The 20 Best Audiobooks We Listened to in 2020

Guaranteed to pull anyone out of a 2020-induced listening funk.

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The 20 Best Audiobooks We Listened to in 2020

It’s been a hard year for audiobooks.

Not for the quality, of course. As has been the case for the last many years, the audiobook scene only got richer and more ambitious as 2020 rolled on. But whereas previous years saw the boom in audio-forward storytelling rise to meet the audio-friendly spaces created by increasingly long commutes and the cultural pressure to consume more content, more of the time, 2020 found most of us at home, bereft of both the moments we might have previously set aside for extended listening, and the mental bandwidth to consume much of any longform audio content at all.

At least, that was my experience. After putting the bow on my last big audiobook piece to go up back before any of us understood just how deeply this whole thing would end up being this whole thing (“An Expert’s Guide to Finding and Listening to Amazing Audiobooks While Social Distancing”), I hit the biggest reading roadblock of my life. For months, the only thing I could manage to lose myself in was the French version of Harry Potter, and only then because my listening skills were rusty enough that maybe only 63% of it had any chance of making it to my brain—43%, if any of the characters given a lisp by narrator Bernard Giraudeau were talking. (Ron. I’m talking about Ron.)

A generous read might be that this was my take on comfort listening—both Harry Potter and Percy Jackson topped Tumblr’s Year in Review Books list this year, so clearly I wasn’t alone in reaching to the deepest corners of my personal shelves to make it through—but honestly, it felt a whole lot more like sticking my head in storytelling sand. New books? In this economy? Who could ever!

Happily, while 2020 might not have given the world much of anything else, it did leave us with so many exceptional new audiobooks that, eventually, enough killer listens came my way that I couldn’t not climb out of my non-reading funk. Who could ever? Me, it turns out. And hopefully you, too.

And so: This is my list of the best audiobooks of 2020, chosen not because they’re so much better, necessarily, than every other title that hit the audio shelves this year (I’m still just one person; I can’t catch everything), but rather because, for one reason or another, they each shone brightly enough to make me pull my head out of the sand, stop doomscrolling, and listen. And this year, that wasn’t nothing.

On that note, Happy End of 2020. May your own listening be joyful and doom-free.

(Oh, and if you’re looking for a last-minute, indie-supporting gift for that awesome audiobibliophile in your life, a Libro.fm gift subscription, benefitting your favorite local independent bookstore, will never go wrong…)

Note: The titles below are organized by run time, shortest to longest.

The Death of Sitting Bear: New and Selected Poems

momaday.jpg by N. Scott Momaday
Narrated by: N. Scott Momaday
Run time: 2 hours 29 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

It’s hard to imagine a more sonorous voice than that of Kiowa poet N. Scott Momaday, who stepped into the recording booth this year to read The Death of Sitting Bear, a new collection of poems rooted both in the customs and traditions of his upbringing on Navajo, Apache and Pueblo reservations in the American Southwest, and in his academic background in poetic traditions from around the world. (“A Century of Impressions,” for example, comprises 100 discrete images, each composed in haiku’s 5-7-5 syllabic meter, while “Prairie Hymn” follows a precise formula from the Chippewa oral tradition.) Rich and deliberately modulated, his narration cracks these poems wide open, unfurling them like the ribbons of horizon he keeps coming back to, and making clear just how important oral performance is to poetry as an art form. To that end, savor this collection. Yes, it’s short, but give your mind the gift of taking Momaday’s poems in slowly, preferably while sitting quietly in the natural world, logged off from the Internet and checked out from the news. You won’t regret it.

