In a year that kicked off with the rumbling of Eyjafjallajökull and stayed somber, we turned to audiobooks for escapism and edification—and we got more than we bargained for. The industry took the business of entertaining us very seriously and readers turned in unforgettable performances: Simon Vance concluded his reading of Stieg Larssen's Millennium trilogy with a knock-out performance of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest; Robin Miles beguiled us with her reading of Stacy Schiff's biography Cleopatra; and we got two superstars for the price of one when Johnny Depp channeled "Keef" in his pitch-perfect narration of Keith Richards's memoir, Life. Out of roughly 360 audiobooks PW reviewed this year, here are the very best.


The Ask by Sam Lipsyte, read by the author (Macmillan Audio)
PW said: "Lipsyte's narration is a revelation: he is cool and relaxed and transitions smoothly between monologue and dialogue. There are no strained characterizations—just subtle shifts that indicate a change in speaker—and as Milo, Lipsyte sounds just right—sullen, searching, and prone to sentimentality and sarcasm."
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson, read by Simon Vance (Random House Audio)
Lay Down My Sword and Shield by James Lee Burke, read by Will Patton (Simon & Schuster Audio)
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, read by David Aaron Baker (Recorded Books)
Model Home by Eric Puchner, read by David Colacci (Tantor Media)
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier, read by Susan Lyons and Charlotte Parry (Penguin Audio)
Savages by Don Winslow, read by Michael Kramer (Tantor Media)
Sleepless by Charlie Huston, read by Mark Bramhall and Ray Porter (Blackstone)
So Much for That by Lionel Shriver, read by Dan John Miller (Brilliance Audio)
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, read by Roxana Ortega (BBC Audio)


Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, read by Robin Miles (Hachette Audio)
PW said: "Robin Miles's voice is deep, confiding, the perfect instrument to introduce a history that has been variously forgotten, misunderstood, or suppressed. Her enunciation is crisp, her pacing pure charm: she wrings every sentence for meaning, irony, and wit, taking us through pages of description or analysis with a stately pace."
The Big Short by Michael Lewis, read by Jesse Boggs (Simon & Schuster Audio)
I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne, read by Frank Skinner (Hachette Audio)
Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt, read by James Adams (HighBridge Audio)
No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller by Harry Markopolos, read by Scott Brick, Frank Casey, Neil Chelo, David Kotz, Gaytri Kachroo, Michael Ocrant, and the author (Brilliance Audio)
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick, read by Karen White (Tantor Media)
NPR: The First Forty Years, read by various narrators (Highbridge Audio)
Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre, read by John Lee (Random House Audio)
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum, read by Coleen Marlo (Tantor Media)
Third World America by Arianna Huffington, read by Coleen Marlo (Tantor Media)


We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, read by Bernadette Dunne (Blackstone Audio)
PW said: "Bernadette Dunne's reading is flawlessly paced and suspenseful. The voices she provides the cast of characters are spot on: precocious Merricat is haunted and increasingly desperate; Constance is doting but detached; Uncle Julian is both pleasantly dotty and utterly unnerving; and Charles is the conniving villain listeners will love to hate."
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain, read by William Dufris (Tantor Media)
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, read by Martin Jarvis (BBC Audio)
The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner, read by Edward Herrmann (Blackstone Audio)
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor, read by Bronson Pinchot (Blackstone Audio)

Read by the Author

Dexter Is Delicious by Jeff Lindsay (Random House Audio)
PW said: "Lindsay's wry reading proves that he knows Dexter and his world better than anyone. With a clear, controlled voice, he pulls the listener into the story, keeping the tone light even when describing the grisliest scenes—but he's more than capable of conveying danger and suspense."
Half Empty by David Rakoff (Random House Audio)
i know i am but what are you? by Samantha Bee (Simon & Schuster Audio)
The Inheritance by Simon Tolkien (Brilliance Audio)
Lit by Mary Karr (Harper Audio)

Full Cast Production

Occupied City by David Peace, read by Alton Takiyama-Chung, Daisuke Tsuji, Justine Eyre, Bronson Pinchot, Lorna Raver, and Stefan Rudnicki (Blackstone Audio)
PW said: "The talented cast assembled for this remarkable production creates an emotional dramatic ensemble performance that is at times poetic, mesmerizing, eloquent, brutal, mournful, touched by madness, and never less than fascinating."
House Rules by Jodi Picoult, read by Mark Turetsky, Nicole Poole, Andy Paris, Rich Orlow, and Christopher Evan Welch (Recorded Books)
Great House by Nicole Krauss, read by Alma Cuervo, George Guidall, Robert Ian MacKenzie, and others (Recorded Books)
Room by Emma Donoghue, read by Michal Friedman, Ellen Archer, Suzanne Toren, and Robert Petkoff (Hachette Audio)
Sherlock Holmes Essentials: Favorite Stories of Arthur Conan Doyle by Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Clive Merrison, Michael Williams, and a full cast (BBC/AudioGO)

Audio Book Reader of the Year

Simon Vance for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (Random House Audio) and Blood Safari by Deon Meyer (HighBridge Audio)
PW said: "Vance wrings every ounce of suspense out of the prose, and there is one shocking confrontation near the end that allows him to pull out all the stops."
Coleen Marlo for Third World America by Arianna Huffington and The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum (both Tantor Media)
Mark Bramhall for Sleepless by Charlie Huston and Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace (both Blackstone Audio)
Kate Reading for Private Life by Jane Smiley (Random House Audio) and The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig (Penguin Audio)
Will Patton for The Glass Rainbow and Lay Down My Sword and Shield, both by James Lee Burke (both Simon & Schuster Audio)

Audio Book of the Year

Room by Emma Donoghue, read by Michal Friedman, Ellen Archer, Suzanne Toren, and Robert Petkoff (Hachette Audio)
PW said: "Michal Friedman shines as Jack; her narration is haunting and compelling in its every inflection. The voice she creates for Jack is so convincing, listeners may even mistake her for an actual child. Her powerful performance is complemented by Robert Petcoff's sinister Old Nick, and Ellen Archer's portrayal of resourceful Ma. The chemistry between the players creates a gem of an audiobook that will haunt listeners long after the story's end."
Life by Keith Richards and James Fox, read by Johnny Depp and Joe Hurley, and featuring the author (Hachette Audio)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, read by Bernadette Dunne (Blackstone Audio)