vulture lists

10 Great Audiobooks to Listen to This Month

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos Courtesy of the Publishers

The audiobook category is expanding every day, and we certainly can’t listen to everything. The goal of this column is to steer you toward audiobooks that we hope will provide the best experiences, pop-culture value, and something to talk about at your cocktail party.

November Picks

Photo: Macmillan Audio

Read by: The author
Length: 8 hrs, 49 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.8x

I thought Jennette McCurdy’s memoir about her relationship with her mother, the aptly named I’m Glad My Mom Died, was scary — but this book, from the man we also know as Chandler Bing, is simply terrifying. It starts with the Friends actor (now a fledgling screenwriter) describing not being able to have a bowel movement for ten days. It quickly moves from there to his colon exploding. For anyone with a sensitive stomach, that’s like Buffalo-Bill-in-Silence-of-the-Lambs spine-chilling. This is already an intimate book, made even more so by Perry’s own audio narration. Things get more uncomfortable when he starts talking about his sexual addiction. But why else would you listen to a celebrity memoir? It’s a wild ride on 55 Vicodin a day, even if it just ends in a place where Perry describes seeking a life partner who’ll play pickleball with him.

Photo: HarperAudio

Read by: Rory Kinnear
Length: 8 hrs, 31 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.6x

I love this self-reflexive mystery series in which author Anthony Horowitz appears as a character who solves crimes with a gruff detective named Daniel Hawthorne. This one takes place as Horowitz debuts a new play on the West End. A nasty critic ends up dead, and Horowitz is fingered for the crime. I usually read these books, but I decided to give this one a listen. The experience was equally pleasurable thanks to Kinnear, a charming British actor perhaps known for his work in the Bond films.

Photo: Random House Audio

Read by: The author
Length: 39 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.25x

This is a collection of about 125 “small poems” by the former poet laureate, and some of them are just a few words or a sentence. To paraphrase Collins, small poems give you only a little bit of room for a flash of humor or poignancy. In a blink or a beep of a taxi horn you might miss a poem or two, which is why I found myself rewinding quite often. I can also see myself listening to this amazing audiobook on a regular basis. It helps that Collins has a calming, folksy presence. I wouldn’t mind spending a half-hour with him every day; there’s so much cleverness here. For instance: “Tom Thumb’s Thumb was so small, it failed to get the attention of passing cars and trucks. And what was he doing out there anyway, hitchhiking all by himself?”

Photo: Random House Audio

Read by: Kotaro Watanabe
Length: 7 hrs, 35 mins
Speed I listened: 1.75x

I’ve often found Murakami’s nonfiction about running and music a bit flat and repetitive, and in the last few years his novels and stories have left me a little cold too. These essays exploring his theories about writing are an illuminating breath of fresh air. I felt like I was absorbing Murakami’s good habits — which mostly involve structure and repetition — via aural osmosis. Watanabe’s voice offers a complementary, casual spareness to the text. This book is especially useful if you feel like you need a kick in the pants about your own writing.

Anon Pls., by Deuxmoi
$25
$25
Photo: HarperAudio

Read by: Callie Dalton, Brittany Pressly, Graham Halstead
Length: 8 hours
Speed I listened: 1.9x

If there’s one amazing takeaway from this Devil Wears Prada retread, it’s that whoever wrote it (the figures behind Deuxmoi remain anonymous) turned the New York Post columnist Cindy Adams into a verb. To go “Cindy Adams-ing” is to go out collecting gossip. This novel is a creation story of the now-infamous Instagram gossip site, a Bildungsroman, if you will, about the fictional Cricket Lopez, who suddenly finds herself exposing secrets about not-exactly-gluten-free bakeries in Hollywood and celebrities like B.J. Novak. Listening doesn’t take too many brain cells — that’s a compliment, by the way. Once Cricket breaks the news to her readers that an Armie Hammer type has been biting women, things get cooking. I didn’t always feel safe in the hands of the audio narrators, though. I’m pretty sure one of them mispronounces the name of the jeweler Jennifer Meyer.

Photo: HarperAudio

Read by: Ginnifer Goodwin
Length: 6 hrs, 13 mins
Speed I listened: 1.6x

I regularly recommend the swiftly moving audiobook version of Nothing to See Here, Wilson’s previous novel, about a woman who helps raise a friend’s kids who, on occasion, spontaneously combust into flames. This follow-up is about Frankie Budge, a teenager in 1996 who accidentally creates a piece of street art with her friend Zeke that winds up taking on a life of its own. I’d read the novel a few months ago, but I wanted to try out the audio version too. It doesn’t disappoint, thanks to the innocence of Goodwin’s narration, which hides its own secrets. An afterword about the genesis of the book is especially moving when Wilson reads it himself.

Photo: Random House Audio

Read by: The author
Length: 9 hrs, 59 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

Whether you consider it a call to arms, a memoir, or a self-help tome, I can’t say there are any revolutionary takeaways from this follow-up to Obama’s Becoming. But it’s just so damn inspiring to listen to the former First Lady talk about anything for a few hours. Her voice is so steady, so clear, so positive that I think this audiobook probably did more for my mood this month than anything else I consumed. (Although Zanab and Cole’s shocking wedding in this season’s finale of Love Is Blind comes close.)

