It is officially that time of year again! It’s time for me to look back on what I read this year and determine my favorites. I’m still hoping to fit a few more books in before the end of the year, so the rest of my favorites will have to wait, but I decided to share my audiobook favorites a little early this year. Mostly because I’m planning on spending this month revisiting a few favorites, and I don’t count rereads in my end of the year favorites.
For me, audiobooks are unique. Not only does my enjoyment of them depend on the book itself, but also on the narration. A bad narrator can make me DNF a good book, and a good narrator might turn a book I’d otherwise dislike into something I enjoy. So many times in the past I’ve given a book I wasn’t that into a second chance as a audiobook and ended up actually loving it.
The books on this list might not be my favorites of the year (I can tell you not all of these will end up on my other favorites lists), but they are the audiobooks I genuinely enjoyed the most. The narrators were fantastic, the books were great, and they worked together to make something I loved.
I didn’t actually listen to that many audiobooks this year, but here are the ones I loved the most:
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, read by a full cast
I actually read this book back in 2019 and really enjoyed it. I have since gotten my book club hooked on Taylor Jenkins Reid, so when they decided on this for our January read, I decided to give the audiobook a shot. I’d heard great things, but was really hesitant because it is a full cast audiobook. And audiobooks with more than one narrator aren’t really my jam. I’m not sure what it is, I just prefer a single narrator.
But, I have to say, this book might have proved me wrong. I’m still not 100% sold on full cast audiobooks, but I’m definitely willing to give them a try. Because this one was great! I think the interview style of the book lent itself perfectly to having a different narrator for each of the many characters. It just worked really well. I highly recommend this one!
Sadie by Courtney Summers, read by a full cast
I had been hearing amazing things about this book, particularly the audiobook, for a while. But, I put it off because it was a full cast, and I was convinced that it would annoy me. Then Daisy Jones kind of sort of changed my mind, so I thought I’d try it. And it was great! I really enjoyed the story and the narration. It was just really well done.
Again, I think I liked this because the podcast/diary-like format worked really well for multiple narrators. I’m not totally convinced that I’d like any books that have full casts, but I am now willing to give them a try. Because these two were both great. If, like me, you’re not a huge fan of multiple narrators, definitely start with one of these two books.
Kindred by Octavia Butler, read by Kim Staunton
Not all audiobooks have the ability to completely suck me in and make everything around me fade away. But the few that do are ones I definitely remember. Kindred is one of those books. First of all, I cannot believe I hadn’t read Octavia Butler before this year, and I’m so glad I finally did. I’m also glad I chose this as my first book, because it kind of blew my mind in how creative and impactful it was. It made a big impression on me.
Kindred is also the first sci-fi book by a black woman, which feels so valuable and special. The story is amazing. And the narrator did an absolutely brilliant job of becoming the main character. I think audio versions of books narrated in first-person tend to do that, but Kim Staunton blew me away. I listened to this back in January, and I can still hear her voice in my head when I think about this book. It’s seriously that good.
The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson, read by Claire Danes
Don’t ask me how I made it thirty years and earned degrees in history and English without reading The Odyssey in full. Because I have no idea. It seems like something I should have read more than a few bits of here and there. BUT, I’m glad I did. Because I got to read Emily Wilson’s translation, which is amazing. She did a great job of making this story feel accessible to a modern audience and it completely drew me in.
I’m also very glad I made the decision to go with the audiobook on this one, because not only is Claire Danes a fantastic narrator (I have also listened to her narration of The Handmaid’s Tale), but this is actually a story that was meant to be listened to, not read. So it felt kind of special being able to experience it as it was meant to be experienced. I honestly think I enjoyed it so much more than if I’d read it on paper.
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, read by Christopher Dontrell Piper
One of the things I love listening to most are nonfiction books. In fact, I’m pretty sure audiobooks make up the vast majority of nonfiction books that I read. So, when I decided to read this one, I went for the audiobook (despite already owning a physical copy). And it was great. One of the reasons I particularly like audiobooks for nonfiction is that they force me to slow down and pay more attention. And that is definitely something I’m glad I did with this book. In fact, I found myself even referring to my paperback to revisit sections that I found particularly important.
And this is an absolutely important book. I thought I was fairly well educated on American history (I literally have a college degree in it) until I read this book. Because not only was there a lot of black history and the history of racism that I was totally unaware of, there were a lot of things I had been taught wrong. If I know anything from studying history, it’s that history is almost always written by white men. Which means books like this are important and this one in particular made a huge impact on me this year. It might even be the book that changed me the most in 2020, and I’m really happy about that.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller, read by the author
Even if her name doesn’t sound familiar, you probably already know Chanel Miller. She was the victim of a sexual assault on Stanford’s campus. The one that resulted in her rapist, Brock Turner, only being sentenced to six months in jail so as not to ruin his life (he served three months and that judge was recalled). In this book, she takes back her story.
This was written so beautifully and powerfully that it blew me away. It’s one of those books that makes me feel completely inadequate as a writer, because I could never be this good. Not only that, it’s a brilliant commentary on what it is like to be a woman today. And how society isn’t really a safe space for us – it protects men. But what made it so much more powerful is the fact that she reads this audiobook. I have no idea how she did that without having a breakdown (because I would have), but it just reinforces the message of strength in this book. It’s an amazing book, and an even better audiobook.
That’s it for my favorite audiobooks of the year! I really loved all of these books, and truly enjoyed listening to them. Do you like audiobooks? What was your favorite this year?
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