Firm, and it once again follows Mitch McDeere and his wife Abby after they’ve moved to New York and Mitch gets caught up in tracking down a law-firm associate who has been abducted. Edoardo Ballerini, an expert reader, makes it all so seamless and absorbing. You almost forget he’s there.

Remember Love, by Cleo Wade
$12
$12

Read by: The author
Length: 2 hrs, 17 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.6x

Sometimes, you just need someone to tell you things are gonna be okay. Now I know instead of bothering my brothers or my friends with my personal michegas, I can just turn on this audiobook of musings by the New Orleans–born poet and artist Cleo Wade. Her voice is particularly calming and reassuring when she speaks about having some of the same insecurities and anxieties as you do. (Well, as I do.) I felt recharged by her, in nearly the same way I did when listening to Maggie Smith’s equally inspiring Keep Moving.

$22

Read by: The author
Length: 14 hrs, 57 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.4x

Two things I didn’t love about listening to this memoir: the Buddhist bell sound that rings between chapters, as if this is some kind of ancient text, and moments between sections where Pinkett Smith asks you to participate in some kind of analytic self-help analysis. But there’s a lot that’s fierce and fascinating here: her childhood dalliances as a drug dealer; her intense friendship with Tupac Shakur; her truly eye-opening attempts at suicide; the fact that she seems to truly believe her first house in Los Angeles was haunted. (Husband Will Smith wouldn’t stay over.) Carefully — too carefully, to be honest — Pinkett Smith dances too around her relationship with Smith and what happened that Oscar night. But her candid narration, which, yes, is sometimes evasive, is a strong reminder that the optics of money, fame, celebrity, and marriage do not automatically bring happiness.

Down the Drain, by Julia Fox
$16
$16

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hrs, 53 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.2x

I wish this memoir by the greatest cinematic muse of the last three years had a bit more self-analysis in it. But it’s a pretty fascinating artifact itself, simply as a straightforward retelling of Fox’s sexual escapades, her work as a dominatrix, and her dalliances with (an unnamed) Kanye West. What’s also interesting is how straightforwardly Fox narrates her own life. John Stamos starts getting choked up at even mentioning one of his sisters; Henry Winkler laughs at himself. Julia Fox just keeps plowing through, which maybe is a perfect encapsulation of the tenacity that even got her a book deal.

The List, by Yomi Adegoke
$22
$22

Read by: Sheila Atim and Arinzé Kene
Length: 11 hrs and 40 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.2x

Ola, a journalist at Womxxxn magazine, discovers that the man she’s about to marry is on “The List,” a crowdsourced document that names dozens of sexual abusers in the media. I think Atim, who was in Black Panther 2 and sang this amazing Dylan cover onstage, is pretty cool, and her voice here is forceful and confident. Enough so that, despite some slightly unbelievable character choices, I was compelled from the beginning.

Read by: The authors and their friends
Length: 7 hrs, 53 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.7x

What’s particularly fun about this audiobook, which chronicles the making of the 1980 comedy classic Airplane!, is that many of the folks Abrahams and the Zuckers interviewed for this book are featured on the audio edition. That includes Bill Hader, Molly Shannon, Michael Eisner, and the film’s stars Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays, each of whom talk about how the movie changed their life. It’s a lot of Airplane! talk, sometimes too much. But the movie wasn’t exactly known for its subtlety. A few sections made me howl with laughter, some made me groan (e.g., repeated anecdotes about how the three writer-directors didn’t know anything about movies when they conceived of Airplane!), but I’d say you could do a lot worse on your next flight to LAX.

September Picks

Holly, by Stephen King
$20
$20

Read by: Justine Lupe
Length: 15 hrs, 24 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.8x

When I was a kid, I was afraid of the cover art of Stephen King books, let alone the horrors waiting in the actual pages. So I’m surprised how eagerly I now await his new releases. This latest thriller continues the adventures of the quirky detective Holly Gibney, who made her first appearance in Mr. Mercedes back in 2015 (which is itself gripping on audio). Nice students keep disappearing unexpectedly in a college town, and an elderly couple of married professors might just be kidnapping them for some unsavory purposes … with an emphasis on the savory. Justine Lupe, who was Conor’s long-suffering fiance on Succession and also played Holly in the Mr. Mercedes TV adaptation, is a fantastic narrator. Her take on the octogenarian professors is just a delight.

Read by: The author
Length: 4 mins
Speed I listened: 1x

I’ll probably regret admitting this, but on first listen, I found the audio version of Matthew McConaughey’s first picture book kinda sexy. It must have been that easy Texan drawl boosting my morale, telling me that I can feel alone when I’m with people or afraid at the same time as I’m being brave. “Just because you’re nice doesn’t mean you can’t get mean,” McConaughey whispered in my ear, and, you know what? He’s right. I can be nice and mean, and that’s okay. I had a friend listen to this for her gut reaction. She turned it off after 30 seconds and told me I was crazy. I told her I could be simultaneously crazy and also appreciate a Matthew McConaughey reading of a picture book.

$18

Read by: January LaVoy
Length: 7 hrs, 5 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.6x

I loved Groff’s novel Fates and Furies more than I can say. (So did Barack Obama.) But I found her follow-up, Matrix, which follows a nun in the 12th century, a bit static and opaque. After I read a few pages of The Vaster Wilds, which follows a servant girl on a dangerous escape from her homestead and into the wilderness, I worried I’d feel the same. So I gave it a shot on audio. Literary fiction doesn’t always play well when you listen to it, but here Groff’s poetic language just reaches your ears in a propulsive avalanche. It helps that it’s read by January LaVoy, who is one of the busiest narrators in the business. A great listen to take in in one sitting.

