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January 2022 Earphones Award Winners

The award is given by AudioFile to truly exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.



AARON SLATER, ILLUSTRATOR

AARON SLATER, ILLUSTRATOR

Earphones Award Winner

by Andrea Beaty | Read by Sullivan Jones

Dreamscape
Children

Upbeat, soulful jazz greets listeners as narrator Sullivan Jones's warm, reassuring voice blends the lyrical rhymes and vibrant imagery in Beaty's encouraging story. Courageous, imaginative second grader Aaron Slater is an amazing artist who loves telling stories but struggles when he tries to read them. In this fifth installment of The Questioneers series, Jones makes the most... Read More

AIN'T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT

AIN'T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT

Earphones Award Winner

by Jason Reynolds | Read by Jason Reynolds, Nile Bullock, Tatum Marylin Hall, JaQwan J. Kelly, DePre Owens

Simon & Schuster Audio
Young Adult

How do you create an amazing audiobook from an illustrated novel in which the vibrant art takes center stage? Author Jason Reynolds deftly narrates "Take One" of this collaboration between himself and mixed-media collage artist Jason Griffin. Together, they bring slam-poetry sensibilities to a brief yet evocative glimpse of an unnamed young Black narrator. His mother stays... Read More

BLUE-SKINNED GODS

BLUE-SKINNED GODS

Earphones Award Winner

by S.J. Sindu | Read by Varun Sathiyaseelan

Recorded Books
Fiction

Varun Sathiyaseelan is a kind-sounding narrator for this modern parable about a clash between expectations of divinity and human frailty. When Kalki is born with blue skin, his parents are convinced he is divine. Sathiyaseelan draws listeners close to the boy's confused and emotional interior monologues. He moves us steadily through Kalki's unusual childhood, which he spends... Read More

THE CARETAKERS

THE CARETAKERS

Earphones Award Winner

by Amanda Bestor-Siegal | Read by Saskia Maarleveld

Harper Audio
Fiction

Narrator Saskia Maarleveld gives a magnificent performance of this assured debut concerning the suspicious death of 9-year-old Julien in his family's home in a Parisian suburb. Maarleveld is simply outstanding as she seamlessly shifts accents, tones, and pace to create a stunning depiction of the tensions underlying this seemingly ordinary neighborhood. Subtle social commentary... Read More

FAMILY BUSINESS

FAMILY BUSINESS

Earphones Award Winner

by S.J. Rozan | Read by Emily Woo Zeller

Blackstone Audio
Mystery & Suspense

Emily Woo Zeller delivers a terrific narration of S.J. Rozan's newest mystery, featuring New York City private eye Lydia Chin and her partner, Bill Smith. The complex, fast-paced, and witty story involves an old building, Chinatown's Tong gang, a developer, and the historic preservation society. When the niece of the Tong boss inherits the building, she hires Lydia to help her.... Read More

GARBO

GARBO

Earphones Award Winner

by Robert Gottlieb | Read by Maria Tucci

Random House Audio
Biography & Memoir

The author and the narrator are husband and wife--he is 90; she 80. He is an esteemed writer and editor; she is an accomplished actor. This is only Gottlieb's second audiobook, but Maria Tucci's distinctive voice can be heard in several ensembles and in her walking tours of Italian cities. On Greta Garbo their views don't entirely coincide. Tucci's tone is more irreverent, and... Read More

THE GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE

THE GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE

Earphones Award Winner

by Eugene Yelchin | Read by Eugene Yelchin

Dreamscape
Children

Author and narrator Eugene Yelchin dazzles with his memoir of growing up in the USSR during the Cold War. Listeners meet Eugene (Yevgeny), his parents, brother, and grandmother, who live in a tiny apartment and share a kitchen and bathroom with many others. Yelchin delivers his mother's bellowing voice, his grandma's Jewish witticisms, and young Yevgeny's own apparent lack of... Read More

THE GOD OF LOST WORDS

THE GOD OF LOST WORDS

Earphones Award Winner

by A.J. Hackwith | Read by Bahni Turpin

Penguin Audio
Fantasy

The final work in the Hell's Library trilogy is a fanciful tale with a quirky cast of characters. Narrator Bahni Turpin continues her development of many characters from THE ARCHIVE OF THE FORGOTTEN. She seems to enjoy the main characters--the former librarian, a former muse, a character from a book that was destroyed, and an angel. Turpin captures the members of this... Read More

