Category Archives: Book Lists

2015 Favorites — Literary Fiction Audiobooks #audiobooks

Looking for a good listen? Here are my favorite audiobooks of 2015!  Links go to my reviews (if I wrote one) – either here on the blog or on LibraryThing (baystateRA). Clicking on the images will take you to the publishers’ pages where you can listen to audio samples.

2015 Favorite Audiobooks

cover image of audio CDDinner with Buddha by Roland Merullo, narrated by Sean Runnette (Highbridge Audio, 2015)
Dinner with Buddha follows Breakfast with Buddha and Lunch with Buddha. They are all road trip novels with a twist – the buddy in the front seat with Otto Ringling, a completely normal middle-aged man without even a drop of crazy, is Volya Rinpoche, a joyful Russian monk. While Otto’s idea of a spiritual experience is a perfectly cooked gourmet meal, Rinpoche (pronounced Rin-po-shay) has been gradually opening his mind to other possibilities over the span of time in which these books take place.
Otto’s story doesn’t seem to end here, which means more of Volya Rinpoche and audiobook narrator Sean Runnette, I hope. Highly recommended!

cover image of audio CDEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, narrated by Cassandra Campbell (Blackstone Audio, 2014)
A Massachusetts Book Award 2015 winner, this novel about a biracial Chinese-American teenage girl and her family before and after her death, will take your breath away with its terrible beauty. Stunning!
The audiobook narration by Audie Award-winner Cassandra Campbell fits the tragic, questioning  tone of this book perfectly.

cover image of audiobookIt by Stephen King, narrated by Steven Weber (Penguin Audio, 2010)
At just barely under 45 hours long, It is probably the longest audiobook I’ve ever listened to, but it is worth the listening time if you’re a Stephen King fan. (If you’re not a Stephen King fan yet, I recommend starting your King audiobook journey with Lisey’s Story – that’s the one that got me hooked.) Childhood friends from Derry, Maine grow up and lose track of each other pursuing their successful careers, but are compelled to return to Derry when “It” comes back to town. Sad, scary, and gory, but also about friendship, youth, small town life, and what it means to be good.
Remarkable narration by actor Steven Weber! I think he (a New Yorker) messed up here and there on the pronunciation of place names such as Bangor, Maine, but the Maine accent sounded good to me!

cover image of audio MP3-CDOff Course by Michelle Huneven, narrated by Amy Rubinate (Tantor Audio, 2014)
The bare bones of the story: In 1981, a young woman goes to live in her parents’ cabin in the Pacific Northwest woods to write her dissertation and gets sidetracked by a man. But it’s the fleshing out of those familiar bones that makes Off Course mesmerizing. Narrator Amy Rubinate is a multiple AudioFile Earphones Award-winner.
“A complex portrait of a woman under the influence: of love, then obsession.” — The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

cover image of CDThe Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, narrated by Mark Bramhall (Blackstone Audio, 2014)
Another story set in the Pacific Northwest, but the time frame is the early 1900s and the main character is a man. William Talmadge avoids most human society by living alone and tending to his fruit trees, but he decides to help as best he can after he catches sight of two young women on the run from an abusive situation.
The pace of the story is deliberate and careful, like Talmadge, and the story spans years. Listening to, instead of reading The Orchardist forced me to slow down and pay attention to the writing. Audiobook narrator Mark Bramhall is fantastic.

cover image of audio CDThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, narrated by Juliet Stevenson (Books on Tape, 2014)
I first got hooked on Sarah Waters’ books on audio when I listened to The Little Stranger, narrated by Simon Vance. The Paying Guests is an even more compelling tale. In 1920s London, an unmarried young woman and her widowed mother are forced to take in lodgers, and settle on a young couple. The man is rough around the edges and shocks the already shaken Mrs. Wray with his careless behavior, but the wife seems to understand their social station and is grateful to live in this upper-class house, even if only as paying guests. Frances, Mrs. Wray’s daughter, is the main character and the story revolves around the changes the lodgers bring about in her life.
Bringing in class identity, sexuality, feminism, and life after the War, The Paying Guests is  narrated to perfection by Juliet Stevenson.

