Before men ruled the earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction in the lower 48 states by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West. With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, O-Six, a charismatic alpha female named for the year of her birth.
The wolf is rife with symbolism in American culture, and no less so in Blakeslee’s dynamic exploration of the controversial Yellowstone wolf reintroduction. American Wolf is a story that really has it all: a charismatic (read: badass) female protagonist, fierce action scenes, gripping courtroom drama, a coming-of-age tale, and last minute political upheavals all served up with sturdy, hard-hitting narration. It diligently reveals a very real political and emotional landscape, illuminated by increasingly dire circumstances and bold personalities at every turn. The result of which is an upending portrait of a great and unmistakable bond that we all share, and is as strained as ever—the further you get into this modern-day epic, the more deeply you realize that our story and the wolf’s are one and the same.
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semifinals, and they actually have a shot at winning.
I'm so happy that Fredrik Backman has become a prolific writer! For me, A Man Called Ove created a kind of book-itch I never had before, the Backman itch. Luckily, his several newer novels have satisfied this new literary requirement for me. But Beartown is different and sparks something new. It’s darker, almost YA in feel, and broader in scope. It's a "hockey" book, but, like TV's Friday Night Lights, it's about more than youth sports. Marin Ireland’s performance perfectly captures the overarching teen angst as well as the parental fear that permeates the story (having a female narrate was a very daring choice for a "hockey" book, and it works!). Beartown is a coming-of-age novel, a morality play, and a witnessing of groupthink. Like all of Backman’s books, it resonates and lingers–coming to mind months later when you least expect it.
When Apollo Kagwa's father disappeared, all he left his son were strange recurring dreams and a box of books stamped with the word improbabilia. Now Apollo is a father himself - and as he and his wife, Emma, are settling into their new lives as parents, exhaustion and anxiety start to take their toll. Apollo's old dreams return and Emma begins acting odd.
The Changeling is by far the book I want to shower all my love on in 2017. I want to hug strangers in the street and whisper in their ears how amazing this audiobook is, that it’s one of the weirdest, most wonderful damn books I’ve listened to in a long time. At the heart of this modern-day fairy tale is Apollo Kagwa, a scrappy book dealer and devoted dad who wears a Baby Bjorn all over New York City and takes his infant to the playground at 4:30 every morning. After a horrific chain of events, Apollo loses his wife and son, and—wrecked with grief—sets out across the 5 boroughs on an epic quest to rescue and redeem them. The path is strewn with witches, monsters, and trolls (both the fairy tale kind and the internet kind), and Kagwa’s New York is both recognizable and completely fantastical. Victor LaValle is one of those unicorn novelists who happens to be a fabulous narrator of his own work, and as he reads you this story, his voice is like magic and butter. Above all, The Changeling is one black man’s beautiful ode to fatherhood and the lengths to which he will go to protect his family.
In 1518, in a small town in Alsace, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn't stop. She danced until she was carried away six days later, and soon 34 more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had been stricken by the mysterious dancing plague. In late-19th-century England an eccentric gentleman founded the No Nose Club in his gracious townhome - a social club for those who had lost their noses, and other body parts, to the plague of syphilis for which there was then no cure.
Get Well Soon was, pardon the pun, downright contagious among our editorial staff this year. One by one, we fell captive to Jennifer Wright’s infectious wit and fascinating storytelling. Combining history with science and biography, Wright traces the origins and eventual cure (or lack thereof) of seven major plagues throughout history; she presents an otherwise grim and morbid topic with humor, reverence, and style. This is one of those rare gems in the nonfiction genre that has the ability to hook diehard fiction listeners and history buffs alike—which, in our books, is the mark of a truly impressive achievement in narrative nonfiction.
For the first time, Gucci Mane tells his story in his own words. It is the captivating life of an artist who forged an unlikely path to stardom and personal rebirth. Gucci Mane began writing his memoir in a maximum-security federal prison. Released in 2016, he emerged radically transformed. He was sober, smiling, focused, and positive - a far cry from the Gucci Mane of years past. Born in rural Bessemer, Alabama, Radric Delantic Davis became Gucci Mane in East Atlanta, where the rap scene is as vibrant as the dope game.
I’ll go ahead and own up to my bias up top, I am a huge Gucci fan; however, when I set out to listen to The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yes, plenty of guns, drugs, women, and trap music were a given, but what else, if anything, would I find from the life of Mr. Zone 6? What I found was a deeply introspective take on life’s failures and life’s triumphs. Throughout this raw portrait of his time as a child in Bessemer, Alabama to his present day success, Gucci is honest about his struggles–with drug dependency and the law, among other things–but what sets his story apart from other autobiographies is his utter and complete self-awareness. Now sober and level-headed, he can see that so often his own worst enemy is himself, despite the cards often being stacked against him. In life we all hit rough patches, some self-inflicted, and though Gucci’s may be more extreme than most his message throughout rings universal: "It’s about how you bounce back from those moments that make you who you are."