How to Pronounce Knife (Stories)

thammavongsa.jpg by Souvankham Thammavongsa
Narrated by: James Tang, Kulap Vilaysack
Run time: 2 hours 59 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Souvankham Thammavongsa’s debut short story collection, How to Pronounce Knife, is brief, but it packs a punch. Pulling together 14 stories that pick up the lived realities of immigrants, refugees and other outsiders and examine them from every angle (Thammavongsa herself immigrated to Canada from Laos with her family as a refugee when she was a toddler), How to Pronounce Knife doesn’t just speak to our current historical moment—it shouts to it. And yet, Thammavongsa’s prose style is so clever and economical, it’s a kind of shouting that sounds astonishingly like relief. This bit of compositional sleight-of-hand is only heightened in the collection’s audio version, with narrators James Tang and Kulap Vilaysack taking turns interpreting Knife’s entries in equally economical, straightforward tones. This, obviously, makes Thammavongsa’s sharp, illuminating stories extremely easy listening—perfect for a year in which listening has been anything but.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You (A Stamped from the Beginning Remix)

stamped.jpg by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Narrated by: Jason Reynolds
Run time: 4 hours 11 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

In explaining why novelist Jason Reynolds was the right person to take on this YA remix of his National Book Award-winning blockbuster, Stamped from the Beginning, author and historian Ibram X. Kendi notes that Reynolds, like all great writers, “snatches the human eye in the way that a thumping beat snatches the human ear, [and] makes your head bop up and down.” Kendi is speaking figuratively, of course, but as any listener well-versed in the YA audiobook space will already know, when it comes to Reynolds’ skills as a narrator, it’s literally true, too. Unsurprisingly, the compellingly kinetic audiobook version of Stamped finds Reynolds, as both writer and narrator, at his thumping-beat best. Moreover, it works particularly well as an audio experience as the production team has spliced literal beats throughout Reynolds’ performance, effectively cutting a dense text into short, entertainingly digestible tracks. Taken together, Reynolds’ and Kendi’s Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You is critical listening—for all ages.

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are

bloom.jpg by Rachel Bloom
Narrated (and sung) by: Rachel Bloom
Run time: 4 hours 51 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

The only thing more delightful than listening to Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) sing her way through a 15-minute original musical montage of her career trajectory, childhood through today—which you can do, on Soundcloud, right now—is listening to that same montage in situ in her weirdo new essay(+) collection, I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are. Covering all of 2020’s hottest topics (insecurity! anxiety! impostor syndrome! pooping!) with candor and cheer, I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are is perfectly positioned to be the cathartic release you’re looking for at the end of a rough, claustrophobic year.

Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics

parton.jpg by Dolly Parton
Narrated by: Dolly Parton
Run time: 5 hours 18 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

One could argue that, as the patron saint of country music, childhood literacy, and, as of this year, coronavirus vaccine research, Dolly Parton isn’t obliged to give us anything more than she already has. And yet, here we are at the end of the year, a brand new memoir giving insight into her songwriting process firmly in hand. Already included in Paste’s 2020 Music Book Gift Guide, Dolly Parton, Songwriter: My Life in Lyrics is arguably even better in its audiobook incarnation—not just because it includes clips of the (150!) songs in question, but also because Dolly’s ‘narration,’ such as it is, is so casual as to make the listener feel like they’ve just settled down with their favorite Southern aunt for a pitcher of sweet tea and some good old fashioned chit-chat. And phew, I don’t know about everyone else, but aside from a viable coronavirus vaccine, that’s exactly what I’ve needed all year—thank you, Dolly, for both.

What Are You Going Through

nunez.jpg by Sigrid Nunez
Narrated by: Hillary Huber
Run time: 5 hours 36 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

As What Are You Going Through, Sigrid Nunez’s 2020 entry to the canon of stream-of-consciousness narratives, proves, Nunez has an almost uncanny ability to meanderingly guide her readers to places they had no idea they needed to go. Nominally focused on an unnamed narrator’s promise to a friend with terminal cancer to help her die on her own terms, What Are You Going Through offers a deeply humane take on empathy, connection and what we owe other people, especially in moments when we’re most inclined to retreat into our own little bubbles. Rejoining Nunez for this journey is narrator Hillary Huber, whose wry, almost detached performance made The Friend such a mesmerizing listen. Though she injects a bit more empathy into What Are You Going Through, Huber leads with much of the same quietly sardonic energy, producing a listening experience just as arresting, and even more acutely well-suited to the year we’ve all found ourselves in.

