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AudioFile's Best Audiobooks of 2019

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    THE ACCOMPLICE by Joseph Kanon, read by Jonathan Davis

    Jonathan Davis gives an unparalleled performance of Joseph Kanon’s exciting, thought-provoking, and highly satisfying novel set in 1962. Max Weill, an Auschwitz survivor and famed Nazi hunter, spots Otto Schramm in a Hamburg park. Schramm, a high-ranking Nazi and Mengele co-worker, was presumed dead.

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    ADA TWIST AND THE PERILOUS PANTS by Andrea Beaty, read by Bahni Turpin

    Sound effects and Bahni Turpin’s lively narration enhance this vivid story of an inquisitive future scientist. Ada must rely on her curious mind, her friends Rosie and Iggy, and her family to rescue a friend in trouble. Turpin imbues each character with personality, embodying Ada’s excited curiosity, her parents’ occasional exasperation, and her brother’s crankiness at being the subject of her experiments.

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    AKATA WARRIOR by Nnedi Okorafor, read by Yetide Badaki

    Sunny is an Igbo and American albino girl with the juju needed to save humanity. Badaki enlivens Sunny’s character with a bright American accent and gives her friends varied Nigerian- and American-sounding voices. Badaki’s animated voice is especially impressive during the dramatic encounters Sunny has with giant spiders, lake monsters, a djinn, and supreme beings.

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  • AKIN

    AKIN by Emma Donoghue, read by Jason Culp

    Jason Culp’s near-perfect narration of the new literary drama from the author of ROOM matches its emotional intensity. Two lost souls from distant branches of the same family tree are thrown together. Culp uses an edgy tone to express the frustration of set-in-his-ways 79-year-old retired professor Noah Selvaggio as his planned trip to the French Riviera is upended when he reluctantly takes Michael, an abandoned 11-year-old great-nephew, on the journey.

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    Listen to an interview with Narrator Jason Culp

    AMERICAN DREAMER by Adriana Herrera, read by Sean Crisden

    Narrator Sean Crisden wraps listeners in the warmth of food truck owner Nesto Vasquez, whose Dominican heritage inspires his delicious Afro-Caribbean food. Nesto parks his truck opposite the Ithaca Library and strikes immediate sparks with librarian Jude Fuller. Both men have to balance work priorities and family baggage before they get their sweet and steamy happily-ever-after.

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    Watch a Video with Narrator Sean Crisden

    AMERICAN MOONSHOT by Douglas Brinkley, read by Stephen Graybill

    Narrator Stephen Graybill’s assured performance captures the author’s focus on the space race and its part in the social and political complexities of the Cold War era. Historian Douglas Brinkley celebrates the Kennedy administration’s role in the nascent aerospace industry. Listeners gain renewed appreciation for the challenges and tenacious efforts involved as private and public sectors strove to beat Soviet Russia in going to the moon.

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    AMERICAN SPY by Lauren Wilkinson, read by Bahni Turpin

    This is not your grandfather’s audio spy thriller. Marie Mitchell, a young African-American officer, is routinely bypassed and underestimated by the old boys in the intelligence networks she works for, and it has made her a much harder-headed customer than is suggested by the warm, feminine voice with which Turpin skillfully misleads you.

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    AN AMERICAN SUNRISE by Joy Harjo, read by Joy Harjo

    Teacher, saxophonist, and poet laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo does not just read her poems. She performs them with passion and music; some are literally songs, and she sings them. This collection focuses on the many trails of tears, from those of her Cherokee and Muscogee ancestors to those of Central American natives today. The poems are beautiful, made more beautiful by the author's vivid and emotional interpretations.

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    THE AYE-AYE AND I by Gerald Durrell, read by Rupert Degas

    Oh, the utter delight of adventuring in Madagascar with the late English naturalist Gerald Durrell and his poly-voiced narrator, Rupert Degas, who beautifully channels Durrell’s slightly raspy voice, his exuberant personality, and his enthusiasm for every variety of fauna, including human.

