Nikki May’s ‘Wahala’; Brian Cox’s ‘Putting the Rabbit in the Hat’; and More Stellar Audiobooks | June 2022 Starred Audio Reviews

Essential audiobook titles reviewed in the June 2022 Audio in Depth spotlight. 



Banwo, Ayanna Lloyd. When We Were Birds. Penguin Random House Audio. Mar. 2022. 8:41 hrs. ISBN 9780593508275. $20. F

Set amid the graveyards and gritty cities of Trinidad and Tobago, Banwo’s otherworldly debut depicts the blossoming relationship between two young Trinidadians. Raised as a Rastafarian, Darwin takes a job as a gravedigger, effectively estranging himself from his family, as his faith prohibits any business associated with the dead. Darwin soon finds that his unscrupulous coworkers, who use the cemetery for their own nefarious means, are more dangerous than the dead could ever be. Meanwhile, upon the death of her mother, Petronella, Yejide is shocked to discover that she is part of an ancient line of remarkable women who are tasked with ferrying souls to the afterworld. Darwin’s and Yejide’s paths converge within the unsettling confines of the Fidelis cemetery, where they discover a powerful connection between themselves and begin to understand their role in helping the living and the dead find peace. Narrators Sydney Darius’s and Wendell Manwarren’s performances—authentic, emotional, and perfectly in tune with the lyricism of Banwo’s text—are sublime. Both narrators offer heartfelt, unmediated performances and channel the rhythms and tone of this richly evocative novel. VERDICT Highly recommended, particularly where interest in love stories and Caribbean magical realism is high.—Sarah Hashimoto

Brown, Rita Mae. Rubyfruit Jungle. Blackstone. Jan. 2022. 6:27 hrs. ISBN 9781665063418. $16.95. F

Brown’s (In Her Day) classic coming-of-age tale, first published in 1973, tells the story of Molly Bolt, an inimitable spitfire growing up in the U.S. during the 1950s. Progressive in some respects but old-fashioned in others, Brown’s novel follows Molly from age seven to adulthood. Her feisty and unrelenting need for justice and equal treatment in the South make her a force to be reckoned with. Besides discussing lesbian relationships and experiences, Brown’s novel also delves into sexism, racism, homophobia, and classism. The audio is narrated by Academy Award winner Anna Paquin, herself an advocate for LGBTQ+ equity. She lends a robust quality to this first ever aural production. Paquin captures the myriad of emotions in this seminal story, and the pace of the novel feels natural and unforced. VERDICT Fans of this literary milestone will appreciate the aural version too.—Anna Clark

Douglas, Claire. The Couple at Number 9. HarperAudio. Aug. 2022. 12:43 hrs. ISBN 9780063138193. $26.99. SUSPENSE

Douglas (Just Like the Other Girls) returns with a page-turner that flips between the past and present from multiple viewpoints that are all connected by a gruesome discovery. Saffron Cutler and her boyfriend Tom have just moved into the cottage once owned by her grandmother Rose. What was supposed to be the beginning of their lives together ends up being the beginning of an ordeal as two bodies are discovered in the garden. Rose, who has dementia, is unable to explain why they are there, leaving Saffron and her mother Lorna to piece together what happened. As the narrative takes its necessary twists and turns, Douglas leaves just enough bread crumbs for listeners to follow while keeping them hungry for more. VERDICT Narrator Nathalie Buscombe brings many of the book’s women to life while Kenton Thomas brings a distinct voice and personality to Theo, whose connection to the three women becomes part of the larger mystery. All this and a mindblowing plot twist that completely changes the whole complexion of the novel come together to create a mystery that gives listeners a punch in their collective gut and a tug on their heartstrings.—James Gardner

Fay, Kim. Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love. Penguin Random House Audio. Feb. 2022. 3:46 hrs. ISBN 9780593552506. $15. F