HANGSAMAN

HANGSAMAN

Earphones Award Winner

by Shirley Jackson | Read by Julia Whelan

Penguin Audio
Classics

Julia Whelan narrates a tale of psychological terror and suspense from one of the genre's greatest writers. Natalie sees college as a means of escaping an overbearing father and a withdrawn mother, but she discovers the grass isn't always greener on the other side. As Whelan's performance complements Jackson's writing and the surreal horror of the book builds, the listener will... Read More

HELLO, TRANSCRIBER

HELLO, TRANSCRIBER

Earphones Award Winner

by Hannah Morrissey | Read by Angela Dawe

Macmillan Audio
Mystery & Suspense

Narrator Angela Dawe assumes a millennial's exasperated tone, endearing listeners to Hazel Greenlee, a wannabe novelist. Working the graveyard shift in a small Wisconsin town, the depressed, troubled Hazel is shackled to a computer in a grim police station, where she transcribes recorded police reports. Hazel's curiosity about a case involving a dead child thrusts her into a... Read More

HONOR

HONOR

Earphones Award Winner

by Thrity Umrigar | Read by Sneha Mathan

Workman Audio
Fiction

Sneha Mathan is a strong narrator for this complicated and painful story of forbidden love in modern-day India. Mathan is a powerful voice for Meena, a woman recovering from an attack by her family and neighbors for marrying a Muslim man. Mathan presents Meena's recovery with sensitivity that enhances our empathy and rage on her behalf. In Smita, an American journalist covering... Read More

I AND I BOB MARLEY

I AND I BOB MARLEY

Earphones Award Winner

by Tony Medina | Read by Jaime Lincoln Smith, Tony Medina [Note]

Live Oak Media
Children

Author Tony Medina pays tribute to legendary musician, poet, and activist Bob Marley in this outstanding production narrated by Jaime Lincoln Smith. Nesta Robert Marley's life, from his impoverished childhood in Jamaica to his untimely death at 36, is explored in a collection of 17 free-verse poems for young listeners. Smith's Jamaican accent and spot-on delivery animate the... Read More

INNATE MAGIC

INNATE MAGIC

Earphones Award Winner

by Shannon Fay | Read by Peter Kenny

Brilliance Audio
Fantasy

Peter Kenny narrates an alternate-reality fantasy set in post-WWII London. Paul Gallagher, a sewer of magic clothes, is eager, ambitious, and willing to do almost anything to reach his goals, but when he's offered a chance at his biggest dream, Paul must examine his priorities. Kenny imbues his portrayal of Paul with both cheerful optimism and a staggering naïveté. Paul always... Read More

JOAN IS OKAY

JOAN IS OKAY

Earphones Award Winner

by Weike Wang | Read by Catherine Ho

Random House Audio
Fiction

Narrator Catherine Ho gives a superb performance of this #ownvoices audiobook by the award-winning author of CHEMISTRY. Ho perfectly inhabits Joan, a first-generation Chinese-American ICU physician who is grieving the loss of her father while struggling with the direction of her life. Ho's deliberate pace and nuanced intonation straddle the edges between intimacy and... Read More

LEARWIFE

LEARWIFE

Earphones Award Winner

by J.R. Thorp | Read by Juliet Stevenson

Dreamscape
Historical Fiction

The king is dead--but what of the queen? Narrator Juliette Stevenson performs this dramatization of an imagined Shakespeare character with the aplomb of the stage actor she is. As this debut novel plumbs the aftermath of King Lear's death, Stevenson's voice affects grief, outrage, and fear of Lear's imagined middle-aged widow. But how does she express these emotions and still... Read More

MY MONTICELLO

MY MONTICELLO

Earphones Award Winner

by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson | Read by Landon Woodson, Tomiwa Edun, January LaVoy, Ngozi Anyanwu, LeVar Burton, Aja Naomi King

Macmillan Audio
Fiction

A group of talented narrators deliver these short stories set in Virginia, which focus on the lives of African Americans. The standouts are "My Monticello" and "Control Negro." In the latter, narrator LeVar Burton rants furiously as a father who experiments on his own son to prove that a Black man will always be found inferior to whites--despite his talents. Narrator Aja Naomi... Read More

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, WITH SONGS FROM REGENCY ENGLAND

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, WITH SONGS FROM REGENCY ENGLAND

Earphones Award Winner

by Jane Austen | Read by Alison Larkin

Alison Larkin Presents
Classics

A bright, lively narration by Alison Larkin makes listening to Jane Austen's classic an experience not to be missed. She sounds as if she can't wait to tell this delicious story, and she doesn't disappoint. Larkin makes sure all the characters' motives are believable--from frantic Mrs. Bennet to laconic Mr. B; from social-climbing Mr. Collins to devious Wyckham. Darcy's and... Read More

