Author Claire Lombardo’s new novel, The Most Fun We Ever Had, has been named one of the most anticipated books of the summer by People, O Magazine, LitHub, and more—and with Emily Rankin narrating the audiobook, listeners can count on a heaping helping of additional awesome. We caught up with Emily for the behind-the-mic scoop…and a few other summer sundries.
Wow, this book…it leaves me speechless, it’s so good. Claire Lombardo wrote a modern-day family epic like nothing else except, I don’t know, Tolstoy? But funnier. The Most Fun We Ever Had brings us deep into the lives of the Connollys, a family of four daughters in the suburbs of Chicago, and we jump from the present to the past and back again to unravel the mysteries, small and large, that work their way into the ties that bind: marriage, parenting, and sisterhood.
June is Audiobook Month, and we’re celebrating! Do you have a celebration ritual for when you finish narrating an audiobook (or when you first learn you’ve been cast as a reader)?
My ritual after finding out I’ve gotten cast on an audiobook looks a lot like Sally Field’s famous Oscar speech: “You like me! You really like me!” Only I’m standing in the kitchen in a robe and fuzzy socks, eating chocolate before breakfast.
Which character from this book would you invite to a summer dinner party, and why?
Definitely Wendy, the oldest sister, because she’d make it an Event to Remember. She’s chaotic, caustic, and darkly funny, with a mastery of day-drinking and a well-honed B.S. detector. Having her over for a dinner party would be like playing hot potato with a live grenade. Exciting!
Is there a summer song that makes you want to celebrate/get up and dance?
Well, I was a teen girl in the ‘90’s, so my summertime vibe will always be Mariah Carey rollerblading through the “Fantasy” music video. It’s fun to tap into that wonder and excitement you felt when school was out and you hoped something magical might happen to you before September.
And in honor of Audiobook Month, what’s your next audio listen and what made you chose it?
For summer reading, I go for mysteries and thrillers, so I’m excited to listen to the latest by Brad Parks: The Last Act, read by Graham Halstead. I became a big fan last year after getting to narrate another book of his, Closer Than You Know. He’s a fantastic writer, and his stories grip you and don’t let you off the ride till the last page.
Listen to a clip of Emily reading The Most Fun We Ever Had:
A dazzling, multigenerational story in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple—still madly in love after forty years—recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they’ve built.
Spanning nearly half a century, and set against the quintessential American backdrop of Chicago and its prospering suburbs, Lombardo’s debut explores the triumphs and burdens of love, the fraught tethers of parenthood and sisterhood, and the baffling mixture of affection, abhorrence, resistance, and submission we feel for those closest to us.
In this episode meet Ruth Reichl, author of Save Me the Plums; Emily Nussbaum, author of I Like to Watch; and Emilie Pine, author of Notes to Self. Each of these nonfiction writers shares work inspired by her life, whether it’s a memoir about her career or essays about personal-yet-universal experiences. And find out which writer would cast Julia Whelan as her dream narrator.
S4 E39: Ruth Reichl, Emily Nussbaum, and Emilie Pine - SoundCloud (584 secs long, 20 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the job (and the risk) of a lifetime when she entered the high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet.
“A must for any food lover . . . Reichl is a warm, intimate writer. She peels back the curtain to a glamorous time of magazine-making. You’ll tear through this memoir.” —Refinery29
From The New Yorker’s fiercely original, Pulitzer Prize-winning culture critic, a provocative collection of new and previously published essays arguing that we are what we watch.
“Emily Nussbaum is the perfect critic—smart, engaging, funny, generous, and insightful. All of these talents are on display in this marvelous anthology of her essays on television. They illuminate the shows shaping our culture and the power of this flourishing art form.”—David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon
The international sensation that illuminates the experiences women are supposed to hide—from addiction, anger, sexual assault, and infertility to joy, sensuality, and love.
“Emilie Pine’s voice is razor-sharp and raw; her story is utterly original yet as familiar as my own breath. Both timeless and urgent, Notes to Self is my favorite memoir of the year.”—Glennon Doyle, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Love Warrior
To listen to more episodes of This Is the Author, click here.
