10 More of the Best Audiobooks of 2018 (So Far)

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10 More of the Best Audiobooks of 2018 (So Far)

From a comedian tackling police brutality to a teen undertaking a journey with her half-magical, half-dragon best friend, the best audiobooks of the year (so far) run the gamut. While each selection delivers a unique experience, many of them share an element of radical empathy for the suffering of the marginalized and abused—an empathy made stronger through affecting narrative performances. All of us slogging through 2018 could use more radical empathy, so listen on!

The 10 audiobooks below, listed in order by run-time, promise hours of entertainment. And if you’re looking for even more recommendations, check out our first list of 2018’s best audiobooks.

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how not to get shot.jpg 1. How Not to Get Shot: And Other Advice from White People by D. L. Hughley with Doug Moe

Narrator: D. L. Hughley

Run time: 3 hours and 42 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

It makes sense that a stand-up comedian would tackle anti-black racism and police brutality in modern America as economically as D.L. Hughley does here. But every righteous section in this brief book is so efficiently scathing that it’s still a constant surprise. Coming from the world of stand-up, Hughley’s performative timing is perfect, but it’s his dry sarcasm that hits hardest. The audience for this cathartically rude (but not offensive) book is obviously—if tragically—limited to those already in his corner. For everyone there, however, the rude catharsis Hughley offers is sharp and real.

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barracoon.jpg 2. Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston

Narrator: Robin Miles

Run time: 3 hours and 49 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

Zora Neale Hurston is remembered as a novelist, but she was just as dedicated to documenting real experiences. Barracoon collects her interviews with Cudjo Lewis, one of the last known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade, whom she spent months interviewing at his home in Plateau, Alabama. His story, documented by Hurston in Lewis’ specific vernacular, is performed here by audiobook great Robin Miles, who not only nails the accents but strikes the exact balance between the warmth in Hurston’s internal narration and the conversational eccentricities of her spoken conversations with Lewis. A new Zora Neale Hurston book is something that by definition never happens, so don’t sleep on this necessary, entertaining listen.

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marcus vega audiobook.jpg 3. Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya

Narrator: Pablo Cartaya

Run time: 4 hours and 35 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

Pablo Cartaya reads his own middle grade story of a six-foot-tall eighth grader visiting his paternal family in Puerto Rico with an affectless tone that might start off sounding flat. But listeners will soon realize this is a façade covering the depth of feeling Marcus Vega hides, which his size and his need to protect his younger brother, Charlie, make him afraid to reveal. While Marcus may not speak Spanish, his family in Puerto Rico does, and Cartaya differentiates between their various Puerto Rican burrs and accents—and Marcus’ white mom’s flat mainlander accent—with flair. His portrayal of Charlie, who has Down Syndrome and speaks in a way that is challenging for their Puerto Rican family to understand, is also executed with consistency and care.

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maeve.jpg 4. Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else by Maeve Higgins

Narrator: Maeve Higgins

Run time: 6 hours and 10 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

Following Maeve Higgins’ hybrid narrative/interview podcast of the same name, Maeve in America is a true delight. In recounting her experience of being a (safely white) immigrant in America in 2018, it also offers a useful reorientation of perspective on what it means to be American now. That said, she’s still a comedian writing a memoir, so not all of the essays dig into capital “I” Issues. And those that don’t—including the clip below of her horrifying experience swimming with dolphins—are just as good. What makes this book worth getting in audio, though, is that with Higgins acting as her own narrator, you hear her narrate her funny, challenging, thoughtful essays in her native Irish brogue. And what American doesn’t love a good Irish brogue?

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parker posey.jpg 5. You’re on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir by Parker Posey

Narrator: Parker Posey

Run time: 7 hours and 53 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

If the quality of audiobooks was something one could gamble on, self-narrated memoirs—especially celebrity memoirs—would be a safe bet. This is especially true of Parker Posey’s “Self-Mythologizing Me-moir,” You’re on an Airplane, in which the character actor frames her personal narrative as a series of barely connected ramblings told directly to you, her seatmate/captive audience, on a plane ride. The conceit works fine in print, but in audio, with Posey confidently pouring her story straight into your ears, you become the trapped seatmate. That her anecdotes are funny and good-naturedly self-aware helps, of course, but it’s the charmingly odd delivery that makes this audiobook such a gem.

