Happy Cicada Season! Welcome Brood X with These Buzzy Throwback Best Sellers

Every 17 years, the periodical cicadas known as "Brood X" emerge from the ground in regions across the Eastern US. To make them feel at home, we present our favorite listens from past cycles—and some new recommendations to bring them up to date.

If you haven't yet heard what all the buzz is about, check your calendar. It's May 2021, which means the latest emergence of Brood X cicadas is upon us. If you're living in the Eastern United States, there's a good chance you'll encounter one of the crimson-eyed critters sometime soon, if you haven’t already. And whether you find the brood’s distinctive racket—a mechanical din of whirrs and clicks—nostalgic or maddening, the dulcet sounds of our favorite audiobooks are a timely complement (or antidote) to the sonic swarm.

As we prepare to meet our new neighbors, we've gathered up some best-selling books that debuted in each of the last seven instances of Brood X's emergence—and, for the perfect mate, some suggested contemporary pairings.

 

2004

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

An unforgettable sci-fi epic crafted through an intricate web of narratives and timelines, David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas is an exceptional demonstration of imagination and depth in storytelling. From the 1850s to the end of the world, the core of this novel is built upon six separate stories ranging widely in time and space, joined together by a shared sense of memory and reflection on human civilization.

Your next listen is Loops If stories that buck tradition in favor of mind-boggling, wholly unique formats still mesmerize you all these years later, don't miss this thoroughly unpredictable Audible Original starring Vivica Fox and Teresa Ruiz.

My Sister's Keeper

My Sister's Keeper

It's impossible to forget contemporary fiction master Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper. A heartstring-tugging listen that contemplates themes of both family connection and bodily autonomy, this 2004 release immediately captured the attention of audiences. Picoult details the lives of Kate, a young woman with leukemia, and Anna, her sister, who begins to reconsider her sense of self after years spent undergoing innumerable medical procedures in the hope her sister might live. When Anna decides to carve out her own identity and take back her life and her body, the lasting repercussions could be unthinkable.

Your next listen is Little Fires Everywhere Since Brood X's last emergence, a number of releases have explored complex family dynamics and the related internal conflicts, but Celeste Ng's meditation on motherhood and belonging stands out with its brilliant character work and gorgeous prose.

 

1987

Misery

Misery

Horror icon Stephen King released not one, not two, but three novels in 1987: sci-fi chiller The Tommyknockers, The Drawing of the Three (the second installment in his Dark Tower series), and Misery, one of his most exceptional works of psychological horror. Though King has created a number of fearsome foes over the years, few are as eerie as Annie Wilkes. When romance novelist Paul Sheldon is injured following a car accident in snow-sunken Colorado, he finds himself in the care of Wilkes, the seemingly kind (albeit slightly eccentric) former nurse who takes him in. But as Sheldon's number one fan, Wilkes is definitely not happy about his decision to kill off his heroine.

Your next listen is You Love Me Though the claustrophobic, contained domestic horror of Misery is frightening in its own right, what propels the story is the intrigue and drama of a dangerous obsession—a fascinating (and terrifying) angle that writer Caroline Kepnes also wields to great effect in her You series, chillingly narrated by the Tony Award-winning Santino Fontana.

Dawn

Dawn

There is no contesting that Octavia Butler was a trailblazer in the literary world. A Hugo and Nebula-winning writer who was also the first in the sci-fi genre to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, Butler completely changed the game for science fiction and fantasy. Incorporating her own experiences as a Black woman into her work, Butler's stories resonated not only for their excellent world-building but also for their incisive explorations of race, sexuality, and gender. Her Xenogenesis series is no exception. In Dawn, Butler opens on an Earth destroyed by nuclear war, introducing Lilith Iyapo, one of humanity's few survivors, who has been chosen by her alien rescuers to train what remains of her species for the slow rebuild of the planet.

Your next listen is The Binti series If you enjoy both the classic sci-fi elements of Butler's Dawn and its central themes of belonging and identity, Nnedi Okorafor's award-winning Binti trilogy is a must-listen. Bonus: the brilliant narration of Robin Miles.

 

1970

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

It's hard to believe Judy Blume's preteen phenomenon Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret was published more than 50 years ago. I can vividly remember checking this essential (and rather controversial) volume out from my local library decades after it was initially released, and it continues to appeal to young audiences even still. The titular Margaret has long been a beacon of hope and relatability for young girls struggling with the anxieties, anticipations, and, well, awkwardness that accompany the arrival of puberty. From your first kiss to your first bra, Margaret covered it all with sweetness and authenticity.

Your next listen is Letters From CampThis hilarious and heartfelt podcast celebrates the tween years, the joyful freedoms of summer camp, and the at times uncomfortable realities of growing up with earnest glee.

