All my friends know I love a good audiobook. I have one constantly at my beck-and-call for when I happen to be in the car alone, folding laundry, weeding, or making dinner. I am currently listening to The Odyssey read by Claire Danes as I prep for an autumn co-op class. I get through WAY more books by having at least one audiobook and a hard copy book going at all times. I was asked recently over on Instagram what my top 5 audiobook picks would be. It got me thinking, what audiobooks really stand out?
For me, it’s the ones that add something to the experience that would NOT be there if I just read the book. An audiobook can add or detract. Creative decisions to have music or multiple narrators definitely impacts the listening experience. So I decided to create a top 10 list of my favorite audiobooks with adult listeners in mind. Stay tuned, I think I’ll have to create a children’s edition for my next post! 🙂
10. Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce read by Anna Poppelwell
This story is a feel-good book and despite the fact that it deals with some W. W. II tragedies, the tone is spirited and upbeat. Emmeline Lake is a “Girl Friday” with a can-do attitude who wants to be a war correspondent. She is pragmatic and wants to do her bit for the war effort. Unfortunately, she ends up working for a tyrant of a woman who runs an advice column. Anne Poppelwell seems to embody Emmeline’s spirit and feisty nature and this story has an endearing depiction of what it means to be best friends.
9. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan read by Ari Fliakos
Anne Bogel descirbed this book as “Harry Potter meets National Treasure” which captures it about right. So delightful and feel-good. Perfect for bibliophiles and museum lovers who want a dash of an adventurous quest. The narrator just seems to BE the main character who is quirky, nerdy, and lovable.
8. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard read by Paul Michael
I couldn’t listen to this book fast enough. I knew nothing of the very interesting James A. Garfield, who’s presidency was cut short by an assassin’s bullet. The story weaves together the lives of Garfield, the delusional Charles Guiteau who would become the assassin, Alexander Graham Bell who worked on an invention to try to save the president’s life, and Dr. Bliss–Garfield’s proud and attention-seeking doctor.
7. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly read by Cassandra Campbell, Kathleen Gati, Kathrin Kana
This book follows the stories of three women, an American, a German, and a Polish woman through their lives during World War II and beyond. Don’t let the pretty cover deceive you, this book covers some grotesque atrocities. I can’t imagine all the research that went into this story, especially considering two of the main characters were real women. But the writing was great–especially the attention to historic detail and creating a sense of place. This book was particularly good as an audiobook, as each main character was played by a different reader and since includes French, German, and Polish accents which helps bring this story to life.
6. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie read by Dan Stevens
Dan Stevens (also known as Matthew from Downton Abbey) reads Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery and brings Poirot to life. I also liked that there was lots of foreign phrases thrown in and it was nice to be able to hear someone pronounce them correctly, as it is beyond me.
5. The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan read by an ensemble cast
This books was my favorite novel last year. I simply ADORED it. The novel is written in letters so different narrators take on the various characters, which added to the experience wonderfully. Also, there was music throughout the recording when various musical pieces were sung by the choir.
4. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson read by Peter Altschuler
I loved this book. The endearing and dry-witted Major Pettigrew came alive when narrated by Peter Altschuler. It was such a unique story, about a retired major from a small English village who falls in love with a Pakistani shopkeeper and shocks all the neighbors—and maybe even himself just a little! So sweet but also pushes back against stereotypes.
3. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen read by Rosamund Pike
I loved revisiting these two classics via Rosamund Pike’s wonderfully soothing British accent. What’s there not to love?
2. The Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley read by Jane Entwistle
Jane Entwistle has a unique voice that at first annoyed me slightly but now love. I’ve listened to multiple books from various authors read by her at this point. My favorite is how she seems to embody quirky little smarty-pants Flavia de Luce who is at once precocious and in need of a mother’s love. I’ve professed my love for Flavia more than once, but if you need to be talked into reading (or listening) to this series, read this!
1. The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rolling read by Jim Dale
No other narrator, in my opinion, comes close to the brilliance of Jim Dale narrating Harry Potter. His voice transported me to Hogwarts. He made nuanced changes to his voice for each character which were not cheesy, but incredible. Jim Dale’s voice made Harry Potter even better than it already was, which is saying something.
I’m just getting into audiobooks, and I haven’t listened to any of these. Thank you so much for the recommendations!
I hope you find a title you’ll like here, Aimee!