For your playlist, three great new audiobooks

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"Queenie"

Candice Carty-Williams' moving, tragicomic debut stars 25-year-old Queenie Jenkins, a Londoner of Jamaican ancestry, the first in her loving, enjoyably annoying family to go to university. Now working at a newspaper, she would be on a trajectory of success, were it not for her ingrained sense of unworthiness and the magnetic effect she seems to have on white men, who see her black body as an exotic playground. Dumped by her boyfriend and preyed upon by a series of abusive lechers, she loses her job, descending into paralyzing depression.

Sounds awful? As a predicament, yes, but Queenie and the novel itself are bolstered throughout by true friends whose group messaging is a bracing festival of amity.

Narrator Shvorne Marks brings a subtle touch to the differing cadences of first, second and third generation Jamaican voices and handles the cockney inflected accents of all the characters with brio. This is a truly unforgettable novel of a young woman emerging from emotional shadows to come into her own. (Simon & Schuster Audio, Unabridged, 9-3/4 hours)

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"The Border"

Don Winslow's colossal, bullet-riddled trilogy about the Mexican drug trade and U.S. involvement concludes here. At the center is Art Keller, a former DEA agent pulled out of retirement to head the organization. Also at large are old friends, old enemies and new players, among them, a reformed mob hit man; an undercover policeman; a recidivist snitch; a 10-year-old Guatemalan refugee; and Los Hijos, the swaggering, depraved scion of drug lords.

The action, propelled by a lethal war among rival cartels, moves between Mexico and the United States where we witness the election of a new president. He is a monumental boor and promoter of a Mexican-financed wall on the border. His smug son-in-law becomes involved with a real estate deal that gravitates into drug-money laundering.

Ray Porter, who narrated the previous two volumes, performs brilliantly again, deftly handling the frequent Spanish phrases and reflecting with subtle changes in register and tone the personalities of the countless characters. Taken together, Winslow's three-volume fictional engagement with living history is a 72-3/4 hour triumph. (Blackstone, Unabridged, 29 hours)

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"The Salt Path"

Raynor Winn and her husband, Moth, lost their Welsh farmhouse and their means of living through the duplicity of a former friend. Ill fortune continued as Moth was diagnosed with a degenerative disease. Inspired by an old travel book, the homeless, near-penniless couple decided to walk England's 630-mile Southwest Coast Path, taking in the coasts of Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.

Their journey is marked by small tragedy, physical misery and the routine rudeness doled out to the homeless. All of that is increasingly offset by the joy they find in nature and a growing sense of freedom. There is mild comedy here, too: On several occasions Moth is mistaken for the poet Simon Armitage, thus receiving the hospitality and homage chance strangers believe is his due.

This is a beautiful, poignant memoir narrated by Anne Reid, whose voice sounds far older than Winn's would be, yet is clear, well-paced and redolent of the sorrow and flashes of joy felt by this doughty couple. (Penguin Audio, Unabridged, 11 hours)

 

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