Audiophile alert: 13 engaging audiobooks read by their authors

Audiophile alert: 13 engaging audiobooks read by their authors

Audiobooks are only as good as their narrators, and who better to bring a book to life than the author? These are thirteen of my favorite audiobooks narrated by the authors themselves; I can’t wait to hear what you’d add to the list.

I couldn’t resist including my brand new book I’d Rather Be Reading, just out Tuesday, because I narrated it myself. (Fun fact: while it’s not the norm for authors to narrate their own books, I was chosen to narrate mine because listeners know my voice from What Should I Read Next?)

For more info on getting started with audiobooks, check out the beginner’s great big guide to audiobooks. We also have some great audiobook posts in the archives; I especially like 15 audiobooks that enhance your reading experience and 10 audiobooks so good you’ll want to fold another load of laundry, finish washing the dishes, or just sit in the driveway for 5 more minutes.

Works Read by Their Authors
Flight Behavior: A Novel

Flight Behavior: A Novel

I thought this finely crafted novel had many wonderful moments and a truly horrible ending. (That's not a reason to skip: bad endings make for great book club reading.) While it's unusual for novelists to read their own work, Kingsolver's lyrical voice perfectly suits her prose. More info →
Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

Author:
Interesting and entertaining memoir about Steve Martin's roots and the real story behind his "overnight" success, packed with surprising tidbits about the industry and Martin's personal life. Fun, fast, and very readable. A great show biz biography, especially as read by the author. More info →
Yes Please

Yes Please

Author:
The SNL star's first book is packed with juicy behind-the-scenes stories, wise advice, and personal confessions, the audiobook recording with a full cast including Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart (who reads haikus), and even Amy's parents. More info →
Why Not Me?

Why Not Me?

Author:
Mindy Kaling's most recent essay collection is all about growing up: she covers everything from body image to inner confidence to Hollywood life. When it's good, it's very, very good: my favorite stories were about The Office and Mindy's personal career trajectory, but she also spills on her friendship with B.J. Novak and many more big names in Hollywood. A fun and easy listen. More info →
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Author:
In Anne's own words: "Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'" A modern classic, and a must-read for writers. More info →
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent A Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent A Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

Author:
This is one of my favorites that I keep coming back to. Engaging and inspiring. Rubin's upbeat voice suits her material. More info →
The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

Author:
This Newbery medal winner is one of Gaiman's best-known and most-loved works. The story centers around Bod Owens (short for Nobody), who grows up in a graveyard surrounded by ghosts after his family is brutally murdered. (The violent act occurs in the very beginning; it's much easier to listen to after the first chapter.) Gaiman is an excellent narrator, and that's not even counting his British accent. More info →
Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir

Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir

Author:
This alternately heartwarming and heartbreaking tale about McCourt's Irish childhood won the Pulitzer Prize and landed at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. (Mary Karr cited it often as a stunning example in her recent book The Art of Memoir.) McCourt's brogue makes the story leap off the page. More info →
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Author:
The haunting story of Angelou's childhood in the American South in the 1930s. The prose is incredible, and the story is by turns heartwarming ("I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare") and utterly heartbreaking. If this is one you've been meaning to read, give the audio version a try: Angelou's lilting voice brings her powerful, touching story to life. More info →
The Almost Sisters

The Almost Sisters

I was just gushing about Joshilyn Jackson's writing last night at a book tour event. This is her most recent novel, about a complicated Alabama family and the "two Souths" it inhabits. This is a fast-reading, big-hearted novel that tackles Serious Issues really, really well—while spinning a terrific story. Jackson always reads her own novels (and other authors' novels as well—she's that good), and I've listened to a half dozen of them because her narration—and her stories—are amazing, and the combination is dynamite. More info →
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Author:
In this collection of coming-of-age essays about his South African childhood, The Daily Show star does a masterful job of alternating the deathly serious with the laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes even combining the two. His mischievous childhood and unconventional youth provide wonderful fodder for not-quite-polite but always entertaining stories. More info →
I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life

