Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Jenkins Reid wrote 2019’s most rock and roll novel in Daisy Jones and The Six. A homage to the glory days of the 70s music scene, it documents the rise of Daisy, a big-dreaming nobody, desperate for superstardom. Slyly playing with perspective through unreliable narration, the audiobook is told in the style of an interview; the halcyon days of the band confessed through intimate conversations with the members and those around them. Based loosely on the real-life story of Fleetwood Mac, expect sex, plenty of drugs, and the heady lows that lead to the band’s eventual demise.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell returned this year with a psychological examination of societal behaviour, often at its darkest. In Talking to Strangers he examines the routine ways strangers can misunderstand each other. It’s a simple premise, but, drawing on complex cases, he details how they can have disastrous consequences, such as the wronged conviction of Amanda Knox to the spy that functioned, undetected, in the upper echelons of the Pentagon. In the audio version, he borrows style from his smash-hit podcast Revisionist History, breaking down chapters into digestible episodes that essentially form short stories – perfect for killing time on that dreary commute. In Gladwell’s signature manner, he pulls together theories and case studies to create a documentary-style storytelling experience that is a real cultural eye-opener.

Ladybird Audio Adventures

One to keep tots occupied, Ladybird Audio Adventures was, quite uniquely, created exclusively for audio. Which means it’s specially crafted to keep little kids with even littler attention spans interested and excited through its immersive storytelling. In the series, a time traveller goes adventuring with their fun companion bird, Missy. They travel through the deep sea, to visit some dinosaurs and even to the far reaches of the galaxy in outer space. It’s a trip. One for the car, to settle them before bedtime or calm those moments of complete and utter hysteria – we’ve all been there, parents! It’s also fact-filled so gets bonus points for being educational, but let’s not tell them that.

Before We Was We by Madness

A story of seven originals, who, through sheer determination, hard graft and talent, made their way from the smoke-stained, underbelly of London’s basement bars to the Top of the Pops stage. At their peak during the late 70s and early 80s, the British ska band’s legacy has never waned. The audiobook of Before We Was We sees the band tell their stories, in their own – gloriously fun – words. It’s a nostalgic affair, packed with memories, anecdotes and laugh-out-loud quips from the boys as they recall their formative years, full of follies and the expected antics. The rehearsal music between the chapters is a real bonus, whether you were there first time round or want to discover their back story for the first time.

The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust Volume Two by Philip Pullman

2019 was Pullman’s year: the hotly-anticipated production of His Dark Materials hit the BBC and he released the follow up to La Belle Sauvage. Fantasy fans were delighted. With Jack Thorne at the helm of the adaptation, it garnered rave reviews from both die-hard fans and viewers new to the story. The Book of Dust, Volume Two picked up 20 years after the events of Volume One unfolded; Lyra, now a grown-up, and her daemon Pantalaimon continue their journey on the trail of the elusive Dust. Michael Sheen is back on narration, after lovingly-tending to the first volume. He brings vocals to life for all of the characters and adds a spark only a fan could, with his range of carefully-crafted accents and voices that audibly display his love for Pullman’s stories.

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

Much to fans’ delight, Kate Atkinson resurrected Jackson Brodie in Big Sky, which sees the private detective relocate to a picturesque seaside village where he begins to realise there is something murky lurking beneath the serene, rural façade. That’s right folks, this isn’t your average beach holiday. Narrated by Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter fame, the crime-fiction tale is a combination of Atkinson’s gripping plot interlaced with strong characterisation. After playing Brodie in the TV adaptation, Case Histories, Isaacs continues to embody Brodie – the tough guy with the big heart – perfectly.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Thor, Loki, Odin – characters now famed for those showstopping roles in explosive Marvel superhero films, and what better way to discover the true Norse Gods and original myths than a retelling from Neil Gaiman. Here, he dives into the source material as if it’s an old friend, adding his own playful narration alongside Natalie Dormer and Derek Jacobi (to name but a few) who bring the epic sagas vividly to life. There is his usual (understated) wit, but all the expected tension, thrills and passion you’d expect from such classic stories, with Gaiman’s added flair.

Blue Moon by Lee Child

24 books in and Lee Child and his fictional powerhouse Jack Reacher are clearly unstoppable. It must be those shovel-sized hands. This time, the ex-military, happy-go-lucky-guy (Child’s own words) takes on ruthless criminal gangs from Eastern Europe and sets out to clean up the town. Just another standard day in the life of Reacher, then. It’s narrated by Jeff Harding, who personifies the modern-day Robin Hood perfectly with his usual punchy dialogue and hard-edged delivery. This story comes with added decapitation and a massive body count – but it’s not all blood and gore, there’s the usual Lee Child-style humour that elevates his work above the very crowded market of the crime-thriller genre. 

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