Murder Mystery Audiobook Bonding, Or Books that We All Can Agree On

As my previous post stated, the physical-page-turning reading has been plodding. I’d compare it to the pace I would complete the mile run fitness test in high school. (Best time: 18 minutes, entire class waiting on me to finish, annoyed.) But audiobooks have been a different story.

My husband and I have been tearing through audiobooks lately. And since we’re trying to solve a problem I imagine other couples have, I thought I’d log some 1. agreeable books and 2. lessons in compromise. These aren’t in-depth reviews by any stretch. They’re just quick notes on where lit-snot taste and beach-read taste intersect.

About Us

My husband is brilliant, and it was literature that originally sparked our mutual interest in one another. He’s read a good deal of classics, but he isn’t like me–he doesn’t consider them entertainment. I don’t blame him. His work days are pretty heavy, and I know that my way of unwinding (a little Notes from the Underground with my chardonnay) isn’t all that relaxing for most people. But now that he’s got an Audible subscription, I started having irresistible visions of cozy cabin nights snuggling while huddled up around our new best friend Alexa as she reads to us. So the hunt for mutually acceptable books began.

It was no easy task, since he wants something entertaining and I want something with brilliant language and well-developed characters and a unique plot and lots of themes and intrigue…well, you can clearly see which one of us is the problem here. Anyway, those things can intersect, but it’s hard to find the point where they do.

Since we both like TV crime dramas, I thought we’d go hunting in that arena. It’s not a bad bet: you know the kind of material you’re getting for the (ahem, exorbitant) price of an audiobook, whereas some of the other genres could produce totally unreadable material despite promises of glory (see my post on Gilead).

What We Read

The first book I thought maybe we should try was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, which had everyone talking over the last year or so. This book was popular for good reason–it was bit more “psychological portrait of an alcoholic” than “murder mystery,” but we spent the entire car ride from Chicago to Louisiana listening to it with neither of us ever feeling like it was time to stop. It was good ground for both, ground we were comfortable hiking around together, pointing out wildlife.

Mutual Agreeableness Scale: A

What was not good mutual ground was the next book I found. After seeing all the positive reviews on Goodreads (PRO TIP: do not get your recommendations from Goodreads unless you have a community there you trust), we bought The Kind Worth Killingwhich I imagine the author thought was a daring and clever book on moral ambiguity. I should have known just by the title it was going to be bad, and baaaaaaaad it was. Every character was completely absurd. The plot was a constant onslaught of gimmicks. But don’t worry–you will leave the book having a great deal of knowledge of the size, shape, texture, relative jiggle, etc. of the breasts of each female character. So if, while you’re getting to know the minds and histories of a character in a book you often find yourself thinking, “okay, that’s fine…but what is her cup size?” you’ll be quite satisfied with this book. Sorry, my feminism is showing. Anyway, if we hadn’t paid so damn much for the audiobook, I would have stopped after a few chapters. And it wasn’t like my husband was in love with it either, though he is more patient than me, in both literature and life. We spend a good amount of time talking about all its flaws, though, so it wasn’t like there was no bonding over it.

Mutual Agreeableness Scale: D (the only thing that keeps it from F is that is isn’t quite Dan Brown)

Being burned by this last stinker, I was a little jaded by the crime novel. But I reluctantly said that maybe we ought to see what all the Gone Girl hoopla was about. I am changed. This book was absolutely fantastic, and it was the perfect intersection of what we both like. The husband loves plot and suspense. I love language and characters. This book had all of it. It was just amazing, every step of the way. I might do a more through examination later because this makes my “literature worth discussing” list. And my husband laughed aloud several times and paused the audio at multiple points to talk about what was going on, which is remarkable. We both united in delight on this one.

Mutual Agreeableness Scale: A+++++++ (picture teacher from A Christmas Story)

We loved Gillian Flynn so much that we chose another of her books next. It’s called Sharp Objects. It was good, but it wasn’t Gone Girl. It was harder to follow, less entertaining, and had a much slower plot.  Nonetheless, Flynn is just a good author, period. It would be really hard with someone with such lyrical prose to pump out a subpar book, even if the plot isn’t stellar. But we agreed that there were some preposterously unrealistic drug scenes, and at least one of the characters was just not believable in the slightest–far too over the top. But it was not a wasted purchase. We devoured the book and both continue to say we’d read more from Flynn any day.

Mutual Agreeableness Scale: B+

Here’s the part where I beg for your help.

Anyone have any books they think would rank high on our mutual agreeableness scale? I’ve researched and researched, and it’s just so hard to find things with both the good lit and the entertainment angle. I’m trying hard to convince the husband that Franzen’s Purity isn’t Freedomwhich we audiobook-ed together a long time ago and he didn’t like. (Frankly, neither did I.) I’d love to experience Purity again. We’re also thinking of Find Herthough I’m a little sketched out by the Evanovich/Patterson-style serial detective thing. I just assume they’re trash, rightly or wrongly.

I’m not just fishing for comments–I’d really, really love recommendations. This is new territory to me. There’s nothing I love more than our audiobook nights and listening to something together, and I want to keep it going.



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