If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of audiobooks. I’ve listened to a lot of them this year – and even experimented with some new audiobook apps – and I definitely have some favorites. I generally treat audiobooks like other book formats. They’re another way to consume books (because physical books and ebooks are not great while driving). However, audiobooks are a bit different in that there is another factor that affects my enjoyment of them: narrators.
In my experience, narrators can make or break a book. I’ve had books I couldn’t get through because the narrator’s voice was grating and books I couldn’t get into and then loved when I gave them a second chance as audiobooks. So an audiobook, for me, has to have good writing, a good story, and a good narrator (bonus if they enhance the story, but as long as they don’t somehow ruin it for me – which has happened – I’m okay with it).
Here are the best audiobooks I listened to this year:
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates, read by Melinda Gates. This is a really great book about how giving women control over their own lives makes the entire world a better place. For everyone. And it was made so much better by hearing Melinda Gates herself read it. It is clearly a subject she is very passionate about, and and that was definitely evident in the audiobook.
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, read by Edward Herrmann. Imagine Richard Gilmore calmly reading you a book about Einstein’s life. That’s literally this audiobook. Honestly, I think a big part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was because Herrmann’s voice is so soothing. I am definitely planning on listening to more audiobooks narrated by him (though I am kind of bummed that so many of them are abridged).
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou, read by Will Damron. In the past few years, I’ve gotten pretty into true crime. And my absolute favorite way to consume it is audiobooks. This one was so much fun to listen to. If you’ve heard the whole Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos story, you know how batshit crazy it is. (And if you haven’t where have to been the past few years?) Listening to it was so engaging and interesting. I loved it!
The Killer Across the Table by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, read by Jonathan Groff. Another true crime novel, this one by John E. Douglas, who also wrote Mindhunter. But what makes the audiobook special is that it’s read by Jonathan Groff, who plays the character based on Douglas in the Mindhunter Netflix series. And he does a brilliant job!
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, read by John Lee. This book had been sitting on my shelves for years before I finally decided to pick it up. And, since the idea of carrying around a thousand-page paperback did not sound fun, I decided to go with the audiobook.Which was a great idea. I absolutely loved this book. The narrator did a great job of pulling me into the story. I’ll never know for sure if part of the reason I loved this so much was that I listened to the audiobook, but I think it was.
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, read by Lily Collins. I had never read Peter Pan until this year. The reason I finally picked it up? I’m a fan of Lily Collins. While her narration (and this book) was obviously geared towards children, I still absolutely loved it. Again, I’m not positive the audiobook had a notable impact on how much I loved this book (because the story is great), it definitely made the experience a lot more fun.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, read by Lorna River. I’ve learned something over the past few years: I tend to like books set in the south a lot better as audiobooks. It’s something about the accent that just makes the setting that much more vivid. This one was no exception. I loved this book, and I definitely think that had a lot to do with the audiobook narration.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, read by Cassandra Campbell. This is not the first audiobook I’ve listened to that was narrated by Cassandra Campbell, nor will it be the last. I find her voice so soothing. Which makes stories like this one break your heart that much more. Its a good thing she has a lot more audiobooks for me to choose from.
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, read by Neil Patrick Harris. I feel like the only way to read this book is to have NPH read it to you. Okay, that’s not the only way. And there is a decent argument for not going with the audiobook since this is a choose your own adventure book. But there’s a reason I didn’t like those as a child: skipping parts just feels wrong. And honestly, I feel like the choose your own adventure part of this book is meant to be taken lightly (I’m pretty sure if you choose the path that isn’t real, it doesn’t work out anyway). But I do love listening to memoirs more than reading them, and this is definitely one I loved listening to.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, read by Nicholas Guy Smith. This book is amazing! (Spoiler: it’ll probably be on my favorite books of the year post.) But what made it better was the narrator. There is something to be said about a good British accent, and Nicholas Guy Smith has a great voice. I really loved listening to this book.
That’s it for my favorite audiobooks of the year! It’s been a great year for audiobooks, and I’m hoping next year will be just as great. If you’re wondering what I’m currently listening to (because there is always an audiobook in my current reads), I’m finishing off the year with a reread (or re-listen): The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, read by Jim Dale. I’ve listened to it before (this is my third or fourth read through of The Night Circus) and love it so much!
What’s your favorite audiobook of this year?