Award-winning narrator Janina Edwards is the voice behind many of our favorite romantic comedies, including The Wedding Date. She perfectly captures the wit, romance, and fun of Jasmine Guillory’s latest novel, resulting in a joyous summer listen.
To celebrate the launch of our new Volumes Book Club—and its inaugural selection, The Wedding Date—we chatted with Janina to find out more about the audiobook—and other seasonal celebrations!
Tell us a little about The Wedding Date.
In The Wedding Date, Alexa and Drew meet cute in a hotel elevator and go through their unique gauntlet of romantic challenges, based on the truth that she’s a smart, sexy, full-figured black woman and he’s a smart, sexy white doctor. The book is sexy (though not raunchy). It has a sense of humor, and as a black woman, the problems Jennifer explored rang true and weren’t the completely contrived stuff of most romance novels.
June is Audiobook Month, and we’re celebrating! Do you have a celebration ritual when you finish narrating an audiobook?
Depends. If I’m recording at an outside studio (not my home booth), I probably go have a nice meal or a chai latte and try very hard not to talk to anyone (i.e., rest my voice). If I’m home…umm yeah, pretty much the same thing. I use to shred my scripts, but since I work on an iPad now…
Which characters from The Wedding Date would you invite to a summer dinner party and why?
My immediate answer is Carlos and Theo. But the things I love about them are only uncovered in their books. Carlos loves to cook and is social, and Theo is a coffee aficionado who loves to dance. That’s half your party right there.
Is there a song that makes you want to get up and dance?
I’m answering these questions listening to old school Afrobeat literally bouncing in my seat. Fela Kuti and Femi Kuti, for example. Femi’s “Beng, Beng, Beng” rocks out. I also love Kirtan. Krishna Das’s “Hara Hara Mahadev” does it every time.
And in honor of Audiobook Month, what’s your next audio listen, and what made you choose it?
I’m a sucker for a good romantic series. A good friend has been pushing me to listen/read Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series. She got me hooked. Darn it. After finishing recording The Wedding Party, I was enjoying the characters so much, I’ve been working my way through the book series again, but reading, not listening to myself.
Listen to a clip of Janina narrating The Wedding Date:
“Edwards fully expresses all the sassiness, boldness, and romance of this story.”—AudioFile, Earphones Award Winner
“A romance novel that will make you believe in happily ever afters.”—Nylon.com
“What a charming, warm, sexy gem of a novel. I couldn’t put The Wedding Date down. I love a good romance and this delivered from the first page to the last…One of the best books I’ve read in a while.”—Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Hunger
Don’t miss the other audiobooks in this sexy, fun series from author Jasmine Guillory and narrator Janina Edwards. Check them out!
If you’re looking for your next listen, look no farther than Mamta Chaudhry’s debut novel. Haunting Paris has so many layers to it—grief, memory, love, family, and history—that it’s a fantastic audiobook to lose yourself in.
We caught up with Mamta to meet the writer behind the words and to hear more about this moving novel.
Tell us a little about Haunting Paris.
It’s set in a city I fell in love with from the first moment I saw it many years ago. And I’ve always been fascinated by contrasts: just as the City of Light has its own dark shadows, I juxtaposed a time of public celebration with private mourning. In the summer of 1989, while Paris is caught up in the bicentennial festivities for Le quatorze juillet (what we call Bastille Day), Sylvie grieves for her lover, Julien, and is unable to find solace in the music that has always been her refuge. But she discovers a secret about Julien’s past: though his sister and one of her daughters perished in the Holocaust, Julien held out hope that the other daughter managed to escape, and he secretly devoted years to tracking his niece. Sylvie picks up where Julien left off, unaware that she is watched over by his ghost, who is drawn back to this world for love of her.
So it is a ghost story, a mystery, a love story, a compressed history, but most of all a love letter to the city—not a funny Valentine like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, but as rich and deep and painful and complicated as love is in real life.
June is Audiobook Month, and we’re celebrating! Do you have a celebration ritual when you finish writing?