PUNCHING BAG

PUNCHING BAG

Earphones Award Winner

by Rex Ogle | Read by Ramon de Ocampo

Recorded Books
Young Adult

Ramon de Ocampo, who vividly rendered Ogle's first memoir, narrates the second with the same keenness. The author warns of his story's intensity and the hope it can offer, and de Ocampo's portrayals increase its rawness and promise. Rex is now entering high school; his poverty has abated as both of his parents are working. The domestic violence in his family, however, has... Read More

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS

Earphones Award Winner

by Jessamine Chan | Read by Catherine Ho

Simon & Schuster Audio
Fiction

In this captivating debut, narrator Catherine Ho quickly immerses listeners in the nightmarish story of Frida, a struggling Chinese-American single mother of a young daughter who makes a terrible mistake that leads to devastating consequences. Ho embodies Frida in this terrifying and rich story of the impossible standards society sets for being a good mother, the dangers of big... Read More

SMALL WORLD

SMALL WORLD

Earphones Award Winner

by Jonathan Evison | Read by William DeMeritt

Penguin Audio
Historical Fiction

William DeMeritt narrates this mosaic of a novel, which ties together the 19th-century ancestors of 21st-century characters who are headed for a train disaster. DeMeritt masterfully paces the intertwining stories with a keen sense of drama, smoothly takes on the accents--Irish, English, German, Southern, and adeptly voices the remarkable characters, a pastiche of Americans... Read More

THE SPECTACULAR

THE SPECTACULAR

Earphones Award Winner

by Zoe Whittall | Read by Hillary Huber, Helen Lloyd, Alex McKenna

Random House Audio
Fiction

Hillary Huber and Alex McKenna give outstanding performances as an estranged mother-daughter duo in this quiet family drama. Helen Lloyd vividly portrays the mother's mother. McKenna voices Missy, who, after growing up on a Vermont commune, becomes a successful rock musician. Much of the audiobook takes place while Missy is touring in her 20s, and McKenna sounds exactly like a... Read More

STACEY'S EXTRAORDINARY WORDS

STACEY'S EXTRAORDINARY WORDS

Earphones Award Winner

by Stacey Abrams | Read by Stacey Abrams

Harper Audio
Children

Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams portrays herself when she was a schoolgirl who loved words and their different sounds. Listeners join her when a beloved teacher, Mrs. Blackeslee, invites her to represent her school at the county spelling bee. Abrams wants to participate but admits fearing she will "mess up." Most moving and fun are her "Extraordinary Words" notebook and... Read More

SUMMER OF BLOOD

SUMMER OF BLOOD

Earphones Award Winner

by Dan Jones | Read by Matthew Lloyd Davies

Penguin Audio
History

Narrator Matthew Lloyd Davies narrates the causes, events, and aftermath of the dramatic and bloody popular English rebellion called The Peasants' Revolt, also known as Wat Tyler's Revolt, of 1381. It was sparked by the onerous poll tax in 1380, when England was still reeling from the Black Death, shifting class hierarchies, and war on multiple fronts. Davies smoothly recounts... Read More

THE SUNDIAL

THE SUNDIAL

Earphones Award Winner

by Shirley Jackson, Victor LaValle [Fore.] | Read by Kirsten Potter, Dion Graham

Penguin Audio
Classics

Sounding playfully snarky and lushly sardonic, narrator Kirsten Potter has a wonderful time giving voice to one of the premiere gothic horror writers of the twentieth century's funniest and strangest endeavors. Published in 1958, this apocalyptic comedy of manners (think P.G. Wodehouse meets "The Twilight Zone") is sweet, creepy, and tangled with satirical pokes at everything... Read More

TALES FROM THE CAFE

TALES FROM THE CAFE

Earphones Award Winner

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi | Read by Kevin Shen

Harlequin Audio
Fiction

In this follow-up to BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD, narrator Kevin Shen re-creates the magic of the beloved predecessor. With his smooth, pleasant voice, Shen channels the heartwarming and thought-provoking ambiance of the special Cafe Funiculi Funicula in Tokyo, which allows visitors to travel back in time under very specific rules. As is the case with the first book, there are... Read More

TANGENT KNIGHTS 1: CAPRICE OF FATE

TANGENT KNIGHTS 1: CAPRICE OF FATE

Earphones Award Winner

by Christopher L. Bennett | Read by Richard Rohan, Elaine Yuko Qualter, Bianca Bryan, and a Full Cast