$21
Photo: Penguin Audio

Read by: the author
Length: 5 hrs, 13 mins
Speed I listened: 2x

I should be here telling you how exciting I found the experience of listening to Bono’s new memoir, Surrender, which clocks in at over 20 hours. But even at twice the speed, I didn’t get much further than three and a half hours. Granted, I’m not a huge U2 fan, and maybe I’ll return to it, but it’s kind of pretentious and the truth is some people need a filter. The outspoken Swedish model Porizkova, however, does not. Here, she grapples with her ex-husband Ric Ocasek leaving her out of his will, and she’s very compelling company.

Photo: HarperAudio

Read by: The author and Edoardo Ballerini
Length: 10 hrs, 9 mins.
Speed I listened: 1.6x for Tarantino, 1.9x for Ballerini

It’s probably a good thing that Tarantino doesn’t read this entire audiobook — he’s just so exhausting. But his quirky voice comes through even in Ballerini’s far more calming narration. Regardless, it’s just fun to be around Tarantino for a few hours, listening to him opine on movies from the 1970s, whether he’s the one speaking or not. He’s so darn opinionated, and he loves a digressive sidebar. However, I can’t believe he remembers at what movie theater he saw each of these movies and with whom. That seems diabolical.

Photo: Penguin Audio

Read by: The author, Busy Phillips, Ted Danson, Patti Smith, Andrew Rannells, and others.
Length: 7 hrs, 4 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

This collection of essays on “food and feelings” is a real oddity. There’s no real connective tissue except these are essays about, yes, food and feelings by friends of the star of Girls and The Flight Attendant. Some of the pieces are a few sentences, so I can’t imagine they amount to a whole meal when reading them. But as audio bits and bites, a handful are quite interesting windows into celebrities as real people. I admired the candor in the stories by Rosie Perez, Gabourey Sidibe, and especially Kaley Cuoco, who seems to break down in tears after a one-minute recollection of an ex who used to fix her a regular cocktail.

October Picks

$15
Photo: Simon & Schuster Audio

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hrs, 53 mins.
Speed I listened: 2.1x–2.5x

Some chapters in this book of essays by the Crazy Rich Asians actress are a mixed bag. I’m not sure we really need to know about Wu’s high-school jobs working at competing bread stores in Virginia. Other parts are jaw-dropping. When Wu goes off the rails, she kinda goes off in a great way. For instance, I was especially touched by the repetition of a mantra she learned in acting class: “Get the fuck out of your head.” Also, for a Hollywood actress, she talks a surprising amount about oral sex and boners. She owns it, though. Late in the book, Wu recognizes that male genitalia appears a lot in her writing. “I adore penii,” she says. “They’re obviously on my mind.” This is also a woman who devotes an entire chapter to the cars she’s owned and mentions that she named her Prius “Masha” after a character in Chekhov’s The Seagull. In solidarity, I’m going to start calling my couch Medvedenko.

Photo: Random House Audio

Read by: The author
Length: 11 hrs, 11 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

Boundaries have become one of my favorite topics, so as soon as Urban introduced herself as “the boundary lady,” I was hooked. Urban also happens to be the co-founder of the Whole30 program, but she only refers to that detail a few times in the book, which I thought was a particularly good example of creating a boundary between writer and listener. If I wanted a diet book, I would have listened to that. Usually, Urban gives a green-light, yellow-light, and red-light option of what to say to protect your boundaries, so I should probably order a hard copy as a reference resource. But she’s very direct and no-nonsense; it’s a good companion piece to Nedra Glover Tawwab’s Set Boundaries, Find Peace, which I suggested last year. Apparently, I’m still working on ’em.

Photo: HarperAudio

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hrs, 36 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

I didn’t realize that I had so much space in my heart for Geena Davis until I listened to her memoir. Her career blossomed at the same time that my love of movies did. So this month, she reawakened my early memories of Tootsie (shockingly, her first film audition and her first film), Beetlejuice, Thelma and Louise, and — swoon — Earth Girls Are Easy. In one anecdote, Davis reveals that every morning while getting ready for A League of Their Own, she and her makeup team would sing along to the soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar, and Tom Hanks dropped in daily to cameo as Caiaphas. I think that’s when I understood that she and I were soul mates. Her impression of Penny Marshall is a hoot.

Photo: Random House Audio

Read by: The author
Length: 10 hrs, 51 mins.
Speed I listened: 2x

Steadman’s previous book, The Disappearing Act, surprised me as a great listen last summer, so I was eagerly awaiting this follow-up. Steadman is an actress too, and she does a very good job at narrating her twisty tales. For my part, this had maybe a teensy bit too much in common with the 2019 Samara Weaving thriller Ready or Not, but there’s enough different family intrigue to separate the two. It’s all about being careful of not just who you marry, but the family you’re marrying into, too. There’s a rather large death count here, which I appreciated for a “woman in jeopardy” thriller. A bulk of the audiobook involves listening to a tape-recorded confession, and the crackly production of that is terrifically clever.