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there there.jpg 6. There, There by Tommy Orange

Narrators: Darrell Dennis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Alma Cuervo, Kyla Garcia

Run time: 8 hours

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

Tommy Orange’s debut, a multi-generational story centered on the Big Oakland Powwow, is a novel built by weaving—of narrative, of experience, of pain, of love, of family. So it only makes sense that the audiobook would do some weaving of its own by employing multiple narrators to take on the telling of the story of Jacqui Red Feather, Dene Oxedene, Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield and nine other voices in the scattered group’s urban Oakland orbit. All four narrators infuse Orange’s prose with the poetry it inherently contains, but none go overboard into caricature. The characters’ voices flow from the speakers like they are the real, urban Native Americans Orange has written them to be. You might want to have a print copy of the book to re-read parts when you finish listening, but to miss out on the audio would be a real loss.

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not that bad.jpg 7. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay

Narrators: Roxane Gay, Gabrielle Union, Ally Sheedy, Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, Claire Schwartz, Aubrey Hirsch, Jill Christman, Lynn Melnick, Brandon Taylor, Emma Smith-Stevens, A.J. McKenna, Lisa Mecham, Vanessa Mártir, xTx, Sophie Mayer, Nora Salem, V.L. Seek, Michelle Chen, Liz Rosema, Anthony Frame, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Miriam Zoila Pérez, Zoe Medeiros, Sharisse Tracey, Stacey May Fowles, Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes, Meredith Talusan, Nicole Boyce, Elissa Bassist

Run time: 8 hours and 41 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

This collection of essays from every angle of modern American rape culture, edited with palpable care by Roxane Gay, will be exhaustingly familiar to the majority of listeners. It’s absolutely necessary reading, but it’s also stomach-churning and impossible (at least emotionally) to finish in a single sitting. The audiobook version will hook you, especially when you discover how much emotional dimensionality each writer brings to their narration of their own first-person essay. Some read musically, some with rage, some with a studied flatness, some with no discernible style at all, but all make their experiences real. Use the audiobook as a tool to push through the most challenging narratives, with each writer’s strength urging you into an ever-evolving state of empathy.

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8. Circe by Madeline Miller

Narrator: Perdita Weeks

Run time: 12 hours and 8 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

Madeline Miller’s newest Greek mythology opus topped many summer reading lists, so you might have already devoured the often dreamy, always infuriating story of the banished island-witch, Circe. But this lyrical novel deserves a second read, especially in the form of Perdita Weeks’ audio performance. In the clip below, Circe describes the halls of Oceanus’ gilded palace as “smoothed by centuries of divine heat,” but she might as well be describing Weeks’ soothing, almost preternaturally still narration. Her performance makes Circe’s forced interiority a vibrant thing that roils with more life and imagination than any of the gods and nymphs whose worse behaviors never led to their own banishment.

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educated.jpg 9. Educated by Tara Westover

Narrator: Julia Whelan

Run time: 12 hours and 10 minutes

Audible& | Libro.fm | Overdrive

Educated is the kind of memoir that you’ll wish was read by the writer who lived through it all. But if we couldn’t get Tara Westover to recount the story of her self-education after a childhood spent isolated with her survivalist family, there’s no better substitute than Julia Whelan (who’s as close to audiobook royalty as you can get). Careful, crisp and warm, Whelan’s narration makes every beat of Westover’s story ring with truth, rendering even the most gut-wrenching anecdotes utterly sound. This is going to be a book club pick for the next decade; listen to it now and be ahead of the game.

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tess of the road.jpg 10. Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Narrator: Katharine McEwan

Run time: 16 hours and 15 minutes

Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive

Whether you’ve been a Rachel Hartman fan since her debut or you’re new to the Seraphina author’s dragon-filled Southlands, Tess of the Road is for you. Raw, angry and self-immolating, the titular Tess is not someone whose head is easy to live in. But in Katharine McEwan’s empathetic narration, the traumas that led Tess to become a biting, feral person unknot themselves, healing both Tess and the listener. Tess, like Circe in the previous selection, suffers trauma that forcibly resets her life. But McEwan, like Weeks, takes care to make both her heroine’s suffering and healing equally grounded.

If that empathetic skill weren’t enough, Weeks kills at Tess of the Road’s bonus audio-friendly element: All the strange, serpentine lisping of the Quigutl language Tess speaks with her gender-fluid quigutl best friend, Pathka.

Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibiliophile whose writing has appeared on Forever Young Adult , Screener and Birth.Movies.Death. She’ll go 10 rounds fighting for teens and intelligently executed genre fare to be taken seriously by pop culture. She can be found @AlexisKG.

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