cover image of audio CDThe Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion, narrated by Dan O’Grady (Simon & Schuster Audio, 2015)
First listen to The Rosie Projectwait a while…and then listen to The Rosie Effect. Too much at once of Don Tillman, Assistant Professor of Genetics, and the love of his life, Rosie, could be an overload. But if you enjoyed The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect picks up where it left off. Still humorous, The Rosie Effect gets a little more serious, as Don’s life and relationships become more complicated, making it hard for him to schedule his time efficiently and maintain his focus.
Actor Dan O’Grady, an Australian native, does the voice of Don Tillman (who is the first-person narrator of the story) with a debonair Australian accent.

cover image of audio CDThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, narrated by Juliet Stevenson (Penguin Audio, 2013)
If Juliet Stevenson hadn’t been the narrator, I might not have decided to listen to this historical fiction chunkster spanning the turn of the 19th century at all, despite the glowing reviews, but I’m glad I did.
If you’ve ever wondered what the intrepid women of the past who overcame all odds to become scientists, explorers, doctors, or something else that women weren’t allowed to be might have been like, spend 21 hours and 44 minutes with Juliet Stevenson as she narrates Elizabeth Gilbert’s sprawling saga of the life of botanist Alma Whittaker!

Still can’t get enough Best Of 2015 lists? Visit Largehearted Boy for best-of book lists gathered together for you in one place.






2015 Favorites — Books

Links go to my reviews (if I wrote one), either here on the blog or on LibraryThing (baystateRA).

2015 Favorite Books

All_Together_NowAll Together Now by Gill Hornby
Little Brown, 2015
A feel-good story for the heart and the brain! A dying community choir comes back to life in a suburban English village.


cover imageBradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman
Crown, 2015
A Harvard University student is murdered right before graduation. Did the weirdly charismatic professor kill her or a jealous fellow student? Warning: Unlikeable characters abound.

Grant ParkGrant Park by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Overlook, 2015
The kidnapping of a prominent African-American newspaper columnist by two scarily wacky white supremacists launches this provocative novel about U.S. race relations and protest movements.

Library at Mount Char coverThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Crown, 2015

Dark fantasy with a surreal library. If you liked The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman, try this one. Maybe the first in a trilogy of its own?


cover imageA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Doubleday, 2015
A sprawling saga of friendship and family with a broad vein of tragedy throughout, this is the story of four male college friends and their lives before and after. To be savored!

cover imageThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Granta, 2013

Written in the style of a 19th-century novel, The Luminaries has the scope, depth, structure, emotional resonance, and humor of an instant classic. (Winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize)

cover imageMy Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Europa, 2012
First in the Neapolitan Quartet, My Brilliant Friend is the story of a rocky friendship between two girls growing up together in Naples, translated from the Italian. Lots of character development and conflicted people…my favorite kind of novel!

She Came from BeyondShe Came from Beyond by Nadine Darling
Overlook, 2015
I reviewed this quirky novel for Library Journal but despite other good reviews, the book hasn’t taken off. Its dark humor and likeable actress-heroine (Easy Hardwick) make it a good choice for readers who like campy sci-fi movies and sarcasm.

cover imageA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Knopf, 2015
I’m a big Anne Tyler fan, so her new one was bound to make my 2015 list. Although I didn’t like the ending of A Spool of Blue Thread, the flawed but likeable characters and family dynamics still make this a five-star read.

cover imageWeekends with Daisy by Sharron Kahn Luttrell
Gallery, 2013
A memoir by a Massachusetts journalist about her experience as a weekend puppy-raiser, sharing the training of Daisy, a loveable yellow Lab, with a prison inmate through the Prison Pups program.

cover imageWool by Hugh Howey
Simon & Schuster, 2013
A post-apocalyptic dystopian novel that envisions literal strata of society living together in an underground silo after the planet’s surface has been poisoned. A trilogy that became a quintet with a prequel and a sequel?

