My Top Ten Audiobooks of 2017

my favourite podcasts

Audiobooks changed my life this year.

Staying home full-time with young kids who never sleep is not very conducive to reading. And until this year, I’d never had a device on which to listen to audiobooks. So for the last several years, most of my reading happened in five-minute snatches while I was on the toilet. I read about a book a month that way. It was something.

Everything changed when Lydia dropped my old phone, and I finally had to replace it with a new one that had enough space for apps. I downloaded Overdrive and signed up for Audible, and my world opened up. My first audiobook felt like a miracle.

I hardly picked up a paper-and-ink book this year, but I did get to read a ton of audiobooks. Here are ten of my favourites, in no particular order.


Born a Crime – Trevor Noah. This was probably my best read of 2017 in any genre. Those of you who have watched Trevor Noah on The Daily Show already know he’s smart, funny, eloquent, and charming, but it turns out, he’s got a hella fascinating life story, too. He grew up in South African during and immediately after Apartheid. To make things especially interesting, he was born to mixed parents at a time when it was illegal for races to mix (hence the title). He’s a terrific story-teller, and his childhood is filled with wild moments, from his mom throwing him out of a moving car to him accidentally burning down a White family’s house. His reflections of race and racism are illuminating and nuanced. I admire and respect him more than ever. He does a terrific job narrating his book, too — his voices and accents are on point. I dare you not to love him by the end of it.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things – Jenny Lawson. This woman. She can make me laugh until I cry. This is The Bloggess’ second memoir (her first was hilarious, too). Her discussion of mental illness is both needed and weirdly hysterical. She is a strange, strange, wonderful human being. (Major language warning. I’ve never hard anyone use the word vagina as much as Lawson does.)

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. This memoir is Glennon’s second book and it is just phenomenal. It’s a brutally honest retelling of her life story, with a focus on her marriage’s sudden tragic implosion a few years ago, and the difficult path of healing. The book tenderly and bravely explores sex, love, marriage, God, family, and faith. I found her story of self-discovery gripping and inspiring.


Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye. This book was complete delight. If you’re a fan of Jane Eyre, I think you’ll get a kick out of this novel. It follows a young Victorian orphan girl who, like Jane Eyre, goes to an awful boarding school and later becomes a governess. She’s clever and brave and self-aware. And also? A murderer. With a heart of gold, of course. (She only kills horrible men.) From the start she’s aware of her similarities with the famous fictional heroine. I promise, it’s better than it sounds. It reads like an authentically 19th-century novel and all of the characters are stunningly three-dimensional.

A Man Called OveFrederik Backman. A completely heartwarming story from a Swedish blogger. Ove may be the most endearing grumpy old man you’ve ever met. You will fall in love with every single character. I cried both sad and happy tears. The writing is vibrant and lovely. (And the narrator is great.)

The Inspector Gamache Series – Louise Penny (Dead Cold; The Cruellest Month; The Murder Stone; The Brutal Telling.) Read by Adam Sims. If you enjoy a good murder mystery, Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series is perfection. (I’ve read the first five). Lovable characters, thrilling plots, deep exploration of human nature. I am amazed by the depth of Penny’s characters. (If listening to the audiobook, ONLY accept versions read by Adam Sims, who is spectacular. Ralph Cosham, by contrast, is just AWFUL. I returned my copy to Audible after hearing him read the first chapter.)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. This novel won the 2017 Newbery Award. It is wonderful. It involves a poetry-reciting swamp monster, a tiny dragon who thinks he’s gigantic, and a kindly old witch who accidentally enmagics an abandoned baby girl by feeding her moonlight. As the girl grows up under the kind witch’s care, her magic becomes increasingly dangerous, and the witch has to make some difficult decisions. It’s a refreshingly original fairy tale with unusual protagonists, full of both whimsy and solemnity. I will happily pass it along to Lydia when she’s a bit older (maybe 10-ish). (Note: I didn’t really care for the narrator. I’d recommend reading the print version.)

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, read by Dan Stevens. I love a good detective story, but this was my first romp with Hercule Poirot (Why?!). It was delightful! It plays with all the conventions of murder mysteries, and still managed to completely surprise me. Also, I have to highlight Dan Stevens’ (<–Yes, him!) amazing performance. He does all the accents flawlessly (there are both men and women from numerous countries in this book, and he nails all of them.) The story is thrilling and clever and just so much fun. I will definitely read more. (I did later read And Then There Were None, which was also terrific, but a little dark for my taste.)

Cinder; Scarlet; Cress; Winter (aka The Lunar Series) by Marissa Meyer; Read by Rebecca Soler. Ignore the cheesy-looking covers of these books and have an open mind. This series was a ton of fun. If you enjoy young adult dystopian sci-fi, this series is for you! Each book is very loosely based on a fairy tale (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White), but set in the future (and some of it in outer space). Cinder is a cyborg and her only friend is an artificially-intelligent android, for example. Cress is a computer engineer and hacker working from a satellite orbiting the earth. Very addictive. Impressive world-building. And Rebecca Soler’s narrating is perfect.

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  1. Sophia Austin says:

    The Lunar Chronicles are SOOO good. I’m so sad I’m done with them.

  2. So many good ones I want to read or listen to!!! Thank you for describing each one, because I really tend to judge books first by titles and second by covers and third by descriptions. . .and sometimes I am too lazy to read descriptions, so that is bad! I plan on READING The Girl Who Drank the Moon due to your recommendation too. Cinder and Cress were my favorites from the Lunar Chronicles series (read in 2015). I still need to read Stars Above.
    Victoria the Justice Pirate recently posted..Yearly Book Review #10My Profile

  3. I read Born A Crime in print but kind of want to get the audio version just to hear all the accents.

    Some good stuff on here, and some stuff to add to my TBR list!

    Happy New Year, Kathleen!

  4. Thank you so much for the recommendations!

    Can I push back at you just a little? I’d like to posit that “vagina” is not a “bad” word. Perhaps that’s not what you meant, but given that the comment followed “major language warning” that’s how it read to me. Since swearing generally bothers me not at all, I look forward to reading “Furiously Happy.”

    I have a question for you – how do you “read” your audiobooks with the kiddos about? I love podcasts, but some of the ones I want to listen to aren’t appropriate for little ears. I generally reserve those for the days when she’s at preschool, but I’m always interested in how other SAH parents manage it. I have earbuds, however it seems like whenever I pull them out she loses her sh*t :D

    • Hi Lindsay! You’re totally right — in fact, the word “vagina” is spoken aloud so often in this household I’m pretty sure it’s my daughter’s favourite word. My phrasing didn’t sit 100% with me there either, but I got lazy. It is a word that might make some readers/listeners uncomfortable, especially because she uses it for comic effect. (I think at one point she says something along the lines of, “That woman is so small she could fit inside my vagina!” Something like that. Some people will find it hilarious; some will find it offensive.) I hope you enjoy the book!

      I listen to most audiobooks just out in the open, usually while I’m working in the kitchen or driving. But some (like Furiously Happy) I definitely have to wear earbuds for. :) MOST of the books I listen to are kid-friendly enough that I don’t have to worry. When L was a preschooler it was a lot harder because she was so emotionally needy; but now that she’s elementary aged, I get a lot more opportunity to listen. Since F is nonverbal he doesn’t really interfere. :)

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