The Best Audiobooks of 2017 (a subjective list)

The editors of AudioFile Magazine have released their selections for Best Audiobooks of 2017. AudioFile is a publication that reviews and recommends audiobooks, taking into account all the things that make an audiobook enjoyable: a great story, of course, but also the skillful pacing, structure, and narration that make them worth listening to.  (Full disclosure: I am a reviewer for AudioFile, mainly for romance books, and I have received free audiobooks from them to provide honest reviews). I have perused the dozens of audiobooks selected as “best”, and winnowed them down to three favorites in six categories, click on the titles to read more about each one. Consider this a jumping off point, audiophiles!

GENERAL FICTION

  • Beartown by Frederik Backman, read by Marin Ireland.
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, read by Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Rutina Wesley, Chris Chalk.
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, read by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris and George Saunders, with a full cast that includes Carrie Brownstein, Don Cheadle, Kat Dennings, Lena Dunham, Bill Hader, Miranda July, Mary Karr, Keegan-Michael Key, Julianne Moore, Megan Mullally, Mike O’Brien, Susan Sarandon, Ben Stiller, Jeffrey Tambor, Jeff Tweedy, Bradley Whitford, Patrick Wilson, and Rainn Wilson.

MYSTERY & SUSPENSE

SCI-FI, FANTASY, HORROR

ROMANCE

YA FICTION

MEMOIR

Our staff’s favorite books of 2017

What was the best book you read in 2017? This is the question I posed to my fellow staff members at CPL. Interestingly, I got no duplicate answers! We have a wide variety of reading preferences among our staff, which means there’s something for everyone in this list. Maybe your next great read is below:

Our Library Director Ramona  picked the audiobook edition of  News of the World by Paulette Jiles, read by Grover Gardner. In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction.

Teen Librarian Kelley really liked Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire. In this urban fantasy, Jenna, who died  too soon, works to regain the years that were lost to her. But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

Bill is our Head of Adult Services, and he picked the Bruce Springsteen autobiography Born to Run as his favorite read of 2017. In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s half-time show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it, which is how this extraordinary autobiography began. Springsteen traces his life from his childhood in a Catholic New Jersey family and the musical experiences that prompted his career to the rise of the E Street Band and the stories behind some of his most famous songs.

Children’s Librarian Lauren went with The Sun is Also a Star, a young adult novel by Nicola Yoon.  In this story Natasha, whose family is hours away from being deported, and Daniel, a first generation Korean American on his way to a prestigious college admissions interview, cross paths in New York. They unexpectedly fall in love during an intense day in the city.

 

More books our staff loved last year:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas,  Winter of the Gods by Jordanna Max Brodsky, Evicted by Matthew Desmond, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Illusion Town by Jayne Castle,  The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead, Border Child by Michael Stone, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas, The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman, Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Three Pen Names, One Romance Author

Did you know Jayne Ann Krentz , the author of numerous of New York Times bestsellers, uses three different pen names?

As Jayne Ann Krentz (her married name) she writes contemporary romantic-suspense.

When All the Girls Have Gone
When Charlotte Sawyer is unable to contact her step-sister, Jocelyn, to tell her that one her closest friends was found dead, she discovers that Jocelyn has vanished. In a desperate effort to find her, Charlotte joins forces with Max Cutler, a struggling PI who recently moved to Seattle after his previous career as a criminal profiler went down in flames–literally.

She uses Amanda Quick for her novels of historical romantic-suspense.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much
In 1930’s Hollywood, rookie reporter Irene Glasson (who found her previous employer murdered) discovers the body of an actress at the bottom of a California hotel pool. She investigates and finds herself drawn to Oliver Ward, a former magician. As the mystery deepens and more women die by drowning, Irene struggles to keep her own past a secret while she and Oliver hunt for the killer.

Jayne Castle (her birth name) is reserved for her stories of futuristic/paranormal romantic-suspense.

Illusion Town
Hannah West isn’t the first woman to wake up in Illusion Town married to a man she barely knows, but she has no memory of the ceremony at all. For that matter, neither does Elias Coopersmith, her new husband. All either of them can remember is that they were on the run. The coolly competent mining heir arouses her curiosity and interest. And even her dust bunny likes him! Set on the planet of Harmony in the future.

“I am often asked why I use a variety of pen names,” Krentz says.  “The answer is that this way readers always know which of my three worlds they will be entering when they pick up one of my books.”

