10 engaging audiobooks read by their authors.

10 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 ten of my favorite audiobooks narrated by the authors themselves; I can’t wait to hear what you’d add to the list.

For more info on getting started with audiobooks, check out the beginner’s great big guide to audiobooks.

Series: Authors reading their own work
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.) 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. A great show biz biography, especially as read by the author. More info →
Yes Please

Yes Please

Author:
The reviews on this are decidedly mixed: if you're on the fence, definitely go for 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:
I just finished listening to this new release from Mindy Kaling. This collection of essays 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. 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. 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 →
Someone Else’s Love Story

Someone Else’s Love Story

Several devoted readers told me they didn't fall in love with Joshilyn Jackson's writing until they listened to her narrate her own stories on audio. This Southern novel begins with a holdup at the Circle K, and weaves together themes of loss, love, date rape, and Asperger's Syndrome into one strange but strangely fitting story. A few disturbing scenes. More info →

What would you add to the list? 

P.S. A trick to save big on audiobooks, 40 favorite audiobooks, and 40 favorite audiobooks for kids.

Need a new audiobook recommendation? Try one of these 10 engaging titles, read by their authors.

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90 comments

  1. Tara says:

    I LOVE this list! I’ve had trouble getting into audiobooks unless they are read by the author. Thanks for giving me some new ones to try.

    One of my all-time favorite books is “Just Kids” by Patti Smith. I read it and adored it, then got the audiobook and listened to her read it, and enjoyed it even more.

  2. Heidi says:

    I really enjoyed listening to Charlotte’s Web, read by E.B. White. Also, my library has the first three of Madeleine L’engle’s Time books (A Wrinkle in Time, etc.) read by the author. The kids adored those, and I enjoyed them too. She isn’t the most spectacular reader, but I’m always interested in how authors interpret their own work.

  3. Alex says:

    Tina Fey reads Bossypants
    Alan Alda reads Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
    Rob Lowe reads Stories I Only Tell my Friends and Love Life

    basically, autobiographies read by their authors.

  4. Katie says:

    Definitely Rob Lowe’s narration of his two books, Stories I Only Tell My Friends and Love Life (but especially Love Life). It’s endearing to hear the smile in his voice when he’s reading the parts about his wife & kids, & his voice breaking when he reads about particularly emotional moments in his life (like dropping his oldest son off at college). And you don’t need to be familiar with Rob Lowe or his movies to enjoy the books.

    Also, Jim Gaffigan reading Dad Is Fat and Food: A Love Story is, of course, hilarious.

  5. Sara K. says:

    One of the first audiobooks I read years ago was Julie Andrew’s memoir called Home: A Memoir of My Early Years. I love Julie Andrews, and especially her voice (both spoken and singing). It was really interesting to hear her telling her own story.

  6. I’ve resisted audiobooks for years, but I have to say that I love David McCullough’s audio versions of his books. His voice is so rich. Listening to “The Wright Brothers” is kind of like the audiobook equivalent of a Ken Burns documentary in all the best ways.

  7. I loved listening to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian read by author Sherman Alexie. Hearing his voice, his intonation, and expressions took me back to life on the reservation. (I worked on a reservation as a teacher.) A funny, heart-breaking book.

  8. Jessica says:

    I really enjoyed Dan Harris reading 10% Happier. I thought it might sounds like listening to the news, but he’s very funny and has great intonations.

  9. Betsy says:

    I love Bill Bryson’s recordings of his books, especially A Walk in the Woods and I’m a Stranger Here Myself. Nobody does it better!

    • Theresa says:

      I love Bill Bryson’s writing, but cannot abide his readings of his own books. On the other hand, as soon as I read the title of this post, I immediately thought of Neil Gaimon. And since we are talking audio books, Jim Dale is the best. Not only is his work on the Harry Potter series outstanding, but The Night Circus is a great adult book by him.

  10. Ciera says:

    I loved this post. I’ve recently been listening to a lot of audiobooks, as they’re a great way to spend my time on the morning bus commute. I haven’t stumbled upon any that have been read by the author, but now I’m definitely going to try.

    I’ve also thought listening to comedians read their biographies might be fun, but I had never thought about the special touch it might add to a novel!

  11. I am currently listening to Dick van Dyke read his autobiography “My Lucky Life.” I am not even a big fan of old TV or movies, but I am loving the behind the scenes look at showbiz 50+ years ago.

  12. Michelle Deckert Richmond says:

    One of the best audio books I’ve read yet…The Good House by Anne Leary and narrated by Mary Beth Hurt. Loved the story. It was like watching a movie.

  13. Girl in Boston says:

    I second any book by Anne Lamott. I read Help, Thanks, Wow and it was fantastic as well. One I would argue to stay away from would be Still Alice.

  14. Heather says:

    I love audiobooks, though I only really listen to non-fiction (except when I listen to books with my kids). My favorites read by the authors are Donald Miller’s ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’ (you can practically hear him smiling as he reads certain parts) and David McCullough’s “1776”.

  15. Monica F says:

    I absolutely *loved* listening to Neil Gaiman’s narration of The Graveyard Book. So good!
    I’ll have to check out I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in audio book form. I’ve been meaning to read it, but had no idea that there was a version narrated by the author herself.

  16. Suzanne says:

    As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride is read by Cary Elwes with tons of cameos from other people involved in the movie. So much fun to hear their voices talking about what a great time they had making the movie.

  17. Jennifer says:

    i listened to “Ocean at the End of the Lane” read by Gaiman. Lovely. Spooky.

    i also love listening to Brene Brown read her books. i recently finished “Rising Strong” and listening to her tell her own stories and laugh at herself and exaggerate her Texas accent is delightful.

