12 Audiobook Recommendations for Each Month of 2021

A mix of genres to suit every mood

12 Audiobook Recommendations for Each Month of 2021
Image by rinfoto0 on Pixabay

A mix of genres to suit every mood

“I’m not an audiobook person.”

That’s what I kept telling myself all through 2019. It wasn’t simply an assumption. I had tried, and each time, I failed miserably. The narration could barely hold my attention, and I kept missing important scenes and dialogs.

All these excuses came to a screeching halt when a single audiobook I listened to in 2019 took my breath away. After that, I got myself an Audible subscription in December 2019. Since then, I’ve listened to 50+ audiobooks of several genres.

In this post, I’ve listed 12 of my favorite audiobooks to brighten up your 2021. You can listen to one each month of the year and come back to thank me later when you’re in love with the narration.

Before we delve in, here are some tips to get the most out of each audiobook you listen to. For newbie listeners, these tips will come in handy:

  1. Get a subscription. Most free audiobooks aren’t worth the time invested in listening. I’ve tried Audible and I can vouch for the quality of their audiobooks.
  2. Stick to your comfort genre. Listen to a sample and skim through the reviews before picking a book.
  3. Listen to fiction as it’s like hearing a story being narrated. I find non-fiction easier to digest when I underline and highlight the passages.
  4. Listen while doing a chore you don’t enjoy to fill your grumpy silences with the magic of words.
  5. Listen in short bursts throughout the day. This way, you don’t have to focus on one thing for long, and your mind keeps revolving around the story even when you are not reading.
  6. Listen before going to sleep. It will help you relax even on your worst, most stressed-out nights.

(Note: The links mentioned in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books through these links, it will help me earn a small amount — at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)

January: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Biographical fiction
Narrated by: Sara Arrington, Jennifer Beals, Arthur Bishop, Fred Berman, Benjamin Bratt, Jonathan Davis, Ari Fliakos, Holter Graham, Judy Greer, January Lavoy, Robinne Lee, Peter Larkin, Henry Leyva, P.J. Ochlan, Robert Petkoff.

Image: Goodreads

This is the story of a fictional rock band of the 1980s comprised of lead singers Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne, and five other musicians.

The narration of this book is unlike any I’ve seen before. The storytelling follows a unique pattern in the form of interviews or recollections from the seven band members and one other person (the wife of the lead singer Billy Dunne).

The narrator of the book is a biographer who visits each band member, and through a string of recollections from each of them, tries to put together the story of how the talented singer Daisy Jones met the band “The Six”, how they ended up forming a separate, more famous band, and what led to their eventual break-up.

“Knowing you’re good can only take you so far. At some point, you need someone else to see it, too. Appreciation from people you admire changes how you see yourself.”

Why you should listen to it

Each character is voiced by a different narrator. For your first audiobook of the year, this is a great pick. It’s not hard to follow, with engaging conversations and descriptions. All in all, a perfect audiobook for a beginner.

The voices have infused life into the author’s words. Especially because this is a book about a rock band, there are a lot of descriptions of concerts and album tours. The back-and-forth between the characters is handled like magic by the narrators.

This book will make you feel all warm and happy inside. It will fill your heart with happiness and make you wish the characters were real — that Daisy Jones & the Six was an actual rock band and you could listen to their songs on YouTube.

Purchase the book here.

February: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Genre: Science-fiction/Comedy
Narrated by: Stephen Fry

Image: Goodreads

A man from London and his best friend become homeless when the earth is destroyed by a bunch of aliens to make space to make way for a hyperspace bypass. This short, hilarious book will take you through a journey across the universe with the most delightful ensemble of characters you will ever have the privilege to meet.

But, apart from its stellar plot, what really makes the book stand out is how accurately the author depicts the feeling of homelessness, of never really belonging anywhere — a problem so many people of our generation are assailed with.

“Every single decision we make, every breath we draw, opens some doors and closes many others. Most of them we don’t notice. Some we do.”