Read by: The author and Chris Rock (introduction)
Length: 16 hrs, 32 mins
Speed I listened: 1.9x

Instead of a straightforward reading of her new memoir, comedian and onetime SNL star Leslie Jones riffs on it. She follows the framework of the written work, so we get the traditional stories about her success in college basketball, her first time doing stand-up at a contest in college, and her complicated relationships with her late brother and her parents. But it seems like that’s only a road map for this audiobook. Jones definitely takes the side roads — which explains the running time here. It’s an appealingly rambling performance filled with added details and unmitigated emotion. She sheds a lot of laughs but also a lot of tears. The number of times I erupted into uncontrollable giggles probably equals the number of times I just wanted to give Leslie F*cking Jones a big f*cking hug. Even if you’re not a fan, this is a jaw-dropping, epic recording.

Read by: Ari Fliakos
Length: 18 hrs, 56 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.7x

Ari Fliakos, an Ashtanga yogi who is also part of the avant-garde theater company Wooster Group, is another busy narrator on the audiobook scene. His tour de force performance here made me pay attention, though it probably helps that this new novel from the author of The Nix, which follows the marriage of photographer Jack and wellness expert Elizabeth from the 1990s to the present, is chock-full of terrific characters and sharply observed ideas. It’s rare for me to enjoy listening to a book this long all the way through. When I’d lose my place in Wellness, however, I’d be very happy to listen to Fliakos reread sections I’d already heard — even if they were about things as simple as getting your toddler to eat his dinner. I just loved this.

$23

Read by: Jeremy Bobb
Length: 20 hrs, 27 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.2x

I’m not a biography aficionado, but this new portrait of the SpaceX and Tesla co-founder is a big one this fall. Don’t be put off by the length: Turns out it’s an audio page-turner. Jeremy Bobb is an excellent, low-key guide, equally deft when it comes to discussing car engineering, Musk’s inner demons, and the mystique of Amber Heard. I especially enjoyed details that explore Musk’s fear of being alone, including his proclivity to cram into his mother’s Greenwich Village apartment in lieu of staying at a Manhattan hotel.

Read by: The author
Length: 8 hrs, 59 mins
Speed I listened: 2.4x

I like audio versions of celebrity memoirs because they often offer a quirky glimpse into the humanity of our biggest stars. In this new book from the star of Scandal, Kerry Washington pronounces the NYC restaurant “Le Perigord” with such unbelievable precision and panache that you can’t help but appreciate her dedication to the French language. This book is mostly about Washington’s path to motherhood and reconciling her own modern family, but the audio accentuates her acting prowess. She truly commits to narrating her story. There’s a lot of beauty in that.

Saving Emma, by Allen Eskens
$19
$19

Read by: A full cast
Length: 9 hrs, 1 min.
Speed I listened: 2.1x

With the fall ushering in lots of serious literature, this legal thriller is just a fun ride. It’s about a law professor working a case with the Innocence Project who finds himself having some legal drama closer to home with his 14-year-old goddaughter. Some audiobooks of late are produced more like dramatic theater where multiple voice actors are given roles. I’m not sure if that approach is more or less interesting than a single narrator, but it keeps things moving along very well — and quickly — here.

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hrs, 42 mins”
Speed I listened: 2x

I don’t know what compelled me to listen to this memoir from the 74-year-old co-founder of BET, but once I started I couldn’t turn it off. I think I was particularly touched by an early anecdote in which Johnson performs in a community production of Fiddler on the Roof as Fruma Sarah. (She’s the late wife of the butcher who comes screaming to haunt Tevye in his dreams.) Johnson uses foreshadowing phrases too abundantly (“It would only get worse”) as she chronicles her marriage, the rise of BET, her jump into philanthropy, and her life in the hospitality business. But she’s refreshingly straightforward and vocally stern when it comes to describing how her ex-husband Bob Johnson gaslit her on a regular basis. There’s also a great story about picking up Robert Redford in a Humvee.

August Picks

$10

Read by: Werner Herzog
Length: 2 hrs, 46 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.4x

Edited by Brent Katz, Josh Morgenthau, and Simon Rich, this collection of 87 poems was written by an artificial intelligence bot named code-davinci-002. I’m not sure how I’d respond to these poems had I read them, but it is next to impossible to quantify how enhanced they are when presented by the 80-year-old German director Werner Herzog. His distinctive, gravelly voice brings a deep pathos and even a loneliness to the computerized “brain” that spouted out these poems, while at the same time infusing the whole production with more than a veneer of terror. I shuddered through this entire listen, which is perhaps the highest compliment I can pay.

Read by: Green and Christine Baranski
Length: 15 hrs, 45 mins
Speed I listened: 1.8x

In the annals of perfect narrator matched with material, you can’t do much better than Christine Baranski as Mary Rodgers, the daughter of composer Richard Rodgers and a composer in her own right. (Once Upon a Mattress) Rodgers’s recollections are filled to the brim with wit, sadness, and wisdom, and Baranski brings them to insouciant, flippant, and louche life. She not only infuses a particular show business pizzazz but also a cosmopolitan New York City know-how that makes it seems she’s just telling these stories from a booth at Monkey Bar. I honestly can’t wait to listen again. In other words, it’s recorded joy.

