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Top 10 Audiobook Listens of 2021

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The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett; narrated by Tom Hanks

You cannot go wrong with Tom Hanks. He should narrate everything. There’s a good reason this superb narration of a stellar novel was a 2020 Audie finalist for audiobook of the year and best male narrator. He narrates this novel about Danny and Maeve and their beloved childhood home, the Dutch House, with a  mix of awe, wistfulness, and a dash of befuddlement that suits the characters. (9 hrs and 53 mins, Harper Audio)

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens; narrated by Hugh Grant

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself,” so said Charles Dickens, author of the festive classic A Christmas Carol. Quotes such as these are studded like jewels in Dickens’ novel, a project that saved him from financial ruin once upon a time. Read by actor Hugh Grant in a new Audible edition, Dickens’ words come alive as even more pithy, witty, and profound than in the written pages. Grant’s narration adds a warm and human touch to a story we’ve heard many times. (2 hours, 44 minutes, Audible)

Chatter, by Ethan Cross; narrated by Ethan Cross

An award-winning psychologist reveals the hidden power of our inner voice and shows how to harness it to combat anxiety, improve physical and mental health, and deepen our relationships with others. After reading a couple of Christian books about the concept of self-talk, I was surprised by how much wisdom and insight I gleaned from Cross, a professor at University of Michigan who studies human behavior. I loved his neighborly, engaging voice as he narrates his own book. (5 Hours, 44 Minutes, Random House Audio)

How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice, by Jemar Tisby; narrated by Jemar Tisby

From the publisher’s summary: “Racism is pervasive in today's world, and many are complicit in the failure to confront its evils. Jemar Tisby, author of the award-winning The Color of Compromise, believes we need to move beyond mere discussions about racism and begin equipping people with the practical tools to fight against it.” My husband and I listened to this audiobook on a roadtrip in the spring, and both of us liked Jemar’s gentle yet authoritative voice in narrating a book full of challenging ideas and action steps. I especially loved that he roots his ultimate solution to racism in the Christian faith. (Zondervan Audio, 7 hrs and 38 mins)

Forgiving What You Can’t Forget, by Lysa Terkeurst; narrated by Lysa Terkeurst

If you have ever struggled to forgive someone (and who hasn’t?), Lysa Ter Keurst’s latest bestseller is for you. Lysa, who narrates her book, is so vulnerable and real here about her childhood abuse and also her husband’s affair. I had once written her off as too “church lady”-ish, but listening to her empathy and authenticity here made me a fan. It’s also not fluffy: Lysa invested 1,000 hours of theological study in the topic of forgiveness. It took me a minute to get used to her voice, but I grew to appreciate the cohesion of her real voice and real story. (8 hours, 7 minutes, Thomas Nelson Audio)

The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune; narrated by Daniel Henning

We read this extremely imaginative book in my book club after we all kept hearing rave reviews. Linus Baker is a by-the-book caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He's tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children, including a gnome, a shapeshifter, and a forest sprite, are likely to bring about the end of the world. He travels to an orphanage like no other, in the house on the cerulean sea, and his life goes from gray and mundane to magical and full of love. Narrator Daniel Henning differentiates these vivid characters with accents and growls, tone shifts and whispers. Note: There is a very mild, non-physical same-sex romance subplot. (12 hours and 12 minutes, Macmillan Audio)

A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing, by Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer; narrated by Michael Beck

Christians are way too used to revelations of abuse in our biggest and most acclaimed churches, such as Willow Creek and Harvest Bible Chapel. According to authors McKnight and Barringer, both former members of Willow Creek, “abuses occur most frequently when Christians neglect to create a culture that resists abuse and promotes healing, safety, and spiritual growth.” How do we keep these devastating abuses from repeating themselves? In this book, McKnight and Barringer explore the concept of tov, the Hebrew word for goodness—and how it can help Christians and churches create abuse-resistant cultures of goodness, not narcissism. Narrator Michael Beck lends an invitational and engaging voice to these challenging words. (7 hrs and 16 mins, Tyndale Audio)

The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner; narrated by Alana Kerr Collins and Jason Culp

“April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco as morning breaks, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.” Susan Meissner is one of my favorite fiction authors, as she always delivers a page-turner with vivid characters you think about when you’re not reading—or listening. This novel about the San Francisco earthquake is full of twists and turns, while she keeps the content PG-rated. Collins’ Irish accent is mostly consistent, and I enjoyed her empathy and pacing as she voices Sophie and other characters. (10 hrs and 39 mins, Penguin Audio)

Anxious for Nothing, by Max Lucado; narrated by Ben Holland

Anxious for Nothing invites listeners to delve into Philippians 4:6-7—the most highlighted passage of any book on the planet according to Amazon—“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This audiobook is short but packed with insights about battling anxiety and improving one’s self-talk. Narrator Ben Holland’s voice is suitably calming. (3 hours, 34 minutes, Thomas Nelson Audio)

The Making of Biblical Womanhood, by Beth Alison Barr; narrated by Sarah Zimmerman

From the publisher’s summary: “Biblical womanhood—the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers—pervades North American Christianity. From choices about careers to roles in local churches to relationship dynamics, this belief shapes the everyday lives of evangelical women. Yet biblical womanhood isn't biblical, says Baylor University historian Beth Allison Barr. It was born in a series of clearly definable historical moments.” This is definitely something to listen to while also reading the hard copy of the book. While the content is fantastic and life-changing, the narration, by Sarah Zimmerman, was a bit stiff and “churchy” for me. (7 hours and 26 minutes, ChristianAudio.com)
 

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