Photo: Random House Audio

Read by: Key Taw and Carrie Coon
Length: 15 hrs, 12 mins
Speed I listened: 2x

A friend texted asking if I would judge her negatively for reading this new novel by Jodi Picoult. Of course I wouldn’t, I replied, though I did, a little bit. And then I downloaded the audiobook for myself. I happily discovered it was read, in part, by the incomparable Carrie Coon. Picoult typically writes kitchen-sink melodrama, and this, with co-author Finney Boylan, is genuinely compelling kitchen-sink melodrama. Olivia is a beekeeper in New Hampshire. Her teenage son Asher begins dating Lily, a new girl in school. Then Lily (read affectingly by Taw) turns up dead. My friend said she was genuinely surprised by a twist halfway through the novel, one that I didn’t see coming either. This is a totally great road-trip listen, though I definitely missed the significance of the bees and the honey.

Photo: Macmillan Audio

Read by: Steven Crossley
Length: 19 hrs, 23 mins
Speed I listened: 1.7x–2x

Rickman, known for his roles as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and Snape in the Harry Potter flicks, died in 2016, at 69, of pancreatic cancer. This audio would, obviously, be so much better if Rickman had read his diaries himself. But they’re pretty fascinating as a listen, even if it’s not always clear what or who the very opinionated Rickman is talking about. I found the actor’s vicissitudes here very interesting — whether he’s getting stiffed with the bill by his fancy friends at the Ivy, hanging out until 4 a.m. at the Box in New York, or mistaking Jane Campion for Meryl Streep. Excerpts that particularly struck me: “Sometimes I truly hate this business,” “A trip to the dry cleaners is good for the brain,” and “Why is the actuality of one’s work so far from its intention?” Rickman made me realize a diary entry can be rhythmic and flip instead of emotional and in-depth. I’ve finally started my own, and hopefully Carrie Coon can do the audiobook when I’m done with the first volume.

Balladz, by Sharon Olds
$15
$15
Photo: Random House Audio

Read by: The author
Length: 3 hrs, 33 mins
Speed I listened: 1.5x

Olds, a professor at NYU, recently told the New York Times that the poems in this new collection should only be digested one at a time, otherwise “someone might get a serious stomachache.” Still, I listened all the way through and, even with my sensitive stomach, I was okay. As soon as I turned this audiobook on, Olds announced, “How much difference is there anymore between me and a cadaver?” and her wise, 79-year-old timber swept me away. That’s not to say I understood what she was talking about all the time, but amongst all her words on death, sex, and grief, I just felt enveloped in a Sunday-night Sharon Olds cocoon, and that felt good.

You Might Also Try:

Liberation Day, by George Saunders, with stories read by Saunders, Jenny Slate, Michael McKean, and others. Tina Fey reading “The Mom of Bold Action” is by far the standout.

➽ Colleen Hoover’s It Starts With Us, read by Colin Donnell and Olivia Song. Then you can explain to me why people on BookTok go crazy for Hoover’s novels. I liked this fine enough, though I definitely prefer Verity.

September Picks

Fairy Tale, by Stephen King
$24
$24
Photo: Publisher

Read by: Seth Numrich and the author
Length: 24 hours, 6 minutes
Speed I listened: 2x

I have no idea how King keeps track of his plots or his characters. Excel spreadsheets? An iPhone App? A locked shed in the backyard? In this superlong novel, Charlie, a teenager, befriends an old recluse and discovers a portal to another world in, yes, a locked shed in the guy’s backyard. The first 12 or so hours of Fairy Tale are creepy, grounded Stephen King. Afterward, it gets a bit Wizard of Oz via H.P. Lovecraft, somehow managing to be all over the place and familiar at the same time. Still, 12 hours of prime King is great audio fodder, and Numrich (currently appearing in Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt on Broadway) provides Charlie with a wide-eyed innocence. If you get lost midway, here’s permission to skip to the end.

Lessons, by Ian McEwan
$31
$31
Photo: Publisher

Read by: Simon McBurney
Length: 17 hours, 33 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.75x

In the same week that I started watching the third season of Love Is Blind, I spent nearly a full waking day with the English actor McBurney listening to him read McEwan’s latest opus. That’s a pretty fabulous pairing of high culture and low. It turns out they’ve got something in common too: the search for companionship. Lessons stays mostly with Roland Baines, a failed poet abandoned by his wife to raise their child. It’s a fascinating monologue bestowed with lots of feeling by the crisp, clear and erudite McBurney, whose last Broadway appearance was an audio-only theatrical piece called The Encounter. There’s nothing truly scary here, but Lessons somehow chilled me more than this month’s Stephen King.

$12
Photo: Publisher

Read by: Helen Laser, Suehyla El-Attar Young, Frankie Corzo, and Phoebe Strole
Length: 3 hours, 56 minutes
Speed I listened: 2x

I wish there were more than four stories in this collection. I wish they were darker, creepier, more Tar than She Said. I also wish there were fewer references to septum piercings. But you can’t have it all. So I think of this book as a short palate cleanser, kind of like watching episodes of Black Mirror if they were written by Emily Giffin or Jennifer Weiner. A Magic 8 Ball gets out of control. There’s a bloody bachelorette party. And, of course, a psycho doll shows up. All the narrators are solid; it’s a good “shake up the week” listen for your Monday commute.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: Joy Nash and Sebastian York
Length: 11 hours, 5 minutes
Speed I listened: 2.3x

