The 2015 List
“The Bees” by Laline Paull. Narrated by Orlagh Cassidy. Blackstone Audio/HarperAudio.
Cassidy’s mesmerizing narration reveals the apian world of Flora 717, a lowly sanitation worker bee who rises through the hive’s strict hierarchy amidst multiple disasters and political unrest. Richly detailed and imaginative, this riveting story is intensified by Cassidy’s seductive sibilance and transcendent performance.
- “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. Narrated by Clare Danes. Brilliance Audio.
- “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. Narrated by Ralph Cosham. Blackstone Audio.
- “The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi. Narrated by Jonathan Davis. Brilliance Audio.
“Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him” by David Henry & Joe Henry. Narrated by Dion Graham. Tantor Media.
Richard Pryor’s rise to self-destructive superstardom is presented within the social context of African-American life during the 1960s and '70s. Channeling an array of celebrities, including a stunning embodiment of Pryor himself, Graham’s raw performance captures the passion and pain that fueled Pryor’s comic genius.
- “Last Words” by George Carlin. Narrated by Patrick Carlin and Tony Hendra. Simon & Schuster Audio.
- “Life” by Keith Richards. Narrated by Keith Richards, Johnny Depp, and Joe Hurley. Hachette Audio.
- “My Song” by Harry Belafonte and Michael Shnayerson. Narrated by Harry Belafonte and Mirron Willis. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
“The Home Place” by Carrie La Seur. Narrated by Andrus Nichols. Blackstone Audio/HarperAudio.
Alma Terrebonne returns home to investigate her sister’s death in La Seur’s elegantly written novel of landscape, danger and regret. Nichols’ elegiac and unhurried performance immerses listeners in the harshness of life in rural Montana, while her masterful characterizations capture the underlying tensions of the novel.
- “Ordinary Grace” by William Kent Krueger. Narrated by Rich Orlow. Recorded Books.
- “Shotgun Lovesongs” by Nickolas Butler. Narrated by Scott Shepherd, Ari Fliakos, Gary Wilmes, Scott Sowers and Maggie Hoffman. Macmillan Audio.
- “Still Life” by Louise Penny. Narrated by Ralph Cosham. Blackstone Audio.
“The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd. Narrated by Jenna Lamia and Adepero Oduye. Penguin Audio/Recorded Books.
Lamia and Oduye flawlessly dramatize the lives of pioneering abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimke and her slave Handful in this graphic, luminous and deeply affecting historical novel. Their seamless interpretation of Kidd’s characters evokes the shocking realities of bigotry and suppression in the early 19th century American South.
- “The Healing” by Jonathan Odell. Narrated by Adenrele Ojo. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
- “The Last Runaway” by Tracy Chevalier. Narrated by Kate Reading. Penguin Audio/Recorded Books.
- “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline. Narrated by Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren. Brilliance Audio.
“Lord of Scoundrels” by Loretta Chase. Narrated by Kate Reading. Blackstone Audio.
When resourceful Jessica Trent is nearly ruined by the haughty Marquess of Dain, she calls his bluff and shoots him. Reading skillfully creates lively characters through tone and tempo and brilliantly conveys the couple’s steamy romantic battle, delivering Chase’s witty banter with sparkling verve.
- “The Grand Sophy” by Georgette Heyer. Narrated by Sarah Woodward. Naxos AudioBooks.
- “The Spymaster’s Lady” by Joanna Bourne. Narrated by Kirsten Potter. Penguin Audio.
- “Sum of All Kisses” by Julia Quinn. Narrated by Rosalyn Landor. HarperAudio/Recorded Books.
“The Martian” by Andy Weir. Narrated by R.C. Bray. Podium Publishing.
Weir’s breakout survival epic transports listeners to Mars alongside stranded astronaut Mark Watney. Bray matches the self-mocking tone and dry wit of Watney’s journal entries, while detailing efforts of an international team desperate to save him. Authentic accents combine with rollercoaster pacing in this convincing, compelling performance.
- “Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi. Narrated by William Dufris. Macmillan Audio.
