Indies Choice: Audiobook of the Year

The Indies Choice Book Awards reflect the spirit of independent bookstores nationwide. We are thrilled that this year, for the first time ever, an Indies Choice Award will be given for Audiobook of the Year! The winner for 2018 is Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

The six finalists were selected by a jury of booksellers from audiobooks that appeared on the Indie Next lists. Enjoy the audio samples below and remember the Wish List feature for adding these to your listening queue.


Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders

“Saunders’ first novel has a steep entry curve. It’s not a novel that reveals itself quickly and easily, but if you give it your attention, if you burrow deep into the book, you’ll be eminently rewarded. There is a richness and depth of humanity here. There is the strange and wonderful. There is love and grief and mystery all brought together in the story of Abraham Lincoln’s dead son, the Civil War, and what may happen to us all after we leave the mortal coil. It’s a beautiful and moving book that will stay with you for a long, long while.”
—Jason Vanhee, University Book Store


American War

by Omar El Akkad

“Omar El Akkad has delivered a stunning debut. He imagines a world in a not-too-distant future where Americans are at war with each other once again. The characters in this story are fully developed and individual, yet their histories—their stories—extend into the histories of all those displaced and affected by the forces of war. The title, American War, is a shape-shifter. At once, it means that America is again at war, but at times reflects the ways in which the true, actual wars that America has perpetrated on Earth have affected the lives of millions of people. This will be one of the most discussed books of the year, and I cannot wait to put it in the hands of all readers looking to be changed.”
—Matt Keliher, SubText Bookstore


The Fact of a Body

by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

“Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich didn’t set out to investigate murder of six-year-old Jeremy Guillory in Louisiana; it was the case she happened upon as a young law school intern in 1992. In a fascinating twist, this becomes not only the true story of a heinous crime for which the perpetrator is in prison, but also of the investigation that unlocks the author’s memories of her own youth, a childhood in which she and her sisters were repeatedly sexually abused by their maternal grandfather. As Marzano-Lesnevich moves backward and forward in time between the young man who killed Jeremy and her own life, the reader is swept along on a current of dismay and awe: dismay that human beings can do these things to each other, and awe that the author could face such demons and move on. I’ve never read another book like this.”
—Anne Holman, The King’s English


Hunger

by Roxane Gay

“This memoir is about trauma and privilege, self-loathing, and a silent fear kept secret for far too long. It’s about our obsession with body weight and body image, what happens when we internalize our pain and become self-destructive, and how very, very large people are treated in humiliating ways. The descriptions of addictive behavior and the journey to want to heal make this book more universal than I expected. When you decide that this is the day you’re going to change and you get out of bed and fail, that’s pretty normal. You’ll have another chance tomorrow—just remember to like yourself enough to overcome the fear of healing and try again. Highly recommend.”
—Todd Miller, Arcadia Books


Killers of the Flower Moon

by David Grann

“One of the most horrific chapters in American history is brought back to the national consciousness with alarming detail in Killers of the Flower Moon. After the Osage Indian Nation strikes oil, its members become rich beyond their wildest dreams, only to encounter a vast and murderous conspiracy that will leave more than 60 members of the nation dead. David Grann reconstructs those murders and the subsequent investigations with astonishing care and reveals the depths of a conspiracy that stretched from Oklahoma to Washington, D.C. This story will certainly be one of the most important books of 2017.”
—Steven Shonder, Anderson’s Bookshop


The Ninth Hour

by Alice McDermott

“Alice McDermott’s dazzling The Ninth Hour turns on the contradictions that confound our need to reconcile with mortality. The empathetic characters, at once agents and benefactors of Christian charity, grow to realize not just the grace but also the hubris of their faith. A stunning work of generational storytelling, The Ninth Hour is compulsively readable and deeply thought-provoking. McDermott is a master artisan of humanity.”
—Lori Feathers, Interabang Books

Review: Bad Feminist

Roxane Gay’s favorite color is pink. She blasts hip hop in her car. She watches a great deal of Lifetime movies. She likes men and sex. A lot. She is also a feminist.

If one were to hold her up to the golden standard of feminism, she might not measure up. But she’s not trying to measure herself against any sort of label. She’s just trying to be herself.

Throughout this book of essays, read by Bahni Turpin, who punctuates each joke at just the right point, Gay slides easily from pop culture to politics to personal reflections. Sometimes she does all three in a single essay. She uses cultural phenomena as a springboard to talk about larger contemporary issues. In one essay she delves into the movie Bridesmaids. While admitting that she likes the movie, she hardly found it the revolution it was purported to be, because while combatting the stereotype that “women aren’t funny” it promotes many heteronormative and sizist stereotypes.

In “What We Hunger For” she uses the acclaimed Hunger Games books, which she devoured, to talk about the need for strong female role models. And she uses to this need to talk about her own experience with sexual assault as a teenager. In the most personal, most intense passage of the book, Gay opens a vein and bleeds for us, recalling the emotional details, her devotion to her attacker before the assault, and the hurls of “slut” she heard at school after. It is in such personal moments that Gay connects best with her audience, when her points are driven home better than any academic arguments ever could (though her PhD in rhetoric is apparent in each essay, if not sentence). Seeing her—bared, scarred, and messy—is to understand and accept her as human.

Gay doesn’t lay out any sort of thesis or offer any solutions in many of her essays, including in “What We Hunger For”. Rather she discusses things that mean a great deal to her and leave us to do with them what we will.

Gay gushes over Sweet Valley High, and rails against Daniel Tosh, the a comedian known for rape jokes. It is this sort of juxtaposition that leads Gay to describe herself as a bad feminist. That she can find solace in elements of pop culture while simultaneously criticizing others, or even the same elements, is disconcerting to her, and may also be for readers and critics.

Quote-Roxana-Gay-ENHANCED

But by the end of Bad Feminist, I didn’t think that Gay is, in fact, a bad feminist. I think she’s a very good feminist. To say otherwise is to either give into a stereotype of feminism that any thinking person would reject, or else to carve in stone the perfection of feminism that no earthly being could possibly aspire to.

Many of the essays in Bad Feminist concern race as well as gender. Once again she uses pop culture to talk about cultural trends, as she critiques Tyler Perry movies, and wishes for more movies like Love and Basketball, though it is no great cinematic feat. In fact, a great cinematic feat doesn’t always do it for her, especially when so many such films featuring black stories in the past several years revolve around slavery (12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained) or servitude (The Help). She wishes to see more dynamic movies concerning black people, rather than in roles of subjugation.

Beyond Hollywood, she considers the treatment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Trayvon Martin in the press, the former whose light skin and tussled hair landed him on the cover of Rolling Stone, and the latter who is routinely called a thug. She also talks about the erroneous statistics that fly around, such as black men are more likely to end up in jail than go to college (there are about 600,000 more black men in college than in jail), and just how disheartening it is that such myths are so pervasive.

Some have criticized Bad Feminist for devoting so many essays to race. This is ironic, because it is exactly this sort of white-washed feminism that Gay, a black woman whose parents were born in Haiti, finds so distasteful. So much of feminism is devoted to helping white, middle-class, well-educated women, but there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all feminism. I believe that anyone of any racial or religious background can enjoy Bad Feminist, just as I believe that not only women will take interest in this book. Anyone, men and women, gay and straight, religious and not, black, Asian, Latino, Native American, and white, can find true pleasure in Gay’s wit, her critical analysis, her personal stories, and the podcast-like nature of listening to essays in an audiobook format.

Gay never asks us to agree with everything she writes. She is, after all, only trying to be herself.

Listen to a clip about Roxane Gay’s dissecting the movie Bridesmaids.


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