Every month, AudioFile Magazine reviewers and editors give Earphones Awards to the best audiobooks.

BookTrib, thanks to our new partnership with AudioFile, offers this month’s picks of the greatest titles – memoirs and bios first, some fiction, and a history book that reads like the best thriller. Don’t forget your earbuds.

Book of Longing (HarperAudio)

By Leonard Cohen, read by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s intimate, Eeyore-like voice is in resplendent display in his performance of this 2006 collection of poetry about sexual desire, getting older, and finding the truths in his everyday movements.  It’s a pensive, quirky, endearing reading by the much-missed novelist, poet, and writer of such truths as “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books (Simon & Schuster Audio)

By Edward Wilson-Lee, read by Richard Trinder

The ease and agility of Richard Trinder’s narration welcomes listeners into this fascinating history of the library assembled by Columbus’s “natural” son, Hernando.  Opening a unique window on the 16th century, the result is enlivened by Trinder’s ability with a range of languages and nomenclatures, and most wonderfully, through this book’s amazing lists and catalogs.

First (Random House Audio)

By Evan Thomas, read by Kirsten Potter

Kirsten Potter narrates this terrific biography of Sandra Day O’Conner, America’s first female Supreme Court justice, with a keenness that utterly engages.  Thankfully, she does not try to sound like the famous people quoted throughout, but delineates clearly between text and quotation.  Her interest in the O’Conner is audible, which adds to the enjoyment.

Grateful American (Thomas Nelson)

By Gary Sinese and Marcus Brotherton, read by Gary Sinese

Actor Gary Sinese’s trademark warm, gruff voice perfectly suits his performance of his disarming new memoir.  A practiced audiobook narrator, his pacing is superb, helping to draw listeners into a story that engages from the first words.  It’s a unique story to which many will relate – the struggle to find his place in a career that did not come easily, and his current determination to give back to the men and women who serve in the U.S. military and to first responders like police and firefighters.

Kaddish.com (Random House Audio)

By Nathan Englander, read by Rob Shapiro

Rob Shapiro’s emotionally nuanced and intense narration of Nathan Englander’s marvelous new novel is a performance to visit and revisit.  As the Pulitzer Prize finalist tells us about Larry, who chooses the easy way out of saying the mourner’s prayer for his dead father, we consider the meaning of love, obligation, faith, and history.  The result brings much thought and delight.

A Knife in the Fog

By Bradley Harper, read by Matthew Lloyd Davies

Matthew Lloyd Davies offers a beautifully played, multi-voice performance of this satisfying new mystery series featuring Arthur Conan Doyle, forensic expert Joseph Bell (the model for Holmes), and crusading journalist Margaret Harkness.  Holmes is on a writing break when Prime Minister Gladstone summons him to help track down Jack the Ripper.  Holmes calls upon his colleagues and they’re off.  After this let’s hope for another excellent installment with Davies playing everyone.

Notes from a Young Black Chef

By Kwame Onwuachi, Joshua David Stein, read by Kwame Onwuachi

Chef Kwame Onwuachi is a natural story-teller and fine narrator, who brings engaging warmth and passion to his captivating account of growing up in the Bronx, the son of Nigerian immigrants, falling in love with food, and achieving that glittering dream – his own restaurant in the nation’s capital.  Then it closes.  Prepare to listen with an intensity that matches Onwuachi’s All-American story.

The Reckoning

By Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, read by Lucy Patterson

Lucy Patterson manages to embody a wide range of Icelandic characters while also delivering a nuanced narration of this involving thriller-mystery in an attractive, crisply English accent.  It’s a first-rate performance of the second in a fine new series featuring Detective Huldar and child psychologist Freyja.  This book focuses on a string of murders somehow tied to a child’s letter in a bottle.  The Scandinavian noir plot is lightened by glimpses of the main characters’ private lives.


By David Baldacci, read by Kyf Brewer, Orlagh Cassidy

A star performance by Kyf Brewer and Orlagh Cassidy should push this audiobook to the top of every thriller fan’s must-listen list.  Brewer highlights series-star Amos Decker’s intensity and resolve as he works to discover whether he put away the correct killer years ago.  Cassidy owns all the female characters, including Decker’s former partner, and astonishes with her pacing and real-life line-reading.

The Volunteer

By Salvatore Scibona, read by Edoardo Ballerini

Edoardo Ballerini’s magnificent narration of Scibona’s remarkable new novel is a gift to listeners. He turns the kaleidoscopic saga into a fully accessible story.  And what a story.  Encompassing four generations of men related by blood or propinquity, it revolves an around Iowa farm boy who impulsively volunteers for the Vietnam War after a mild disagreement with his parents.  From rural Iowa to Southeast Asia to Queens, New York, to New Mexico, Scibona and Ballerini take us on an immersive exploration of identity, love, and loss.

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