Why you should listen to it

Stephen Fry is one hell of a performer. His idiosyncrasies make Douglas Adams’ words even more hilarious. Even if you’ve read the book before, I can’t recommend the audio version enough. Yes, it’s that good.

This is a short book. It would be done in 5 hours or less. Fair warning though: don’t listen to this book in a public place. You don’t want to randomly burst out laughing. The people around you would stare at you weirdly.

Purchase the book here.

March: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Genre: Young Adult/LGBTQ romance
Narrated by: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Image: Goodreads

Aristotle Mendoza and Dante Quintana are two Mexican-American teenagers growing up in El Paso, Texas during the 1980s. They are trying to find their way in the world. But before they do that, they need to find their way to each other.

Aristotle (Ari, to his friends) is a self-doubting silent guy, who has learned from experience to bottle his feelings up. Dante, on the other hand, is an expressive, fair-skinned boy who meets Ari at the pool one afternoon and asks him if he should teach him swimming. Dante reads poetry and loves painting. He makes Ari laugh and fills his world with colours, and before they know it, the two become the best of friends.

“Sometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you’re feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.”

Why you should listen to it

I recently wrote an entire post gushing about how beautiful this book is. But, if you are still not convinced, let me summarise in two lines.

You can call Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe a love story. But in its heart, it’s the story of being a misunderstood teenager and the struggle of dealing with a world so hell-bent on ostracising what it considers as “different”. It’s a book you MUST read, for it will leave you with tears of happiness and goosebumps all over your skin.

The narrator has done a fabulous job. Your heart will be ripped right out of your chest and made into a squishy goo of happiness before it’s inserted back in. You’ll fall in love with the narration.

Purchase the book here.

April: A House Is a Body by Shruti Swamy

Genre: Psychological fiction/mythology (Short stories)
Narrated by: Soneela Nankani (and other narrators)

Image: Goodreads

“Had I been dreaming?”, the protagonist in the fourth story asks.

“Yes,” her friend replies.

“Am I dreaming now?”


If there was a quote to describe this book, this would be it.

With dreamy prose and dealing with issues of love, loss, friendship, and motherhood, this book is all about what it means to be a woman. Flitting between India and the United States, the stories take you on a wild ride peppered with kaleidoscopic colours. There is a common thread tying the stories — of introspection, self-reflection, and the inevitability of change. The thread is so strong, that sometimes you forget which story you’re on. The transition between them is so seamless, so magical, it makes this a hard book to put down once you start reading.

What to expect

The audiobook is beautiful, the narrators bringing out the poetic nature of the author’s writing. Every story leaves a different taste on your tongue — each sweeter than the last. I don’t normally listen to collections of short stories, but I’m so grateful I picked this one. This really changed my perspective on human relationships, pregnancy, and motherhood.

Purchase the book here.

May: How to Be a Movie Star by T.J. Klune

Genre: LGBTQ+ romance
Narrated by: Michael Lesley

Image: Goodreads

Josiah Erickson wants to be a movie star. The only problem is that the competition is too high, and he never seems to get past the string of rejections. Things change when a series of coincidences lead him to the book-reading sessions of the insanely popular author, Q-bert, on whom Josiah develops a “friend-crush.” Being demisexual, this scares him because he’s never felt this attraction for a stranger before. Josy has no clue what to do.

What follows is a series of events that ultimately lead to a crazy night where Josy gets high and ends up with a boyfriend, a movie deal, and a supposed Golden Globe nomination.

Why you should listen to it

Technically, this is the second book in the How to be series by TJ Klune, but I read the sequel before, and this book can be read as a standalone, so you can definitely go for this book. However, once you fall in love with the characters (because you will — this is that good), it will make you crave to spend more time with them. Then, you can go back to the first book (How to be a Normal Person), which will make you want to look at the second book from a different perspective — and this cycle will continue.

This session of re-reads is well worth it, though. Because the warmth and happiness these two books are is difficult to absorb in just one read.

