The jury’s in: audiobooks are absolutely worth the hype. Here are some of our favourites, as narrated by some remarkable people, including Dolly Alderton, Bella Mackie and Gemma Whelan.
Want to be able to read and cook at the same time? Considering getting your literary fix whilst doing a spot of gardening? Exercise and Emily Brontë? We have the solution: pop in your earphones, get that audiobook on, and hey presto, you have a completely free set of hands!
If you’re looking for an actually effective way of multitasking, the audiobook could be for you. Latest statistics from The Publishers Association show that sales of audiobooks increased 43% in 2018. It’s no wonder, we’re part of a culture that thrives on experiences and getting the most from every day, and the audiobook is fast becoming a mainstream way of getting our teeth into some literature.
Whether you’re struggling to get into a book, or simply looking for an escape, the audiobook has you covered. Many celebs have recently spoken out to sing the praises of going beyond the page. When everything around is hectic and overwhelming, an audiobook is an opportunity to be transported somewhere else with ease – all you need to do is sit back and relax, someone else will do the reading for you, what more could we want?! Of course, it’s even better when the books are narrated by some truly outstanding actors and authors.
From those who have tried and tested the audiobook and are looking for what to listen to next, to those wanting to delve into entirely new territory, there’s something out there for everyone. Stylist has compiled a hand-picked list of all our must-listen books of the moment, and the cherry-on-top? They’re all narrated by people we love.
JK Rowling – The Tales of Beedle The Bard (Narrated by Jude Law)
Any Harry Potter fan knows the important significance of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Dumbledore leaves his copy of the book to Hermione, and its most famous tale – The Tale of the Three Brothers – holds the Deathly Hallows key to the Harry Potter series conclusion.
This new audiobook version of J.K. Rowling’s tales is narrated by Jude Law (Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and many more wizarding world stars.
The release is also supporting J.K. Rowling’s international children’s charity, Lumos.
You can download The Tales of Beedle The Bard on Audible from Tuesday 31 March, or pre-order here.
Louisa May Alcott – Little Women (Narrated by Laura Dern)
It takes someone as iconic as Laura Dern to breathe life into a new narration of Louise May Alcott’s classic tale about the March family. Dern, who of course plays Marmee in the latest film adaptation, leads the storytelling, and is joined by an audio cast of Suzanne Toren, Lauren Fortgang and Allison Hiroto.
Just in case you don’t already know the story (where have you been?), Little Women is a story about the lives of four sisters against a backdrop of the American Civil War. It transcends genre, gender, and class with its examination of personal quests, societal restrictions, family ties, and the end of innocence.
Download Little Women narrated by Laura Dern here.
Jessica Simpson – Open Book (Narrated by Jessica Simpson)
Five years ago, Jessica Simpson was approached to write a motivational guide to living your best life. The singer walked away from the offer, because it would have meant she wasn’t being entirely honest with her fans or herself. Now, in her new memoir, Open Book, Simpson is her most authentic self. Using her humour and down-to-earth humanity, Simpson opens up about the reality of being “America’s sweetheart” in the 00s and shares the lessons she’s learned. She also performs six new songs throughout the recording. For anyone who grew up reading about Simpson’s glossy life in the magazines, this is a must-listen to hear her side of the story.
Download Open Book by Jessica Simpson here.
Rosamund Lupton – Three Hours (Narrated by Gemma Whelan)
Gemma Whelan – best known for her outstanding performances in Game of Thrones and White House Farm – takes on the role of her life as she narrates Three Hours, a powerful new tale from Rosamund Lupton.
Set in rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, this book challenges us to imagine the unthinkable: a school under siege. However, the gunman – pacing the corridors in his metal-capped boots – is not a huge character in this tale. Instead, Lupton focuses on the wounded headmaster in the library, and brave teen Hannah who is doing her best to keep him alive. She follows a 16 year old Syrian refugee as he tries to rescue his little brother, as well as the police psychologist working to identify the gunmen. She shows us the students taking refuge in the school theatre, as they do their best to ignore the chaos outside and focus on their dress rehearsal of Macbeth. And, perhaps most devastatingly of all, she takes us outside the school grounds, where the parents wait in the snow, desperate for news about their loved ones.
This could so easily be a story which spotlights evil and terror. Instead, it deftly weaves a message of courage, love and redemption, and Whelan’s performance is absolutely electrifying. Expect chills to run up and down your spine throughout this 9+ hour audio experience.
Download your Three Hours audiobook on Amazon now.
Jacqueline Wilson – We Are The Beaker Girls (Narrated by Sheridan Smith)
Question: what do you get when you pair one of the UK’s best actresses with one of our best children’s authors, and one of our most iconic fictional characters?
