Tina Thomas is the former Executive Director of Customer Experience at EPL.
One of the greatest discoveries I made when I started working at the Edmonton Public Library was audiobooks. Between my commute to work, road trips, chauffeuring kids to activities and the pleasures of a long bike ride, audiobooks have provided me with a way to kill road rage, continue to “read” great stories, as well as educate and entertain myself.
If you know me even a little, I have likely shared my passion for audiobooks as well as the extensive resources EPL has to help fill my addiction. I know many don’t think they can pay attention long enough to listen to a story, but you really can—especially when the book and the performer are excellent.
Here are six of my favorites that may help you get hooked on audiobooks too.
1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I adored this book so it didn’t occur to me that I could enjoy it in a whole new way by listening to the audiobook. Each of the book’s main characters (Aibileen, Minny, Skeeter) is voiced by a different performer. The southern drawl. The earnest, authentic acting. I imagined what it must have been like to listen to a radio drama in the early 1900s. I loved each character and was so invested in hearing the story that I would sit on my driveway literally an hour after I had arrived home, just to hear more.
2. Bossypants by Tina Fey
There is no better way to listen to Tina Fey telling you a story, than with Tina Fey telling you the story. It loosely follows a chronological path and gives you some insight into Fey’s roots and rise to comical fame with hilarious insights and experiences from her childhood and time at Saturday Night Live. It’s funny, but also insightful with life lessons—“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.”—comfortably situated with inane jokes—“To say I’m an overrated troll, when you have never even seen me guard a bridge, is patently unfair”. It’s worth it just to hear Fey explain the Rules of Improv and how they can apply to life.
3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Many non-fiction books are read by the authors, but few can captivate better than Malcolm Gladwell. I have listened to all of Gladwell’s books, and would recommend each of them—in addition to his podcast. Outliers is particularly good as it introduces the concept of 10,000 hours, established by Anders Ericsson, to the masses. While also showing the requirement of grit (Angela Duckworth) and luck. As with all of Gladwell’s books, he uses everyday examples that people can relate to, to help articulate his theory. I listened to this book when my kids were very young, so his theories around why the best hockey players are born at the start of the year and baseball players in the summer, was also fascinating.
4. The Huntress by Kate Quinn
The opening scene of an audiobook is the thing that can keep you listening right from the start and The Huntress gets it right. There are several great books that centre on female stories and experiences during World War II and The Huntress is an outstanding one. Quinn’s The Alice Network and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah are equally, can’t-stop-listening audiobooks.
5. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
Once again, I had read and loved the books years ago and only checked out the audiobook for a road trip with my kids. The whole series is read by the outstanding Jim Dale who won a Grammy for his work on the Potter series. If you listen to the whole series, you’ll notice that the characters’ voices remain the same through each novel. All the books were excellent, but the last book is my favorite by far. We listened to the audiobook on a road trip to Idaho when my girls were just starting school. My eldest was so captivated by the story, and the reading, that she finished the first book in grade 1 and completed the series by grade 3. It may not be the only reason she is a book lover, but it certainly helped.
6. Kitchen Confidential/Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
I listened to both books back-to-back so it’s hard to separate them. Clearly from my examples above, an audiobook is much better when read by an author who really can tell a story. And Bourdain can. I had never watched his show, so I wasn’t familiar with his personality or expecting so many expletives, stories of drug and alcohol abuse, or shade for the Food Network and its stars. All made for an entertaining listen and both books provided an education on the restaurant industry, I won’t order fish on Monday and now, sadly, know what Ortolan is, while providing a glimpse into Bourdain’s life.
Bonus: Because six really isn’t enough, and because I hope you’ll want to continue to listen/explore audiobooks, here are four more books and two authors I highly recommend.
The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes
This book is probably in my top five but I moved it out to include fiction and non-fiction. The story was inspired by a photo of the pack-horse librarians who would bring library books to people living the remote areas of the Appalachian Mountains.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Maybe it is the magical story or the beautiful reading of Jim Dale, but I enjoyed this book so much that I listened to it twice.
The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
I was distracted at first when I started listening to this book because I knew the voice but couldn’t place it. When I did discover the famous reader, I was pleasantly surprised.
The Chronicles of Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis
This was also a great road trip listen with my children. There are multiple editions of the series, but I particularly liked the BBC version as each of the many characters was voiced by a different actor.
Author of the hit HBO miniseries Big Little Lies, Moriarty has many excellent books including this one. All take place in Australia and centre on unique, endearing characters in unbelievable circumstances. Several of Moriarty’s audiobooks could have made my top list, but there are so many I loved, it’s hard to pick. My favorites are likely What Alice Forgot and The Last Anniversary.
I am clearly a fan of audiobooks read by actors with accents and many of Jewel’s audiobooks are set in England. Like Moriarty, Jewel focuses character-driven stories about people working through unusual but everyday circumstances. My favorite is The Making of Us.
You can listen to audiobooks in CD format but EPL also has an extensive collection of eAudiobooks that you can download to your phone or computer and listen to without ever having to leave your house. Bonus, eAudiobooks automatically return on their due date so you’ll never have to worry about returning your items!
EPL has three great services you can use to access eAudiobooks (and more):
With both OverDrive, you can borrow and enjoy free eBooks, audiobooks, and more, free with your library card. Get the same great content from OverDrive on your phone with Libby, the one-tap reading app.
Instant access to movies, television, music and audiobooks! Borrow and stream up to 10 items per month. No holds and no waiting — you want it, you get it!
Fast access to our most popular fiction and non-fiction titles. eXpress Titles are available on a first-come, first served basis.