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    Listen to an interview with Narrator Rupert Degas

    BIG SKY by Kate Atkinson, read by Jason Isaacs

    Listeners join P.I. Jackson Brodie as what should be a simple investigation grows into something much more sinister. Narrator Jason Isaacs (who starred in the "Case Histories" TV series) is the perfect match for this multifaceted story. His confident and polished delivery allows both the wit in the writing and the tension of the plot to come together.

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    Watch a Video with Author Kate Atkinson and Narrator Jason Isaacs

    BLACK LEOPARD, RED WOLF by Marlon James, read by Dion Graham

    This African-inspired epic fantasy becomes an immersive experience as told by Dion Graham, whose deep-voiced narration makes listeners feel like they are walking in the shoes of the protagonist. Tracker’s powerful sense of smell leads him through dangerous cities and wild lands in pursuit of a child he has been hired to find.

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    Watch a Video with Narrator Dion Graham

    THE BRIDE TEST by Helen Hoang, read by Emily Woo Zeller

    Emily Woo Zeller narrates a deeply moving love story between two passionate and strong-willed individuals from its emotionally devastating lows to its profoundly satisfying conclusion. Khai Diep is convinced he is incapable of feeling, and, therefore, has no need of a wife. Esme Tran, despite numerous obstacles, jumps at the chance to meet a potential husband who is American.

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    THE BRITISH ARE COMING by Rick Atkinson, read by George Newbern

    The winning combination of George Newbern’s engaging narration and Rick Atkinson’s vivid new work of history—the first in a planned trilogy about the American Revolution—brings to life what could have been a dry account of Revolutionary battles. While this is primarily a military history, Newbern is also adept at voicing the stories of ordinary colonists, most of whom did whatever was necessary in a fraught time.

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    Listen to an interview with Narrator George Newbern

    CHARLOTTE'S WEB by E.B. White, read by Meryl Streep, January LaVoy, Kirby Heyborne, MacLeod Andrews, and a Full Cast

    Meryl Streep and a stellar cast take us to the barnyard. She draws the listener in with a smooth, consistent delivery and unobtrusive interjections highlighting the emotions of the dialogue. Every portrayal of every character, major and minor, bursts with personality.

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    DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid, read by Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt, Judy Greer, Pablo Schreiber, Ari Fliakos, January LaVoy, Julia Whelan, and a Full Cast

    This is—to state it plainly—a remarkable audiobook. It recounts the story of a seventies rock band’s meteoric rise to fame and mysterious fall from grace. Written as a transcribed oral history, it lends itself naturally to the audio format. Also, it's narrated by a star-studded full cast. The result is a tapestry of memorable characters with electric chemistry and authentic-sounding relationships.

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    THE DEATH AND LIFE OF AIDA HERNANDEZ by Aaron Bobrow-Strain, read by Frankie Corzo

    This audiobook demonstrates that the national debate over immigration is nothing new. Listeners will be gripped by Frankie Corzo’s narration of this biography of Aida Hernandez, who came to the U.S. in 1987 at the age of 8. Corzo captures the raw emotions that percolate throughout the audiobook and excels in moments of drama, such as when Aida is deported to Mexico.

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    Listen to an interview with Narrator Frankie Corzo

    DESIRE LINES by Elizabeth Kingston, read by Nicholas Boulton

    Narrator Nicholas Boulton’s rich baritone amplifies the drama and intrigue in this intense medieval romance. Gryff is a Welsh prince in hiding who is captured by violent thieves and kept alive simply because he knows how to care for his valuable hunting falcons. A small, nearly silent, and deadly woman slays his captors, and the pair form an alliance as they travel together.

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    Watch a Video with Narrator Nicholas Boulton

    EDGEDANCER by Brandon Sanderson, read by Terence Aselford and a Full Cast

    Expanding on the character Lift’s story, this STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE novella ties up some loose ends between WORDS OF RADIANCE and OATHBRINGER. Narrated by Terence Aselford and a full cast, the story comes alive with background music and stimulating sound effects such as feet pounding on the pavement and crashes of thunder.