In We Are The Beaker Girls, a grown-up Tracy Beaker considers becoming a foster carer. Wilson wants the novel to dispel common myths around the achievement and parenting abilities of those brought up in the care system, and to recognise the important work foster carers do.
Smith said: “I love Jacqueline Wilson and read all of her books when I was growing up. It’s a real honour for me to be recording this audiobook, meeting Jacqueline in the studio, and a joy to be reunited with Tracy Beaker.”
Virginia Woolf – A Room of One’s Own (Narrated by Natalie Dormer)
A Room of One’s Own, based on a lecture given by Virginia Woolf at Girton College Cambridge, is one of the great feminist polemics that continues to be as relevant and essential now as it was after its initial publication in 1929. Woolf’s blazing writing on female creativity and the role of the write remains a powerful reminder of a woman’s need for financial independence and intellectual freedom. Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer , who is known for her strong female roles in TV and film, narrates the essential listen.
Thomas Hardy – Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Narrated by Sian Clifford)
Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune. Meeting her ‘cousin’ Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future. Fleabag’s Sian Clifford, who plays Claire, narrates this beloved classic.
James Joyce – Dubliners (Narrated by Andrew Scott)
Joyce’s first major work, Dubliners, brought his city to the world for the first time when he was just 25. His stories are rooted in the rich detail of Dublin life, portraying ordinary, often defeated lives with unflinching realism. He writes of social decline, sexual desire and exploitation, corruption and personal failure, yet creates a brilliantly compelling, unique vision of the world and of human experience. Fleabag and Black Mirror actor Andrew Scott tells Joyce’s stories.
Jonathan Van Ness – Over the Top (narrated by Jonathan Van Ness)
Since bursting onto our Netflix screens as part of Queer Eye’s fab five, Jonathan Van Ness has become a beacon of positivity for his fans. Van Ness has opened up about his experiences of anti-depressant withdrawal, identifying as non-binary and, most recently, living with a H.I.V. diagnosis. He talks about all this, and more, in his uniquely candid yet always fabulous way in his new memoir, Over the Top. Although laughs are pretty much guaranteed, fans have also been warned that it’s a bit of a tearjerker too.
Margaret Atwood – The Testaments (Narrated by Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard and Mae Whitman with Derek Jacobi, Tantoo Cardinal and Margaret Atwood)
Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale is arguably the biggest book of 2019. In fact, a record-breaking 125,000 copies have been sold in the US alone. Set more than 15 years after the final chapter of The Handmaid’s Tale, the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power. Three radically different women tell their stories, which is what makes the audiobook even more gripping. Aunt Dowd, who plays Aunt Lydia in the TV series, is just one of the compelling narrators.
Louis Theroux – Gotta Get Theroux This (Narrated by Louis Theroux)
Louis Theroux is back with one of the best book titles of the decade. Gotta Get Theroux This tells the story of Theroux’s life and career, using his unique observations, self-deprecating humour and the larger-than-life characters he has met along the way. He discusses his hugely popular documentaries, which have seen him being immersed in some frightening and fascinating worlds.
Elizabeth Gilbert – City of Girls (Narrated by Blair Brown)
Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert’s third foray into fiction is a coming-of-age story set in 1940s New York. Vivian Morris arrives in New York with a suitcase and her sewing machine, and is soon employed as a seamstress at the Lily Playhouse, a disreputable Manhattan revue theatre. When legendary English actress Edna Watson comes to the Lily to star in an ambitious show ever, Vivian is enamoured with the star. But there are hard lessons to be learned, and mistakes to be made if Vivian wants to live the life she wants.
Candice Carty-Williams - Queenie (Narrated by Shvorne Marks)
Candice Carty-Williams’ debut novel Queenie is the tale of a millennial who’s a bit of a disaster area. Queenie sleeps with terrible men, neglects her job and has a fragile relationship with her mother. And on top of that she’s had to move back in with her grandparents. Carty-Williams book is funny, relatable and just a little bit heartbreaking. Actress Shvorne Marks brings Queenie’s voice to life in this excellent audiobook version of the novel, which is soon set to be adapted for the screen.
Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale (Narrated by Elisabeth Moss)
The actress, who plays Offred/June in the television adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s iconic dystopian novel, recorded the audiook while shooting the third season of the show in Toronto.
And as if that wasn’t enough to tempt you, the audiobook contains a Historical Notes section featuring other cast members. Ann Dowd, who plays Aunt Lydia, narrates the opening notes, while Bradley Whitford, who plays Commander Joseph Lawrence is joined by actress Amy Landecker to narrate the transcript that confirms the demise of Gilead but leaves the end of Offred’s story ambiguous.