The narrator, Michael Lesley has done an AMAZING job. I actually had the good fortune of attending one of his live reading sessions on Facebook. His body movements, expressions, and the happiness shining bright in his eyes made it apparent how committed he is to his work. No wonder his voice has created this beautiful treasure of a book.

Purchase this book here.

June: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Genre: Horror
Narrated by: Neil Gaiman

Image: Goodreads

Coraline is the story of a little girl who goes on an adventure, with her nemesis being an evil witch. The book follows all tropes of a ‘child vs witch’ stories, though written superbly. This is an excellent short spooky book, nevertheless.

Those who are familiar with Neil Gaiman’s writing will be aware of the raw honesty he puts into his tales, and this one is no different. The parent-child bond, explored with such delicate mastery, leaves the reader with a smile on their faces.

“The sky was a little more sky. The world, a little more world.”

Why you should listen to it

So heartwarming, this tiny little book left me with a heart full of happiness. The audiobook, performed by the author himself, is a masterpiece, complete with songs, music, and spine-chilling voiceovers — making it an extraordinary experience worth the three hours spent in listening.

Purchase the book here.

July: City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Genre: Medieval fantasy
Narrated by: Soneela Nankani

Image: Goodreads

Nahri is a con woman of unsurpassed talent, hustling for a living on the streets of 18th century Cairo. Ali is the second son of King Ghassan of Daevabad — a djinn who doesn’t hesitate to give up all he has to bring equality between the djinn and shafit (half-bloods, or children of djinn with humans). Their paths cross when Nahri unknowingly summons Dara, a daeva who saves her from ghouls in Cairo and takes her to Daevabad.

This book has a little of everything — palace politics, ancient djinn and their blood rivalry, a chosen-one character arc, badass female warriors/magicians, and a love triangle that is delightful and heart-breaking at the same time.

“Greatness takes time, Banu Nahida. Often the mightiest things have the humblest beginnings.”

Why you should listen to it

A novel set in the desert for the first month of Summer narrated by a performer whose voice makes it seem as if she was born to read this book out loud? What could be a better combination than this?

The City of Brass is both smart and very entertaining. The richness of the world Chakraborty has created gives added heft to a beautiful story. The writing is so vivid and descriptive, you can almost smell the incense and would want to keep a damp cloth at hand to wipe the desert sand from your brow. This is a wonderful, engaging, and fun read I recommend to all lovers of adult fantasy.

Purchase the book here.

August: I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

Genre: Murder mystery
Narrated by: Jenni Barber, Jayme Mattler (among others for minor characters)

Image: Goodreads

There are two parallel storylines. One is in the present where 17-year-old Anna Cicconi has been arrested for the murder of Zoe Spanos. She wasn’t framed or caught red-handed. She herself walked to the police station and confessed to the murder.

The other storyline is from two months ago when Anna has just arrived in the town to work as a babysitter for a wealthy couple. Every person she meets tells her she reminds them of a girl called Zoe Spanos who disappeared six months ago and has been missing ever since.

The premise sent chills down my spine. Everything was so complicated; it was hard to keep the book down until I found what was up with Anna and why she confessed to killing Zoe when two months ago, she wasn’t even aware of the girl’s existence.

Why you should listen to it

That twist in the end! No matter how much of a seasoned thriller reader you are, you would NOT see that coming. I was almost preparing myself for a supernatural element or a significant let-down. But the author did a fantastic job of tying all the loose ends together and keeping me guessing — right until the epilogue.

The audiobook is one of the finest I’ve listened to — complete with multiple voices for different characters and music to set the mood for the scenes. My favorite parts are when a character is walking or running, you can actually hear the wind in the background and the huff in their voice. The incredible performances only enhance the quality of this murder mystery with an unreliable narrator.

Purchase the book here.

September: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Narrated by: Derek Perkins
Genre: Non-fiction

Image: Goodreads

This is a brilliant, well-researched book tracing the history of humankind from our foraging ancestors to the current generation of humans who build supercomputers and smart cities.

