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 guidelines .
The 2014 List
“The Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown. Narrated by Edward Herrmann. Recorded Books/Penguin Audio. (ISBN 9781470352509). Herrmann’s lively and emotionally connected reading captures the excitement and detail of this real-life Cinderella story of the U.S. rowing team’s journey to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His masterful command of language and cadence, combined with his deft characterizations, makes this inspiring story a must-listen.
- “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing. Narrated by Simon Prebble. Blackstone Audio.
- “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” by Laura Hillenbrand. Narrated by George Newbern. Books on Tape.
- “Wilt, 1962” by Gary M. Pomerantz. Narrated by Stephen Hoye. Books on Tape.
“The Grand Sophy,” by Georgette Heyer. Narrated by Sarah Woodward. NAXOS AudioBooks. (ISBN 9781843797555). Recently arrived on the London social scene, the indomitable Sophy Stanton-Lacey wreaks her own brand of delightful havoc in this charming Regency romp. With a lively pace and deliciously upper crust accent, Woodward’s mirthful tone emphasizes the story’s comically formal dialogue and Austenesque romantic chemistry.
- “Emma” by Jane Austen. Narrated by Juliet Stevenson. NAXOS AudioBooks.
- “The Mischief of the Mistletoe” by Lauren Willig. Narrated by Kate Reading. Recorded Books/Penguin Audio.
- “What Happens in London” by Julia Quinn. Narrated by Rosalyn Landor. Books on Tape.
“Heartburn,” by Nora Ephron. Narrated by Meryl Streep. Books on Tape/Random House Audio. (ISBN 9780385367301). Streep narrates celebrity chef Rachel Samstat’s account of her husband’s betrayal with all the unflagging energy of a pregnant woman scorned, aggrieved, and bereft. Her superb performance, flavored by her wryly snarky and campy yet intimate narration, gives voice to Ephron’s unique brand of smart humor and social commentary.
- “Back When We Were Grownups” by Anne Tyler. Narrated by Blair Brown. Books on Tape.
- “The Family Man” by Elinor Lipman. Narrated by Jonathan Davis. Blackstone Audio.
- “Good in Bed” by Jennifer Weiner. Narrated by Laura Hicks. BBC Audiobooks America.
“Longbourn,” by Jo Baker. Narrated by Emma Fielding. Books on Tape/Random House Audio. (ISBN 9780804149426). Fielding narrates Baker’s extraordinary revisionist take on Pride and Prejudice with a quiet, shimmering assurance, as she exposes the upstairs-downstairs dynamics of the Bennet family. Her elegant delivery and mastery of pitch, rhythm, and emphasis turn each sentence into a seduction.
- “French Lieutenant’s Woman” by John Fowles. Narrated by Paul Shelley. Chivers Audio Books.
- “Middlemarch” by George Eliot. Narrated by Juliet Stevenson. NAXOS AudioBooks.
- “Tigers in Red Weather” by Liza Klaussmann. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Recorded Books/Hachette Audio.
“The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” by Neil Gaiman. Narrated by Neil Gaiman. Harper Audio. (ISBN 9780062263032). Gaiman, as both author and narrator, immerses listeners in a modern fairy tale in which two stalwart children pit themselves against dark and relentless terrors. Through an exquisite management of pace and inflection, his voice becomes the story’s doorway just a surely as any rabbit hole or wardrobe.
- “The Book of Lost Things” by John Connolly. Narrated by Steven Crossley. Recorded Books.
- “Ragnarok” by A.S. Byatt. Narrated by Harriet Walter. Brilliance Audio.
- “The Winter Ghosts” by Kate Mosse. Narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt. Recorded Books.
“Oleander Girl,” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Narrated by Sneha Mathan. Recorded Books/Simon & Schuster Audio. (ISBN 9781470334420). Upon the death of her grandfather, Korobi learns a shocking family secret and, postponing her wedding, journeys to America, searching for truths that must be discovered before her own life can really begin. Mathan voices an array of exquisite accents and entrancing cadences to imbue Korobi’s quest with the spicy flavor of India.
- “Caramelo” by Sandra Cisneros. Narrated by Sandra Cisneros. AudioGo/Blackstone Audio.
- “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri narrated by Sarita Choudhury and Ajay Naidu. Random House/Books on Tape.
- “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan. Narrated by Gwendoline Yeo. Phoenix Audio.