As Patsy and Edina say in Absolutely Fabulous, it’s “Bolly, sweetie!” The sound of that popping cork is so festive all on its own that actually drinking the bubbly seems secondary. You realize I’m kidding, right? About the secondary part?
The more productive ritual is cleaning up my office, which means excavating my desk from beneath stacks of papers, and it’s like an archaeological dig, each draft seems like a city built on the ruins of another. It’s a necessary and therapeutic ritual—I only seem to get the uncontrollable urge to tidy when I’m either putting off starting the project or when I’m actually finished. But it clears the space in my head to move onto something else.
Which characters from Haunting Paris would you invite to a summer dinner party and why?
Two summer dinner parties act as bookends to Haunting Paris. I love throwing parties and inviting people to an alfresco meal (though down here in Miami, it’s winter dinner parties because in summer the mosquitoes would carry our guests off, if the heat and humidity didn’t do them in first). But an imaginary dinner party is so much fun, and I invited characters from the book who would cook a wonderful meal (Alexandra), choose great wine (Monsieur de Cherisey), play the piano (Sylvie)…and I didn’t have to cook or clean or lift a finger, except to write it all down.
Is there a song that makes you want to get up and dance?
My music of choice is classical, and though every great composition is a celebration, they are not exactly dance tunes. So I go to Zumba, and since this is Miami, everyone else in the class seems to have been born with the nimble feet and undulating hips necessary for salsa. I love dancing to the old romantic songs best, like “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás” sung by Nat King Cole, even if I’m always a beat behind and headed in the wrong direction from everyone else. I once told the class that I write better than I dance, and one of the women said, “Good thing!”
And in honor of Audiobook Month, what’s your next audio listen, and what made you choose it?
Clearly, Haunting Paris—which is being read by Lisa Flanagan (an opera singer who speaks French…she’s tailor-made for this book) and by Daniel Oreskes (who was one of the narrators for Suite Française, a book I love). I haven’t heard the audiobook of Haunting Paris yet, but my husband stumbled across a clip of it on the Internet. We listened to it together, and there was a moment in that brief section when we both almost jumped out of our skin.
The other book I can’t wait to hear is George Saunders’s brilliant Lincoln in the Bardo. When I read it, I was reminded of an opera, where the chorus both amplifies the soloists and sets them in sharp relief. And that heartbreaking duet between father and son, it still moves me to recall it. What a feat of orchestration both for the novelist and now for the audio producer—over 150 voices, I understand. Wow!
“Haunting Paris is a graceful debut from Chaudhry…revealing a finely textured world where grief and love commingle.”—Booklist
“This fine first novel explores the ways history abides in the streets and monuments of an old city, and in the human souls who love it and grieve for it and struggle to forgive it. This book is a small parable, pondering the nature of civilization itself.”—Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead
Actor and narrator Craig Wasson has a number of impressive credits to his name: in film he’s had starring roles in Puerto Vallarta Squeeze, Four Friends (which earned him a Golden Globe nomination), Body Double, Ghost Story, and The Boys In Company C. He also costarred in the critically acclaimed television series Skag. In his role as narrator, he’s read audiobooks written by John Grisham, John A. Keel, and most often, James Ellroy. Penguin Random House Audio happily welcomed Craig back to the recording booth for Ellroy’s latest, This Storm.
1) Tell us a little about This Storm.
Only James Ellroy could so masterfully portray World War II era Los Angeles and the larger-than-life denizens of it’s underbelly. Every character caught up in this maelstrom is drawn into an all-or-nothing dance with life and death. This story will pull you in, too, and make you dance to its tune.
2) Did you learn anything new while narrating This Storm?
Since the book is an historical fiction, there are many references to actual events that leave the reader stunned. Especially when compared to current cultural norms.
3) June is Audiobook Month, and we’re celebrating! Do you have a celebration ritual when you finish narrating an audiobook?
For me, the reading of the book is the celebration. When it’s over I’m exhausted but sorry to see it end.
4) Which characters that you’ve narrated would you invite to a summer dinner party, and why?