Tom Lake, by Ann Patchett
$21
$21

Read by: Meryl Streep
Length: 11 hrs, 22 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.5x

In the audiobook coup of the year, this new Ann Patchett is read by Meryl Streep, herself. It’s even a one-up from Patchett’s previous novel, The Dutch House, which was narrated on audio by Tom Hanks, himself. I’m an unabashed Ann Patchett fan. I read Tom Lake as soon as I got my hands on it. If a book can be called swoon-worthy, this is it. It just made me feel all tingly from start to finish, and of course, I wept when it was over and immediately told my three best reader friends and my therapist that they needed to read it ASAP. It’s about a mother reminiscing to her daughters about a summer performing Our Town in repertory and an affair with a castmate who ended up becoming, well, someone like Brad Pitt. My experience reading Tom Lake was so under-the-covers special that I don’t know if listening to Streep reread it for me enhanced the experience. But I also can’t think of anyone who could do this book better justice.

Read by: Jessie Mueller
Length: 7 hrs, 44 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.75x

Though she’s not an A-lister dabbling in audiobook narration, Jessie Mueller, a Chicago theater actress who won a Tony for playing Carole King on Broadway, has a specific and dazzling tenor of her own. There’s a palpable wiseness to her voice, and I’d follow it most anywhere. I was a huge Alice Hoffman fan as a teenager, though I hadn’t read anything by Hoffman in a while, and I forgot how wise she can be as a writer herself. The early chapters here, recounting life between a mother and her daughter on a cult-like commune, are stronger than a second plot strand that focuses mostly on Nathaniel Hawthorne, but you’ll want to listen to Mueller all the way.

$16

Read by: Nikki Blonsky, Santino Fontana, and others
Length: 13 hrs, 30 mins
Speed I listened: 1.85x

The last few Jennifer Weiner novels were a little too serious for me, so I was happy that this new novel has her back to a more flippant, casual form. It’s a story of an overweight woman named Abby who leads a bike tour in upstate New York, only to discover a fellow she had a one-night stand with is on the bike tour, too. Especially interesting is a section about how Abby and her own boyfriend, Mark, relate ever since he had a lap band surgery. If Blonsky, best known for starring in the 2007 Hairspray movie, is a bit too squeaky for Abby, the rest of the dramatis personae here more than makes up for it.

Read by: the author
Length: 10 hrs, 43 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.1x

Before listening to this memoir of mental instability, I didn’t know anything about the painter Jennifer Bartlett or the German actor Mathieu Carriere. I don’t know that I want to know much more than I learned in this eerie, Girl, Interrupted–like memoir by their daughter, Alice. I still can’t quite comprehend the genre of insane parenting Alice experienced as a child growing up in the West Village. The story of their divorce is a kind of textbook narcissism. But Alice’s baby steps into adulthood are when the book truly flies. The retelling of her journeys in and out of mental facilities are completely riveting.

Read by: the author
Length: 8 hrs, 13 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.3x

Grant, a South African actor known for acerbic roles in films like Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which earned him an Academy Award nomination, and Spice World, which more importantly, earned him the sobriquet “Old Spice,” takes the title of this collection of diary entries from wisdom he received from his dying wife of 35 years. (She was a dialect coach who apparently worked with every famous person on the planet.) Each day, she said, should be a “pocketful of happiness.” I usually groan at such earnestness, but in the case of this memoir, Grant’s insight into being a character actor in the Hollywood awards machine and his lilting accent more than makes up for any extraneous optimism.

Read by: Yu-Li Alice Shen, Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 10 hrs, 42 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.8x

Having really enjoyed The Plot and Yellowface, two thrillers about writers and publishing released in the past two years, has only made me yearn for more of this subgenre. I’m Not Done With You Yet may not be as satisfying as those two, but it’s a great summer listen. A “mid-list” author reconnects with (i.e., stalks) an old friend who suddenly has a must-read book. They end up at a writer’s retreat in the Hamptons where contemporary hijinks ensue as past mysteries unravel. Shen’s narration is a nice blend of wide-eyed and bitchy, which certainly kept me hanging on.

June Picks

Read by: Gilli Messer and a full cast
Length: 10 hrs, 44 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

The setup of this novel is more macabre than its actual — ahem — execution. Still, it’s the audio equivalent of a great summer page-turner. Aidan Thomas, a widower in upstate New York, seems like the perfect dad, but he’s actually a serial killer. The book is told from the perspectives of the various women in his life: Emily, a local restaurant owner who develops feelings for Aidan; Ceclia, his teen daughter; and Rachel, his captive for the past five years. Interspersed are quick, time-of-death monologues by the anonymous women he has murdered, all read by different actors. By the climax, I was on the edge of my seat on the crosstown bus.

Read by: Mara Wilson and Jay Aaseng
Length: 4 hrs, 49 mins
Speed I listened: 1.8x

At the very least, I’m thankful for this book because of this kernel of wisdom: “Most people can’t do anything right. What separates us is the years we’ll spend apologizing for it.” I assumed that this collection of satirical essays and inspirational aphorisms would be full of clever and wry visual humor that would probably be lost when you listened to it. But I definitely chuckled a lot. It’s an added layer of humor that the book is read by Wilson, a child actress from Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire. Her take on a piece about Oscar Isaac making marinara sauce is sublime.

Read by: Helen Laser
Length: 9 hrs, 58 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.75x

I’d first like to applaud this novel’s title paired with its ridiculous cover, which telegraphs that we’re in for a campy ride. This is all about rich families and their striving, struggling counterparts at an equestrian community in Southern California. For a novel with so many interweaving bitchy story lines, it’s a pleasant surprise that they’re all relatively easy (and interesting) to follow. That’s probably also due to the cunning voice of Laser, who also recently narrated another winner of a thriller, Yellowface, by R.F. Kuang.

