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The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis, narrated by Jeremy Northam

I’m not a big fantasy person, but I relished time in Narnia with children Jill, Eustace, and the slightly crusty Marshwiggle, Puddlegum. The sixth in the Chronicles of Narnia series—and a favorite of many fans—The Silver Chair is not only a thumping good adventure but provides devotional benefits as the story and characters point to Aslan. Actor Jeremy Northam enhances this story with his superb narration of various characters, from a young girl to an evil witch to a Puddleglum and Prince Rillian. Perfect for a family road trip. (5 hrs and 25 mins)

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, narrated by Sissy Spacek

Actors often make the best narrators, and this is true of Sissy Spacek and her transportive narration of Harper Lee’s American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. Whether she is voicing Atticus Finch or a racist townsperson, Spacek’s voice is anchored in the character of Scout Finch, who witnesses her father’s valor in the face of powerful oppression and resistance. Usually Atticus is the hero, but in this audio version, Scout is the heroine; all eyes—and ears—are on her. With just the slightest twang in her voice, Spacek’s narration envelops listeners in the Deep South and the racial injustices of the 1930s. Warning: The “N” word is used over and over in this book. Even though it is a masterpiece, listening can be a jarring experience. (12 hours, 17 minutes)

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, narrated by Frances Barber 

I listened to this audiobook and the next while I was laid low with a bad head cold this autumn. I can see now that this gave me lots of uninterrupted time to sink into the story of “poor relation” Fanny Price, who goes to live with rich relatives in their sprawling estate, Mansfield Park. As I sneezed and sniffled, I was immersed into Fanny’s world as I rooted for her to develop a spine (spoiler: she does). The lengthiest and most controversial of Austen’s books, this is also the “most serious of Austen's works due to its discussion of religion and religious duty,” the description reads. After listening, I also watched one of the movie adaptations and an audio drama of the book. Still, I preferred listening to the book, narrated with humor, empathy, and sparkle by British stage actress Frances Barber. Her voice for Lady Bertram, Fanny’s aunt, is one of the best vocal performances I have ever heard. Highly recommended, especially if you can listen to great swaths at one time. (14 hours and 45 minutes)

Northanger Abbey: An Audible Original Drama, by Jane Austen, adapted by Anna Lea, narrated by Emma Thompson, Douglas Booth, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jeremy Irvine, Lily Cole, and Ella Purnell 

Emma Thompson narrates? Yes! No questions asked. I would listen to that woman read the tax code. I did enjoy this abridged version of Northanger Abbey, dramatized by Thompson and a cast of UK acting luminaries, but found myself wishing Thompson had just narrated the whole book, which is an eight-hour affair, compared to this only slightly shorter six-hour drama. Somehow all the noises—the clip clop of horses, the tinkle of tea cups, etc.—were distracting from the main story. A departure for Austen, Northanger Abbey is a satirical, coming-of-age tale for the young and naïve 17-year-old Catherine Morland, whose overactive imagination gets the best of her when she visits a mysterious, Gothic mansion. There is no shortage of bells and whistles here, but in the end, I probably should have just listened to the whole book. If only Emma Thompson were to narrate it. (6 hours, 6 minutes)

How Not to Save the World, by Hosanna Wong, narrated by Hosanna Wong

I wasn’t sure about this evangelism book at first, but by the third chapter or so, I was all in. Hosanna Wong, an evangelist and spoken-word poetry artist, offers a low-key and encouraging guide for believers who want to share their faith but don’t want to feel “weird or pushy,” as the back cover suggests. I especially liked Wong’s stories about her dad, a Chinese street evangelist who died way too young, and her natural, unforced style of relating her faith. Sometimes her asides seemed a little too tied to her generation (younger than me), but perhaps these asides read better than they are heard. (7 hours, 24 minutes)

Dear White Peacemakers, by Osheta Moore, narrated by Osheta Moore

Black Anabaptist pastor Osheta Moore forges a third way of racial justice, not pretending everything is great in the name of “unity,” and not accusing and shaming white people, thereby putting them on the defensive. Instead of being “shame-laden and hustle bound,” she calls readers to own their belovedness, and from that place work toward becoming agents of shalom—nothing missing, nothing broken.

As a narrator, Moore is warm, engaging, and friendly. You can hear the smile in her voice and the good humor in her spirit. The breath prayers at the end of every chapter are reverential, short but powerful, rendering any space the listener occupies (the car for me, mostly) into a sacred place. (8 hours, 28 minutes) 

Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies, by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller, narrated by the authors

This book, by two Christian therapists, is soothing to listen to and filled with unconventional wisdom for harnessing overpowering emotions and thoughts. Though I’ve read several books by Christian therapists, Cook and Miller offer an idea that I’ve never heard before: that big emotions such as anger and defensiveness are not one’s enemies to be shut down, but rather “helpers who have gone beyond their roles” who must be addressed compassionately and guided to “their proper functions.” The authors, veteran counselors, also tell listeners how to invite the Holy Spirit to draw near troubling emotions, as opposed to avoiding or shaming those emotions. Though I was intrigued by the content enough to order the physical copy of the book, sometimes listening to these authors (who are a little bit low-energy in their narration) was a bit confusing. It’s definitely a book to listen to while you are reading a hard copy, so you can highlight the points that are most helpful. (6 hours and 25 minutes)

Meet Me in the Margins, by Melissa Ferguson, narrated by Talon David

This romantic comedy set in the publishing industry hooked me from the start with its premise: Savannah Cade, a lowly editor at a publishing company dreams of writing her own romance novel but is afraid to submit to her own house, which looks down its prestigious nose at such fluffy works. When Savannah accidentally drops her manuscript at a staff meeting, she must hide it in an obscure room in the bowels of the building. One day, notes appear in the margins of the manuscript, and soon Savannah begins to fall for her mystery editor. This novel, narrated in upbeat, plucky tones, is not only engaging and fun, but it’s also wholesome. You can listen to this one freely around anyone! While the marketing copy compared it to You’ve Got Mail and The Proposal, it reminded me a little bit of The Devil Wears Prada. (7 hours, 50 minutes)


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