Let’s not mince words here: This book is insane. It’s a rom-com about the making of a Hallmark Channel–like Christmas movie. We’re in a holiday village in Vermont, and the starring leads are Nolan Shaw, a former member of an ’N Sync–like boy band, and Bee Hobbes, also known as Bianca Von Honey. Bianca/Bee (played amiably by Nash) is a plus-size porn star with a particularly popular OnlyFans (here called ClosedDoors). This book is not for those prone to blushing: Bianca once did a sex scene on a jet ski. There’s not much merry, cute, or even little about this book. Still, I laughed a lot, mostly because it’s so jaw-droppingly audacious and absurd.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hours, 8 minutes
Speed I listened: 2.2x

“What exactly did you think you were going to get when you got this book?” the Jackass star asks early on here. As with all self-help books, I guess I was hoping for my life to change dramatically after listening to it. It hasn’t — though, with Steve-O admitting, “I know I’m an insufferable douche,” I’ve begun doing everything in my power to not be an insufferable douche like him. Is it working? Jury’s out.

$16
Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hours, 43 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.6

The best anecdote in this memoir by the current editor of British Vogue comes early. Just as the priest asks if there’s any reason why Enninful shouldn’t wed his longtime beau, Alec, Rihanna bursts through the back doors of the church “in a black lace dress, her pregnant belly resplendent.” Everyone, Enninful narrates, “burst into peels of laughter. Classic Ri.” That’s a tale on the precipice of what Steve-O might call “insufferable douche,” but I loved it. I want to be able to roll my eyes and say “Classic Ri” whenever Rihanna does something amusing in my presence. Enninful reads the rest of this book with deep sensitivity. His honesty about topics like substance abuse and the death of his friend Alexander McQueen made me want to slow down the speed so I could catch every accented word.

$15
Photo: Publisher

Read by: Kristen Atherton
Length: 8 hours, 10 minutes
Speed I listened: 2x

Maybe 15 years ago, I was super into Jonathan Coe, but he lost me somewhere. This one sounded a little bit like Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, so I gave it a shot. (If you can’t tell, I love a book about Hollywood.) I was immediately charmed by this fictional chronicle of a young female Greek composer’s dalliances with the director Billy Wilder during the time his career had gone a bit pear shaped. Atherton keeps things brisk. I especially loved her Austrian-accented take on Wilder when he gets talking about Steven Spielberg and Jaws: “Now every stupid executive in town wants more movies with sharks!” Wilder says. “I’m not really comfortable around fish.” Is anyone?

You Might Also Try:

The House Party, by Rita Cameron, a dynamic novel about teenagers who destroy a spec house in a Philadelphia suburb, read entertainingly by Karissa Vacker.

➽ Jonathan Escoffery’s rhythmic, interconnected short-story collection If I Survive You, fervently narrated by Torian Brackett.

The Wheel of Doll, the latest in Jonathan Ames’s quirky Los Angeles–based series about the detective Happy Doll, featuring plenty of sardines, a houseless amputee lover, and a motel-room murder.

August Picks

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 6 hours, 50 minutes
Speed I listed: 1.7x

I was hesitant to listen to this memoir because (a) the title is off-putting, especially when your mom isn’t around anymore, and (b) I had never heard of Jennette McCurdy. I’ve since learned that she starred on the Nickelodeon series iCarly and its spinoff series Sam & Cat, though she is notably absent from the former’s Paramount+ reboot. I’ve never watched iCarly, but I have a strong affinity for a Miranda Cosgrove meme. I’m also fascinated by the lives of child actors. This is a warts-and-all portrayal of McCurdy’s mother, a woman somewhere between Dee Dee Blanchard (a.k.a. Patricia Arquette on The Act) and Mama Rose from Gypsy. She’ll stop at nothing to turn her daughter into the next Dakota Fanning, even if that involves emotional abuse, eating disorders, and trying to stall puberty. I listened straight through; it’s hard to take a break from McCurdy’s take-no-prisoners narration.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: A full cast
Length: 10 hours, 30 minutes
Speed I listed: 2x

I read this book — the story of the fictional Carrie Soto trying to make a comeback, in her late 30s, and reclaim her title as the best tennis player in the world — as soon as I could. I’m not a tennis person, but I am an emotions person, and I cried and cried on the elliptical at the gym when I finished. It’s Jenkins Reid’s best, just beating the BookTok sensation The Seven Husbands of Eveyln Hugo, which, P.S., is also a great audio. Is it better to read or listen to Carrie Soto? I’m not sure. But this is a damn good audiobook, with ersatz sports newscasts inserted throughout and a bravura performance by Stacy Gonzalez as Soto, and more importantly, her father Javier, who is the beating heart of the novel.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hours, 30 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.9x

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis made me more interested in the King, if only because the movie didn’t really reveal anything at all about him. This is a fascinating companion piece. It was first published in 1985, but Priscilla Presley only recently recorded an audiobook edition. There’s a ton of bananas behavior in here: Elvis courts Priscilla at 14 years old. Elvis asks Priscilla for a break in their relationship when she’s seven months pregnant. Elvis takes a lot — and I mean a lot — of pills. Kind of bizarrely, the Dallas actress also giggles regularly as she reads, e.g., when she recalls riding her motorcycle up until her eighth month of pregnancy or when she asks the maternity nurses to let her keep her fake eyelashes on during labor. I guess it’s refreshing that she has a sense of humor about this time in her life?