$18

Read by: Dawn Harvey and Christine Lakin
Length: 12 hrs, 32 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

I always imagined Riley Sager was a University of Michigan graduate turned Massachusetts-based mom who was inspired after reading Gone Girl to start writing thrillers. However, I just learned that Sager is actually a pen name for a fellow named Todd Ritter. Now that I’ve uncovered that information — like the best armchair sleuths, I found it on Wikipedia — that doesn’t change my enjoyment of this Lizzie Borden–inspired thriller set in 1983. It’s about a caregiver with a shady past named Kit McDeere hired to see after the dying and mute Lenora Hope, who became infamous in 1929 when she was suspected in the massacre of her family. Lenora can only communicate with Kit on an old typewriter. Much of my delight here came from the dual readers who switch between Kit’s and Lenora’s perspectives. For my money, though, my favorite Sager audiobook is still 2021’s cat and mouse Survive the Night.

$22

Read by: Samara Naeymi
Length: 13 hrs, 54 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.2x

I would argue that this book, a treatise on “power, complicity, and a call for change in Hollywood,” is full of a lot of sweeping generalizations, but I’d also argue that those broad strokes seem true. Ryan, a film and television critic, uses examples like Lost, Scott Rudin, Lucasfilm and Saturday Night Live to show that the pervasive abuse and exploitation in the industry comes from the top down. I couldn’t always follow why Ryan was using the examples she was using — oftentimes, she’s a bit light on details — but I appreciated that she was coming out to say something at all. That feels powerful. As a reader and a stand-in for Ryan, Naeymi strikes just the right amount of frustration and anger.

Pageboy, by Elliot Page
$20
$20

Read by: the author
Length: 8 hrs, 24 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.3x

I’m including this memoir because it’s a part of the cultural Zeitgeist, rather than because of my actual enjoyment of it. If you have an interest in pop culture and Hollywood, it’s sort of unavoidable. (It came in hot on the New York Times “Best Seller” list, and I’m very curious to see how long that lasts.) Page’s accounts of how he’s been treated by the entertainment industry provides a poignant companion piece to Burn It Down. As a forewarning, this book, which often jumps confusingly between Page’s impressionistic childhood and his struggles with his identity, has many more scenes of sexual intimacy than any memoir by a movie star that I’ve read. I couldn’t help thinking that Page wanted us to know how much sex he has had since starring in Juno.

Read by: Denée Benton
Length: 10 hrs, 55 mins
Speed I listened: 1.9x

Benton, a Broadway actress who played Cinderella in the recent revival of Into the Woods and also appears on HBO’s The Gilded Age, made waves at this year’s Tonys by referring to Ron DeSantis as the “Grand Wizard.” She brings that feistiness to her performance of this novel, about a young Black analyst at Goldman Sachs named Jess and her rocky on-again-off-again relationship with Josh, a white, conservative colleague. Oh, and it’s 2016. Things get a bit creaky plotwise, but when Jess’s dad falls ill about three quarters of the way through, there is some pretty compelling stuff.

Read by: Erin Bennett
Length: 12 hrs, 45 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.2x

I’ve managed to avoid Hilderbrand’s opus of novels, most of them set on Nantucket, purely based on their generic cover art. But these beach reads seem to get more and more popular every year, so I figured I’d give this No. 1 Times best seller a shot. On audio, at least, the grounded soapy drama — about a Martha Stewart–y widow who invites five different friends from each decade of her life for a beach weekend — is totally diverting for a car ride to [insert destination of choice]. Bennett is a welcome vocal guide, even if some of her takes on the male and nonwhite characters can lean toward the clunky.

May Picks

$13

Read by: The author
Length: 8 hrs, 40 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.1x

Though celebrity memoirs are a major silo in my life, I still bemoan there are too many of them. But then a book like Kelly’s comes along. Kelly, a former nurse who got her start on the television series Friday Night Lights, is so piercingly honest, you just want to reach out through Audible and give her a hug. There’s a lot of tough stuff that Kelly handles with enormous grace both on the page and vocally — in particular a very complicated relationship with her late mother, a onetime stripper. One scene, in which Kelly listens to a therapist’s advice and confronts her mother, is especially harrowing and moving. Maybe I’m predisposed here. When I first moved to L.A., I hung out a few times with Kelly via a mutual friend. Mostly I remember singing “Defying Gravity” on a hike up Runyon Canyon, but I didn’t know about anything she talks about here, except maybe her love for Wicked. It’s totally gripping: I couldn’t take my earbuds out.

$18

Read by: The author
Length: 10 hrs, 32 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.2x

This is the third in Cohen’s series of published diaries, and I think they’re just the bee’s knees. In this one, he chronicles a year juggling Housewives, his precocious son, and a newborn daughter. There’s self-reflection, self-effacement, gossip, humor. I mean, there should be a National Book Award special citation for these books. However, despite a longtime radio show, it turns out Cohen dislikes recording audiobooks. It’s like “speaking into a vacuum,” he says, so occasionally, he makes audiobook-exclusive special asides to the listener. Like when he quotes a note he gets from Cher in the style of Cher, Cohen says: “Sorry for that shitty Cher impression. Maybe it will get better.” It doesn’t, but that’s part of the fun here. One of the only missed opportunities: a sound effect of the overly loud ice-maker Cohen says constantly bothers his neighbors.

Read by: The author
Length: 5 hrs, 50 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

Obviously, I have a soft spot for memoirs by gay men in showbiz, but I thought this second collection from Rannells, star of Book of Mormon and HBO’s Girls, went down like an Aperol spritz. The actor dishes just enough: on an ex who breaks up with him just before the Tonys; on the workshops for Book of Mormon; on airless meetings in Hollywood; on a trip to the Golden Globes that involves him stroking Mark Ruffalo’s back and feeling ignored by Sienna Miller. Rannells has that Nebraskan folksy charm going for him, but the fact that he dedicates this book to Zoloft gives it an edge.

