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The Idiot Audiobook, by Elif Batuman Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Elif Batuman Narrator: Elif Batuman Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2017 ISBN: 9781524734947
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A portrait of the artist as a young woman—a novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself.

The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.

At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan’s friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin’s summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.

With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman’s fiction is unguarded against both life’s affronts and its beauty—and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Batuman’s brainy novel is leavened with humor and a heroine incapable of artifice.”


  • “Easily the funniest book I’ve read this year.”

    GQ magazine

  • “It’s memorable to witness Selin, via Batuman, absorb the world around her. Each paragraph is a small anthology of well-made observations.”

    New York Times

  • “The Idiot, a novel of innocence and experience, is infused with the generous attitude that Dag Hammarskjöld expressed in his memoir Markings, ‘For all that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!’”

    Dallas News

  • “Batuman’s sardonic wit makes for a delectable unfolding of Selin’s experience of love, life, and language.”

  • “No one writes funnier or more stylishly about higher education.”

    Village Voice

  • “Batuman highlights the absurdity of campus life and first love in her semi-autobiographical debut, which follows an endearingly odd eighteen-year-old through her first year at Harvard.”


  • “Is half The Education of Henry Adams and half Innocents Abroad. Twain would have savored Selin’s first international trip to Paris, Hungary, and Turkey…an entertaining, intellectual journey not to be missed.”

    Shelf Awareness

  • “Selin is delightful company. She’s smart enough to know the ways in which she is dumb, and her off-kilter relationship to the world around her is revelatory and, often, mordantly hilarious.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Selin is entrancing—so smart, so clueless, so funny—and Batuman’s exceptional discernment, comedic brilliance, and soulful inquisitiveness generate a charmingly incisive and resonant tale of the messy forging of a self.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month 
  • A BookPage Top Pick for March 2017
  • Finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
  • A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
  • Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction
  • An Elle Magazine Pick of Best Books of 2017
  • A Vogue Pick of Best Books of the Year
  • An NPR Best Book of 2017 selection

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About the Author

Elif Batuman has been a staff writer at the New Yorker since 2010. She is recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and a Paris Review Terry Southern Prize for Humor. She also holds a PhD in comparative literature from Stanford University.