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AudioFile's Best Audiobooks of 2021

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    ALWAYS by Morris Gleitzman, read by Morris Gleitzman

    Author Morris Gleitzman returns to narrate a well-paced, heartfelt final adventure featuring Felix Salinger. Wassim, a biracial 10-year-old living with his uncle in Eastern Europe, turns to Felix, a man his grandfather knew who is now in his 80s, for help in dealing with a group that is terrorizing his family. Alternating between Wassim’s and Felix’s points of view, Gleitzman’s comforting voice bolsters listeners as they encounter virulent injustice, racism, and other challenging subject matter.

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    ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS by Rainbow Rowell, read by Euan Morton

    Euan Morton returns to narrate the final installment in the Simon Snow series. Morton’s exceptional talent shines as he modulates between European and American accents and seamlessly shifts tones to bring each distinct character to life. Simon, voiced listlessly, must figure out his place in the World of Mages. And Baz, speaking sardonically, just wants to hold on to his boyfriend despite family circumstances that demand his attention.

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    APPLES NEVER FALL by Liane Moriarty, read by Caroline Lee

    The Delaneys are not an ordinary family, and Joy and Stan, well-respected retired tennis coaches and parents of four near-pros, find themselves immersed in the mystery of a lifetime. Australian narrator Caroline Lee is an amazing performer who digs so deeply into her characters’ personas that listeners will become addicted to each witty, insightful, and gutsy one.

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    Watch a video with narrator Caroline Lee

    BEGINNER'S MIND by Yo-Yo Ma, read by Yo-Yo Ma

    Classical musician and cultural icon Yo-Yo Ma treats listeners to a unique and exquisite aural gem, seamlessly blending self-discovery and musical storytelling. In his innovative take on a memoir, Ma recounts various details of his life while inviting listeners to ponder humanity and hope with a beginner’s mind.

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    BLACK BOY JOY by Kwame Mbalia [Ed.], read by Amir Abdullah, Taj Leahy

    Author and editor Kwame Mbalia brings an outstanding ensemble of Black male and non-binary writers together in this timely audio anthology. Seventeen works portray the power of joy in Black boys’ lives, while the storytelling skills of narrators Amir Abdullah and Taj Leahy shine as they employ an astonishing array of voices to enhance dozens of characters.

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    Listen to an interview with narrator Amir Abdullah

    BLACK WATER SISTER by Zen Cho, read by Catherine Ho

    Narrator Catherine Ho delivers a stellar performance of this layered urban fantasy set in contemporary Malaysia. Jess’s college degree and secret girlfriend are not enough to keep her in the U.S. when her parents return to their homeland. She soon discovers that the gods and spirits are very real there. Ho’s seamless transitions between characters and accents keep listeners rooted in the story’s Southeast Asian setting.

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    BLOOD GROVE by Walter Mosley, read by Michael Boatman

    Michael Boatman masterfully voices numerous characters from various races and backgrounds, male and female, young and old. Easy Rawlins reluctantly takes on the case of a disturbed white Vietnam veteran who is convinced he stabbed a Black man. Rawlins’s persistence to uncover the truth leads him to dangerous places. Boatman’s performance of beautifully written moments of observation is captivating.

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    THE BOYS by Ron Howard, Clint Howard, read by Ron Howard, Clint Howard, Bryce Dallas Howard

    Entertainment icon brothers Ron and Clint Howard share a memoir that never strays far from being a sincere loving tribute to their late Midwest-born parents and grandparents for the values they instilled. With voices bright with high style and that special talent some actors have for making the conversation seem so intimate and direct, the tales of the Hollywood television and film industries of the 1950s, 1960s, and beyond are gently and effectively told.

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    CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr, read by Marin Ireland, Simon Jones

    Marin Ireland and Simon Jones sparkle as they narrate this immersive time-traveling novel. The interwoven narrative shifts in time from the fall of Constantinople (1450s) to present-day small-town Idaho and to a future set on a spacecraft. From accounts of myths to misbegotten environmental terrorism, Doerr’s novel pulls out all the stops, and the narrators create an enduring listening experience.

