My favorite audiobooks of 2019

My favorite audiobooks of 2019

Last week I shared my favorite books of 2019. To make it easier on myself, I divided my favorites list into favorite print books and favorite audiobooks.

For me, the mark of a truly great book—and a great listening experience—is that I’m still thinking about the story, even months later. Bonus points to any book that makes me want to run another mile, fold another load of laundry, or sit in my car in the driveway so I can keep listening.

I tried to listen to more audiobooks in 2019, and I know many of you are upping your listening, as well. My changing listening habits are reflected on the blog: click here for all our audiobook posts. We also created a podcast playlist for you: click here for the What Should I Read Next playlist for audiobook- focused episodes.

My 9 favorite audiobooks of 2019

Last year I divided my favorites into fiction and nonfiction picks, but—just like in my favorite printed books of 2019—this year’s list is fiction-heavy. (There’s just one nonfiction selection here, and I read it back in January!)

On the Come Up

On the Come Up

Author:
I listened to this audiobook on a road trip down to Memphis, and it made the miles fly by: I was engrossed in the story of 15-year-old Brianna, who is confident in her dreams—and has a chance of making them come true—but first has to navigate a whole slew of pitfalls, both the ones forced upon her and the ones of her own making. If you appreciated The Hate U Give, add this to your TBR immediately. Bri is an aspiring rapper, and rap battles feature prominently in the plot: for that reason I'm so glad I listened to this instead of reading it on the page. Bahni Turpin's narration is exceptional. More info →
The Huntress

The Huntress

Author:
The Alice Network author Quinn takes on WWII's aftermath in her latest historical release. Inspired by a true story she stumbled upon in the historical archives (which would totally spoil the big reveal—you're going to have to read the Author's Note to learn all!), Quinn weaves together three perspectives to tell a gripping story: Jordan is a Boston teenager who works in her father's Boston antiques store, Ian is a British journalist determined to bring his brother's killer—known as "the Huntress"—to justice, and Nina is a Russian fighter pilot and the only woman alive who can identify the Huntress. There's no weak link in the story; each thread is fascinating, and distinct on the audio—and when they began to come together I couldn't listen fast enough. A mesmerizing tale of war crimes, coming of age, love and fidelity, and the pursuit of justice, with stirring implications for today. A 2019 Summer Reading Guide selection, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld. More info →
Becoming

Becoming

A moving, inspiring, engaging listen, and one that's meaningful and FUN to hear in Michelle Obama's own voice. The former First Lady recounts growing up on the South Side of Chicago, meeting her husband Barack, and exactly what it's like to watch your husband run for and then win the presidency. I was surprised and delighted by some of the topics she chose to cover, like the practical difficulties of managing White House play dates and her stint on Carpool Karaoke. She doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of her story, such as miscarriage and the racism she's encountered over the years, and reflects on how her experiences have shaped her and the woman she's still becoming. More info →
The Mother-in-Law

The Mother-in-Law

This book was such a fun surprise for me: I devoured this on audio. I was thrilled to recommend it in one of our very first Patreon-only bonus episodes of One Great Book. In the ten years she's known her, Lucy has never felt her mother-in-law Diana approved of her—an especial disappointment because she'd hoped Diana would finally be the mother she'd never had. Yet she’s distraught when the police show up to announce that Diana has died by apparent suicide—and even more so when they reveal that the evidence points to possible murder. As we get to know the family members, we discover each of them had a motive to harm Diana, and stood to benefit from her death. A wholly satisfying domestic mystery, perfect for Liane Moriarty fans, that kept me guessing till the end. Narrated by Barrie Kreinik. More info →
The Lager Queen of Minnesota

The Lager Queen of Minnesota

This new title from the author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest follows several generations of a Minnesota family as they establish themselves in the brewing industry—and fall to pieces in the process. Despite the family feud and plenty of tense moments, the tone is relentlessly hopeful, and the story hugely listenable. I walked six miles just so I could get to the end! A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer. (Fun fact: I relied heavily on protagonist Diana when I taught a session on using the Enneagram to write better fictional characters last month.) Narrated by Judith Ivey. More info →
The Stationery Shop