I suppose Dudley Smith, Elmer Jackson, and the lovely Kay Lake (for whom I’d most likely fall) would be the first three on my guest list.
5) Is there a song that makes you want to celebrate/get up and dance?
Below is a song of mine called “Wild Life.” I hope you’ll dance to it, too!
6) And in honor of Audiobook Month, what’s your next audio listen and what made you choose it?
Gonna listen to This Storm when it’s released. Hear it’s good.
There’s a certain excitement that occurs when you can watch a TV show or film that’s based on—or related to—(audio)books. It’s thrilling to see beloved fictional characters come to life by actors, or see actual historical footage that can enhance a nonfiction story.
Let’s see what’s in store for us this summer season!
The HBO adaptation is in season 2, but if you haven’t listened to this popular audiobook yet, do yourself a favor and download it now. It’s the best type of summer listen: fast-paced and full of juicy drama.
Watch the trailer for Big Little Lies season 2:
Big Little Lies: Season 2 | Official Trailer | HBO - YouTube
Before or after watching the documentary, you’ll want more Bob Dylan content. In this audiobook, one of America’s finest historians shows us how Bob Dylan still surprises and moves us after all these years.
Have you fallen in love with this story thanks to this fantastic TV show? Go back to the beginning and fall into the audiobook that started it all. This is a mother-daughter story about an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana.
Watch the trailer for Queen Sugar, season 4:
Official Trailer: ‘Queen Sugar’ Season 4 | Queen Sugar | Oprah Winfrey Network - YouTube
A Toni Morrison documentary will be in select theaters on June 21 (and coming to HBO this fall)!
Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison is one of the finest writers in America so make sure you listen to her first novel, The Bluest Eye, that was published in 1970. It will make your viewing experience of the documentary more rich and full.
Watch the trailer for Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am:
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am - Official Trailer - YouTube
Season 3 of Netflix’s fan-favortie series returns on July 4!
Get ready for the new season by diving into the world of Stranger Things with this new audiobook. Chief Jim Hopper reveals long-awaited secrets to Eleven about his old life as a police detective in New York City, confronting his past before the events of the hit show.
Adults can’t have all the fun! For younger Stranger Things fans, there’s a new gripping, emotional prequel to the series. It’s the never-before-told backstory of the beloved Dig Dug maven, Max Mayfield.
Watch the trailer for Stranger Things, season 3:
Stranger Things 3 | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
An AMERICAN EXPERIENCE® Film on PBS® airing July 8!
“Chasing the Moon tells the story I’ve lived for most of my life. From my testing of the lunar module on Apollo 9 to my hopes for the future as we celebrate Apollo’s fiftieth anniversary, it’s all there, and told through the personal experiences of the people who lived it. Some of it familiar, some never told before, this is a very human account of a truly historic moment as humankind emerges into the larger cosmos.”—Russell “Rusty” Schweickart, astronaut, Apollo 9
Watch the trailer for Chasing the Moon:
Trailer | Chasing the Moon | American Experience | PBS - YouTube
Fans have been waiting a long time for the return of spunky detective Veronica Mars. While you wait for the new season, plug into this audiobook. From Rob Thomas, the creator of the television series and movie, comes the first book in a thrilling mystery series that picks up where the feature film left off.
Watch the trailer for Veronica Mars:
Veronica Mars: Season 4 Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original - YouTube
Perhaps you’ve watched Brené Brown: The Call to Courage already, or perhaps it’s in your queue. Either way, you can hear more from her with any of her audiobooks, but we recommend starting with this one. It’s a transformative new vision for the way we lead, love, work, parent, and educate that teaches us the power of vulnerability.
Watch the trailer for Brené Brown: The Call to Courage:
Brené Brown: the Call to Courage | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
Patron Saints of Nothing is a gripping and moving story that necessitates an equally gripping and moving voice to bring it to life as an audiobook. Luckily, we have award-winning narrator Ramón de Ocampo to do just that. Not only is he an accomplished voice actor, but he’s also an experienced stage and screen actor.
