February’s Bookseller-Recommended Audiobooks

Libro.fm offers recommendations from real people: the dedicated indie booksellers working in our 1,300+ partner bookstores! To celebrate Black History Month, this month’s picks are all written by Black authors.

Below, find the audiobooks that booksellers are loving this month!


Fiction

Brit Bennett’s second novel broke my heart. She doesn’t shy away from the sadness inherent in each character’s life, yet she left me feeling better for having met all of them. I read The Vanishing Half with a sense of hope, despite my dread that terrible things might befall the characters. Desiree and Stella’s story unfolds with a deft delicateness in a book that is astonishingly accomplished and sweeping, and yet so very intimate.

Jamie, Women & Children First

Check out our author interview with Brit Bennett

When I attempted to write a review for Such a Fun Age, I was at a loss for words. How could I encapsulate how Kiley Reid’s startling debut perfectly captured what it means to be a woman? The societal pressure, the self-doubt, the perseverance, the constant comparison—all of it was perfectly represented through Reid’s two wonderfully flawed and captivating leads….Such a Fun Age tackles complex issues—race, gender, economic status, and the intersection of them all—yet remains accessible. You will not want to put this book down; when you do, you’ll be itching to pick it back up again.

Gennifer, Fly Leaf Books

“Billie James travels to the Mississippi Delta from Philly for the first time since her father’s mysterious death, some 30 years before. Although she was there that night, she has no recollection of the events that occurred, but learns later that she went missing afterwards. This new detail causes her to start digging into what really happened, which gets her into trouble with people who want the past to remain buried. An emotional and tense novel about racism, justice, family, and the truth, Benz’s debut has so much edge to it that I could not stop reading!”

Carl, Fountain Bookstore

Check out our interview with Chanelle Benz

You know you are in the hands of a natural storyteller from the very first pages of The Kindest Lie, a story of unlikely friendships, difficult choices, and the untold burden of our past….A moving story of the compassion and strength needed to move past fear and distrust and begin to hope for a better future.

Luisa, Book Passage

This is a flippin’ gorgeous book. The writing is exquisite, the story is moving, and the characters are rendered with the skill of a true artist. Can you tell that I enjoyed this? Transcendent Kingdom is about Gifty, a young neuroscientist studying addiction. We come into her story just as she has taken her depressed mother into her care and is wrapping up an experiment. We see how her relationships with her mother, faith, and science have brought her to this point. If you need a book that is heartfelt and honest, read this one.

Izzy, Off the Beaten Path

Check out our Author Interview with Yaa Gyasi

Memorial

By Bryan Washington

Reading Memorial is like sitting down with a dear friend, asking ‘What’s going on with you?’ and settling in for much-needed catch-up on life, love, heartache, and family. Washington’s writing is so intimate and direct that you feel the exhilaration, frustration, and uncertainty that Benson and Mike feel about their relationships, both with one another and with their families, which inspires a heart-felt connection to these characters that is hard to find in the world during socially distant times.

Colleen, Lark & Owl


Historical Fiction

James McBride has written a masterpiece with Deacon King Kong. The writing is a tapestry of story lines woven together with the skill of a master craftsman. The narrating is in a class by itself. This is absolutely the perfect book to lose yourself in. Straight up 10!

Mary, Anderson’s Bookshop

“Ta-Nehisi Coates understands something big and he understands it better than anyone else right now. The Water Dancer led me on a journey up and down the landscape of American slavery with a narrative that feels like The Book of Exodus meets, well, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Over 400 pages I have cried, I have laughed, I have been educated, and I have been enlightened. Coates writes with an honesty that can only come from a sublime, even spiritual, understanding of the souls of the white man and the black man in America. Written with poignancy and humanity, The Water Dancer left me stunned but clear-headed, like I had just been woken up from a deep, dream-filled sleep.”

Norris, Lemuria Bookstore

Epic in scope, ranging from a brutal slave plantation in Barbados to scenes in the Arctic, antebellum America, and London, plus a thoughtful denouement in the Moroccan desert, Edugyan’s novel explores the complex relationship between slave and master, the hubris of good intentions, and the tense life of a runaway in constant flight with a Javert on his tail. What results is a compulsive page-turner blessed with effortless prose. Highly recommended.