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    FIRST: SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR by Evan Thomas, read by Kirsten Potter

    Kirsten Potter narrates this biography of America’s first female Supreme Court justice with enthusiasm and clarity. She adjusts her tone to suit the subject matter, ranging from warmly personal in family sections to evenhandedly serious in discussions of legal cases.

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    FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN by Randy Travis, Ken Abraham, read by Rory Feek

    Randy Travis may have lost his ability to sing (he suffered a life-threatening stroke in 2013), but his voice as a writer comes through loud and clear in this deeply engaging autobiography on audio. Fellow country singer Rory Feek echoes Travis’s twang as he confidently narrates the story of a talented and resilient man who overcame a difficult upbringing to achieve remarkable success.

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    FRANKLY IN LOVE by David Yoon, read by Raymond J. Lee

    Right from the start, narrator Raymond J. Lee fully inhabits funny, endearing, nerdy-and-proud-of-it California high school senior Frank Li. Frank is studying for the SATs, hanging out with his fellow AP classmates, falling in love, and thinking a lot about his identity as the son of Korean immigrants, all with the heightened feelings of a teenager experiencing these things for the first time.

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    FROM SCRATCH by Tembi Locke, read by Tembi Locke

    Actor Tembi Locke narrates her memoir in a smooth, warm voice that carries the listener through her story of falling in love with Saro, an engaging Sicilian chef, his early death from cancer, and how time with his family helped heal her intense grief. Listeners will savor Locke’s lyrical English and Italian, and will be swept away by scenes in his Sicilian village of finding solace in food made with love.

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    FULL THROTTLE by Joe Hill, read by Zachary Quinto, Wil Wheaton, Kate Mulgrew, Neil Gaiman, Ashleigh Cummings, Joe Hill, Laysla De Oliveira, Nate Corddry, Connor Jessup, Stephen Lang, George Guidall

    A terrific cast of narrators lend their voices to 13 stories by Joe Hill, two of which are cowritten with his dad, Stephen King. Hill himself reads the utterly delightful introduction, remembering his childhood and his path to becoming a successful horror writer. The first story, “Throttle,” follows, with Stephen Lang perfectly portraying a gang of bikers who are being terrorized by a maniacal trucker. From there, narrating duties are shared by Neil Gaiman, Zachary Quinto, Kate Mulgrew, and more.

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    GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert, read by Adjoa Andoh

    Adjoa Andoh’s lively narration of this witty and steamy romance will have listeners grinning from ear to ear. Chloe Brown, who suffers from chronic pain and fibromyalgia, has a near-death experience and is inspired to make a list of goals that will change her life. At the top of the list is moving into her own flat, away from her wealthy and overbearing family.

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    Listen to an interview with Narrator Adjoa Andoh

    GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir, read by Moira Quirk

    Tamsyn Muir’s absorbing storytelling and Moira Quirk’s immersive performance create a richly imagined fantasy world. Gideon Nav, an indentured servant of the Ninth House, survives on snarky, perfectly timed humor and tenacity. Conscripted as a cavalier, Gideon accompanies the haughty necromancer the Reverend Daughter Harrowhark Nonagesimus through myriad dangers while exploring supernatural mysteries.

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    Listen to an interview with Narrator Moira Quirk

    HEAVEN, MY HOME by Attica Locke, read by JD Jackson

    JD Jackson needs the range of a grand piano to do justice to Attica Locke’s East Texas, and his skills and appealing baritone have it covered. Locke’s protagonist, Darren Matthews, is an African-American Texas Ranger with a rocky marriage, a drinking problem, and a penchant for doing bad things for good reasons.

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    Listen to an interview with Narrator JD Jackson

    LOOK BOTH WAYS by Jason Reynolds, read by Heather Alicia Simms, Chris Chalk, Bahni Turpin, Adenrele Ojo, Kevin R. Free, JD Jackson, Guy Lockard, January LaVoy, David Sadzin, Jason Reynolds

    Ten African-American narrators read these ten interconnected stories, and their performances are uniformly excellent, bringing the cast of characters to vivid life. Listeners follow the varied adventures of students as they walk home from school.

