The Listen List

Established in 2010 by the CODES section of RUSA, The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration seeks to highlight outstanding audiobook titles that merit special attention by general adult listeners and the librarians who work with them.

The Listen List Council selects a list of twelve titles including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and plays. To be eligible, titles must be available for purchase and circulation by libraries. The list of winning titles is annotated, stressing the appeal elements of the title, and includes listen-alikes to lead listeners to additional audio experiences. The Council announces the winning titles at the CODES Book and Media Awards Reception, held the Sunday of each ALA Midwitner Meeting. All selected titles are published on the RUSA Web site following the event.

The Council consists of seven librarians who are experts in readers’ advisory and collection development. Librarians interested in serving on The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration Council should consult the committee membership information page .

Publishers, authors, and narrators interested in having their titles considered for The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration should review the  submission guidelinesor contact the Committee Chair, Mary Burkey (mary.burkey@gmail.com).

The Lists

Simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, Woodson’s approachable and compelling free verse reflects the African-American experience of growing up in 1970s Brooklyn. Miles’ pitch-perfect inflection evokes universal feelings of memory, friendship, and the magic of place in this rhythmic narration.

Narrated by Robin Miles. HarperAudio/Blackstone Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Behold the Dreamers: A Novel” by Imbolo Mbue. Narrated by Prentice Onayemi. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.
  • “House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros. Narrated by Sandra Cisneros.  Random House Audio/Books on Tape.
  • “Swing Time” by Zadie Smith. Narrated by Pippa Bennett-Warner. Penguin Audio/Books on Tape.

A stellar cast of actors presents this career-spanning collection of short works, punctuated by King’s engaging, conversational commentary describing his writing process and inspiration. Through atmospheric, nuanced performance, each work achieves a dramatic re-interpretation of a range of genres, from humor to horror.

Narrated by Stephen King, Dylan Baker, Brooke Bloom, Hope Davis, Kathleen Chalfant, Santino Fontana, Peter Friedman, Cotter Smith, Will Patton, Edward Herrmann, Frederick Weller, Mare Winningham, Craig Wasson, Thomas Sadoski, Tim Sample. Simon & Schuster Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” by Richard Matheson. Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia, Malcolm Hillgartner, Arte Johnson, Jay Karnes, Ray Porter, Lawrence Pressman, Yuri Rasovsky, Lorna Raver, Ned Schmidtke, Conrad John Schuck, Christine Williams. Blackstone Audio.
  • “Stone Mattress: Nine Tales” by Margaret Atwood. Narrated by Margaret Atwood, Rob Delaney, Mark Bramhall, Lorna Raver, Arthur Morey, Emily Rankin, Bernadette Dunne. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.
  • “Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances” by Neil Gaiman. Narrated by Neil Gaiman. HarperAudio.

HarperAudio/Blackstone Audio. Landor’s polished reading perfectly matches Quinn’s clever, witty historical romp, providing a delightful listening experience. Through a sophisticated British accent and subtle changes in tone, the storyteller’s distinctly-voiced performance impeccably conveys the exasperation and romantic tension that draws listeners into the budding love story, building to a sensual, satisfying culmination.

Narrated by Rosalyn Landor.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “A Dangerous Beauty” by Sophia Nash. Narrated by Bianca Amato. HarperAudio.
  • “Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice” by Curtis Sittenfeld. Narrated by Cassandra Campbell. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.
  • ”A Lady of His Own” by Stephanie Laurens. Narrated by Jill Tanner. Recorded Books.

Langton’s unhurried delivery charms in this heartwarming, yet often bizarre, adventure of adorable octogenarian Arthur Pepper as he bumbles his way through a scavenger hunt of his late wife’s undisclosed past. From high-pitched middle-class Bernadette to her mumbling teenaged son, listeners forge an emotional connection courtesy of adroit expressions of character development.

Narrated by James Langton. Harlequin Audio/Blackstone Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson. Narrated by Steven Crossley. Blackstone Audio.
  • “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. Narrated by George Newbern. Dreamscape Media.
  • “This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!” by Jonathan Evison. Narrated by Susan Boyce. HighBridge Audio/Recorded Books.

Listeners will experience a shift in their world view as this significant work of ethnography reveals the impact of eviction on poverty in America’s society and culture. Graham’s sobering, empathetic narrative captures the personalities of eight struggling families and two landlords while conveying author Desmond’s painstaking data collection and intimate reportage.

Narrated by Dion Graham. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap” by Matt Taibbi. Narrated by Ray Porter. Random House Audio/Books.
  • “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich. Narrated by Cristine McMurdo-Wallis. Recorded Books.
  • “White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America” by Nancy Isenberg. Narrated by Kirsten Potter. Tantor Media.

