The following is not a comprehensive list of LGBT audio books. It’s a small selection of the audio books that I listened to in 2015. Since I spend a large part of my week commuting to work, I listen to a lot of audio books. If I don’t enjoy a narrator’s style or find them wrong for the story, I don’t waste time and move on to the next one. As a rule of thumb, I recommend listening to at least the first disc (or Part 1 if it’s an e-audiobook) before deciding on whether you want to listen to the rest.
Landing by Emma Donoghue, read by Laura Hicks
A benefit of listening to someone else read a story is learning the correct way to pronounce a name. I had pronounced Síle as See-leh when it actually sounds like Shee-luh. Laura Hicks bridges both worlds the listener travels to as the story unfolds. She creates interesting and distinct characters in Dublin, Ireland and Ireland, Ontario.
Síle is never in one place for very long. Life as a flight attendant keeps her on the move: a layover in Toronto, Canada; home for a few days in Dublin, Ireland; or an overnight somewhere else. For the most part, she’s okay with her life as is, even if it no longer fits in the same way as it once did.
Jude enjoys life in her small town (Ireland, Ontario), curating for the local history museum and living with her mother. However, Jude’s life is upended when her mother falls ill and forces her to board a plane to bring her home (and only a deep love can make her set even one pinkie toe on a plane).
The two women meet in the middle (literally, thousands of feet in the air). At first, they’re just pen pals, but then their relationship evolves into much more. Emma Donoghue conveys the emotional challenges that falling in love with someone who lives in another country brings. There are all manner of hurdles (small town vs big city; Ontario vs Ireland; homebody vs wanderlust) that could halt the romance. However, the novel leads the women through them, in a relatively believable fashion, and it would have felt right for the women to go their separate ways or stay together.
Snow Falls by Gerri Hill, read by Sara Hawthorne
A run-of-the-mill romance involving a curmudgeonly writer hiding in the mountains and a self-help author. The two women are trapped together in a cabin after an avalanche blocks the roads. Hawthorne’s narration is enjoyable and makes for a pleasant 5 hours+
Tipping the Velvet by Sara Waters, read by Juanita McMahon
I had watched the BBC miniseries a million times before I listened to the audio book (I know, I know, I’m a terrible philistine for not having read the book first or even second before viewing the video version ^^). Juanita McMahon seamlessly travels from one character to the next, drawing distinctions between different neighborhoods in England. I felt the whole novel come to life between my ears.
Nancy Astley wends her way through Victorian England, winning hearts onstage as Nan King and offstage stumbling through various romances. Each part of the novel finds Nancy struggling to figure out who she is and where she is going in life.
Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein, read by the author
When it comes to memoirs and autobiographies, who better to narrate than the person who lived through the events unfolding between the listener’s ears? In the audio version of a life, it feels much more intimate to hear all of the emotions unfolding as they recall past events. Carrie Brownstein leads you through her musical journey with Sleater-Kinney. She includes the highs and lows, not excusing herself for missteps along the way. Rather, you hear how her choices build to bring her to where she is now. And that’s a good thing.
The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle by Lillian Faderman, read by Donna Postel
Lillian Faderman’s latest non-fiction chronicles the gay right’s movement from the witch hunts of the Cold War era up through present-day. It is by no means extensive, but will make a good supplement for any LGBT history collection. Donna Postel narrates the events in a clear, easy-to-follow fashion.
Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult, read by Thérèse Plummer, J. Brian Hutchison, Michele O. Medlin, Mia Barron, and Ellen Wilbur
This production combines the dual talents of narrators Thérèse Plummer and J. Brian Hutchison, and original musical compositions that enhance the storytelling. Zoe and Max Baxter grow apart after the stress of trying to conceive, among other factors, and divorce. Later, when Zoe tries to have a child with her wife, Vanessa, he ex-husband and his family try to intervene.
Hild by Nicola Griffith, read by Pearl Hewitt
This novel illuminates Hild of Whitby, a little known public figure made flesh and blood in this imaginative retelling. Pearl Hewitt gives voice to the different dialects and social lives of the men, women, and children who people the early Middle Ages. I highly recommend this one!
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, read by Simon Prebble
George, a British ex-pat and professor in Southern California during the 1960’s, loses his longtime partner. We live through the eyes of George as he lives with his grief. Simon Prebble blends snark, disdain, cynicism, sorrow, pain, and a touch of happiness as he gives voice to George’s thoughts and observations.
Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr, read by Pam Ward
A thoughtful, well-researched account of Sally Ride’s life. If you love outer space and Sally Ride, then strap your ears in for blast off in 5…4…3…2…1…! Pam Ward’s voice takes the listener on a matter-of-fact, intimate journey of the woman we only knew before from a distance. The author included the recollections of Ride’s partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, as well as the astronaut’s friends and family.
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris, read by author
A Choose Your Own Adventure type story on audio book, you ask? Well, Mr. NPH explains the wonders of how it works. He alternates between options, fact and fiction, both entertaining and informative. Charming, funny, and a bit dishy at times, just like the man himself.
Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming, read by author
Alan Cumming invites the listener in on very personal territory: his evolution as a person and his relationship with his family. The highs and lows of his life are evident on every syllable. And his Scottish accent is icing on the cake. Thank you for sharing, Alan.
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, read by Scott Campbell
It’s hard for me to listen to this story without picturing Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger riding up into the mountains. It’s a short story/novella, but the emotional journey that both author and narrator take you on will last a long, long time.
Carsick by John Waters, read by author
This is one hitchhiker that you will definitely want to pick up. What better way to enjoy Waters account of thumbing his way across the country than by listening to it in your car (or on your smart phone while you travel by plane, train, foot, or bus)? The memoir is divided into three parts: best case scenario, worst case scenario, and the actual account. It’s hilarious and awesome! Go listen, go listen now!
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, read by Juliet Stevenson
Not all actors are capable of voicing animated characters or narrating novels. Juliet Stevenson possesses the range to give life to Sarah Waters’ latest piece of historical fiction.
It’s 1922 and Frances Wray and her mother are struggling to make ends meet. They rent out a room in their middle class home to a young couple, Lillian and Leonard Barber. Lillian and Frances begin a romance that slams into more than one hurdle. Disaster or a new beginning? Tune in to find out! Waters does a wonderful job drawing out class conflict, sexuality, and ethical and moral dilemmas. The second half of the novel really put me in mind of Crime & Punishment. The Paying Guests felt weighed down with intense emotions and difficulties, but there was enough levity and pinpricks of light to lift it up.