The list, selected by AudioFile editors each year, recognizes audiobooks in nine categories: fiction, nonfiction and culture, mystery and suspense, memoir, biography and history, science fiction and fantasy, romance, young adult, and children and family listening. To put it together, AudioFile founder and editor Robin Whitten said, the magazine's editors sat down with a list of the 2,500 audiobooks the magazine reviewed in 2022, highlighting winners of the magazine's Earphones Award—which recognizes exceptional audio—and whittling down the list to roughly 250 titles before winnowing further and breaking out titles into categories.
“AudioFile’s list might share many of the same categories as other ‘best’ lists, but our list is all about audio performance and listening experiences,” Whitten said. “We look at the narrators as the ones who make the magic of an audiobook, so they are celebrated in our lists,” and “variety of style in the audio program is also an important criterion.” Whitten noted that, this year, the editors chose to include “a program that is not a traditional audiobook at all”: Inside Voice by Lake Bell, which includes interactive exercises and games alongside other ancillary material. That audiobook, Whitten said, “may well signal a new trend in audio programs.”
The list also includes sound samples from each of the listed titles, short episodes of AudioFile's Behind the Mic podcast on a number of the titles, narrator interviews, and more. In keeping with the list's multimedia approach, the magazine has released a Spotify playlist featuring its Behind the Mic episodes on certain listed titles, and Whitten recorded an introductory "audiogram" exclusively for PW, which can be played below.
The following are AudioFile's Best Audiobooks of 2022, including citations and links to the magazine's reviews.
The Angel of Rome: And Other Stories
By Jess Walter | Read by Edoardo Ballerini, Julia Whelan | Harper Audio | 8 hrs.
Golden Voice narrators Edoardo Ballerini and Julia Whelan narrate these empathic, witty, and finely wrought short stories that make the ordinary extraordinary.
I Walk Between the Raindrops: Stories
By T.C. Boyle| Read by T.C. Boyle, Cheryl Smith, Jason Culp, Derek Perkins, Jeremy Arthur, Stephen Mendel, Johnathan McClain, Ewan Chung, Pete Simonelli, David de Vries, Nan McNamara, Rex Anderson | Harper Audio | 8.75 hrs.
This audiobook, narrated by the author and a talented cast, offers a cornucopia of Boyle’s vivid imaginings. His poignant stories paired with memorable narrations create a satisfying listening experience.
Joan Is Okay
By Weike Wang | Read by Catherine Ho | Random House Audio | 6.5 hrs.
Narrator Catherine Ho gives a superb performance as she perfectly inhabits Joan, a first-generation Chinese American ICU physician. Ho's skillful approach pairs beautifully with Wang's penetrating writing to draw listeners into Joan's insightful journey toward self-realization.
The Marriage Portrait
By Maggie O'Farrell | Read by Genevieve Gaunt, Maggie O'Farrell [Afterword] | Random House Audio | 13.5 hrs.
Genevieve Gaunt’s captivating performance illuminates this gripping historical novel set in Renaissance Italy like gold leaf on a beautiful manuscript. Hear the story of Lucrezia de’ Medici of Florence, who married Duke Alfonso d’Este of Ferrara in 1559.
By Leila Mottley | Read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt | Random House Audio | 10.75 hrs.
With Joniece Abbott-Pratt’s empathetic understanding of this novel’s complex characters, especially in the dialogue she performs, she creates one of the most moving and emotionally intimate audiobooks of the year.
This Time Tomorrow
By Emma Straub | Read by Marin Ireland | Penguin Audio | 8.5 hrs.
Marin Ireland offers an adroit and heartfelt performance of Emma Straub’s clever time-travel novel that explores what makes life meaningful. Ireland’s welcoming voice and deft pacing keep listeners fully engaged in the insightful, generous plot.
Nonfiction & Culture
Bad City: Peril and Power in the City of Angels
By Paul Pringle | Read by Robert Petkoff | Macmillan Audio | 9.75 hrs.
Robert Petkoff narrates L.A. TIMES reporter Pringle’s painstaking multi-year investigation into corruption that makes for a true-crime story as compelling as any novel. Petkoff conveys all of the author’s passion, indignation, and abiding sense of justice.
Fen, Bog & Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis
By Annie Proulx | Read by Gabra Zackman | Simon & Schuster Audio | 5 hrs.