Photo: Publisher

Read by: Isabella Star LaBlanc
Length: 7 hours, 34 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.9x

From my minimal experience with Graham Jones’s horror fiction, I know there’s going to be a moment — and most likely more than one moment — where the twists will get so over the top that I’m going to have absolutely no clue what in the hell is going on. With that in mind, this book, only available on audio, is a crazy hoot. I think it’s about a babysitter stuck with twins on Halloween Eve in a haunted house. There’s lots of talk of spider eggs, and that alone creeped me out and made me itch all over. Eek. However, I’d argue that the author would have been a better choice than the actress/“bagel enthusiast” who is the narrator here. Graham Jones reads his own acknowledgements with a sexy, throaty voice, including a thank you to “one of my uncles for haunting my grandmother’s house when I was 4 or 5.” He’s kind of magic.

Diary of a Void, by Emi Yagi
$18
$18
Photo: Publisher

Read by: Nancy Wu
Length: 4 hours, 38 minutes
Speed I listened: 2x

What a weird, funny comedy of manners. To avoid annoying tasks at her new job at a cardboard-tube-manufacturing company in Tokyo — see, you could always be working at a cardboard-tube-manufacturing company! — Ms. Shibata tells her colleagues that she’s pregnant. The lie starts to take on the patina of truth, and then, well, eventually it’s hard to know what’s fantasy and reality. Wu’s narration is brittle and straight, never quite tipping her hat to what’s really going on in Ms. Shibata’s mind. A quick, bizarre escape.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hours, 12 minutes
Speed I listened: 2x

Here’s another August memoir with an off-putting title that once I started listening, I couldn’t stop. Zhu is a queer Chinese Australian writer who posts self-reflective, inspirational, and encouraging blocks of text on Instagram. Zhu’s book chronicles a particularly emotionally abusive relationship and the recovery thereafter. Things can get a bit offtrack when the book enters gender-politic territory, but anytime Zhu focuses on the personal aspects of their life, it’s gripping. The narration is especially charged. As a kind of reset between each chapter, Zhu takes several loud, deep breaths on the audio track. It’s such a simple gesture, but the effect is incredible.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: Lesley Sharp
Length: 10 hours, 7 minutes
Speed I listened: 2x

There are so many female-driven thrillers out there that, like everyone else, sometimes I just need Reese Witherspoon to tell me which one to pick up. I couldn’t tell you how she chose this as her August Book Club pick, but it’s far niftier than its snooze of a title. It’s about a lawyer who witnesses her son commit a crime. Then, for some inexplicable reason, she starts time-traveling backwards so she can figure out why her son did what he did. I’m not sure what the takeaway is here — pay more attention to the secrets your family is hiding from you in order to save them from doing even more bad things? — but the audio is elevated by Lesley Sharp’s deliciously haughty take.

July Picks

Read by: Jennifer Kim and Julian Cihi
Length: 13 hours, 52 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.7x–1.8x

I haven’t savored listening to a book in recent memory quite as much as I did this novel. It’s about two friends — Sadie Green and Sam Masur — who meet as kids in Los Angeles and then reconnect at MIT, where they begin developing experimental video games together. The lead characters (and let’s throw in the supporting ones too) are at times completely relatable, at times bittersweet, and almost always completely heartwarming. The book is mostly read by Kim except for a short fever dream by Cihi. Kim’s delivery might be monotone in places, but I found it steady, deliberate, and clear, so I didn’t have to miss a moment.

Photo: FX

Read by: A full cast
Length: 11 hours, 9 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.85x

I couldn’t get through Montimore’s previous book, Oona Out of Order, but I figured I’d give her another chance because I’m a sucker for a novel about a magician. I’m glad I did. This one has a female magician as its center. Her name is Violet Volk. She disappeared ten years ago, leaving behind a sister, Sasha, who’s stopped looking for her even though the rest of the world is still obsessed with how and why Violet vanished. A lot of the story is told via a podcast about what happened to Violet, and, using a wide cast of actors, the audiobook version simulates that genre especially well. It elevates the experience far beyond the book’s less interesting kitchen-sink drama.

Reputation, by Sarah Vaughan
$20
$20

Read by: Julie Teal
Length: 12 hours, 22 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.9x

Vaughan wrote Anatomy of a Scandal, which became a big hit on Netflix this year with Sienna Miller. I didn’t read or watch it, but I might go back because I enjoyed this follow-up so much. Emma is a politician who has an affair with a journalist. Her daughter, Flora, does something stupid, and the journalist finds out and wants to write a story. Somehow the journalist ends up dead inside Emma’s home. The mechanics are all more twisty than shocking, but the books makes up for it with the brittle humor, the none-too-subtle feminist slant, and the quick jump from crime to courthouse. You could do a hell of a lot worse this summer.

Read by: The author
Length: 8 hours, 12 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.75x

Does there have to be a book about the making of 1988’s Bull Durham? Probably not. Did I get a kick out of this trip down memory lane with the movie’s writer-director? I did. It’s rare you get a glimpse into the making of a Hollywood movie in minute detail, and this one’s pretty soup to nuts, down to Shelton hiring the on-set script supervisor. These kind of books always start and end with the idea that everyone in Hollywood is crazy, and it’s good to be reminded of that. To that end, here, Kevin Costner’s agents tried to prevent him from starring as Minor League Baseball star Crash Davis, which turned out to be one of his most iconic roles. Shelton has a knowing but aw-shucks vibe that makes great company even if his performance of dialogue scenes from the original script could use more oomph.

