Staff Picks Hidden Gems of 2018
Staff Picks: Hidden Gems of 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, we here on the Penguin Random House Audio team are all reflecting on what we’ve read and listened to. Among the many (many) stories that the Audio team has collectively gone through this year, there are several hidden gems that we think everyone should know about!

Fiction for Adults

Author: Jen Silverman
Read By: Various

These loosely interconnected, far-ranging short stories about the pains and pleasures of trying to forge connections with others are laugh-out-loud funny, tender, surprising, addictive, and utterly original. The author is a playwright, which is evident in her snappy dialogue and deft characterizations, and the full cast of narrators shines here – this was a big fan favorite for a lot the actors who worked on it, as well as for me–I’ll now jump at the chance to see staged performances of anything Jen Silverman writes! —Sarah Jaffe, producer

I’m a sucker for beautifully written prose that seems so simply put together but dazzles and tugs at your heartstrings. This year A Place for Us was just that, and I want everyone to read or listen to it! On the surface, it’s about a Muslim-American family coming together for the eldest daughter’s wedding. Under that, it’s a sweeping family saga that explores how the past informs the future, how the moments you experience with and in your family shape and define who you are, the complex emotions we keep hidden from others, and how we’re more alike than different. —Taraneh DJangi, senior manager, creative marketing

This one may not be a secret anymore (it was named a most notable audiobook of the year by the New York Times Book Review) but wowza, is Parker: Selected Stories a gem! Whether you’re a devotee or brand new to the razor sharp (and martini drenched) wit of Dorothy Parker—one of the most legendary writers to ever shred a page—I highly recommend this audiobook. Combined with narrator Elaine Stritch’s iconic voice (all sandpaper and loving cynicism) these are stories that will immediately draw you in to another time, another place (don’t forget to bring your adult beverage). Bonus: a perfect grown-up listen for the holidays. —Becca Stumpf, associate manager, creative marketing

I don’t read that many short story collections outside of work and, when I do, I typically don’t finish each and every story. I was intrigued by nice publicity I saw for How to Love a Jamaican, though, and checked it and a few other books out of the library while I was upstate for a summer vacation. How to Love a Jamaican was the one I couldn’t put down. Alexia Arthurs captures dynamics between family members, couples, and friends in a compelling, varied, and nuanced way. She tackles heavy topics with a masterful touch and creates vibrant, intimate portraits of people living in Jamaica and Jamaicans who have emigrated to the US. —Emily Parliman, editor

Author: Rachel Joyce
Read By: Jim Broadbent

This is an audiobook that has stuck with me. Every now and then a moment from it will pop into my head and give me a chuckle. Now that I’m writing this, I’m thinking I should listen to it again! —Vicki Tomao, associate director, strategic marketing

This is a vivid, magical story. It’s narrative voice is distinctive and transports you to another time and place. It’s perfect for readers/listeners of The Night Circus or anyone who loved The Greatest Showman. —Juliana Wilson, producer

This book checked all my boxes: a snarky, ambitious heroine, spot-on cultural commentary, and plotlines on the perfect border of outlandish, yet fully believable. Everyone I’ve recommended this book to has loved it and it’s one of the few books that has truly stayed with me throughout the year! —Megan Mills, assistant editor

Author: Judy Blundell
Read By: Julia Whelan

If you’re in need of a beach vacation this winter but can’t take the time off, The High Season is the perfect escape. Explore the other side of life in the Hamptons, where families give up their homes to make way for the summer renters, and all the social complexities that follow. It’s a beach read with the depth of a family drama, set in the juicy world of art collectors, beach houses, and social climbers. —Maren McCamley, director, imprint sales

Nonfiction for Adults

This year I listened to Thirst by Scott Harrison, the creator of Charity: Water–an organization based here in New York that I recognized from their bottled water campaign. Listening to him read the audiobook made the nonprofit’s story even more moving; I knew he would be passionate, but he’s so beautifully earnest about the high and low points of the work. Scott’s personal path to faith and nonprofit work definitely inspired me to serve my own community more. —Margaret Dunham, social media manager

I knew a little bit about the Duplass brothers’ work before reading, but now I’m a huge fan! Their relationship as brothers and creative partners is so full of respect and kindness; it’s so sweet to hear them both discuss how they supported each other on their way to fame. Also, they’re hilarious! —Nicole Morano, publicist

Young adult and kids

Hands down: Darius the Great is Not OK. There is a beauty and innocence to the story, a rare book that I wanted not to end! I’m hoping for a sequel… —Aaron Blank, executive producer

Author: Nina LaCour
Read By: Jorjeana Marie

I recommend Everything Leads to You by Printz-winner Nina LaCour, narrated by Jorjeana Marie! I downloaded the audio because I’d read the book and loved it, and wanted to experience it in a new way. It’s a YA romance about two girls who fall for LA and film and each other, and as much as I adored it in print, I love it even more on audio–Jorjeana’s voice is just perfect. —Heather Job, associate publicist

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter was one of my favorites. Joshua Manning’s character voices blew me away. Diane Magras draws you into a richly imagined world with a kick-ass female heroine. —Juliana Wilson, producer

Author: Sally Green
Read By: Various

The Smoke Thieves was an incredible listen. It had such a fantastic world-building experience, and even though there were a handful of characters, it was easy to connect with them all. I cannot wait to listen to the sequel, The Demon World next year! —Brieana Garcia, associate, strategic marketing