The Stationery Shop

Author:
In 1953 Tehran, a young man failed to meet his betrothed in a Tehran square. Sixty years later and half a world away, the woman, now grown old, is about to discover why. This sweeping love story spans 60 years and two continents, taking the reader between contemporary New England and 1953 Tehran, thoroughly immersing the reader in the volatile political climate of 1950s Iran. This is easily one of the best books I've read this year: listen to me recommend it on Episode 194 of What Should I Read Next ("No plot, no problem!"), and we'll be reading it in the MMD Book Club in January, where we'll pair it with A Place for Us. If you enjoyed either of these books, add the other to your TBR right now. Narrated by Mozhan Marnò, whose voice I recognized from her role as Samar on The Blacklist. More info →
The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

This novel combines so many elements I love: it's a literary mystery, a book about books, a coming-of-age story, a tale of adventure and suspense and revenge. I recommended this on a recent episode of WSIRN: episode 196 with Anudeep Reddy as a gateway fantasy, a fantasy novel for people who don't like fantasy. Creative and inventive and lots of fun. Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club members, this is our February pick. The narration by January LaVoy (yes, you read that right!) is mesmerizing. More info →
Nothing to See Here

Nothing to See Here

Author:
Kevin Wilson's latest is about an important political family that has a tiny little problem—their kids catch fire when they get mad. It's the perfect blend of the very real emotional family and the bizarre, which lets the author address serious things—life, work, power, ambition, relationships—without getting precious about it. This was the first bonus episode of the season for One Great Book and then I turned right around and recommended it on episode 201 of What Should I Read Next of WSIRN. Marin Ireland hit just the right notes with her narration, and if you're eager to finish another book before the end of the year, it's only 6 hours 40 minutes. More info →
Tidelands (The Fairmile Series)

Tidelands (The Fairmile Series)

This is the first installment in a new series from seasoned historical novelist Gregory, in which she focuses on what the lives of everyday people might have been like centuries ago. The characters all live in the Tidelands, a part of England that can't be mapped because land and water are constantly shifting due to the movement of the tides. They live on an island accessible only by ferry; there's one way in, one way out, and one family that controls all these comings and goings. The unstable mood and atmosphere permeate the story, and Louise Brealey's narration draws you right in to this world. In the background, King Charles is imprisoned on the Isle of Wight, but the story centers on a midwife and herbalist whose husband's follies have plunged her into a socially and economically perilous position. I tried this book out of curiosity, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. More info →

Honorable mention: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. The book was fantastic, but something I learned in 2019 is I should stick to print for historical nonfiction.

Special note, added after reading your comments: I loved The Dutch House on audio! I first read the print version, and then listened to the audio for a re-read, so I included it in my favorite (print) books of 2019 list. It felt a little over-the-top to include it in both places.

What Should I Read Next favorites

As for favorite What Should I Read Next episodes, I went through the agonizing process of choosing favorites for our 200th episode extraganza: click here for my 12 favorite episodes of What Should I Read Next.

Since #200, I have LOVED the recent episode with my husband Will, #214: Deconstructing your best reading year yet. Readers, it’s just SO FUN. (And of course it added books to my TBR, I’m reading one of them right now!) Listen wherever you get your podcasts, or click the play button below.

I also loved our episode with Kate DiCamillo, #213: Art, fear, and discovering great books, and I’m not alone: so many of you told us some version of Caroline’s blog comment, which says, “This might be my all-time favorite episode of any podcast ever.” Thank you for that, and I hope you’ll listen. (Click the play button below.)

Readers, what were YOUR favorite audiobooks of the year? 

P.S. My favorite listening experiences of 2018, 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.

