2018 Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration for Adult Listeners revealed

audiobooks-imageThe Listen List Council of the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has announced the 2018 selections of the Listen List, selected for both avid listeners of audiobooks and those new to the pleasures of the fastest-growing format in publishing. This juried list of twelve newly-released titles features extraordinary narrators and listening experiences that merit special attention by a general adult audience and the librarians who advise them.

Jury members listened to 2,574 hours as they narrowed the field to 58 nominated audiobooks and selected winners that include fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and poetry, each an outstanding performance in terms of voice, accents, pitch, tone, inflection, rhythm and pace. Committee members matched the twelve awardees with three listen-alikes, which may include backlist titles, that mirror the appeal, tone, or production style of the winners. The list was announced Sunday during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Denver.

The 2018 selections are:

“The Book of Polly: A Novel” by Kathy Hepinstall. Narrated by Jenna Lamia. Books on Tape. Senior citizen Polly and teen Willow are an unforgettable Southern mother-daughter duo tackling family secrets and mortality with irreverent and sassy style. Lamia captures Willow’s naivete and determination to protect her mother, who is as salty, tart and sweet as her favorite margarita.

Listen-Alikes:

“The Almost Sisters: A Novel” by Joshilyn Jackson. Narrated by Joshilyn Jackson. HarperAudio.

Rabbit Cake” by Annie Hartnett. Narrated by Katie Schorr. Blackstone Audio.

“Spoonbenders: A Novel” by Daryl Gregory. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. Books on Tape.

“Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah. Narrated by Trevor Noah. Brilliance Audio. By turns comic and horrific, Noah’s animated story-telling pulls back the curtain on his childhood years in Apartheid-era South Africa. His astonishing command of dialects entertains and inspires in a memoir which combines recent history and a personal cultural perspective.

Listen-Alikes:

“Believe Me : A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens” by Eddie Izzard. Narrated by Eddie Izzard. Books on Tape.

“Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” by Roxane Gay. Narrated by Roxane Gay. HarperAudio.

“Yes, Chef: A Memoir” by Marcus Samuelsson. Narrated by Marcus Samuelsson. Books on Tape.

“The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir: A Novel” by Jennifer Ryan. Narrated by Gabrielle Glaister, Laura Kirman, Imogen Wilde, Adjoa Andoh, Tom Clegg, Mike Grady. Books on Tape. Ethereal choral interludes enhance Ryan’s charming epistolary tale of the ladies-left-behind in a British village as World War II dawns. An ensemble cast evokes every class and rank of Chilbury’s residents, who through courage and hymns, unite to defend the homefront.

Listen-Alikes:

“The Baker’s Secret: A Novel” by Stephen P. Kiernan. Narrated by Cassandra Campbell. HarperAudio.

“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows. Narrated by Paul Boehmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landor, John Lee, Juliet Mills. Books on Tape.

“La’s Orchestra Saves the World: A Novel” by Alexander McCall Smith. Narrated by Emily Gray. Recorded Books.

“Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman. Narrated by Cathleen McCarron. Books on Tape. Listeners hear a socially awkward woman’s transformation from brusque and friendless to someone able to confront her traumatic childhood. Enhanced by a native Scottish accent, McCarron’s empathetic portrayal of prickly Eleanor and her newly acquired social circle traces the change from so not fine to completely fine.

Listen-Alikes:

“Be Frank with Me: A Novel” by Julia Claiborne Johnson. Narrated by Tavia Gilbert. HarperAudio.

“The Rosie Project: A Novel” by Graeme Simsion. Narrated by Dan O’Grady. Simon & Schuster Audio.

“The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr” by Frances Maynard. Narrated by Erin Mallon. Brilliance Audio.

“The Force: A Novel” by Don Winslow. Narrated by Dion Graham. Blackstone Audio. Winslow exposes the fall of dirty cop Denny Malone as he desperately tries to salvage his family, friends, and honor. Graham taps into the seamy core of New York City, expertly bringing forth its many accents and identities, creating a visceral listening experience that thrums with grit and tension.

Listen-Alikes:

“IQ” by Joe Ide. Narrated by Sullivan Jones. Hachette Audio.

“Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly” by Adrian McKinty. Narrated by Gerard Doyle. Blackstone Audio.

“The Whites: A Novel” by Richard Price, Harry Brandt. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. Macmillan Audio.

“The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels and Other Gentlemen” by Victoria Alexander. Narrated by Marian Hussey. Harlequin Audio. This series opener follows a priggish British spinster to fin-de-siècle Paris as she falls for the irresistible charm of a roguish duke. Hussey’s witty tone and expert comedic timing nails the high-spirited verbal sparring and cheeky banter in this romantic romp.

Listen-Alikes:

“If the Duke Demands” by Anna Harrington. Narrated by Justine Eyre. Hachette Audio.

Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Brilliance Audio.

