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Audiobooks you should be listening to on Hoopla

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Sure, that title has a clickbait quality to it, but I’m pretty serious and vocal about my love for all things Hoopla. I’ve sung its praises in the past (mostly because the graphic novel selection is pretty darn great), but only recently have I really delved into the audiobook section.

Mostly because, until recently, I wasn’t exactly a fan of listening to books. Lugging around CDs is always a pain, and I’m still not sure what those MP3 things are all about, but listening to a book on your phone while multi-tasking or taking a walk? You mean I can read all the time if I want to?!

What started this new journey of mine was stumbling across "Wishful Drinking" by Carrie Fisher. I’ve been a fan of Carrie Fisher for years because of her outspoken nature and sharp wit, but this is the first time I have tried out any of her books. The audiobook was narrated by Carrie herself, which made the experience even better — she was intimate with her own writing style and knew just when to pause and emphasize certain words or phrases. "Wishful Drinking" is Fisher’s first humorous memoir, written after her first experience with electric shock therapy. She was an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness and treatment, which is one of the many reasons I admired her so much.

She covers everything in her book from her relationship with "Star Wars" (of course), to her musings on life and love, and an examination of the whole Debbie Reynolds-Eddie Fisher-Elizabeth Taylor debacle, which made me laugh until I cried. Carrie Fisher, in all of her life (which was tragically cut short this past December) was never shy about sharing her feelings or opinions, making "Wishful Drinking" one of the most entertaining memoirs I’ve ever read. Literally hearing about her life in her own words made the reading experience even better.

After that, I tackled "Shadowshaper" by Daniel Jose Older, an urban fantasy novel about a young girl named Sierra who is able to harness magical abilities through art. While "Wishful Drinking" was a sure thing (I was bound to love it based on my love for the author), "Shadowshaper" wasn’t. It’s been suggested by critics and co-workers alike, but after attempting it last year, I quickly gave up due to disinterest. In all honesty, I don’t think I would have ever read it, if it wasn’t for the book club I’m in--I’m technically the leader of it, so it always helps when you actually know what you’re talking about. I’m happy to report that this book is worth the praise!

A narrator makes or breaks an audiobook, and luckily for "Shadowshaper," the narrator is Anika Noni Rose, a talented actress who lent her voice to a little film called "The Princess and the Frog." Yes, Shadowshaper is narrated by Tiana. What a glorious discovery that was! Her narration was delightfully creepy at times, which made my nightly walks home from work both an exhilarating and absolutely terrifying (but fast!) experience. Her portrayal of all of the characters in the book made them come alive and made me recognize the humor in certain sections that I might have missed otherwise. One of the only complaints about the book during our book discussion was that people didn’t feel like they connected to the characters--almost exclusively, those comments were from people who skipped the audiobook for the physical copy. This is one of those instances where the audiobook reigns supreme, and if you’ve struggled with maintaining interest in this book, listen to it. It makes all the difference — trust me on this one.

The most recent book I listened to was a reread from a book I’ve already written about in the past — "Fat Girl Walking" by Brittany Gibbons. This book had such a profoundly positive impact on my life that I felt the need to revisit it over a year later after my life has undergone some pretty major changes. There were aspects of the book that I still related to more than anything (her battles with anxiety, her struggle with loving her body), but I rediscovered a new love for this book. I have a feeling this is one of those books that I will be glad to read again whenever I feel like I need a pick-me-up.

The narrator is someone unfamiliar to me — Lauren Fortgang, who seems to narrate some lesser-known audiobooks. She captured the author’s sarcasm quite well, and made situations in the book that were super uncomfortable a little more bearable. While I wasn’t entirely in love with her narration enough to listen to other books she has done, she did an excellent job, and I would highly recommend giving "Fat Girl Walking" a listen, even if my blog post from 2015 already convinced you to read it. I’m overwhelmed with happy feelings after finishing that book, and it’s one of those you should pick up if you’re ever feeling blue or perhaps a little down about yourself.

So what’s next? I’m definitely on an audiobook kick, and I’m not ready to give up on it just yet. Mary Miller’s "Always Happy Hour" has been on my radar for a while now (mostly because of that gorgeous cover) and so has "Things We Lost in the Fire" by Mariana Enriquez, but I could also go for a reread of "Bad Feminist" by Roxane Gay. Or how about continuing "A Series of Unfortunate Events"? The books are all narrated by Tim Curry, which is just plain awesome.

I could always give Caitlin Moran’s "How to Be a Woman" another chance, since that’s been gathering dust on my “to read” pile for an embarrassingly long time. Oh hey, did you know that "My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante is also on Hoopla?! That one is always checked out. For now, I think I’ll settle on "Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls" by Jes M. Baker and carry on with the feelings of empowerment and positivity I got from my last great read. So here’s to audiobooks and a good pair of earbuds!

--Kimberly Lopez is a readers’ services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.

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