What We're Listening To: Akira's February Picks
February 21, 2024

What We’re Listening To: Akira’s February Picks

Penguin with Headphones By Akira Ritos

Sometimes, you just need to lay down on the floor after a day of work and get lost in an audiobook, an intense video game soundtrack, or a deeply emotional album about want and yearning. What can I say? I’m only human.

My name’s Akira and I’m the marketing and social media intern at Penguin Random House Audio this spring. I love cats, I’m a hotpot enthusiast (spicy soup for the win!), and I’m a lifelong binge-reader. My to-be-read list is quite literally scattered around my room, but I still try to make space for literary consumption throughout my day. Luckily, audiobooks came into my life.

My favorite things to do while listening to an audiobook are puzzling and painting—I’ve always loved arts and crafts, so getting to listen to a juicy romance or a heart-wrenching coming-of-age tale while making something new only adds to the fun. And so, without further ado, here’s what I’ve been listening to!

The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor

I love drama: the messiness, characters loving someone who isn’t good for them, moments when something savage and desperate takes over when a character needs to defend themselves or someone else. 
My main goal for 2024 is also to find queer books that are centered on college-aged/early 20’s protagonists. So when I came across The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor, I became obsessed. I chose this as my first audiobook, and it has changed literary fiction for me. There’s something about Taylor’s poetic language that captivates me—listening to a story that beholds such craft is nothing short of remarkable and, dare I say, better than the physical act of reading? From Kevin R. Free’s narration and how he performs the lilts and tones of each character’s voice, to the vivid descriptions in the text of college campus queerness and toxic relationships. Listening to this was seriously a formative experience for me. 

A Hundred Lovers by Richie Hofmann

Outside of work, I write poetry! My work has been published in some literary magazines and I have a debut chapbook coming out. Even when my creative poetry juice pitcher feels a little low, I try to consume poetry every day, whether through social media or through my stack of poetry books. I started listening to A Hundred Lovers by Richie Hofmann and I can’t quite explain how deeply it reinvigorated me. Through his collection of contemporary poems, Hofmann emphasizes eroticism, love, heartache, and pleasure. The imagery and the flow of the poems stand out when listening on audio and getting to hear the poems spoken aloud the way the author intended is such a joy. If I close my eyes, it’s almost like I’m actually sitting in Hofmann’s poetry reading.  

Deltarune Video Game Soundtrack

Now this may be surprising, but, when I have deadlines or need to crush the last ten minutes of a workout, I listen to video game music. I absolutely love playing video games (no, I have not gotten to play Baldur’s Gate 3 yet, unfortunately) and blasting soundtracks on the treadmill will make you run faster than you think! The God of War soundtrack is great for that. Personally, I’ve been playing the boss battles themes from Deltarune while I work. Deltarune is a pixelated RPG made by Toby Fox, in which Kris and their friends Susie and Ralsei must close the rifts between their world and the Dark world. The characters are quirky and unique, and so are the boss battle themes. Intense, fast-paced, and upbeat, the soundtrack really makes me feel like I have to beat a villain. That villain is my internet speed. 

The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We by Mitski

At the end of the day, I’m exhausted. Or lazy. I try to practice self-care through reading or playing video games, but sometimes, decompression needs variety. So, I drive. I end up driving only for thirty or so minutes and aside from the occasional road rage, driving is truly relaxing. My favorite album to listen to while I drive and decompress is Mitski’s latest album, The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We.  

I’ve been a fan of Mitski for a few years, and I remember how shocked I was when this album dropped. The title of the album was nearly identical to the name of a poem I drafted and I knew, in that odd way, this album would connect to me on a deeper, more intimate level than her other ones did. Mitski’s newest album encapsulates all the feelings of love, loneliness, and desire. Influenced strongly by spaghetti Western sound and American country music, this album makes me think about how much I love my friends, my family, and my pets. How I must learn to cherish my life despite fear and unforgiving changes. We must accept growing older and decide to love better, and Mitski demonstrates that perfectly in this album.