Quick Fiction Listens for Your Commute

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Quick Fiction Listens for Your Commute

I have a confession to make--I love audio books, and I especially love the convenience and flexibility of downloading audiobooks to my phone via Overdrive and listening to them on the go--however, (you knew that was coming, right?) I often find it difficult to finish audiobooks before the end of the 3 week checkout period--A Game of Thrones, which clocks in at a cool 34 hours, I’m looking at you. If I have to wait to check it out again, as is often the case with popular titles, I sometimes have a difficult time re-immersing myself in the book.

Fortunately, there are more and more novellas and short novels available on audio these days, due to the booming popularity of the format. Here are a few favorites of mine that are 7 hours or less. That means that they can be finished in just a few commutes--depending on how long yours is!  

The dark, haunting fairy tales of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, about a boarding school for troubled teenagers who were once children who fell through portals into other worlds (think Alice in Wonderland, the Chronicles of Narnia, etc), are perfect commute listens for the fantasy fan who’s looking for something a bit slimmer than say, A Game of Thrones. The first title, Every Heart a Doorway (audio length: 4 hours, 44 minutes; CD available) is narrated by Cynthia Hopkins, who perfectly conveys the book’s tone of whimsy underlain by terror and threat (because this is also a murder mystery, and rather more of a horror tale than the summary above might suggest).  

McGuire herself narrates the second book, Down Among the Sticks and Bones (audio length 4 hours, 4 minutes; Overdrive only), and her somber, even spooky narration perfectly highlights the story’s tale of tyrannical parental expectations and both magic and science gone terribly wrong--or perfectly right.  Actress Michelle Dockrey (best known for her role in Downton Abbey) rounds out this group of excellent narrators, taking on the third volume, Beneath the Sugar Sky (audio length 4 hours, 11 minutes; CD available).

Science Fiction:
Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series is great fun--taking a simple concept (what if Shakespeare wrote Star Wars?) and turning into a highly entertaining series of audio dramas with multiple cast members. This is the mashup that both Star Wars fans and Shakespeare fans never knew they needed, and it works amazingly (surprisingly?) well, perhaps owing to the fact that George Lucas and company drew on the kinds of dramatic structures that have been used in drama since Shakespeare, and because both Lucas and Shakespeare knew the value of a little low comedy to spice up the dramatics. (Audio lengths: Verily, A New Hope 3 hours, 29 minutes; The Empire Striketh Back, 3 hours, 25 minutes; The Jedi Doth Return 3 hours, 33 minutes hours; all 3 titles are Overdrive only)

If you’re a big fan of the classic mysteries, but don’t want to wait too long to find out who done it, you’ll be pleased to note that And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie’s classic tale of murder on an isolated island, clocks in at barely 6 hours (Overdrive only). Narrator Dan Stevens enhances the tale’s legendary suspense, and, of course, has the perfect British accent.  

Vaguely Creeptastic:  I wasn’t sure what to call this category, neither “thriller” nor “horror” nor “paranormal” quite fit, but if you like your October fare with a pinch (or more) of the uncanny and disturbing, this audiobook is for you. David Mitchell, author of the best-selling novel Cloud Atlas, brings his genre-busting sensibility to the haunted house genre in Slade House (audio length 6 hours, 46 minutes; CD available), the tale of a home on a quiet London street that opens its doors once in awhile to various misfits and lonely souls--but might not be so obliging about letting them leave. Narrators Thomas Judd and Tania Rodrigues expertly lead readers down the primrose path.  

In Sourdough (audio length 6 hours, 47 minutes, CD available) by Robin Sloan, Lois, a perpetually overworked San Francisco techie, finds herself pulled into a more organic life when the owners of her beloved soup and sandwich shop go out of business, and unexpected ask her to take over tending their carefully nurtured sourdough starter. When she considered sharing her life with another living thing, a colony of microbes was not exactly what she had in mind, but she feels she can hardly say no. Thus, an adventure begins... Narrator Therese Plummer does an excellent job of bringing Lois’s wry, bemused inner voice to life.  

These are just a few of the delightful short listens I found in my investigations. And who knows? Perhaps Overdrive will introduce a “search by length” feature sometime in the future, thus making all of our lives a little easier.