$31

Read by: Jonathan Coleman
Length: 19 hors, 41 minutes
Speed I listened: 2x

A darker addition to July’s “Hollywood Is Crazy Files” is this gripping account of Harvey Weinstein’s rise to and fall from power. You’re probably familiar with many of the sordid details in this book, and at 20 hours, it isn’t short. Still, I couldn’t turn off this compendium of the disgraced movie producer’s unbelievable behavior, from his rampant spending on hotel rooms to his truly despicable treatment of so many women. Auletta’s reporting is mostly firsthand, and hearing it cumulatively is jaw-dropping. As the narrator, Coleman is deadpan and direct enough to sometimes make you forget you aren’t listening to an actual thriller. Also kudos to the drippingly ironic title.

$22

Read by: Xe Sands
Length: 10 hours, 2 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.75x

This is a weird, scary book about Vera, who comes home to take care of Daphne, her horridly mean, dying mother. Making things slightly more complicated is the fact that Vera’s dad was a serial killer who buried the bodies in the house. With the exception of novels by Stephen King, I usually find this kind of tale ridiculous, but as the story jumps back and forth between Vera’s present and her past, it’s compulsively listenable. That’s thanks in part to Sands’s intense narration, whether she’s playing the inscrutable Vera or her wretched mother asking for yet another glass of lemonade.

You Might Also Try:

➽ A rerelease of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, read by Orlagh Cassidy, which still has the inscrutably named Schmendrick the Magician but now also boasts a very funny new introduction by Patrick Ruthfuss.

Sirens & Muses, by Antonia Angress, a totally satisfying comedy of manners about students sorting things out at art school read by Rebecca Lowman.

➽ Teleporting to the scary future of Blake Crouch’s Upgrade, read by Henry Levya. It might make you feel as if you’ve had an upgrade the faster you listen to it.

June Picks

Flying Solo, by Linda Holmes
$25
$25

Read by: Julia Whelan
Length: 8 hours, 56 minutes
Speed I listened: 2x

I never imagined I’d recommend a book in which a duck decoy serves as a major plot point. (That said, I do know a thing or two about duck decoys.) Evvie Drake Starts Over, Linda Holmes’s first novel, is about a young widow in Maine who meets a baseball player with the “yips.” I’d start with that book before reading Flying Solo; it’s more of a full meal. (Both are read warmly by Julia Whelan, a total pro.) Flying Solo is more of a light lunch, an adorable listen for when you’re cleaning the summer house. In this one, Laurie, a jilted bride, returns to Maine to sort her great-aunt Dot’s estate. Finding the wooden duck sets things in motion, leading to a duck-decoy scam and a duck-decoy romance, fulfilling all your duck-decoy desires.

Read by: Bernadette Dunne
Length: 11 hours, 3 minutes
Speed I listened: 2x

While life turns out okay for Holmes’s heroines, things aren’t quite as peachy for the protagonist in this thriller. She’s Casey Fletcher, a disgraced actress who hides out at her family’s lake house, spying on tech titan Tom Royce and his supermodel wife, Katherine. Casey has a drinking problem, of course, and there’s a sprinkle of Woman in the Window, a dash of Girl on the Train, and a little bit of What Lies Beneath. Regardless of the tropes, it’s all about Bernadette Dunne’s performance. She’s not how I would imagine Casey if I had read her on the page, but her eccentric voice is relatable and alarming at the same time, a compulsively listenable combination.

Read by: Antony Ferguson and Wesleigh Siobhan
Length: 10 hours, 46 minutes
Speed I listened: 2.1x

Every once in a while, I’ll pick up a romance and be shocked by the explicit sex. That’s what happened listening to this book about a Cardi B–like rapper named Danielle “Duchess” Nelson who has an affair with the gorgeous, tall Prince Jameson. The flap copy suggests the plot is inspired by Meghan “Duchess” Markle and Prince Harry. I suppose it’s not that much of a stretch. I hung out with Markle a bit when she was married to her first husband. We nicknamed her “So Delicious” because she endearingly knew all the lyrics of “Fergalicious.” Like many books of this ilk, the narrators alternate reading chapters. Antony Ferguson’s are a bit flat. He voices Duchess as if she’s a southern Belle from Steel Magnolias. Wesleigh Siobhan, however, is delightful. But beware: Things begin amusingly enough, but very quickly Prince Jameson’s, well, little prince, starts stirring and/or throbbing on the regular.

$17

Read by: The author
Length: 8 hours, 9 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.7x

There are some books that are perfect to consume as you amble around New York City. This is one of them, especially if you’ve (a) ever worked in media or (b) ever dated someone. Disclosure: Sloane Crosley is an old friend, but anyone will enjoy listening to her read her novel about Lola, a young arts-and-culture editor who mysteriously keeps running into her ex-boyfriends. Sometimes I bumped on the names of the characters, which felt right out of Search Party. Besides Lola, there’s Vadis, Boots, Chantal, Amos, Kit, Jeannine, Eliza, Howard, Brody, Cooper, Oscar, Willis, Clive, Errol, Georgette, Adella, Jin, and a cat named Rocket.