The Last Smile in Sunder City (The Fetch Phillips Archives, Book #1)

arnold.jpg by Luke Arnold
Narrated by: Luke Arnold
Run time: 7 hours 55 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Few genres are more fun to listen to, when done right, than noir, and The Last Smile in Sunder City, Luke Arnold’s debut noir/fantasy, is done right. Following human PI Fletch Phillips as he attempts to help the magical creatures whose world he helped destroy, The Last Smile sets up a compelling premise. It’s in the audio translation, though, that this title most stands out, as Arnold, a Hollywood veteran (late of Black Sails), does the audiobook’s narration himself. To get into character, Arnold trades his native Australian accent out for a hardboiled American one, slipping in and out of dozens of other accents and quirky vocal tics as Fletch meets people of all types (and ex-magical species) over the course of his investigation, all while hitting the exact right notes in terms of both pitch and pacing. With an ear (and voice) for noir as sharp as Arnold’s on hand, you really can’t go wrong: The Last Smile in Sunder City is an absolute blast.

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything

gilliland.jpg by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
Narrated by: Inés del Castillo
Run time: 8 hours 11 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Tonally, Raquel Vasquez’s debut YA novel, Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything, reads as a particularly lyrical social justice-oriented contemporary, protagonist Sia Martinez alternately plotting revenge on the racist white boy she holds accountable for her mother’s deportation (and likely death) at the hands of ICE, meditating on her abuela’s belief that human beings evolved from maís, and daydreaming about her mom hanging out with mystical cacti. There’s a funny best friend, a hot new guy, and a fortuitous switch-up of class schedules—so far, so normal. And then… there’s a flying saucer, carrying her mom, crashing into her car, and Sia Martinez goes straight from lyrical, social justice-oriented contemporary to lyrical, social-justice oriented sci-fi. With her sensitive, occasionally wry delivery, narrator Inés del Castillo balances the demands of these many, disparate elements with ease, giving Sia’s voice just enough of a gravelly edge to catch your ear and hold on tight, even as she stays fluid enough to shift gracefully between character and mood, accent and language. There’s nothing flashy here, just a lovely story about embracing the unknown, held aloft by solid narration.

Amnesty

adiga.jpg by Aravind Adiga
Narrated by: Vikas Adams
Run time: 8 hours 34 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Indo-Australian writer and journalist Aravind Adiga’s debut novel, White Tiger, was the winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2008, so it’s likely his latest novel, Amnesty, was already on your radar. If it’s not, though, put it there, as Adiga’s story of an illegal Sri Lankan immigrant who gets caught up in a deadly crime and has to decide if and how to bring what he knows to the police is one that will be relevant to more than just Australian readers. As a character who, for his own safety, is obliged to keep his mouth shut whenever he’s somewhere his immigration status might be questioned, hearing Dhananjaya (Danny) Rajaratnam’s voice is especially important, making this a great choice for audio—especially as the wildly agile veteran narrator (and Paste mainstay) Vikas Adams, who builds out a very mild Australian-by-way-of-Sri-Lankan accent to bring Danny to life, is the pro Simon & Schuster tapped to take the project on.

Too Much Lip

lucashenko.jpg by Melissa Lucashenko
Narrated by: Tamala Shelton
Run time: 9 hours 24 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

First published in Australia in 2018 (where it’s already been optioned for a film adaptation), Melissa Lucashenko’s darkly funny, Miles Franklin Literary Award-winning family novel, Too Much Lip, was finally made available to American readers this year. Following a smart-mouthed First Nations Australian woman named Kerry Salter as she returns home to Bundjalung country on the back of a stolen motorcycle to say goodbye to her dying Pop/stay a step ahead of big city prison, Too Much Lip both draws on Lucashenko’s own Indigenous Australian heritage, and highlights how similar the tensions between indigenous and colonizer cultures the world over. Narrator Tamala Shelton, whose clear, natural tone lets Kerry stay light on her feet, even as the weight of heritage and history threaten to pull her down, brings extra depth to the story by having learned the Yugambeh-Bundjalung language specifically for this audio edition. (Shelton’s own heritage, per the audiobook’s introduction, is Bundjalung and Lama Lama country.) For American listeners looking to get deeper into Australian literature than Liane Moriarty and Jane Harper, Too Much Lip might be the perfect place to start.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