Stevenson demonstrates her unequaled mastery of narrative art, transforming Fellowes’s richly-detailed historical melodrama of 1840s London into enthralling audio theater. A panoply of British class and regional accents, combined with period pacing & precise depiction of age and gender, illuminate personalities within a family saga of social rivalries.

Narrated by Juliet Stevenson. Hachette Audio/Blackstone Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The American Heiress: A Novel” by Daisy Goodwin. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Macmillan Audio.
  • “Excellent Women” by Barbara Pym. Narrated by Jayne Entwistle. Blackstone Audio.
  • “The Summer Before the War” by Helen Simonson. Narrated by Fiona Hardingham. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.

Rowley explores the deep attachment of man and dog in a tale that combines pathos and humor, eloquently portrayed by a reading that echoes those shifting moods. Urie crawls inside owner Ted’s head, voicing a sympathetic connection with human despair, while also depicting dachshund Lily’s engaging doggy dialogue, in a cathartic performance that reveals a roller-coaster of emotions as a tumor devours a life.

Narrated by Michael Urie. Simon & Schuster Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. Narrated by Christopher Evan Welch. HarperAudio/Recorded Books.
  • “Spill Simmer Falter Wither” by Sara Baume. Narrated by John Keating. Brilliance Audio.
  • “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski. Narrated by Richard Poe. HarperAudio/Recorded Books.

This lyrical Western tale of a developing friendship between an aging soldier and an orphaned young girl is colorfully expressed through Gardner’s steady pacing, gravelly twang, and folksy tone. Subtle changes in inflection and accent give voice to the former captive and ethnically diverse characters encountered along the road, immersing listeners in a harrowing, though ultimately redemptive, journey through post-Civil War Texas.

Narrated by Grover Gardner. Brilliance Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “El Paso” by Winston Groom. Narrated by Robertson Dean. Recorded Books.
  • “Far As the Eye Can See” by Robert Bausch. Narrated by Joel Richards. Brilliance Audio.
  • “Prayers the Devil Answers” by Sharyn McCrumb. Narrated by Candace Thaxton. Simon & Schuster Audio.

With endless energy, unfailingly deadpan delivery, and spot-on comedic timing, Rubinstein skillfully distinguishes a large cast of characters as they ricochet through interweaving story arcs. In this briskly paced work of beautiful absurdity, a series of offbeat hijinks connect impeccably voiced characters, including a Cajun country reality star, a mafia kingpin, Arabic immigrants, a sexy con woman, and the hero Yancy, a disgraced detective now on roach patrol.

Narrated by John Rubinstein. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore. Narrated by Fisher Stevens. HarperAudio.
  • “The Everything Box” by Richard Kadrey. Narrated by Oliver Wyman. HarperAudio/Blackstone Audio.
  • “Insane City” by Dave Barry. Narrated by Dave Barry. Penguin Audio/Books on Tape.

The discovery of a giant metallic hand prompts a team of scientists, government agents, and researchers to scour the planet for clues. The vocally versatile ensemble constructs a beyond-the-book experience, nimbly interpreting Neuvel’s non-linear approach of using dialogue-driven exchanges through interviews, news stories, and journal entries.

Narrated by Andy Secombe, Eric Meyers, Laurel Lefkow, Charlie Anson, Liza Ross, William Hope, Christoper Ragland, Katharine Mangold, Adna Sablyich. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition” by Neil Gaiman. Narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris, Daniel Oreskes, Ron McLarty, Sarah Jones. HarperAudio.
  • “Mockingbird” by Walter Tevis. Narrated by Robert Fass, Nicole Poole. Tantor Audio/Recorded Books.
  • “Sphere” by Michael Crichton. Narrated by Scott Brick. Brilliance Audio.

Whitehead’s haunting literary tale of Cora, escaping abuse and enslavement in antebellum South, is propelled by the magical realism of a subterranean railway in an alternate American history. Turpin’s faultless, fully-voiced narration embodies authentic dialects and accents; her sonorous, dramatic tone and commanding presence intensify the somber power of the author’s words.

Narrated by Bahni Turpin. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride. Narrated by Michael Boatman. Penguin Audio/Dreamscape Media.
  • “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler. Narrated by Kim Staunton. Recorded Books.
  • “Underground Airlines” by Ben H. Winters. Narrated by William DeMeritt. Hachette Audio/Blackstone Audio.

