“You have two ears and one mouth for a reason,” I’m frequently reminded, in what is both a handy anatomy lesson and an impatient evocation of that most crucial fact: that we should all listen more than we speak. Good advice, this. The sort of thing Deborah Meaden might spout in her more withering moments on Dragons Den. And perhaps it applies to audiobooks, too. For in this digital age of personal broadcasting — Instagram stories, that new House Party app, something called ‘Tik Tok’ — it is a wise man who stops and listens. Here are the audiobooks that will make you glad you have two ears.
Gotta Get Theroux This by Louis Theroux
It was 1994 when a young, gawky, lanky chap called Louis Theroux was offered a quick slot on Michael Moore’s show TV Nation. Young Louis, somewhat surprised to get the call up, was sent to interview some members of a bizarre religious doomsday sect — and the rest, as they say, is history. This career autobiography tracks that history to the present day, in Theroux’s inimitably self-conscious style — taking in racist militias, violent prisons, porn stars, and Jimmy Savile along the way.
A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner by Chris Atkins
After taking part in a fraudulent tax-scheme to fund his latest film, deeply middle class documentary maker Chris Atkins suddenly found himself thrust into the unforgiving world of HMP Wandsworth. What begins as a precisely observed personal memoir, however, soon turns into an incisive critique of the prison system itself — and ends in an urgent step-by-step guide to fixing it.
Grown Ups by Marian Keyes
A sharp satire of family dynamics and the trappings of wealth, the 17th book from Marian Keyes tracks the internal conflicts of Dublin’s glamorous Casey family across a series of poignant social gatherings. It is a delicious thing — light and dark at once, full of acid observations and warmth, and fully attuned to the absurdities of familial life.
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it by Chris Voss
Life’s a negotiation. At least, that’s the view of former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, who brings his decades of field experience to bear in this lively and pragmatic new handbook. Rooted in real-life experience, and leavened with candid anecdotes from his time as a fed, Never Split the Difference outlines nine key principles that are just as applicable in a payrise haggle as in a hostage negotiation.
Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy by David Mitchell
An eclectic collection of David Mitchell’s more recent essays and think pieces, this new book sees the comedian and writer train his laser eye on almost everything in British society — from UKIP to Brexit and horse meat to salad cream. It is warm and witty and eerily accurate — a lovely light in the darkness.
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
A charming, bittersweet novel from the most likeable man on social media, Matt Haig’s latest follows a chap called Tom Hazard who, thanks to a rare condition, has ended up living for several centuries. It sounds like a forgettable fantasy romp, but really it’s a story about personal reinvention and the certainty of change, only much funnier and more alive than I have made that sound.
The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben
Coben is the best-selling author behind the utterly compelling Netflix drama The Stranger, and his latest offering is equally potent. A mystery thriller set in the badlands of New Jersey, this new novel focuses on the off-grid former soldier Wilde, who is called on when a young girl goes missing. A gloriously grisly page-turner with some excellent chicanes and twists.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell’s singular gift is making the complex simple, and the simple complex. His beguiling method often illuminates the corners of the world we tend to overlook — and revises our evaluation of every day concepts with startling clarity. In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell turns his attention to the faulty assumptions we often make about people we don’t know (and just as often about those that we do.) It is barnstorming and thought-provoking and sometimes controversial — and brilliant dinner party fodder.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
A vivid and vital novelisation of the American immigrant experience, Cummins’ new book explores the brutal realities of the US-Mexico border in visceral prose. The opening sequence is shocking and compelling in equal measure, and this ultra-timely novel just accelerates from there, often in exquisitely painted detail.
This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay
Adam Kay’s brilliant memoir may be three years old, but the recent health crisis means it’s more poignant and urgent than ever. This is the brutally honest and wonderfully graphic account of life as a junior doctor. The 97-hour weeks, the daily tragedies, the many, many bodily fluids — and the moments of wondrous humanity. It is a million-copy, Sunday Times best-seller for a reason.
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