GraphicAudio
Science Fiction

Rich-toned voice actor Richard Rohan narrates this action-adventure set in 2046 New Avalon, Earth. Elaine Yuko Qualter, who portrays Cory Kagami, also known as Caprice, puts forth an overly dramatic performance in a thrilling fight between good and evil. Cory, a Japanese tokusatsu enthusiast turned armored superhero, and her stoic Tangent Knight Peacekeeper friends battle... Read More

TO PARADISE

TO PARADISE

Earphones Award Winner

by Hanya Yanagihara | Read by Edoardo Ballerini, Catherine Ho, BD Wong, Feodor Chin, Kurt Kanazawa

Random House Audio
Fiction

Hanya Yanagihara's long-awaited third novel is a sprawling epic that refuses easy categorization. It consists of three distinct sections, each set 100 years apart in different versions of America. Narrator Edoardo Ballerini expertly voices David, a wealthy young man in a homophobia-free 1890s New York, who falls in love with a poor music teacher. Kurt Kanazawa's melancholic... Read More

TRASHLANDS

TRASHLANDS

Earphones Award Winner

by Alison Stine | Read by Brittany Pressley

Harper Audio
Fiction

Welcome to a dystopian hellscape in which coastal cities are washed away and survivors scavenge for scraps of plastic to trade for food and goods. Narrator Brittany Pressley enhances the bleakness of this world. As her voice depicts the environment, every word is heavy with hopelessness. She brings grim resignation to Coral, a plastic "plucker" whose young son, Shanghai, is... Read More

TRISTAN STRONG KEEPS PUNCHING

TRISTAN STRONG KEEPS PUNCHING

Earphones Award Winner

by Kwame Mbalia | Read by Amir Abdullah

Disney Hyperion
Children

Returning to narrate the final installment of the Tristan Strong trilogy, Amir Abdullah again triumphs with his lively characterizations. Abdullah skillfully changes accents and cadences so that characters are markedly distinct. Tristan Strong is pursuing his archenemy, King Cotton, up the Mississippi River. King Cotton is kidnapping children; Tristan must stop him, but it will... Read More

UNPROTECTED

UNPROTECTED

Earphones Award Winner

by Billy Porter | Read by Billy Porter

Recorded Books
Biography & Memoir

Since voice is central to this gripping audio memoir by award-winning performer Billy Porter, it's only fitting that it's narrated by the author himself. With his inimitable rasp and vocal flexibility, Porter tells of his family, childhood, and career, leading up to his eventual star turns in Broadway's KINKY BOOTS and TV's "Pose." His narration is both intimate and highly... Read More

VIOLETA

VIOLETA

Earphones Award Winner

by Isabel Allende | Read by Yareli Arizmendi

Random House Audio
Fiction

Yareli Arizmendi's masterful narration of this audiobook is astonishing. Listeners will become addicted to this novel; the author and narrator are perfectly paired. The year is 2000; 100-year-old Violeta Del Valle is dying. She writes about her life so that her grandson knows her truth. She recalls, through humor and the wisdom of hindsight, how she rejected societal... Read More

WHAT BEAUTY THERE IS

WHAT BEAUTY THERE IS

Earphones Award Winner

by Cory Anderson | Read by Dan Bittner, Emma Galvin

Macmillan Audio
Young Adult

Two narrators enhance the darkness that pervades this novel as its characters experience Idaho's everlasting winter. Dan Bittner gives expression to the somber attitude of 17-year-old Jack Dahl. Bitner conveys the responsibility Jack feels for his brother, a second grader named Matty. When their drug-addicted mother hangs herself, the threat of eviction and foster care looms.... Read More

THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND

THE WOMEN OF PEARL ISLAND

Earphones Award Winner

by Polly Crosby | Read by Katherine Press

Harlequin Audio
Fiction

Katherine Press impeccably narrates this majestic yet disquieting story of the 1920s and the year 2018. Listeners follow 20-year-old Tartelin Brown to her new job assisting elderly Marianne Stourbridge on an island off the English Coast. There are few people and no electricity on the gorgeous yet sinister Dohhaland. Gruff, wheelchair-bound Stourbridge wants Brown to be her... Read More

YOU DON'T KNOW US NEGROES

YOU DON'T KNOW US NEGROES

Earphones Award Winner

by Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Genevieve West [Eds. & Intro.] | Read by Robin Miles

Harper Audio
Contemporary Culture

Robin Miles narrates this audiobook with empathy and a sure sense of Hurston's literary voice. She arranges her pace and adapts her tone in ways that give listeners access to the author's idiosyncratic brilliance. Capturing Hurston's intonations and invigorating her varied essays with an understanding of the author's intentions help reveal her meanings and bring Hurston's world... Read More

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