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    CONCRETE ROSE by Angie Thomas, read by Dion Graham

    Narrator Dion Graham shines bright in this YA prequel, set 17 years before the events in THE HATE U GIVE. We hear the fast-paced, sometimes frantic, thoughts of a Black teenage boy in way over his head—dealing drugs in order to help his mother take care of his family. In those moments, Graham sounds like a poet, and the rhythm of his narration carries listeners away.

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    EARTHA & KITT by Kitt Shapiro, Patricia Weiss Levy, read by Karen Chilton

    Entertainment icon Eartha Kitt’s daughter, Kitt Shapiro, offers a stirring and nuanced memoir of both her mother and herself—their lives were so very intertwined. Narrator Karen Chilton’s performance is a showstopper, at once superb, stunning, evocative, and moving. The love shared by mother and daughter is most palpable throughout the transfixing bravura narration.

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    Listen to an interview with narrator Karen Chilton

    FACING THE MOUNTAIN by Daniel James Brown, read by Louis Ozawa

    Louis Ozawa narrates this true story about Japanese-Americans at home and abroad during WWII. He modulates between hope and despair with the deftness of a film composer. These heartbreaking stories shine a much needed light on the way those of Japanese heritage were treated during the war, and Ozawa's deft narration makes them even more compelling and hard to forget.

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    Listen to an interview with narrator Louis Ozawa

    FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley, read by Isabella Star LaBlanc

    Isabella Star LaBlanc brings an authentic-sounding narration to this powerful audiobook. Set amid state and tribal lands in Michigan, the story of Daunis, who is caught between these two cultures, is told with heartfelt compassion. LaBlanc masterfully amplifies Daunis’s apprehension when she becomes involved in helping the FBI investigate a new, deadly street drug.

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    Listen to an interview with narrator Isabella Star LaBlanc

    FOUR HUNDRED SOULS by Ibram X. Kendi, Keisha N. Blain [Eds.], read by JD Jackson, Kevin R. Free, January LaVoy, Robin Miles, Dion Graham, Angela Y. Davis, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and a Full Cast

    An outstanding cast brings these essays and poems vividly to life. Ninety entries, including 10 poems, encapsulate the African-American experience from 1619 to 2019. The authors tell stories both little and well known that together give the listener a symphony of voices that bring the complex, often horrific, history of Black people in the U.S. into relief.

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  • FUZZ

    FUZZ by Mary Roach, read by Mary Roach

    Author Mary Roach does a fantastic job narrating her wonderful new foray into nature’s “law-breaking” interactions with the human world. Bears, birds, elephants, macaque monkeys, lethal plants, and more take her into the field around the world. Roach reads with verve, and her phrasing and pacing keep the text moving while enabling our laughter or stunned amazement.

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    HARLEM SHUFFLE by Colson Whitehead, read by Dion Graham

    Dion Graham's performance invites listeners into the world of New York in the early 1960s. As his voice captures the feel of the times, he skillfully brings listeners the coffee shops, storefronts, and conversations of the era. Whitehead's audiobook centers on Ray Carney, who operates a struggling furniture store but is unable to escape his background in crime.

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    Listen to an interview with narrator Dion Graham

    THE HEART PRINCIPLE by Helen Hoang, read by Natalie Naudus, Brian Nishii

    Natalie Naudus and Brian Nishii narrate an emotionally demanding but ultimately rewarding romance. Musician Anna Sun feels trapped both professionally and personally when fate leads her to Quan Diep. The biker is the first person who has ever loved her simply for who she is. Anna’s emotional journey is at times devastating, and Naudus fully embodies her distress. Nishii gives Quan a quiet determination that makes his unconditional support of Anna all the more comforting.