As Gabra Zackman narrates with exquisite timing and thoughtful pacing, listeners learn much from Proulx’s longtime focus on the wetter world. Proulx’s prose sparkles, and Zackman’s intelligent performance encourages listeners to absorb its powerful message.
Inside Voice: My Obsession With How We Sound
By Lake Bell | Read by Lake Bell et al. | Pushkin Industries | 6 hrs.
Film director Lake Bell says she is “obsessed with voices.” In this direct-to-audio book full of wide-ranging material, she considers matters anatomical, social, political, and historical as they relate to people’s voices.
Life Between the Tides
By Adam Nicolson | Read by Leighton Pugh | Tantor Media | 10 hrs.
English actor Leighton Pugh’s engaging voice, which is both crisp and warm, is the perfect accompaniment to Adam Nicolson’s consideration of life in intertidal rock pools. A tender ode to nature.
The Philosophy of Modern Song
By Bob Dylan | Read by Bob Dylan, Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, Oscar Isaac, Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno, Sissy Spacek, Alfre Woodard, Jeffrey Wright, Renée Zellweger | Simon & Schuster Audio | 6.5 hrs.
This momentous work takes listeners deep inside the emotional narratives and cultural ethos behind seven decades of pop songs. It’s a moving experience to hear Dylan’s takes on iconic songs, and other remarkable cast members all narrate with engagement and charisma.
Rhyme's Rooms: The Architecture of Poetry
By Brad Leithauser | Read by Kevin R. Free |Random House Audio | 11.25 hrs.
Poetry is meant to be heard, and this detailed explanation of its pistons and gears finds its natural form as an audiobook. Narrator Kevin R. Free performs the work with ease, clarity, and precision.
Mystery & Suspense
The Bangalore Detectives Club
By Harini Nagendra | Read by Soneela Nankani | Blackstone Audio | 9.25 hrs.
With an engaging South Indian accent and lively characterizations, Golden Voice narrator Soneela Nankani paints a vibrant listening experience. When a defenseless woman is implicated in a murder case, new bride Kaveri launches an investigation in 1920s colonial Bangalore.
Birds of Prey: The Harlan Coben Challenge
By Kelley Armstrong, Ace Atkins, C.J. Box, Allison Brennan, S.A. Cosby, et al. | Read by Lisa Flanagan, Nicky Endres, Fred Berman, MacLeod Andrews, Justis Bolding, Cary Hite, Helen Laser, Amanda Dolan, Dan Bittner, Julia Motyka, Eunice Wong | Audible, Inc. | 9 hrs.
Harlan Coben challenged fellow authors to produce short audio-original thrillers inspired by birds of prey, and the result is a gripping and varied collection of expertly narrated mini-thrillers.
The Bullet That Missed: Thursday Murder Club, Book 3
By Richard Osman | Read by Fiona Shaw, Richard Osman, Steph McGovern [Interview] | Penguin Audio | 11.25 hrs.
The great Fiona Shaw’s performance of this third outing for the Thursday Murder Club is a multilayered joy. Her technique is impeccable as she delivers the deliciously funny dialogue of Osman’s elderly characters. A comic marvel.
By Nita Prose | Read by Lauren Ambrose | Random House Audio | 9.5 hrs.
Narrator Lauren Ambrose performs this creatively crafted mystery featuring Molly, a hotel maid who finds a dead body while cleaning a suite. All clues point to her. Ambrose’s narration is perfection as Molly tries to solve the case and save herself.
By Harlan Coben | Read by Steven Weber | Brilliance Audio | 10 hrs.
This audiobook is an edge-of-your-seat gripper. Wilde is a loner hero who survived living alone in the woods as a child. The story takes off like a rocket when family members are discovered, disappear, and bodies start to pile up. Narrator Steven Weber is a wizard at making the characters vivid. High-octane fun.
A Spy's Life: Robert Harland, Book 1
By Henry Porter | Read by Matthew Lloyd Davies | HighBridge Audio | 15.5 hrs.
Matthew Lloyd Davies’s performance is intelligent, honest, and compelling in this intriguing story filled with spycraft and surprises. Davies’s flexible voice and characterizations are credible thanks to his top-notch acting, and he captures all the emotions packed into this terrific audiobook.
Finding Me: A Memoir
By Viola Davis | Read by Viola Davis | Harper Audio | 9.25 hrs.