The author does a stellar job of dissecting our origins and analyzing why we behave the way we do. There are clear ties and links to show how seemingly “millennial” problems like craving for sugary food or being unable to be faithful to your partner aren’t, in truth, new at all. Ancient homo sapiens have been facing the same problems and our reaction to them is imprinted in our DNA.

This book taught me that every human behavior we are familiar with today has its roots in the fight-or-flight response of our ancestors. Even the concept of happiness can be tackled with cold logic. If you break it down to merely the interplay of chemicals in your brain, you will stop holding so much value to it.

“Happiness does not really depend on objective conditions of either wealth, health or even community. Rather, it depends on the correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations.”

Why you should listen to it

I know I mentioned that listening to fiction on audio works well. But so far, you’ve listened to so many amazing stories, this might be the perfect time to delve into non-fiction. And what better book to start with than this amazing narrative filled with anecdotes backed with science?

It teaches you to apply logic to read into the behavior of a person like an expert. Once you let go of emotions and look at every scenario with cold logic, you will be surprised at how simple it becomes to deal with problematic situations.

The key is to detach emotion and examine the problem objectively.

Purchase this book here.

October: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Genre: Literary Fiction
Narrated by: Arundhati Roy

Image: Goodreads

This is a beautiful story. Roy is a master is what she does — crafting characters of such intricate depth, that you cannot help but fall in love with their imperfections, their beliefs, the mistakes they commit, and the way they see the world.

This book belongs to the characters who will leave their marks on your heart. But more than that, this book belongs to you, the reader — who will be taken on a journey through the crowded, colourful streets of old Delhi, to the quiet dissatisfaction brewing in the lawns of Jantar Mantar, to the blood-drenched valleys of Kashmir, to the place where old birds go to die, and finally to a home where things might just have a happy ending.

Why you should listen to it

There’s something magical about hearing authors read out their own work. The way they enunciate some words and pay emphasis to certain passages only makes you appreciate the layers in their prose. I took time in listening tothis book, but every second spent was worth the investment.

This book will leave you a changed person. I know. I have experienced the magic.

Purchase the magic here.

November: Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Genre: Biography
Narrated by: Fred Sanders

Image: Goodreads

I doubt there would be anyone reading this who hasn’t heard of Elon Musk and his unique brand of genius. The man who became the richest person in the world in January, 2021 has an inspiring and educative journey.

In every project he undertakes, Elon’s courage and the audacity to dream big shines through. The book puts together bits and pieces of his story from the life of the man who has literally taken the world by storm. The man is a genius, and this book represents that well.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,”

Why you should listen to it

This is a highly inspiring and motivating book. The narrator’s gusto almost compels you into action right away. It makes you understand that being reckless might be looked down upon by the society, but to truly achieve greatness, this is a trait you definitely need to nurture. Musk’s story will change the way you perceive life.

Purchase the book here.

December: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Genre: Psychological fiction
Narrated by: Marin Ireland

Image: Goodreads

This is the story of a bank robbery. But wait, this is the story of a hostage drama with eight hostages and two police officers.

Or is this the story of a psychologist with the painting of a woman standing on a bridge on her table? Or is this is the story of the bridge?

Fredrik Backman is a magician with his words, but he outdoes himself in Anxious People. There are parts that will make you teary-eyed with emotion, and other parts that will make you unexpectedly laugh out loud. This book is like a dear friend that will stay with you long after you’ve completed it.

“That’s the power of literature, you know, it can act like little love letters between two people who can only explain their feelings by pointing at other people’s.”

Why you should listen to it

December is a time for festivities and spending some quality time with family and friends. This is the perfect book to listen to get yourself in the mood for some wholesome happiness.

The narrative is so raw, at times, you might feel as if you’re getting a glimpse into the author’s journal, rather than reading a book. Marin Ireland has done a wonderful job bringing the quirky characters. They are each damaged and hopeful, looking for a love that resides beneath their rib cage.

This is a heartwarming story about what it means to be human. Or, as the author, would say it, idiots.

Purchase the book here.

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Year-end wrap-up and some amazing recommendations

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