An ode to audiobooks

Plus the Booker Prize longlist and a beginner's guide to YA

Hey, readers!

I struggled to find uninterrupted time for reading this week, but audiobooks came to my rescue and I was still able to finish two excellent titles. So I just want to take a minute to profess my love for reading on audio and to say how lucky we readers are to have such easy access to audiobooks. Remember the days of books on tape? Books on tape were fantastic, but they required either dropping $60 at Barnes and Noble or getting to the front of the library holds line at the exact right time for your road trip (I’m pretty sure books on tape were almost exclusively relegated to road trips for most people). But now, we carry these devices in our pockets that can hold hundreds of audiobooks that we can access at any time. We can purchase audiobooks for $15 from independent bookstores, download original productions featuring movie stars, or get audiobooks for free from our libraries without even leaving our homes. It’s amazing!

If you are not yet an audiobook listener, I really recommend experimenting a bit to find your audiobook routine. Try books in a variety of genres to figure out what works best for you. Listen in different contexts (going for a walk, driving to work, folding laundry) to figure out when you can fit in a little extra listening time. Experiment with bumping the audiobook speed up to 1.2 or so to see if that helps your ear pay better attention to the story. I do think audiobooks can work for almost everyone once you discover how they best fit into your life.

Here are my favorite apps for listening to audiobooks:

  • Libby. The Libby app lets you reserve and download ebooks and audiobooks from your library. It’s free and has a relatively easy-to-use interface. You can download your audiobooks right in the app and listen to them wherever.

  • Libro.fm. Libro.fm emerged as a way to support independent bookstores through audiobook purchases, and they’ve been making audiobook listening better ever since. Libro.fm mostly operates as a subscription, so you pay $15 per month for a credit that can use on any audiobook you want. Additionally, as a member you get 30% off any other audiobooks you buy and access to lots of sale audiobooks that go for anywhere from $3-$7. Their app is incredibly easy to use and you can now purchase books directly in the app, which I think is a game changer. And, of course, all of your purchases go towards independent bookstores. You can either choose which bookstore you support (I change mine up every couple of months) or just support indies in general. Full disclosure: I’m a Libro.fm affiliate so I’m not a totally unbiased source. When you sign up with my link or the code FICTIONMATTERS, you get two audiobooks for the price of one, and I earn a small commission.

  • Audible. While I try not to over-rely on Amazon, I am still an Audible member. I stick around for their Audible originals, which includes a lot of classic works of literature read by incredibly talented narrators. They also make it very easy to return or exchange books you don’t like, which is great.

This week in books.

This week I read…

  • The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee. This book is so good. In clear, uncomplicated language, Heather McGhee explores the zero-sum mindset white Americans bring to their understand of race and how that mindset hurts everyone. Each chapter investigates a different policy issue that has been racialized in our political discourse, from Medicaid to the minimum wage to limits on sub-prime mortgage lending. In each example, she draws attention to the ways racial groups are pitted against each other in the way these policies are discussed, often resulting in a majority of white citizens taking a stance that harms both themselves and their fellow Americans. All of this is much more powerful and poignant coming from McGhee’s excellent storytelling and rooted in her extensive research, so I definitely recommend picking this one up. It’s also great on audio*.  Amazon | Bookshop

  • Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper. My friend @deniseoftheisland recommended this book and said it was particularly good on audio. I’d been meaning to read it since she mentioned it, and finally downloaded it this week. I thought the book was stunning. It follows the Connor family who are some of the last inhabitants of Big Running, Newfoundland after all the fish mysteriously disappear leading to wide spread unemployment for the fishing community. Hooper uses dual timelines to show us both how this family came together and everything they’re doing to avoid falling apart. It’s a heart-wrenching, but hopeful tale filled with beautiful descriptions and gorgeous sounds. And, yes, you must listen on audio*! Amazon | Bookshop

Now I’m reading…

  • Beautiful World, Where are You by Sally Rooney (out September 7th). I didn’t have any time to devote to this one this week, but I’m hoping to finish it this weekend! Amazon | Bookshop

*You can get two LIBRO.FM audiobooks for the price of one with my link or by using code FICTIONMATTERS.

Links I love.

Last week I talked about loving my new Page Anchor and Page Anchor offered me a 15% discount on their products to share with all of you! You can use code “fictionmatters” to get an additional 15% off their current sale.

The Booker Prize announced their longlist this week. I’ve only read two of the books but have plans to buddy read a couple others with the FictionMatters Patreon community.

I love this list of three backlist fantasy novels with endearing heroes. I hadn’t heard of any of them!

Erik Larson wrote a ghost story that will only be released on audio. I’m intrigued.

Love young adult fiction? Interested in giving it a try? Curious why so many adults are reading YA these days? Check out this Life Kit episode that offers a beginner’s guide to YA.

I’m excited about The Green Knight movie—I loved teaching the story it’s based on—and I really appreciated Constance Grady’s discussion of both.

End notes.

Watching: Lupin. I didn’t like the second season (or part 2 of the first season…I was confused about that) as much as the first batch of episodes, but it was still a fun watch overall.

Listening: I loved Annie Jones’ July reading recap on last week’s From the Front Porch podcast.

Making: Lists of books to read and things to do before the baby arrives. It seems like no matter how much we cross off, the list just gets longer every day.

Loving: My new Warby Parker sunglasses. I’d been dragging my feet about spending more than $20 on sunglasses for ages, but, let me tell you, it was worth it. This is the pair I got and I love the color and how well they fit my face.


Readers, I hope you have a great audiobook in your earbuds this week. For questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing fictionmattersbooks@gmail.com or responding directly to this newsletter. I love hearing from you!

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Happy reading!

Sara