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    Listen to an interview with narrator Natalie Naudus

    JUST AS I AM by Cicely Tyson, Michelle Burford, read by Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson, Robin Miles

    Narrator Robin Miles delivers 16 riveting, thought-provoking hours on the life and times of the author. Miles is truly remarkable as she relates wonderfully amusing anecdotes of Tyson’s life in the public eye, as well as revealing painfully intimate moments with her parents, her own family, and jazz great Miles Davis, with whom she had a longtime, turbulent relationship. Miles delivers all with elegance, dignity, and charm.

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    JUSTINE by Lawrence Durrell, read by Nicholas Boulton

    Nicholas Boulton offers a masterful performance of this first volume of Lawrence Durrell’s famed Alexandria Quartet. Boulton’s rich voice, whether persuasive with seduction or throaty with frustration, captures the experience of an unnamed narrator as he succumbs to the charms of 1940s Alexandria, Egypt, and a few of its most alluring denizens.

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    BALTHAZAR by Lawrence Durrell, read by Nicholas Boulton

    Although each of the novels of the Alexandria Quartet can stand alone, they gain depth if experienced in sequence. Fortunately, Nicholas Boulton is narrating all four, and his performance is masterly. He deploys a range of voices and accents that never leave us in doubt about who is speaking, and he draws out the characters’ emotions and perceptions, which are important in a series that is about the differences between perception and reality, seen through the lens of love.

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    MOUNTOLIVE by Lawrence Durrell, read by Nicholas Boulton

    Nicholas Boulton fully inhabits the often drunk, always stuffy, plainly ridiculous characters who ran the empire on which a British sun refused to set. Without attempting mimicry, he shifts his voice to play the Egyptian beauty in one line, her English lover in the next. His tongue wraps deftly around Durrell’s vast and sometimes-prickly vocabulary. Magnificent prose explodes in the ear, igniting the smallest detail.

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  • CLEA

    CLEA by Lawrence Durrell, read by Nicholas Boulton

    With this audiobook, narrator Nicholas Boulton completes Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. His thrilling new performance isn't merely respectful of this classic work; these characters come to life, as does the environment of WWII-era Alexandria, "the capital of memory." While the first three titles focus on several perspectives of the same characters, this audiobook focuses on the passage of time. Boulton finds the humor, pathos, and tragedy in these characters in a performance that feels effortless.

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    KALEIDOSCOPE by Brian Selznick, read by Gwendoline Christie, Brian Selznick [Note]

    Gwendoline Christie is positively spellbinding as the first-person narrator of this dreamlike story of love and grief, which is experienced like a vision through a kaleidoscope—in randomly assembled bits and pieces tinged with color. Original music for each loosely connected story sets a distinct mood and includes string music, piano, discordant orchestral arrangements, muffled voices, wordless singing. The effect is mesmerizing, and KALEIDOSCOPE is utterly unique.

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    THE LOVE SONGS OF W.E.B. DU BOIS by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, read by Adenrele Ojo, Karen Chilton, Prentice Onayemi

    Three talented narrators transport listeners with this absorbing novel. The story centers on the complicated lives of Ailey and her extended family, as well as the trials of her ancestors. Narrator Adenrele Ojo could teach a master class in narration with her flawless portrayals of the intelligent, sensitive Ailey and the other unforgettable contemporary family members. Karen Chilton guides listeners through the histories of Ailey's ancestors. Scholarly pronouncements of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois are delivered with appropriate measure and gravitas by Prentice Onayemi.

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    THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides, read by Louise Brealey, Kobna Holdbrick-Smith

    Between the three of them, author Alex Michaelides and narrators Louise Brealey and Kobna Holdbrick-Smith cast a spell that will have listeners glued to this suspenseful novel every chance they get. Group therapist Mariana returns to Cambridge University to comfort her niece after the girl’s friend is murdered. Letters from an unnamed writer describe his growing desire to kill again. Will Mariana understand in time?