Taylor and Hough’s atmospheric dual performance delivers a quirky interpretation brimming with macabre, racy humor in Cunningham’s reimagined fairy tales for adults. Accompanied by original musical motifs that enhance the storytelling, combined with a remarkable depth of characterization, this short episodic production is a perfect listen for those new to audiobooks.

Narrated by Lili Taylor, Billy Hough. Macmillan Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fairy Tales” by Stephen L. Antczak, James C. Bassett. Narrated by Anne Flosnik, Kaleo Griffith, Robertson Dean, John Lee. Tantor Media/Recorded Books.
  • “Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version” by Philip Pullman. Narrated by Samuel West. Brilliance Audio.
  • “Six-Gun Snow White” by Catherynne M. Valente. Read by Julia Whelan. Dreamscape Media, LLC.

This cinéma vérité soundscape depicts gang-related murder and retaliation amidst the chaos and confusion of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Seventeen individuals, including a Korean shopkeeper, Latino street hustlers, gritty cops, and sympathetic nurses, are artfully voiced by five actors evoking an emotional range from poetic reflection to brutal violence.

Narrated by Anthony Rey Perez, Marisol Ramirez, Jim Cooper, Adam Lazarre-White, and James Chen. HarperAudio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Narrated by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
  • “City on Fire: A Novel” by Garth Risk Hallberg. Narrated by Rebecca Lowman, Tristan Morris, and Bronson Pinchot. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
  • “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets” by Sudhir Venkatesh. Narrated by Reg Rogers, Sudhir Venkatesh, and Stephen J. Dubner. HarperAudio.

In a single evening, two CIA agents and former lovers expose old memories and reveal differing perspectives of a terrorist attack. The interplay between Fliakos’ gravelly, world-weary tone and Kelly’s briskly controlled voice intensifies tautly-stretched emotions and engenders a misplaced trust that is shattered by a final plot twist.

Narrated by Ari Fliakos and Juliana Francis Kelly. Macmillan Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Dinner” by Herman Koch. Narrated by Clive Mantle. Blackstone Audio.
  • “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. Narrated by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
  • “A Perfect Spy” by John le Carré. Narrated by Michael Jayston. Penguin Audio.

After marrying to escape her socially pretentious mother, Lady Emily falls in love with the deceased husband she barely knew while investigating his questionable acquisition of Greek antiquities. Immersing listeners in 19 century English society, Reading’s pitch-perfect accents and vibrant performance capture Emily’s transformation from privileged aristocrat to newly-independent woman.

Narrated by Kate Reading. Recorded Books/Tantor Media.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Anatomist’s Wife” by Anna Lee Huber. Narrated by Heather Wilds. Tantor Media.
  • “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, or On the Segregation of the Queen” by Laurie R. King. Narrated by Jenny Sterlin. Recorded Books.
  • “Maisie Dobbs” by Jacqueline Winspear. Narrated by Rita Barrington. Blackstone Audio.

Brick’s crisply evocative performance vividly conveys the wartime atmosphere and precise details of the sinking of the Lusitania by German U-Boat 20. His dramatic narration of passenger and crew experiences, as well as military and political machinations, propels listeners ever nearer to the inevitable and tragic conclusion.

Narrated by Scott Brick. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing. Narrated by Simon Prebble. Blackstone Audio.
  • “The Guns of August” by Barbara W. Tuchman. Narrated by John Lee. Recorded Books/Tantor Media.
  • “A Night to Remember: The Classic Account of the Final Hours of the Titanic” by Walter Lord. Narrated by Martin Jarvis. Blackstone Audio.

Stoker’s classic horror tale, which introduces the iconic vampire Dracula, is brilliantly performed by an exceptional assemblage of British actors. Unfolding with quiet intensity, the well-matched voices result in fully-realized characters which combine to create mounting psychological and sexual tension in this revelatory listening experience.

Narrated by David Horovitch, Jamie Parker, Joseph Kloska, Alison Pettitt, and cast. Naxos AudioBooks.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. Narrated by Daniel Philpott, Chris Larkin, Roger May, and Jonathan Oliver. Naxos AudioBooks.
  • “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova. Narrated by Justine Eyre and Paul Michael. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
  • “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Narrated by Martin Jarvis. Blackstone Audio.

Gracefully literate and whimsically humorous, MacDonald’s elegiac tone details her journey through depression while nuanced reflections on T.H. White’s The Goshawk provide a counterpoint to her raw grief. In an experience as natural as sharing a confidence, she opens her heart and entrusts the listener with both words and voice.

