Every month, AudioFile Magazine reviewers and editors give “Earphones Awards” to the best new audiobooks — the listens that combine blow-you-away narrations with standout writing. BookTrib, in new partnership with AudioFile, offers this month’s picks of the newest do-not-miss titles – memoirs and bios first, some fiction, and a history book that reads like the best thriller. Don’t forget your earbuds.
Courting Mr. Lincoln
by Louis Bayard, read by Robert Fass, Tavia Gilbert (Recorded Books)
Robert Fass and Tavia Gilbert vibrantly personify two people contending for Abraham Lincoln’s attentions in this captivating piece historical fiction. Mary Todd wants to marry the tall man. Joshua Speed wants to keep his best friend to himself. History tells us what happened, but this audiobook shares the how and why.
by Tembi Locke, read by Tembi Locke (Simon & Schuster Audio)
Listeners will savor actress Tembe Locke’s lyrical English and Italian as she narrates her deeply felt and beautifully told memoir about love, loss, and healing. We feel her emotions as she finds love with an engaging Sicilian chef, experiences devastation from his early death from cancer, and the bittersweet joy of reconciliation during his illness. If not in a full circle, life does keep moving.
The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake, read by Orlagh Cassidy
Elegant and clear, Orlagh Cassidy narrates Blake’s beautifully written multigenerational story of love and lies with consummate skill. In the 1930s, the Miltons of Maine and New York are pleasant, prejudiced, white, and rich. Tragedy strikes. As the years go by, they are faced with changes wrought by world events and personal idiosyncrasies. Some will adapt, and others, well, not so much.
by Max Porter, read by Annie Aldington, Clare Corbett, David Timson, Jot Davies (Dreamscape Media)
In this unforgettable listen, a quartet of talented narrators create an experience that one wishes would go on forever. The fabulist tale centers on Dead Papa Toothwort, a mythological creature brought to menacing life by David Timson’s deep, raspy timbre and deliberate phrasing. Toothwort’s favorite is sweet, smart Lanny, beautifully portrayed by Clare Corbett. One day, Lanny goes missing. You’ll have to listen to find out more.
Lights All Night Long
by Lydia Fitzpatrick, read by Michael Crouch (Penguin Audio)
Narrator Michael Crouch makes this fascinating novel about Ilya, a Russian exchange student living in Louisiana, downright riveting. The cast of characters expands, time shifts between past and present, and a mystery involving Ilya’s brother in Russia is introduced. Crouch handles it all exquisitely.
Machines Like Me
by Ian McEwan, read by Steven Crossley (Recorded Books)
In this high-class entertainment that challenges the mind, tests the wits, and teases and confounds the imagination at every turn, talented narrator Steven Crossley voices Charlie, a struggling day trader in an alternative Thatcher-era London where WWII code breaker Alan Turing is a revered elder. There’s also Adam, an autonomous robot, who’s romantically involved with Charlie’s girlfriend. Whoa, the future will be complicated!
by Dustin Lance Black, read by Dustin Lance Black (Random House Audio)
Dustin Lance Black, Academy Award-winning screenwriter and LGBTQ activist, gifts listeners with a heartwarming and conversational narration of his personal journey growing up across intersections of faith, poverty, and sexuality in the southern U.S. and California. His strong connection with his remarkable mother forms the heart of Black’s memoir. Manifest throughout is Black’s passion for storytelling, family, and LGBTQ rights.
by Jeffrey Fleishman, read by Emily Woo Zeller, Richard Ferrone (Blackstone Audio)
In alternating chapters, narrators Emily Woo Zeller and Richard Ferrone pull listeners into this intelligent thriller about a series of murders in Los Angeles. Zeller’s appealing voice captures the emotionally fragile mind of the murderer, while Ferrone’s gravelly voice is a great match for the lead detective on the case. We know the who in this story. It’s the why that’ll surprise you.
by Sally Rooney, read by Aoife McMahon (Random House Audio)
Aoife McMahon, a skillful actor with a gorgeous Irish accent, creates vibrant portraits of the two young people at the heart of this memorable audiobook. Connell and Marianne are smart, odd, and deeply connected to each other. When they head to university, they must navigate their changing relationship as well as a confusing new world. Rooney’s subtle writing works with McMahon’s nimble performance to balance your sympathies between these unforgettable characters.
There’s a Word For That
by Sloane Tanen, read by Therese Plummer (Hachette Audio)
Therese Plummer shines in her entertaining portrayals of the Kesslers, a famous yet dysfunctional family whose members struggle to find stability and acceptance. Everyone from Marty a retired producer, who is back in rehab, to his daughter Janine, who can’t find an identity now that she’s outgrown her career as a child actor. Plummer enhances the personality of each character and makes listeners feel as if they know each family member intimately.