Library Thing Top Five of 2015 badgeClick image for my Top Five of 2015 on LibraryThing and other members’ Top Five lists.

Can’t get enough Best Of 2015 lists? Visit Largehearted Boy for best-of book lists gathered together for you in one place.

Massachusetts Must Reads 2015 & Advocacy Needed

Massachusetts Book Award sealThe Massachusetts Must-Reads – finalists in the Massachusetts Book Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Children’s/Young Adult – are being announced this week on Facebook by the Massachusetts Center for the Book.

The 2015 Massachusetts Book Awards are for books published in 2014. Librarian judges serve for one year on a panel of three librarians plus a convener; they read, read, and read to decide on the best, most discussable books, either by a Massachusetts author or with a Massachusetts theme. I was disappointed to see that my personal favorite, The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis, didn’t make the short list of Must Reads in the fiction category, but clearly there was a lot of tough competition this year. (Check the Giveaways page for your chance to win your very own copy of The Orphans of Race Point this month, though!)

MassBook Must Read seal

The 2015 Must-Read Titles


cover imageAnita Diamant, The Boston Girl (Scribner)
Bret Anthony Johnston, Remember Me Like This (Random House)
Ward Just, American Romantic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Randy Susan Meyers, Accidents of Marriage (Atria)
Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You (Penguin)
Annie Weatherwax, All We Had (Scribner)

Michael Blanding, The Map Thief (Gotham Books)cover image
Michael M. Greenburg, The Court-Martial of Paul Revere (ForeEdge)
Fred Kaplan, John Quincy Adams (Harper)
Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction (Henry Holt)
Doug Most, The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry that Built America’s First Subway (St Martin’s)
Jennifer Taub, Other People’s Houses (Yale University)


cover imageLiam Day, Afforded Permanence (Aforementioned Productions)
Jeffrey Harrison, Into the Daylight (Tupelo Press)
Fanny Howe, Second Childhood (Graywolf Press)
Jennifer Markell, Samsara (Turning Point)
January Gill O’Neil, Misery Islands
Afaa Michael Weaver, City of Eternal Spring (Pittsburgh UP)

To be announced

Massachusetts residents, your help is needed! The Massachusetts Center for the Book, which administers the Massachusetts Book Awards among other programs, is struggling for its funding in the state budget again.

At first, the House zeroed out funding for the Center for the Book in their proposed FY2016 budget, but then amended it to $200,000, thanks to Rep. Kate Hogan and other library advocates in the House, including Rep. Tom Calter.  However the Senate then voted to zero it out of their budget, and voted not to adopt the amendment sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Flanagan to keep funding for the Center at $200,000, despite support from Senators Eldridge, Brownsberger and (my own senator) Sen. Tom Kennedy.

Now, since the House and Senate budgets don’t match, the budget is in joint conference committee. If you live in Massachusetts and want to advocate for your local library on the state level, now is the time to contact members of the Senate/House Conference Committee to ask them to support the FY2016 Library Legislative Agenda, especially the following line items:

7000-9501 State Aid to Public Libraries (This is local aid that goes directly to support local public libraries throughout the state.)

7000-9506 Automated Networks/Library Technology & Resource Sharing (This goes straight to supporting the networks that connect libraries throughout the state, helping to lower costs for local libraries.)

7000-9508 “For the Massachusetts Center for the Book, Inc., chartered as the Commonwealth Affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress; to continue its work as a public-private partnership……$200,000”

Conference Committee (click for contact info)

Brian Dempsey, Haverhill
Steven Kulik, Worthington
Todd Smola, Warren

Karen Spilka, Ashland
Sal DiDomenico, Everett
Viriato (Vinny) deMacedo, Plymouth

Thank you!!!