Read by: Yes, James Patterson
Length: 7 hours, 5 minutes
Speed I listened: 2.2x

In real life, the blockbuster novelist James Patterson does not look like the picture on the cover of this memoir. (In real life, he’s also gotten into some hot water lately.) But I guess selling trillions of books makes you look like Kevin Costner. I expected Patterson to have a booming movie-trailer voice, but instead it’s just regular and squawky. The early chapters in this collection of quick bites can be annoying. The way he describes working at a mental institution — both James Taylor and Susanna Kaysen (Girl Interrupted) were patients — can feel flip. But before I knew it, Patterson was ingratiating himself in my life. He hooked me when he called Jeffrey Epstein a “piece of human garbage.” (Patterson co-authored a 2016 book about his Palm Beach “neighbor” Epstein, which became a Netflix documentary.) He also dreams about getting nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize only to arrive in Stockholm and discover it is a great big joke. He wishes that Hollywood would make a decent movie or TV show out of one of his properties. And while he knows it’s great that he’s the best-selling writer in the world, a lifetime of reading great literature suggests it’s also “sad” that that’s the case. A specific quibble: I wish Patterson’s reading recommendations throughout were as diverse as the many series on his bibliography.

$22

Read by: Rosie Perez
Length: 10 hours, 43 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.85

Ronnie Spector, the lead singer of the Ronettes and ex-wife of notorious music producer Phil Spector, had recently finished revising her 1990 memoir when she died in January. So actress Rosie Perez stepped in to read the audiobook, and, go figure: She’s a total dream. It helps that there are amazing details in this book, from the first time Ronnie saw a dead body to her tendency, in her later years with Phil, to get drunk, alone, on sweet Manischewitz wine. But Perez’s emotion toward Ronnie feels so genuine, whether when she breaks out giggling at a particularly amusing moment in Ronnie’s life or starts sniffling during a more tragic turn. If nothing else, it’s worth it to hear Perez pronounce that “Phil Spectah” happened to have “had a great tush.”

$26

Read by: The author
Length: 10 hours, 50 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.9x

Did Kenny Loggins release this book to coincide with Top Gun: Maverick, or did Top Gun: Maverick come out to capitalize on the success of Kenny Loggins’s memoir? It’s a head-scratcher. Loggins famously recorded “Danger Zone,” from the first Top Gun film. In this book, he says he channeled Tina Turner when he sang it, which is just one of the fascinating facts I learned here, knowing next to nothing about the singer-songwriter prior to listening. He wrote “House at Pooh Corner” when he was 17, perhaps foreshadowing his marriage to his colonic hygienist in 1992. They were going to have a naked wedding, but it ended up being too cold outside. Loggins has an affable, chatty demeanor that provides a nice complement to Perez as Ronnie Spector. Definitely stay for his great story about becoming pals with John Travolta and shortly thereafter ending their friendship.

$16

Read by: Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Length: 10 hours, 48 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.75x

I got through about two hours of this audiobook and decided that it could wait. Being the latest Oprah’s Book Club selection, I knew it’d certainly get enough attention whether I included it or not. But something pulled me back to Nightcrawling, and at that point, frankly, I couldn’t turn it off. It was suddenly riveting, heartbreaking, and wise beyond its years. (Leila Mottley started writing the book at 16 and finished it at 20.) Joniece Abbott-Pratt’s performance as Kiara, a teenager just trying to survive in East Oakland who turns to selling her body on the streets, is spellbinding. Sometimes books don’t always hit you at the right moment, but this is one of those that stays with you for a long time.

May Picks

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 10 hours, 55 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.9x

This is a crazy honest book. Since it was published in 2013, I’ve read Song of Spider-Man twice. Now it’s being released for the first time on audio. Berger gives his raw, personal account of his time writing the script with Julie Taymor of the epically troubled musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The play, which closed in January 2014, may be Broadway ancient history, but this memoir still cuts to the bone, partly because Berger is so candid about the artistic process behind the runaway-train production. There’s so much insecurity, so much backstabbing, so much back-channeling, I’m almost surprised that Hulu hasn’t adapted it into a docudrama.

$27
Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hours, 30 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.3x

I crow a lot about David Sedaris audiobooks, but that’s because the category was pretty much built for him. These essays, some performed in front of an audience, made me laugh — and laugh loudly while waiting for the Q train on 57th Street. People stared. In this collection, Sedaris talks a bit more circumspectly about his father, who died in 2021, than he has in the past, and his observations about his marriage with Hugh are funnier than ever. Sedaris spent a lot of time on the Upper East Side during the pandemic. He bought one apartment, he writes, and then another one upstairs to have some alone time. (His sister Amy did the same thing downtown, but so she could get a break from her pet rabbit.) Now that I know he might be in the neighborhood, I’m keeping an eye out for him with the hope that one day we can go shopping together at Comme des Garçons.

