Alright, I think we can all admit at this point that the thing preventing us from reading the stack of books on our bedside table *isn't* that we don't have enough free time. Right now I've got nothing but free time and yet I'm not ploughing through an impressive pile of literature any more than I am starting every day with a yoga sesh. Thankfully, sitting down with a physical book isn't the only way to "read" things due to the glorious invention of the audiobook. So when you're absolutely spent after a day of Zoom happy hours and working from home (aka your couch), throw on an audiobook, close your eyes, and let a stranger (who, most likely, is famous and super accomplished) read to you.
So many kick-ass audiobooks have already come out this year, so if you're jonesing for a buzzy new release that'll keep you hooked for hours, you're in luck. There's a Hunger Games prequel, a creepy collection of Stephen King stories, a few spooky crime novels, and a handful of juicy summer reads—all narrated beautifully for your listening pleasure. All you have to do is pop in your headphones and smash the play button, though going to the trouble of pouring yourself a glass of wine also won't hurt. Here are the 20 best audiobooks of 2020.
1. 'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes' by Suzanne Collins
If you thought the Hunger Games series was over, think again, my friend. Suzanne Collins just put out a prequel that focuses on President Snow in his teen years. He's a mentor for a tribute from lowly district 12 but then something ~very unexpected~ happens: he begins to feel for his tribute.
2. 'Hello, Summer' by Mary Kay Andrews
Mary Kay Andrews is summer-beach-read *royalty.* Even—or especially—if you won't be making it to the beach this summer, you can throw this on your Sonos and pretend you're sprawled out on a towel steps from the ocean. After Conley Hawkins' job at a big-city newspaper goes up in flames, she's back working for her small-town paper, in charge of the gossip column. But then she witnesses an accident that kills a local congressman, so she starts digging and uncovers something more dangerous than she ever could have imagined.
3. 'The Henna Artist' by Alka Joshi
Picture this: it's 1950s India and you're a 17-year-old girl who has just escaped an abusive marriage. You become a highly sought-after henna artist in Jaipur and all the wealthy women come to you for their henna and to spill their secrets—but, oh, your husband has been trying to track you down this entire time. BTW, this earned Reese's Book Club stamp of approval, so you know it's gonna be a juicy one.
4. 'If It Bleeds' by Stephen King
This collection of four previously unpublished novellas from horror legend Stephen King has received a *ton* of positive criticism since it was released earlier this year. Perfect for those of you who love scary stories.
5. 'The Boy from the Woods' by Harlan Coben
Speaking of creepy stuff, 'The Boy From the Woods' is so suspenseful, you might have to stop yourself from skipping ahead just so you can learn the ending. Thirty years after a feral boy was found living in the woods, a young girl disappears near the same location, so now the grown-up boy uses his unique skills to help look for her.
6. 'Big Summer' by Jennifer Weiner
This book perfectly captures just how complex female friendships can be. When Daphne Berg's ex-best friend from high school (who she hasn't spoken to in six years) pops back up and asks her to be her maid of honour, Daphne is super confused. But the idea of getting to attend a high-society wedding in Cape Cod with potential cute single guys draws her in...
7. 'Savage Son' by Jack Carr
This thriller has it all: a woman fleeing for her life in Siberia, a traitorous CIA agent, and a man living in the wilderness of Montana who has no idea the Russian mob is after him. If you need something to get your heart pumping, this, right here, is it.
8. 'Hidden Valley Road' by Robert Kolker
This is the most interesting true story you haven't heard yet. The Galvin family had 12 kids back in the baby boom. They seemed like a typical suburban fam, but behind closed doors, there were psychological breakdowns, violence, and abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the Galvin kids were diagnosed with schizophrenia. The book uses the family as a case study to examine issues like the history of schizophrenia, institutionalization, lobotomies, and the search for a DNA marker for the disease.
9. 'The 20th Victim' by James Patterson
All I can tell you is: The bodies of three seedy criminals are found shot dead in three different cities. This book asks a very Dexter-Esque question: if the victims are terrible people, does it make the killers heroes or villains?
10. 'Devoted' by Dean Koontz
Dean Koontz has written about a bazillion novels, and somehow, they're all really solid. Eleven-year-old Woody Bookman has never spoken a single word in his life. Then he meets Kipp, a dog with the same ability to communicate without speaking. The two help each other as Woody begins to form suspicions about his father's mysterious death. I know the plot sounds kinda out there, but trust, it works.
11. 'Get Out of Your Own Way' by Dave Hollis
You may have heard of Rachel Hollis' book 'Girl, Wash Your Face.' Welp turns out she's part of a powerful self-help couple because this is her husband's book. Here, Hollis discusses his problems with alcohol, trouble in his marriage, and insecurities about being a dad. If you've ever been sceptical of self-help books, this one might just change your mind.
12. 'Stealing Home' by Sherryl Woods
To put it bluntly, Maddie Townsend has a ton going on. She's a divorced stay-at-home mom of three. Her 16-year-old son is out of control, her bubbly 14-year-old has gone quiet, her 6-year-old is heartbroken, and her ex-husband's new girlfriend is pregnant. It's a juicy lil listen.
13. 'Unorthodox' by Deborah Feldman
If you watched Unorthodox on Netflix, you're probably aware that the mini-series was based on the true story of Deborah Feldman, who escaped the Hasidic Jewish community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her book came out a few years ago, but the audiobook was only released earlier this year.
14. 'Happy and You Know It' by Laura Hankin
This book is best described as 'The Nanny Diaries' meets Sex and the City. Claire, whose former band made it big without her, takes a job playing music for a Park Avenue playgroup. The three wealthy moms welcome her in and soon begin to divulge their secrets—secrets that no amount of juice cleansing and spin classes can fix.
15. 'Open Book' by Jessica Simpson
If you, like me, always wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes when Jessica Simpson filmed Newlyweds, now's your chance to learn all the deets straight from the singer/actress/fashion mogul herself. The great thing about listening to the audiobook version of Simpson's memoir is that it includes six brand-new songs, too.
16. 'American Dirt' by Jeanine Cummins
This book might have gotten on your radar because of the conversation it sparked around the question of who gets to tell what stories. (Vox has a great synopsis of the controversy.) The plot follows a mother and her son as they flee the wrath of a Mexican drug cartel after her journalist husband publishes a tell-all profile on the gang.
17. 'The Glass Hotel' by Emily St. John Mandel
I love a mystery that jumps between several different storylines. This is exactly that. A man disappears on a ship, a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York City, and cut to a Manhattan financier-owned hotel in the wilderness of British Columbia. Verrrry interesting.
18. 'Uncanny Valley' by Anna Wiener
Anna Wiener's memoir is basically required reading for anyone interested in Silicon Valley and the culture of start-ups. About 10 years ago, Weiner ditched her job in publishing to take a chance in San Francisco, where she got a front-row seat to the high-rolling, often reckless, and extremely ambitious world of tech.
19. 'The Mirror & the Light' by Hilary Mantel
This is the final book in a trilogy, so if you haven't read the first two instalments, obviously you should do that first. They're all historical fiction based on Thomas Cromwell's (aka King Henry VIII's right-hand man) rise to power. The audiobook version is broken up into 30-minute episodes so they're super easy to listen to.
20. 'The Night Watchman' by Louise Erdrich
This book is inspired by the author's grandfather who worked as a night watchman in North Dakota and fought against Native dispossession in the U.S. Get ready for a story filled with colourful characters, tense moments, and a stark look at the treatment of Native Americans.
Via Cosmopolitan US