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    MATRIX by Lauren Groff, read by Adjoa Andoh

    Distressingly tall and awkward, Marie de France, half sister of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, is exiled to a decrepit, far-flung abbey. There she begins her life’s work, audaciously transforming the abbey into an empowering and wholly unique sanctuary for the women within. Narrator Adjoa Andoh allows listeners to fully experience the nuns’ rich personalities, using an impressive range of accents, timbres, and rhythms throughout. Above all, it is her depiction of Marie that shines most brightly.

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    THE MURDER ON THE LINKS by Agatha Christie, Kate McAll [Adapt.], read by Alfred Molina, Simon Helberg, and a Full Cast

    This adaptation of a classic Christie whodunit to vintage radio drama format is absolutely delicious. Evocative music and portentous sound effects greatly enhance the fun, and the cast is superb. Many great actors have taken on the fussy little Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, but none better than Alfred Molina here. His Poirot is still punctilious and obsessive, but also warm and funny . . .

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    Listen to an interview with narrator Alfred Molina

    MY BROKEN LANGUAGE by Quiara Alegría Hudes, read by Quiara Alegría Hudes

    Playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes brings warmth and exuberance to her narration in this memoir of family, language, home, and coming of age as an artist. This is a memoir about language—how it shapes lives, how it lives in the body—and Hudes’s voice is as powerful as her words. The audiobook is a gorgeous mix of English and Spanish, open and musical, full of laughter and sighs, a spoken-word celebration as vibrant and overflowing with life as the stories she tells.

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    THE NIGHT GATE by Peter May, read by Peter Forbes

    This audiobook is a great example of the magic that happens when a masterful author and a talented narrator come together to deliver a captivating story. When forensics scientist Enzo Macleod is drawn out of retirement to advise on the body of a WWII soldier that was exposed by an uprooted tree, he happens into a current murder investigation. With Forbes as the guide, listeners smoothly move back and forth from war-torn Europe to pandemic-constrained current times.

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    OCEAN PREY by John Sandford, read by Richard Ferrone

    Narrator Richard Ferrone’s gritty voice is a great match for U.S. Marshal Lucas Davenport in this 31st book in the Prey series. Davenport is sent to Florida to help with an FBI investigation of murderous heroin traffickers. Sandford’s action-packed scenes, as delivered by Ferrone, keep listeners on edge while providing insights into the characters. Ferrone is masterful at performing the witty dialogue, which includes a timely discussion about police-instigated violence.

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    Listen to an interview with narrator Richard Ferrone

    PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION by Emily Henry, read by Julia Whelan

    Julia Whelan’s immersive narration and the author’s rich prose draw listeners into this slow-burn romance. Poppy is uninspired by her work as a travel writer and missing Alex, her best friend, after a falling out. Alternating chapters jump back in time to trace their friendship over a decade of annual trips. Whelan wrings out all the emotions as they inch ever closer to giving into their shared longing for each other.

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    THE PERKS OF LOVING A WALLFLOWER by Erica Ridley, read by Moira Quirk

    Narrator Moira Quirk brings an easy charm to a queer Regency romance between bluestocking Philippa York and rakish master of disguise Thomasina “Tommy” Wynchester. Tommy always sounds full of confidence—except when she’s around Philippa. When a case of plagiarism brings the two together, Tommy dons the disguise and bravado of Baron Vanderbeen, which gives her the courage to finally approach Philippa. Quirk amplifies the humor and romance as the two work together and slowly discover a deep attraction that sparkles on audio.

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    PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir, read by Ray Porter

    Through tone and pacing, narrator Ray Porter makes Andy Weir's fantastical space opera seem plausible. Porter captures the panic and semi-hysterical self-deprecation of an amnesiac who is the sole survivor on a spacecraft cruising through space. As the protagonist’s memories return, Porter is called upon to deliver a United Nations of accents.