Meant to Be, by Emily Giffin
$16
$16
Photo: Publisher

Read by: Caroline Hewitt and Robert Petkoff
Length: 11 hours, 31 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.9x

Years ago, when I plowed through Jennifer Weiner’s oeuvre on audio, that led to me to start on the Emily Giffin catalogue. They both write what might be considered elevated women’s fiction. This month, I decided to skip Weiner’s latest, The Summer Place (even if it is read by Sutton Foster) and go for Giffin’s instead. Meant to Be is a loose retelling of a relationship like JFK Jr.’s and Carolyn Bessette. Joe Kingsley III, a political scion and lawyer, meets Cate Cooper, a fledgling supermodel, on the beach in Southampton. Are they meant for each other? Check out the title and give it a guess. Hewitt and Petkoff narrate alternating chapters more than pleasantly. They make the book go down like a pitcher of frosé. I especially enjoyed Hewitt’s frosty take on Cate’s South African fashion-model roommate.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 6 hours, 48 minutes
Speed I listened: 2x

COVID-19 has reaped a truly unbelievable onslaught of celebrity memoirs, and I low-key don’t hate it. In this book of essays, Driver admits her manager asked what she wanted to do to make some money during the Hollywood shutdown. She chose to write a memoir. On audio, she’s very likable company, especially when she talks about the tumult of dating Matt Damon (whom she met on Good Will Hunting) and exquisitely pronounces phrases in a variety of foreign tongues. Driver makes you believe she actually knows what the word “Proustian” means. Stay for the end when the author Emma Forrest — you should read or listen to Your Voice in My Headinterviews Driver. It’s a surprisingly perceptive conversation that includes one of my favorite topics: mistrusting celebrities who don’t read books.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 8 hours, 10 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.8x

Liu may now be recognized worldwide as Marvel’s Shang-Chi, but he’s also an unlikely star who worked as an accountant until he decided he needed to pursue acting. He started with being an extra on Pacific Rim and actually enjoyed it. That led to more jobs as extras, some pop-up flash mobs, and, eventually, the Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience. Liu is surprisingly tough on his Chinese immigrant parents who gave him a hard time about some of his choices, though he also, quite touchingly, interviewed them extensively for this memoir. Like the MCU hero he plays onscreen, Liu is totally endearing, whether he’s recalling the high-school boy band he started or how much he loves boba tea. And he really loves boba tea.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 10 hours, 55 minutes
Speed I listened: 1.9x

I get that the title of this memoir is a reference to Dirty Dancing. Baby, a.k.a. Jennifer Grey, won’t be put in the corner ever again, but I especially responded to a moment where Grey uses the term “legend lasagna.” She’s describing the cast of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club, which is filled with just “layer upon layer of geniuses.” Why didn’t Grey take a big swing and call this book Legend Lasagna? That’s just a marvelous expression that transcends pasta and celebrity. I was never a huge fan of Dirty Dancing or the Catskills, but there’s something dazzling about Grey’s candor, not to mention her congenial narration. We get great digressions about Matthew Broderick, Johnny Depp, and a terrible appearance on Johnny Carson. Things only get sappy in the end, once she wins Dancing With the Stars. And, yes, I know no publisher would approve Legend Lasagna by Jennifer Grey, though maybe if this one does well, she’ll write a cookbook.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 7 hours, 2 minutes
Speed I listened: 2.1x

Gilbert was the lead child star of Little House on the Prairie and also appeared, more recently, as an adult star of a Little House on the Prairie musical. In one of those life-imitating-art switcheroos, Gilbert and her husband, the actor and director Timothy Busfield, bought a house in the Catskills for slightly less than $90,000, or basically “beer money for George Clooney.” They spent the pandemic there simplifying their life. I found it all very grounding, but maybe because I listened as I watched coverage of the Met Ball. Though Gilbert relies on way too many puns about raising chickens, I want to throw my support around anyone who has a chapter in her book called “Meshuggah from Michigan” and willingly describes stuffing-flavored potato chips she found at Trader Joe’s as “life-changing.” They don’t serve stuffing-flavored potato chips at the Met Ball, do they?

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The author
Length: 9 hours, 43 minutes
Speed I listened: 2.5x

Of all the celebrity memoirs I listened to this month, this one’s the toughest and most intense. Miss Memory Lane by Colton Haynes is a close second and somehow even more unsettling. That’s a feat for Haynes because Blair, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, categorically goes there on some tough issues: her strained relationship with her mother; her even more complicated relationship with her basically estranged father; at least one sexual assault; her troubles with alcohol since childhood; and how her son, Arthur, was, like her, a “mean baby.” There are moments of inspiration and hope, but Blair seems to audibly break down at least once per chapter. I’ve listened to a lot of celebrity memoirs, and I can’t remember a narrator crying so much. But that’s what makes it real. Make sure you stick around for the acknowledgments. Blair’s thank-yous to a lengthy list of celebrity friends is a real trip.

Photo: Publisher

Read by: The authors
Length: 8 hours, 26 minutes
Speed I listened: 2.2x

I liked the U.S. version of The Office — I really did. Do I like it enough to listen to Office Ladies, a podcast on which co-stars Fischer and Kinsey talk through old episodes of The Office? No. In fact, I didn’t even know said podcast existed. Am I going to start listening to it now? Nope. But it’s a delight to spend a few hours with these actors as they discuss their early careers and the ups and downs of their friendship. Their banter is occasionally interrupted by, say, Ed Helms playing the banjo or Creed Bratton singing a bizarre theme song. There’s a service element, too. Fischer and Kinsey give impeccable advice on attending awards shows and red-carpet events: Always eat before you go. Go to the bathroom with a buddy. And, when trying to meet people like Meryl Streep, use “the lap-around-the-room laughing approach.”

10 Great Audiobooks to Listen to This Month