I have been in a pretty major blogging slump for the last few months, and the number of books I have read but neglected to review is frankly embarrassing. To close that gap a little bit, I’d like to share mini reviews of some of the fantastic audiobooks I’ve listened to lately!
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Publisher: The Penguin Press | Blackhouse Audio
Pages / Hours: 292 pages | 10 hours, 1 minute
When the body of Lydia Lee, the favorite daughter of a mixed race couple in 1970s Ohio, is discovered at the bottom of the local lake, her already fractured family is shaken to its core. Long-buried secrets rise to the surface and hidden tensions are revealed as her parents and two siblings grapple with the tragedy.
Written in beautiful prose, Everything I Never Told You is an intimate portrait of all the things that go unsaid within a family, from racial tensions, impossible expectations, to pressure to succeed in particular ways.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
Narrator: Aziz Ansari
Publisher: The Penguin Press | Penguin Audio
Pages / Hours: 277 pages | 6 hours, 14 minutes
Aziz Ansari has incorporated romance into his comedy for years, but in Modern Romance, he teams up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg to take an analytical approach to dating in the age of Tinder. Narrated with Ansari’s trademark humor, this book looks at how dating and marriage have changed in the past 50 years, the experiences of modern daters, and the romantic cultures of different cities around the world.
Funny, informative, and thought-provoking, this was an oddly comforting book to read in the wake of my breakup a few months ago.
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Narrator: Kimberly Farr
Publisher: Vintage | Random House Audio
Pages / Hours: 528 pages | 16 hours, 50 minutes
When advertising copywriter Frances Garety scribbls the phrase “A diamond is forever” on a slip of paper in 1947, she has no idea the slogan will change the way Americans think about diamond engagement rings. The Engagements tells Frances’ fascinating story, as well as the tales of four couples whose lives are linked by a single ring: Evelyn is struggling to accept her low-life son’s divorce; James can’t live up to the expectations of his wife’s family; Delphine takes revenge on her unfaithful fiance by destroying the things he loves the most; and Kate, happily partnered but vehemently anti-marriage, helps her cousin prepare for his wedding.
With compelling details and vibrant characters, The Engagements explores the history of the diamond engagement ring and the complexities of romantic relationships.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Narrator: Carolyn McKormick
Publisher: FSG | Blackhouse Audio
Pages / Hours: 195 pages | 6 hours
For decades, Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world by a nearly impenetrable border. The first exhibition sent to explore reported a landscape completely reclaimed by nature; the second exhibition committed suicide; and the members of the third exhibition turned on each other. Now, the Southern Reach has assembled a twelfth expedition team, made up of a biologist, a psychologist, an anthropologist, and a surveyor. Narrated by the biologist, Annihilation takes readers (and listeners) through a mysterious land complete with dangerous creatures and unreliable characters.
Annihilation is intriguing and suspenseful, but too little is resolved in the end for it to be satisfying. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering it’s the first book in a trilogy, but after listening to (and being entirely bored with) more than half of the second book, Authority, I gave up on the series.
Circling the Sun by Paula McLane
Narrator: Katharine McEwan
Publisher: Ballantine Books | Random House Audio
Pages / Hours: 384 pages | 12 hours, 16 minutes
Growing up in colonial Kenya, Beryl Markham has a rather unusual childhood. She fearlessly rides the racehorses her father trains, plays with the native Kipsigis children, and rebels against her governess’ attempts to turn her into a proper young lady. But when everything falls apart, she is forced to grow up too quickly and enters a disastrous marriage — the first of many doomed relationships. Struggling to retain her independence and sense of self, she makes a name for herself as a racehorse trainer and falls in with a decadent crowd of European expats, including Karen Blixen (author of Out of Africa) and Denys Finch Hatton, who helps her realize her desire to become a pilot.
Glamorous, spirited, and heartbreaking, Circling the Sun is a stunning portrait of a trailblazing woman and the colorful expat community of 1920s Kenya.