$18

Read by: Paul Boehmer and Rachel L. Jacobs
Length: 10 hrs, 38 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

I had a really hard time finding novels on audio this month to get excited about. I started a handful of things I just didn’t want to finish. I got bored and annoyed in the first 30 minutes of The Making of Another Motion Picture Masterpiece, even though it’s read by its author, the actor Tom Hanks. I’ve not had much luck in the past with Emily Henry. And The Covenant of Water, the new Abraham Verghese novel, is over 31 hours. Though we’re in the middle of a writers’ strike, 31 hours is a lot. Ten hours is much more manageable, and The Wishing Game grabbed me from the beginning. It has a bit of The Westing Game meets Willy Wonka, with a twist of TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea. In this book, the powers that be won’t let Lucy, a teacher’s aide, adopt one of her young students, an orphan named Christopher. Lucy has always been obsessed with a series of books that takes place on Clock Island by the reclusive author Jack Masterson. Masterson, who hasn’t published in years, announces he’s written a new book and will hold a contest — a kind of scavenger hunt — to find it, and Lucy becomes a contestant. Sometimes the book’s emotion (I was on the verge of tears once) veers toward, well, the overly emotional, but the two narrators here keep things grounded.

Drowning, by TJ Newman
$16
$16

Read by: Steven Weber and Laura Benanti
Length: 7 hrs, 43 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.8x

Two years ago, Newman, a onetime flight attendant, released Falling, another page-turner thriller on a plane. The cover art on Drowning looks almost identical, and, hey, maybe Newman will do for gerunds what Sue Grafton did for the alphabet. (Grafton started her Kinsey Milhone mysteries with A Is for Alibi. She got to Y Is for Yesterday before she died in 2017.) Obviously, there are a lot more -ing words than 26. I found this book, about a plane that crashes in the water, cinematically compelling. I will say that the audio version is greatly enhanced by the vocalizing of Laura Benanti, though most things are. Weber, who also narrated Falling, is totally riveting, though he can get a little grating when he acts out an octogenarian couple attempting to escape the sinking vessel.

The Shift, by Tinx
$12
$12

Read by: The author
Length: 5 hrs, 17 mins.
Speed I listened: Between 1.8x and 2.3x

I have no idea who Tinx is. I gather she’s a TikTok personality. I’ve probably been listening to too many audiobooks and watching too much Selling Sunset to notice. So color me a bit astonished at how much I enjoyed and gleaned from this self-help/dating guide, to the point where I’m actually suggesting each and every one of you listen to it, too. At the top of this audiobook, Tinx, an influencer previously known as Christina Najjar, says she’s going to provide some “holy fucking shit breakthroughs” you can use on a daily basis. And I have to say, her advice is pretty damn good — perhaps the most grounded and salient wisdom about trusting yourself and simply adjusting your perspective I’ve heard in a long time. It helps that Tinx is both direct and self-effacing as she’s offering it up. I know this book is marketed toward women, but as a single gay man who doesn’t always feel awesome about himself, I learned a lot from it, too. Holy fucking shit, indeed.

April Picks

Read by: The authors, with a foreword read by Reese Witherspoon
Length: 7 hrs, 40 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.75x

This book comprises a series of conversations between Laura Dern and her mother, the actress Diane Ladd, that occurred during the walks they took to build back Ladd’s lung capacity. The walks happened before Dern even filmed last summer’s Jurassic World Dominion, and Ladd, at 87, is still very much alive. As far as I understand it, the audiobook is not the original conversations, but a recreation of them. Some of the discussion topics get really confrontational. For instance, when Dern brings up incidents of Ladd slapping her at age 14, or when Ladd took her grandson Ellery to get a haircut while Dern and her ex-husband, Ben Harper, were traveling. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that this audiobook could be considered a kind of performance just because the mother-daughter interaction is so real, so relatable, so raw, so fascinating. There are even breathy coughs by Ladd, and I can’t tell if they’re on cue. There’s a lot to take in here: Just talking the way they do about Ladd’s inevitable death is head-spinningly potent. Ladd, who frequently uses tropes like “Loving someone is a risk,” is a mellifluous speaker; when Dern mimics her mother’s southern twang, it’s especially sweet.

Read by: The author
Length: 6 hrs, 14 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.5x

The only Lucinda Williams album I’ve listened to in earnest was 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. But I still took great pleasure in her book, which has more in common with the Patti Smith school of memoir than your typical rock autobiography. There’s some poetry, some heartbreak, some soul-searching. I’m a true speed listener; I usually start listening at 1.75x speed these days and crank it up faster from there. So it’s especially rare for me to listen to any book at 1.5x these days. It means I’m really enjoying living in a book. That’s what I did here. I just found Williams’s gravelly speaking voice so soothing. It made me happily revisit Car Wheels on a Gravel Road again, too.

$16

Read by: Carolyn Kang
Length: 7 hrs, 45 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

I wanted a little bit more from this off-center tale about a classical pianist who begins working at a beauty company called Holistik, only to discover that beneath all the strange moisturizers and other products lies something more nefarious. What it very much has going for it is that the novel is just kind of bananas in terms of how it presents insidious corporate culture and cutting-edge (emphasis on the cutting) beauty treatments. I think “bananas” is a high form of praise, actually, and it certainly made Natural Beauty compulsively listenable. Kang’s wide-eyed, innocent narration makes the listening experience even more compelling.