When 27-year-old Joan pens a letter to 59-year-old Imogen, in Fay’s (The Map of Lost Memories) charming epistolary novel, food and writing become the basis of a lifelong friendship. Set in the 1960s, the women live in a time when the United States is becoming more interested in the cuisines of the world and both are eager to try them all. Each trope, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is executed so skillfully that listeners will feel they’ve been comfortingly immersed in this friendship for years rather than a mere four hours. There are points where the food pronunciations were a bit jarring, but this only adds to the authentic feeling of Joan and Imogen discovering—and sharing— dishes with each other that teach them to move beyond their customary palates. VERDICT The two main narrators are so evenly matched that their conversation is a pure pleasure to experience. Listeners will truly feel the warmth of Joan and Imogen’s growing bond, and though the plot may take listeners through familiar beats, they will enjoy every moment of the journey.—Matthew Galloway

Fell, Blair. The Sign for Home. S. & S. Audio. Apr. 2022. 14:09 hrs. ISBN 9781797136264. $23.99. F

In this delightful coming-of-age debut novel, 23-year-old Arlo excitedly begins his first college writing class with the help of his new sign language interpreter, Cyril, a disillusioned and heartbroken gay man who isn’t used to working with the DeafBlind. Arlo’s Jehovah’s Witness upbringing stifled his success: his main translator Molly selectively interprets for him, and his uncle shelters him from sinful technology, as well as making him eat too many bologna sandwiches. Arlo’s teenage life included a secret love lost, as well as lost friendships, and Cyril is determined to help Arlo reconnect with his past. Their working partnership blossoms—Arlo learns about the American Disabilities Act and new technology for the DeafBlind, while Cyril matures and helps Arlo fight for what is right. Author/narrator Fell (who is an ASL interpreter) wonderfully narrates the novel, complete with accents, anguish, and joy. Arlo’s disjointed way of speaking through Cyril with incorrect verb tenses and short sentences is perfect for audio. Fell’s narration is similar to that of Odyssey award winner Tim Federle—expressive, earnest, and heartwarming. VERDICT Perfect for any reader wanting an enjoyable, sweet listen.—Sarah Hill

Fowler, Karen Joy. Booth. Penguin Random House Audio. Mar. 2022. 13:44 hrs. ISBN 9780593552810. $22.50. F

Fowler (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves) makes a triumphant return to historical fiction with this stunning portrayal of a family whose name is infamous thanks to the actions of its favored son, John Wilkes Booth. Fowler crafts a narrative that reaches all the way back before John’s birth to follow the Booth family as they establish themselves in rural Maryland amid the growing rumbles of a nation deeply divided over slavery. Narrator January LaVoy skillfully creates a distinct voice for each of the extended Booth clan as they experience triumph and heartache, from stolid Junius Jr. to dependable Rosalie to ambitious Edwin and headstrong Asia—and of course, John. LaVoy’s subtle narration follows John’s evolution from a sweet boy to an angry, entitled man who cannot consider that he might be wrong about his fundamental beliefs, even when they are at odds with his upbringing. VERDICT LaVoy’s interpretation of Fowler’s fascinating family novel will thrill lovers of both history and suspense as it builds to its inevitable conclusion. Highly recommended for all audio collections.—Natalie Marshall

Harkin, Jo. Tell Me an Ending. S. & S. Audio. Mar. 2022. 16:21 hrs. ISBN 9781797135571. $29.99. SF

Harkin’s debut novel is an ambitious piece of speculative fiction about the importance of memory, especially in a world where it’s disposable. In an alternate present, the Nepenthe corporation discovers a way to remove unwanted or traumatic memories, even making sure some people don’t remember requesting the deletion. When Nepenthe is forced to reveal to people that they had used the memory-deletion services, they give them the option to get that memory back, which creates all sorts of moral conundrums and strains on relationships. Harkin juggles multiple narratives, from a jealous husband who suspects his wife had memories of an affair deleted to a police officer suffering from PTSD. Tania Rodrigues gives this massive cast of characters their own unique voices, even as the number of characters threatens to balloon out of control. Luckily, Harkin ties all these different narratives together through Noor, a Nepenthe employee who suspects her boss Louise of having her own agenda. VERDICT A fine-tuned science fiction character study that explores such philosophical questions as how our memories, good and bad, affect who we are and how we relate to others.—James Gardner

Heron, Farah. Kamila Knows Best. Hachette Audio. Mar. 2022. 10:51 hrs. ISBN 9781549166587. $25.98. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

