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You Need an Audiobook for Your Summer Road Trip
Want a new take on a fairy tale, want to laugh (and think) or are ready for the “Pretty Little Liars” reboot
My great-grandmother always said that summer was over after the 4th of July. I don't agree with her, but I did realize we're just about halfway through our Summer Reading Bingo Challenge.
Congrats to the two people who have already completed and submitted their cards. You're way ahead of me! If you need help finding a book for one of the prompts — or just want a personal book rec — I'll be hosting a discussion thread next Friday. Bring me your book-related conundrums, and I'll try to solve them.
I've heard from a bunch of you looking for audiobook recommendations before you head out on summer road trips, so I've decided to focus this week's suggestions on some of my favorite books to listen to. (A quick reminder that if you purchase audiobooks through Libro.fm, your purchase will support independent bookstores.) I'm sure they're all good as book-books too, if audiobooks aren't your thing.
And, now, what to read (or listen to) if …
You’re Looking for a Modern Fairy Tale
With The Dutch House, Ann Patchett has written a modern American take on the fairy tale. Her novel includes a missing mother, an evil stepmother and even a castle, the Dutch House the book is named for.
Years before siblings Maeve and Danny were born, their father purchased an enormous home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Despite the home's size — or perhaps because of it — the siblings’ mother finds the house suffocating and flees to do charity work in India. The children are raised by their cook and housekeeper until their absent father, Conroy, remarries. When Conroy dies suddenly, their new step-mother banishes teenage Danny from the home and he moves in with Maeve, who has just graduated from college.
The expulsion from their much-loved home becomes the defining moment of Maeve and Danny’s lives. They’re unable to move on — literally, they spend hours sitting in Maeve’s car staring at the Dutch House. More than a story of obsession though, The Dutch House is a love story between the two siblings, who bring out both the best and worse in each other. Like all Patchett's works, this novel is a moving, beautifully written book that will make you want to call all the people you love.
In its review of the novel NPR said, “Ann Patchett may well be the most beloved book person in America.” The audiobook of The Dutch House is narrated by another beloved American: Tom Hanks. The superstar adds an extra layer of emotion to Patchett's stellar writing.
You're Excited for the "Pretty Little Liars" Reboot
HBO's reboot of "Pretty Little Liars," a show based on Sara Shepard's YA series of the same name, premieres July 28. The original TV show, which ran on Freeform for seven years, was absolutely bonkers, in the best way. It focused on a group of four teenage girls terrorized by a mysterious figure, known as A, who threatens to expose their secrets. I'm not planning on watching the reboot, but I will likely succumb and binge the whole thing at some point.
I Killed Zoe Spanos, a YA thriller, gave me "Pretty Little Liars" vibes. It's a retelling of the gothic classic Rebecca with a contemporary true-crime twist. The book's protagonist Anna Cicconi is looking forward to a summer nannying for a wealthy family in the Hamptons. But instead, everywhere she goes, people whisper about how much she looks like Zoe Spanos, the town's golden girl who disappeared on New Year's Eve. When Zoe's body is found, Anna confesses to manslaughter, but a teen podcaster finds holes in her admission and sets out to find the truth.
The audiobook features a full cast and is an immersive experience, complete with podcast episodes, news clips and more. Frick takes the creepy, claustrophobic feel of Rebecca and expertly applies it to the wealthy world of New York's elite. The true-crime podcast elements strengthens the sense of mystery — we know someone is lying but we're not sure who.
You Want a Book that is Equal Parts Hilarious and Insightful
With You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey, sisters Lacey Lamar and Amber Ruffin have done the seemingly impossible — written a funny book about racism.
Lamar is "the perfect mix of polite, beautiful, petite, and Black that apparently makes people think 'I can say whatever I want to this woman.'" She's been mistaken for Whoopi Goldberg and Harriet Tubman. Strangers put their hands in her hair. Once, when sitting in a car with a white male friend, police assumed she was a prostitute. Lamar shares these experiences in regular phone calls with her sister, the comedian Amber Ruffin. You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey is a recounting of some of the anecdotes they've collected over the years.
It's admittedly weird to call a book about racism funny, but You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey has some laugh-out-loud moments. The sisters use humor as a coping mechanism but don't hold back when discussing how bigotry has harmed them. It makes for a reading experience that's both thought-provoking and amusing.
Ruffin writes in the introduction that she hopes white readers will "maybe walk away with a different point of view of what it's like to be a Black American in the twenty-first century." That was certainly my experience.
Lamar and Ruffin narrate the audiobook, and it feels more like eavesdropping on one of their phone calls. The affection they feel for each other shines through the recording. An excellent listen for comedy fans and all Americans.
That’s it for me today. Thanks, as always, for opening your inbox to me and my recs. If none of these audiobooks are quite what you’re looking for, you can check out my last audiobook round up here. I also want to share this roundup of great summer reads from Learning Curve Letters.
I’ll be back on Thursday with a Q&A featuring Bianca Marais, author and podcaster extraordinaire.
*I received a complimentary copy of You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey from Libro.fm in exchange for an honest review.
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