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    MAMA'S BOY by Dustin Lance Black, read by Dustin Lance Black

    Dustin Lance Black, Academy Award-winning screenwriter and LGBTQ activist, narrates his family’s heartwarming and poignant journey growing up across intersections of faith, poverty, and sexuality in the southern U.S. and California. Black’s conversational storytelling illuminates his cherished mother Anne’s irrepressible spirit and tenacity in the face of adversity and boundless possibility.

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    THE MARYLEBONE DROP by Mick Herron, read by Gerard Doyle

    The brevity of this elegant audiobook belies the size of its pleasures. It simultaneously manages to deliver just what we loved about le Carré and company—an insider’s view of characters and events from the secret world of The Service—while doing a deadpan takeoff on Cold War spy novels. Gerard Doyle gives a performance of impeccable finesse, and the resulting listen is a gem.

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    MIDNIGHT IN CHERNOBYL by Adam Higginbotham, read by Jacques Roy

    Jacques Roy’s nuanced performance of Higginbotham’s harrowing audiobook keeps listeners deeply engaged. In 1986, the Russian nuclear plant at Chernobyl failed. The result was a disaster of a global scale, with the details surrounding the event unclear until now. Roy’s masterful narration enhances this stark and terrifying account of one of the worst disasters in human history.

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    THE MOMENT OF LIFT by Melinda Gates, read by Melinda Gates

    At a time of celebrity biographies, Melinda Gates, philanthropist and wife of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, narrates her own story of growing awareness of women's lives worldwide. She does so in a strong, affirmative voice that tells all.

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    ON DEMOCRACY by E.B. White, read by Arthur Morey

    One of the great narrators, Arthur Morey takes the simple beauty of White’s well-wrought words and delivers them eloquently. Morey’s tone, tempo, and style are pitch perfect for White, who lucidly enumerates those elemental matters that make a democracy—from the letter to the editor to waiting until the bell sounds before fighting.

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    OTHER WORDS FOR HOME by Jasmine Warga, read by Vaneh Assadourian

    Narrator Vaneh Assadourian’s rich, lilting voice underscores the lyricism of this audiobook spoken in verse. She gives sonorous dignity to the Muslim family featured in the story. Twelve-year-old Jude is an ordinary girl who loves her family, her home in Syria, and American movies—but as war comes closer, her pregnant mother decides it is not safe to stay there.

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    PASTA, PANE, VINO by Matt Goulding, read by Will Damron

    Will Damron narrates James Beard Award-winning food journalist Matt Goulding’s audiobook with energy, poise, and precision. The decision to emulate rather than imitate the myriad Italian accents adds to the enjoyment of this audiobook. All the Italians speak with the same intonation. This choice lets the author’s American voice ring true and focuses on the essence of the work: an examination of Italian cuisine in less celebrated locales.

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    THE RAVEN TOWER by Ann Leckie, read by Adjoa Andoh

    Narrator Adjoa Andoh lends diverse accents and impressive power to this compelling fantasy from the author of space operas. Andoh portrays an ancient god, called the Strength and Patience of the Hill, with a subtle accent and a tone of growing curiosity as it describes changes over millennia. The god also addresses a certain aide, Eolo, using the second person to describe Eolo’s role in current political intrigue surrounding a stolen throne.

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    Listen to an interview with Narrator Adjoa Andoh

    RED AT THE BONE by Jacqueline Woodson, read by Jacqueline Woodson, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Peter Francis James, Shayna Small, Bahni Turpin

    Five talented narrators, including the author, differentiate shifting time periods and three generations of an African-American family. Bahni Turpin aids listeners in understanding the feelings of 16-year-old Melody, who is central to the story. Author Jacqueline Woodson delivers the third-person narrative, connecting the way the protagonists impact each other. Her spare but emotive text leaves lots of room for all these powerful interpretations.

