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Audiobooks: Debut Writers

By Cameron Phillips, Nuria Berbel Torres, Sarunicka Satkuruparan and Kathryn Alley

We all love the classics, but like any art, literature forever moves onwards, and it is important to highlight the new voices in the medium in order to give them a chance for their work to have a platform and to succeed. These are our picks for the debut audiobooks this year.

Cameron’s Pick: The Climate Book, written and narrated by Greta Thunberg and various climate scientists

I’m going with a non-conventional pick and choosing The Climate Book, written and narrated by Greta Thunberg and with various other voices from the climate science community. Climate change is inevitable, and the effects are closer than we think; this work is a collection of various studies and articles on a range of aspects of climate change and the possible solutions humanity can adopt to either slow and eventually reverse climate trends.

From things we can do in our own homes and office to more global strategies, the book challenges listeners to do their part as we all have to do. Her writing is very accessible and unashamedly childlike, but also mature, very serious and insistent.

Her performance is one that combines passion, and through her incredible work as a public speaker despite performance anxiety she faces, is precise and affirmative. She is absolutely fearless in her youth, standing up to the old establishment who are out to cut her down, and this work is just the tip of the iceberg.

Nuria’s Pick: A Man and His Pride by Luke Rutledge and narrated by Kieran McGrath

After a debilitating breakup, Sean Preston has vowed to never become emotionally attached again. Following his humiliation from his three-month relationship he finds himself in a cycle of random hook-ups, alcohol and a ceaseless gym routine. Outside of romance, his personal life is not doing too good either, his job is not what he would like, his best friend and ex-girlfriend still resent him for coming out and his mother blames him for breaking the family apart. Just when Sean finds himself at rock bottom, he forges an unlikely friendship with an eighty-seven-year-old nursing home resident.

This new friendship leads him to William, a shy and naïve nurse who offers to shine a ray of sunshine into Sean’s world. Sean offers to help William navigate the gay dating scene but inexperienced William may also have a few lessons for Sean when it comes to self-love and self-acceptance.

Published on 31 January 2023, this debut novel highlights the importance of finding your path in the world and how finding your pride is a journey. Be patient with yourself and reach out to those around you.

Kathryn’s Pick: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt, narrated by Marin Ireland and Michael Urie

Remarkably Bright Creatures is the emotionally resonant debut novel of Shelby Van Pelt. The narrative is deeply insightful as listeners are taken on a journey through grief and healing with Marcellus. However, Marcellus is not an ordinary narrator, but a brilliant octopus at Sowell Bay Aquarium who is nearing the end of his four-year life span. Van Pelt beautifully entwines stories of the aquarium’s employees to make a profound commentary on heartache and unexpected friendship.

Ireland and Urie’s narration adds a tone of whimsy to this feel-good listen, where you can’t help but fall in love with these perfectly imperfect characters as they work through their understanding of family and loss. Marcellus’ friendship with Tova, the elderly woman who cleans the aquarium at night, is a tender glimpse at humanity’s desire for meaningful friendship, even in the most unlikely places.

Remarkably Bright Creatures is a challenging, melancholic reflection into the past to uncover a future once thought impossible.

Sarunicka’s Pick: Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley, narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt

It’s almost hard to believe that Nightcrawling is the debut novel of (at the time of writing) seventeen-year-old Leila Mottley. Mottley has conveyed how this novel was inspired by events in her hometown which led her to raise the question of what it’s like to be “vulnerable, unprotected, and unseen.” Nightcrawling explores just this. It is a heart-breaking novel about a young girl who is stuck in poverty and trying to look after her family and closest companions whilst the world refuses to protect her.

With a struggling mother and brother and the added responsibility of caring for nine-year-old Trevor, who has been abandoned by his own mother, seventeen-year-old Kiara Johnson finds herself in a desperate situation which leads her to turn to escorting as a temporary means out. A series of devastating events leaves her caught up in a police scandal which leaves her with even more problems.

As a listener, it is so painfully clear how pure Kiara’s intentions are and this is all the more reason why the story is so sad. Exploring powerful themes of police brutality, race, poverty, inequality and family, Nightcrawling is packed with emotion, insight and lyricism. It is poetically written by Mottley and impeccably performed by Abbott-Pratt in equal measure. A sincerely stunning debut.


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