Newsday reviewers and editors pick some of their favorite recent audiobooks.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS, by Kevin Kwan, read by Lynn Chen. Random House Audio, 13 hours and 53 minutes, CD format $50, digital download $24.
CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND, by Kevin Kwan, read by Lydia Look. Random House Audio, 15 hours and 4 minutes, CD format $50, digital download $25.
The first two audiobooks in this projected trilogy, each a hit in print, are a whirling lazy Susan buffet of delights. Kwan’s hilariously detailed studies of the lifestyles and peccadilloes of Singapore billionaires are even better in audio, with both gifted narrators doing all the different American, English and Chinese accents. Kwan is Jane Austen meets Bret Easton Ellis meets Ruth Reichl — he knows his love and money, he knows his designers, and Alamak! (something like Damn! in Malay), can he write about food. You end up desperate to fly to Singapore and hit an open-air food market, then move on to Shanghai for six courses in a private dining room. For me, the Cinderella story of the first book was slightly more engaging than the murderously-spoiled-brat premise of the second, and all the brand names finally became a distraction. But for less fancy readers, there’s an addictive plot development every minute. — MARION WINIK
EVEN THIS I GET TO EXPERIENCE, by Norman Lear, read by the author. Penguin Audio, 19 hours, CD format $50, digital download $22.50.
TV writer-producer extraordinaire Norman Lear, 93, has talent, humor, insight and candor that match his longevity. Just as his ’70s sitcoms (“All in the Family,” “Sanford and Son,” “One Day at a Time,” “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times,” “Maude”) hooked the nation, his autobiography engages listeners with stories of his charming but frequently felonious father, a model for Archie Bunker; his World War II flying missions over Europe; his three wives and six children (born 48 years apart); his political and social activism and, of course, the string of hits that changed television. — ANN SILVERBERG
ARCADIA, by Lauren Groff, read by Andrew Garman. Recorded Books, 11 hours and 8 minutes, digital download $27.99.
This enthralling novel — the predecessor to “Fates and Furies,” Groff’s 2015 hit — follows its main character, Bit Stone, from his childhood on a hippie commune in New York state in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, in several jumps to the year 2018. Never setting foot outside Arcadia until his teens, Bit’s world takes the shape of the Grimm’s fairy tales he reads at 5: he is struck mute by his mother’s sadness, he is lost in a snowy forest, he is caught up in the dramas that rage in the land, complete with potions, midwives and a power-drunk king. The narrator is Andrew Garman, whose understated reading style works perfectly with Lauren Groff’s gorgeous prose. — MARION WINIK
BEAUTIFUL RUINS, by Jess Walter. HarperAudio, 12 hours and 53 minutes, CD format $19.99, digital download $27.99.
A wonderful way to reexperience a favorite book is to listen to the audio edition. Jess Walter’s sweeping, big-hearted novel — about an American actress in Italy for the making of the 1963 film “Cleopatra” and the Italian hotelier who falls for her — was already one of my favorite books of 2012. The audio edition made me love it even more. With its many characters and globetrotting plot, “Beautiful Ruins” is be tailor-made for a cast of readers. But the entire novel is narrated by Edoardo Ballerini, who deftly juggles accents (Italian, Welsh, Scottish) and emotional registers both comic and romantic. Ballerini’s performance is a work of beauty in and of itself. — TOM BEER
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, by Elizabeth Alexander, read by the author. Hachette Audio, 4 hours, CD format $26, digital download $24.98.
It is the rare grief memoir that one can recommend to people struggling with their own losses. But even the title of this exquisitely written book, one of Newsday’s Best Books of 2015 and a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, tells something of its true subject — which is love and beauty, more than loss and grief. Hearing poet Elizabeth Alexander (known for reading at President Obama’s first inauguration) tell in her clear, warm, deeply intelligent voice the story of her adored husband Fichre’s sudden death a few days after his 50th birthday somehow feels like receiving a blessing. The audio comes with a PDF of the late artist/chef’s delicious-sounding recipes. — MARION WINIK