Tell us a little about Patron Saints of Nothing. I think one of the most fascinating things about Patron Saints of Nothing is how current the story is. It is the story of a Filipino American boy grappling with what it means to be Filipino American and being on the outside of what has become a deep and sometimes violent change in the Philippines. And it tells a story that could be happening right now, in the present political climate of the Philippines. I don’t know how Randy Ribay published such a visceral and personal novel so quickly. These events—the killing of suspected drug users and dealers without due process, vigilante justice, and the fallout on society in the Philippines—is happening right now, and Randy sends you right into it.
June is Audiobook Month, and we’re celebrating! Do you have a celebration ritual when you finish narrating an audiobook? I don’t really. Which is to say I tend to be working on multiple audiobooks at once, so while one is finishing, I’m getting ready to record another the next day, while prepping another in the evenings. I’m very happy about that—but it doesn’t give me a ton of celebration room. I’m trying my best now to at least give myself the day after an audiobook to rest and not record if I can, but that’s a new development. Do other narrators have a celebration ritual? Is it like cake and whiskey? Maybe I can do cake and whiskey.
Which characters from this book would you invite to a summer dinner party and why? There is a fantastic scene (which shouldn’t spoil anything) where two aunties in the Philippines decide to start singing karaoke in their yard and within minutes the whole neighborhood shows up with lawn chairs and things, cracks open beers, and sings deep into the tropical night in a way that can only happen with neighbors who are so close they’re practically family. If those people can’t come to my party, I am soooo going to theirs.
Is there a song that makes you want to get up and dance? It is so easy to get me up and dancing. I’m that guy in the corner trying so hard not to dance because it may not be appropriate. I love a good cheesy wedding DJ. Motown, ‘80s, disco…any of that stuff that’s made for dancing I totally want to get up and dance to. Want a song? How about Earth Wind and Fire’s “September”? It always reminds me of my old friend and producer Bob Deyan, who was convinced they were singing his name in the lyrics.
And in honor of Audiobook Month, what’s your next audio listen, and what made you chose it? Dean Koontz’s Watchers. I spend so much time narrating YA books, but I love a good adult-fiction sizzler. Also, I actually love to hear the work of my fellow narrators. It’s such a small world of such nice people, and often you don’t have time to listen to things people are very proud of who you are friends with and admire. And you can learn a whole lot as a narrator by listening to your compatriots who are at the top of their game, and Edoardo Ballerini absolutely is. Last book I listened to was narrated by my dear friend Julia Whelan, and the one after Watchers will be something read by my friend MacLeod Andrews. It’s a way to stay inspired by the work my friends are doing (and be supportive of them), while staying educated and pushing myself to do my best in my quiet audio booth. And if I can hear a great story while I’m at it, then it’s all gravy.
Listen to a clip and learn more about the audiobook:
In this episode meet Jon Meacham, co-author of Songs of America; Matthew Stanley, author of Einstein’s War; and Steve Sheinkin, author of Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot. History is the driving force behind each of these authors’ audiobooks. These authors use storytelling as a way to engage and connect listeners to the past, to topics ranging from American music to Amelia Earhart to World War I. Even non-history buffs will fall in love with history after listening to each author talk about his audiobook. Then find out which author would cast Helen Mirren as his audiobook narrator.
S4 E38: Jon Meacham, Matthew Stanley, and Steve Sheinkin - SoundCloud (1034 secs long, 101 plays)Play in SoundCloud
From “The Star-Spangled Banner” to “Born in the U.S.A.,” Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw take readers on a moving and insightful journey through eras in American history and the songs and performers that inspired us. Meacham chronicles our history, exploring the stories behind the songs, and Tim McGraw reflects on them as an artist and performer. Their perspectives combine to create a unique view of the role music has played in uniting and shaping a nation.
“What a gem of a book! To read, to see, to hear the history of America, right and wrong, in song. This is an unusually well-written and moving story; it’s about us and U.S. all at the same time—as intimate as it is majestic in scope and reach.” —Ken Burns
Einstein’s War is a riveting exploration of both the beauty of scientific creativity and enduring horrors of human nature. These two great forces battle in a story that culminates with a victory now a century old, the mind bending theory of general relativity.
