Here at io9, we stan books. But because we’re all currently living through a reality that makes functioning like normal people a literal impossibility, reading books in the traditional way has (understandably) become especially difficult as we’re all committing out mental resources to trying to keep our minds in order in the midst of a modern-day pandemic.
That being said, books are one of the best ways to keep yourself from falling apart in these kinds of times, and even if staring at dead trees isn’t something you can muster right now, you’re in luck because audiobooks exist. You’re damn right we have a list of epics you should probably give a listen right now.
While it’s going to be a show that you can watch very soon, Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country began as a book that excellently captured the nature of America’s most-damning racialized sin. In a world where members of the Klan can do literal magic and want to use it to subjugate the country’s Black population, the only thing Lovecraft Country’s heroes can think to do is stick together, discover their own source of magical ammunition, and prepare themselves to fight back.
Narrated/acted by: Kevin Kenerly
Even to this day, there has yet to be a zombie story that depicts what it means to live through an infectious apocalypse in a way that Max Brooks’ World War Z did. What makes the audiobook shine is the sheer size of its cast and how each and every single actor figures out a way to highlight that the one thing all their characters have in common is trauma.
Narrated/acted by: Max Brooks, Alan Alda, John Turturro, Rob Reiner
There was a point in time when a world like Paolo Bacigalupi’s vision of a climate-distressed future legitimately seemed like the direst depiction of what the would was likely going to become. Much time as we spend fantasizing about what our own futures might look like, The Windup Girl spent none trying to pretend that living through a worldwide collapse would leave everyone fundamentally changed and in a perpetual state of trying to survive.
Narrated/acted by: Jonathan Davis
What the future holds for Starz’s American Gods series is anyone’s guess at this point, but the original novel still holds up as one of the best examples of what expansive magical realism can do to a story.
Narrated/acted by: Ron McLarty, Daniel Oreskes
Were aliens from another planet to show up right now and announce to the universe that we were scheduled to be bulldozed because we’re in the way of much larger plans, it would make sense and we would all have every reason to say, “Yes, this tracks. We had a run that actually wasn’t all that great. Do what you will.” Douglas Adams understood that in moments of stress, what we all want to do is go on an adventure that gives us chances to discover new things about ourselves.
Narrated/acted by: Stephen Fry
Billionaires are not to be trusted and they deserve to have every obstacle in the world thrown at them. That reality is one of the many things that makes Artemis Fowl a much more thoughtful novel than it appears to be when taken purely at face value. Beyond its depiction of a world in which fae folk have been living under our very noses (though to be specific, beneath the ground), the novel is a scathing critique of the ultra-wealthy who have been able to coast along simply because they happened to be born into luxury.
Narrated/acted by: Nathaniel Parker
The reason that the Ready Player One movie exists is that the book it’s based on truly did have a few good ideas that were, unfortunately, bogged down by an almost Animal Crossing: New Horizons-level deluge of Easter eggs. The book is essentially a treatise on self-insertion into fantasies and name-dropping things we all love, which would be annoying in literally any other case, but truly feels delightful right now.
Narrated/acted by: Wil Wheaton
There is no way of telling whether Jane Austen would appreciate seeing her work co-opted and turned into a campy reflection of the fact that zombieism would be more horrific than belief. But what she probably would enjoy was seeing that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, wild as it is, still has all of its commentary about class inequality intact, and the books’ heroines are just a bit cooler because they know various forms of martial arts and kick all kinds of ass.
Narrated/acted by: Katherine Kellgren
Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower posited that the most transformative power a person can have comes from being able to radically understand those around them and seeing them for who they truly are. It might be difficult to hear now, but it’s the sort of mode that, going forward, we all need to prioritize. It’s the one thing capable of protecting us from ever plunging into this level of real-world peril again.
Narrated/acted by: Lynne Thigpen
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