Although I don’t always have time to read, I am always listening to an audiobook. (Sometimes more than one). They are great background to literally anything. I used to listen to them on my commute most of all, and figured I’d stop as we’ve largely ditched commutes for the past year. However, turns out I just found more excuses to listen to audiobooks: cooking, working out, walking…
I also find it’s a nice way to keep reading, even if I’m not literally sitting down with a book. So here are some of the books I’ve been listening to recently.
(The only audiobooks I ever properly listened to on tape were the Harry Potter series by Stephen Fry, which just makes me feel old, actually…)
Currently listening to:
Jade City – Fonda Lee
Narrated by: Andrew Kishino
Synopsis: Jade is the lifeblood of the city of Janloon – a stone that enhances a warrior’s natural strength and speed. Jade is mined, traded, stolen and killed for, controlled by the ruthless No Peak and Mountain families. When a modern drug emerges that allows anyone – even foreigners – to wield jade, simmering tension between the two families erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all in the families, from their grandest patriarch to even the lowliest runner on the streets.
This is quite a long audiobook, over 17 hours long, but I’ve got a lot of travelling time recently perfect for it. I still have a way to go – 13 hours of listening left – but I am enjoying it greatly so far, and look forward to the next chunk of time that I can listen!
The story involves a large amount of worldbuilding, setting up both the world and the characters, which admittedly can be a bit much in audio, sometimes. However the writing intersperses this really nicely with introducing and developing characters, and this variety of players in the plot is definitely the part I’m enjoying most so far. I feel like the sense of build-up is more effective in audio.
The narrator is excellent, too. He reads the story with gravity, and the pronunciations of names (Jade City is loosely inspired by a Hong Kong setting), is very helpful. (When I first read ‘Janloon’ I almost died – please don’t pronounce it like that.)
Kololo Hill – Neema Shah
Narrated by: Aysha Kala
Synopsis: Uganda 1972: A devastating decree is issued: all Ugandan Asians must leave the country in ninety days. They must take only what they can carry, give up their money and never return. For Asha and Pran, married a matter of months, it means abandoning the family business that Pran has worked so hard to save. For his mother, Jaya, it means saying goodbye to the house that has been her home for decades. But violence is escalating in Kampala, and people are disappearing. Will they all make it to safety in Britain and will they be given refuge if they do? And all the while, a terrible secret about the expulsion hangs over them, threatening to tear the family apart.
I haven’t read a book set in this specific time period before, but it’s one I’m familiar with and so I was eager to read this book. I have not listened to that much, but the story switches between three different POVs to chart the full story of this harrowing time. The narration is excellent, fully imbuing the story with the desperation and longing that the characters have of being forced to leave their home
This is a story about displacement and home, and broad themes like that are, I think, particularly suited for an audiobook. As this novel also aims to educate the reader or listener a little about this historical moment, it also fits the medium very well, as listening sometimes feels akin to a podcast where you aim to learn, and are not necessarily there for a plot.
Recently listened to:
She Who Became the Sun – Shelley Parker-Chan
Narrated by: Natalie Naudus
Synopsis: In a famine-stricken village on a dusty plain, a seer shows two children their fates. For a family’s eighth-born son, there’s greatness. For the second daughter, nothing. In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule. And when a bandit raid wipes out their home, the two children must somehow survive. Zhu Chongba despairs and gives in. But the girl resolves to overcome her destiny. So she takes her dead brother’s identity and begins her journey.
I read this recently, but I listened to about half and it’s narrated so well, absolutely captivating, that I had to rec it here. (I feel like this is the kind of book I could listen to all over again and not be bored). I already reviewed this book here, so I won’t delve too much into the plot, except to say that I really relished the unravelling mysteries when being told via audiobook.
Listening rather than reading this book also allows you better familiarity with the Mandarin names of characters and places, if you are unfamiliar. I feel like this is a point I make a lot with regards to audiobooks, but I think it does emphasise better the author’s intention of place setting.
No One is Talking About This – Patricia Lockwood
Narrated by: Kristen Sieh
Synopsis: A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence overwhelmed by the internet – or what she terms ‘the portal’. Are we in hell? the people of the portal ask themselves. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die? Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: ‘Something has gone wrong,’ and ‘How soon can you get here?’ As real life and its stakes collide with the increasing absurdity of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.
I have a full review of this book here. I wasn’t a huge fan, to be honest, as I found it went a little bit all over the place, even if it did have some interesting and impactful things to say. The narration of the book is great, filled with emotion, but I think, owing to the choppy structure of the novel, that this is one best read. It’s quite short, and as there is no continuous narrative for the first half, it’s very easy to tune out for a few seconds and completely lose track of the story. I often had to rewind to pick up where I was.
Unless you are great at concentrating, I wouldn’t recommend the audiobook over the book.
The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu
Narrated by: Luke Daniels
Synopsis: 1967 – Ye Wenjie witnesses Red Guards beat her father to death during China’s Cultural Revolution. This singular event will shape not only the rest of her life but also the future of mankind. Four decades later, Beijing police ask nanotech engineer Wang Miao to infiltrate a secretive cabal of scientists after a spate of inexplicable suicides. Wang’s investigation will lead him to a mysterious online game and immerse him in a virtual world ruled by the intractable and unpredictable interaction of its three suns. This is the Three-Body Problem and it is the key to everything.
I mentioned this book a little here, and I stand by what I said. This is a very intense audiobook, comprised of two different timelines that converge together really well for an enticing storyline. The first part of the book is set during China’s cultural revolution, and it follows Ye Wenjie as she watches the death of her father at the hands of Red Guards her own age, to her work at a secret research centre. We frequently return to this story to explain the weirdness~ in the present timeline.
The story is what I’d consider a ‘hard’ sci-fi book, i.e. probably not for if you don’t read a lot of SF&F, not only because it involves aliens, but because the large amount of science in here was almost overwhelming. It can be confusing at first, but it’s broken down into digestible chunks and works well in the context of the story. This book reminded my why physics is such an interesting subject, and now I know all about the three-body problem – a real-life concept, although irl it has no solution as it does in the book. This book was also very long, so I will wait a while to continue the series.
Somehow I ended up listening to the US version of this book, so that’s the narrator I’m talking about here, but I enjoyed it a lot. He differentiates well between characters without needing to make female voices shrill, and sounds the right mix of engaged and reporting that I think you need with an SF book.
I’ve listened to a couple more audiobooks recently, but I have talked about them already and so I kept this short. The next ones on my list are some nonfiction books I think!
What audiobooks have you listened to recently? Do you have any recs for me?