The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye

We cannot say enough about the tour de force that is Toni Morrison in audio. It's no secret that Morrison is one of the most exceptional contemporary writers but you may be less aware of her enviable skills as a narrator. Hear it for yourself by revisiting Morrison's first ever novel, The Bluest Eye, which is performed by the author in a style that one listener aptly described as patient and emotive. This remarkable work of fiction follows Pecola Breedlove, an 11-year-old Black girl who desires nothing more than for her eyes to turn blue so she might find the same comforts, luxuries, and love that her white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed peers seem to come by so naturally. A heartbreaking meditation on race, beauty, and colorism, this listen remains as poignant and relevant as the day it was published.

Your next listen is The Vanishing HalfIn this acclaimed listen, writer Brit Bennett echoes Morrison's running commentary on prejudice, colorism, and a narrow standard of beauty that upholds whiteness as the ideal in an extraordinary exploration of sisterhood, connection, and the concept of passing.

 

1953

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury's dystopic masterpiece Fahrenheit 451 is a staple of the classic American canon, and its impact is only magnified in audio, thanks to the talents of Academy Award-winner Tim Robbins. A look at the importance of the written word, the dangerous implications of censorship, and the perils of technology, this story, first published in 1953, has an eerie air of prescience to it when listening today. It centers on Guy Montag, a fireman whose job is not to quell flames, but to set fire to stacks of books and the homes of those who attempt to smuggle them. And when Montag has a change of heart, he's left to face massive repercussions.

Your next listen is Station ElevenFor a contemporary take on Fahrenheit 451’s deeper societal message, try Emily St. John Mandel's quiet, reflective novel that seeks to understand civilization, culture, and the arts in the wake of a devastating flu outbreak.

Go Tell It On the Mountain

Go Tell It On the Mountain

James Baldwin's debut Go Tell It on the Mountain is a semi-autobiographical novel that deftly explores the lived experience of Black communities in 1930s Harlem, the influence of religious institutions, and the realities of poverty, racism, and frustration. Though spanning generations and regions, Baldwin's story is consistently centered on the dynamics of the Grimes family, their church community, and the tensions that arise in the definition of one's identity. In rich and nuanced scenes, this work offers a compelling and necessary take on family, sexuality, and faith.

Your next listen is Begin AgainIf you're a fan of Baldwin's work and his focus on race, sexuality, class, and masculinity, check out this nonfic gem on Baldwin's life and career that's part literary analysis, part portrait, and part call for justice.

 

1936

How to Win Friends & Influence People

How to Win Friends & Influence People

Much has certainly changed since 1936, when Dale Carnegie published his groundbreaking best seller, How to Win Friends & Influence People. Yet countless listeners continue to turn to this classic for advice on maintaining personal and professional relationships, establishing a positive and effective leadership style, and perfecting conversational and social skills. This ever-popular self-dev guide remains well worth the listening investment.

Your next listen is Atomic HabitsA best seller in the self-dev genre, James Clear's influential audiobook on developing and maintaining better habits has been called insightful, practical, fresh, and potentially transformative by listeners.

 

1919

Night and Day

Night and Day

Years before she published her best-known novels, including To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf wrote Night and Day, a novel that contemplates themes ranging from love and marriage to suffrage and the era's expectations for women. In this 1919 release, listeners meet four young people (the privileged Katharine Hilbery, suffragist Mary Datchet, poet William Rodney, and lawyer Ralph Denham) whose lives intersect time and again as they each individually attempt to secure love and happiness.

Your next listen is Normal PeopleUnlike Woolf's signature winding stream of consciousness, Sally Rooney's breakout hit is primarily constructed of rather straightforward prose; nevertheless, they share thoughtful character work and a story built on interesting individuals whose lives cannot help but intertwine.

 

1902

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Though Sherlock Holmes is one of the most well-known characters in literature, appearing in more than 50 short stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle only wrote four full-length Holmes novels: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, The Valley of Fear, and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Published in 1902, Baskervilles is one of he most famous whodunits in history, a particularly satisfying mystery with an incomparable investigative team at the helm. In this listen, Holmes is called in to investigate the death of Sir Charles Baskerville, whose body been found on his estate not far from a trail of beastly footprints. A classic mystery that cleverly balances elements of legend and the supernatural, this remains a joy to listen to well over a century since it first hit shelves.

Your next listen is The Only Good IndiansIf you're willing to try something a little different with more of a horror slant, you might enjoy this Stephen Graham Jones thriller about a group of Blackfeet Indian men who are stalked by a revenge-seeking supernatural entity years after an ill-fated elk hunt. Or, if revisiting The Hound of the Baskervilles leaves you on the hunt for more Holmes, our resident expert Editor Christina has some great suggestions for where to go next.

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