If you’re eagerly awaiting the third series of the show – when we’ll finally find out what happened to Moss’ character after she decided to stay in Gilead when offered the chance to escape – the audiobook is the perfect thing to tide you over.
Michelle Obama – Becoming (Narrated by Michelle Obama)
She may have left the White House more than two years ago, but former first lady Michelle Obama continues to be an icon. So it’s no surprise that everyone is obsessed with her memoir, Becoming - she sold out the O2 Arena on her book tour, and Becoming is a number one non-fiction bestseller. Obama has received widespread praise for the candour, humour, and intimacy of Becoming, which is now one of the bestselling books of the decade. Head to the audiobook to hear the story of her life, as told by the woman herself, as she narrates all the experiences that have shaped her.
Dolly Alderton – Everything I Know About Love (Narrated by Dolly Alderton)
Feeling a little lost when it comes to dating? Questioning everything you thought you knew about modern love? Dolly Alderton has you covered. Everything I Know About Love is a humorous, honest, heart-breaking, and life-affirming novel that takes you through everything from first dates, to dealing with loss. The book was named Autobiography of the Year at the Specsavers National Book Awards and also shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year. What better way to enjoy the musings of Dolly than narrated by Alderton herself. Regular podcast host of both Love Stories and The High Low, narration is definitely in Alderton’s wheelhouse, and her reading of the book promises to make it as hilarious as she intended it.
George Saunders - Lincoln in the Bardo
With a completely star-studded line up of narrators, this George Saunders novel is not one to be missed. Lincoln in the Bardo makes a departure from Saunder’s known style of short stories as it marks his first full-length novel. Some of the famous women featured in the cast are Lena Dunham, Susan Sarandon, and Carrie Brownstien - to name but a few. Saunders takes the historical truth of the death of President Lincoln’s son Willie, and spins a graveyard-set tale of love and loss as Willie finds himself in purgatory. With 22 actors narrating the dialogue, this book deserves to be listened to and experienced in all its glory.
Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Narrated by Cathleen McCarron)
Honeyman’s debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was a universally recognised hit when it was published in 2017, winning the ‘Costa First Novel Award’. Set in Glasgow, the book follows the narration of Eleanor Oliphant, whose routine and life of apparent simplicity are jolted by an act of kindness. Honeyman sheds light on how the simplest of human interactions can affect you and those around you.
If you haven’t yet gotten around to reading it, why not check out the audiobook, narrated by award-winning vocal coach Cathleen McCarron. As an extra bonus, the audiobook features an exclusive interview between Honeyman and McCarron, need we say more?
Kevin Kwan - Crazy Rich Asians (Narrated by Lynn Chen)
The massive motion picture rom-com of 2018 actually started its life as a book, as many of great films usually do. Get completely lost in the opulent world of the Young family, as Rachel Chu journeys to Singapore to attend a wedding with her boyfriend and discovers his immense wealth that, until then, she had been completely clueless about.
Crazy Rich Asians the novel is a hilarious and touching account of a battle between love and money and the family politics that accompany dating. Narrated by actress and singer Lynn Chen, the CRA audiobook is sure to help you relive the film in all its great detail, and if you haven’t seen the movie – what a perfect place to start.
Sally Rooney – Normal People (Narrated by Aoife McMahon)
Sally Rooney has become a name to watch in literary circles as everyone anticipates what mastery she might produce next. Normal People is her second novel, following her debut Conversations with Friends (also very good, would recommend), and it has just been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019.
It is a stunning account of the delicate intricacies of two young people’s lives and how a narrative between people evolves through time. The narration of actress Aoife McMahon is sure to take you straight to the novel’s Irish setting and set the perfect tone for Rooney’s narrative to unfold. (She is also sure to be able to do the Irish names justice, something that can’t necessarily be said for your head – guilty).
Bella Mackie - Jog On (Narrated by Bella Mackie)
Bella Mackie’s Jog On was written after she faced divorce, anxiety and depression, and felt she barely had the strength to get out the door in the morning. Everything changed for Bella when she started running, and her book follows this journey of mental health and exercise.
Jog On is an honest look at the realities of dealing with the difficulties of life and finding outlets for your emotions – as Bella puts it, “without giving up [her] main loves: booze, cigarettes and ice cream”. Give it a listen, or better yet, have a listen on a run.
Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice (Narrated by Rosamund Pike)
Looking to go a bit more old-school? Award winning actress, and star of recent film A Private War, Rosamund Pike has you covered. Through Pride and Prejudice, Pike will whisk you all the way back to the era of Jane Austen as she takes you through Elizabeth Bennett going toe to toe with Fitzwilliam Darcy.