Matthew, Iowa Book

A brilliant Black boy, in the wrong car, meets the wrong cop. A for-profit penal system puts him in a reform school run by abusers, with a suspicious graveyard out back. What happens next is… a powerful arc bending toward justice? Colson Whitehead delivers a book about suffering that does not revel in suffering, a book about keeping soul in a broken world, a book that leaves the reader wanting the hero to embrace the person he has become.

Nialle, The Haunted Bookshop

Romance

“Smart, steamy, and fun! I…loved everything from the author’s voice to the female friendships to the recognition that internet fame is an emotional burden. (I was also deeply amused by the fact that the male lead had lived/worked in Vienna, in the building locals affectionately refer to as The Toilet Bowl.)”

Leah, Bards Alley

“Marva is stoked to vote in her first election. She’s driven, focused, passionate about civic involvement and unapologetic. Duke is only voting out of honor to his older brother’s memory. When Duke learns he isn’t at the right polling place, Marva has to step in to help. As their whirlwind day takes off from there, the two strangers learn more about themselves and each other than they bargained for. A sweet story that isn’t afraid to comment on current social issues, this is a great listen for those who enjoy audiobooks!”

Chelsea, Parnassus Books


Science Fiction

I have absolutely loved everything Nnedi Okorafor has ever written, and this latest book from her is no exception! Her amazing ability to blend traditional African stories and themes with hardcore science fiction is spectacular. While Sankofa cannot remember her name, she does remember her past as she travels from town to town. Even as a child, she demands respect from the townspeople she interacts with, for she is the Adopted Child of Death. Or is she? Was it an alien device that changed her when she was just a child? Sankofa knows. But she isn’t sharing. This mind-blowing science fiction fantasy novella is absolutely glorious, and I can’t wait to give it to everyone I know!

Annie, The Neverending Bookshop

The Fifth Season is an amazing, dark, and gripping work that will hook you from the first sentence. I cannot express to you how much this book stunned me. Robin’s narration is well paced and engaging. While I wish this was a book for everyone to listen to, it isn’t; destruction, trauma, and rage follow the women and girls who tell their stories. This book is about the end of the world, that you actually don’t want to stop reading.

Jessica, Once Upon a Time

Young Adult

Inspiring the next generation of antiracists, Jason Reynolds’ remix of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning is outstanding. This accessible book for young readers is read in Reynolds’ laid back voice, with transitions between chapters delightfully filled with hip hop. Reynolds’ voice also shines through in the text, which he adapts to be not a history book (even though it has history in it) but a book about our present. He acknowledges that talking about race and privilege is uncomfortable, but guides readers through mindful breathing to get through it, because it’s important.

Mary, Raven Book Store

The Black Kids

By Christina Hammonds Reed

As someone who was just a little older than the novel’s main character when the Rodney King riots happened, I’m impressed by the many layers here. Hammonds Reed gets the details of the time just right, and Ashley Bennett is a very well-drawn character. It was fascinating to consider her thoughts and feelings set against the present circumstances we find ourselves in. I think adults and teens alike will find this a stirring novel filled with lessons we can all learn from.”

Erin, Queen Anne Book Company

“Immerse yourself in a rich fantasy world with wishes to cheat death, struggles for power, and hopes to find love. Jordan Ifueko has given us the start of a series where peace may not be as it seems and who you are vs. who the world tells you to be can have life-threatening and history-shaping consequences. One of my favorite aspects is the chants, prayers, and songs that are essential to the story and the narrator rhythmically enriches the reading.”

Jessica, Once Upon a Time

Check out our Author Interview with Jordan Ifueko

“Here is the novel that will restore your faith in humanity in spades. In Campbell, Indiana, being crowned prom royalty is the ultimate recognition. And this year Liz Lighty needs to win that crown because it happens to be attached to an academic scholarship she desperately needs. The cards are stacked against her: she struggles with anxiety, poverty and grief, all while being queer and Black in a staunchly traditional white culture. Alaska Jackson’s narration infuses these fresh voices with nuance and vitality. Liz Lighty’s journey to finding her voice and claiming her power in a midwestern town that has historically never made space for ‘outliers’ is a jubilant one that we are so lucky take alongside her.”