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    RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston, read by Ramón de Ocampo

    Narrator Ramón de Ocampo brings out all the emotion in this tender, serious, funny, and warmly hopeful love story. Smart, snarky Alex Claremont-Diaz, first son of the United States, is about to graduate from Georgetown and is eager to work on his mother’s reelection campaign. Then he falls headlong into a whirlwind and very secret romance with England’s Prince Henry.

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    RUN AWAY by Harlan Coben, read by Steven Weber

    Narrator Steven Weber is the perfect match for this thriller, which blends plot twists and suspense in equal portions. Simon and Ingrid Greene, a successful and apparently perfect couple, find their lives falling apart in the most dramatic of ways when their drug-addicted daughter disappears after dropping out of college. With seeming ease, Weber voices the cast of characters, who range from the most privileged to those at the edges of society.

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    SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE by Carlos Hernandez, read by Anthony Rey Perez

    Narrator Anthony Rey Perez dives in and out of English and Spanish, giving this audiobook the ambiance of Cuban-American culture. He skillfully interprets the mix of realistic and fantastic events and maintains the fast pace of this compelling listen. He is outstanding at portraying hero Salvador Vidon, a magician with a secret.

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    Listen to an interview with Narrator Anthony Rey Perez

    THE SECRET COMMONWEALTH by Philip Pullman, read by Michael Sheen

    Michael Sheen throws himself wholeheartedly into narrating this sequel to LA BELLE SAUVAGE, and listeners will be rapt. Lyra is now 20, and she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, are uneasy with each other in ways they never have been before. This central conflict is the catalyst for a series of journeys.

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    THE SECRET WISDOM OF NATURE by Peter Wohlleben, read by Sean Barrett

    Narrator Sean Barrett’s warm baritone is perfect for Peter Wohlleben’s fascinating final installment in his Mysteries of Nature trilogy. A former German forestry official, he writes with an enthusiast’s thrill and a scientist’s precision. Barrett’s positively seductive voice will cause you to forget the bread crumbs as you follow him oh-so-willingly into the woods.

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    THE STONEWALL READER by The New York Public Library [Eds.], read by a Full Cast

    A vibrant chorus of more than 20 voices narrates this accessible anthology focusing on LGBTQ experiences before, during, and after the Stonewall uprising of 1969. Told through a diverse array of first-person narratives, interviews, articles, and more, the anthology creates a kaleidoscopic view of the early Gay Liberation movement. The cast of narrators echoes this variety, offering performances that range from smooth and journalistic to intimate and emotive.

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    TALKING TO STRANGERS by Malcolm Gladwell, read by Malcolm Gladwell

    Malcolm Gladwell is a fabulous narrator of his latest book, this one about the biases and blind spots people have when trying to understand people who are not like they are. His pleasing tone, phrasing palette, and exceptional skill with dramatic pauses all sound natural, yet add sparkling energy to his writing.

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    THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY by Alix E. Harrow, read by January LaVoy

    January LaVoy’s breathtaking narration shines in a fantasy in which Doors offer infinite possibilities for adventure. January Scaller is 7 in 1901 when she discovers a marvel—a Door to another world—and then is punished severely. LaVoy’s theatrical skills delight as she narrates January’s thrilling story of fantastical characters and new worlds—and the tale hidden within the pages of her book.

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    THE TESTAMENTS by Margaret Atwood, read by Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard, Mae Whitman, Derek Jacobi, Tantoo Cardinal, Margaret Atwood

    Bear witness to the secretive lives of Gilead’s women 15 years after THE HANDMAID’S TALE’s conclusion. Narrator Ann Dowd, known for her role on the television adaptation, is formidable as Aunt Lydia. Hearing her resonant narration of diary entries allows listeners to feel the horror of early Gilead, be disturbed by the aunt’s complicity, and discover her secrets. Listening adds an entirely new dimension to a riveting tale.