- “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Narrated by Wil Wheaton. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
- “Red Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson. Narrated by Richard Ferrone. Recorded Books.
“Moonraker” by Ian Fleming. Narrated by Bill Nighy. Blackstone Audio.
Nighy’s dynamic interpretation of Fleming’s classic story of high-stakes bridge games and nuclear rockets lures listeners into the exotic world of James Bond. A masterful control of tempo underscores the story’s tension, while the villains and hero alike are fully realized in pitch-perfect accents.
- “The Day of the Jackal” by Frederick Forsyth. Narrated by Simon Prebble. Blackstone Audio.
- “Our Kind of Traitor” by John le Carré. Narrated by Robin Sachs. Books on Tape/Penguin Audio.
- “Portrait of a Spy” by Daniel Silva. Narrated by Simon Vance. HarperAudio/Recorded Books.
“The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins. Narrated by Ronald Pickup, Joe Marsh, Fenella Woolgar, Sam Dale, Jonathan Oliver, Jamie Parker, Sean Barrett, David Timson, John Foley and Benjamin Soames. Naxos AudioBooks.
This classic locked room mystery comes alive through a superb cast of performers whose unique voices and expert characterizations render the ornate language accessible and accentuate the unique and engrossing puzzle. The unhurried pace complements the richly detailed text and draws the listener into 19th century England.
- “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens. Narrated by Sean Barrett and Teresa Gallagher. Naxos AudioBooks.
- “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle. Narrated by Simon Vance. Brilliance Audio.
- “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton. Narrated by Mark Meadows. Brilliance Audio.
“Queen of the Tearling,” by Erika Johansen. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Blackstone Audio.
Raised in hiding, 19-year-old Kelsea reluctantly ascends the throne in this epic fantasy adventure. From raucous shouts to dripping menace, Kellgren vividly portrays a diverse cast through the resonant timbre of her voice and impeccable pacing. Engaging characters and a polished performance create a remarkable listening experience.
- “Dragonflight” by Anne McCaffrey. Narrated by Dick Hill. Brilliance Audio.
- “The Goblin Emperor” by Katherine Addison. Narrated by Kyle McCarley. Tantor Media.
- “A Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic” by Emily Croy Baker. Narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan. Recorded Books.
“The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith. Narrated by Robert Glenister. Blackstone Audio/Hachette Audio.
A missing author, a tenacious private investigator and scandals in the publishing world form the backbone of this fast-paced and wryly humorous mystery. Glenister’s resonant voice and fluid narration ably depict class and region, gender and age, while maintaining the grit and suspense of classic noir.
- “The Last Detective” by Peter Lovesey. Narrated by Simon Prebble. Blackstone Audio.
- “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett. Narrated by William Dufris. Blackstone Audio.
- “Mr. Mercedes” by Stephen King. Narrated by Will Patton. Simon & Schuster Audio.
“Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. Narrated by Kirsten Potter. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
Potter lyrically portrays multiple characters across a nonlinear timeline in a novel that illuminates humanity’s interconnectedness after a pandemic. Subtle tonal variations and skillful pacing convey the urgency of the survivors’ plight. Can a traveling troupe of actors and musicians carry the future of mankind?
- “Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands” by Chris Bohjalian. Narrated by Grace Blewer. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
- “The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller. Narrated by Mark Deakins. Books on Tape/Random House Audio.
- “On Such a Full Sea” by Chang-Rae Lee. Narrated by B.D. Wong. Penguin Audio/Recorded Books.
“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. Narrated by Bryan Cranston. Brilliance Audio. Cranston personifies the narrator of these terrifying and wrenching short stories with his hypnotic voice: sonorous, gentle and fierce. The narrative immerses listeners in the 1960s, when a draft lottery determined the fates of young men and even survivors carried the scars of war.
- “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. Narrated by Frank Muller. Recorded Books.
- “Matterhorn” by Karl Marlantes. Narrated by Bronson Pinchot. Blackstone Audio.
- “Redeployment” by Phil Klay. Narrated by Craig Klein. Penguin Audio/Recorded Books.