“Victoria: A Novel” by Daisy Goodwin. Narrated by Anna Wilson-Jones. Macmillan Audio.

“Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk: A Novel” by Kathleen Rooney. Narrated by Xe Sands. Macmillan Audio. Octogenarian Lillian partakes in a sentimental journey on New Year’s Eve 1984, strolling across Manhattan wearing her poetry-loving heart on her fur-coated sleeve.  Sands channels this venerable working girl’s wit with nuance and creates a host of distinct supporting voices, concluding with a conversation between author and narrator.

Listen-Alikes:

“The Chaperone” by Laura Moriarty. Narrated by Elizabeth McGovern. Penguin Random House Audio.

“The Engagements” by J. Courtney Sullivan. Narrated by Kimberly Farr. Books on Tape.

“The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel” by Melanie Benjamin. Narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Paul Boehmer. Books on Tape.

“Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel” by George Saunders. Narrated by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Carrie Brownstein, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, and a full cast. Books on Tape. Abraham Lincoln pays one last visit to son Willie, laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery amidst a host of spirits keeping watch as the boy makes his final passage. An unprecedented cast of 166 narrators combine in a spectral chorus, telling their stories in an astonishing gabble of voices that teems with pathos, tragicomedy, and the tenderest love.

Listen-Alikes:

“As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner. Narrated by Marc Cashman, Robertson Dean, Lina Patel, Lorna Raver. Books on Tape.

“Grief is the Thing with Feathers: A Novel” by Max Porter. Narrated by Jot Davies. Tantor Audio.

“Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel” by Jessymn Ward. Narrated by Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Chris Chalk, Rutina Wesley. Simon & Schuster Audio.

“The Reason You’re Alive: A Novel” by Matthew Quick. Narrated by R. C. Bray. HarperAudio. Crusty Vietnam veteran David Granger recounts his life story, a testimony of a sometimes violent and maverick past. Bray embodies this in-your-face character’s charged language and attitude via gravelly tone and staccato inflection with a hidden compassion that reveals Granger’s humanity.

Listen-Alikes:

“Beat the Reaper: A Novel” by Josh Bazell. Narrated by Robert Petkoff. Hachette Audio.

“I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” by Steve Earle. Narrated by Steve Earle. Blackstone Audio.

“We’re All Damaged” by Matthew Norman. Narrated by Scott Merriman. Brilliance Audio.

“Sourdough: A Novel” by Robin Sloan. Narrated by Therese Plummer. Macmillan Audio. Plummer captures Sloan’s sprightly tone in the odyssey of an unlikely recipient of a sourdough starter infused with ancient epicurean power. Deliciously quirky voicings and bubbly sound effects concoct a listening treat seasoned with a soupçon of magical realism and original musical compositions.

Listen-Alikes:

“The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living” by Louise Miller. Narrated by Jorjeana Marie. Books on Tape.

“Earthly Delights” by Kerry Greenwood. Narrated by Louise Siversen. Bolinda Audio.

“Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel” by J. Ryan Stradal. Narrated by Amy Ryan, Michael Stuhlbarg. Books on Tape.

“Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” by Michael Finkel. Narrated by Mark Bramhall. Books on Tape. Journalist Finkel investigates the life of a recluse who lived in the Maine woods for 27 years. With a subtle Down-easter accent and documentary-like reportage, Bramhall captures the author’s curiosity and Christopher Knight’s quiet humanity in a performance as unobtrusive as the hermit himself.

Listen-Alikes:

“Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall. Narrated by Fred Sanders. Books on Tape.

“The Marsh King’s Daughter” by Karen Dionne. Narrated by Emily Rankin. Books on Tape.

“Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland” by Ken Ilgunas. Narrated by Andrew Eiden. Blackstone Audio.

“You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir” by Sherman Alexie. Narrated by Sherman Alexie. Hachette Audio. With his characteristic tribal cadence, Alexie offers a lyrical, episodic memoir, augmented by his own poems and songs. He reveals his complicated urban Indian relationship with rez and family, sharing heartfelt grief and angst over his mother’s life and death.

Listen-Alikes:

“If I Ever Get Out of Here” by Eric Gansworth. Narrated by Eric Gansworth. Listening Library.

“I’m Fine…and Other Lies” by Whitney Cummings. Narrated by Whitney Cummings. Books on Tape.

“Logical Family: A Memoir” by Armistead Maupin. Narrated by Armistead Maupin. HarperAudio.

The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration Council includes: Mary Burkey, Library Consultant, OH (chair); Sarah Hashimoto, Jackson District Library, MI; Pam Spencer Holley, Library Consultant, VA; Lauren Kage, NoveList, Durham, NC; Lucy M. Lockley, St. Charles City-County Library District, MO; Dodie Ownes, Denver Public Library, CO; Christa Van Herreweghe, University City Public Library, MO

The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more about the association at www.rusaupdate.org.

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