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Best Audio Originals 2023

AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of the Year includes an exciting new category in 2023: Audio Originals. These productions, some created specifically for audio and some with print counterparts but using all of the bells and whistles available in the audio format to transform them into something new, showcase just how incredible this kind of storytelling can be. With talented full casts, music, and all sorts of sound effects, these audiobooks are reminiscent of live theater and performance. A treat for audiophiles everywhere, audio originals are also a fantastic entry point for readers new to the audio format. This year’s five winners include adaptations of plays, comics, and graphic novels, as well as stories written exclusively for audio.

by Alison Bechdel, Madeleine George, read by Jane Lynch, Carrie Brownstein, Roberta Colindrez, Roxane Gay, and a Full Cast
Audible, Inc
AudioFile Earphones Award

Alison Bechdel’s iconic comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For ran for decades and has become a beloved icon of lesbian culture. Madeleine George’s audio adaptation captures its heart and soul. The story revolves around the messy entanglements of a group of queer women living and loving in a small Midwestern city in the 1980s. Carrie Brownstein and Roberta Colindrez give vivid, heartfelt performances as best friends Mo and Lois. Jane Lynch as the narrator is an inspired choice (her humor is impeccable), as is Roxane Gay as the owner of the queer bookshop where many of the characters work. Sound effects, including music, protest chants, and clips of speeches, are icing on the cake. This is a perfect adaptation.

by Kate McAll, read by Edita Brychta, Michael Canavan, Shannon Cochran, Arye Gross, Anna Mathias, Alan Shearman, André Sogliuzzo, Joanne Whalley
L.A. Theatre Works
AudioFile Earphones Award

L.A. Theatre Works productions are always a pleasure, and this powerful audio play is no exception. It’s the story of the Austrian and German Jews who fled to Shanghai in the 1930s before World War II. Playwright Kate McAll drew on first-person testimonies to compile a moving kaleidoscope of stories and experiences, and they’re as poignant to hear on audio as they would be in a theater. Every actor shines, embuing their performances with nuance and emotion. At less than 2 hours, this is a must-listen for those interested in an often-untold piece of World War II history.

by Suzanne Palmer, read by, John Kielty, Rayner Gabriel, Gail Shalan, and a Full Cast
Graphic Audio

Karen Novack and John Kielty lead a full cast in the third sci-fi adventure of Fergus Ferguson, accidental scavenger and possible world-saver. With his sister and a crew of their friends, Fergus travels across the globe, hunting down the pieces of an ancient alien artifact before it can be reassembled by people with sinister intentions. Kielty’s Scottish accent is full of drama and bravado—perfect for the somewhat hapless adventurer. Novack’s calm voice keeps listeners grounded during the action scenes, and additional narrators portray the large cast of secondary characters in a wonderful array of voices and accents.

by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, read by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jaiden Meltzer, Xavier Krosoczka, Noah Rico, and a Full Cast
Scholastic Audiobooks
AudioFile Earphones Award

Graphic memoirs often make the best audio originals, and Jarret J Krosoczka’s Sunshine is a perfect example. A well-chosen soundtrack, lots of sound effects, and the voices of more than 50 narrators add to the magic of this poignant book about the time Krosoczka spent as a teen counselor at a camp for terminally ill children. Krosoczka plays himself as an adult, which adds layers of depth to his recollections. Jaiden Meltzer voices his younger self with the perfect mix of apprehension and compassion. The stories of the camp kids come alive via the many narrators, who capture their unique personalities.

by Felicia Day, read by Sean Astin, Felicia Day, Neil Gaiman, LilyPichu, London Hughes, Wil Wheaton, and a Full Cast
Audible, Inc.
AudioFile Earphones Award

Author Felicia Day and fantasy icon Neil Gaiman anchor a full cast of superb narrators in this fantasy adventure. Day portrays Laurel, who committed the ultimate sin when, instead of defeating the evil sorcerer Tybus, as she was destined to do as the Chosen One, she, well, failed spectacularly. Now everyone in the magical world hates her. She’s not sure how to fix it until a Normie named Kate comes along with some unusual advice. LilyPichu gives a spirited performance as Kate, and Gaiman’s witty, slightly harried take on the narrator is pitch-perfect. Sean Astin’s vampire character is a delight—one of the many magical creatures voiced by the talented cast.


AudioFile is your #1 audiobook review source. 

Edita Brychta photo by Matt Petit. Gail Shalan photo by Jessica Osber. 

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