Lately I’ve found that audiobooks are keeping me up at night. It’s not because I’m devouring them in nocturnal binges, unable to tear myself away. No, I’m losing sleep because I’m thinking about certain audiobooks too much. Like a movie watched just before bed, or a video game played too many times, a good audiobook peppered throughout the day can reverberate long after you have pressed pause. Who’s the murderer? What would I do if I came face to face with a leopard? What must it have been like to be floating in the middle of the Pacific in the 16th century, scurvy-ridden and months from home? These three new audiobooks may provide some answers — but expect a fair share of mental somersaults along the way.

Something noteworthy happened about two hours into Paula Hawkins’s A SLOW FIRE BURNING (Penguin Audio, 9 hours, 19 minutes). I realized I no longer needed to hear the attribution after quotes: I could tell who was talking without being told. Yes, this is testament to the writing of Hawkins, of “The Girl on the Train” fame. But it also speaks to the preternatural skills of the audiobook’s narrator, the award-winning actor Rosamund Pike. Her evocative, precise delivery brings a smart whodunit to life in a way my imagination alone could never do. Virtually every character is a suspect and every suspect is fully formed, well beyond the clichés that this genre is prone to. The mystery surrounds the murder of a young man living on a houseboat on a London canal. From there Hawkins unravels a dense web of troubled familial relationships, a meta narrative in the form of another best-selling thriller within the plot, and a relentless series of mounting tragedies. Along the way are flashes of beautiful writing (“walls the yellow of nicotine”) and, in sum, a thought-provoking meditation on envy, love, hatred, vengeance and other feelings that slowly burn.

The science writer Mary Roach has a similar interest in the human condition; though in her books — about death, sex, the digestive system and more — she takes a decidedly less emotional view on who we are and why we do what we do. In FUZZ: When Nature Breaks the Law (Brilliance Audio, 9 hours, 17 minutes), Roach turns her obsessive eye and cheeky humor toward one age-old question: “What is the proper course when nature breaks laws intended for people?” Roach travels the world, from Colorado ski towns to tea farms in India to a landfill employing robotic falcons, in an effort to understand how we handle the ever-increasing incidents of human-animal interaction. There are thieving monkeys, elusive cougars (“How do you count what you can’t see?”) and murderous trees, all of which point to the real culprit behind the so-called crimes: us.

As a narrator, Roach is no Rosamund Pike. I cringed at her ill-advised attempts to impersonate the intonations of the Indian bureaucrats and conservationists she meets on her travels. (Her inclination to put on a Yogi-esque drawl when giving a theoretical voice to a bear is far more charming.) But she delivers her funniest one-liners in a deadpan that will make you snort out loud (“the future of turd science is bright”). And the moments of travelogue that interrupt the zoological deep dives offer a personal authenticity to an account that otherwise could have easily been detached and dry.

If you’ve never stared at the ceiling, contemplating the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, well, get ready. CONQUERING THE PACIFIC: An Unknown Mariner and the Final Great Voyage of the Age of Discovery (HarperAudio, 6 hours, 6 minutes), by Andrés Reséndez, chronicles the crowning achievement of a relatively unknown navigator named Lope Martín, who in the middle of the 16th century piloted the first ship on what was known as “la vuelta,” a return to the Americas across the Pacific from the Philippines. If setting into motion centuries of trans-Pacific trade, exploitation and migration weren’t remarkable enough, Reséndez asks us to consider the odds Martín was up against as an Afro-Portuguese pilot working for the Spanish. He writes that while Black seamen were not unheard-of then, Martín was “rare enough to stand out,” especially as he rubbed shoulders with ship captains, viceroys and the clergy.

Though the audiobook — narrated in the warm, fuzzy tones of a PBS documentary by the actor Phil Morris — does cover all the deliciously swashbuckling details of Martín’s journey (mutinies, murder and backstabbing abound), listeners hoping solely for tales of adventure may be disappointed. In fact, Reséndez is so intent on offering historical, geological and cultural context that the “vuelta” story really kicks off only an hour and 20 minutes into the narrative. Before, during and after are lengthy explanations of tides and gyres, maritime explorers and early colonizers, territorial disputes and serendipitous deals. It’s appropriate that the book begins with a description of the Pacific as seen from space. As Reséndez makes clear, there is much more to think about here than one person’s ocean voyage.

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