AUDIOBOOKS: Novels and nonfiction

Two novels and one nonfiction audiobook provide inspiration and hope as we ease into our new normal.

Two novels and one nonfiction audiobook provide inspiration and hope as we ease into our new normal.

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness
Ingrid Fetell Lee; read by the author
Hachette Audio, eight CDs, nine hours and 30 minutes, $35/www.audible.com, $29.65

Most self-help books are padded magazine articles full of repetition and very little actual help. Lee tells us why baby animals, or confetti, or nature, give us actual joy and then explains how we can simply and easily bring more joy into our lives. Lee’s writing is clear and engaging while her narration is surprisingly on point, considering that she is not a professional narrator. She keeps the pace chugging along and comes across as inviting and inspiring. This is a great listen enhanced by the enclosed PDF, but is not intended for the whole family as it contains adult language. Grade: A

Night of Miracles
Elisabeth Berg; read by the author
Recorded Books, six hours and 51 minutes, $34.99/www.audible.com; $20.99

Reminding one of Fanny Flagg’s sweet and homey novels, Berg’s second entry in her Arthur Truluv novels is an easy and engaging listen. Community, small kindnesses, the importance of friendship and a bit of magical realism all figure into a story rife with charm. Berg’s characters are fully realized, but even more important is that they are searching for true meaning and a deep connection to those around them, making this a lovely anecdote to the daily news. At first, Berg’s voice seems a bit thin, but she surprises, as each character comes to life under her lively direction. Grade: A-minus

Us Against You
Fredrik Backman; read by Marin Ireland
Simon & Schuster Audio, 11 CDs, 14 hours and 17 minutes, $19.99/www.audible.com, $22.67

A few familiar characters and several new ones are introduced in this sequel to Swedish author Backman’s 2016 novel “Beartown.” This easily stands alone as the folks of a small community come to terms with the sexual assault of a young woman by a beloved hockey player. Backman’s true gift is that each character feels fully defined and, likeable or not, always intriguing. Narrator Ireland thankfully does not adopt a Swedish accent, allowing this story to sound as if it could be set anywhere, which is one of its strengths. She brings each character to life and captures the full gamut of emotions stirred up by this story, which contains adult themes. Grade: A-minus