AudioFile, the 30-year-old bimonthly magazine dedicated to covering and reviewing audiobooks, has named its Best Audiobooks of 2023. The list, selected annually by AudioFile editors, recognizes audiobooks in nine categories: biography and memoir; children and family listening; nonfiction and history; sci-fi, fantasy, and horror; audio originals; fiction; mystery and suspense; romance; and young adult. This year's list—which includes a new category, audio originals, in addition to other changes—has 53 winners.
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. As it did last year, the magazine has also released a Spotify playlist featuring its Behind the Mic episodes on certain listed titles, and AudioFile founder Robin Whitten recorded an introductory "audiogram" exclusively for PW, which can be played above.
The following are AudioFile's Best Audiobooks of 2022, including citations and links to the magazine's reviews.
Biography & Memoir
The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession
By Michael Finkel | Read by Edoardo Ballerini, Michael Finkel [Note] | Random House Audio | 5.5 hrs.
Narrator Edoardo Ballerini performs his customary magic with Finkel’s memorable portrait of Stéphane Breitwieser, the sly European thief who pilfered nearly $2 billion in art objects, enhancing the narrative’s strengths and minimizing its shortcomings.
How to Say Babylon
By Safiya Sinclair| Read by Safiya Sinclair | Simon & Schuster Audio | 16.75 hrs.
Author/narrator Safiya Sinclair emphasizes the poetry of her words as she narrates her memoir about growing up in a close-knit Jamaican family with a strict Rastafarian father. Her soft accent sounds like gentle waves.
King: A Life
By Jonathan Eig | Read by Dion Graham | Macmillan Audio | 20.75 hrs.
Dion Graham superbly narrates this riveting audiobook, emulating the majestic cadence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, speeches while capturing the Civil Rights leader’s deep, resonant tone and deliberate ministerial intonation.
Making It So
By Patrick Stewart | Read by Patrick Stewart | Simon & Schuster Audio | 18.75 hrs.
Yorkshireman Sir Patrick Stewart presents a revealing, clear, and beautifully written memoir, discussing of his journey from humble beginnings to the heights of international stardom. His performance is compassionate, sensitive, and powerful, with well-paced timing and notable precision exercised in every word.
While You Were Out: An Intimate Family Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence
By Meg Kissinger | Read by Meg Kissinger | Macmillan Audio | 11 hrs.
Journalist Meg Kissinger gives a stellar narration of her extraordinarily affecting memoir about growing up in the 1960s in a close-knit Irish-Catholic family of eight children, many of whom were afflicted with mental illness.
Why Fathers Cry at Night: A Memoir in Love Poems, Recipes, Letters, and Remembrances
By Kwame Alexander | Read by Kwame Alexander | Hachette Audio | 3.5 hrs.
Poet and narrator Kwame Alexander brings poignancy to his “snapshots of a man learning to love. Again.” His memoir is a savory-sweet mix of poems, letters, and recipes, shot through with a poet’s rhythms and unique experiences that strike a universal chord.
Children & Family Listening
Elf Dog and Owl Head
By M.T. Anderson | Read by Pete Cross | Dreamscape | 4.25 hrs.
Narrator Pete Cross makes magic of his own in Anderson’s newest fantasy for middle-grade listeners. Cross imbues a teen named Clay with youthful sincerity and awe and gives every secondary character a unique voice and energy level.
Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy
By Angie Thomas | Read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt | Harper Audio | 9.5 hrs.
Magic flows as Joniece Abbott-Pratt brings to life Nic Blake’s 12th birthday. Abbott-Pratt skillfully portrays real and supernatural characters throughout. She enhances descriptive passages, along with the folklore that grounds this outstanding start to a new series.
By Jacqueline Woodson | Read by Jacqueline Woodson | Listening Library | 3 hrs.
Jacqueline Woodson renders her story’s rhythms skillfully, emphasizing refrains that allow listeners to luxuriate in her words and linger in powerful details. She paints a picture of her beloved Brooklyn, creates memorable characters, and gives voice to a young person who is finding her true self.
Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild
By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, June Jo Lee | Read by Lori Prince, Sandor Katz | Live Oak Media | 10 mins.
Fermentation expert Sandor Katz’s hearty voice punctuates Lori Prince’s overall narration of this picture book biography of Katz, who moved to a “community of queer folk” in Tennessee in search of a healthy life after his HIV diagnosis. The whole package fizzes with briny verve.
The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale
By Jon Klassen | Read by Fairuza Balk, Jon Klassen | Dreamscape | 22 mins.
Narrator Fairuza Balk expertly differentiates the characters in Klassen’s retelling of a mysterious Tyrolean folktale. The use of music and sound effects—heavy, regal strains, along with a whistling wind and a crackling fire—befit the setting and story.
Stuntboy, In-Between Time: Stuntboy, Book 2
By Jason Reynolds | Read by Guy Lockard, Nile Bullock, Angel Pean, James Fouhey, and a Full Cast | Simon & Schuster Audio | 3 hrs.
Guy Lockard is the energetic and enthusiastic heart of this new Stuntboy adventure, narrated by a talented cast with lively music and goofy sound effects. This audiobook is absolutely hilarious and, at the same time, is a heartfelt story about managing big changes in the family.
Nonfiction & History
Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America
By Steve Inskeep | Read by Steve Inskeep | Penguin Audio | 9 hrs.
Steve Inskeep, of NPR, performs this compelling listen with the practiced cadence and authoritative tone of a polished broadcaster. The politics of today are illuminated in this fine, deftly narrated work.
Misbelief: What Makes Rational People Believe Irrational Things
By Dan Ariely | Read by Simon Jones | Harper Audio | 10 hrs.
Narrating this chatty and informative audiobook, Simon Jones delivers a flawless performance full of lively interpretations and emotional resonance. The acclaimed British actor is enormously entertaining but never steals the spotlight from Ariely’s fascinating insights about conspiracy believers.
Poverty, by America
By Matthew Desmond | Read by Dion Graham | Random House Audio | 5.75 hrs.
Dion Graham, master of nonfiction narration, sets off quotations flawlessly, brings exquisite emotion to the text and varies his pacing to complement the flow of Matthew Desmond’s writing. As in their previous pairing (Evicted, 2016), Graham performs with energy and intensity, matching Desmond’s outrage.
By John McPhee | Read by Grover Gardner | Recorded Books | 6 hrs.
This interesting and engaging audio collection of essays and sketches by John McPhee and narrated by Grover Gardner is a marriage of good storytellers. Gardner carries the work along with an even pace and pleasant voice.
The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder
By David Grann| Read by Dion Graham | Random House Audio | 8.5 hrs.
Dion Graham commands the listener’s attention with this true story of HMS Wager, an English warship that sailed in the 1740s. Graham delivers the nautical adventures with a mesmerizing cadence and impeccable timing.
Wasteland: The Secret World of Waste and the Urgent Search for a Cleaner Future
By Oliver Franklin-Wallis | Read by Chris Harper | Hachette Audio | 11 hrs.]
Chris Harper captures Franklin-Wallis’s urgent call for change in this chilling audiobook about waste around the globe. The author’s combined journalistic and personal approach is aided by Harper’s British coolness.
Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror
By Hannah Kaner | Read by Kit Griffiths |Harper Audio | 12.75 hrs.
This fantasy with captivating world-building and characters requires an expert emotional performance—and Kit Griffiths delivers. Their narration is at once endearing and powerful, truly embodying characters of different ages, races, and genders. It’s a master class in inclusive narration within a highly engaging story.
Holly: Holly Gibney, Book 3
By Stephen King | Read by Justine Lupe, Stephen King [Note] | Simon & Schuster Audio | 15.5 hrs.]
Justine Lupe brings a beloved Stephen King character, Holly Gibney, vividly to life with her narration. Listeners will feel like they are part of a true-crime podcast as Lupe transports them into a relentless nightmare.
In the Lives of Puppets
By TJ Klune | Read by Daniel Henning | Macmillan Audio | 15.5 hrs.
