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16 Excellent New Books That Deserve To Be Listened To

Get these spring releases on your TBLT — aka To Be Listened To — list, pronto.

Posted on March 19, 2021, at 2:39 p.m. ET

Spring is almost here, and it's bringing a lot of fantastic books with it. But some of those new releases really deserve to be listened to.

Libro.fm — an audiobook service that splits profits with independent bookstores — has put together its seasonal most-anticipated list, featuring author-read books, audio originals, full-cast productions, and more. Here's what we have to look forward to.

Life's Too Short by Abby Jimenez, narrated by Christine Lakin and Zachary Webber (April 6)

Hachette

Accidental YouTube influencer Vanessa Price has been traveling the world after quitting her job, and her live-every-day-like-it's-your-last lifestyle inspires millions — even if that mentality came from tragedy, when her mother and sister died unexpectedly. But when she suddenly becomes the legal guardian of her baby niece, her life is turned upside down. It seems like it's changed for the worse, until her hot next-door neighbor starts coming by to help.

Why you should listen: Christine Lakin (for the millennials who will care: she played Al in Step by Step) and Zachary Webber are two of the best in the biz.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, narrated by Michelle Zauner (April 20)

Penguin Random House

Michelle Zauner's memoir — an expansion on here 2018 essay of the same name — explores themes of family, grief, and heritage, exploring her relationship with her Korean identity through stories of growing up as one of very few Asian Americans in Eugene, Oregon, spending time in Seoul with her mother and grandmother, and processing her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

Why you should listen: The best way to experience a memoir is to hear it from the author herself. Plus, Michelle Zauner is a professional singer-songwriter so you know she's got the voice for it.

Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley, narrated by Nneka Okoye (April 20)

Workman Audio

In London's Soho, a young millionaire has plans to convert an old building into luxury condos, but its tenants — specifically two sex workers whose brothel is based in the building — won’t leave without a fight.

Why you should listen: OK, look, maybe this is silly, but when it's a book that takes place in London, I want someone with a British accent to read it to me — and actor Nneka Okoye has a ton of impressive work on her résumé.

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith, narrated by Clint Smith (June 1)

Hachette Audio

Clint Smith, a poet and Atlantic staff writer, examines the legacy of slavery in modern America, looking at historical monuments and landmarks across the country and ruminating on the ideas they represent in building the narrative of our national identity.

Why you should listen: Clint Smith is a podcaster — cohost of Pod Save the People — so he knows how to keep a historical retelling like this really engaging and personal.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton, narrated by a full cast (March 30)

Simon & Schuster

In early '70s New York, Afro-punk musician Opal is making music with Neville Charles, the British singer/songwriter who took her under his wing after seeing her perform at an amateur night in a Detroit bar. But when a rival band at the same record label waves a Confederate flag at a show, Opal's ensuing protest sparks a violent chain of events that change her life. In 2016, music journalist Sunny Shelton is working on an oral history of Opal and Dev — but her interviews unearth a dangerous secret.

Why you should listen: It's an oral history! A full cast — including some narrator heavy hitters — bring these interviews to life.

Let's Talk About Hard Things by Anna Sale, narrated by Anna Sale (May 4)

Simon & Schuster

Anna Sale, host of the hugely popular, award-winning podcast Death, Sex & Money, has made a career out of having difficult conversations. Here, she shares what she's learned about broaching tough topics — specifically death, sex, money, family, and identity — and why she thinks it's important to do so.

Why you should listen: Anna Sale is a podcast pro, and this book works as an extension of her mega-hit show.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston, narrated by Natalie Naudus (June 1)

Macmillan

Disillusioned server August is a hopeless 23-year-old cynic who's lost faith in her life getting much better. Then she meets the beautiful and kind Jane on her daily commute, and suddenly she has something to look forward to. Unfortunately, Jane has her own problems. Namely, she's traveled from the '70s and now she's lost in time — and August is determined to help her.

Why you should listen: Narrator Natalie Naudus is a fave among audiobook listeners (myself included) for good reason — her voice is smooth like butter.

Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C. Ford, narrated by Ashley C. Ford (June 1)

Macmillan

Ashley Ford’s much-awaited memoir chronicles her complicated relationship with her father, who was imprisoned for rape when Ford was just 6 months old and released right before her 30th birthday in 2017. (Ford is a former BuzzFeed employee.)

Why you should listen: Ford's memoir is deeply personal, the kind of story best heard in the writer's voice. It doesn't hurt that Ford happens to have an amazing voice, evident in the many podcasts and video series she's hosted.

I'm Waiting for You and Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young, narrated by Greg Chun, Jackie Chung, and Vico Ortiz (April 6)

HarperCollins

Kim Bo-Young is one of South Korea's most beloved speculative fiction writers; in this collection of four stories — two pairs of interconnected tales — he takes us from Earth to space and beyond, exploring themes of creation, destruction, and free will.

Why you should listen: This is the first time this collection is available in English, and it's read entirely by a cast of native Korean speakers.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, narrated by Aja Naomi King, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Heather Alicia Simms, and Bahni Turpin (Simon & Schuster)

Simon & Schuster

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is thrilled when Hazel starts working at Wagner books — finally, she's no longer the publisher's only Black employee. But when Hazel suddenly becomes the office favorite, she loses interest in Nella completely. Then Nella starts receiving threatening messages, and soon she starts to suspect she's in danger that goes beyond just losing her job.

Why you should listen: An all-star (and award-winning) cast of narrators will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Truth Be Told: Three Classic Black Women's Narratives by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, narrated by Robin Miles and Erica Armstrong Dunbar (March 30)

Recorded Books

In this audio original, award-winning author and historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar recounts the stories of Harriet Jacobs, Susie King Taylor, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett — three Black women who were born enslaved but lived to claim their power and bring about great change.

Why you should listen: Well, you have to. It's only available in audio.

While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams, narrated by Adenrele Ojo (May 11)

Penguin Random House

You almost definitely know of Stacey Abrams for her tenure as a Georgia representative and her ongoing political organizing; you might be less familiar with her work as a novelist. Her highly anticipated political thriller debut follows a young law clerk whose life is upended when the justice she works for falls into a coma and she’s thrust into the role of his legal guardian, uncovering some explosive research in the process.

Why you should listen: Adenrele Ojo is a narrator superstar — check out the many bestsellers she's read.

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau, narrated by Caitlin Kinnunen (May 11)

HarperCollins

In 1970s Baltimore, 14-year-old Mary Jane is shy and bookish with a passion for singing. When she takes a job nannying for a liberal family, the experience opens her (and the conservative values she's learned from her straight-laced family) up to an entirely new world — especially when the father, a psychiatrist, secretly welcomes a famous rock star and his movie star wife into their home while the rock star gets sober.

Why you should listen: Narrator Caitlin Kinnunen is a bona fide Broadway star; plus, the audiobook includes an original song.

Yearbook by Seth Rogen, narrated by Seth Rogen (May 11

Penguin Random House

Seth Rogen's personal essay collection is full of stories about his childhood, his family, getting into the comedy scene as a teen, drugs, Jewish summer camp, Hollywood adventures, other celebs, and more.

Why you should listen: Who else would be able to do Seth Rogen's unique writing voice justice?

Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein; narrated by Jonathan Todd Ross (April 20)

Penguin Random House

Professors and writers Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein explore bad judgment, why people make different decisions based on identical data. Looking at examples in medicine, law, economics, politics, the educational system, and more, the authors show the consequences of "noise" (or variability in judgments that should be the same) and how to combat the bias that drives it.

Why you should listen: Jonathan Todd Ross is another narrator superstar, with a voice for social science and nonfiction.

Mixed Plate: Chronicles of an All-American Combo by Jo Koy, narrated by Jo Koy (March 23)

HarperCollins

Comedian Jo Koy’s memoir describes his upbringing as a child of a Filipino mom and white dad, and what his journey to success entailed.

Why you should listen: When it comes to memoirs by comedians, you'll never be disappointed by listening to the comedian read it.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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