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
I was the first editor to get my hands on The Hate U Give, and I would not stop pestering my fellow editors (and husband… and mom… and neighbor…) until everyone had listened to it. Holy smokes. "Important" feels like too small of a word to describe Angie Thomas’ debut novel. Her prose is elegant, deliberate, transformative, authentic–I could go on and on. And Bahni Turpin’s emotional and varied performance truly demonstrates the power of spoken word audio. The Hate U Give was easily my pick for the best of 2017, and I’m so thrilled that it’s our Audiobook of the Year.
As a young girl in 14th-century Norway, Kristin is deeply devoted to her father, Lavrans, a kind and courageous man. But when as a student in a convent school she meets the charming and impetuous Erlend Nikulaussøn, she defies her parents in pursuit of her own desires. Her saga continues through her marriage to Erlend, their tumultuous life together raising seven sons as Erlend seeks to strengthen his political influence, and finally their estrangement as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.
I discovered Sigrid Undset in college, and wanted to bring Kristin Lavransdatter into audio for years. The audiobook, it turns out, is the gift that keeps on giving: the dialogue about the audiobook has been just as satisfying as the audiobook itself. Erin Bennett, the narrator who threw herself into a 45-hour behemoth, loved the story and heroine as much as I did, and it was a joy to start a conversation with her and with listeners about our friend, Kristin. On Twitter, listeners and readers posted pictures of their beloved paper editions, and talked about what Kristin Lavransdatter meant to them. And at Audible, many listeners loved the audiobook… while others didn’t like Kristin at all (those were some of the most enlightening reviews!). Finally, The Washington Post named Kristin Lavransdatter one of their 5 top audiobooks of the year. Wow. For my life in stories, 2017 was and always will be the Year of Kristin!
The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented. February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill.
Lincoln in the Bardo is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever listened to—and make no mistake—this one is meant to be listened to. 166 individual narrators (led by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, author George Saunders, and the incomparably sweet Kirby Heyborne as Willie) came together to voice this wildly surreal audiobook. While that might sound like a production stunt, the breadth of voices is necessary to create the immersive cacophony effect—almost a Greek chorus of Americana—that washes over you, ultimately leaving you with a stark and devastatingly accurate portrait of grief told by the clamoring voices of the dead. The effect is quite literally otherworldly, but the concerns of the voices seem recognizable and real, as you'll feel history rise up to meet the present, the echoes of the Civil War in conversation with today.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned - from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother - who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons.
I loved Celeste Ng’s debut (Everything I Never Told You) and so couldn’t wait to hear this follow-up. While some reviewers are lamenting that ‘nothing much happens’ in Little Fires Everywhere, I found myself quickly drawn into the lives of Ng’s thoughtfully developed characters–from the everyday details of family dynamics to the lingering secrets that lead to tragic events. Jennifer Lim, an award-winning stage actress and frequent TV guest star, is new to audiobook narration, but brilliantly captures the nuances of Ng’s attention to detail and deliberate pacing, elevating this quietly complex novel to the top of my best of 2017 list.
Teddy Telemachus is a charming con man with a gift for sleight of hand and some shady underground associates. In need of cash, he tricks his way into a classified government study about telekinesis and its possible role in intelligence gathering. There he meets Maureen McKinnon, and it's not just her piercing blue eyes that leave Teddy forever charmed but her mind - Maureen is a genuine psychic of immense and mysterious power.
Spoonbenders is just such a cool book–there’s really no other way to describe it. It’s funny, insightful, surprisingly relatable, totally quirky (in an accessible way), and filled with such an eclectic cast of characters. Spoonbenders is truly unique–an impeccably executed, genre-bending novel which spans decades. The plot revolves around the Telemachus family–your typical family of psychics–and how they find themselves mixed up with secret governmental agencies and the Chicago mob. Each chapter is told from the perspective of different Telemachuses. And Ari Fliakos was definitely the perfect–nay, the only–narrator for the job.
Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree" - people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend, Bongo, and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.
“Stand tall and reach deep.” This is the story of a 10-year-old Muslim girl and the red oak tree who witnesses her loneliness in an unwelcoming town. Red (the tree) decides to make a difference in the girl’s life and what follows is a magical portrait of friendship in the face of fear, and kindness in the face of hatred. Written by Newbery Medal winner Katherine Applegate, this is truly a book for all ages, with plant, animal, and human characters who are warm, funny, and full of heart. Like Wonder and Charlotte’s Web, the exquisitely expressed theme of kindness to outsiders makes this a universal and timeless children’s classic.
When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: He wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems and 78 essays, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine - growing up dirt poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman.
I’ve called Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me “an unvarnished truth bomb” and while true, that authenticity is only as powerful as it is because of the heart and humor of this story. This trifecta of wonderful storytelling that Alexie created brings an intimacy that forever binds you to him and his family, particularly his mother, as he delves into her power, her life, and her relationship with him. His description of his life both on the reservation and after he left is wholly unique and fascinating, and still serves as a reminder of the universal truth that the ties that bind us all are made up of the people we call family, either by blood or by choice. And that sometimes the messiness of that family story can obscure just how strong the love is.