My favorite audiobooks of 2019

60 comments | Comment

60 comments

Leave A Comment
  1. Taylor says:

    I listened to the Sleeping Giants audiobook after seeing it recommended here and wow was that good! I really loved the second one as well but then the third one got a bit slow but still worth it. I also have never read the Percy Jackson books so I listened to those this year and really enjoyed them.

  2. Jessie Weaver says:

    The Song of Achilles was so amazing on audio I whipped through it in a week. (Which is really fast for me!) Absolutely one of my favorite books of the year.

    I loved Remember God by Annie Downs, too. She read it herself and the emotions expressed we’re lovely and sad and heartwrenching.

  3. Rosheen says:

    THE DUTCH HOUSE!!!!! Oh my word if you have not listened to this please please PLEASE do yourself a favor and just download it right now. It will be In my top audio favorites of all time.

    • Ann Marie Kunisch says:

      Yes! I am new to audiobooks and now fear I shall never be as delighted by any other reading as the one Tom Hanks performed with The Dutch House. I have read several other Patchett books, but none come close to this, in great part by Hanks’ contribution. It became a cinematic experience without the movie screen. Truly excellent!

  4. Jody Hamilton says:

    I listened to two of the Irish Country Doctor books by Patrick Taylor and narrated by John Keating. Loved his accent; using different accents for the various characters. I still have a number of books left in the series, so that makes me happy.

  5. Elizabeth Whittaker says:

    I listened to Michelle Obama and her book, Becoming. It was wonderful. I have The Huntress on my TBR list, right after the holidays.

  6. JJ Wittman says:

    I loved The Warmth of Other Suns on audio (your honorable mention), all 30+ hours of it. I have a few on your list on audio to listen to – can’t wait.

  7. Kate says:

    I agree with those who chose the Kate DiCamillo episode as one of the best. She’s my reading twin, as we both want our fiction to be realistic and don’t care for the other genres, such as sci-fi. I also loved the one early in the year with the bookseller, retired physician in Scotland. Can’t remember her name. These are my two favorites.

    • Brittany says:

      Daisy Jones and the Six as an audiobook was so intriguing. I loved the way it was written as interviews and will all the different voices, it was so fun to listen to!

  8. Sarag says:

    My favorite audiobooks recently have been High School by Tegan and Sara Quinn (this one includes early recordings of their music!) and Dear Girls by Ali Wong (which had me cry-laughing several times out for a run).

  9. Sarah says:

    I also meant to say that I just finished The Lager Queen of Minnesota and it was fabulous. But now I want to know which Enneagram type Diana exhibits because it wasn’t apparent to me. 😃

  10. Tracy B says:

    Trevor Noah Born A Crime was the best audiobook I listened to this year. He made it come alive. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett read by Tom Hanks was great. I listened to both books Edward Herrmann (from Gilmore Girls) narrated just to hear his voice, Boys in the Boat and Unbroken. I prefer one or two narrators only Daisy Jones was confusing with a new person coming on every line saying Daisy here… I also need a story that doesn’t have too many characters because I can’t keep track of them with my ears vs my eyes. I’ve listened to 29 books compare to 6 last year

  11. Susie Buzan says:

    I just finished listening to Anne Patchett’s “The Dutch House,” narrated by Tom Hanks. It was heaven. For me, it is right up there with Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” I can’t wait for Tom Hanks to another book.

    • Lindsey Boyd says:

      I also LOVED the Dutch House and Tom Hanks as the narrator. He has his book of short stories that came out last year called Uncommon Type and he reads those as well. Already in my Audible library the be read in 2020!

  12. Lindsey Boyd says:

    The Dutch House was one of my favorite reads of 2019 – full stop. The Audible version read by Tom Hanks made it even better! I mean, who doesn’t love Tom Hanks?!

    Second favorite Audible this year was Calypso by David Sedaris. I’m a book fan of his. I don’t always love for authors to read their own books (Susan Orlean should have given The Library Book to someone else – her voice would put me to sleep – LEAST favorite Audible of 2019) but Sedaris already has a knack for timing in his writing and his own voice and inflection, and pauses only make it better.