anappara.jpg by Deepa Anappara
Narrated by: Indira Varma, Himesh Patel, Antonio Aakeel
Run time: 9 hours 39 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Debut novelist Deepa Anappara may be new to the commercial fiction scene, but as a writer who grew up in Kerala and spent much of her journalistic career reporting on the impact of poverty and religious violence on children in Mumbai and Delhi, she’s deeply fluent in the cultural and economic dynamics playing out between and around the trio of crime-solving kids looking for their missing friend (and possibly magical, soul-snatching djinns) at the heart of Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. Add in dynamic, gentle performances from Indira Varma, Himesh Patel and Antonio Aakeel—all British, but employing Indian accents to fit the setting—and you have the recipe for a thrilling, complex listening experience.

The Guest List

foley.jpg by Lucy Foley
Narrated by: Jot Davies, Chloe Massey, Olivia Dowd, Aoife McMahon, Sarah Ovens, Rich Keeble
Run time: 10 hours 22 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

An Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery, set on a haunted, hard-to-reach island off the coast of Ireland during a trendy magazine editor’s luxe destination wedding, narrated by an eclectic cast of characters, any one of whom might be the murderer? Yes, please, that is exactly what we all need, here at the end of the year. An official Reese’s Book Club pick, currently ranked #1 in the Mystery & Thriller category on Libro.fm, it’s entirely likely you’ve already got The Guest List on your TBR list, but in case you need a third opinion, here’s mine: It’s fun! All six narrators are solid, keeping a measured enough pace that dread is always creeping along behind, while still managing to give their individual characters a spark of life. Plus, obviously, they all have either English or Irish accents, which American listeners can never get enough of in the best of times, nevermind times when a bit of escapism from American anything sounds pretty great. (Sure, this is escapism that ends in fictional murder, but at least that’s a problem that resolves.)

A Deadly Education (Scholomance, Book 1)

novik.jpg by Naomi Novik
Narrated by: Anisha Dadia
Run time: 10 hours 58 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

After a taking a break to write a couple of stellar standalone fantasies (Uprooted and Spinning Silver), Naomi Novik came back to the series game this year with the first book in her new Scholomance world, A Deadly Education. Think, Harry Potter, but without anyone trying to pretend that it’s anything other than psychotic to send a bunch of kids into a magical school that’s more likely to kill them than send them back in one piece. Galadriel, the misanthropic heroine of this series, is a miserable narrator, but that’s only because she hates both everyone and everything around her, as both everyone and everything around her literally want her dead. Potential audiobook readers oughtn’t worry, though—her being a miserable narrator doesn’t translate to A Deadly Education being a miserable listen, as narrator Anisha Dadia breathes enough compellingly cold fire into Galadriel’s eternal seething that, by the time you realize the extent to which that seething is earned, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. (That said, fair warning: The cliffhanger this first book ends on, while tame by comparison to those in most other YA fantasy series, nevertheless prickles, so if nervous anticipation isn’t your bag, I’d wait until next summer, when the sequel is set for release.)

Black Futures

black-futures.jpg edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham
Narrated by: Kevin R. Free, Dominic Hoffman, Robin Miles, Adenrele Ojo, Bahni Turpin, Kimberly Drew, Jenna Wortham
Run time: 11 hours 11 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Black Futures, the zine-like anthology of art, essays and conversations edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham that seeks to answer the question, What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?, is meant to be an multi-dimensional, multi-sensory experience. This means: Get your hands on the print book, absolutely. But it also means: Get your ears on the audio version, as soon as possible, as an enormous part of that answer lies in Black people literally wielding their voice. On the audio version, this voice is shared amongst Kevin R. Free, Dominic Hoffman, Robin Miles, Adenrele Ojo and Bahni Turpin, all of whom give Black Futures texture and dimension. That said, this is a case in which listening alone isn’t sufficient. At the very least, anyone queuing up the audiobook should make sure they have the publisher’s preview widget open, the better to keep track of the chapter listing (and to follow along with the visual material accompanying the first 90-some pages). Better still would be to warm up for the listening experience by scrolling through the interactive preview run by The New York Times a couple of months before the book itself made its debut. Best of all, though, would be to order a print copy from either a library or your nearest Black-owned bookstore (handily, Libro.fm has a list of those for you right here) to read along with as you listen, because again, this is a prismatic book, best experienced through multiple senses.