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    Listen to an interview with narrator Ray Porter

    Watch a video with narrator Ray Porter

    REDEMPTOR by Jordan Ifueko, read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt

    Joniece Abbott-Pratt makes a triumphant return to narrate this thrilling sequel to RAYBEARER. Tarisai is now empress of Aritsar, and reckoning with its disturbing legacy. She faces daunting tasks—first, to anoint a council of rulers and, then, to enter the Underworld to end the centuries-long practice of sacrificing children to appease its malevolent spirits. Tarisai’s strength and the love of her friends shine through in Abbott-Pratt's compelling narration, which captures each character’s spirit.

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  • REEL

    REEL by Kennedy Ryan, read by Eboni Flowers, Jakobi Diem, Nicole Small

    Narrator Eboni Flowers uses her Broadway experience to portray Neevah Saint, a theater actress recruited to star in film director Canon Holt’s biopic about 1940s-era Black, bisexual singer Dessi Blue. Flowers dazzles with her emotional and vocal range. Jakobi Diem delivers Canon’s chapters, creating a refreshing hero both masculine and vulnerable. Nicole Small’s voice delineates a clear contrast for Dessi Blue’s screenplay excerpts. A layered and significant performance.

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    REMOTE CONTROL by Nnedi Okorafor, read by Adjoa Andoh

    Narrator Adjoa Andoh captivates listeners with a stunning sci-fi novella set in a near-future Ghana. Andoh is perfectly in tune with Okorafor’s compelling story, smoothly switching between her British accent as the narrator and the intonations of the vibrant characters she brings to life. As a girl, Sankofa gains incredible power and then kills everyone she loves in a tragic accident. Exploring the country on foot, she learns to control her powers.

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    RULE OF COOL by Matthew Siege, read by Felicia Day

    Felicia Day narrates a sidesplitting literary RPG (role-playing game) told from the perspective of the story’s monsters. Raze is a gearblin—a mix of goblin and gremlin—in a game in which the players carry out quests. Using a special code, Raze casts aside her chains and gathers other monsters to face down the game’s so-called heroes. Raze's journey is hilarious, and Day's performance boosts the story to the level of a must-listen for fans of the genre.

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    THE SANDMAN: ACT II by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.], read by James McAvoy, Neil Gaiman, Kat Dennings, Michael Sheen, David Tennant, John Lithgow, and a Full Cast

    Anchored by Neil Gaiman’s hypnotic storyteller’s voice, the second act of THE SANDMAN bewitches. As Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, James McAvoy sounds both imperious and weary, otherworldly and very human. The star-filled cast of actors and lush production guide listeners back and forth in time and in and out of fantastic worlds. Sound effects and original music make for a completely immersive experience.

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    THE SECRET OF LIFE by Howard Markel, read by Donald Corren

    Expertly narrated with subtle grace by Donald Corren, refreshingly clear and easy to follow, here’s a true-crime story as compelling as any whodunit. Corren’s voice possesses the quiet certainty of an investigator who’s searched the record fully, weighed all the facts, and uncovered a hive of nasty crimes. The men involved, most famously James Watson, have already told the story of how in 1953 he and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA. Their breakthrough, however, relied on crucial laboratory results stolen from X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin.

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    THE SEGONIAN by Dianne Duvall, read by Kirsten Potter

    Kirsten Potter narrates this extraterrestrial space adventure romance featuring do-or-die hero Eliana. Not only does Potter give Eliana a ringing never-surrender voice that embodies her pluck in the face of an alien attack, she also depicts the entire male crew of the spaceship that rescues Eliana from deep space. Listeners will stay engaged until the final minute.

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    SEVEN DAYS IN JUNE by Tia Williams, read by Mela Lee

    Narrator Mela Lee’s extraordinary range and dramatic style allow listeners to experience every dark, humorous, and heartbreaking moment of this fraught second-chance romance. As troubled teenagers, Eva Mercy and Shane Hall shared seven life-changing days that inspired their successful writing careers. Lee’s conversational tone lends itself well to Eva, who now hides her chronic illness and her complacency with her career behind a smile.

