If you’re gifting an audiobook for the first time, it can be tricky to know what to look for. One great option is to follow your giftee’s reading tastes. Have a mystery lover on your hands? Treat them to the audiobook edition of a favorite author’s work. But there’s another gateway to audio fandom, and that is to home in on the uniqueness of the audio experience by gifting buzzy audiobooks that are already creating a happy stir among established audiobook fans. That’s right—we’re talking about getting the inside scoop.
In this holiday edition of our Producer Pick series, we asked Penguin Random House Audio producers for their fresh-from-the-recording booth takes to get a unique view into the best audiobooks of 2021—exceptional listens that also happen to make perfect gifts for readers and podcast lovers.
Kelly Gildea on The 1619 Project:
“I can’t stop thinking about this audiobook and the impact it will have. Every piece is just remarkable, but a few that have stayed with me are Trymaine Lee’s essay, “Inheritance,” Jason Reynolds’s “Mother and Son,” and the final essays from Ibram X. Kendi and Nikole Hannah-Jones on “Progress” and “Justice.” The last piece, the poem “Progress Report,” by Sonia Sanchez, will quite literally take your breath away when you hear her impassioned reading.”
Listen to a clip from The 1619 Project:
Nithya Rajendran on Machete:
“This collection of poetry by coastal Texas poet TomĂˇs Q. MorĂn is beautiful, surreal, grounding, and surprisingly funny. It merits repeated listens as the author delivers his own powerful words with nuanced twists and turns. There is an abundance of detail in every poem that itâ€™s easy to become engrossed his prose and miss out on little wonders he tucks into small corners. With every listen, I discover something new: something that makes me smile, makes my heart heavy, makes me appreciate the everyday things, makes me want to cry, makes me have hope, and makes me want to spring into action and have resolve. Any poet who can marry broad themes of existence and a â€śTalladega Nightsâ€ť reference effortlessly shouldnâ€™t be missed.”
Listen to a clip from Machete:
Brady Emerson on 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows:
â€śAi Weiweiâ€™s wonderful memoir, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, triumphs on so many levels. Itâ€™s an intimate portrait of an artist, an inspiring call to political action and a fascinating primer on the historical forces that have shaped both. David Shih narrates Weiweiâ€™s elegantly crafted story with incredible empathy and gravitas. Itâ€™s a memorable and important work.â€ť
Listen to a clip from 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows:
Nick Martorelli on Auroraâ€™s End:
“Auroraâ€™s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is probably on many radars, but this volume concludes their three-book Aurora Cycle in grand fashion. All the characters and narrators you loved are back from Book 2, and this final installment has some twists and turns up its sleeves as it concludes the story of Squad 312. Featuring music and sound effects to help listeners get into that scifi mood!”
Listen to a clip from Auroraâ€™s End:
Iris Mcelroy on Skin of the Sea:
“Natasha Bowenâ€™s debut novel, Skin of the Sea, is a beautiful and sweeping tale that is a blend of West African history and Yoruba mythology. Itâ€™s the story of Semidele, a Mami Wata, a mermaid, who collects souls of those who die at sea and bring them to the afterlife, until one day she goes against the Ancient Ones and saves the life of a young boy. I love the way Natasha weaves the fantasy elements with the mythology and history, as well as Semideleâ€™s journey of self-discovery and actualization. Yetide Badakiâ€™s narration further illuminates this story with her flawless narration and characterizations.”
Listen to a clip from Skin of the Sea:
Diane Mckiernan on Tacky:
â€śIn this collection of essays, Rax King recalls coming of age in the early 2000s and extolls the value of finding connection and comfort in low pop culture. Itâ€™s at times blissfully nostalgic (a whole essay devoted to Bath & Bodyâ€™s Worksâ€™ fragrance, Warm Vanilla Sugar) and at other times poignantly heartbreaking, as she reflects on the death of her father and their shared love for Jersey Shore.â€ť
Listen to a clip from Tacky:
Molly Lo Re on Call Us What We Carry:
“This holiday season Iâ€™m giving everyone on my list Amanda Gormanâ€™s poetry collection Call Us What We Carry, which she beautifully narrates. Amanda threw herself into adapting the poems for the audio format, resulting in an audiobook that brings new dimension to her powerful words.”
Listen to a clip from Call Us What We Carry:
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