In this sparkling tribute to Jane Austen’s Emma and Bollywood, Kamila’s life is perfectly full of all the things she loves; her perfectly themed and catered Bollywood movie nights, her Instagram famous dog Darcy, serving on the Puppy Prom fundraising committee, her job, and playing matchmaker for her friends and family. Kamila truly seems to have it all, even if her family’s long-term friend Rohan Nasser teases her about her frivolity. Despite his teasing Kamila knows Rohan is a rock she can always lean on, but lately her rock has been giving Kamila some distracting butterflies and their “harmless” flirting starts to feel a bit more serious. Narrator Soneela Nankani brings to life Kamila, Rohan, and the large cast of Kamila’s Toronto-based friends and family, giving each character a distinctive voice, especially posh Kamila, who learns to be vulnerable and to ask for help while falling in love with her best friend. VERDICT Heron (Accidentally Engaged) captures the heart of what makes a rom-com shine. A true delight.—Elizabeth Gabriel

Jenner, Natalie. Bloomsbury Girls. Macmillan Audio. May 2022. 12:29 hrs. ISBN 9781250852328. $26.99. F

Jenner’s heartwarming follow-up to The Jane Austen Society traces the lives of three women who are transformed while working at an old-fashioned London bookshop. Evie, a trailblazing graduate of Cambridge University, has been unfairly passed over for a fellowship and now seeks to uncover a mystery while working at the shop. Stylish Vivien, a writer in her own right, is tired of being dismissed and is desperate to put her creativity to work. Grace struggles to balance a precarious home life with her work at the shop and wishes to be recognized for her business acumen. When illness shakes up the shop’s personnel, all three women know that the time has come for them to step into new roles and exercise their talents and intelligence. Juliet Stevenson’s luminous narration is a delight for the ears and makes for an entertaining and moving listening experience. With small changes in tone and cadence, she captures every nuance of expression. Her accent work is exquisite and conveys the broadest county accents to the poshest upper-crust tones. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of Christina Baker Kline, Mary Ann Shaffer, and Jennifer Ryan, or for any listener who enjoys post–World War II historical fiction.—Sarah Hashimoto

Kistler, Bonnie. The Cage. HarperAudio. Feb. 2022. 10:24 hrs. ISBN 9780063089198. $26.99. THRILLER

This gripping thriller begins with two women getting stuck in an office elevator together. When the elevator finally opens, one of them is dead. The story is told from two points of view: Shay, the surviving woman, and Barrett, her employer. Shay is determined to prove her innocence by providing evidence that suggests that the other woman committed suicide, while Barrett has tampered with evidence regarding his own agenda to prove that Shay has murdered her colleague. Although only fiction, this story dives headfirst into the corporate world of common white privilege and corruption that often surrounds lawyers and businesspeople. In addition, it sheds light on the sexism experienced by women and the racism experienced by people of color through the eyes of both white protagonists, regardless of their stance. VERDICT Although there is a lot of legal jargon to digest, the author and narrators execute this legal thriller effortlessly by creating a deep and compelling story full of plot twists and unreliable facts that will keep listeners questioning the truth until the very end.—Lacey Webster

May, Nikki. Wahala. HarperAudio. Jan. 2022. 10:19 hrs. ISBN 9780063084278. $26.99. F

May’s debut novel, titled after the Nigerian word for “trouble” follows a trio of friends who meet in grade school and bond over their shared British and Nigerian heritage. Ronke, Simi, and Boo have grown up as close as sisters. They have shared their successes, their dreams, and even their failures. Until now. With the introduction of Isobel, a childhood friend of Simi, things take a turn that has the potential to tear these lifelong friends apart for good. The audiobook is performed by Natalie Simpson, who deftly handles the different perspectives and whose voice and cadence perfectly lends itself to this delicious story. VERDICT May’s novel delves into provocative and emotional points about colorism, body images, and wealth. It is a must-listen.—Anna Clark

Pek, Jane. The Verifiers. Penguin Random House Audio. Feb. 2022. 11:46 hrs. ISBN 9780593554906. $22.50. M