We Ride Upon Sticks

barry.jpg by Quan Barry
Narrated by: Isabel Keating
Run time: 14 hours 44 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

1980s pop culture, the Salem witch trials, a losing field hockey team suddenly imbued with dark, witchy powers, powerful female friendship forged in the crucible of team sport and social ostracization—Quan Barry’s nigh-indescribable We Ride Upon Sticks has it all. Add in a second person narrative device that lets reader Isabel Keating sweep the listener from one player’s head to the next, her performance running from exhausted It Girl resignation to fierce Quebecois tomboyishness to sexually curious religious piety, all without losing sight of the collective feminine magic at the heart of the team’s dark pact with the graven image of Emilio Estevez, and you’ve got the witchy field hockey literary period piece mystery novel you never knew you always wanted. Get thee your earbuds and your field hockey sticks! Tonight we ride. (In case you couldn’t tell: I loved this one with my whole heart.)

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (The Carls, Book 2)

green.jpg by Hank Green
Narrated by: Kristen Sieh, Joe Hempel, Jesse Vilinsky, Nicole Lewis, Kevin R. Free, Hank Green, Robert Petkoff, Angelo Di Loreto, Oliver Wyman, Hillary Huber, P.J. Ochlan, Gabra Zackman
Run time: 15 hours 45 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Hank Green’s debut novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, was one of the best, most humane books of 2018. Following April May, an art student-turned-YouTube influencer whose fame (and infamy) grows after she becomes the accidental spokesperson of a collective of possibly alien robots that appear in cities all over the world one random night, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing could have easily stood alone as a treatise on what it means to be young and human and known in the age of the social internet. There was a mystery, of sorts, in its final few pages, but it wasn’t a mystery that necessarily needed solving. That said, Green’s follow-up, A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, manages to deliver on promises readers might not even have realized they were waiting on. Green achieves this largely through expanding the perspectives through which the story is told (a necessity, as April May starts the story unable to provide her own), which device is made even stronger in the audiobook, as the voice cast expands to include Joe Hempel, Jesse Vilinsky, Nicole Lewis, Kevin R. Free, Robert Petkoff, Angelo Di Loreto, Oliver Wyman, Hillary Huber, P.J. Ochlan and Gabra Zackman to a mix that initially only included Kristen Sieh and Green, himself. While An Absolutely Remarkable Thing nodded at the idea that the Carls’ story wasn’t April’s alone (her inability to internalize that being, in large part, the point), being able to hear her friends’ perspectives on the whole situation in A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, not just in their own words but in their own voices, really drives that truth home. As a bonus, completionists out there will be glad to know The Carls is a duology—that means, if you were waiting to jump in until the story was finished, now’s your time.

From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars)

empire.jpg by S.A. Chakraborty, Zoraida Córdova, Hank Green, R.F. Kuang, Catherynne M. Valente, and many, many more
Narrated by: Jonathan Davis, Sean Kenin Elias-Reyes, Dion Graham, Jon Hamm, January LaVoy, Soneela Nankani, Marc Thompson, Sam Witwer, and Emily Woo Zeller
Run time: 17 hours 59 minutes
Audible | Overdrive | Soundcloud

Every Star Wars audiobook is a fully immersive thrill ride, a rich, space-age soundscape stretching out under every scene. Still, there’s something special about the From a Certain Point of View books, which follow the same basic story arcs as the films in the original trilogy do, just from the perspectives of supporting characters. For hardcore fans, there’s real joy to be had in getting to see thoughtful, often funny, alternate takes on scenes they’ve long had memorized. For more casual fans, meanwhile, the astonishing variety of authors contributing to each collection might be the greater draw. I mean, Hank Green, channeling a naturalist looking after tauntauns on Toth? Alongside a Catherynne M. Valente story humanizing the exogorth that almost (but not quite!) manages to eat the Millenium Falcon? Alongside S. A. Chakraborty investigating Darth Vader’s dining preferences? That’s just fun. Add to this the official author commentary podcast series available from Anchor.fm, and you’ve got the ultimate 2020 listening experience.