Author:
Of course I had to include this! This essay collection is written BY a book lover (me) for book lovers (YOU). For so many people, reading isn't just a hobby or a way to pass the time--it's a lifestyle. Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can't imagine life without them. I wax poetic on the magic of the library next door, bookworm problems, the books that made me fall in love with reading, and an "instructive" piece on how to organize your bookshelves that would fit right in at McSweeney's. (I also narrate my first book, Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything.) More info →
My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South

My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South

Author:
You all have been telling me to listen to Rick Bragg read his own work for years, and now, I get it: this is the best thing I've listened to in a good long while, and maybe, ever—which I did NOT expect from an essay collection. Bragg reads 70-ish pieces of his nonfiction work, most of which has been previously published. Some are just a few minutes long; the longest runs for about fifteen. He covers A LOT of ground: football, fishing, book tour, his mama's cornbread, wardrobe concerns, New Orleans cuisine, natural disasters. These stories are compact, wistful, funny, and poignant. SO GOOD. More info →

What are your favorite audiobooks narrated by their authors? What would YOU add to this list? 

13 authors reading their own work

68 comments | Comment

68 comments

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  1. Deborah says:

    Almost anything read by Neil Gaiman – American Gods, Norse Mythology, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. His reading voice may well be my favorite reading voice. And listening to Ruth Ozeki’s reading of A Tale for the Time Being was a singular experience. She read this strange book in multiple voices, each one convincing despite the impossibility of the storyline.

  2. Kacy Burns says:

    The Thrawn series by Timothy Zahn has the best narration. It’s done by a voice actor who really gets into it and has completely different voices for every character. He’s the reason I fell in love with audiobooks.

  3. Sally says:

    I just finished “Braving the Wilderness” read by the author Brene Brown and it was an EXCELLENT way to experience that material. It’s like having a friend in your headphone, and Brene talks about anecdotes from her life in Texas often — her twang really makes it real!

      • Anna says:

        Her books (And any self help/personal development/non fiction) are not nearly as good if ready by anyone other than the author. The just can’t get the true feeling of the book the same way the author does.

    • Michelle says:

      Brene Brown is amazing, but her subject matter is absolutely transformed when she delivers it in audio. She’s so honest and real, which makes her relatable to me. Hoopla has an amazing audio available, Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice. I highly recommend. The Hoopla app is available on iOS and Android, just use your library credentials to log in.
      I know you’ve spoken about her before, Anne. I think she has important messages.

  4. Heidi says:

    My favorite audiobooks of all time are Charlotte’s Web, read by E.B. White, and the Time quartet (A Wrinkle In Time, etc.) read by Madeleine L’Engle. They are spectacular.

  5. Kacie says:

    I’ve enjoyed several on this list! Recently borrowed Bird by Bird from Overdrive and Anne Lamont’s was an abridged version, I believe. Only 2h compared to a different narrator on Audible.

    I also enjoyed Lauren Graham’s Talking as Fast as I Can.

    Currently listening to The Happiness Project and also Martin Short’s autobiography.

  6. Katie McKenzie says:

    One of my favorites is “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” by Rob Lowe. I had to be convinced to give it a listen and enjoyed it so much listen to it twice. He is a great storyteller and has had some amazing experiences. You will not be disappointed!

  7. Liz K says:

    “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini. It’s such a powerful book but having the author read it really just brings it to a whole new level.

  8. D Malone says:

    Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols, The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne (for kids), May I have Your Attention Please? by James Corden, Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick, The Freedom Writers Diary with The Freedom Writers, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Wildflower by Drew Barrymore, and Finish by Jon Acufff

  9. Sara Kilpatrick says:

    I would add Tsh Oxenreider’s books. I loved her narration of At Home in the World, and though I haven’t read Notes on a Blue Bike yet, I expect that one is great too. Like you, her voice is known to the audience of her podcast so it’s familiar and she had a great voice for narration!

  10. Julie Turner says:

    I loved My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan! I also enjoyed The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines-a really enjoyable listen hearing their story in their own voices.

  11. Christine says:

    “Not My Father’s Son”, by Alan Cumming. An autobiography and mystery involving the past and the present, told conversationally and sincerely and, yes, ultimately with joy. And, oh, that voice!

  12. Allie says:

    I absolutely loved “Talking As Fast As I Can” by Lauren Graham. I definitely don’t think it would have been as good with a different narrator. I also liked “The Silver Star” by Jeannette Walls. I love listening to authors read their own materials. I feel you really get a sense of how they wanted the book read, what they wanted emphasized, where they wanted a dramatic pause.