Narrator Daniel Henning demonstrates perfect comedic timing and impressive vocal versatility in this queer/sci-fi retelling of “Pinocchio.” This laugh-out-loud, emotional audiobook asks listeners to question what it means to be human.
By Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Read by Gisela Chípe | Random House Audio | 13 hrs.
Gisela Chípe’s skilled narration captivates in this immersive novel about childhood best friends, set in ‘90s Mexico City. Chípe’s excellent pacing and dynamic voice keep the tension high as events turn deadly.
By Ann Leckie | Read by Adjoa Andoh | Hachette Audio | 12 hrs.
Adjoa Andoh narrates a complex story about identity and belonging set in the Imperial Radch universe. She expertly navigates the emotional depths of the three main characters; her performance resonates in profound ways.
The Water Outlaws
By S.L. Huang | Read by Emily Woo Zeller Dreamscape | 19.75 hrs.
Emily Woo Zeller’s fierce narration perfectly suits Huang’s sweeping fantasy retelling of the Chinese classic “Water Margin.” Zeller voices glorious action-packed fight scenes with carefully intensifying pacing, and her kaleidoscopic voice enhances a large, dynamic cast of characters.
Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For
By Alison Bechdel, Madeleine George | Read by Jane Lynch, Carrie Brownstein, Roberta Colindrez, Roxane Gay, and a Full Cast | Audible, Inc. | 3 hrs.
This full-cast audio adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s classic comic strip about the messy lives of a group of queer women in the 1980s is flawless. Music and sound effects, including protest chants and speeches, add vibrancy. A hilarious, heartfelt, and utterly compelling adaptation of a lesbian classic.
Exodus: The Shanghai Jews
By Kate McAll | Read by Edita Brychta, Michael Canavan, Shannon Cochran, Arye Gross, Anna Mathias, Alan Shearman, André Sogliuzzo, Joanne Whalley | L.A. Theatre Works | 1.5 hrs.
This play, recorded from a live performance by L.A. Theatre Works, draws on the testimonies of German and Austrian Jews who escaped to Shanghai during World War II. Each member of the cast takes on the persona of one of the Shanghai Jews, very effectively telling their stories.
The Scavenger Door: The Finder Chronicles, Book 3
By Suzanne Palmer | Read by Karen Novack, John Kielty, Rayner Gabriel, Gail Shalan, and a Full Cast |GraphicAudio | 9.75 hrs.
Karen Novack provides the glue that holds together the third futuristic adventure of Fergus Ferguson, international repo man. The skilled full cast, along with music and sound effects, ratchet up the tension as Fergus and company fight to preserve the solar system.
By Jarrett J. Krosoczka | Read by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jaiden Meltzer, Xavier Krosoczka, Noah Rico, and a Full Cast | Scholastic Audiobooks | 2.25 hrs.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s second memoir recounts his experiences as a teen counselor at a camp for terminally ill children. Originally a graphic memoir, it becomes a powerful cinematic audio because of the coordination of more than 50 narrators, carefully selected music, and sound effects that enhance the action.
By Felicia Day | Read by Sean Astin, Felicia Day, Neil Gaiman, LilyPichu, London Hughes, Wil Wheaton, and a Full Cast | Audible, Inc. | 7 hrs.
A full cast of talented narrators offers a rollicking rendition of Felicia Day’s audio-only fantasy. Exuberant sound effects and music enhance the production and the entire cast provides perfectly timed, lively performances.
By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah | Read by Shayna Small, Aaron Goodson, Michael Crouch, Lee Osorio | Random House Audio | 13.75 hrs.
This thought-provoking audiobook, primarily narrated by Shayna Small, imagines an America in which convicted murderers duel to the death in a wildly popular televised sport. A stunning ensemble performance that asks listeners to consider the American prison system and how it tolerates actions akin to slavery and torture.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store
By James McBride | Read by Dominic Hoffman | Penguin Audio | 12.5 hrs.
Dominic Hoffman fully inhabits the characters in McBride’s fresh, vital, beautifully written historical novel, resulting in a deeply immersive listening experience.
