In poet Kaveh Akbar’s unique first novel, Martyr! (Random House Audio, 10 hours and 39 minutes), Cyrus Shams, a young Iranian-born poet in the American Midwest, grapples with a weighty question: Can we make our deaths meaningful? Freshly sober, unsure of his future, Cyrus is drawn to stories of martyrdom, an obsession fueled by family history: When he was an infant, his mother died on a commercial airliner mistakenly shot down by U.S. forces over the Persian Gulf.

As he considers writing a book, he learns of Orkideh, a dying Iranian American artist spending her final days in a Brooklyn museum installation, talking to visitors. He heads to New York, and their meeting reveals more about life and death than he ever expected.

Martyr! is a mesmerizing if imperfect novel, but Iranian-born actor Arian Moayed—you know him as slick Stewie on the HBO series Succession—delivers an exquisite performance on the audiobook, making it possible to forgive Akbar’s excesses. Moayed is funny when he needs to be, but he understands the power of dropping his voice to a whisper at appropriate moments, and he prevents the novel’s weaknesses (namely, a series of unnecessary dream sequences) from bogging down the story. He’s particularly compelling as the world-weary voice of Orkideh, who at first calls Cyrus “another death-obsessed Iranian.” As their bond deepens, though, Moayed’s striking voice practically glows with warmth.

Audiobooks with a large cast of characters can prove difficult to follow. So many names! So little context! And you can’t easily refer back to a cheat sheet at the beginning of the book for a reminder of who’s who. But Rebecca K. Reilly’s sly comic novel Greta & Valdin (Simon & Schuster Audio, 9 hours and 28 minutes) is structured so that its many engaging characters are memorable and its plot simple to navigate. Add the natural grace and impeccable comic timing of narrators Natalie Beran and Jackson Bliss, who alternate chapters as queer siblings Greta and Valdin, and the result might just be the most entertaining audiobook of the year so far.

These young New Zealanders fret about their futures, fall in and out of love, face down racism and economic setbacks, and groan over the antics of their lively Maori and Russian family. Three other narrators—Eilidh Beaton, Nico Evers-Swindell, and Gary Furlong—pitch in toward the end of the book, but telling this story falls primarily to Beran and Bliss, and they shine.

Laurie Frankel’s frank, warm Family Family (Macmillan Audio, 14 hours and 57 minutes) also features a large cast, although it’s narrated by a single reader, Patti Murin, who expertly gives voice to every age group. Both adults and children orbit the sun of India Allwood, a Broadway star–turned–TV superhero who finds herself in a social media stew over public comments she made about the portrayal of adoption in her latest movie.

India, who has far more experience with adoption than the public realizes, keeps making matters worse—and a volatile situation grows ever more complicated when her children scheme to rescue her.

Murin is adept at portraying the grown-ups and kids, and she never strays too far into precocious cuteness. Her heartfelt, humorous performance underlines Frankel’s insistence that a family can be whatever we say it is—and we need the freedom to choose.

Connie Ogle is a writer in Florida.