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If you’re looking to please your ears, the following award-winning audiobooks are sure to delight you. Each year, the Audio Publishers Association awards the best audiobook releases with the Audience Award. Books can win prizes in various categories, and one is chosen as the best audiobook of the year.
The last few years have been an era. So if you’ve lost your sense of time like me, you may have missed out on some great reading. Fortunately, I’m here to help you upgrade. While there are plenty of great winners from 2020-2022, I’ve included a sampling of five titles from each year.
As an educator, book lover, and avid read-aloud, audiobooks are absolutely my jam. In a dream world, I would be a full-time writer and audiobook narrator. Unfortunately, we live in a nightmarish world and I am too cowardly to give up the security of my day job to pursue such dreams. So, I rather live vicariously through others listening to amazing books every day.
Unfortunately, there is no rhyme or reason to my sampling. (My thesis director would be so disappointed.) Even if I tried to vary a little, I mainly listed the titles that I liked to listen to or those that interested me. However, many categories and winners are not highlighted here. If my choices do not suit you, consult the comprehensive selection of award-winning audiobooks.
For each of the featured titles, I have included author and narrator information. Books for which no narrator is listed have been read by the authors.
Award-winning audiobooks of 2022
Hail Mary Project by Andy Weir; Narrated by Ray Porter
Winner: Audiobook of the Year
An astronaut wakes up in a rickety spaceship millions of miles from home. He has no memory of what brought him to this point and no company, other than the corpses of his teammates. He is also humanity’s only hope against an extinction-level event.
Someone’s Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford
In these fascinating and heartbreaking memoirs, Ford details his complicated childhood. Between a strained relationship with his mother and an incarcerated father, Ford must navigate strained family ties. Unfortunately, she doesn’t even know why her father is in prison. Plus, she has her own painful secrets—secrets that also cause her to fight with her body.
A promised land by Barack Obama
Winner: Narration by the author
I would probably like to listen to former President Obama read the phone book. For my young readers, a phone book is just a list of names and numbers, which means it’s really boring. Fortunately, Obama’s narration is anything but boring. A promised land is the first of his presidential memoirs and offers us a fascinating look at his tenure.
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 this list of authors, who needs a blurb? This book is practically a list of prolific YA writers. In six tales, the authors unabashedly explore black love through teenage protagonists. Full of magic and heart, these stories transport us to a promising starry night in the city.
How is it going ? by Leslie Jordan
There are few people in Hollywood more endearing than Leslie Jordan. With his typical southern drawl, Jordan leads us into his life through a series of essays. In a hilarious way, he shares stories about his journey to glory, marked by many unusual encounters. If you need a boost and a good laugh, this is the audiobook for you.
Award-winning audiobooks of 2021
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke; Reported by Chiwetel Ejiofor
Winner: Audiobook of the Year
Ok, I haven’t read this one and nothing I’ve read in the blurbs about it makes sense to me. Still, critics and Audie Awards say it’s really good. Apparently Piranesi lives in the house and keeps diaries. Then the house begins to change and something dangerous grows. I have no idea what that means, but I like the sound.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: 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 captivating than the original. Fishburne brings the renowned historical figure to life for a new generation, just as Denzel Washington did in the 1992 film Malcolm X. The story follows Malcolm X’s life from his activism, his experiences with the Nation of Islam and especially the racism that permeated American society during his lifetime. Sadly, his insights and experiences are just as relevant today as they were before his untimely death in 1965.
the abyss 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 I’ve shamelessly crave after Daveed Diggs. Sorry not sorry. It tells the Afrofuturistic fantasy of Solomon beautifully, and I’m not saying that just because I like it. Seamlessly, Diggs pulls us into the deep-sea community inhabited by the descendants of enslaved pregnant African mothers who were ruthlessly thrown overboard on their journey through the Middle Passage. As the community’s historian, Yetu is tasked with carrying all the painful memories her people forget for their own sanity. When the weight of 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; Read by Elizabeth Acevedo, Melania-Luisa Marte
Winner: Multi-Voice Performance and Young Adult
If you haven’t read any of Elizabeth Acevedo’s books, stop reading this right now and do this instead. I am not joking. Each of his published works is absolutely amazing. Likewise, his award-winning audiobook of Clap when you land is a beautiful story about the complexity of the family. This multi-voiced performance perfectly captures our protagonists, two sisters (previously unknown to each other) who meet after the tragic death of their father. Also, Acevedo With the fire on Huh won “Best Narrative by 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 mid-level novel Animals. With their usual superb character development, Emezi weaves a story of life and death, family and self. The story begins with a mother discovering the lifeless body of her child – a strange and misunderstood child – and never relents. With beautiful narration, it’s a thoughtful and emotional read.
Award-winning audiobooks of 2020
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff; Narrated by a full cast of 45 with Holter Graham
Winner: Audiobook of the Year and Multi-Voice Performance
The scale of this work is breathtaking. A cast of 45 perform an oral history constructed from over 500 original interviews, as well as recently declassified documents and transcripts. This comprehensive history of the September 11 attacks is a must read for history buffs and general readers.
Nothing to see here by Kevin Wilson; Narrated by Marin Ireland
Winner: Best Narrator
What happens when a smart underachiever is manipulated by her wealthy friend (and the object of an unrequited love) into caring for two spontaneously hot-headed kids on a regular basis? LOTS of unpredictable and engaging plot points is what. Moreover, Ireland brilliantly captures Wilson’s immaculate prose. She brings a believable southern charm to the Tennessean characters. The story is funny, provocative, touching and outrageous.
The ten thousand gates of January by Alix E. Harrow; Reported by January LaVoy
Undoubtedly, this fantastic tale has already marked many readers. Full of whimsical doors to different worlds and led by a feisty and likable heroine, this story has something for everyone. Running for 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. Then, we accompany him on a perilous mission to figure out what’s going on. Soon he meets other children like him – children with gifts that 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* single. However, when Pallavi falls in love with a Native American entrepreneur, Usha is surprisingly troubled. Family secrets surface as Usha grows increasingly suspicious of Pallavi’s lover and his true identity.
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