Dirty Laundry, by Disha Bose
$16
$16

Read by: Chandrika Naraynan-Mohan
Length: 8 hrs, 39 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.75x

Like Natural Beauty, this new thriller goes a bit ridiculous as it delves in and out of the lives of three women who live in an Irish village: Ciara, Mishti, and Lauren. They each have unsavory husbands and make some hard-to-defend choices. Still, the reader, Narayan-Mohan, is an Indian-born, Dublin-based writer and performer and I found the mysterious lilt of her voice so musical that I definitely enjoyed this one more than if I’d read it.

Chita, by Chita Rivera
$22
$22

Read by: The author
Length: 13 hrs, 41 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.1x

I wear the fact that I love musicals on my sleeve. Chicago has been one of my favorites since I played Mr. Cellophane at summer camp. (The revival, still playing on Broadway, came a short while later; I like to think I inspired it.) Rivera was the original Velma Kelly in that show, but her resume goes far beyond that to West Side Story and Bye Bye Birdie. Any Broadway gossip is fine by me, whether it’s about how the Canadian magician Doug Henning (with whom Rivera starred in an ill-fated musical called Merlin) couldn’t act or sing, how film director Ivan Reitman drove Rivera crazy when he directed her onstage, or Liza Minnelli’s unsurprisingly erratic behavior while the two appeared as mother and daughter in Kander and Ebb’s The Rink. For someone so nice, Rivera’s claws can come out every once in a while. She calls the ambitious side of her personality “Dolores.” I love that. She also refers to this book as a “memwa” which I also admire deeply.

Read by: The author
Length: 8 hrs, 14 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

There’s a line in this treatise on awful humans who make amazing art that basically knocked me over with a feather. “We’ve all loved terrible people,” Dederer says here. “How do I know this? Because I know people and people are terrible.” Spending several hours with Dederer as she breaks down how we’re meant to approach the cultural contributions of people who’ve done very unsavory things — i.e., Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and Pablo Picasso — is enlightening and clever, even if it doesn’t necessarily offer anything in the way of a clear answer. It made me wish I was back in grad school.

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hrs, 48 mins
Speed I listened: 1.7x

I think, at this point, I’d follow the poet Maggie Smith anywhere. Her grounded perspicacity just makes me want to slow down and think about the world as she does. This isn’t necessarily an easy book — it’s about the dissolution of Smith’s marriage — but she just seems so wise and her voice so soothing that I would have even listened to her read Chita Rivera’s “memwa” if she’d recorded it for some bizarre reason.

March Picks

Read by: Eunice Wong
Length: 10 hrs, 42 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

Personally, I don’t think we can ever have enough content featuring older ladies solving crimes. This one’s about Vera Wong, a woman who owns a failing tea shop in San Francisco. To get an idea of the humor here, she calls her tea shop Vera Wang’s so she can get more customer interest. This book is a bit short on mystery and more about finding your chosen family; I would have liked a bit more unsolicited advice for the amateur murderer. But Eunice Wong’s clever narration — especially her very funny take on Vera — makes this a delight. Like the perfect cup of Silver Needles tea.

$13

Read by: A full cast
Length: 8 hrs, 37 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.75x

Here’s another mystery that comes up a bit short on the mystery part but more than makes up for it with a splendid setup and inventive characters. This one takes place over the course of a cooking competition. Maxwell adroitly moves the plot along as she shifts from character to character. Different actors — all good — read the contestants as well as the book’s version of The Great British Baking Show’s Prue Leith, here known as Betsy Martin. A pretty great Sunday binge and definitely less calories than a Battenberg cake.

STFU, by Dan Lyons
$13
$13

Read by: The author
Length: 6 hrs, 44 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.7x

One of Lyons’s previous books, Disrupted, scared the hell out of me and, I assume, other journalists. It had seemed to me that Silicon Valley was a potential escape hatch and financial win, but in that book Lyons learned that it wasn’t. In this more self-help-y tome, he suggests we’d all be better off if we talked less and smiled more. That was a through line in Hamilton also, but it will probably sink in more after hearing this. With STFU, the author left me scared again — I fear I’ve talked way too much for the last few decades — but also assured me that, maybe, I can fix the problem. Even if Lyons talks the whole time here, the audio’s pretty successful because I only wanted him to STFU on occasion.

Read by: The author
Length: 8 hrs, 22 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

We learn so much about the way celebrities live by listening to their memoirs. I listened to eight and a half hours of Paris Hilton talking about herself and her family, and the anecdote that most interested me was that she totes an extra carry-on when she travels so she can go shopping for business books at the airport. I’m giving Hilton the benefit of the doubt that (a) she doesn’t like to read on a Kindle, (b) would rather support physical bookstores than Amazon, and (c) just happens to travel a lot and doesn’t have a lot of time to shop for books. Her memoir, read in Hilton’s trademark Marilyn Monroe–like whisper, feels more like a horror movie than you’d expect, especially when she describes the torture she experienced at a school for troubled teens. (That’s in her documentary, too.) Paris the Memoir gave me a new edict to pair with shutting the fuck up: “Don’t give it oxygen.”

Read by: Patton Oswalt, Dan Stevens, and others
Length: 7 hrs, 50 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.5x-2x, depending on the story

I’m not hugely into collections of short stories on audio, but I do appreciate a reinvented fairy tale every once in a while. A few of the stories here lost me, but at least three expertly narrated ones — a take on a Norwegian folk tale read by Stevens (Downton Abbey), another featuring the black dog of the title read by Oswalt, and a third with the magical white cat read by frequent audiobook narrator Rebecca Lowman — are weird, very Brooklyn meets Stephen King, and completely engrossing. I’m tempted to relisten to the other four stories again to see if I can figure out what I missed.

