2021 Audiobook Wrap-Up: 8 of the Year’s Most Incredible Releases
Audiobooks are more popular than ever before. The innovative format earned 12% more revenue from 2019 to 2020, according to research from the Audio Publishers Association, in part because publishers recorded 71,000 more audiobooks. As the selection grows, so does its audience—in fact, millennials in particular gravitate toward audiobooks, viewing them as a relaxing antidote to both stress-related burnout and screen time.
The audio format is a natural fit for poetry, allowing listeners to grasp its musicality, sense of rhythm, voice, and sound play. Many poets also narrate their audiobooks themselves, making for a vulnerable and personalized reading experience akin to an in-person poetry reading. Let these eight audiobooks—a few of the year’s best—introduce you to audio poetry, or grow your appreciation.
Calvin Arsenia’s Every Good Boy Does Fine is perhaps one of the most personal releases of the year, which only comes across more distinctly in audio. The collection draws on Arsenia’s long and successful career as a musician, connecting this history to the poet’s evangelical roots and radical journey to accept his sexuality. Every Good Boy Does Fine celebrates both Blackness and queerness and encourages others to accept themselves while embracing genuine, unabashed self-expression.
An epic, fairytale-inspired journey and an empowering feminist message? That’s what Amanda Lovelace’s Flower Crowns and Fearsome Things promises, all in a 39-minute audiobook. Whether you savor the poems across multiple days or listen all at once, these poems will transport you to a fantasy world while emphasizing viewpoints and lessons that can carry you through day-to-day reality. Be reminded of your own strength, while also appreciating your vulnerability and softness—Flower Crowns and Fearsome Things asserts that this duality makes listeners powerful.
Vulnerable AF marks another 2021 poetry release from a musician, this time from the frontwoman of the soulful musical group Tank and the Bangas. In her debut collection, Ball embodies the characteristics that listeners have come to love in her music: honesty, whimsy, and confidence. Listening to Vulnerable AF, Ball’s journey from love to heartbreak and back to self-love will feel like delving into all of life’s highs and lows with a good friend.
What’s even better than listening to your favorite poetry? If your answer is learning about the work’s inspiration and creation, then Bridgett Devoue’s Soft Thorns Vol. II is for you. After reading her poems, which bravely recount overcoming both heartbreak and abuse, Devoue delves into the backstory of her work. This audio release feels like an intimate, illuminating conversation.
Offering 150 poems in 41 minutes, Delia Hicks’s Small Cures audiobook makes poetry accessible and impactful. Hicks originally found viral fame as a spoken word poet, an origin story that makes sense when listening to this powerful release. Throughout the book—which moves readers through stages titled “diagnosis,” “treatment,” and “recovery”—Hicks blends poetry, self-help, and inspiration with a unique, urgent perspective on mental health, trauma, and recovery.
The Gravity Inside Us reflects on long-distance relationships, and this audio version channels the feeling of talking to a partner on the phone. Listen to Frayne’s dreamy, romantic tales of adventure and travel, and—above all—connect to a strong, underlying message of optimism and hope.
Songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews makes a bold foray into poetry with Old Monarch, a collection about solitude, searching, and discovery. Throughout the collection, Andrews builds on a central metaphor, seeing her journey in three different stages: “Sonoran Milkweed,” “Longing in Flight,” and “Eucalyptus Tree (My Arrival to Rest).” In moving through these sections, Andrews has penned an ode to the past, present, and future, never forgetting her upbringing as she moves towards her ambitious goals.
“Dear You, / I want you to know that I see you,” begins Iain S. Thomas’s The Truth of You, written as a letter to the reader. “I want you to know that I see you even if no one else does, even if you are a ghost in this bookshop, or just the static floating across the screen of your computer, wherever you’re reading this, I see you.” The audiobook format is perfect for Thomas’s letter, creating the impression that his supportive words are reaching out directly to you.