There’s no bad time for a good story. But summer – with its long lazy days and trips away – seems tailor-made for wiling away the sun-baked hours lost in a tale or two: a chance to catch your breath, reach for your headphones and dive deep into another world.
To point your ears in the right direction, and to mark LoveAudio Week – an annual celebration of the accessibility, innovation and creativity of the wildly-popular format – we’ve asked our audio team for their recommendations of the audiobooks to soundtrack your summer.
Whether you’re looking for a gripping tale to keep you company on a long country walk, a comedy to keep the kids entertained on the gridlocked drive to your bank holiday weekend away, or simply something to drown out the noise of yet another in-vain rendition of Football’s Coming Home, our audiobooks will have you covered.
Best for keeping the kids laughing all journey long… Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths by Maisie Chan, narrated by Eric Mok (Piccadilly Press).
Cartoon crazy Danny is far from happy when he hears that he’ll have to share his bedroom with Nai Nai. But he comes to realise that there’s plenty more to his grandmother than meets the eye. Eric Mok narrates Maisie Chan’s whip-smart novel set in Birmingham, which balances insights into inter-generational relationships and British Chinese culture with frequent bursts of laugh-out-loud hilarity. Stick this one on for a long car journey, and those cries of ‘Are we there yet?’ from the backseats will soon turn into ‘Do you mind if we take the scenic route?’
Marina Stavropoulou says: ‘Maisie Chan’s humour shines through in Eric Mok’s narration of the story of Danny – Brummie accent and all – and his hilariously oblivious Nai Nai.’
Best for accompanying you on a wild country walk… Mrs England by Stacey Halls, narrated by Imogen Wilde (Manilla Press).
A Times Audiobook of the Week, Mrs England is the latest historical page-turner from the bestselling Stacey Halls. Simmering with slow burning menace, Imogen Wilde narrates the tale of Norland nanny Ruby May as she takes a position in the isolated home of Mr and Mrs England, and is drawn into the mystery and deception at the heart of Hardcastle House. A novel to listen to while roaming the countryside, lashed by the rain and chill of the volatile British summer.
Laura Makela says: “Everything about Stacey’s writing make her novels perfect for audio: the first-person narrative, the careful character development, the setting, the atmosphere, the way she immediately draws you in and builds suspense and intrigue to keep you hooked. All of these elements provide a talented narrator with plenty to build on for their performance. And when they succeed, as Imogen has, it makes for a truly special listening experience.”
Best for those hankering for some action… Manhunter by Chris Ryan, narrated by Paul Thornley (Zaffre).
A brand-new series from the bestselling Chris Ryan. Meet Josh Bowman, the battle-hardened soldier headhunted to join a shadowy unit within the SAS. Paul Thornley narrates this heart-stopping thrill ride, as Bowman sets out to do battle against organized crime, avenge his family, and overcome the demons of opioid addiction. A story for anybody who struggles to sit still on their sun lounger.
Alex Schmidt says: “Narrated by the incredibly talented Paul Thornley, this audiobook is a tale of non-stop action as Josh races against time to stop the sinister plans of the Russian mob. It also includes a special clip about what Chris Ryan learned from the Bravo Two Mission and his survival mindset. If you want action, crime, explosions and mystery, Chris Ryan won’t disappoint.”
Best for scaring yourself silly… House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland, narrated by Eleanor Bennett (Hot Key Books).
A story of three sinister sisters who vanish in childhood and return transformed and ready to take on the world – oh, and the mysterious man in a minotaur skull who stalks them from the shadows. Riffing on contemporary horror, folk tales and mythology, Krystal Sutherland’s dark House of Hollow brings the paranormal into the world of everyday teenage tribulations. A beguiling performance from Eleanor Bennett does this unsettling and utterly entertaining feat of imagination justice.
Marina Stavropoulou says: ‘This creepy twisted fairy-tale, combined with haunting music and a chilling performance by Eleanor Bennett, will stay with you for a while. Keep the lights on and make sure you listen to this with your headphones on! The Hollow sisters do not mess around.’
Best for transporting yourself back to the summers of your youth… Snowflake by Louise Nealon, narrated by Louisa Harland (Manilla Press).
Louisa Harland, star of Derry Girls, makes her audiobook debut with Louise Nealon’s acclaimed Snowflake. The startling story of a young Trinity student caught between the temptations of Dublin and the pull of her childhood home on a rural dairy farm and life caring for her deeply troubled mother. Harland’s agile delivery will take you back to precious memories of growing up, young love, drunken arguments with mates, and taking those bittersweet first steps away from home.
Laura Makela says: “Louise has written a novel in which no word is out of place and the characters are each uniquely flawed but instantly feel like nothing short of family. Such nuanced writing can be very challenging for a narrator but Louisa Harland delivers a spot-on performance that is gentle even when the story isn’t and captures all the humour, authenticity and warmth of Louise’s writing.”
Best for losing yourself in an incredible life story… Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford, narrated by the author (Manilla Press).
The writer, podcaster, and educator Ashley C. Ford presents the unvarnished truth of her upbringing, coming of age in Indiana in a family torn apart by an incarcerated father. It is a memoir of great heart, insight, and undeniable power – made all the more potent when heard in Ford’s own voice. An Amazon Books editors’ choice for best books of 2021 so far, and a life-story to get lost in.
Alex Schmidt says: “Listening to Ford tell her raw truth is harrowing, inspiring and, above all, an eye-opener to the complexity of understanding and overcoming our origins. The audio also includes an interview between Ford and fellow author Clint Smith, in which they discuss writing honest memoir without compromising the truth for the sake of personal relationships. Truly an audiobook that will stay with you long after you’ve finished listening.”