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From intimate, author-narrated memoirs to star-studded full casts to evocative single narrators, the standout adult audio titles of 2020 all display mastery of the format and will provide hours of listening enjoyment.
All the Devils Are Here. By Louise Penny. Read by Robert Bathurst. 14hr. Macmillan, DD, $26.99 (9781250760616).
Series narrator Bathurst delivers an elevated performance, complete with multiple accents, in this Paris-set sixteenth episode for Penny’s Inspector Gamache.
Apeirogon. By Colum McCann. Read by the author. 15hr. Books on Tape, CD, $45 (9780307878045).
McCann’s voice will be familiar to listeners of his previous books. Here, his soft Irish lilt is as entrancing as this elegiac and masterfully crafted work.
The Case of the Reincarnated Client. By Tarquin Hall. Read by Sam Dastor. 9hr. Blackstone, CD, $76 (9781094081540).
The colorful cast members in Hall’s latest mystery all get their own distinctive voicing from Dastor, who ably navigates both comedy and tragedy.
Deacon King Kong. By James McBride. Read by Dominic Hoffman. 14hr. Books on Tape, CD, $45 (9780593166970).
In this unmissable performance, consummate professional Hoffman never misses a beat through the book’s many moods, accents, settings, and characters.
A Deadly Education. By Naomi Novik. Read by Anisha Dadia. 11hr. Books on Tape, DD, $95 (9780593287422).
This socially conscious fantasy finds an ideal narrator in Dadia, as she embodies both sniping, sullen El and naively determined Orion.
Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. By Max Brooks. Read by a full cast. 10hr. Books on Tape, DD, $76 (9780593168080).
Come for the star-studded cast, stay for Judy Greer’s resonant performance as Kate, and relish the clever verité as Terry Gross and Kai Rysdal voice radio journalists.
The Girl with the Louding Voice. By Abi Daré. Read by Adjoa Andoh. 12hr. Books on Tape, DD, $95 (9780593168738).
In this evocative and dialect-rich audio, British actress Andoh brilliantly evolves Adunni from a terrified, mournful girl to a confident young woman. (Top of the List Winner—Adult Audio)
Homie. By Danez Smith. Read by the author. 1.5hr. HighBridge, DD, $8.99 (9781684577392).
Smith’s self-narrated poetry collection positions his work—on the page and on audio—as a force to be reckoned with.
The Lehman Trilogy. By Stefano Massini. Read by Edoardo Ballerini. 13.5hr. HarperAudio, DD, $29.99 (9780062940483).
This tale began as an Italian radio play nearly a decade ago and comes back to audio with verve through Ballerini’s expansive performance.
Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir. By Natasha Trethewey. Read by the author. 5.5hr. Harper, DD, $20.99 (9780063005860).
Tretheway narrates her memoir of her mother’s murder and the aftermath in a riveting and emotionally wrenching performance.
Miss Austen. By Gill Hornby. Read by Juliet Stevenson. 11hr. Macmillan, CD, $45.99 (9781250260598).
Stevenson taps into Hornby’s clever fictionalization of Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra, and her clever social observations as she enlivens female characters, while using decidedly different tones for the “important” male characters.
My Mother’s House. By Francesca Momplaisir. Read by Karen Chilton and others. 10.5hr. Books on Tape, DD, $85.50 (9780593169605).
Proving there’s no character Dion Graham can’t narrate, he is unforgettable here as the tiitular house, with Janina Edwards and Karen Chilton matching his intensity.
Pressure. By David Haig. Performed by a full cast. 2hr. LA Theatre Works, CD, $29.95 (9781682661048).
A high-stakes clash of military weather forecasting cultures comes alive in this stage production set during the days before WWII’s D-Day. Taut, well-acted, and fascinating.
A Promised Land. By Barack Obama. Read by the author. 2020. 29hr. Books on Tape, CD, $65 (9780525633716).
The first volume of Obama’s presidential memoirs was an end-of-year hit, and on audio he ably entertains, even while delving into myriad political details.
The Resisters. By Gish Jen. Read by William DeMeritt. 9hr. Books on Tape, DD, $76 (9780593169926).
Jen’s distinctive writing style requires a particular narrating talent, one DeMeritt displays through both human and AI voices in this thought-provoking audio.
Saving Ruby King. By Catherine Adel West. Read by a full cast. 10.5hr. Harper, DD, $26.99 (9781488208751).
A full cast made up of veteran- and newcomer narrators packs a punch in this powerhouse debut imbued with deeply emotional resonance.
The Switch. By Beth O’Leary. Read by Alison Steadman and Daisy Edgar-Jones. 10hr. Macmillan Audio, DD, $26.99 (9781250751850).
Veteran narrator Steadman and newcomer Edgar-Jones—supported by clever production devices—is each perfectly cast and utterly delightful.
This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope. By Shayla Lawson. Read by the author. 9hr. Harper, DD, $26.99 (9780062988492).
Lawson’s narration is perfectly paced and draws listeners in like an old friend, rewarding them with her candor and humor.
Tokyo Ueno Station. By Miri Yu. Read by Johnny Heller. 4hr. Books on Tape, DD, $47.50 (9780593211267).
Audiobook-royalty Heller’s voice carries an expert blend of emotions in this new recording of Yu’s 2015 title, making it one to remember.
The Vanished Birds. By Simon Jimenez. Read by Shayna Small. 13.5hr. Books on Tape, DD, $95 (9780593167854).
Small is terrifically skilled at distinguishing characters, adroitly bestowing accents, personalities, even unique tics to create an out-of-this-world adventure.
The Vanishing Half. By Brit Bennett. Read by Shayna Small. 12hr. Books on Tape, DD, $95 (9780525637165).
As characters transform, Small never falters, carrying the many generations toward revelation and reunion with resonance and depth.
The Vineyards of Champagne. By Juliet Blackwell. Read by Xe Sands. 11hr. Tantor, CD, $44.99 (9781977310729).
With a voice that is at first hesitant and whispered and becomes firmer and infused with humor, Sands’ performance mirrors the main character’s growth.
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