Krentz’s three worlds often intermingle. Her Arcane Society series, books about men and women with paranormal power, spans all three of her worlds. Second Sight, written under the Amanda Quick pen name,  takes place in Victorian England at a time when the very old, very secret Arcane Society is about to run head-first into the 20th century. Flash forward to Jayne Ann Krentz’s White Lies, a tale of the Arcane Society in the 21st century. And then jump all the way to Jayne Castle’s Midnight Crystal, an Arcane society novel that takes place on the planet Harmony in the future. Characters from the novels that take place in the past are often referenced in the modern-day stories and the futuristic tales.

Not all her novels involve the paranormal. Many of her contemporary romance novels are stories of suspense in which the main characters must unravel a mystery that usually involves tracking down a killer.  Secret Sisters, River Road and Trust No One are three recently published works that fall into this category.

 

The library owns many of Krentz’s titles. if you enjoy romance and love romantic suspense and the paranormal, then any of Krentz’s three worlds will delight you.

Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride

Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley is a funny and interesting biographical graphic novel about Lucy’s relationship with her boyfriend, John, and their wedding. This book takes you through how they met in college, moved in together, broke up, dated other people for three years, then abruptly became engaged.

Then, it takes you through a year of a DIY wedding. DIY: decorations (ALL the decorations), music playlist, ties for the men in the wedding party, photo booth, personalized gifts for every single guest, personalized gifts for everyone in the wedding party, and the list goes on. What they could not do themselves they worked out as cheaply as possible: a wedding dress that was on sale (it had pockets!), a backyard barn built for the occasion, and a friend of the family to cater everything.

There is also plenty of wedding stress. Lucy’s mother had her own list of guests to invite that mostly consisted of people who were strangers to Lucy and John, and it was longer than Lucy and John’s list of guests. The mother-of-the-bride also kept insisting on other things such as hiring a wedding planner without consulting the bride and groom, changing the size of the intended barn which forced the couple to remove guests from their invitation list, a band instead of their DIY playlist, and her badly-behaved dog walking down the aisle at the wedding. As Lucy and John worked through all of this stress, Lucy also reflected on what weddings used to be, what they have become, what marrying a man means for her bisexuality, and what she wants most in a marriage.

Genre: Non-fiction graphic novel

Setting: Most of the story takes place in modern-day Chicago and New York state.

Number of pages: 291

Is this good for a book club? Yes, if the club is willing to read a graphic novel. This book contains a lot of good discussion material about an important cultural milestone. It is also very quick to read, despite the number of pages.

Themes: The history of weddings, the modern wedding industry’s influence on what people think weddings are supposed to be (and what they are supposed to cost), how weddings can negatively impact people who are not heterosexual, what it means to have a good marriage, different types of relationships, and how wedding stress can bring out the worst in people.

Objectionable content: Suggestive themes, sexuality, and alcohol.

Can children read this? Teenagers would enjoy this.

Who would like this? Anyone who is preparing for their own wedding, preparing for someone else’s wedding, has gone through a wedding, thinks weddings are overrated, thinks weddings are wonderful, or enjoys examining the wedding industry.

Rating: Five stars

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Classic Read: The Ladies of Missalonghi

ladies2I recently revisited an old favorite, a  short novel set in Australia in the early 1900’s. The Ladies of Missalonghi, a tale by Australian author Colleen McCullough, has a rather dismal start. Missy Wright, a thirty-three year old spinster, lives in the town of Byron with her widowed mother and crippled aunt. The three women scrape along in genteel poverty, the victims of manipulative and greedy richer relatives. Their days are always the same: meager meals, chores, and the endless handicrafts that they create to fill the empty hours.

Missy, who believes her lack of beauty and lack of money have doomed her to never marry, has one escape from the dreariness of her life. She borrows novels from the local lending library and imagines the most spectacular adventures in her mind. The librarian, a distant relation named Una, is bright and vivacious and very interested in Missy, who is generally considered a non-entity by her other relatives.

Slowly, as Missy interacts with Una, she begins to change. She stops letting local shopkeepers push her around. She stands up against a rude and condescending cousin. She takes walks alone in the bush, experiencing the beauty of her natural environment, an experience that has always been denied her in the interest of keeping her “safe”.

Missy’s evolution is an unconventional fairy tale. No one rescues her; she saves herself. Una is an example for Missy to follow rather than a fairy godmother who grants requests. There is a prince of sorts–John Smith, a mysterious newcomer to the town of Byron who is not searching for a princess but running from his past.

This short tale can be read in one sitting. Through-out the story, I kept  wondering if Missy’s newfound strength would backfire. Could she possibly stand up to an entire town, not to mention a tradition of systematic discrimination against the poor widows and spinsters in her family? Would those richer relations turn and crush her? Would her mother and aunt, who are so steeped in family tradition, even support her in her quest for freedom? There were a few surprises before I discovered the answers to these questions.

This light yet lovely tale is enjoyable.  A recommended read for those who like light romance with descriptive settings.