Fifteen of the Best Audiobooks I’ve Listened to This Year

For this post I picked out some of my favorite audiobooks from this year so far (these books weren’t necessarily published this year). They range from very serious to just for fun – I think audiobooks work best for really emotional topics, and are often perfect for lighter, atmospheric books like romances, horror, and mystery. I also love audiobooks set in other countries because I can hear the accents properly. I was surprised by how much nonfiction turned up on my list, but then I’ve read some really amazing nonfiction this year.

Many of these are read by the author, although not all authors are great at reading their own works. Two of these authors, Jenny Lawson and Neil Gaiman, are old favorites but they were new to me as narrators. Richard Armitage really stood out as narrator of Venetia (it seems uncommon for a male to narrate a romance novel, but it worked). And actress Nicola Coughlin really made Big Girl Small Town come to life.

Challenging topics/nonfiction:

  • Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga, narrated by Michaela Washburn: this is a devastating read about seven Indigenous youth who die in Thunder Bay, a city in Ontario, Canada. Even more devastating is the lack of educational services and the total failure of the local police to take their deaths seriously. It can be hard to follow at times, because so many different teens and families are involved, but it’s an important story.
  • Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King, narrated by Peter Francis James
  • Caste by Isabelle Wilkerson, narrated by Robin Miles
  • Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, narrated by the author
  • You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamarr, narrated by the authors: This book is told in a light way but these sisters share their stories about encountering racism in their daily lives, in a way that is heartfelt, memorable, and at times shocking.
  • Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson, narrated by the author. Lawson is always hilarious but she also writes about the very serious physical and mental health issues she deals with. She has a way of making even the most awkward or messed up of us feel like we’re completely normal. And maybe we are.

Serious fiction:

  • Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, narrated by Angus King
  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor, narrated by Kevin R. Free
  • How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones, narrated by Danielle Vitalis: I loved this story of generations of women struggling to get by in Barbados, dealing with wealthy tourists, abusive spouses, and indifferent police. This book is up for this year’s Women’s Prize, and it’s a worthy contender.

Escapist/fun reads:

  • A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore, narrated by Elizabeth Jasicki: This is absolutely my favorite historical romance series. I love how Dunmore infuses suffragist history into these novels, and she writes stories and characters that go way beyond the simple “will they or won’t they.” Instead she creates complex characters who face real complications in their relationships.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, narrated by the author: I love Gaiman but now I love him even more after hearing him read this novel. Neverwhere is a fantasy classic and Gaiman’s narration really brought the characters to life.
  • Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen, narrated by Nicola Coughlan: This novel about Ireland during The Troubles is not exactly fun but the main character certainly is, as is actress Nicola Coughlan’s fantastic narration. I couldn’t always understand the accents and the Irish dialect but I enjoyed every minute.
  • Winter’s Orbit by Evarina Maxwell, narrated by Raphael Corkhill: This novel is part science fiction and part romance, featuring an LGBT couple, but what really stood out was the book’s sensitivity towards one character that had been abused, and the pair’s slowly growing understanding of each other. It’s not really a “fun” read but definitely an escapist one.
  • Venetia by Georgette Heyer, narrated by Richard Armitage: I loved the characters in this romance, and I especially loved the narration by Armitage. I haven’t read a lot of Georgette Heyer but this one was a perfect getaway.
  • Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant, narrated by Christine Lakin: for anyone looking for big, escapist horror, you can’t beat this story about an expedition to find murderous mermaids.

I hope you find something you like in this list! And please recommend some of the best audiobooks you’ve listened to this year.

  10 comments for “Fifteen of the Best Audiobooks I’ve Listened to This Year

  1. WendyW
    August 25, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    Nice list. I have not listened or read any of these, I am just starting to listen to more audiobooks myself.

    • August 26, 2021 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks Wendy, I hope you find some audiobooks you like! I only started listening to them about 2 years ago and now I can’t live without them. You might find the Audie awards website helpful in finding some good ones.

      • WendyW
        August 27, 2021 at 5:56 pm

        Thanks, I’ll check out the Audie awards!

  2. Louise
    August 26, 2021 at 4:49 am

    Shuggie Bain was a fantastic book! I read it but I can imagine it was excellent as an audiobook! x

    • August 26, 2021 at 5:14 pm

      Shuggie Bain was so good. I love narrators with accents, because it really helps me get into the spirit of the novel and feel like I’m there. This reader was excellent.

  3. August 26, 2021 at 11:20 am

    Great list! It’s been a while since I’ve read or listened to a Georgette Heyer book, but they’re always fun… and knowing there’s one with Richard Armitage as the narrator makes me want it ASAP!

    • August 26, 2021 at 5:13 pm

      I’ve only read a few Heyer’s but this was a fun one with a smart, independent heroine (maybe they all are?). Armitage was a pleasure to listen to.

  4. August 31, 2021 at 6:32 am

    I love this list, you have some great books here!

    I also really enjoy audiobooks set in other countries which have narrators that can authentically reproduce accents or culture, it’s a much more personal experience of reading I find.

    I had You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey on my tbr but I think I’ll check the audiobook out now instead, as you enjoyed it!

    • September 1, 2021 at 7:25 am

      Thanks Rabeeah! I thought Lacey was great on audio – Amber Ruffin brings a lot of humor to a very serious topic. But they do reference a lot of illustrations that are in the book, so I know there were things I missed by listening on audio. Not sure which would be better!

      • September 2, 2021 at 4:10 pm

        That’s interesting, if it’s a LOT of illustrations, it would probably become annoying? I don’t think the audiobook is actually available here in the UK anyway, so I might end up reading it! I do love when authors narrate their own books though!

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