  18. M.E. Bond says:

    I have heard Bird By Bird recommended many, many times and I’m so glad you mentioned the audiobook; I just ordered it from the library.

    I recently listened to the unabridged version of World War Z read by Max Brooks and a full cast. It is the first horror novel I have ever read/heard (I also avoid all scary movies), and it was fascinating. I wrote a blog post on it: http://www.mebondbooks.com/2015/09/23/world-war-z-me/

  19. Ana says:

    I’ve always avoided audiobooks because I’m not a fan of walking around with headphones in…but this is convincing me that certain books might be enhanced by a really good reader, especially autobiographies. I always hear the author’s voice in my head while I read books like Yes, Please and Bossypants anyways.

  20. Definitely concur with the recommendations for Yes Please and Angela’s Ashes. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson was read by the author, which was good since it was both a memoir and written in verse.

    Recently I started Positive by Paige Rawl, which is great so far and has outstanding reviews, but I don’t know why they had the author narrate the audiobook. She is too young and inexperienced, and her reading is stilted and awkward. I had to switch to the ebook format after the first 5 or 6 chapters.

  21. Nancy Wang says:

    I loved Malcolm Gladwell’s reading of his book “David and Goliath”–it added so much to my enjoyment of the book.

  22. Amber says:

    One More Thing (Stories and Other Stories) by BJ Novak was absolutely hilarious. I don’t think I would’ve appreciated the book if I read it, but listening to it was an unforgettable experience. I loved hearing Mindy Kaling’s voice pop up at times, too!

    • Anne says:

      I’ve heard that one is fabulous on audio! I only tried a couple of stories in the hardback, but I can see how the audio format would serve it well.

  23. Amanda says:

    As a fan of historical fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed “The All-Girl’s Filling Station’s Last Reunion” read by the author, Fannie Flagg.

  24. Preethi says:

    I, too, was going to suggest David McCullough reading “The Wright Brothers.” Excellent. Bossy pants by Tina fey and dad is fat by jim gaffigan are also hilarious.

  25. Valerie says:

    These are not read by the author but I have been listening to them while I’m at work and they are quite enjoyable. The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith and narrated by Lisette Lecat. Also The Little Paris Book Shop was an enjoyable listen.

  26. ann a says:

    I’m soooo glad you included Angela’s Ashes. I listened to that on while reading the print version. (I was in high school, I believe, and working on my concentration skills.) 😉 I absolutely agree with what you said the author’s reading added to the story. It filled my senses. Again, I’m so glad you included it in this list.

  27. Karisa says:

    I started listening to Stephen Colbert’s “I am America and so can you.” But he’s too intense for an audiobook. I felt like I was being yelled at to and from work. I guess the charm of watching him is seeing him crack up occasionally and realize he is joking, whereas the audiobook is just a constant ream of intense loud satire.
    I love listening to authors read their autobiographies though. The combination of their story plus their passions is my favorite.

    • Christie W says:

      Yes! I was scanning the comments looking to see if anyone mentioned “The Help”. The characters came alive with each narrator. I listen to a lot of audiobooks & that is an all time favorite.
      Others I loved not mentioned are “Big Little Lies” (her Australian accent!) & “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (proper pronunciation of those names!). I get them from my library straight to my phone.

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  29. ::danielle:: says:

    I loved listening to “What Remains” by Carole Radziwill. Her story is so poignant. I agree about “Angela’s Ashes” and “Born Standing Up.” They are both great audiobooks. Thank you to everyone who recommended “Stories I Only Tell My Friends.” I’m really enjoying it!

  30. Tory says:

    Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane! He has said it is his most autobiographical book, and his reading is just wonderful. I didn’t realize he had done other narrations, I will have to pick up Fortunately, The Milk for my kids 🙂

  31. Christina says:

    Highly recommend anything Orlagh Cassidy reads. I never thought I’d be an audio book fan, but I have been using overdrive and love it so very much! This summer, I “read” The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani and she narrates. I’m now reading The Kitchen House, which is another book that she narrates and I didn’t realize it until i started listening and knew right away it was her! her accents are spot on and she is captivating.
    love that you can search overdrive for a particular narrator! https://www.overdrive.com/creators/380731/orlagh-cassidy

  32. Heather says:

    I strongly recommend Jenny Lawson. She is raw,hilarious and insightful. “Let’s pretend this Never Happened” was good. But “Furiously Happy” may be my new favorite book. It provides deep insight into the truths of mental illness. I recommend this book to everyone I know.

  33. Kimberley says:

    I could never get into audiobooks until I heard Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan. It’s read by several narrators (to follow the several stories that intertwine), and it also includes music. It’s such a treat!

  34. Cathy A says:

    I’m listening to WE WERE THE KENNEDY’S by Monica Wood — and she is the reader. The book includes singing and French and as the author I feel she brings that to life.

  35. Sara says:

    I can’t believe you left out As You Wish by Carey Elwes! He’s hilarious and does voices! It’s his book about the making of the Princess Bride movie.

  36. Julie R says:

    Bossypants written and read by Tina Fey is excellent! I’m sort of surprised that it didn’t make the original list.

    I’m also a huge fan of Niel Gaiman audiobooks. “Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” is amazing. But it’s dark story, so be cautious if you’re a sensitive soul.

  37. Nancy B. says:

    Born a Crime written and narrated by Trevor Noah. A great book, engaging, laugh out loud even while feeling the impossible to imagine contradictions of his life. Hard to put down, hard to find a book to listen to after that one! Stories of his childhood as a mixed race person in South Africa.

  38. Lissa says:

    If you can get your hands on it listen to the Harry Potter books read by Stephen Frey. He reads the British version of the books and it is magical. The American audio versions by Jim Dale are just not as good.

    Also Neil Gaiman reads his “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” beautifully!

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