Audiobooks and Why We Love to Listen

Posted on June 1, 2023

Today marks the beginning of Audiobook Appreciation Month, which celebrates the art of telling great stories through engaging narration.

It’s also the 10-year anniversary of our first audiobook production! During that time, we have recorded compelling drama and thrillers as well as life stories that inspire, entertain, amuse, comfort and inform.

We’ve been delighted at the success of our audiobook list so far. Earlier in 2023, The Reading Agency selected one of these audiobooks to feature in World Book Night, and the Independent Publishers Awards judges picked another title for their Audiobook of the Year shortlist. Here’s a guide to some you should definitely listen to. Of course, we recommend them all! We’ll soon be bringing audiobooks to download directly from our website, but in the meantime you can request any of these at your local library, or find them wherever you subscribe to audiobooks.

One Body, by Catherine Simpson: a World Book Night selection (narrated by the author)

Shortlisted for Non-Fiction Book of the Year at Scotland’s Book of the Year from the Saltire Society. Part of the World Book Night audio selection 2023.

By the time she reached her fifties, Catherine Simpson and her body had gone through a lot together – from period pain, an abortion and early menopause to shaming and harassment. But there had been success, joy, love and laughter too: far more freedoms than her mother had, a fulfilling family life and career, and the promise of more gains for her daughters. So when a cancer diagnosis upends her life, Catherine is forced to reflect on her body, then and now. From having been brought up on a farm where vets were more common than doctors, and where illness was ‘a nuisance’, she finds herself faced with the nuisance of a lifetime.

One Body is the candid, searing and often darkly funny story of how Catherine navigates her treatment and takes stock of the emotions and reflections it provokes, until her cancer is in remission. And how she comes to appreciate the skin she is in – to be grateful for her body and all that it does and is.

Listen to One Body.

Cold Fish Soup, by Adam Farrer: shortlisted for the IPA’s Audiobook of the Year 2023 (narrated by the author)

Winner of the NorthBound Book Award.

Before Adam Farrer’s family relocated to Withernsea in 1992, he’d never heard of the Holderness coast. The move represented one thing to Adam: a chance to leave the insecurities of early adolescence behind. And he could do that anywhere. What he didn’t know was how much he’d grow to love the quirks and people of this faded Yorkshire resort, in spite of its dilapidated attractions and retreating clifftops. While Adam documents the minutiae of small-town life, he lays bare experiences that are universal. His insights on family, friendship, male mental health and suicide are revealed in stories of reinvention, rapacious seagulls, interdimensional werewolves, burlesque dancing pensioners, and his compulsion towards the sea. Cold Fish Soup is an affectionate look at a place and its inhabitants, and the ways in which they can shape and influence someone, especially of an impressionable age. Adam’s account explores what it means to love and be shaped by a place that is under threat, and the hope – and hilarity – that can be found in community.

Listen to Cold Fish Soup.

How to Survive Everything, by Ewan Morrison (narrated by Olivia Caw)

Crime Reads Best Psychological Thrillers of 2022. Shortlisted for the Bookmark Festival Book of the Year, 2021. Longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, 2021. Optioned for TV by Bruna Papandrea’s Made-Up Stories

My name is Haley Cooper Crowe and I am in lockdown in a remote location I can’t tell you about.  Haley and Ben live with their mother. But their dad has reason to believe there’s a new, much deadlier pandemic coming. He’s determined to get them to the safety of his lockdown hideaway. NOW. The only problem is, there is no way their mother will go along with this plan. 

Kidnapped by their father, they have no contact with the outside world. Can they survive? Will they save their mother?

This is one teenage girl’s survival guide for negotiating the collapse of everything she knows – including her family and sanity. Thrilling, subversive, twisty, funny – this book has it all!

“A writer of serious intent and prodigious talent.” The Times

“I wasn’t sure there could be a great pandemic novel. Here it is.” Ian Rankin

This audiobook was produced with funding provided by Publishing Scotland under a special audiobook recording project.

Listen to How to Survive Everything.

Miss Blaine’s Prefect series, by Olga Wojtas (narrated by the author)

Olga Wojtas serves up her double-Comedy-Women-In-Print nominated Morningside librarian and erstwhile prefect at Miss Blaine’s School for Girls – and a range of voices from Imperial Russia to fin-de-siècle France, Dracula, and Lady Macbeth herself!  In virtuoso performances, each audiobook is a romp through some of Europe’s greatest literature, with a few murders and mysteries thrown in.

Fifty-something Shona has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a crucial mission in each of these critically acclaimed, madcap, surrealist adventures.

