When Audiobooks Transcend and Become Something Else


We’ve written here before about audiobooks and their weirdly soothing and magical power to transport, to make our mundane tasks more interesting because someone is telling us a story while we’re doing them. Driving, cooking, jogging, bicycling, gardening, you name it, in my case, all of it becomes a delicious escape while I’m listening to a book.

The Multifaceted Audiobook

But not all audiobooks are created equal. Lately, I’ve been on a musical biography and memoir binge, and the fact that I can listen to these being read by the artists themselves is an absolute treat. The two I’ve inhaled recently are the (quite rightly so) award-winning Just Kids by Patti Smith and Face It by Debbie Harry If it’s not enough to hear about their hardscrabble early lives and the amazing culture in New York of the 70s and 80s, then listening to their voices and the specific accents that speak to their upbringing in New Jersey is surely worth every second. Who knew that Debbie Harry would sound just like my aunt-in-law?

Even so, the Beastie Boys Book is an incredible concoction, unlike anything I’ve ever heard or even imagined. Written mostly by the two surviving Beasties, Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz, it also has chapters written by no less than Luc Sante, author of the very excellent New York history, Low Life, and, yes, Colson Whitehead himself, winner of two Pulitzers.

The Oral History of Cookie Puss

If you listen to only one chapter, then this is the one. Written by Colson Whitehead and narrated by everyone from John C. Riley to Steve Buscemi to Rosie Perez and more, this little chapter is brilliant, beautiful, poetic, funny as hell and nothing like what you might imagine.

The entire book is narrated by a galaxy of luminaries who act out the biographical anecdotes, sometimes straight, sometimes with flair, sometimes against type, and always with feeling.

It’s a Trend

Or at least I hope so. There is something so incredibly cinematic about these books, read by multiple actors, that I’m very hopeful. One in particular comes to mind, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six uses a very similar approach–a sort of audio documentary, with the story told in an interview format. It was fun.

Heard anything great lately? Let us know.

Emilya Naymark

Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in the Bouchercon 2023 Anthology, A Stranger Comes to Town: edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.

When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.

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