Eunice Wong’s rollicking performance of Pek’s debut novel teleports listeners to the busy streets of New York City. That is where the charming protagonist, 20-something, Taiwanese American Claudia Lin, zips across the boroughs on her trusty bicycle and shadows people for Veracity, her employer. Veracity is a rather shady, referrals-only business that investigates the potential romantic partners its clients have met on dating sites to verify these “matches” have been truthful in their online dating profiles and real-life interactions. When her first big client ends up dead under suspicious circumstances, Claudia tries to channel her inner Inspector Yuan, the hero of her favorite mystery series set in Imperial China, which leads to often hilarious, sometimes dangerous, results. Pek’s clever and absorbing plot highlights the danger of the misuse of collected personal data, but it is Claudia and her dysfunctional immigrant family who steal the show. Wong absolutely nails her portrayals of the wonderfully idiosyncratic Claudia, her over-achieving brother Charles, fashionista sister Coraline, and their exasperating, constantly critical mother. VERDICT Most listeners will be left hoping that Pek (a Singapore-born, New York City–based lawyer at a global investment company) is already at work on a sequel.—Beth Farrell

Probst, Jennifer. The Secret Love Letters of Olivia Moretti. Penguin Random House Audio. Feb. 2022. 11:15 hrs. ISBN 9780593558249. $22.50. F

When Olivia Moretti passes away, her estranged daughters Priscilla, Devon, and Bailey must come together to settle her estate. They find secret love letters from a mysterious “R” and a deed to a house in Positano, Italy. They agree to set aside their differences and go to Italy for a week to sort out that house. Finance professor Devon wants to sell the house and build a nest egg; Priscilla wants to use the time away to figure out her faltering marriage; Bailey is eager to dash off to romantic Italy. Narrators Thérèse Plummer, Ann Marie Lee, and Edoardo Ballerini skillfully bring the sisters, mother, and mysterious lover Rafe to life. This story is an exploration of what it means to be a family and how to find yourself and love. While Probst does a wonderful job exploring all these themes, the narrators’ performances bring this story to another level. VERDICT Not to be missed, this audiobook will prove popular for fans of Probst (The Marriage Bargain) and newcomers alike, as well as for anyone looking for a story of family togetherness.—Stephanie Charlefour

Scottoline, Lisa. What Happened to the Bennetts. Penguin Random House Audio. Mar. 2022. 10:15 hrs. ISBN 9781984883025. $22.50. THRILLER

Jason Bennett is driving his family home from his daughter’s lacrosse game when two men in a truck attempt to hijack his car at gunpoint. In a flash, the scenario turns violent, changing their lives forever. That night, the family is visited by the FBI, who informs them that they are still in danger and need to enter the witness protection program. Grief-stricken and uprooted from their normal lives, the family starts to fall apart. Soon, law-abiding Jason questions the justice system and decides to do what it takes to claim their lives back. Narrator Edoardo Ballerini does a flawless job of bringing the different characters to life with various accents. Listeners can easily empathize with Jason’s pain because of the seamless and natural way Ballerini performs Jason’s flashbacks to past conversations with his children. VERDICT Scottoline’s familiarity with Philadelphia and the surrounding areas is evident throughout, and her writing is full of suspense and plot twists that’ll keep audiences guessing and rooting for Jason. The intensity of it all is sure to give listeners heart palpitations.—Lacey Webster

Slocumb, Brendan. The Violin Conspiracy. Penguin Random House Audio. Feb. 2022. 12:04 hrs. ISBN 9780593554968. $20. THRILLER

From the riveting opening words, JD Jackson delivers a pitch-perfect performance of this sparkling debut novel by Slocumb, a classical musician and music educator. In this story, Ray’s beloved Grandma Nora helps him cope with the systemic, vicious racism he faces as a young Black boy interested in classical music by giving him PopPop’s fiddle, the violin given to her grandfather by the plantation owner who enslaved him. His family is unaware of its staggering value, even as Ray becomes a virtuoso violinist. Weeks before he is due to perform in the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition, his instrument disappears. Jackson’s sonorous, well-modulated delivery smooths the narrative’s back-and-forth flow from the present-day search for the violin to Ray’s past. The measured pacing also builds incredible suspense. Lovely classical music and Slocumb’s narration of the author’s note add value to the audio production. VERDICT A highly recommended purchase; this twisty heist thriller is also a poignant coming-of-age story, making it an excellent choice for many young adults, especially those interested in music.—Beth Farrell

