In 2016, our team of audiobook reviewers listened to more than 250 titles. Below we list our favorites across several categories, as well as our narrator of the year.
Reader Petkoff dramatizes Hawley’s riveting novel about a plane crash to full effect.
Foer’s novel requires a very talented narrator—and it got one. The prose is fast, forceful, funny, and friendly, and actor Fliakos handles it all superbly.
Author Strout and reader Farr have produced a masterly fusion of material that could easily have become maudlin but never does. It is a simple yet deep depiction of the fierce love and intense pain of a mother-daughter relationship.
The warts-and-all portrait of protagonist Antoinette is the heart of French’s sixth entry in the Dublin Murder Squad series, and reader Fay’s ability to mix the natural lyric quality of her Irish brogue with Antoinette’s working-class, chip-on-shoulder hostility makes for a fully sustained, award-worthy performance.
Turpin shifts between the ages, races, and accents of the large cast of characters in Whitehead’s powerful historical set in Georgia in the 1850s. Her turn as protagonist Cora, a teenage slave girl who lives on a cotton plantation, mesmerizes with its display of conflicting emotions and attachments.
Reader Fortgang catches the subtle mood shifts of the characters in Abbott’s piercing thriller about the hypercompetitive world of women’s gymnastics and what one family will sacrifice in the name of making their daughter a champion.
Audiobook veteran Michael adroitly moves back and forth between Toobin’s expository elements and the colorful dialogue among the principal players involved in this sprawling narrative about one of the most controversial criminal cases in 20th-century American history.
Stage and screen actor Hoffman doesn’t miss a beat in presenting McBride’s investigation into the life, times, and death of James Brown, evoking Brown’s larger-than-life personality and complex life with a strong but raspy voice. In such skilled hands, the many Brown catchphrases—including the book’s title—become moving testaments to survival rather than just remaining catchy aphorisms.
As Mayer traces the origins of a well-funded libertarian brand of conservatism led by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and their network of deep-pocketed, like-minded allies, voice actress Potter resists broad-brush caricatures, instead opting for a straightforward reading that lets the complex historical and biographical story threads take shape gradually.
Voice actor Delanie narrates with great energy and projection, capturing the author’s enthusiasm for all the fascinating elements of Seinfeld unearthed in this production.
Denison narrates with the right amount of emphasis and speed. He knows how to orally distill the meaning within Rubery’s prose and tease out nuance, which is especially important for an audiobook about audiobooks. His low-key style of narration reflects Rubery’s own preference for narrative delivery as discussed in the book.
This delightfully quirky story is about a reporter whose secret source is a group of alley cats, and narrator Kellgren—who adds meows and hissing into the mix—is perfectly matched to the tale. Ages 10–up.
Voice actress Johnson skillfully brings together childlike sensitivity and grown-up gravitas in the main character of Draper’s middle-grade novel about a girl named Melody Brooks who has cerebral palsy. Ages 10–up.
Actors Jorjeana Marie, Will Damron, Cassandra Morris, and Michael Crouch are superbly cast, each taking on the role of a main character in these four intertwining stories about teenagers in East Prussia during the brutal winter of 1945. Ages 12–up.
Patton’s extraordinary, masterly performance is a perfect match for this imaginative and compelling series finale. Ages 14–up.
Actors Turpin and Lee both give award-worthy performances as Natasha and Daniel, two teenagers who embark on a daylong romance on a trip to Manhattan in Yoon’s multilayered YA novel, and they also provide deft portrayals of the characters’ parents, whether it’s the Korean accents of Daniel’s parents or the Jamaican dialect of Natasha’s. Ages 12–up.
In this fierce memoir, Fair recounts his career in the Army and the police force, as well as his experiences working as an interrogator for a private contractor in Iraq in 2004. Fair is unflinching in his narration: his voice is strong, forthright, and sometimes full of rage.
Journalist and news anchor Cooper and his mother, Vanderbilt, a famous designer and socialite who has contended with the ups and downs of the spotlight for over nine decades, engage in heartfelt dialogue while sorting through family history.
It isn’t easy to imitate musical syncopation in prose, but Doctorow pulls it off in this reading of his classic historical novel. The ebb and flow and swing of his sentences, reflecting turn-of-the-century jazz genres, are captured perfectly in his low-key, fast-paced reading.
Blount’s mature, twangy, and raspy voice remains charming throughout and matches well with the tone of the prose, in his latest collection of essays, poems, and songs about all things edible.
Rarely is an author as charismatic in speech as he is in writing. Whether he’s discussing classic literature, comics, film, or other works, Gaiman reads with such a natural style of delivery that listeners feel as if he is talking to them directly.
Whether le Carré is recalling being under fire from the Khmer Rouge, remembering his stint as a spy with MI5, or recounting the time he smoked dope in an opium den, his smooth storytelling makes for fascinating listening.
Narrator of the Year
Though actress Turpin is no stranger to the audiobook scene (she has narrated more than 70 audiobooks and counting), her stellar performances of Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad in 2016 earn her the title of Narrator of the Year.