Audiobooks: ‘Reading’ in the time of COVID-19 and titles we loved in 2020

In 2020, as the lockdown restricted recreational activities, several people turned to audiobooks. YS Weekender lists some of the audiobooks we listened and loved this year.
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Amazon Audible says, “Listening is the new reading,” and we couldn’t agree more. Over the last couple of years, audiobooks have experienced exponential growth, and the market is expected to make even more revenue.

Thanks to increased smartphone penetration and the availability of low-cost data, India has also seen a rise in audio consumption — from audiobooks and podcasts to original desi content, and more. Data suggests that the country has over 150 million daily listeners

This year, due to the coronavirus lockdown, many more tuned into audiobooks.

In a previous interaction with YourStory, Shailesh Sawlani, Country Head of Audible India, said, “Screen fatigue has led a lot of people to proactively explore audio content.”

If you are new to audiobooks or are trying to find some recommendations, here are some of our top picks.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention

Image courtesy: Audible

Netflix’s culture has been the talk of the town for a while now. It is unique, experimental, and hugely successful. So, Chairman and CEO Reed Hastings revealed the inside story of how the company got where it is today, and we listened.

With Erin Meyer, Professor at INSEAD Business School, Hastings dives deep into his leadership philosophy, which “begins by rejecting the accepted beliefs under which most companies operate”.

Read by Jason Culp (Hastings’ voice) and Allyson Ryan (for Meyer), it is a riveting listen. For anyone interested in creativity, productivity, and innovation, or just curious about the Netflix culture, this book is a must-read (or a must-listen).

Please note that the book has a PDF accompaniment you may need to access while listening to the audio. You can find the audiobook here.

A Promised Land

Image courtesy: Audible

Barack Obama is a great writer and a great narrator. In the first volume of his presidential memoirs, Obama talks about his education and the landmark moments of the first term of his presidency.

Intimate and powerful, A Promised Land takes you inside the Oval Office, giving you a glimpse inside the mind of a man trying to lead a country, the limitations of the office, and insights into US politics.

Obama’s narration lends a personal touch, almost like he’s sitting right next to you, telling you his life story. You can find the audiobook here.

The Sandman

Image courtesy: Audible

An Audible Original Drama version of the “the greatest epic in the history of comic books”, this version of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman is an audiophile’s delight. It is narrated by the author, joined by a star-studded cast —James McAvoy, Kat Dennings, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen, among many others.

The story? For decades, The Sandman or Morpheus — the immortal king of dreams, stories and the imagination – was imprisoned on Earth. And now he has escaped to restore his power, descend into hell to face Lucifer, and more.

Even if you have already read the book, this version is a worthy choice. The background score, coupled with Gaiman’s soothing yet ominous narration sets the story beautifully. You can find the title here.

Pride and Prejudice

Image courtesy: Audible

There are many versions of this Jane Austen classic but we recommend you this one, read by Indira Verma.

The lockdown has been immensely kind to Pride and Prejudice and its many adaptations with the internet even going to war over who makes a better Mr Darcy — Colin Firth in the BBC mini-series, or Matthew Macfadyen in the 2005 film. But as fans of this novel will tell you, the book does it better.

From a headstrong Eliza Bennet, a stoic Mr Bennet to a proud Mr Darcy and a deliciously ridiculous Mrs Bennet, Verma’s narration brings a new life to the story and its many characters. You can find the audiobook here.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Image courtesy: Audible

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, narrated by Stephen Fry, is one of the most popular audiobook series of all times. But this one is a little different and special.

Another audio drama, narrated by the likes of Jude Law, Evanna Lynch, Bonnie Wright, among others, The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of fairy tales that children in the wizarding world grew up listening.

Oh, and there’s an introduction by Madam Pince, the hawk-eyed librarian of Hogwarts. What’s not to love? You can find the audiobook here.

Becoming

Image courtesy: Audible

Michelle Obama is one of the most iconic women of our era. The former First Lady of the United States of America — the first African American to serve in that role — is also a powerful advocate for women and girls around the world.

In this memoir, she invites listeners into her world — from her childhood in Chicago to her years in the White House.

Narrated by Obama herself, the story is inspiring, poignant, and powerful. You can find the audiobook here.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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