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Biographies Thriving in Audio

By Kathryn Alley, Nuria Bebel Torres and Cameron Phillips

Consistently topping bestselling charts and audio trends, biographies and memoirs are among the most popular book genres. From inspiring stories to relatable humour, biographies allow listeners to reflect and learn from unique perspectives. Likewise, a memoir’s artistic form connects an audience with the raw emotions of the narrator, made even more compelling in a listening format. Here are our audiobook recommendations for an intimate glimpse into the life of another.

Cameron’s Pick: Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001–2011, written by Lizzy Goodman, narrated by Charlie Thurston and Nicol Zanzarella

My choice is a biography of the people and bands who defined the New York scene of the early millennium. I suppose it’s not a traditional biography but in reality, this is a biography of Mayor Rudy Guillaini’s post-9/11, gentrified New York City told through the eyes of those who helped rebuild it through art and music.

Perhaps considered the last great epoch of modern music, the New York scene of the early 2000’s is richly delved into here through some of my favourite artists and bands. From The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s to James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem, Meet Me in the Bathroom is a tale of a fragile New York reconstructed from the sound up. I love Charlie Thurston and Nicol Zanzarella’s narrations - you can really feel the excitement they had, and still have, for New York during this time. Highlights for me were definitely the stories about Karen O’s and her experiences being a frontwoman in one of the scene's most popular (and underrated I may add) bands, and James Murphy’s fear of failing, which overwhelmed him with inertia he finally decided to release Losing My Edge in 2002. His fear of failure is one I deeply shared. Whilst it’s sad that he felt way, it’s comforting to know that someone I admire so much went through the same thing as I have, and even people with incredible talent aren’t invulnerable to pressure and self-doubt.

Kathryn’s Pick: Know My Name, written and narrated by Chanel Miller

Despite being incredibly emotionally taxing, memoir has always been one of my favourite genres. It is fascinating to experience pivotal moments in the life of a stranger that provoke transformation, inspiration, and vulnerability. There is something even more special about listening to a memoir narrated in the author’s own voice.

Know My Name, by Chanel Miller, is the powerful exploration of a woman’s journey through the aftermath of sexual violence and the difficult road to healing. Miller provides a voice for those experiencing isolation, shame and indescribable pain, while simultaneously exposing a culture that protects abusers and silences victims.

Listening to Know My Name is devastating and beautiful all at once. Miller’s narration is immersive, and masterfully invites her audience to bravely take each step of healing with her, closer and closer to wholeness. No longer the “unconscious woman,” Miller reclaims her identity as a named person and encourages survivors to share their experiences and start the healing process. Know My Name has created a space for victims to receive support and encounter hope, and I will forever cherish listening to Miller’s stunning testimony. Hope brings healing, and healing is the best magic of all.

Nuria’s Pick: Strung Out – A Memoir of Overcoming Addiction written by Erin Khar, narrated by Jayme Mattler

This is a deeply personal and fiercely honest memoir about the author’s fifteen-year struggle with opioid addiction. By telling her story, Khar gives a voice to millions of people currently battling addiction across America, as well as shining a light on the current opioid crisis.

In her book, Khar explains how heroin controlled and shaped every aspect of her life for fifteen years, starting at thirteen years old while she lived a seemingly normal childhood, Khar began experimenting with her grandmother’s painkillers to escape from all the pressures of life and to suppress complex feelings she could not understand. Khar is raw and honest in telling the story of her addiction, opening-up about all the lies she told herself and others while in active addiction. We learn about the struggles to get help, the stigma surrounding addiction, and the shame and ostracisation that make it hard for addicts to get help. The many faces of recovery are also a big topic in this memoir, we learn all the paths someone might take before finding what works for them. For Khar, it was motherhood, where she found the resilience to fight for herself and her child.

Narrated by Jayme Mattler, this is an eye-opening and relevant story of resilience and redemption.


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