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    SIX CRIMSON CRANES by Elizabeth Lim, read by Emily Woo Zeller

    Narrator Emily Woo Zeller immerses listeners in this fairy-tale-inspired fantasy. Shiori, who is uninterested in her arranged engagement, learns to wield forbidden magic from a shape-shifting dragon. After stumbling upon her stepmother’s secret, Shiori is exiled and cursed to remain mute—every word uttered means death to one of her six brothers, who have been transformed into cranes.

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    Watch a video with narrator Emily Woo Zeller

    SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER by Ashley C. Ford, read by Ashley C. Ford

    Ashley C. Ford brings listeners into her life in this outstanding coming-of-age story. Her father was incarcerated when she was a toddler. Ford clearly differentiates the two sides of her mother: “Mama,” who was easygoing and kind, and “Mother,” who was physically and verbally abusive. Ford frequently fended for herself but believed her absent father offered her unconditional love.

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    SOMERSETT by Phillip Goodrich, read by Robert Petkoff, Joe Morton, Simon Jones, Euan Morton, Nicola Barber, Phillip Goodrich [Note & Afterword]

    With a sense of unbound curiosity, narrator Robert Petkoff narrates this fascinating account of the background and backroom dealings that crafted and sustained the American Revolution. The story centers on Benjamin Franklin, who dedicated the second half of his life to wresting the Colonies from England. Along the way, a 1772 judgment gave a single enslaved man, James Somersett, his freedom, creating a devastating dichotomy between abolitionist New England’s creed and what the South viewed as “property rights.”

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    STUNTBOY, IN THE MEANTIME by Jason Reynolds, read by Guy Lockard, Nile Bullock, Angel Pean, James Fouhey, Soneela Nankani, Leon Nixon, Chanté McCormick, Lamarr Gulley, DePre Owens

    With endless energy, verve, and style, Guy Lockard is a total superstar narrating this middle-grade novel about Portico Reeves, aka Stuntboy. Supported by a lively cast and a dynamic production, Lockard tells Stuntboy’s origin story—Portico loves life in his apartment building, but every time he catches his mom and dad arguing, he feels “the frets” (cue the red-alert sound effect!). So he and his best friend invent superhero alter egos. This adaptation is a special and unique audio experience guaranteed to catch and keep the attention of even the most reluctant reader or listener.

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    TOM STOPPARD by Hermione Lee, read by Steven Crossley

    British actor Steven Crossley delivers Hermione Lee’s thorough investigation of playwright Tom Stoppard’s life, covering his early years—his escape from Nazi Germany to England at the start of WWII—and leading to his eventual recognition as a renowned British playwright. From ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD (1966) to TRAVESTIES (1974), each play is given careful scrutiny, and, thanks to Crossley’s narration, each is approachable.

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    Watch a video with narrator Steven Crossley

    TONY HILLERMAN by James Morris McGrath, read by George Guidall

    Narrator George Guidall’s weathered timbre, raspy but gentle, conveys the wisdom, strength, and vulnerability that illuminate Hillerman's characters. Guidall's performance of McGrath's biography is a kind of capstone. Before he published his first novel, Hillerman had already served in WWII; then he became a successful reporter and journalism professor, teaching students that clear writing demands that "each word tell."

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    UNDER A WHITE SKY by Elizabeth Kolbert, read by Rebecca Lowman

    Narrator Rebecca Lowman is an excellent choice for Kolbert’s report on the future of our environment. Lowman narrates clearly, enunciates precisely, and provides a sense of immediacy while bringing energy and intelligence to the task. Kolbert, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is both an engaged writer and a thoughtful witness to the daunting challenges ahead. She is also a fine storyteller.

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    Listen to an interview with narrator Rebecca Lowman

    VAGRANT QUEEN 1 by Magdalene Visaggio, Jason Smith, read by Nanette Savard and a Full Cast

    Narrator Nanette Savard and an ensemble of voice actors skillfully create a universe in which a queen flees from villains who fear she will try to reclaim her throne. Thanks to the wonderful narration, it’s easy to get lost in the adventure. No-nonsense Queen Elida teams up with Isaac, a cocky rebel from the Han Solo School of Rogues, to steal a mind-control device from a bad guy.