$16

Read by: Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Length: 9 hrs, 12 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.75x

Evocative, scary, disarming, and funny, this horror novel follows Adelaide Henry and her gigantic steamer trunk as they leave California in 1915 and make their way to the middle-of-nowhere Montana where land is aplenty and yet people are still assholes. It’s the kind of page-turner you don’t want to turn off, and Abbott-Pratt infuses her narration with anxiety and wistfulness. A four-quadrant slam-dunk.

$16

Read by: The author
Length: 12 hrs, 8 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.8x

There’s a lot of plot in this bildungsroman, set in Virginia during Prohibition. It’s the story of Sallie Kincaid as she tries to survive all of the family drama around her. You know, sudden deaths that come from showboating, husbands who turn out to like guys, squabbling over wills, making one’s way in the world by bootlegging. Kincaid, quick-witted and independent, reminded me a bit of a depressed Fannie Flagg character with a touch of Vivian Morris, the heroine of Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls. That’s all a plus. Walls does her own expert reading, which makes this good old-fashioned yarn all the more intimate.

Read by: The author
Length: 14 hrs, 33 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

“Suicide is all around us, and we must talk about it,” writes Martin, who chronicles his various suicide attempts in this incredibly personal mix of memoir and literary criticism. It’s often painful and upsetting, sure, and it’s hard to tell people you’re reading or listening to a book about suicide without getting an “Are you okay?” response. But this book also feels vitally important because it goes deeply into a conversation about mental health so few of us ever have. Sometimes the conversation here gets circuitous and repetitive, but Martin’s sweetly soothing Canadian lilt makes listening to him and his own travails even more compelling.

February Picks

Maame, by Jessica George
$18
$18

Read by: Heather Agyepong
Length: 10 hrs, 10 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.75x

I really liked this novel. I think I liked it more because Agyepong, a British visual artist and performer, reads it just so damn well. Told in first person, it follows Maddie Wright, a young Ghanaian woman living in London. She’s a virgin jumping from one snoozy admin job to another, taking care of her father who’s dying from Parkinson’s. Her family calls her “Maame” because it means “the responsible one.” Sardonic, authentic, and a little bit sad, it moves along at a brisk pace. Compulsively listenable.

Read by: The author
Length: 52 mins
Speed I listened: 1.7x

Jessica Simpson’s Open Book is one of the better advertisements for celebrity audiobooks in recent memory. Its success owes something to Simpson’s relatable charm. Listening to the 2020 book is a personal — dare I say intimate — experience that certainly hides any shortcomings in the memoir itself. “Movie Star” is a short, new standalone autobiographical essay about how Simpson was courted by a famous film actor. (Page Six thinks it’s Mark Wahlberg.) I have no idea why or how this essay exists, but I’m extremely glad it does. One of the few revelations it includes is that when Simpson ran into the “movie star” at the gym, she worried she had a lot of gas from her low-carb diet. Simpson sounds as if she’s laughing through the whole retelling of the story; that only amplified my enjoyment. I would have liked her to continue telling it for 17 more hours.

Read by: Gail Shalan
Length: 11 hrs, 30 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.9x

In this enjoyable thriller, a group of fledgling writers attend a writer’s retreat led by the odd, maybe even draconian, novelist Roza Vallo. Two of them, Wren and Alex, are ex-friends, rivals, and almost lovers. Though I could have done without a few of the left-field plot twists and the somewhat overwrought same-sex anxieties, the audio really sails when Bartz focuses on the desperate and all-too-real aspirations of young writers. Roza is also pretty over the top and not what she seems, perhaps even a charlatan. Shalan, the narrator, elevates the whole production by giving her an off-center Julia-Garner-as-Anna-Delvey voice.

$22

Read by: The author
Length: 5 hrs, 28 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.7x

If you’re not already a Pam Anderson stan, this heartfelt audiobook will make you one. Yes, there are encounters with Scott Baio at the Playboy Mansion and scenes of passionate lovemaking with Tommy Lee, but just try not to swoon when the Baywatch actress recites the “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet. I hope, one day, Anderson will get to attack the Bard’s Great Dane on stage. (Paging Ivo van Hove!) The memoir ends with Anderson, 55, making a triumphant Broadway debut as Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago. Who cares if she doesn’t know how to pronounce Gwen Verdon? We say VER-don, she says ver-DON. Tomato, tomahto, this is a celebrity audiobook aficionado’s dream.

Read by: Robert Petkoff
Length: 12 hrs, 23 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

I listened to this account of all the michegoss that went down in 2016 at Viacom, CBS, and Paramount Global in the same way I likely would have read it: voraciously. Did I pick up every single bit of information Times reporters Stewart and Abrams dug up? I doubt it. But I think I got the important points: that Hollywood is bananas; that, in some industries, you can be completely incapacitated and still rake in a blockbuster salary; and that powerful media magnate Sumner Redstone would regularly burst into fits of sobs. It wouldn’t have mattered who narrated the book, but Petkoff seemed to be respectful of how often my jaw dropped at some of the nuttier revelations about both Redstone and former CBS executive Les Moonves.

Read by: Patty Nieman
Length: 7 hrs, 22 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

If you’re reading this, you can probably glean that I’m a very sensitive person. I mean, I’m emotionally stirred by Pamela Anderson and Jessica Simpson. I just wish I’d had this book, which claims that sensitivity is a “superpower” in business and in life, in my arsenal a lot earlier than this month. Sensitive doesn’t necessarily tell you anything new, but hearing what it has to say helps reframe how you think about yourself. For instance, Granneman and Solo write that “there’s nothing about being a sensitive person that needs to be fixed.” As for the audiobook: I think it helps to hear these things out loud, and Nieman’s narration seeps into your consciousness. If nothing else, I appreciated the concept that when someone tells you, “You’re too sensitive,” it’s a form of gaslighting.

