The Listen List Council of the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has announced the 2017 selections of the Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration. The 2017 committee listened to 1,919 hours of audiobooks, evaluated over 200 titles, debated 45 nominations, and narrowed the field to the final twelve winners. This award highlights extraordinary narrators and listening experiences that merit special attention by a general adult audience and the librarians who advise them.
Adhering to established criteria, these benchmarks of excellence are available for purchase by libraries. Committee members matched the twelve awardees with three listen-alikes, not appearing on previous Listen Lists, which mirror the appeal, tone, or production style of the winners. Titles are named to the list because the narration creates a new experience with an outstanding performance in terms of voice, accents, pitch, tone, inflection, rhythm and pace, offering listeners something they could not create by their own visual reading. This juried list, designed for both avid listeners and those new to the pleasures of stories read aloud, includes fiction and nonfiction and features voices that enthrall, delight, and inspire.
The 2017 selections are:
“Another Brooklyn: A Novel” by Jacqueline Woodson. Narrated by Robin Miles. HarperAudio/Blackstone Audio.
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.
“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.
“The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories” by Stephen King. 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.
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.
“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.
“Because of Miss Bridgerton” by Julia Quinn. Narrated by Rosalyn Landor.
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.
“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.
“The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper” by Phaedra Patrick. Narrated by James Langton. Harlequin Audio/Blackstone Audio.
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.
“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.
“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond. Narrated by Dion Graham. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.
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.
“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.
“Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia” by Julian Fellowes. Narrated by Juliet Stevenson. Hachette Audio/Blackstone Audio.
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.
“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.
“Lily and the Octopus” by Steven Rowley. Narrated by Michael Urie. Simon & Schuster Audio.
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.
“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.
“News of the World” by Paulette Jiles. Narrated by Grover Gardner. Brilliance Audio.
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.
“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.
“Razor Girl: A Novel” by Carl Hiaasen. Narrated by John Rubinstein. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.
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.
“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.
“Sleeping Giants” by Sylvain Neuvel. 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.
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.
“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.
“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. Narrated by Bahni Turpin. Random House Audio/Books on Tape.
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.
“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.
“A Wild Swan: And Other Tales” by Michael Cunningham. Narrated by Lili Taylor, Billy Hough. Macmillan 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.
“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.
The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration Council includes: Mary Burkey, Library Consultant, OH (chair); Pam Spencer Holley, Library Consultant, VA; Lucy M. Lockley, St. Charles City-County Library District, MO; Dodie Ownes, Denver Public Library, CO; Anna Popp, Massachusetts Library System; Valerie Morgan Taylor, Librarian-at-Large, SC.