Actor Viola Davis’s memoir captures the voice of a woman with a fascinating, heartbreaking lived experience. She is the consummate actor and storyteller, perfect for the audiobook medium. Her voice is vulnerable yet strong, and the result is electric.
I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir
By Harvey Fierstein | Read by Harvey Fierstein | Random House Audio | 12.5 hrs.
This wonderful audiobook is a special treat for those who know and love actor, writer, and director Harvey Fierstein. He narrates himself in THAT VOICE, and his singular, often outrageous perspective reflects his artistry. A must-listen.
In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss
By Amy Bloom | Read by Amy Bloom | Random House Audio | 4.75 hrs.
Amy Bloom’s memoir moves gently between anecdotes of her past with her husband, Brian, and the journey the two take to Switzerland for their final days together. A loving tribute, and Bloom’s narration is remarkable.
Solito: A Memoir
By Javier Zamora | Read by Javier Zamora | Random House Audio | 17.5 hrs.
Javier Zamora narrates his memoir with power and quiet, beautiful humanity. His account of his childhood migration from El Salvador to the U.S. provides listeners with a window into a truly heartbreaking first-person experience.
Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts
By Rebecca Hall, Tyler English-Beckwith | Read by DeWanda Wise, Chanté Adams, Jerrie Johnson, Bahni Turpin, and a Full Cast | Podium Audio | 1.75 hrs.
Woman Without Shame
By Sandra Cisneros | Read by Sandra Cisneros | Random House Audio | 2.5 hrs.
Sandra Cisneros’s performance of her poetry is a marvel. Her voice is a wonderful instrument conveying her intentions in these deeply personal poems examining life as a woman of a certain age in Mexico and the U.S. with humor and poignancy.
Biography & History
American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis
By Adam Hochschild | Read by Jonathan Todd Ross | Harper Audio | 15 hrs.
This is undoubtedly one of the year’s best and most important histories, narrated with impressive skill, balance, and restraint by Jonathan Todd Ross. The era of WWI and the 1920s was a time of unchecked racism, union opposition, and patriotic fervor, making this difficult but important listening still relevant today.
By Lloyd Suh | Read by Gregory Harrison, Larry Powell, Kurt Kanazawa | L.A. Theatre Works | 2 hrs.
In this fast-paced, comically insightful theatrical dialogue, narrators Gregory Harrison and Larry Powell spar as the brilliant, abrasive, confident Franklin and his not-so-confident illegitimate son, William. A marvelously performed entertaining romp through history.
His Name Is George Floyd: One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice
By Robert Samuels, Toluse Olorunnipa | Read by Dion Graham, Robert Samuels, Toluse Olorunnipa [Intro.] | Penguin Audio | 13.5 hrs.
Dion Graham narrates with such knowing naturalism and compassion that it will just about break listeners’ hearts. He brings sensitive, bighearted George Floyd’s story to life in this moving audiobook.
The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams
By Stacy Schiff | Read by Jason Culp | Hachette Audio | 14.25 hrs.
Virtuoso narrator Jason Culp re-creates the world of the American Revolution in this biographical work on an almost-forgotten Founding Father. Culp moves smoothly between the writings of Adams’s fellow revolutionaries and Schiff’s brisk narrative of the tumultuous time.
Super-Infinite: The Transformation of John Donne
By Katherine Rundell | Read by Simon Vance | Blackstone Audio | 7 hrs.
Portraying the life of the seventeenth-century poet John Donne, narrator Simon Vance is, as always, eloquent, precise, and finely attuned. A fine production of one of the year’s best literary biographies.
You Don't Know Us Negroes: And Other Essays
By Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Genevieve West [Eds. & Intro.] | Read by Robin Miles | Harper Audio | 15.25 hrs.
Robin Miles captures Hurston’s intonations and invigorates her essays with an understanding of the author’s intentions, helping to reveal her meanings and bring Hurston’s world vividly to life.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
The Atlas Six: Atlas, Book 1
By Olivie Blake | Read by Steve West, David Monteith, Damian Lynch, Caitlin Kelly, Andy Ingalls, Munirih Grace, Siho Ellsmore, James Patrick Cronin | Macmillan Audio | 16 hrs.
Six exceptional individuals are recruited to join the mysterious Alexandrian Society. Listeners hear from prospective initiates from alternating points of view as the competition unfolds, all performed by a talented ensemble of narrators.
