Best au­dio­books we’re lis­ten­ing to right now

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Pastimes - BY SUSIE WILDE Correspondent Susie Wilde is a Chapel Hill-based writer. Reach her at ig­nit­ing­writ­ing.com.

“An Amer­i­can Mar­riage,” Ta­yari Jones, nar­rated by Sean Cris­den and Eisa Davis (High­bridge Au­dio)

Pow­er­ful nar­ra­tions by Eisa Davis and Sean Cris­den por­tray the dra­matic life sit­u­a­tions and re­sponses of three pro­tag­o­nists. Davis gives the view of Ce­les­tial, a cre­ative, in­de­pen­dent woman who is strongly will­ful and pas­sion­ate about her hus­band. Cris­den pri­mar­ily por­trays Roy, Ce­les­tial’s hus­band, who, af­ter just one year of their mar­riage is un­justly ac­cused of rape and sen­tenced to 12 years in prison. Anger, re­sent- ment, re­grets, con­fu­sion, hurt, and grat­i­tude form a po­tent emo­tional mix. The book was cho­sen by Oprah Win­frey as the first mem­ber of her 2018 book club.

“Be­com­ing,” Michelle Obama, read by the au­thor (Ran­dom House Au­dio)

Hon­esty and even­ness char­ac­ter­ize the for­mer first lady’s text and read­ing. Obama writes of all phases of her be­com­ing— from her mother’s sup­port in ele­men­tary school, the understanding of racial di­vides in col­lege, meld­ing her “check­ing-the-boxes” at­ti­tude with her hus­band’s messy, time-dis­or­dered, vi­sion­ary way of life, and main­tain­ing bal­ance as FLOTUS. Each phase is marked with can­dor, warmth and wit.

“Be­long­ing,” Nora Krug, read by the au­thor (Si­mon & Schus­ter Au­dio)

Nora Krug’s nar­ra­tion adds to the graphic novel in which she re­counted her jour­ney to un­der­stand be­long­ing. “How do you know who you are, when you don’t un­der­stand where you come from?” she asks. Though Krug rec­og­nizes that for Ger­mans, “his­tory was in our blood and shame in our genes,” she coura­geously em­barks on piec­ing to­gether her fam­ily’s in­volve­ment with the Nazis. Her Ger­man ac­cent in­creases au­then­tic­ity.

“Circe,” Made­line Miller, Perdita Weeks (Ha­chette Au­dio)

Perdita Weeks brings

about the en­chanted merger of clas­sic and con­tem­po­rary in the tale of the mythic sor­cer­ess, Circe. She evokes the emo­tions and world of the daugh­ter of He­lios, the Greek sun god, and his wife, Perse. Circe suf­fers taunts from her sib­lings about her weak pow­ers, ugly voice and ap­pear­ance. Weeks fully em­bod­ies Circe, record­ing the small mo­ments of her child-like sen­si­tiv­ity and kind­ness, her awe of other gods, her lonely ex­pul­sion which grows her power and strength.

“Ed­u­cated,” Tara Westover, read by Ju­lia Whe­lan (Ran­dom House Au­dio)

Westover’s mem­oir cel­e­brates her re­silience and de­sire to learn. In my re­view last year, I wrote that the un­com­mon com­bi­na­tion of dis­tance and sub­dued emo­tion of both writer and reader gives lis­ten­ers an un­usual ex­pe­ri­en­tial van­tage point. It is the lis­tener who feels gut-wrenched at painful mo­ments and soaring hope in brighter times.

“The Li­brary Book,” Su­san Or­lean (Si­mon and Schus­ter Au­dio)

Su­san Or­lean leads lis­ten­ers on an amaz­ing jour­ney, with her en­gag­ing de­tours and strong cen­tral sub­ject, this time about the 1986 fire at the Los An­ge­les’ Cen­tral Li­brary. Or­lean delves into so many sub­jects – how li- brar­i­ans load books, their car­ing for pa­trons way be­yond their genre choices, en­sur­ing im­mi­grants’ needs are met and in­ter­view­ing the fam­ily of the mys­te­ri­ous Harry Peak, the ar­son sus­pect, and her own his­tory with li­braries and books.

“To Die But Once,” by Jac­que­line Win­spear; read by Or­lagh Cas­sidy (Harper Au­dio)

In this 14th Maisie Dobbs mys­tery, Cas­sidy ex­presses a wide range of emo­tions and a rich va­ri­ety of ac­cents, and Win­spear’s writ­ing stays fresh. The English psy­chol­o­gist-sleuth is in­ves­ti­gat­ing in 1940’s Bri­tain, giv­ing a per­sonal view of the hor­rors of Dunkirk, se­cret Bri­tish con­tracts re­lated to the war ef­fort and fi­nally, the adop­tion of an or­phaned evac­uee child who needs a mother as much as Maisie needs her.

“An Amer­i­can Mar­riage” is an Oprah book club pick.

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