Zhang, Jenny Tinghui. Four Treasures of the Sky. Macmillan Audio. Apr. 2022. 12:18 hrs. ISBN 9781250837530. $26.99. F

Narrator Katharine Chin’s outstanding performance will have listeners weeping as they hear Zhang’s debut novel, based on actual events. When her parents are arrested and imprisoned in China, Daiyu is turned out on the street and passes as a boy to get by. When discovered, she is kidnapped and trafficked to the United States, where she experiences many instances of the injustice heaped upon Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans in the American West of the 1880s. Chin’s youthful voice is well cast in this production; her Chinese pronunciations appear authentic, and her earnestness when narrating Daiyu’s perspective rings true. She makes excellent use of pacing and maintains strong emotions throughout. Particularly memorable are Daiyu’s anger at a fishmonger, outrage at unfair working conditions, fear that her secret will be discovered, and disappointment when she sees a man whom she has feelings for kiss another woman. VERDICT Fans of Amy Tan will appreciate Zhang’s dive into a little-told history of immigrants and Chinese Americans in the American West after the passage of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.—Stephanie Bange


Burgess, Ann Wolbert. A Killer by Design: Murderers, Mindhunters, and My Quest To Decipher the Criminal Mind. Hachette Audio. Dec. 2021. 9:02 hrs. ISBN 9781549135170. $25.98. CRIME

Burgess, a professor of forensic science at Boston Cornell School of Nursing, presents a riveting account of the beginnings of the criminal profiling and her work on many high-profile serial murder cases. In the ’70s, her work with sexual assault and trauma victims resulted in a groundbreaking study showing that sexual violence is rooted in a display of power rather than sexual gratification. Her work caught the attention of the FBI, who were witnessing an increase in violent sexual crimes. Burgess discusses how criminal profiling, which was proving to be effective in solving these cases, was in its infancy and still being formed. Several high-profile cases that she worked on are discussed: Dennis Rader (the “BTK Killer”), Ed Kemper, and cases that may not be as well known. Subsequent interviews with the criminals helped reveal patterns and common threads in behavioral traits that would advance the methods of criminal profiling. The book provides a fascinating glimpse into the development of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit as well as the minds of serial killers. The excellent narration by Gabra Zackman provides the appropriate intensity and suspense. VERDICT A great addition to the true-crime library that offers a unique perspective.—Phillip Oliver

Cox, Brian. Putting the Rabbit in the Hat. Hachette Audio. Jan. 2022. 11:40 hrs. ISBN 9781549164675. $25.98. FILM

Scottish actor Cox’s career has spanned six decades in which he has played Shakespearean characters on stage and a long list of character roles on film and television (he has recently garnered much success in the recent HBO series Succession). Born in Dundee, Scotland, he was the youngest of five children. His father died when he was eight and his mother subsequently suffered from mental health issues. Raised mainly by his three eldest sisters, he often escaped to the local cinema where he would see up to eight films per week. He loved American films but was smitten with acting after seeing Albert Finney in the film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. At 17 he enrolled in the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the rest is history. A great storyteller, Cox presents a series of recollections from childhood experiences and progresses through his colorful career. He has insightful observations on the craft of acting, sprinkled with gossipy anecdotes about the people he has worked with. He also writes candidly about his own shortcomings as a husband and father. Cox narrates in his distinct and commanding Scottish brogue. VERDICT An entertaining and well-written memoir from a master actor.—Phillip Oliver

De la Cretaz, Frankie & Lyndsey D’Arcangelo. Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League. Dreamscape Audio. Dec. 2021. 9:37 hrs. ISBN 9781666535075. $24.99. SPORTS