Moonflower Murders (Susan Ryeland Series, Book 2)

horowitz-mm.jpg by Anthony Horowitz
Narrated by: Lesley Manville, Allan Corduner
Run time: 18 hours 28 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

With its editor-solves-her-writer’s-murder, mystery-in-a-mystery format, Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders was the title that first made me want to pitch the Paste Books editor about doing audiobook lists at all. I mean, as fun as it is, in print, to have nearly an entire Agatha Christie-esque period mystery tucked inside a more contemporary one, getting to experience that shift in audio—editor Susan Ryeland’s framing mystery, read by one narrator, getting interrupted several hours in by her writer’s Atticus Pünd mystery, read by another, which runs another many hours still before the framing mystery returns—is on another level entirely. This! This is what audiobooks are for! Happily, the magic is just as potent in Susan Ryeland’s second outing, Moonflower Murders, as it was in Magpie Murders, with Allan Corduner returning to take on the Atticus Pünd story, and Lesley Manville stepping in to put her own spin on Susan’s. Blessedly immersive, twice over, this might be the audiobook I’m most happy to have had join my queue this year.

The King of Crows (The Diviners, Book #4)

bray.jpg by Libba Bray
Narrated by: January LaVoy
Run time: 22 hours 20 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

I’ve been banging the Diviners drum since the 1920s-set supernatural YA series began, and now that the fourth (and final) book is out, I’m only banging harder. Libba Bray’s skill in weaving together supernatural chills, romantic thrills and complexly rendered interrogations of all the ways in which America’s history is tangled up with bigotry, violence and racism is as sharp as ever, as are narrator January LaVoy’s skills in bringing those complexities to roaring, raucous life. To even skim the basic shape of The King of Crows’ sweeping, climactic plot here would both take too much time and ruin the listening experience, but suffice it to say, this is a series America needs right now, narrated by a performer who knows exactly how to tell it. Catch up however and whenever you can.

A Promised Land

obama.jpg by Barack Obama
Narrated by: Barack Obama
Run time: 29 hours 10 minutes
Audible | Libro.fm | Overdrive | Soundcloud

I can’t imagine I need to sell anybody on this one. Even before he was elected President of the United States, Barack Obama was widely regarded as both a trenchant writer and a charming orator. In taking on the audiobook narration of A Promised Land, the first of his several forthcoming Presidential memoirs, he gets to flex on both. Whatever you’re hoping to get out of the meat of this book, that’s your business. In terms of a listening experience, though? Ideal. Would vote to press play on again. Forty-four stars.

BONUS: JR, by William Gaddis, narrated by Nick Sullivan

gaddis.jpgShould anyone leave this list still in want of a good listen, an October re-issue of William Gaddis’ infamously unwieldy anti-capitalist satire JR (from New York Review of Books Classics) has shone a new spotlight on Nick Sullivan’s breakthrough 2010 narration, which took a nearly unreadable text comprised almost entirely of the unattributed dialogue of more than 120 characters and turned it into a story that’s not just legible, but genuinely engaging. Yes, it runs longer than 37 hours (in print, the book is 700+ pages), but in terms of projects that are ideally suited for audio adaptation, it would be hard, as Sullivan notes in a recent interview with The Guardian, to find a better candidate than JR. (“It’s one of the best books I’ve ever come across in terms of being translatable to audio,” he’s quoted saying. “So much of it is already there, in the phonetic way Gaddis writes dialogue.”) Unfortunately for Libro.fm and library users, Sullivan’s victory over JR is only available to Audible members, but for those of you with Audible credits burning a hole in your digital pocket, this might be a great pick.



Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She
can be found @AlexisKG.

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