About Emma

Emma can (and does) listen to audiobooks all day. Her friends are tired of hearing about Davina Porter.

STAFF PICK: Star of the North by D.B. John

Title: Star of the North
Author: D.B. John

Narrator: Linda Park and D.B. John

Compelling and well-researched, Star of the North is a spy thriller based in North Korea and the United States. I was rapt; whenever I had the chance, my headphones were back on my ears. The story begins with an American girl being kidnapped from a South Korean beach. With no body found, her twin sister and family believes that she drowned off the shore. The twin lives for years with this belief, until she’s contacted by the CIA. On the other side of the world, we follow separate stories of North Korean citizens; Cho, an esteemed official, liaises with the U.S. while a peasant, Mrs. Moon, begins a career as a street merchant.

The book is as captivating as it is thought-provoking. The lifestyle of these characters is so far removed from what we know that it was difficult to imagine, let alone accept as true. While the story lines range from poverty to diplomacy, they have themes in common. Each character has their own form of suffering, manipulation, and perseverance that endears you to them. I particularly loved Mrs. Moon, fondly known as Ajumma. The book explains “ajumma” as the Korean word for “auntie,” and she was just that for many around her. The author wrote characters whose humanity shone through despite terrible circumstances, making it that much more of a compelling read.

Linda Park does a great job narrating this novel. She keeps a steady, suspenseful pace and her tone is clear. Her South Korean background helped her execute the Korean words confidently so I learned the pronunciation, which I surely would have gotten wrong.

This was a fascinating and educational listen. At the end of the book there is an author’s note (read by D.B. John), which details fact vs. fiction and recommends some further reading. Throughout the book I often assumed things were fiction, but I was surprised to find how much of the book was based on real accounts from North Korea. I don’t usually reach for political dramas, but with this one I’m very glad I did.

Star of the North

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: Factfulness by Hans Rosling

Title: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Author: 
Hans RoslingAnna R. Rosling, and Ola Rosling
Narrator: Richard Harries

Recommended by Bill Gates, Factfulness is a resource to help you rationally respond to information. If you only follow the news, you’d think the world is going up in flames. Amidst the commotion, Factfulness is here to shed some level-headed light.

The book’s foundation is a simple quiz: thirteen questions covering a range of global statistics, such as health and income levels. After you take the quiz and tally your results, you are told how chimps perform on that same quiz. Chances are that you’ll feel sad, but don’t despair! Chimps choosing answers at random have 33% accuracy, and that score consistently beats human participants. It didn’t matter if the group was university students, journalists, or experts of health or economics, everyone assumed the world was worse than it really is.

With chapters like The Fear Instinct and The Urgency Instinct, the Rosling trio has brought data together to show how human tendencies lead to an overblown perception of reality. It tells listeners to take a step back from the dramatic figures and look at the trends. Despite headlines to the contrary, this book shows that the world is actually improving. This is not to say that we should be satisfied and stop aiming for improvement, but that we should be optimistic about our progress and about what the future has in store.

The narration was exactly what you’d hope for in a book like this. Richard Harries has a level but enthusiastic voice. His pace allowed me to take in the material while still staying engaged with the content.

No matter how you feel about this topic, I see this as a valuable read for everyone (even if your quiz score is 100%). I suspect the type of person drawn to this book is not the type of person who needs it the most, however, I won’t stop recommending it!

Factfulness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more and listen to a sample here!

New to Audiobooks.com? Get a free audiobook when you sign up for our one month free trial. Digital audiobooks make audible stories come to life when you’re commuting, working out, cleaning, cooking and more! Listening is easy with our top-rated free audiobook apps for iOS and Android, which let you download & listen to bestselling audiobooks on the go, wherever you are. Click here to get your free audiobook!

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STAFF PICK: The Life List of Adrian Mandrick

Title: The Life List of Adrian Mandrick
Author: Chris White
Narrator: David Aaron Baker

Love, obsession, addiction. Bird-lover Adrian Mandrick is always experiencing all three, which together make a perfect storm. When his estranged mother leaves him a voicemail, a domino effect of poor decisions throws Adrian’s life into disarray. Attempting to drown the emotions in the drugs he prescribes, Adrian numbly meanders along, missing family events, and disrupting a life he loves.

Throughout the story I struggled between sympathy and contempt for the main character, who has kind intentions but allows himself to fall back on his addiction. His constant high means he isn’t completely present anywhere, except for when working on his life list – a collection of birds he’s spotted over his lifetime. It’s a thoughtful novel that highlights the fragility of human relationships and how someone else’s decisions could impair the rest of your life.

I enjoyed the narration by David Aaron Baker, whose calm and matter-of-fact tone contributed some stability in a story that was otherwise spiraling out of control.

If you’re in the mood for a book that will provide a different perspective, I recommend this listen. It’s a touching story told from an addict who otherwise has a seemingly wonderful life. It’s thought-provoking and reinforces the importance of gratitude.

 The Life List of Adrian Mandrick

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New to Audiobooks.com? Get a free audiobook when you sign up for our one month free trial. Digital audiobooks make audible stories come to life when you’re commuting, working out, cleaning, cooking and more! Listening is easy with our top-rated free audiobook apps for iOS and Android, which let you download & listen to bestselling audiobooks on the go, wherever you are. Click here to get your free audiobook!