This audiobook is a great way of modernising an old classic and is the perfect opportunity to get to the heart of Austen’s wit and charm.
Caroline Criado Perez – Invisible Women (Narrated by Caroline Criado Perez)
Our pick for a great piece of feminist literature right now, Perez’s book illuminates the world of gender inequity and how it is fully engrained in the way we live. Dubbed the ‘gender data gap’, Perez highlights the way in which our world is literally built for men, and doesn’t take into account the circumstances of half its population. It sounds a shocking revelation, but once you give it some thought it becomes quite clear we definitely encounter this in our everyday lives…
Full of case studies and research, this piece of non-fiction may seem daunting at first, and if so, why not let Perez talk you through the data herself in audiobook form?
L. Frank Baum - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Narrated by Anne Hathaway)
There’s absolutely no shame in finding comfort in children’s classics; sometimes these novels epitomise escapism, and there’s truly no greater escape than over the rainbow itself. Narrated by the Princess of Genovia herself Anne Hathaway (no, really, she also narrates the Princess Diaries audiobooks if you feel like treating yourself), The Wizard of Oz audiobook is the perfect opportunity to join Dorothy on her journey and get swept up in the whimsy of the story we all know and love.
Nora Ephron – Heartburn (Narrated by Meryl Streep)
Nora Ephron is a recognised treasure of female writing, and her novel Heartburn notes no departure from this trend. Bridged from life experiences with her second husband, Ephron has tweaked life to create a hilarious look at the demise of a marriage – yes, you read that correctly, as oxymoronic as it sounds; comedy and tragedy are the perfect pairing.
Still on the fence? How about the fact that it is narrated by arguably one of the most talented actresses of our time: Meryl Streep. The audiobook was a finalist at the Audie Awards in 2014, and is definitely one to check out.
Pat Barker – The Silence of the Girls (Narrated by Kristin Atherton and Michael Fox)
Longlisted alongside Rooney’s Normal People, Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls is also not one to miss. Barker’s novel takes on one of the greatest battles of literature, the Trojan war, but gives it a much-needed revamp. The book gives voice to the women often lost in the narrative as she offers Briseis perspective as a concubine and prize of battle for Achilles.
The story is brought to life by actors Kristin Atherton and Michael Fox and will definitely satisfy your feminist fantasy craving.
Madeline Miller – Circe (Narrated by Perdita Weeks)
There’s undoubtedly nothing better than hearing the story of an actress’s life narrated by themselves, and Mindy Kaling, a true feminist hero, is someone’s life you definitely want to know more about. Apart from anything else, Kaling is undeniably hilarious, and this book is no different.
Why Not Me? is Kaling’s second coming-of-age book and it is a refreshing look at everything from her friendship with B.J Novak and meeting Bradley Cooper, to the anxieties of everyday life.
Scarlett Curtis – Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies)
Scarlett Curtis’ book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies), asked 52 women: What does the F word mean to you? The result? 52 amazing essays from a whole host of truly remarkable women. Featuring Keira Knightly, Gemma Arterton, Lolly Adefope, and Saoirse Ronan, the list goes on and every name is as great as the last.
This audiobook is perfect to dip-in dip-out whenever you want, as every essay is its own stand-alone snippet of greatness.
Harper Lee – Go Set a Watchman (Narrated by Reese Witherspoon)
Go Set a Watchman was a hotly anticipated novel when published in 2015, 55 years after Harper Lee’s original classic. The book features many of the characters from Lee’s beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, some 20 years later on.
The story is brought to life by Reese Witherspoon, who is a noted gem, as we are invited back once again into the lives of Jean Louise and Atticus Finch.
Tolstoy – Anna Karenina (Narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal)
We’d forgive you for thinking that dipping into a Tolstoy novel of an afternoon could seem a little heavy. Although a classic, the nearly 900-page book is definitely an investment of time and energy. The solution? The gorgeously narrated audiobook which is told by all-round-amazing actress Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Maggie is a noted fan of the novel, and you can tell it in her rendition with how much care and respect she has for all its words. This is a perfect example of beauty of audiobook-ing; not one to miss!
Anna Burns - Milkman (Narrated by Brid Brennan)
Winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2018 and another on the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist this year, Burn’s Milkman has caused quite the buzz of chatter. The novel toys with the ideas of how perception can impact you, and its treatment of caring what others think rings particularly important in 2019’s culture.
The book is narrated by actress Bríd Brennan who is known for her recent roles in Brooklyn and Florence Foster Jenkins. Brennan is perhaps best known however, for her theatre roles – an attribute which lends itself well to the art of storytelling.
Images: from various publishers