Sportswriters De la Cretaz and D’Arcangelo present a fascinating, well-researched history of the 1974–88 U.S. National Women’s Football League (NWFL), which fielded nearly 20 teams—though never more than 11 at one time. The rules of the game were finalized in the 1880s, and the first recorded women’s football scrimmage occurred on November 21, 1896, in Harlem. NWFL athletes faced pushback, even after the 1972 passage of Title IX paved the way for greater participation of women in sports. NWFL players, a group of all marital statuses and sexual orientations, were also college students, mothers, and factory and office workers, who juggled their professions and family to play the game they loved—often for no or very little pay. Narrator Kimberly Austin perfectly varies her tone and energy throughout the shifts between historical background, player interviews, play-by-play game action, and media coverage. Austin’s excellent pacing keeps the narrative rolling along through the wealth of details included about the teams, players, and their obstacles. VERDICT This engaging account of an extremely important era in women’s sports history should be enjoyed by enthusiasts of social history and sports fans.—Beth Farrell

Franscell, Ron. ShadowMan: An Elusive Psycho Killer and the Birth of FBI Profiling. Penguin Random House Audio. Mar. 2022. 8:43 hrs. ISBN 9780593552223. $20. CRIME

In the summer of 1973 in the small town of Manhattan, Montana, seven-year-old Susie Jaeger vanished from her family campsite tent in the middle of the night. After the largest manhunt in Montana history was unsuccessful, Pete Dunbar, the FBI special agent leading the investigation, contacted the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico for assistance. Psychologist Patrick Mullany and criminologist Howard Taten were teaching a course in psychological profiling and predicted that the killer was a white male and a former military veteran, and they offered other specific characteristics as well. Fifteen months later, David Meirhofer, a former suspect who had passed numerous lie detector tests, was arrested and convicted of killing Jaeger and three other people. Patty Neiman’s calm and clear narration effectively builds suspense and captures the chilling details of the case. VERDICT True crime at its best, this is a compelling account detailing the beginnings of criminal profiling.—Phillip Oliver

Galloway, Stephen. Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, and the Romance of the Century. Hachette Audio. Mar. 2022. 13:18 hrs. ISBN 9781549173509. $25.98. FILM

Galloway (former executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter) recounts the passionate and tumultuous marriage of actors Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. The two first met while filming Fire Over England in 1937. Both were married to other people at the time (Olivier to actress Jill Esmond and Leigh to barrister Leigh Holman). They embarked on an affair and eventually married in 1940. On the surface, their 21-year marriage seemed to be a fairy tale as they each attained great personal successes in both film and theater and held star-studded parties at Notley Abbey, their fabulous English country estate, all described in glittering detail. Much attention is given to their film and theater work, especially Leigh’s winning of the coveted role of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind and Olivier’s Richard III. Troubles lurked under the surface, however, ranging from infidelities, financial difficulties, and most of all, Leigh’s health issues. She was first diagnosed with tuberculosis (the disease would eventually take her life at the age of 53) but it was her undiagnosed and misunderstood bipolar disorder that had the greatest effect on their marriage. Galloway makes excellent use of unpublished letters as well as a modern analysis of mental health conditions to provide fresh insight. The narration by Molly Parker Myers is strong, precise, and utterly engrossing. VERDICT Fascinating, insightful, and well-written, Galloway’s work should appeal to theater and film fans.—Phillip Oliver

Jackson, Shirley. Raising Demons. Penguin Random House Audio. Mar. 2022. 8:51 hrs. ISBN 9780593608135. $20. MEMOIR

Kirsten Potter irresistibly narrates horror novelist Jackson’s (The Haunting of Hill House) second domestic memoir, a loose sequel to Life Among the Savages. First published in 1957, it contains moments that will strike modern listeners as part of a bygone America, from the price of groceries (measured in cents) to the casual sexism (“You ladies like everything just so”; “The next person you talk to will be my husband!”). Despite such cultural throwbacks, the stories collected here touch on timeless themes like needing more space for books and attending to one’s personal fulfillment while acting as primary caregiver. Listeners aware of Jackson’s fraught marriage may catch a whiff of darker emotions under the comical slices of life, though nothing as dark as the psychological horror for which she’s known. Sympathetically assertive in conflict and touchingly wistful while watching her children grow up, the nameless mother through whom Jackson fictionalizes herself and her family calls for performative range. Potter delivers an audio book that captures the warmth and humor of these tales but leaves Mom’s ironic edge appealingly sharp. VERDICT Top-notch. It creates a new experience for re-readers and an engaging first-time listen for all others.—Lauren Kage