Unsure which time, place or version of history she’s in, Shona tries in each case to figure out who she’s been sent to save and what’s happening.

Never underestimate a librarian!

“Delightful … mixing sharp observation with a lightness of touch.” Guardian

Listen to Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Weird Sisters.

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar and Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace audiobooks will be launched this month!

Writing Landscape, by Linda Cracknell (narrated by the author)

For Linda Cracknell, exposure to wind, rock, mist, and salt water is integral to her writing process. She follows Susan Sontag’s advice to “Love words, agonise over sentences, and pay attention to the world,” observing and writing her landscapes from the particulars of each moment.

In this varied essay collection, Linda backpacks on a small island that is connected to the mainland only at low tide. In winter snow, she hikes the wooded hillside close to her home, a place she is intimately familiar with in all seasons. And she retraces over three days the steps of a trek made by her parents seven decades earlier. She explores her inspirations, in nature and from other artists and their work, and she offers thoughtful writing prompts.

Reading this collection will take you to new places, open your eyes to the world, and suggest ways to take note and make notes as you go—to inspire your own attentive looking, journaling, and writing practice.

Listen to Writing Landscape.

The Zen of Climbing, by Francis Sanzaro (narrated by Michael Dohn)

Climbing is a sport of perception, and our level of attainment is a matter of mind as much as body. Written by philosopher, essayist, and lifelong climber Francis Sanzaro, The Zen of Climbing explores the fundamentals of successful climbing, delving into sports psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and Taoism. Awareness, he argues, is the foundation of climbing, allowing us to merge mental and physical attributes in one embodied whole.

Written by the author of the classic The Boulder: A Philosophy of Bouldering, this book puts the climber’s mind at the forefront of practice.
“Outstandingly good … It may be the single most insightful book about climbing ever written.”  —Paul Sagar

An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful, by J. David Simons (narrated by Nick Cheales)

The personal collides with the political in this literary tour-de-force. In the 1950s, an eminent British writer pens a novel questioning the ethics of the nuclear destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki—but soon he’s trying to outrun his own past.

Hakone, Japan, 2003: An eminent British writer in his seventies, Sir Edward Strathairn, returns to a resort in the Japanese mountains where, in his youth, he spent a beautiful, snowed-in winter. It was there he wrote his best-selling novel, The Waterwheel, accusing America of being in denial about the horrific aftermath of the Tokyo firebombings and the nuclear destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

London, England, 1952. A young Edward falls in love with an avant-garde American artist, Macy. After their tumultuous relationship and breakup, he heads for Japan, where he meets someone else and becomes smitten again as he writes the novel that makes him famous.

This is as much a thrilling romance as it is a sensitive exploration of blame, power and guilt in post-war America, Japan and Britain. With a protagonist whose behaviour strikes the national conscience as much as his own, An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful will stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

Listen to An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful.

Skylarks with Rosie, by Stephen Moss (narrated by the author)

Longlisted for the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing.

As spring arrives, renowned naturalist, ornithologist, author and broadcaster Stephen Moss’s Somerset garden is awash with birdsong: chiffchaffs, wrens, robins and more. Overhead, buzzards soar, ravens tumble and the season gathers pace.

But this equinox was unlike any other. As the nation went into lockdown, Stephen recorded the wildlife around his home, with his fox-red Labrador, Rosie, by his side. When old routines fell away, and blue skies were no longer crisscrossed by contrails, they discovered the bumblebees, butterflies and birdsong on their local patch. This evocative account underlines how a global crisis changed the way we relate to the natural world, giving us hope for the future. And it puts down a marker for a new normal: when, during that brief but unforgettable spring, nature gave us comfort, hope and joy.

Listen to Skylarks with Rosie.

Well, by Mary Gunn (narrated by the author)

When Dr Mary Gunn was diagnosed with cancer, her first reaction was fear, and to fight the disease aggressively for the sake of not only herself but her young children and husband. But when it came back – and turned out to be incurable – she knew that she couldn’t live the rest of her life in fear. Mary embraced a new approach to life: to accept all the joy and sorrow, safety and danger, certainty and unpredictability… in essence, to live freely.

In our uncertain times, when it’s difficult not to feel the fear, Dr Mary Gunn’s remarkable memoir offers mindfulness tools for resilience, and shows how we can all use acceptance, compassion and love to live courageously, magnificently. Backed up by many years of experience as both a doctor and a patient, her story will inspire you to let go of fear, love life and live well.

Recommended for people diagnosed with a terminal illness, and for their families and support networks.

Listen to Well.