  13. Nicole says:

    Goodness, don’t forget Something in the Water, read by author Catherine Stedman. She is an actress (Downton Abbey) and did an amazing job reading her thriller.

  14. Lisa says:

    My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan! Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham.
    Still Foolin Em by Billy Crystal. Love Life by Rob Lowe. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick.

    • Lisa says:

      I just finished listening to “The Opposite of Everyone” by Joshlyn Jackson and narrated by her. I great narration and good storytelling.

  15. Elise says:

    I loved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series narrated by the author (Douglas Adams). More recently, Martin Freeman narrated the series, but if you can find Adams’s recordings, go with them – his comic delivery is perfect.
    Yes to Angela’s Ashes! I listened to it nearly 20 years ago, and I still hear Frank McCourt’s voice in my head whenever I think of his story.
    And yes to anything by Neil Gaiman. A fun writer with a fantastic voice. My favorite of his books is Coraline, but I don’t know if he narrates the audiobook.

  16. Heather says:

    I really enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane narrated by Gaiman. His voice is so soothing to listen to. Also loved Lauren Graham’s memoir as well as Anna Kendrick’s. Happy to see Born a Crime on here – one of my favourite audiobooks!! I am planning to listen to My Oxford Year because I enjoy Julia Whalen as a narrator.

  17. I read The Happiness Project on Kindle when it first came out – 6, 7 years ago? – and enjoyed it very much (4*). This year, as part of my 18 in 2018 from Gretchen’s podcast, I decided to listen to it on audible and OH MY WORD, I loved it! I’m now thinking of making this an annual part of my new year rituals – it was fantastic and set me up for the right start to my year.

  18. Alice Sherman says:

    The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. This was the very first audio book I listened to and now I’m spoiled. She was amazing!

  19. Danielle says:

    Any and all David Sedaris. Forever. In addition to your list, I have also LOVED “Yes, Chef” read by Marcus Samuelsson, “Between the World and Me” read by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and “It’s Okay to Laugh” read by Nora McInerny

  20. Brittney says:

    I just listened to “Unoffendable” by Brant Hansen. The content itself was so good, but having Brant read it made me laugh out loud several times. It was an easy listen too! One afternoon of folding laundry!

  21. I prefer listen to the audio of any comedian’s books!

    Out of your recommendation, I listened to Rick Bragg’s My Southern Journey. Man, his voice is like buttah. Even at 1.25 speed!

    Just finished Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and don’t think you should “read” that book any other way.

    I’m currently in the middle of Padma Lakshmi’s Love, Loss and What We Ate only because the hard copy was due at the library before I could start it and I had hit my renewal limit. I downloaded the audio version and think it’s the way to go, which is the case often with memoirs!

  22. Adrienne Hudson says:

    I loved the audiobooks of the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series, narrated by Lisette Lecat. The books are sweet, charming, and funny, and she does a wonderful job with all the characters.

  23. Tara Nichols says:

    Andy Cohen’s first book, Most Talkative, is so good! It has all the elements I love in a celebrity memoir on audio – laugh out loud funny, serious moments with depth, and little fun bonuses from the author while they’re narrating that you don’t get in the printed book.

  24. Diana says:

    I think my all time favorite has to be Angela’s Ashes! Frank McCourt’s voice owns it. I love when the author reads, it adds their passion to the writing. I also love Joshilyn Jackson!

    • Anna says:

      I love Emily Freeman’s calm and soothing voice! I got the audio of Simply Tuesday but she didn’t narrate it so I couldn’t continue. I’m glad to hear AMLW is narrated by her, I’ll definitely add that one to my list!

      I think any non fiction book should be narrated by it’s author to be able to capture the essence of what they are saying (I Listen to A LOT of personal development books) some of my favorites include You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero (and You are a Badass at Making Money) I actually purchased the physical book after listening to the audio (checked out from the library) to the first book because there were so many things i wanted to highlight and remember. Of Mess and Moxie written and narrated by Jen Hatmaker and Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Harris are both amazing books by moms who work and have many children and very full lives.