I Have Some Questions for You
By Rebecca Makkai | Read by Julia Whelan, JD Jackson |Penguin Audio | 14 hrs.]
Julia Whelan's performance is so consistently gripping that listeners may attempt to finish this entire audiobook in a single sitting. Whelan deftly navigates the cast of characters and JD Jackson shines in a pivotal cameo that is essential to the story and a bonus for audiobook fans.
The Late Americans
By Brandon Taylor | Read by Kevin R. Free | Penguin Audio | 9.25 hrs.
Kevin R. Free delivers a dazzling performance of a novel that centers around contemporary artists living in Iowa City. Free’s narration moves among the viewpoints of the main characters with ease, expressing every inch of their humanity and capturing their inner lives.
By Ann Patchett | Read by Meryl Streep | Harper Audio | 11.5 hrs.]
Meryl’s Streep’s captivating performance of Patchett’s novel transforms the fine book into a must-listen. Instead of character voices, Streep shifts rhythm and tone to reveal personalities. She speaks with warmth, savoring along with us the novel’s many lessons and satisfactions.
By R.F. Kuang | Read by Helen Laser | Harper Audio | 8.75 hrs.
Helen Laser gives a mesmerizing performance in Kuang’s poignant novel about race, censorship, and the capriciousness of social media. A riveting production of a thrilling and thought-provoking story.
Mystery & Suspense
All the Sinners Bleed
By S.A. Cosby | Read by Adam Lazarre-White | Macmillan Audio | 13 hrs.
Adam Lazarre-White draws listeners into Cosby’s thought-provoking story of Titus Crowne, the first Black sheriff in the small Virginia county of Charon. Lazarre-White masterfully portrays people of multiple races, old and young, and delivers reflections on family, grief, and faith with genuine introspection.
By Eleanor Catton | Read by Saskia Maarleveld |Audible, Inc. | 12.75 hrs.
This listening experience grows more compelling chapter by chapter. Saskia Maarleveld’s delivery is matchless—fluent and sensitive to the finest nuances of a story whose every turn is unexpected yet entirely plausible. It’s an outstanding act of balance and a remarkable feat for author and narrator alike.
Dead Man's Pose: Yoga Mat Mysteries, Book 1
By Susan Rogers, John Roosen | Read by Rupert Degas | G-EMS PTY LTD, PS LLC | 10 hrs.
Golden Voice narrator Rupert Degas takes listeners to Sydney, Australia, in this quirky new mystery series. Degas’s spirited Elaina and ingenious Ric delightfully play off each other. Audio is ideal since conversations and evocative descriptions abound.
By Stacey Abrams | Read by Adenrele Ojo | Random House Audio | 12.5 hrs.
Adenrele Ojo returns to portray smart, feisty Supreme Court clerk Avery Keene in her second adventure. Once again, Abrams has written a complex plot that sweeps Avery into a dangerous situation. Listeners will be chilled by the potential of real threats and thrilled by the intense listening experience.
The Secret Hours
By Mick Herron | Read by Gerard Doyle | Recorded Books | 12.75 hrs.
Gerard Doyle performs this stand-alone dispatch from Mick Herron’s cynical “spook street” world with such dry resignation that it is often laugh-out-loud funny. His vocal control is masterly, his pacing, range, and attention to detail a perfect match for Herron’s, which is highest praise.
Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers
By Jesse Q. Sutanto | Read by Eunice Wong | Penguin Audio | 10.75 hrs.
Eunice Wong’s brisk performance perfectly suits this humorous yet poignant cozy mystery. Wong manages the large cast—young and old, Chinese, Southeast Asian, South Asian, and American—with plenty of energy and enthusiasm, subtly distinguishing among them while illuminating their individual stories.
10 Things That Never Happened: Material World, Book 1
By Alexis Hall | Read by Will Watt | Dreamscape | 10.25 hrs.
Will Watt’s delightful performance amplifies the holiday magic in Hall’s contemporary workplace romance. His comedic timing and attuned delivery of dialogue and narrative draw out the depths of humor and heart, and more than a few laugh-out-loud moments.