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STAFF PICK: Brotopia by Emily Chang

Title: Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley
Author: Emily Chang
Narrator: Emily Chang

Bloomberg Technology reporter Emily Chang confronts Silicon Valley’s rampant sexism, which has excluded women from the greatest wealth creation of our generation.

For a really terrifying listen this Friday 13th, look no further than Brotopia. From the very beginning, this book had me riled! It features example after example of women systemically being excluded from the tech industry. From unconscious bias to very conscious harassment, the industry is at best unwelcoming and has led to women dropping out of tech at a rate 45% higher than men, if they can even breach the walls at all.

With each new stat and story, I grew increasingly agitated. I’m quite good at multitasking with audiobooks, but here and there this one required me to pause to absorb the gravity of what she was saying. During some parts my jaw dropped and I glared at my audio-producing phone as if it would return my incredulous expression.

The narration feels unsurprisingly like a news report, which is not my preference but was subtle and suited the book’s content. Emily Chang is clear and steady, just as you’d expect from a trained reporter.

While it may make your blood boil, it ends on a high note, with encouraging stats and advice to build the solution’s momentum. Whether you’re in the tech industry or not, you can benefit from what Chang has to say. This listen certainly won’t brighten your day, but it will broaden your perspective.

Brotopia

 

 

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4 Ways Audiobooks Beat Print for Travelling

On long journeys (or short journeys), what better way to pass the time than getting lost in a story? You’re confined to your tiny airplane seat, so you pull out a novel. Here’s the question: Is your novel in print or audio?

I love print as much as the next bookworm, but audiobooks have advantages that just can’t be beat. I just returned from vacation, so the joys are fresh in my mind. In my nobly unbiased opinion, here are the ways that audio has the edge as a travelling companion:

No motion sickness
I am one of the unfortunate cases that suffer from motion sickness. As a child, I would try books on road trips but never passed half a chapter before regretfully closing them. But I can listen! Audiobooks prevent the queasiness caused by focusing your eyes on something still while your body’s in motion. Plus, it frees up your eyes, which brings me to the next point…

Enjoy the view
Audio lets you gaze out the window while listening. Your eyes aren’t locked onto a book or screen, so you can take in the passing landscapes. Depending on where the book is set, your view might even inspire better visuals in your imagination.

You always have your phone
But you don’t always have capacity to travel with loads of books. Even if you’re an eBook reader, phone screens are tiny for reading, phones are easier to transport than e-readers, and you’re guaranteed to have it on you in a pinch.

Stock up on listens ahead of time
You can load your phone with as many books as you want ahead of time so you’re prepared no matter how long you’re travelling for. No added weight, and no data required!

We’ve long seen audiobooks as the superior form of travel, so I hope this post helps you see the light, along with the view.

BONUS: Looking for the perfect travel companion? Here are some of our faves this spring!

RainbirdsRainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut opens with a murder and shines a spotlight onto life in fictional small-town Japan. Ren Ishida is nearly finished with graduate school when he receives news of his sister, Keiko’s, sudden death. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl, Ren struggles to find solace in the void his sister has left behind.

 

The Room on Rue AmelieThe Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel

International bestselling author Kristin Harmel tells the tale of an American woman, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in occupied Paris during the tumultuous days of World War II. Rich with historical drama and emotional depth, this is an unforgettable story that will stay with you long after the final word.

 

Happiness

Happiness by Aminatta Forna

From award-winning writer Aminatta Forna, a stunning novel bringing an American scientist and a Ghanaian psychologist together in London in a hunt for a missing boy. A tale of loss, hope, love, compassion, culture, and the true meaning of happiness.

 

 

Laura & Emma

Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead
Literary Fiction

Laura hails from the Upper East Side of Manhattan. One weekend in 1981 she meets Jefferson. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she’s pregnant. Enter: Emma. An insightful exploration of class and family warfare from a new author whose sensibility, wit, and prose celebrate what makes us human.

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STAFF PICK: Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Title: Speak No Evil
Author: Uzodinma Iweala
Narrators: 
 Prentice Onayemi and Julia Whelan 

Speak No Evil is a new release from the author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation. Protagonist Niru is a successful student. He received early acceptance to Harvard, is a star track athlete, and is gay. The last bit was a secret, but when it’s accidentally revealed to his conservative Nigerian father, Niru’s life turns upside down.

As this plays out, there is friction with his best friend. Niru tries to cope with the World’s expectations and his conflicting desires without the support of the one person he’s always had by his side. The book brims with confusion and pain. He juggles his father’s shame, his pastor’s preaching, and his personal desires. When he begins to find happiness, his family’s words resonate in his head and he distances himself. His torment piles onto the pressure of high school, and despite Niru’s conscientious attitude, it gets to be too much.

The narrators are excellent. I’ve listened to and enjoyed Prentice Onayemi‘s narration before, and his performance here does not disappoint. The transition between American and Nigerian accents is smooth and clear, and he amplifies the story’s emotion. When the perspective changes and Julia Whelan takes over, the emotion is not lost. 

Uzodinma Iweala brings hard topics front of mind, and left me feeling somber but thoughtful. The writing is elegant and despite the difficult subject matter, I rushed through it. Have you read it? Share your thoughts!

Speak No Evil

 

 

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