Summer is flying by, and there are still so many beaches to explore, waves to surf, and grills to fire up—it can be hard to do it all with a book in hand. Luckily, you don’t have to choose between soaking up the summer and savoring a great story. These audiobooks are here to copilot your upcoming road trip, keep you company on a long flight, and even transform your last-minute popsicle run into a novel experience.
Daisy Jones & The Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
If you haven't already devoured the Amazon Prime limited series based on Reid's novel, the award-winning audio production is a perfect vehicle for this rock 'n' roll soap opera. Structured as an oral history with interview clips, it's the story of a 1970s rock band built around an explosive love/hate relationship between two gifted, gorgeous—and sometimes totally gaga—singer-songwriters: Daisy Jones, read by Jennifer Beals, and Billy Dunne, read by Pablo Schreiber. An all-star cast fills out the band and their entourage; particularly lovable are Judy Greer as keyboardist (and proto-feminist) Karen Karen and Benjamin Bratt as Billy's younger brother, Graham, another couple with complications galore. Julia Whelan reads the Author character, weaving together the interview snippets with chronology and scene-setting, then becoming the source of a wonderfully unexpected twist.
Heartburn, by Nora Ephron
Depending on your age, you either can't believe it's been 40 years since Heartburn came out or have no idea what we’re talking about. Heartburn is one of the funniest, sharpest novels of our era, a roman-a-clef penned by comic genius Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, etc.) after she was cheated on—while pregnant!—by her journalist husband. Though this book was written in a time when phones were attached to the wall and stewardesses walked down the aisle to collect fares on the Washington-NYC air shuttle, Meryl Streep's hilarious and endearing reading makes it clear that Ephron will never, ever be dated. In fact, she predicted emojis in the first few pages! ("I am not the sort of person who puts little faces on things, but there are times when nothing else will do.”) Since Streep also played this character in the film of Heartburn, it's almost as if she is Rachel Samstat. And the recipes are to die for.
Hang the Moon, by Jeannette Walls
So many of us feel we know Jeannette Walls from reading or watching the film of her landmark memoir The Glass Castle, and this makes hearing her read her third historical novel—in her warm, expressive Southern twang—a special pleasure. As we're aware, Walls knows all about flawed daddies with star power, and here she's created a fictional one for the ages. Sallie Kincaid's father is called the Duke, but he might as well be king of their post-WWI Virginia county: He collects rents, controls politics, and shuffles wives in and out like Henry VIII. Our narrator, Sallie, is the daughter of his second wife, sent to live with a poor relation because of an incident with her stepmother's son. When Wife Number Three also bites the dust, 17-year-old Sallie is brought back to town to raise her younger half-brother. Claiborne County will never be the same.
Big Swiss, by Jen Beagin
If you have a weakness for gossip, this clever and sneakily insightful book is all about the guilty pleasure of peering into other people's private lives. Which makes audio the perfect way to take it in—you feel like you actually are eavesdropping. Greta, who at 45 is still drifting between addresses and careers, has washed up in the inbred hipster paradise of Hudson, New York, where she gets a job as a transcriber for the town's popular sex therapist, a man called Om. Just as she is, you will be dumbstruck by the recordings of Om's sessions with his patient F.E.W.—whom Greta nicknames Big Swiss based on her accent. Carlotta Brentan as chilly Big Swiss and Stephen Graybill as smarmy Om bring the often heart-stopping therapy sessions to life, while Rebecca Lowman, who plays Greta, sputters in the background. ("Whoa." "Yikes." "Is this a joke?") After Greta and Big Swiss meet at the dog park, the latter's sexual problems are addressed in a way that's for adult listeners only.
Life and Other Love Songs, by Anissa Gray
This affecting story of a Black family comes to life in audio, braiding the evocative voices of three brilliant voice actors to tell a story of love, betrayal, and secrets kept for decades. Deborah and Oz meet as teenagers in Detroit in the early '60s. She's a talented singer and hopes to follow in the steps of the Supremes with her girl group. He's a quiet, hardworking boy, recently arrived in town from Alabama with his mother, brother, and cousin under dark circumstances they have agreed to conceal. This decision has a series of tragic consequences, and the couple's daughter, Trinity, will grow up with no way to understand her mother's despair-fueled drinking, or her father's abandonment of the family when she is just 16. Dominic Hoffman perfectly conveys both Oz's quiet decency and his wracking guilt, while Karen Murray's musical voice is perfect for Deborah. Nicole Lewis is warm and funny and real as the girl who somehow keeps her head above water through it all.