Favourite Fiction: Audiobook Recommendations
It’s the final day of our book recommendations, and we’ve saved the best for last with six sensational stories to listen to! From crime to dystopian speculative fiction to humour, whatever you’re looking for, we’ve got an audiobook for you.
1. The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith. Read by Robert Glenister.
This book got a lot of publicity a few years ago when it was revealed that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for probably one of the most recognisable authors in the world – J. K. Rowling. However, it had already received rave reviews before this, and for good reason. The Cuckoo’s Calling is the first in Rowling’s decidedly adult crime series featuring the detective Cormoran Strike, a wounded Afghan veteran with a prosthetic leg now working as a private investigator. It concerns the world-famous supermodel, Lula Landry, who appears to have fallen to her death from her flat in London, but her brother is convinced it’s murder and hires Strike to investigate. Along with Robin Ellacott, his new temporary assistant, Strike digs into Landry’s life and discovers some of the more unsavoury aspects of the celebrity life. Robert Glenister’s narration is very good, and he uses accents very well to embody all the characters. With the BBC filming an adaptation of the book right now, it’s the ideal time to listen!
The Cuckoo’s Calling is available for Listening Books members on MP3 CD, book number 11850.
2. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood. Read by Joanna David.
Although first published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale is getting a lot of interest at the moment because of the American TV adaptation that’s currently airing on Channel 4. Despite being over thirty-years-old, however, it still feels timely. It is set in a dystopian future, where a fanatical religious group called the Sons of Jacob have taken over America and re-named it The Republic of Gilead. Since pollution and sexually transmitted infections have caused the birth rate to plummet, fertile women, or handmaids, are forced into surrogacy for the highest ranking men in Gilead society. Offred, the first person narrator, tries to survive as a handmaid for The Commander, one of the highest ranking officials in Gilead. Joanna David’s narration is simple and clear, which makes Atwood’s writing much more chilling. One of my favourite books and audiobooks.
The Handmaid’s Tale is available for Listening Books members to download and stream.
3. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman. Read by Christopher Oxford/full cast.
Okay, so this one is sort of cheating. There are actually three books in the full His Dark Materials trilogy – Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, but you can’t really experience the full power of the story without listening to all three. Northern Lights begins in a parallel world in which a part of the soul is manifested as a daemon, an animal spirit that can talk to you, but is still a part of you. Lyra Belacqua, the main character, overhears a discussion about ‘dust’ and sees a parallel world through the northern lights. The three books follow her adventures as she, and her daemon Pantalaimon, travel across the Earth and to many parallel worlds. Although I first read these books as a child, I think they are suitable for everyone, and with the follow-up The Book of Dust being released later this year, it’s a perfect time to start or re-listen!
The full His Dark Materials trilogy are available for Listening Books members on MP3 CD, book numbers: Northern Lights – 08529, The Subtle Knife – 08542 and The Amber Spyglass – 08558. They are also available as a BBC dramatisation to download and stream.
4. Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch. Read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.
PC Peter Grant is about to be sent to the paperwork division of the London Metropolitan Police, when he accidentally ends up speaking to a ghost at the scene of a murder in Covent Garden. This is how he comes to find out about the branch of the Met that deals with magic, and Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. This book is a wonderful romp, with well-drawn characters and a seriously creepy villain that takes over London. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is one of the best audiobook narrators I have come across, and seems able to do every accent the book asks of him with ease. This audiobook is a great mix of gritty London crime and Doctor Who.
Rivers of London is available for Listening Books members on MP3 CD, book number 12679.
5. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt. Read by David Pittu.
Not only did this book win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014, it was also nominated for an Audie Audiobook award in 2013. Theo Decker is thirteen-years-old when he goes to an art gallery with his mother and everything changes, and it is difficult to say any more without spoiling half the joy of the book, which is being swept along with the plot! Donna Tartt handpicked David Pittu as the narrator, and he does a wonderful job in voicing all of the characters, from embodying Theo’s complex emotional trauma to the perfect accent for Boris, a Ukrainian boy Theo meets and befriends at school. This may be a bit of a monster audiobook (32 ½ hours to be precise), but it is a wonderful story, and totally worth every minute.
The Goldfinch is available for Listening Books members on MP3 CD, book number 12133.
6. The Hogfather – Terry Pratchett. Read by Nigel Planer.
As any Terry Pratchett fan will know, despite being the twentieth book in this fantasy setting, The Hogfather is one of the easiest ways to start with the Discworld novels. It is set on the Discworld equivalent of Christmas, Hogswatch, but the jolly old man, the Hogfather, has gone missing. The governess Susan sets out to find him, along with the Death of rats, and the God of Hangovers. Unfortunately, her grandfather, Death himself, is not making anything better by trying to take over the role of the Hogfather. This audiobook is very funny, added to by Nigel Planer’s excellent voice work, particularly with the Death of rats. If you haven’t read any Terry Pratchett before, but you like Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, or Eoin Colfer, you’ll probably enjoy this. It’s probably at its best during the festive season, but just as good all year round.
The Hogfather is available for Listening Books members to download and stream.
And if you’d like to know more about Rivers of London author Ben Aaronovitch, why not head over to our interview with him. You’ll find out all about his writing process, the book’s narrator Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, and a little about Doctor Who too!
This post was written by Abigail Jaggers