“Impressive work of popular science… Well told… delivers a wider, and still relevant, message that how science is performed is inextricable from other aspects of people’s lives.”—Publisher’s Weekly, starred review
In this episode meet Elaine Welteroth, author of More Than Enough; Amber Scorah, author of Leaving the Witness; and Tiffany Jenkins, author of High Achiever. These women share their personal journeys—complete with mistakes and hardships—in such an intimate and vulnerable way that listeners will be inspired to examine their own lives and spark conversations with those around them. Plus find out which author describes the recording process as being “a little bit like therapy.”
S4 E37: Elaine Welteroth, Amber Scorah, and Tiffany Jenkins - SoundCloud (1104 secs long, 143 plays)Play in SoundCloud
In this part-manifesto, part-memoir, the revolutionary editor who infused social consciousness into the pages of Teen Vogue explores what it means to come into your own—on your own terms
“Elaine gifts us all with a beautifully intimate and powerful retelling of her ever unfolding journey. In sharing her joys, pitfalls, adventures, self doubt, and successes, she reminds us that through uncovering and discovering the many facets of ourselves, we are more than enough.” —Yara Shahidi
A riveting memoir of losing faith and finding freedom while a covert missionary in one of the world’s most restrictive countries.
“À la Tara Westover’s Educated, Scorah’s pensive, ultimately liberating memoir chronicles her formative years as a Jehovah’s Witness…and captures the bewilderment of belief and the bliss of self-discovery…[Leaving the Witness] is a suture for anyone searching to reconcile their past and present selves.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
Getting soundbites from daily news, sometimes, isn’t enough. Go beyond the headlines and dig into one particular topic—from racism in America to freedom of speech on the internet—by plugging into one of these audiobooks.
“Like Orwell, Mr. Arnade spent a long time with the people he would write about, and he renders them sharply, with an eye for revelatory detail.”–The Wall Street Journal
Widely acclaimed photographer and writer Chris Arnade shines new light on America’s poor, drug-addicted, and forgotten–both urban and rural, blue state and red state–and indicts the elitists who’ve left them behind.
“The challenge we face is not just to feed a more populous world, but to do this sustainably and equitably. Amanda Little brings urgency, intrigue and crack reporting to the story of our food future.”–Chef José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize nominee
In this fascinating look at the race to secure the global food supply, environmental journalist and professor Amanda Little tells the defining story of the sustainable food revolution as she weaves together stories from the world’s most creative and controversial innovators on the front lines of food science, agriculture, and climate change.
“This is a crucial read for anyone who is concerned about current trends, and reversing the insidious effects of the broad-gauged assault on truth that regrettably is eroding our traditional and long-held precepts of freedom.”—James Clapper, former U.S. Director of National Intelligence and author of Facts and Fears
From America’s leading scholar of democracy, this is a personal, passionate call to action against the rising authoritarianism that challenges our world order—and the very value of liberty.
Who should decide whether content should be removed from social media platforms, or which users should be kicked off? Should governments set the rules and force the American behemoths—Facebook, YouTube and Twitter—to follow? David Kaye, one of the world’s leading voices on human rights in the digital age, deals with these issues on a daily basis as the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression. He tells the story of people around the world who are trying to get it right while facing an almost impossible task–with massive consequences for users and the public.
“This book is at once hopeful, raw, and brimming with curiosity, engagement and youthful energy.”—Roxane Gay New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist and Difficult Women
Spurred by the realization that they had nearly completed high school without hearing any substantive discussion about racism in school, these two young women deferred college admission for a year to collect first-person accounts of how racism plays out in this country every day—and often in unexpected ways.
An acclaimed classicist and New York Times bestselling author traces the origins of this misogyny to its ancient roots, examining the pitfalls of gender and the ways that history has mistreated strong women since time immemorial. With personal reflections on her own online experiences with sexism, Beard asks: If women aren’t perceived to be within the structure of power, isn’t it power itself we need to redefine?