5 Incredible Audiobooks That Ignite Your Imagination

a LitStack Rec

by Lauren Alwan

You can find and buy the books we recommend at the LitStack Bookshop on our list of LitStack Recs.


In this LitStack Rec, Lauren Alwan looks at five incredible audiobooks that are guaranteed to transport you to new realms, ignite your imagination, and keep you hooked from start to finish. Whether you’re a seasoned audiobook enthusiast or new to this captivating medium, prepare to embark on an extraordinary literary journey. Join us as Lauren dives into these mesmerizing tales, where words come alive and stories unfold in a whole new dimension. Get ready to be swept away by the magic of audiobooks!


Tom Lake, by Ann Patchett

Audiobook Narrated by Meryl Streep

At over eleven hours, this audiobook may seem like a commitment, but with Streep’s luminous read and Patchett’s brisk plot, the hours fly. In Decameron style, Patchett uses the setting of COVID lockdown, in the spring of 2020, as the premise for a story within a story.

Lara Nelson and her husband Joe, are cherry farmers in Northern Michigan, and with their three daughters are sheltering-in-place at the family’s cherry orchard. To pass the time as they harvest, the daughters beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor Lara knew years before during her brief career as a stage actress. By a fluke, Lara fell into the role of Emily in Thorton Wilder’s “Our Town,” which brought youthful success, and the start of a career in Hollywood that wasn’t to be. But the story of Peter Duke, a Warren Beatty-like lothario, is irresistible to her daughters, and drives the beautifully paced release of information that makes the story so winning.

In this audiobook, it’s Streep’s fit with the material that makes the pairing irresistible for the listener. How often during this reading did I imagine Lara as a young Streep, an image underscored by the real-life actress’s sparkling portrayal of the young actress who through the trials of love and the acting profession, grows into a wiser, deeper person.

The Fraud, by Zadie Smith

Audiobook Narrated by Zadie Smith

Authors are not always the best readers of their work, but no one but Zadie Smith could have narrated this extraordinary book. Smith’s sixth work of fiction, The Fraud, is a historical realist novel that sets a constellation of real-life characters against the backdrop of Victorian London and the famed Tichborne trial of the 1870s.

Told from the point of Eliza Touchet, cousin by marriage to the minor English novelist William Harrison Ainsworth (a member of Dickens’ literary group and his occasional rival), Eliza, with her Scottish brogue and literary sensibility (in a time when few women were granted one), is a fascinating character—acutely perceptive, at once buttoned-up and sexually free. She becomes obsessed with Andrew Bogle, an enigmatic, formerly enslaved Jamaican and key witness in the perjury trial that consumes (and divides) London across class and culture in a way that will be familiar to anyone who voted in 2020.

The fraud at the novel’s center (though there are many frauds, both large and small) is one Arthur Orton, an Australian butcher who claims to be Sir Roger Tichborne, the long-lost heir to a baronetcy.

The novel’s vivid 19th century canvas, and Smith’s narration, had me so captivated I often listened to the audio while reading the print version so as not to miss a word. And speaking of words, Smith’s reading of the novel’s array of accents is dizzying in itself. The author worked with a voice coach in order to read authentically the accents that ran from American (Texas) to Scottish (Edinburgh) to Irish (Cork), not to mention Jamaican (learned from the author’s relatives), and a range of London dialects that span class and locality. Read this interview at Audible to learn more about how Zadie Smith studied to read The Fraud.

The Hero of This Book, by Elizabeth McCracken

Audiobook Narrated by Elizabeth McCracken

I reviewed The Hero Of This Book, an affecting portrait of the author’s mother, and the audiobook, narrated by the author, makes for intimate listening, as though sitting in a cozy setting while McCracken herself reads aloud. At four and a half hours, this audiobook is short compared to the others here, but McCracken’s hybrid novel/memoir/guide to life and writing craft is rich, filled with complexity and unexpected and often startling images.

The author’s wit and dry narration brings charm that only adds to the story of the author’s parents: “My mother loved stories, though, particularly stories about herself, and she is, I think, the hero of this book, which she would like.” From sightseeing in London with her mother, to confronting her parents’ object-filled home, to returning to London alone after her mother’s death, McCracken’s narration never fails to take you into its fold, and welcomes you in as if you to say, This could as easily be your story too.

Spare, by Prince Harry The Duke of Sussex
with J.R. Moehringer

Audiobook Narrated by Prince Harry

While Spare in audio form is lengthy, over fifteen hours, Harry, it turns out, is a natural. His narration is pitch perfect, both in emotional calibration and tonal emphasis, and of course, there’s the added charm of his wit set against the gravity of his life experience. Co-written with J.R. Moehringer (author of his own highly-regarded memoir, “The Tender Bar,” and ghost writer for other high profile memoirists) Spare has been called “compellingly artful. . .[a] blockbuster memoir,” by The New Yorker.

The memoir covers Harry’s childhood, and his mother Diana Spencer’s life and tragic death, his military service, his marriage to Meghan Markle, and their subsequent stepping away from the monarchy due to harassment from the British tabloids. Detailed and often confessional, Spare translates well to audiobook, which is a credit to Moehringer’s skill and Harry’s willingness to be candid about a heartbreaking family history—and the grace he’s found for himself and his family.

Fellowship Point, by Alice Elliot Dark

Audiobook Narrated by Cassandra Campbell

At over nineteen hours, this is a doorstop of an audiobook, but with a sprawling saga and timeline, not to mention subplots and deep dives into characters, you may end up wishing you had more time on Dark’s Fellowship Point. The novel centers on two lifelong friends, Agnes Lee and Polly Wister, unalike in temperament and life paths yet similarly bound to the wild and beautiful Maine peninsula where their ancestors’, and their own, histories lie. But when Fellowship Point is threatened by developers, Agnes, a renowned author of children’s books, allies with Polly to form a land trust.

Dark mines the connections to home, and place, and portrays the ebb and flow of lifelong friendships. Dark has called the novel a “property plot,” and the cherished sanctuary, or sanc, as it’s called, lies at the center of conflicts around home, family and friends, mothers and sons, mothers and daughters. The story is narrated with careful pacing and lovely tone by Campbell, a veteran audiobook narrator whose reading makes the novel’s intricacy a listening experience that is both pleasurable and engaging.

—Lauren Alwan

Other LitStack Resources

Be sure and look at our other LitStack Recs for our recommendations on books you should read, as well as these reviews by Lauren Alwan.

You can find and buy the books we recommend at the LitStack Bookshop on our list of LitStack Recs.


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