A Court of Mist and Fury: A Court of Thorns and Roses, Book 2
By Sarah J. Maas | Read by Melody Muze, Anthony Palmini, Henry W. Kramer, Jon Vertullo, Amanda Forstrom, and a Full Cast | GraphicAudio | 8 hrs.
Melody Muze inhabits the role of this story’s narrator, along with Feyre, a mortal in an immortal body who lives in the land of Faerie. Sound effects, background music, and an imaginative cast enhance this magical battle between good and evil.
Even Though I Knew the End
By C.L. Polk | Read by January LaVoy | Recorded Books | 3.75 hrs.
January LaVoy’s captivating talents are on full display as she narrates a romantic, fantastical noir mystery. Helen Brandt has sold her soul to a demon, but now faces a chance to earn it back, save her city, and have a future with her girl.
Maxine Justice: Galactic Attorney
By Daniel Schwabauer | Read by Aimee Lilly | Oasis Audio | 9 hrs.
There can be no doubt that narrator Aimee Lilly is having fun portraying Maxine Justice, who is feisty, resilient, and a bit down on her luck. Lilly captures all of Max’s dry wit, which makes this whimsical sci-fi story full of humans, robots, and aliens even more effective.
Moon Witch, Spider King: Dark Star Trilogy, Book 2
By Marlon James | Read by Bahni Turpin | Penguin Audio | 30.75 hrs.
Bahni Turpin shows extraordinary range in her expert narration of this sprawling fantasy, the second installment of the Dark Star Trilogy. Listeners are treated to the fascinating and tumultuous 177-year life story of the witch Sogolon—from her painful childhood to her rise to power.
Witches Abroad: Discworld, Book 12
By Terry Pratchett | Read by Indira Varma, Peter Serafinowicz, Bill Nighy | Penguin Audio UK | 9.75 hrs.
This highly amusing new recording of a classic in Pratchett’s beloved Discworld series, primarily narrated by Indira Varma with distinct British voices, introduces listeners to a godmother-witch, Magrat. She must stop the servant Emberella from marrying the prince, which (surprisingly) would destroy the kingdom.
Delilah Green Doesn't Care
By Ashley Herring Blake | Read by Kristen DiMercurio | Penguin Audio | 11.75 hrs.
Kristen DiMercurio gives a spirted performance of this funny, sexy, and heartwarming queer rom-com. Delilah Green returns to Bright Falls to photograph her sister’s wedding—and falls for her sister’s best friend.
Honey & Spice
By Bolu Babalola | Read by Weruche Opia | Harper Audio | 12 hrs.
Weruche Opia’s confident narration sings with a heady mix of feminine power and vulnerability. Opia builds an elegant, charismatic persona for Kiki Banjo, who doles out feminist relationship advice on her radio show. Add a fake relationship and a magical connection for a spellbinding story.
Kamila Knows Best
By Farah Heron | Read by Soneela Nankani | Hachette Audio | 10.75 hrs.
The remarkably talented narrator Soneela Nankani performs this EMMA-inspired romance flawlessly. Kamila Hussain is living the perfect life—save for romance—and listeners will adore watching her find her way toward her surprisingly perfect match.
Seatmate: Love Lines, Book 3
By Cara Bastone | Read by Amanda Ronconi, Zachary Webber, Josh Hurley, Carol Monda, Corey Allen, Allyson Johnson, Eric Yves Garcia, Tanya Eby, Dina Pearlman | Audible, Inc. | 5.25 hrs.
Narrators Amanda Ronconi and Zachary Webber are utterly convincing as two seatmates who hit it off on a crowded and eventful bus ride from Boston to New York City. The immediacy of their story, the skilled cast of secondary characters, and immersive sound effects make for an addicting treat.
By Alexis Hall | Read by Nicholas Boulton | Brilliance Audio | 10.75 hrs.
Narrating with verve, Nicholas Boulton delivers a delightful romp through romance tropes and genres. Stuffy Valentine Layton, Duke of Malvern, and flighty Bonaventure Tarleton are total opposites—and yet, they fall for each other on the hunt for Bonny’s sister, Valentine’s intended match.
Thank You for Listening
By Julia Whelan | Read by Julia Whelan | Harper Audio | 11.25 hrs.
Author and Golden Voice Julia Whelan narrates the emotional and romantic story of Sewanee, an actress who finds success as an audiobook narrator after a tragic accident. Listeners will hear sparks fly when Sewanee collaborates with a secretive male narrator.