      I listen to A LOT of audio books because I have a 20 minute drive each morning and afternoon to the park and ride station, I used to listen to podcasts and now I’ve switched to books but I’ll switch back to podcasts at some point. ALSO, I highly recommend getting the audio book version of any book that is written/narrated by a podcast host that you love. If you already love their voice and content from the podcast, it stands to reason that you’d love their book (Reading People and I’d Rather Be Reading are perfect examples)

      • Michelle Collazo says:

        Thanks for the recommendations! Emily’s podcast – The Next Right Thing – is worth checking out, too! The voice of a kind friend offering humble words of wisdom. A worthy investment of time for your commute!

        • Anna says:

          Yes! That’s how I found her in the first place, I think because she was a guest on a podcast called Goal Digger. Now I listen to Next Right Thing every week on my Tuesday commute.

  25. Nichole says:

    I love your lists, Anne! Literary confession: I haven’t listened to anything as an audiobook. I’ve been meaning to but now I know where to go for recommendations! Thank you.
    (If I knew Angela’s Ashes was narrated by the author, I so would have listened to it)

  26. Karen says:

    My favorite audio read by the author was As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from Making The Princess Bride. It was so well done and when others associated with the film chimed in, all but a couple were also read by the people who wrote that inserted bit. (Except Andre the Giant – who had died – and Fred Savage.)

  27. Erin says:

    I really enjoyed As You Wish, read and written by Carey Elwes. It’s his memoir of doing The Princess Bride and it has cameos in it from a bunch of the other actors from the movie. It’s a sweet, fun book, especially for people who can basically quote the whole movie from start to finish. 😀

  28. Brandi says:

    Absolutely love Rick Bragg’s narration of My Southern Journey! I would also add Lit by Mary Karr. Hearing her read this memoir transformed the story for me. Will definitely check out Ann Lamott reading Bird by Bird!

  29. Ellen says:

    I recently listened to “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell” by Robert Dugoni. I’ve listened to several of Robert Dugoni’s Tracy Crosswhite series’ books and really enjoyed them. Each book has been better than the last. “The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell” is a stand alone book and a complete departure from the Tracy Crosswhite homicide detective stories. The story is difficult to describe but so incredibly wonderful. I found it impossible to turn it off, even when my usual commute listening time was over. The reason I feel it important in this particular conversation is that I felt throughout the book that the narrator seemed to have such a wonderful connection to each of the characters! It wasn’t until after I’d listened to the entire book that I realised that Robert Dugoni was the narrator!

  30. Jenni says:

    I just listened to the 20th anniversary edition of Tuesdays with Morrie read by the author, Mitch Albom. Loved hearing his story through his voice and the 20th Anniversary edition also features a snippet of one of the actual interviews with Morrie himself. So touching to hear his own voice.

  31. Trisha R Leonard says:

    I loved Trevor Noah’s book and Joshilynn Jackson. My favorite audio is still Code Name Verity. Also Maggie O’Ferrell’s I am I am I am 17 brushes with death was amazing as an audio book.

  32. Trevor Noah was fantastic reading his memoir! And, I’d add Cheryl Strayed reading Tiny Beautiful Things to this list!

    Unfortunately, I didn’t love Gretchen Rubin narrating The Happiness Project. I thought she came across a bit like an annoying friend who’s always on your back about doing something better…her way 🙁

  33. I agree with this list – especially the humor memoirs read by the author. I would also add any of Samantha Irby’s memoirs. I also just listened to Retta’s memoir and enjoyed that as well. For a fun fiction, I highly recommend Agatha Christie books narrated by Dan Stevens. He is brilliant!

  34. Kristin says:

    I’m so late to this, but didn’t see anyone mention Anthony Bourdain. I have hated a whole lot of audio books, but I’d listen to him all day long.

  35. I’m a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to audiobooks, I think: I love them in theory and espouse their virtues constantly, but I almost never make the time to listen to them myself! I am so addicted to podcasts that my audio-life is pretty full already, and I can’t shake the fear that I’ll miss something or lose track if I’m not physically looking at the words and processing them visually. I’d love to listen to Anne Lammott’s one, though, because I absolutely adore her <3 I need to get over myself and hop to it!

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