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If you’re looking to treat your ears, the following award-winning audiobooks are sure to delight. Each year, the Audio Publishers Association honors the best audiobook releases with the Audio Awards. Books can win awards across a variety of categories, and one is chosen as the best overall audiobook of the year.
These past few years were an era. So, if you’ve lost your sense of time as I have, you might’ve missed some great reads. Luckily, I am here to help you get up to speed. While there are many excellent award winners from 2020-2022, I’ve included a sample of five titles from each year.
As an educator, book lover, and read-aloud enthusiast, audiobooks are absolutely my jam. In a dream world, I’d be a full-time writer and audiobook narrator. Sadly, we live in a nightmare world and I am too chicken to give up the security of my day job to pursue such dreams. Thus, I instead live vicariously through others by listening to amazing books everyday.
Unfortunately, there’s no rhyme or reason to my sampling. (My doctoral advisor would be so disappointed.) Though I tried to vary it a bit, I mostly listed titles I enjoyed listening to or those that interest me. However, there are many categories and winners not highlighted here. If my picks don’t suit you, check out the complete selection of award-winning audiobooks.
For each of the featured titles, I’ve included author and narrator information. Books for which no narrator is listed were read by the authors.
Award-Winning Audiobooks from 2022
Project Hill Mary by Andy Weir; Narrated by Ray Porter
Winner: Audiobook of the Year
An astronaut awakens on a rickety spacecraft millions of miles from home. He has no memory of what brought him to this point and no company, aside from the corpses of his crewmates. He is also humanity’s only hope against an extinction-level event.
Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford
In this riveting and heart-wrenching memoir, Ford details her complicated childhood. Between a tense relationship with her mother and an incarcerated father, Ford has to navigate tense familial bonds. Sadly, she doesn’t even know why her father is in prison. Moreover, she has her own painful secrets — secrets that cause her to battle with her body as well.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Winner: Narration by the Author
I would likely enjoy listening to former president Obama read the phone book. For my younger readers, a phone book is just a list of names and numbers, meaning it’s really boring. Luckily, Obama’s narration is anything but dull. A Promised Land is the first of his presidential memoirs and provides us a fascinating look into his time in office.
Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon; Narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Dion Graham, Imani Parks, Jordan Cobb, Shayna Small, AJ Beckles, and Bahni Turpin
Winner: Short Stories/Collections
With that list of authors, who needs a blurb? This book is practically a who’s who list of prolific YA writers. In six tales, the authors unapologetically explore Black love through teen protagonists. Full of magic and heart, these stories transport us to a promising starry night in the city.
How Y’all Doing? by Leslie Jordan
There are few people in Hollywood more endearing than Leslie Jordan. With his signature southern drawl, Jordan draws us into his life through a series of essays. Hilariously, he shares stories of his journey to fame, wrought with many quirky encounters. If you need a boost and a good laugh, this is the audiobook for you.
Award-Winning Audiobooks from 2021
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke; Narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor
Winner: Audiobook of the Year
Okay, I have not read this one and nothing I’ve read in the blurbs about it make any sense to me. Still, reviews and the Audie Awards indicate that it’s really good. Apparently, Piranesi lives in the House and keeps journals. Then the house begins to change and something dangerous grows. I have no idea what any of that means, but I like the sound of it.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X, Alex Haley; Narrated by Laurence Fishburne
Winner: Best Male Narrator
Performed by Oscar-nominated actor Laurence Fishburne, this oral reading of Malcolm X’s classic autobiography is even more riveting than the original. Fishburne brings the renowned historical figure to life for a new generation, much as Denzel Washington did in the 1992 film Malcolm X. The story follows the life of Malcolm X from his activism, his experiences with the Nation of Islam, and most of all the racism that permeated American society during his life. Unfortunately, his insights and experiences are just as relevant today as they were before his untimely death in 1965.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes, Narrated by Daveed Diggs
Winner: Science Fiction
Why, yes, this is at least the third post in which I’ve unashamedly thirsted after Daveed Diggs. Sorry not sorry. He narrates Solomon’s Afrofuturistic fantasy beautifully, and I’m not just saying that because I love him. Seamlessly, Diggs draws us into the deep sea community inhabited by the descendants of pregnant enslaved African mothers who were callously tossed overboard on their journey across the middle passage. As the community’s historians, Yetu is tasked with carrying all of the painful memories that her people forget for their own mental health. When the weight of the memories threatens to completely destroy her, Yetu and her people must face the past and find a way forward.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo; Narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo, Melania-Luisa Marte
Winner: Multi-voiced Performance and Young Adult
If you haven’t read any of Elizabeth Acevedo’s books, then stop reading this right now and do that instead. I’m not kidding. Each of her published works are absolutely amazing. Likewise, her award-winning audiobook of Clap When You Land is a beautiful story about the complexity of family. This multi-voiced performance perfectly captures our protagonists, two sisters (previously unknown to one another) who connect after the tragic death of their father. Additionally, Acevedo’s With the Fire on High won “Best Narration by the Author” in 2020.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi; Narrated by Yetide Badaki, Chukwudi Iwuji
Winner: Literary Fiction and Classics
I fell in love with Emezi’s unique style when I read their middle grades novel Pet. With their usual superb character development, Emezi weaves a tale of life and death, family and self. The story starts with a mother discovering the lifeless body of her child — a strange, misunderstood child — and never relents. With beautiful narration, this is a reflective, emotional read.
Award-Winning Audiobooks from 2020
The Only Plane in The Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff; Narrated by A Full 45-Person Cast with Holter Graham
Winner: Audiobook of the Year and Multi-voiced Performance
The sheer magnitude of this work is mind-boggling. A 45-person cast performs an oral history built from over 500 original interviews, as well as newly declassified documents and transcripts. This comprehensive story of the September 11th attacks is a must-read for history buffs and general readers alike.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson; Narrated by Marine Ireland
Winner: Best Female Narrator
What happens when an intelligent underachiever is manipulated by her rich friend (and the object of unrequited love) into caring for two children who spontaneously combust regularly? A LOT of unpredictable and engaging plot points, that’s what. Furthermore, Ireland brilliantly captures Wilson’s immaculate prose. She brings a believable southern charm to the Tennessean characters. The story is funny, provoking, touching, and outrageous.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow; Narrated by January LaVoy
Undoubtedly, this fantasy tale has left its mark on many readers already. Full of fanciful doors to different worlds and led by a feisty and sympathetic heroine, this story has something for everyone. With a runtime of over 12 action-packed hours, this is a story that will keep you entertained from start to finish.
The Institute by Stephen King; Narrated by Santino Fontana
This is one of King’s best books in a long time. A boy wakes up in a room that looks like his own but isn’t. Next, we accompany him on a perilous mission to figure out what’s going on. Soon, he meets other children like himself — children with gifts The Institute wants to use for its own sinister purposes. Can he save himself and his new friends?
Evil Eye by Madhuri Shekar; Narrated by Nick Choksi, Harsh Nayaar, Annapurna Sriram, Bernard White, Rita Wolf
Winner: Original Work
This Audible original follows Usha, a mother convinced her daughter was cursed in the womb. Her daughter, Pallavi, is nearly 30 and *gasp* unmarried. However, when Pallavi falls for an Indian American entrepreneur, Usha is surprisingly troubled. Family secrets surface as Usha grows more and more suspicious of Pallavi’s lover and his true identity.
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