I love reading, but it can be difficult to sit down for longer than 30 minutes to stop and sink into a book. For those who burn through podcasts, who find themselves in a constant state of transit – be it in the car or walking to your next appointment – audiobooks are a godsend. First of all, I don't agree with the purists who would believe audiobooks don't count as reading. They're just different. And with Spotify announcing that its Premium members have access to 15 free hours of listening to its recent influx of over 150,000 books, there's no better time to press play.
So wherever you listen, here are 10 of the best audiobooks to drop in 2023 so far.
I'm Glad My Mum Died, Jennette McCurdy
There's something extra special about memoirs narrated by their authors. This is certainly a strength of Jennette McCurdy's harrowing tale about becoming a child star, and the abuse she suffered through her mother's influence and policing. Here, McCurdy opens up about her eating disorder, recovery, addiction, and acting, with clear-eyed candor and dark humour.
Romantic Comedy, Curtis Sittenfeld
A light-hearted story about a successful TV comedy writer who observes all the average but interesting men around her coupling up with accomplished, beautiful women. Built on the premise that this would never happen in reverse, this is tested when Sally crosses paths with pop idol Noah, who has a reputation for dating models. Would he ever date her? That remains to be seen.
Tom Lake, Ann Patchett
Too often we fail to see our parents as people. In Tom Lake, Ann Patchett masterfully reconstructs these dynamics between Lara, a former actor turned cherry farmer, and her three daughters. While stuck at their family orchard in Northern Michigan during the pandemic, the daughters prod their mother about a famous actor she once worked with and dated while harvesting cherries. Tom Lake is my favourite audiobook of 2023 so far, not least because it's narrated by Meryl Streep.
Not to harp on, but here's another example of a memoir delivered straight from the horse's mouth. Our favourite kind. In Pageboy, the actor pens an open letter to seeing and being seen. Told through a series of stories, Page shares his experience being forced to perform the young starlet trope to the public, while discussing the freedom that comes with disentangling ourselves from the expectations of others, and the joy in embracing his queer, trans self.
I Have Some Questions For You, Rebecca Makkai
Rebecca Makkai crafts a whodunit for fans of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, while simultaneously unpicking our obsession with true crime. I Have Some Questions For You follows Bodie Kane, a successful film professor and podcaster who is content to forget the troubles of her past; namely, the murder of her former roommate, Thalia Keith, during her time at a New Hampshire boarding school. But when that same school invites Bodie back to teach a course, she is sucked into the mystery of that murder in the 90s, and begins to suspect the real killer may have gotten away with murder.
Fire Rush, Jacqueline Crooks
Shortlisted for the 2023 Women's Prize for Fiction, Crooks' debut heaves with rolling lyricism and musicality. Set in 70s London, Yamaye along with her friends Asase and Rumer live for the weekend, descending into club, The Crypt, to smoke, drink in the dub music and sway to its rhythms. When Yamaye meets Moose, the potential of their future together dangles enticingly before the pair. But all is cut short by a sudden tragedy. This sets Yamaye on a path, first to Brixton, where she's drawn into a criminal underworld, and later to Jamaica.
Doppelganger, Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein, the anti-capitalist environmentalist author that gave us No Logo, The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything narrates her latest book, Doppelganger. Across 14 hours, the author talks us through being mistaken for another high profile Naomi, whose harmful views meant people were sending Klein regular death threats. This becomes a springboard to delve into our current world where identity is warped and misconstrued by deep fakes and far-right trolls. Klein digests the chaos of our moment and feeds it back to us in warm and eloquent conclusions.
The Creative Act, Rick Rubin
Rick Rubin imparts all the wisdom on creativity he's accumulated during four decades as a music producer. Known for nurturing artists across a range of various genres, Rubin has a reputation for recognising potential and drawing the best out of people. The Creative Act demystifies this process in the hope that we too can be creatively fulfilled.
The Fraud, Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith returns with her first work of historical fiction, underscoring her willingness to branch out when it comes to her novels. The Fraud takes shape around a real life Victorian court case, the Tichborne trial. It follows a Wagga Wagga butcher's attempt at claiming a title and fortune, and the reactions to the case by the English upper and lower classes. Told through the eyes of Eliza Touchet, who is both housekeeper, part time lover and cousin-in-law to novelist, William Ainsworth, The Fraud has Smith's rhythms and dexterous intellect all over it, plus it's delicious smutty in parts. And read by the author herself, what a treat!
Yellowface, R.F Kuang
June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to succeed together. They both attended Yale at the same time, and had their publishing debut in the same year. However, Athena is now a cross-genre literary darling and June didn't even get a paperback release. "Nobody wants stories about basic white girls," June tells herself. But when Athena dies in a freak accident, June steals her just-finished masterpiece and submits it to her agent as her own work. When her publisher rebrands June as ethnically ambiguous, she goes along with the whole farce, willing to hold onto this newfound success whatever the cost.