Even If the Sky Is Falling
By Taj McCoy | Read by Adenrele Ojo, Soneela Nankani, Karen Murray, Marissa Hampton, Donnabella Mortel, Joy Beharie, Teddy Hamilton | Harlequin Audio | 9.75 hrs.
Who is the person you most want to be with at the end of the world? Six couples try to answer that question before a meteor shower ends everything. The narrations shift from humorous to thoughtful to romantic in tone, delivering warm performances across the board.
Full Moon Over Freedom
By Angelina M. Lopez | Read by Stacy Gonzalez | Harlequin Audio | 11.5 hrs.
Stacy Gonzalez’s fierce narration of Lopez’s second-chance romance is a stormy yet satisfying listen. Gonzalez’s boundless sensitivity to the longings of the heart completely transforms the story through her audio performance.
By Ali Hazelwood | Read by Thérèse Plummer | Penguin Audio | 12.5 hrs.
Thérèse Plummer gives a dazzling performance of this romance set in the world of theoretical physics at MIT. Her upbeat delivery of hilarious banter and heartfelt swoony moments between the couple will leave listeners feeling every bit of their tension-filled enemies-to-lovers romance.
A Rake of His Own: Stariel, Book 5
By A.J. Lancaster | Read by Nicholas Boulton | Podium Audio | 13.75 hrs.
Nicholas Boulton’s narration of this audiobook—part fantasy, part mystery, part romance—is all pleasure. Across the board, Boulton’s crisp, drawling voice meets the challenges of Lancaster’s fae romp.
By Cathy Yardley | Read by Chris Brinkley, Elyse Dinh | Brilliance Audio | 10 hrs.
Chris Brinkley and Elyse Dinh pair up for a delightful performance in this fresh nerdy romance. Both narrators depict the genuine struggle faced by characters who are coping with life’s new chapters and finding joy in unexpected places.
Ander & Santi Were Here
By Jonny Garza Villa | Read by Avi Roque | Macmillan Audio | 12.5 hrs.
Avi Roque gives a spirited, deeply emotional performance of this queer love story set in San Antonio. Roque’s warm and musical narration is utter perfection—a heartbreaking but joyful love letter to queer Latinx communities.
By Lesa Cline-Ransome | Read by Tyla Collier, Kevin R. Free, Rebecca Lee, Jaime Lincoln Smith, Dion Graham, Angel Pean | Dreamscape | 8 hrs.
A superb ensemble of narrators brings this story of familial love and racial oppression in 1930s Mississippi to life. Each narrator is paired perfectly with a specific character, and the author narrates an addendum detailing her research for the setting.
By Lila Riesen | Read by Gilli Messer | Listening Library | 9.5 hrs.
Gilli Messer narrates this story of Afghan American teenager Mafi Shahin, who struggles to right injustices as a secret avenger. Messer beautifully brings Mafi to life, infusing her voice with just the right amount of angst mixed with disgust at people’s behavior.
The Grimoire of Grave Fates
By Hanna Alkaf, Margaret Owen [Eds.] | Read by January LaVoy, Nicky Endres | Listening Library | 12.5 hrs.
January LaVoy’s and Nicky Endres’s stunning versatile performances in this mystery about a magic school are as alluring as its whodunit plot. Written by 18 different authors, the chapters recount the 18 perspectives of queer, trans, and other marginalized students.
Only This Beautiful Moment
By Abdi Nazemian | Read by Vikas Adam, Fajer Al-Kaisi, Iman Nazemzadeh | Harper Audio | 11.5 hrs.
Three gripping narrators give transcendent performances in this raw and stunning story of three generations of an Iranian family. Vikas Adam, Fajer Al-Kaisi, and Iman Nazemzadeh give performances that are as different as their respective characters, yet carry the same compassion.
Warrior Girl Unearthed
By Angeline Boulley | Read by Isabella Star LaBlanc | Macmillan Audio | 11.5 hrs.
Isabella Star LaBlanc excels at weaving a gripping plot and a lyrical blending of languages in Boulley’s second book about an Indigenous heroine from Sugar Island, Michigan.