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    THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE by Sandhya Menon, read by Vikas Adam, Soneela Nankani

    Ashish, a handsome high school basketball star, has been dumped by his college girlfriend. So he agrees to his parents’ challenge of arranged dates. Their choice, Sweetie, knows that she is powerful and talented, even as she struggles with her mother’s comments about her weight. Narrators Vikas Adam and Soneela Nankani bring out all of the tenderness, vulnerability and self-discovery of the two protagonists.

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    Listen to an interview with Narrator Vikas Adam

    TRAILBLAZER by Dorothy Butler Gilliam, read by January LaVoy

    Using an understated conversational style, narrator January LaVoy performs journalist Gilliam’s memoir, which covers both the trajectory of her professional life and the story of a country experiencing the turmoil of change. Gilliam’s journey from pastor’s daughter with a narrow future to first black female reporter and columnist for the WASHINGTON POST spanned the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements, allowing her a front-row seat at some of the nation’s most significant turning points.

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    A WALK IN THE WOODS by Lee Blessing, read by Alfred Molina, Steven Weber

    The recorded performance of this provocative play from the Cold War era shines with wit. Alfred Molina’s vocalizing of a worldly-wise and weary Russian is especially effective—you can hear Moscow in his voice. Steven Weber’s earnest American—from Wausau, Wisconsin—aptly performs the foil/friend. A duologue, the play shows the irony of the pair’s woodland strolls as they discuss geopolitical negotiations in between long, very funny repartee.

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    WAYWARD SON by Rainbow Rowell, read by Euan Morton

    Euan Morton brings his exceptional narration skills to Rowell’s highly anticipated sequel. After defeating the Insidious Humdrum, Simon Snow, unsure what to do with his new life, falls into depression. At the urging of best friend Penelope and boyfriend Baz, the trio embark on a trip to America, driving across the West to “rescue” their friend Agatha from her self-imposed isolation in the world of Normals.

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    WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA by Traci Sorell, read by Lauren Hummingbird, Agalisiga (Choogie) Mackey, Ryan Mackey, Traci Sorell, Tonia Weavel

    The sounds of crickets, a crackling campfire, and music greet listeners as five narrators share the meaning of the term “otsaliheliga,” a Cherokee word meaning “We are grateful.” Each narrator lends a unique voice to the story, complementing the diverse contemporary Cherokee families who are depicted celebrating every season.

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    WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by Elizabeth Acevedo, read by Elizabeth Acevedo

    Author Elizabeth Acevedo sounds natural and authentic as Emoni, an immensely likable Philadelphia high school senior with a 2-year-old daughter and a gift for cooking. In both her writing and her narration, Acevedo warmly depicts the loving and supportive people in Emoni’s life.

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    WOLF RAIN by Nalini Singh, read by Angela Dawe

    Angela Dawe delivers a flawless narration that will engage new listeners and series fans alike. Wolf-changeling Alexei rescues Memory from a psychotic kidnapper at a point in her life when Memory is developing her empathic abilities. Dawe’s cool, elegant reading perfectly frames the wintry setting that opens the audiobook, showing how two scarred, closed-off individuals evolve into a power couple that will have listeners cheering.

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    ZORA AND LANGSTON by Yuval Taylor, read by Bahni Turpin

    Narrator Bahni Turpin engages the listener with this complex dual biography of writers Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. While both are known as luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance, this audiobook explores the lesser known aspects of their friendship and collaboration throughout the 1920s and '30s, which ended in a bitter split.

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AudioFile's 2019 Best Audiobooks list is the culmination of a year of listening. Browse our picks in the nine categories below. We're thrilled to celebrate these outstanding performances—and to share these special audiobooks with you.

Kudos to the narrators, directors, producers, and publishers who bring us such memorable audio experiences, and thank you to AudioFile's reviewers, who devote so much time to critical listening.

Thank you to our partners: Beth Fish Reads, The Big Thrill, Book Trib, Books & Sensibility, The Digital Squeeze/EBSCO, Every Library, File 770, Literary Hub, Novel Suspects, Professional Book Nerds/Overdrive, Shelf Addiction, Shelf Awareness, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

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