Narrated by Helen MacDonald. Blackstone Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Narrated by Elizabeth Gilbert. Books on Tape/Penguin Audio.
  • “The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness” by Sy Montgomery. Narrated by Sy Montgomery. Recorded Books/HighBridge Audio.
  • “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed. Narrated by Bernadette Dunne. Books on Tape/Random House Audio

In this sequel to The Queen of the Tearling, Kelsea harnesses her strengthening magic and confronts the Red Queen while experiencing visions of an abused woman living in a vastly different civilization. Porter’s regal tone, varied cadence, and commanding delivery intensify the emotional connection of sharply delineated yet intertwined stories.

Narrated by Davina Porter. HarperAudio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “A Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin. Narrated by Roy Dotrice. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
  • “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” by N.K. Jemisin. Narrated by Casaundra Freeman. Brilliance Audio.
  • “A Natural History of Dragons” by Marie Brennan. Narrated by Kate Reading. Macmillan Audio.

Locked inside a tanker truck, abandoned in the desert, nineteen Latino immigrants are left to die. With authentic Spanish accents and riveting pacing, Laurence and Rodriquez capture visceral feelings of claustrophobia and desperation. Flashbacks reveal exploitive agribusiness practices while frantic rescue appeals are made to an unanswered cell phone.

Narrated by Ozzie Rodriguez and David H. Lawrence XVII. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free” by Héctor Tobar. Narrated by Henry Leyva. Recorded Books/Macmillan Audio.
  • “The Devil’s Highway: A True Story” by Luis Alberto Urrea. Narrated by Luis Alberto Urrea. Hachette Audio.
  • “The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi. Narrated by Jonathan Davis. Brilliance Audio.

Haute couture and social media collide in an absurdly entertaining face-off between Imogen, a 40-something magazine editor, and tech-savvy Eve, her power-hungry former assistant. Kellgren nails technophobe Imogen’s elegant tone as well as Eve’s sharply contrasting Millennial vernacular, adeptly capturing New York City’s fast-paced publishing world.

Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Devil Wears Prada” by Lauren Weisberger. Narrated by Bernadette Dunne. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
  • “Funny Girl” by Nick Hornby. Narrated by Emma Fielding. Books on Tape/Penguin Audio.
  • “The Status of All Things” by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke. Narrated by Amy McFadden. Dreamscape Media.

Carter creates a ripping good listen, weaving together a rich tapestry of adventure and historical authenticity in this captivating tale of a search for a social rebel. Wyndham’s narration conjures the oppressive atmosphere and constricting formality of 1837 British Colonial rule through expert class inflections, Indian accents, and masterful pacing.

Narrated by Alex Wyndham. Recorded Books/HighBridge Audio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “The Curse of the Pharaohs” by Elizabeth Peters. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Recorded Books.
  • “The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel” by Anthony Horowitz. Narrated by Derek Jacobi. Blackstone Audio/Hachette Audio.
  • “The Perfect Murder” by H.R.F. Keating. Narrated by Frederick Davidson. Blackstone Audio.

Marcia and Farouk, married but rarely together, share a love that spans decades despite being buffeted by a strict social hierarchy and a need for independence. Ideally-paired narrators Turpin and Butler create an immersive listening experience capturing the characters’ unique dialects, from lilting Trinidadian rhythms to subtle East Indian tones.

Narrated by Ron Butler and Bahni Turpin. Recorded Books/Tantor Media.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Narrated by Adjoa Andoh. Recorded Books.
  • “Land of Love and Drowning” by Tiphanie Yanique. Narrated by Cherise Boothe, Korey Jackson, Rachel Leslie, and Myra Lucretia Taylor. Recorded Books.
  • “Unburnable” by Marie-Elena John. Narrated by Robin Miles. Recorded Books.

Disgraced journalist Finkel is thrown a lifeline when he learns accused murderer Christopher Longo, one of the FBI’s most wanted, has been using his identity. Orlow’s absorbing presentation is unobtrusive yet chilling and generates an emotional response as he gives voice to both author and accused in this riveting memoir.

Narrated by Rich Orlow. HarperAudio.

Listen-Alikes:

  • “Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America” by Erik Larson. Narrated by Scott Brick. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
  • “Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation” by Dean Jobb. Narrated by Peter Berkrot. Recorded Books/HighBridge Audio.
  • “Out of Orange” by Cleary Wolters. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Blackstone Audio/HarperAudio.

Coming Soon – please view archived list: http://www.ala.org/rusa/awards/listenlist/2015

Coming Soon – please view archived list: http://www.ala.org/rusa/awards/listenlist/2014

Coming Soon – please view archived list: http://www.ala.org/rusa/awards/listenlist/2013

Coming Soon – please view archived list: http://www.ala.org/rusa/awards/listenlist/2012