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    Watch a video with narrator Nanette Savard

    VELVET WAS THE NIGHT by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, read by Gisela Chípe

    Narrator Gisela Chípe successfully juggles the many characters and subplots in this exciting, odd (in a good way) mystery set in 1970s Mexico. The government underwrites a group of thugs to do whatever’s necessary to keep down student protests and civil unrest. Maite agrees to cat sit for a neighbor, but the neighbor, Leonora, never returns. Then Maite’s life takes a thrilling turn as not-so-nice men show up searching for Leonora. An artful narration by Chípe and an ingeniously plotted thriller by Moreno-Garcia make this prime listening.

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    THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle, read by Kevin R. Free, Eric Carle

    This audiobook includes two versions of the late Eric Carle’s classic story, both equally delightful in different ways. The first version is brought joyfully to life by narrator Kevin R. Free with vivid sound effects and music. The second version is a special read-along track of Carle narrating slowly and simply in a gruff, friendly voice with a slight German accent. Listeners will definitely want to view the iconic illustrations as they hear the story.

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    WE ARE STILL HERE! by Traci Sorell, read by Garrett Abel, Jacob Cummings, Mary Kay Henderson, Lauren Hummingbird, Don McClellan, Ella Mounce, Kaitlyn Pinkerton, Isobel Shults, Oliver Shults, Carlos Sorell, Tonia Hogner-Weavel, Traci Sorell

    A full cast of Cherokee, Navajo, Choctaw, and Chickasaw narrators deliver a moving audiobook companion to an informative picture book. Listeners hear an introductory history of Native Nations in North America, and then a bustling classroom preparing for their Indigenous Peoples’ Day assembly. Twelve students recite brief presentations as sound effects and music evoke the bright illustrations. Each ends with a chorus of voices proudly declaring: “We are still here.”

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    WHEN WE MAKE IT by Elisabet Velasquez, read by Elisabet Velasquez

    Elisabet Velasquez narrates her debut novel-in-verse with vividness, honesty, and poignancy born of her life experience and performance expertise. Like her heroine, Sarai, Puerto Rican-American Velasquez grew up in Bushwick and knows what it’s like to be poor in the midst of increasing gentrification. Sensitive 14-year-old Sarai is working hard to discover her identity despite the mental illness of her single mother, an educational misunderstanding, the male toxicity of her neighborhood, housing and food insecurities, and a sexual assault.

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    YOU ARE WHAT YOU RISK by Michele Wucker, read by Tavia Gilbert

    Narrator Tavia Gilbert’s voice is perfect for this intelligent exploration by an international crisis analyst. Gilbert’s mature, assertive tone fits the author’s command of her topic. Even when sentences are packed with information, Gilbert’s flawless phrasing makes them clear. Wucker examines how gender and age, cultural and family norms, and economic status impact how we view and handle risk.

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    YOU DON'T BELONG HERE by Elizabeth Becker, read by Lisa Flanagan

    This is an extraordinary audiobook about four extraordinary women who were war correspondents—the three women who are the subject of Becker’s book, as well as the author herself. Adding to the remarkable story of these groundbreaking journalists is the skill of narrator Lisa Flanagan, who is pitch-perfect throughout this account of the trailblazers. She moves from harrowing action on the battlefields of Vietnam to the high-society backgrounds of two of the future journalists.

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We love hearing a good story well told, and we know that you do, too: the comfort and intimacy of a voice in your ear, the pleasure of being completely swept up in a narrative. That’s why, every December, we are so glad to celebrate audio excellence by selecting AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks. Thank you to all of the narrators, directors, producers, and publishers who filled our year with good listening.

Thank you to our partners: Beth Fish Reads, The Big Thrill, Book Trib, Books & Sensibility, The Children's Book Review, File 770, Five Books, LitHub, Nerdy Book Club, Novel Suspects, Shelf Awareness, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

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