January Picks

Read by: Prince Harry
Length: 15 hrs, 39 mins
Speed I listened: Mostly 1.75x, but 1.5x for the stuff about his frostbitten penis

Listening to this book was a special form of insufferable torture. Time and again, as I zipped through it, I’d text friends saying “I hate Harry.” But I couldn’t stop, because Spare is a strange, contemporary artifact in the game of What Was This Person Thinking? Just him announcing the title of his book and his name—“by Prince Harry”—is weird. Does he call himself Prince Harry when he signs up for a SoulCycle class? It’s probably unfair to wonder if, IRL, Harry actually uses the expressions leitmotif and Kafkaesque and emotional cul-de-sac. But I do question why he chooses to tell us that he’s drunk alcoholic beverages out of friends’ prosthetic legs multiple times. I mean, I Googled it, and it’s a thing, but Harry feels we should know that he’s done this on enough occasions that he can’t remember if he drank out of a prosthetic leg on a particular evening while visiting the South Pole? I don’t know, Harry. The frostbitten penis stuff has been covered ad nauseam, but my jaw just kept dropping even after that. However, his short singing selection from Elton John’s “Your Song” is a surprising highlight.

The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao
$18
$18

Read by: Siho Ellsmore
Length: 11 hrs, 33 mins
Speed I listened: 1.75x

Sure, this book is a lot like Crazy Rich Asians, but it’s a totally enjoyable retread of that popular best seller. With the help of two wealthy friends, Samantha Song, a working-class public relations executive, tries to make her way into high society in Singapore. I don’t know how it feels when you read it on the page, but Australia-born narrator Ellsmore amplifies the experience. She gives several of the secondary characters voices that signal how annoying, snobby, or untrustworthy they may be. It’s a kick of a time, especially if you’re interested in the fashion-magazine or “It” girl set, but who isn’t?

$19

Read by: Megan Tusing and William DeMeritt
Length: 9 hrs, 25 mins
Speed I listened: 2x

I love a Hollywood novel, and this one scratched this month’s itch. It’s about a crisis publicist named Mae who investigates the sudden death of her boss when he’s shot near the Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s a town where “nobody talks. But everybody whispers.” There’s not much here that’s shocking, new, or even quite as bizarre as those scenes with Tobey Maguire in Babylon, but I found Tusing’s narrations of Mae’s descent into the Hollywood underbelly rhythmically gripping.

Read by: Marisol Ramirez
Length: 8 hrs, 34 mins
Speed I listened: 2x

For a lot of this audiobook I kept wondering: Where is this going? That was a good thing … until it got where it was going. There are a few seemingly disconnected strands here. In the present, Maya is trying to kick a Klonopin habit without telling her current boyfriend. In the past, she’s embroiled in a strange relationship with Frank, who has a habit of hypnotizing and maybe killing women, including Maya’s friend Aubrey. Also, Maya’s deceased father wrote a mysterious novel that should somehow tie into all of this, though I still couldn’t tell you how. But until the final scenes, Ramirez’s narration is enthralling.

Read by: Jay Aaseng and Mikhaila Aaseng
Length: 13 hrs
Speed I listened: 2x

I wish this was a tongue-in-cheek book about how to off-load haunted real estate, but it’s really about siblings arguing over their parents’ estate. That happens to be one of my least favorite topics in the entire universe. (Don’t ask me to elaborate.) It’s a testament to Hendrix’s storytelling and the narrators that I didn’t turn this book off from its opening scene and that I continued to listen even when puppets started talking and doing very mean things to the various characters. Consider it a companion piece to M3gan, sadly sans Allison Williams.

Sam, by Allegra Goodman
$18
$18

Read by: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 8 hrs, 34 mins
Speed I listened: 2x

I haven’t read Allegra Goodman’s fiction in a while, but Jenna Bush Hager chose this as her Today show book-club book for January, so I decided to give it a listen. (You’ve gotta take your cues from somewhere.) Basically, it’s a bildungsroman about a young girl named Sam who has an absent father and a penchant for climbing walls. It’s all very slice of life — there are no haunted robot puppets or murdering hypnotizers here — but I found myself really attached to Sam, in part because of Lowman’s grounded narration, and I wanted to know where she ended up. I feel like you might too.

Read by: Peter Noble
Length: 13 hrs, 48 mins
Speed I listened: 2x

I often look for books that will mirror the experience of listening to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo novels, and this is the closest I’ve gotten in a while. Stieg Larsson’s trilogy was read by Simon Vance; this one is read by Peter Noble, who sounds similar. I guess I just find comfort in hearing Swedish names like Sven Jörgensson and towns like Tofta repeated again and again. None of the characters here come close to Lisbeth Salander or Mikael Blomkvist, and there may be more family drama than murder in this story, but I found it absorbing.

The Villa, by Rachel Hawkins
$18
$18

Read by: Julia Whelan, Kimberly Wetherell, and Shiromi Arserio
Length: 7 hrs, 57 mins
Speed I listened: 1.85x

This is about a newly divorced “cozy mystery” author named Em who vacations at a villa in Umbria with her friend Chess, a much more successful writer of whom she’s a tad jealous. Their story of a symbiotic and repellant relationship, read by Whelan, was plenty engaging for me. But every so often Hawkins goes back to a second, less interesting narrative in 1974, where she tosses in some Fleetwood Mac, some Mary Shelley, and the Manson murders, and turns the whole thing into an overstuffed Milk Bar cookie. I’d recommend the contemporary parts if you can just alternate chapters and skip to those.

5 Great Audiobooks to Listen to This Month