“River of Stars,” by Guy Gavriel Kay. Narrated by Simon Vance. Recorded Books. (ISBN 9781470327521). While barbarians attack the decadent government of Kitai, a fantasy world resembling ancient China, a young man emerges from the provinces to save the empire and becomes a legend. Vance manages the sweeping plot, including a large cast and action-rich details, while masterfully conveying the lyrical, elegiac tone that pervades the novel.
- “Gates of Fire” by Steven Pressfield. Narrated by George Guidall. Recorded Books.
- “Genghis: Birth of an Empire” by Conn Iggulden. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki. Blackstone Audio.
- “Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara. Narrated by Stephen Hoye. Books on Tape.
“The Signature of All Things,” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Narrated by Juliet Stevenson. Penguin Audio/Blackstone Audio. (ISBN 9781482927757). Stevenson’s sublimely melodious, richly inflected voice brings myriad characters, places, and even plants and animals to life in this story of a fictional 19th century botanist. Alma Whittaker’s goal of finding a connection between all living things takes her on a solo quest to exotic places on this journey of serendipitous self-discovery.
- “Bellwether” by Connie Willis. Narrated by Kate Reading. Blackstone Audio.
- “The Lieutenant” by Kate Grenville. Narrated by Nicholas Bell. Bolinda Audio/Brilliance Audio.
- “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver. Narrated by Barbara Kingsolver. Recorded Books.
“The Son,” by Philipp Meyer. Narrated by Will Patton, Scott Shepherd, Kate Mulgrew, and Clifton Collins, Jr. Harper Audio. (ISBN 9780062280954). Through three interwoven story lines, this powerful, sprawling family saga maps the history of Texas from 1849 onward. A cast of expert narrators immerse listeners in time and place through their voices alone, exquisitely rendering characters and effectively dramatizing this captivating audio production.
- “The Searchers” by Alan Le May. Narrated by Tom Stechschulte, Richard Ferrone, and James Jenner. Recorded Books.
- “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett. Narrated by John Lee. Books on Tape.
- “All the Pretty Horses” by Cormac McCarthy. Narrated by Frank Muller. Harper Audio/Recorded Books.
“Vampires in the Lemon Grove,” by Karen Russell. Narrated by Arthur Morey, Joy Osmanski, Kaleo Griffith, Jesse Bernstein, Mark Bramhall, Michael Bybee, Romy Rosemont, and Robbie Daymond. Books on Tape. (ISBN 9780385367462). Quirky, innovative, and brightly new, Russell’s collection of short stories blurs the line between horror, fantasy, and myth. Her impressive scope is well matched by the diverse narrators voicing the collection–all of whom fully realize her eerie eclecticism in accent, mood, pace, and quiet terror.
- “Astray” by Emma Donoghue. Narrated by Khristine Hvam, James Langton, Robert Petkoff, Suzanne Toren, and Dion Graham. Hachette/Blackstone Audio.
- “Echoes from the Macabre” by Daphne du Maurier. Narrated by Valentine Dyall. Blackstone Audio.
- “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan. Narrated by Roxana Ortega. Blackstone Audio.
“The Warden,” by Anthony Trollope. Narrated by David Shaw-Parker. NAXOS AudioBooks. (ISBN 9781843796862). Shaw-Parker inhabits the role of Trollope’s amiable narrator in this social drama of English village life as he companionably guides readers through the often-amusing perils of ecclesiastical politics. With a splendid mix of gleeful pomposity and heartfelt sympathy, he portrays the whimsical cast and their stories just as Trollope must have imagined them.
- “Cranford” by Elizabeth Gaskell. Narrated by Nadia May. Blackstone Audio.
- “My Man Jeeves” by P. G. Wodehouse. Narrated by Jonathan Cecil. Blackstone Audio.
- “Pickwick Papers” by Charles Dickens. Read by David Timson. Naxos AudioBooks.
“World War Z,” by Max Brooks. Narrated by a full cast. Books on Tape. (ISBN 9780449807897).
Melancholy in tone and rich in social insights rather than action-packed disaster, this futuristic apocalyptic “mockumentary” of life after the zombie wars features vivid characterizations and smart, provocative commentary. The well-staged interviews performed by an all-star cast of 40 skilled narrators project a you-are-there feel.
- “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. Narrated by a full cast. Recorded Books.
- “Earth Unaware” by Orson Scott Card. Narrated by a full cast. Macmillan Audio.
- “Zone One” by Colson Whitehead. Narrated by Beresford Bennett. Books on Tape.