With extended time at home, you would think you’d have more time to read. But there’s no denying that it’s been extremely hard to focus these days. If you can’t force your brain to read, why not try listening to a great book? We love audiobooks and this list is a great mix of fiction, non-fiction and memoirs. (Even better, the memoirs are all narrated by their authors, adding a new depth to the experience.) We’ve “read” so many fantastic books, but these ones really stayed with us both for the writing and the narration.
Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming
If you are a 90s kid, you probably know Alan Cumming from the movie Spice World. If you are a theatre fan, you may know him as the wonderfully eccentric “Emcee” in Cabaret. While it does have some of Cumming’s signature wit, Not My Father’s Son is also a stunning and heartbreaking tale of his traumatic childhood and complicated relationship with his father.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
This novel follows a pair of siblings — Danny and his older sister Maeve — as they grow up midcentury outside Philadelphia. A stunning story set over the course of five decades, Patchett’s latest is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. As an added and delightful bonus, it’s narrated by Tom Hanks.
Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxane Gay
In addition to discussions of weight and size, Gay describes how a violent sexual assault in her childhood shaped her view of her body and how she lives her life. Gay takes us on a journey from her early childhood, through her experiences at boarding school, and into her adulthood. All of Gay’s books are amazing, but this one is our favourite by far.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
This debut novel explores race and privilege, the meaning of family and the complicated reality of being an adult, all in a smart, fresh and well-written package. It’s a definite must-listen.
Feeding My Mother by Jann Arden
In addition to being one of Canada’s greatest singer-songwriters, Jann Arden is a talented writer (and actor, and painter, but who’s counting.) Arden lost both of her parents within a few years of each other. Her father lived with dementia before his death, and her mother passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. Arden uses her signature blend of humour and poignancy to tell the story of caring for her mother through her final years. As with everything Jann Arden touches, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll come away a better person.
Talking to Strangers by Malcom Gladwell
You may know Gladwell as the host of the podcast Revisionist History, but he’s also the author of the hit Outliers and now, Talking to Strangers. In this book, Gladwell offers us a powerful examination of our interactions with strangers and why they often go wrong. According to Gladwell, something is very wrong with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.
Yes, My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You by Kunal Nayyar
If you aren’t expecting much more than a fluff piece by an actor from The Big Bang Theory you’ll be pleasantly surprised by both the quality of the writing and the stories Nayyar had to tell. Nayyar gives us a peek into his childhood in India, his life as an actor, and his marriage to his lovely wife. While some parts are serious (whose life is entirely a laugh riot?), much of the book is treated with fantastic humour.
Can’t Take It Back by Kelly Duran
This charming debut is a great listen for anyone who loves the interconnected stories of women and their relationships. Told over the course of a kindergarten school year, Can’t Take It Back examines marriage, divorce and motherhood in a captivating, deeply emotional way while celebrating the complex bond of female friendships.
How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
If you are not following Saeed Jones on Twitter, you need to open a new browser and do so right now. Are you back? Okay, let’s discuss this masterpiece of a book. With skill and nuance, Jones discusses his relationships with his family, his journey into academia (and from there the writing world), and his experiences and identity as a gay, Black man finding his place in the world. Some of Jones’s stories will break your heart, and others will make you snort-laugh. Everything about this book (and its author) is exceptional.
Murdered Midas by Charlotte Grey
Biographer and historian Charlotte Gray explores the life of Sir Harry Oakes, gold mining tycoon, philanthropist and “richest man in the Empire,” and brings fresh eyes to the long cold case. Murdered Midas is the story of the man behind the newspaper headlines, who, despite his wealth and position, was never able to have justice. Sound intriguing? It is.
This captivating book is the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement. Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power – and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook the culture.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
At first glance, you may not recognize Chanel Miller by name, but you have heard all about her. You may know her better as Emily Doe, the woman who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner. Turner deserves no more of our attention – but Miller’s discussion of the assault, the trial, and her experiences before, during, and after are worthy of a listen. Miller’s story is important, and we owe it to her to hear it.
Where Am I Now? By Mara Wilson
“Matilda” is all grown up – and she is pithy as hell. Fans of former child star Mara Wilson of Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Miracle on 34th Street fame, will love hearing the behind the scenes stories of these beloved movies and their beloved stars like Robin Williams and Danny DeVito. Although those parts were fun, perhaps even more compelling are Wilson’s accounts of the loss of her mother as she was gaining fame as a child, and of her experiences with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Even if you never knew her as an actress, if you or anyone in your life is affected by OCD, this book is a must-read (or even better, a must-listen.)
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
As a comedian and host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah is used to tackling tough subjects using humour. His book is no different. As a biracial child growing up during the apartheid in South Africa, Noah’s very existence was considered “controversial.” Noah tells childhood stories that will have you crying tears of laughter, sorrow, and rage. Of all the books on this list, this one is the most important to listen to instead of read. Noah’s words alone are stunning, but his brilliant delivery of them makes this the book one you’ll be glad to have experienced as an audiobook.
Thistle tells his story of a childhood rocked by abuse, neglect, and substance use. Surviving racism, poverty, the criminal system, addiction, and homelessness, Thistle managed to rise above and eventually thrive. This is his incredible story.
Narrowing this list down was painstaking. If there are others you’d add to the list, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear what you’re listening to.