Jane, Bear Pond Books

Check out our Author Interview with Leah Johnson


Nonfiction

“Want to learn how to be a good ancestor? Need to address your privilege and feel uncomfortable about talking about racism? You need to read and work through Me and White Supremacy.”

Rachel, Avid Bookshop

Here it is: The book we’ve been waiting for that we didn’t even know we were waiting for. This book is here to fan the flames of our righteous indignation and our demands for better sooner. This book will make your blood boil over just in time to bring it to the polls in November. Like a mother lion, it picks you up by the scruff of your neck — mewling and new to the world of antiracism — and demands that you walk on your own. Thank goodness this book exists.

Linda, bookseller at Auntie’s Bookstore

“Powerful. Important. Compulsively readable. Kendall’s narrative style is top notch – riveting and un-put-down-able. Not only is this a must read, it’s a must pay attention. It’s a must revisit and keep learning kind of book. Kendall dives deep and doesn’t pull punches, but she doesn’t seek to shame either. This is necessary reading for anyone who considers themselves a feminist. Because solidarity needs to be for ALL.”

Britt, Second Star to the Right

“In Wandering in Strange Lands, Morgan Jerkins brings us along on her journey to learn about her ancestors and herself. This fascinating ethnography leads Jerkins down paths she anticipated and, perhaps most interestingly, down unexpected ones. As she learns more about where and whom she came from, she confronts her image of herself and grapples with some of the truths she finds….The history, the people, the insight, and the implications of the information in this book make it not only incredibly interesting, but also a significant contribution to our understanding of cultures and connections in the United States.”

Nancy, Raven Book Store


Biography & Memoir

“An incredibly generous, tender, and searingly honest book. Kiese Laymon is hands down one of the most talented American writers publishing right now. Heavy overflows with deep love and deep pain. Laymon holds up a mirror to the US past, present—We did not have to be this way. We will not ever have to be this way. I’m going back to read everything Laymon has ever written. I listened to the audiobook and highly recommend it—it’s read by the author.”

Alex, A Room of One’s Own Bookstore

“This is a powerful meditation on the life of Louis Till, the father of Emmett Till whose brutal murder in 1955 spurred the Civil Rights Movement forward. It is not common knowledge today that Louis Till was convicted of a crime and executed in Italy while serving in the Army during World War II. Wideman was 14 years old—the same age as Emmett when he died—the year he saw pictures of Emmett Till’s body in Jet magazine. When he found out decades later about Louis Till’s fate, Wideman set out to investigate the tragic lives of both father and son. The result is a profound and moving exploration of race, manhood, violence, and injustice in our society.”

Cody, Square Books

Short Stories

How are You Going to Save Yourself by J.M. Holmes is an intense look at the lives of four young African American men and how their interactions with and reactions to the world at large inform their self-worth and actions. Each individual has different assets and challenges but their experiences of racial bias lead to more similarities than differences in the way each man connects with the people in their lives. Graphic and at times uncomfortable, Holmes forces us to look at the reality of the African American male experience in America today.”

Phyllis, Wellesley Books

Milk Blood Heat grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. The prose blisters with a beauty so raw and intense it borders on horrifying. With widely differing characters, voices, and settings, each story makes its own unique contribution to the collection, yet each propels the reader onward in turn. Dantiel W. Moniz is a jaw-dropping new star on the literary stage.”

Audrey, River Bend Bookshop

Check out our Author Interview with Dantiel W. Moniz


Poetry

“In their third collection, Danez Smith shakes to life the parts of people that have gone to sleep waiting for this time in the world to be over. Those emotions that raise up too much anger or grief—all of them are alive again and seen and spoken for with utmost care and a tremendously welcome sense of humor. Pick this book up and carry it with you everywhere. It can be like a video game heart for you, and who doesn’t need an extra heart?”

Luis, Moon Palace Books

“Lyrical poems that will spark a lot of emotion, and maybe even a call to action. This little book is incredibly powerful! Makes for a great listen on Libro.fm.”

Amy, Bright Side Bookshop


Looking for more? Check out our wider list of bookseller picks, the top 100 bestsellers, and the pre-order bestseller list!

Kelsey Norris is a writer and former bookseller currently based in DC. She enjoys travel, outdoor activities with her pup, and overcommitting to DIY projects. Find more of her work at www.kelseynorris.com.

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