Ain't Burned All the Bright
By Jason Reynolds | Read by Jason Reynolds, Nile Bullock, Tatum Marylin Hall, JaQwan J. Kelly, DePre Owens | Simon & Schuster Audio | 37 mins.
How do you create an amazing audiobook from an illustrated novel in which the vibrant art takes center stage? Record two takes: one deftly narrated by Reynolds himself, and the second voiced by an outstanding cast.
All My Rage
By Sabaa Tahir | Read by Deepti Gupta, Kamran R. Khan, Kausar Mohammed | Listening Library | 10.5 hrs.
A stellar trio of narrators delivers the alternating viewpoints in this superb contemporary novel and National Book Award-winner set in California’s desert. Grief and loss paint narrator Kamran R. Khan’s voice as he portrays Salahudin, who fears the loss of his mother and the breakdown of his friendship with Noor.
By Natalia Sylvester | Read by Frankie Corzo | Harper Audio | 9.25 hrs.
Frankie Corzo delivers a satisfying and beautiful performance with her heartfelt and nimble narration. Peruvian-American teenager Veronica has hip dysplasia; being in the water is the only way she feels relief. She longs to become a mermaid performer—but her parents don’t approve.
By Ryan La Sala | Read by Pete Cross | Scholastic Audiobooks | 10.5 hrs.
Narrator Pete Cross delivers a compelling performance of this supernatural thriller filled with secrets and emotional twists and turns at a summer camp full of surprises—and the not-so-sweet Honeys.
The Weight of Blood
By Tiffany D. Jackson | Read by JD Jackson, Sarah Mollo-Christensen, Joy Nash, Christopher Salazar, Karen Malina White | Harper Audio | 11 hrs.
Versatile narrators effectively differentiate interwoven characters’ perspectives in this retelling of Stephen King’s CARRIE. Maddy, a timid biracial teen who is bullied at school, has secret psychic powers that explode on prom night with disastrous consequences.
What Souls Are Made Of
By Tasha Suri | Read by Alex Williams, Becca Hirani | Macmillan Audio | 8.25 hrs.
Alex Williams and Becca Hirani give impassioned performances in a captivating retelling of Emily Brontë's WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Suri’s adaptation gives listeners perspectives on the minds of two teenagers who are desperately in love, while also delving into their backstories and underscoring the impact of British colonization.
Children & Family Listening
A Is for Oboe: The Orchestra's Alphabet
By Lera Auerbach, Marilyn Nelson | Read by Thomas Quasthoff | Listening Library | 50 mins.
Narrator Thomas Quasthoff's voice has a musicality perfectly suited to this rich, poetic tribute to the orchestra, with its own symphonic score to capture the heart of every instrument and musical concept.
A Different Pond
By Bao Phi | Read by Bao Phi | Dreamscape | 14 mins.
Music, sound effects, and poet Bao Phi’s soothing voice transport the listener to a boy's early morning fishing trip with his Vietnamese American father.
Eyes That Speak to the Stars
By Joanna Ho | Read by Justin Chien | Harper Audio | 5 mins.
With warmth and sensitivity, Justin Chien presents this tender story of a young Chinese boy learning how his legacy, culture, and deep family ties are represented by his eyes.
How Do You Live?
By Genzaburo Yoshino, Bruno Navasky [Trans.], Neil Gaiman [Fore.] | Read by Brian Nishii | Recorded Books | 6.25 hrs.
Brian Nishii narrates this uniquely thoughtful audiobook, translated from a 1937 Japanese classic that is surprisingly relevant today. Nishii creates a heartfelt Copper, who seeks advice from his uncle about how to live up to his own lofty ideals.
The Last Mapmaker
By Christina Soontornvat | Read by Sura Siu | OrangeSky Audio | 7.5 hrs.
Sura Siu captivates as she narrates this breathtaking seafaring adventure featuring Sai, a bright-voiced 12-year-old girl seeking a better life. Mutiny, dragons, storms, and new worlds await!
By A.A. Milne| Read by Barbara Rosenblat | Design Sound Productions | 3.5 hrs.
Listeners meet Piglet, Eeyore, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, and, of course, Christopher Robin and his friend Winnie-the-Pooh in this classic. Beautifully narrated by Barbara Rosenblat, these stories will linger in the hearts and minds of all listeners.