AudioFile Magazine’s Best Nonfiction and Culture Audiobooks 2017
For anyone that’s ever listened to a podcast, you’ll know that nonfiction is a great genre to get between your ears. For everyone else, trust us: nonfiction is the best genre to try when starting out with audiobooks.
What makes this genre so great? Like a documentary series, nonfiction audiobooks are easily broken up into manageable chunks to listen to. Plus, if you’re worried that nonfiction is too dry, the addition of an audiobook narrator can really help. From history to memoir and even instructions for the Danish concept of cosiness, the AudioFile list of Best Nonfiction and Culture Audiobooks for 2017 takes in many of the greatest audiobooks of this year.
Caesar’s Last Breath by Sam Kean, read by Ben Sullivan:
It’s invisible. It’s ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell. In Caesar’s Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it.
Whether it’s the twisted story of laughing gas, with its permutations as a hallucinogen and an anesthetic, or the horrible use of chlorine gas in WWI, there’s always a human angle linked to gases. Even listeners who get nothing from the mathematics of molecules will be fascinated by the history recounted and the people who lived it.
Listening Books members can download and stream this audiobook here.
Draft No. 4 by John McPhee, read by the author:
Draft No. 4 is an elucidation of the writer’s craft by a master practitioner. McPhee offers a definitive guide to the crucial decisions regarding structure, diction, and tone that shape nonfiction pieces and presents extracts from some of his best-loved work, subjecting them to wry scrutiny. The result is a vivid depiction of the writing process, from reporting to drafting to revising – and revising, and revising.
Celebrated author John McPhee narrates this long-awaited audiobook of essays on writing nonfiction with his characteristic precise language and keen observations reflected in his delivery. He can sound by turns like a grandfather doling out advice or a scold impugning fashion and fancy in the world of nonfiction.
Finish by Jon Acuff, read by the author:
According to studies, 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. You’ve practically got a better shot at getting into Juilliard to become a ballerina than you do at finishing your goals. If you’re tired of being a chronic starter and want to become a consistent finisher, you have two options: You can continue to beat yourself up and try harder, since this time that will work. Or you can give yourself the gift of done.
In his lively and encouraging narration, Acuff now explains why finishing is even harder than starting and describes how to overcome the obstacles to accomplishing one’s goals. Acuff’s arguments about the perils of perfectionism and other commentary on why we don’t finish what we start are credible.
I Can’t Breathe by Matt Taibbi, read by Dominic Hoffman:
A work of riveting literary journalism that explores the roots and repercussions of the infamous killing of Eric Garner by the New York City police—from the bestselling author of The Divide.
Narrator Dominic Hoffman’s gravelly timbre and tough tone are an ideal fit for this outstanding piece of journalism. There is a lot of dialogue here–a testament to Taibbi’s outstanding reporting–and Hoffman expertly characterizes New York and African-American speech without slipping into caricature.
Letters To A Young Writer by Colum McCann, read by the author:
A paean to the power of language, both by argument and by example, Letters to a Young Writer is fierce and honest in its testament to the bruises delivered by writing as both a profession and a calling. It charges aspiring writers to learn the rules and even break them.
Although McCann is fast becoming one of the most respected novelists of our time, he reads and writes with humility, charm, and earnest good intention. He brings the affability of a reader who does not focus on acting as a profession, and the end result is something akin to a fireside conversation with a favorite uncle.
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The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, read by the author:
You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right. Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge?
You’ll finally know how to pronounce “hygge” after listening to this audiobook–and you might find yourself wanting to invite author Meik Wiking over for some mulled wine.
Listening Books members can download and stream The Little Book of Hygge here.
The Meaning of Michelle by Veronica Chambers [Ed.], read by January LaVoy, Prentice Onayemi:
Michelle Obama is unlike any other First Lady in American History. From her first moments on the public stage, she has challenged traditional American notions about what it means to be beautiful, to be strong, to be fashion-conscious, to be healthy, to be First Mom, to be a caretaker and hostess, and to be partner to the most powerful man in the world. What is remarkable is that, at 52, she is just getting started.
In many essays, refreshing humor adds a lighthearted touch while others consider Michelle’s more serious legacy to the country. As they deliver this inspiring, diverse look at the well-loved, much admired former first lady, the two gifted narrators make this fascinating collection a must-listen.
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Option B by Sheryl Sandbery & Adam Grant, read by Elisa Donovan:
Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart – and her journal – to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere…and to rediscover joy.
The heartfelt wisdom in this audio, along with Donovan’s sensitive performance, make it a high-impact listen for people suffering from all manner of loss and trauma.
Listening Books members can download and stream Option B here.
Own It by Sallie Krawcheck, read by Ellen Archer and the author:
Weren’t women supposed to have “arrived”? Perhaps with the nation’s first female president, equal pay on the horizon, true diversity in the workplace to come thereafter? Or at least the end of “fat shaming” and “locker room talk”? Well, we aren’t quite there yet. But does that mean that progress for women in business has come to a screeching halt? It’s true that the old rules didn’t get us as far as we hoped. But we can go the distance, and we can close the gaps that still exist. We just need a new way.
It’s a compelling first-person discussion, not just because of the author’s experience at major investment firms but also because of narrator Ellen Archer’s performance. She perfectly captures the author’s skill, confidence, and accessibility.
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The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search For Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone, read by the author:
Armed with her unique brand of self-deprecating wit and the scientific method, in each chapter Paula tries out a different get-happy hypothesis. She gets in shape with tae kwon do, drives fast behind the wheel of a Lamborghini, and communes with nature while camping with her daughter. Swing dancing? Meditation? Volunteering? Does any of it bring her happiness? And, more important, can the happiness last when she returns to the daily demands of her chaotic life? The results are irreverent, laugh-out-loud funny, and pointedly relevant to our times.
Along with scientific-sounding evaluations and analyses comes the wisdom, laced with her canny observations and sparkling wit, and delivered in her trademark deadpan tone. Thank you, Paula, for going through all that tedious research. I feel much happier after listening.
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Word by Word by Kory Stamper, read by the author:
Do you have strong feelings about the word “irregardless”? Have you ever tried to define the word “is”? Brimming with intelligence and personality, this vastly entertaining account of how dictionaries are made is a must-read for word mavens.
Showing wry, self-mocking humor, she cheerfully discusses her lack of social skills and which letters of the alphabet have the most words. She’s a “real-world” person who pragmatically takes on definitions relating to sex and profanity. If it’s in the dictionary, Stamper’s interested–and interesting. Her thoughts on topics such as the many ways the word “running” is used in English are entertaining and informative.
Listening Books members can download or stream Word by Word here.
Want some more Best Audiobooks of 2017 lists? Check out the AudioFile Ezine for all their picks!
What are your favourite nonfiction and culture audiobooks? Let us know in the comments!
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