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14 Wry Audiobooks to Pair with That Dry January Mocktail

Partaking in #DryJanuary? We’ve selected some of our favorite audios that tend toward the dry. Just like those mocktails once the alcohol is stripped away, these audiobooks are full of character and intriguing flavors—and they pack a delightfully biting punch.

Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just about Everything, by Randi Hutter Epstein and read by Donna Postel

Aroused explores the history of hormones with a healthy sense of intrigue and appropriate dashes of deadpan humor. Despite the somewhat provocative name, the book focuses on the wide variety of functions hormones impact, including weight, menopause, virility in men, and sex characteristics. Narrator Postel laces her approachable narration with dry wit and grace. She occasionally lingers over a humorous anecdote but otherwise keeps the momentum going in describing ways hormones have been discovered, studied, and often exploited by charlatans and misguided doctors alike. A great listen-alike for Mary Roach and Jon Ronson.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick, by Joe Schreiber and read by Steven Boyer

Prom night turns into a bullet-ridden, wild ride through New York City when Perry escorts seemingly mild-mannered exchange student (but really international assassin) Gobi to the dance. Never faltering in an Eastern European–infused accent, Boyer softens his tones slightly and then knows when to bring out a nerves-of-steel delivery or give Gobi’s voice a cold or soft edge or deadpan delivery.

Aurora Rising, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff and read by a full cast

In the year 2380, Tyler Jones has aced all his tests and is ready to assemble the best team to ever grace the Legion. But instead he is stuck with a set of misfit space explorers and a girl two centuries out of time in this action-packed adventure. From accents to sarcastic witticism, the full cast narration is top notch. The interludes by the sassy talking computer, Magellan, are especially enjoyable.

Gone to Dust, by Matt Goldman and read by MacLeod Andrews

When a woman’s body is discovered covered in vacuum-cleaner dust, Minneapolis PI Nils Shapiro is called by an overwhelmed former colleague at the Edina Police Department to help in the murder investigation. As Shapiro, Andrews’ accent is spot-on, and his variations in pacing as Shap interacts with friends, an antagonistic police chief, and an assortment of women involved in the case bring out his dry wit, reflective thinking, curiosity, and sadness by turn.

The Great American Whatever, by Tim Federle and read by the author

A sardonically funny yet poignant coming-of-age novel about a budding 16-year-old gay screenwriter named Quinn Roberts mourning the recent death of his older sister, Annabeth, who collaborated with him on many film projects. Federle excels at reading the first-person narration, adding a zesty zing to the snarky one-liners and comical asides.

A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby and read by a full cast

Told in the voices of four suicidal characters, this novel is by turns enormously funny and gut-wrenchingly sad. The desperate quartet (two males and two females) meet on New Year’s Eve on the rooftop of a London apartment building. The washed-up morning talk-show host, distressed teenager, would-be American rock star, and gloomy mother form an ad-hoc support group. Listeners will be delighted to keep company with this quirky lot of characters.

Machines Like Me, by Ian McEwan and read by Steven Crossley

Sad-sack Charlie spends his inheritance on one of the first autonomous robots on the market (appropriately named Adam). Crossley leaves behind none of the subtle, dry humor here. Especially strong is his characterization of Adam, whose growing existential crisis is both thought-provoking and heartbreaking.

The Martian, by Andy Weir and read by R. C. Bray

Prepare for heartwarming humor and breathtaking suspense in Bray’s tour de force characterization of Weir’s Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut presumed dead and left behind when the first Mars landing team must abort their mission. Bray nails the voice of Watney’s self-mocking journal entries, directly addressing the listener with consummate sarcastic assurance. When the action shifts to third-person accounts of Watney’s fellow astronauts or NASA’s command center, Bray combines a taut, authoritative commentary with a spectrum of international accents, where accent and tone define each personality. The end result is a performance that propels listeners through shifting perspectives, from the lone American on Mars, to crew members traveling toward Earth, to the NASA team desperate to save the castaway.

Miss Subways, by David Duchovny and read by the author and others

Duchovny’s third audiobook, a novel that puts a droll spin on the Irish legend of Emer and Cuchulain, brings in some outside voices, starting with Duchovny’s former wife, Tea Leoni, and their daughter, West. Leoni voices Emer with a skeptical, wry tone. West pops in to narrate prescient quotes that appear on posters in the subway cars Emer rides. Duchovny handles the lion’s share of the narration, voicing the various quirky characters in a treasured, crumpled love letter to a fantasy other-world of New York City is ideal for listeners who favor witty word play and realistically complex characters.

Orphan X, by Gregg Hurwitz and read by Scott Brick

What is an ex-government assassin to do when he leaves the ultra-clandestine program that has been his life since he was young? For Evan Smoak, the answer is to put his tradecraft to use and become the Nowhere Man—an altruistic fixer who helps people with really big problems. A master of nuanced intonations and subtle pauses, Brick’s gravelly voice infuses tension into even the most seemingly mundane scenes, while his trademark wry tone highlights the occasional humorous detail, such as Smoak’s partiality for expensive vodka.

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik, by David Arnold and read by Michael Crouch

After a perplexing evening, everything in 17-year-old Noah’s life looks suddenly looks just a little different. All that remain unchanged are Noah’s Strange Fascinations: four people on the periphery of his life whom he observes obsessively. In Crouch’s delightful narration, Noah’s brooding and compulsive tendencies are teased out slowly, making his intensity and eventual awakening feel genuine. Each character, from Noah’s high-strung little sister to his slightly off-kilter dad, is distinctly voiced, and the dialogue hums with the dry wit the author intended.

The Swallows, by Lisa Lutz and read by Abby Elliot and others

The idyllic wooded campus of Stonebride Academy hides a secret: a seedy, clandestine contest in which one girl each year wins without knowing that she entered. Assembling a full cast was an ideal production choice for this dark and twisted tale of prep-school high jinks, adult complacency, and vengeance. Only different voices could adequately convey the four perspectives in a story—five counting Johnny Heller’s daily announcements—in which everyone has a past, a secret, a motive, and a uniquely calibrated moral compass.

Theft by Finding: Diaries, 1977–2002, by David Sedaris and read by the author

Avid Sedaris fans would likely commit 14 hours to listen to him reading a grocery list, but 14 hours of him reading selections of his own diaries? Sweet sassy molassey! One of the wonderful things about experiencing this book on audio is, of course, Sedaris’ wry and weary delivery. When depicting conversations, he’ll do an accent or impersonation if he knows he can do it well. His brother and father get their own personas, for example, while he quotes others in his own voice. Vocalizing not just dropped g’s or inventive profanity, Sedaris also captures the pauses and pace that give a great line its punch.

This Is Not My Beautiful Life, by Victoria Fedden and read by Jorjeana Marie

Blogger and essayist Fedden’s acerbic wit and sardonic tone shine in this memoir. Fedden, pregnant and nearly due with her first child, is taken aback when federal agents storm her mother and stepfather’s opulent home in south Florida. She soon learns the cost of their privileged lives, paid for by her parents’ financial crimes, has inconveniently caught up with them. Narrator and comedienne Marie’s timing and tone align remarkably with Fedden’s smirking demeanor.'

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