Hope you had a nice weekend.
I’m mixing it up this week. Inspired by the premiere of Amazon’s adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & The Six — one of my all-time favorite audiobooks — I’m highlighting three more fabulous recordings of books.
Like previous audiobook editions, I’m sure these stories are just as good in printed form, but I think they shine in audio.
Have you listened to anything good lately? Let me know!
And, now, what to read if …
You Want Something Meta
Thank You For Listening by Julia Whelan
If there was ever a book to enjoy on audio, it’s Julia Whelan’s Thank You For Listening, a romance and the adult version of coming-of-age story set in the world of audiobook narration. Whelan, an award-winning narrator, brings her own words to life in the recording and offers a peek into her niche community.
As the book opens, Sewanee Chester, a one-time rising star in Hollywood, is now a top audiobook narrator. She performs heavy, weighty books and eschews romance, claiming its promise of a Happy Ever After is a lie. But, when she gets offered a huge amount of money to record one last romance novel — with wildly popular male narrator Brock McKnight — she begrudgingly accepts, knowing the payout will allow her to fund her deteriorating grandma’s medical care. While recording alternating chapters and trading emails, Sewanee and Brock develop a surprising connection that’s tested as secrets arise.
Thank You For Listening is a love letter to the romance genre — the characters sweetly mock the tropey situations they land in — and the joy of listening to audiobooks. I was especially impressed by Whelan’s ability to incorporate multiple plotlines. While the main plot focuses on Sewanee and Brock’s relationship, there are also well-developed threads on her connections with her family and best friend, her career and her attempts to overcome her past. All this makes Sewanee feel like a real, complex person.
You’re Ready to Root for a Character
How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz
Cara Romera, the star of How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water, is the type of character who stays with you long after you finish the book. She’s a deeply flawed yet loveable human. An immigrant from the Dominican Republic now living in New York in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Cara thought she’d spend the rest of her life working at a factory making little lamps. But when the factory shuts down, she’s unemployed and in a job counseling program instead.
Over the course of 12 sessions with the counselor, Cara recounts her life in stories — fleeing her home country after her husband attempted to kill her, a strained relationship with her sister and son, the care she provides her elderly neighbor and the advice she’s getting from Alicia the Psychic, who may or may not a con artist. Cara is often hilarious, even as her anecdotes highlight sharp and sometimes distressing truths about her life — and the promise of the American dream.
The audiobook of How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water, complete with special effects, is a real treat. Narrator Rossmery Almonte imbues such emotion to Cara’s monologues that it feels more like listening to a one-woman play than an audiobook. I’ll have Cara’s voice — and Almonte’s — in my head for a while.
Bonus rec: My pal @LupitaReads wrote a beautiful essay about the novel and her relationship with her own mom.
You Ask Yourself ‘How Did I Get Here’?
The Crane Wife by C.J. Hauser
Yes, that is a Talking Heads reference, but it’s also a succinct description of C.J. Hauser’s essay collection, The Crane Wife. The book explores Hauser’s attempt to reconcile the life they have with the one they envisioned.
Hauser, a novelist, first earned attention for their nonfiction with a viral essay, also titled “The Crane Wife” published in 2019 in The Paris Review. It’s an essay documenting Hauser’s time on a scientific expedition studying whooping cranes after calling off their engagement that I’ve thought about dozens of times since reading, but I was nervous that sustaining that quality over a full collection was an impossible task. Turns out, I could not have been more wrong. Each installment is fantastic, combining memoir, pop culture criticism and sharp, distinct writing into pieces that are simultaneously literary and accessible.
Hauser narrates the audiobook, making it feel like your smartest, funniest friend is regaling you with stories over drinks. An essay about — ostensibly — John Belushi’s grave brought me to tears, while a reminiscence over their grandfather’s “Wizard of Oz” obsession delivered laughs. Vulnerable, funny and entertaining, The Crane Wife offers deeply felt emotions and acute observations.
And, one last mini recommendation for you. If “Daisy Jones” has you craving more books about celebrity, fame and scandal, the audiobook of Laura Hankin’s The Daydreams, about a reunion of an early 2000s teen drama will feature a full cast. Laura is a friend, but even if she weren’t, I’d be raving about The Daydreams. It’s juicy, fun and thought provoking. Give future you a present by pre-ordering it.
Thanks, as always for reading. Have a great day!
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CJ Hauser's "The Crane Wife" essay has absolutely stuck with me, too. So looking forward to hearing more from them in the memoir!
Rob Sheffield's (Audible-only) audiobook, The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks is *fabulous* if anyone wants to dig deeper after Daisy Jones and the Six!