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NPR's Favorite New Audiobooks


Yes. You may be stir-crazy during the pandemic. But it's not because there's a lack of personal entertainment options. I mean, come on, you can watch, read and listen to just about anything right now, including audio books. Some people devour them, and some people would if they knew where to start, which is where I'm at. And this is why we have NPR pop culture critic Linda Holmes with us for some audiobook recommendations. Hi, Linda.


MARTIN: I want to understand, like, because people aren't commuting as much, which is when, I would imagine, people listen to audiobooks, I mean, when is it happening? When is it happening for you?

HOLMES: Yeah. I just listen whenever, honestly. For me, audiobooks are not primarily about convenience. They're not about times when I can't read on the page. They're about the separate pleasures of a great narrator performing a great book. And a lot of the time, I will choose them over reading on the page. And so to kind of...

MARTIN: Really?

HOLMES: Yeah. To demonstrate to you - you're going to understand what I'm saying. It's going to make perfect sense.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HOLMES: I'm going to play you a clip of my favorite audiobook of all time. This is the actor Bobby Cannavale performing the Richard Price New York crime novel "Lush Life."



BOBBY CANNAVALE: (Reading) At the same hour, two night watch detectives crossed the chipped, octagonal tile of the front foyer of 27 Eldridge, then began trudging up the saddle-backed marble stairs to the top floor to begin their canvass. There were three apartments to a floor, each with its own paint-slathered, century-old husk of a mezuzah, the front doors painted the same dull carmine as the embossed tin that lined the bottom half of the stairways...

MARTIN: I love it.

HOLMES: I love that performance. It is a New York crime novel made flesh. And it is so entertaining to me. I've loved that one since I first listened to it.

MARTIN: OK. So other than that, what are your audiobook recommendations?

HOLMES: Well, if you know me, you know that I love a good romance novel. You know this about me, Rachel.

MARTIN: It's true.

HOLMES: And my most recent favorite is a book called Red, White & Royal Blue. It's by Casey McQuiston. The audiobook is read by Ramon de Ocampo. And it's a love story between the son of the first woman president of the United States and a British prince.



RAMON DE OCAMPO: (Reading) Outside Kensington Palace, Alex takes Henry's phone out of his hand and swiftly opens a blank contact page before he can protest or seek a PPO on him for violating royal property. The car is waiting to take him back to the royals' private airstrip. "Here," Alex says. "That's my number. If we're going to keep this up, it's going to get annoying to keep going through handlers."

HOLMES: It's very moving. It is a queer story that allows these two guys the opportunity to be happy and in love. And I enjoyed it so much. And that performance is also really wonderful.

MARTIN: OK. What about audiobooks for non-fiction?

HOLMES: I love audiobooks for non-fiction. I think particularly a great book of journalism can play a little bit like a really great narrative podcast. I love the audiobook, for example, of "Catch And Kill" by Ronan Farrow, which he reads himself. That's his big book about Harvey Weinstein. And he reads it with a lot of flair and, surprisingly, some little touches of humor that come out in the performance maybe a little bit more than on the page. He loves to do, like, a voice of a character. He's got that kind of theatrical thing about him.


RONAN FARROW: (Reading) "How did you identify yourself to all these women?" he demanded. I was caught off balance a little. "Depending on the timing, I accurately described the outlet." I started to say that this wouldn't help us hear him out on the allegations, but he jumped in again. "Oh, really? Like you're a reporter at NBC. And what do your friends at NBC have to say about that now?"

HOLMES: I really, really enjoyed listening to that book, in addition to the fact that it's just a very, very good book.

MARTIN: Linda Holmes, thanks so much for talking us through this. We appreciate it.

HOLMES: Thank you, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAPANCAKES' "VINYL FEVER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.
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