Audio books have improved my life times 1,000. They make boring or annoying tasks go by in the blink of an eye. Now, when I’m riding the exercise bike or swiping on mascara, I’m also reading at the same time. Such luxury! If you’re not on the audio book train yet, you need to get on board!
Without further ado, here are some audio books I’ve had in my ears recently. I’ve got a memoir about overcoming anxiety, a gay rom-com that will make you die of cuteness, and a dual timeline historical fiction with dashes of romance and mystery.
Okay Fine Whatever by Courtenay Hameister
Who knew anxiety could be so funny? Okay, Fine, Whatever is my feel-good memoir of the year. Hameister’s chronicle of her efforts to be brave, try new things, and push her own boundaries makes for a life-affirming reading experience, and going with the audio version is a no-brainer since she’s spent most of her career in public radio. A big chunk of the book is spent on Hameister’s misadventures in sex and dating, so be warned if polyamory and sex clubs are too eyebrow-raising for you, but I really enjoyed reading about a single woman in her forties with no children living a full and rich life, navigating her career and circle of friends. It made me think about how rarely women that age are featured at all, especially outside the context of marriage and parenting. And as a gal with anxiety demons of her own, I related super hard and was rooting for her all the way.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
It’s a good thing it’s not possible to die of cuteness, because if it were, this book would have put me in grave danger. The setup, like with many romantic comedies, is a little tortured--Simon has been exchanging anonymous emails with another guy in his grade at school. They each know the other is gay, but neither of them is out yet, which is why they don’t use their real names or identifying details in their notes to each other. One day another student inadvertently finds out about Simon’s secret pen pal and decides to blackmail him. I couldn’t believe how suspenseful this book was! As Simon was going to class, rehearsing for the school play, hanging out with his friends, and rolling his eyes at his overzealous parents, all I could think about was WHO his mystery guy was going to turn out to be. Beyond that, though, there’s complicated friendships, supportive siblings, imperfect but loving parents, and it all felt very realistic to me, including Simon himself, who is a great kid but far from a paragon of virtue. Now excuse me while I go watch the movie Love, Simon over and over for the rest of my life.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Alternating timelines can be hard to follow in audio, but I took the risk on this one and I’m so glad I did. I always have a big backlog of print books I want to read, so if there’s a book I’m really anticipating I can get to it so much faster in audio. Next Year in Havana is about Marisol, a journalist, who grew up hearing tales of her grandmother Elisa’s life in Cuba before the revolution forced their family into exile in Miami. Now Elisa has died and Marisol is on her way to Cuba to scatter her grandmother’s ashes and set foot for the first time on the land that shaped her family’s destiny. Along the way, she meets her grandmother’s closest friends, learns about Cuba’s complicated history, falls into an unexpected romance, and discovers some long-buried secrets of her grandmother’s. In between Marisol’s chapters, we go back in time to hear Elisa’s story firsthand. The transitions are seamless because there are two different voice actors playing grandmother and granddaughter, so you don’t need to worry about losing track of whose chapter you’re on. It’s rare to find historical fiction that makes you feel like you’ve truly traveled to a different time, with characters that are so real you can’t help but empathize with them, and Chanel Cleeton has done both beautifully here. I was enthralled.