Listen up: Audiobooks to lose yourself in

Top audiobooks include an insightful memoir, stream-of-consciousness essays, a thrilling mystery, and the sequel to “Olive Kitteridge.”

Courtesy of HighBridge Audio

Our picks for audiobooks include titles that invite contemplation, entertain with humor, excite with fast-paced action, and let you visit again with a favorite character.  

“In the Country of Women” by Susan Straight
Read by Donna Postel; HighBridge Audio; 10 hours and 49 minutes

Author Susan Straight begins her memoir by lamenting the fact that women are never given the hero’s journey – are never the subject of epic tales. She then details her ancestors’ life journeys, which have all eventually influenced her own discoveries and wanderings and creations. A standout among the growing mountain of audiobook memoirs, her story is entertaining, honest, humorous, insightful, and difficult to turn off. Narrator Donna Postel sounds both authoritative and friendly. She’s able to capture the warmth and appreciation Straight brings to a story that is part history lesson, part cultural observation, and part personal rumination on her multicultural and diverse family. Grade: A-

“Little Weirds” by Jenny Slate
Read by the author; Hachette Audio; 4 hours and 19 minutes

Courtesy of Hachette Audio

“Weird” is an apt description for Jenny Slate’s collection of essays, though it can also be described as imaginative, revelatory, insightful, and delightful. Slate’s stream-of-consciousness meditations cover a wide range of subjects, including her days as a “fast bad baby,” restaurant trips, dating, sexuality, family, Valentine’s Day, ghosts, and pets. Her topics are mundane, but her writing is poetic. As a successful comedian and screenwriter, she has a great sense of timing, and her high-pitched voice and fast delivery enhance this odd but enjoyable production. This collection is best heard one essay at a time, as her contemplative words should be savored. Grade: A-

“The Siberian Dilemma” by Martin Cruz Smith
Read by Jeremy Bobb; Simon & Schuster Audio; 6 hours and 7 minutes

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Audio

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been following Martin Cruz Smith’s “Arkady Renko” detective series, because this installment – set in Russia and packed with action – stands alone. Renko is on the case of a missing journalist, and this time, it’s personal, because she’s also his girlfriend. Though the plot is gripping, the story lacks the finesse of Smith’s earlier novels; the ending is only mediocre and the pacing is subpar. Narrator Jeremy Bobb has a deep voice and a controlled, even meter. He easily changes his timbre for different characters, and his Eastern European accents sound authentic. Grade: B+ 

“Olive, Again” by Elizabeth Strout
Read by Kimberly Farr; Random House Audio; 12 hours and 14 minutes

Courtesy of Random House Audio

Fans of “Olive Kitteridge” may be somewhat disappointed in these 13 loosely connected sequel tales about Elizabeth Strout’s famous character, Olive, and the people whose lives she touches. While the stories pick up where the original left off and the writing remains intimate and expressive, “Olive, Again” is full of sadness and carries an undercurrent of bitterness that destroys the goodwill and hope found in the original. The collection is also full of jarring political jabs. Narrator Kimberly Farr, however, is delightful, giving each character his or her own voice – especially Olive, whose prickly demeanor and forthrightness can be heard in every utterance. Grade: B-

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