Katz, Evan Ross. Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts. Hachette Audio. Mar. 2022. 11:42 hrs. ISBN 9781549164590. $26.98. TV

Writer and podcast host Katz presents a deep, deep dive into the history of the pop culture phenomenon TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer that includes analysis of its legacy and interviews with cast, crew, and big-name fans. This exhaustively researched book takes readers on a journey through reporting, biography, and memoir to the heart of the enduring love the fandom has for Buffy. Organized at first around the chronological progression from mediocre action flick to a season-by-season breakdown, the book is interspersed with asides and witticisms that entertain as well as bridge themes and interweave facts. The later section, about controversies and legacies, is approached with skill and empathy. VERDICT Katz’s writing captures his own voice so well that his audiobook narration is pitch-perfect. A first purchase for nonfiction audio collections.—Chrystopher Lytal

Krishnan, Vidya. Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History. Hachette Audio. Feb. 2022. 8:53 hrs. ISBN 9781549136085. $25.98. MED

Entrenched images of tuberculosis as a bygone killer of Romantic poets and antiquated source of superstitions that inspired Dracula are thoroughly explored and even more thoroughly subverted in this politically aware history of a far-from-historical disease. Health reporter Krishnan writes with exceptional journalistic clarity but doesn’t hesitate to catch and hold listeners by the heartstrings. Through Krishnan’s stories about patients’ struggles to obtain treatment, we learn that corporate greed has done as much to keep TB alive and increasingly drug-resistant as had the centuries of ignorance before widespread acceptance of germ theory. Sneha Mathan’s mellifluous, evenly paced narration turns pained as she reads these personal tragedies. Krishnan details and soundly condemns the policies that have spread this localized plague, but laments that it may be too late to prevent yesterday’s global pandemic from becoming tomorrow’s. VERDICT Recommended for all public libraries, this beautifully narrated title puts an ongoing public health crisis in its proper historical context and argues articulately and persuasively against the pharmaceutical patents that have helped it proliferate.—Lauren Kage

Pitkin, Daisy. On the Line: A Story of Class, Solidarity, and Two Women’s Epic Fight To Build a Union. Workman Audio. Mar. 2022. 9:02 hrs. ISBN 9781649041036. $24.95. POL SCI

Pitkin has an agenda: to protect workers. Over a five-year period, Pitkin and Alma Gomez García, a second-shift immigrant worker, fight to unionize industrial laundry factories. They routinely deal with biohazardous waste, harsh chemicals, and faulty protective gear, and they attempt to make changes within the broken U.S. labor law system. Moving between the present and the history of the labor movement during the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly with regard to contributions from women, Pitkin deftly demonstrates the parallels of now and then; how in order for American industries to save money and produce faster, some workers have paid with their lives. Pitkin’s narration makes the choice to write as though in conversation with Alma a great one. She gives depth, soul, and a human face to what it takes to organize. VERDICT At once incredibly impactful and insightful, this is a lesson in history and humanity. Highly recommended.—Anna Clark

Presser, Brandon. The Far Land: 200 Years of Murder, Mania, and Mutiny in the South Pacific. Hachette Audio. Mar. 2022. 11:08 hrs. ISBN 9781549158599. $25.98. HIST

Presser, a journalist and adventurer, writes about his visit to Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific, one of the most isolated places on earth. Its topography does not allow for an airstrip; a freighter visits once every 3 months; the population is 48. The island is notable worldwide because of the 1789 Bounty mutiny. Some of the crew put Captain Bly and others into a small boat and set them adrift. The mutineers sailed away in the Bounty and found the Pitcairn—a perfect place to hide. Presser alternates tales of his experiences on the island with a history of the crew of the Bounty, how they came to be in the South Pacific, the events that led to the mutiny, the search for a secluded island where they would be safe from capture, and the island mania that almost destroyed the settlement. The work is based on extensive research and interviews with the local residents, some of whom are likely descendants of the mutineers. It is well read by Steve Quinn, who provides all the appropriate nuances. VERDICT Readers of history will enjoy; highly recommended.—Joanna M. Burkhardt


Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing