My deep dive into audiobooks in 2018 and newly found appreciation for this format has continued ever since. I am still listening to recorded books almost on a daily basis during my commute to work. Besides obvious benefits like the pleasure of reading, I can strongly recommend this as a daily routine, whether this is to get energized and sharpen your mind in the morning or to clear your head and relax after work. Below are the collected short reviews of all my “reads” in recent months in chronological order, most of which were already posted on social media throughout the year. As you can see, the list is heavy on fantasy novels. While I return to Neil Gaiman frequently, my highlights during the past year were two trilogies: I immensely enjoyed listening to His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I hope some of the titles below might inspire you to pick up an (audio)book, too, and immerse yourself in a great story!
“What we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: enter at your own risk. We need to find out what fiction is, what it means, to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else’s experience of the story.”Neil Gaiman, Introduction to “Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances”
Startdust – Neil Gaiman
Another wonderful fantasy novel (and audiobook narration) by Neil Gaiman! If you haven’t touched his books yet, this would be a good one to start with – along with Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book and The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
Robin’s Sloan style in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore was sometimes a bit too casual for my taste, but I still very much liked the story, in particular for its bookish setting and the involvement of (digital) libraries as a major part of the plot. Ari Fliakos does a great job as the narrator of the audiobook.
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
If you like fantasy, try Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass). I recently listened to all three audiobooks which are perfectly narrated by the author and a full cast. The fascinating story, its beautiful varying settings and characters kept me captivated for more than 30 hours!
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
The Magicians books (The Magicians, The Magician King, The Magician’s Land) are a fascinating – and at times quite gritty – take on magic in a real world setting. The underlying story takes some time to unfold, but I absolutely enjoyed the trilogy from beginning to end. Mark Bramhall as the narrator is a perfect fit for the books. The TV series based on the novels is also worth watching!
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances – Neil Gaiman
I rarely read short stories, but will always make an exception for those of Neil Gaiman whose work I admire. The compiled stories in this collection all share Neil’s brilliant writing and are wonderfully inventive. Most of them include some kind of uncanny element, several times connected to an unexpected twist in the story. I enjoyed the entire collection, but if I had to pick one favorite, it would be “The Sleeper and the Spindle”. This story combines the classic fairytales of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, but does this in surprising ways by playing with the reader’s expectations and even introducing an element of horror.
What I love about Neil Gaiman apart from his fiction is how much he self-reflects on his profession, his work and those of the writers that have influenced him. He is sharing a lot of this in the introduction including background information to all stories appearing in the book (I recommend revisiting this part after you have finished the collection). As always, it is a pleasure to listen to him performing his own text.
Odd and the Frost Giants – Neil Gaiman
A charming little tale for readers of all ages of a young Viking boy encountering three prominent Norse gods in need of help. No previous knowledge is required to follow the story, but having recently listened to Neil’s take on Norse Mythology definitely added to my enjoyment of Odd and the Frost Giants.
The Testaments – Margaret Atwood
The Testaments is a worthy sequel of The Handmaid’s Tale, providing more insights into life and power structures in Gilead. I really liked the dramaturgic development of the story that slowly weaves together three personal narratives into one overarching plot. This is transferred really well into the audiobook with three different narrators that fit perfectly in with their roles. I am really curious now to take a look at the TV series!