    Other favorites on Audible included Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Where the Crawdads Sing, Elenor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and Bad Blood.

    • Lauren D. says:

      I absolutely second everything you said about “Calypso” and “The Library Book.” I quit the latter, but keep hearing about what a great book it is. I guess I’ll have to pick up the tree book because the topic truly does interest me.

  13. Hilary says:

    I read/ listened to Never Broken (Jewel), Scrappy Little Nobody (Anna Kendrick) and Becoming (Michelle Obama) this year. I enjoyed all 3!
    My favorite book of the year was probably Last Christmas in Paris and I listened to it. It was so well done.
    The dark horse for me was Accidental Thief which is a lit RPG (role player game) book to fulfill a prompt in the popsugar challenge and I really enjoyed it. It’s a fun read/ listen.
    I listened to Pachinko which was great for about 2/3 of it. And then it was just looooonnnnnggg.

  14. Maria says:

    Just ordered Tidelands (the hardcover) — only downside to moving closer to work is not having time for my audio books. Nevertheless Tidelands sounds amazing.
    I don’t enjoy historical fiction but the way she writes!!!

  15. Sara says:

    Becoming was THE longest book I’ve ever listened to! Glad I got through it! I just finished This Tender Land after hearing your Kate DiCamillo episode, I definitely have a soft spot for orphan stories. I also loved listening to The Book Thief, All the Light We Cannot See, and Echo. Thanks for all the suggestions!

  16. Donna says:

    I nominate “The Black Madonna” by Stella Riley and narrated by the very wonderful Alex Wyndham. I love British history and romance and this book has it all. This is one where listening is definitely better than reading.

    The Audible Escape package isn’t discussed at all, but I subscribe to and I love it. An oldie but goodie I found on there is “Texas Rich” by Fern Michaels. What a throwback to the era of “Dynasty” and “Dallas”…it is not literature, but it is great entertainment.

    I will be getting “The Dutch House” soon…I was convinced I needed it after watching Tom Hanks in the new Mr. Rogers film. It will be my first book by this author.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

  17. Mary says:

    I LOVED “The Silent Patient”. I could not let it go. When I had to take a break from it I was on tenderhooks till I could turn it on again. A good audio book is influenced by a good narrator. This one has it all. I had to back it up at last chapter because “WHHHHAAAAT” was my reaction. In spite of knowing the ending I will listen again … and maybe again. I ‘listen’ because it is so hard for me to read the printed word now. TSP captured me and took me prisoner.

    • Stacy says:

      Oh my goodness YES!!!!! I read a ton of audio books and this was by far my absolute favorite! I recommend it to everyone!!!!

  18. I really enjoyed The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore, Evie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. I’ve also enjoyed every Louise Penny I listened to. This year I had a hard time finding audiobooks I liked so I’m glad to have these suggestions.

  19. Melissa says:

    I started listening to audiobooks this year because it was the only way to get Educated in time to read it for my book club, and I’ve been hooked ever since!
    My favorite audiobook I listened to this year was definitely The Only Plane in the Sky, absolutely amazing. Other books I loved listening to: Neil Gaiman reading anything (Norse Mythology, The Graveyard Book, Coraline, A Christmas Carol, I could listen to him read the phone book); Meryl Streep for Heartburn; the author Elizabeth Acevedo for The Poet X; Gabrielle Union for We’re Going to Need More Wine; We Fed an Island read by the author (who is really passionate about what he’s saying); Circling the Sun; Dan Stevens reading Agatha Christie; Lincoln in the Bardo by a full cast (weirdest book I’ve ever read, but the performances were amazing); The Professor and the Madman (lovely British accent); the Essential Edgar Allan Poe (even more creepy read aloud!); The Great Train Robbery (read by Michael Kitchen from Foyle’s War — ok I admit I have a weakness for British accents); The Dearly Beloved (I was very surprised how much I loved it); and Far From the Tree (soooo good!). LOVED the narration but didn’t really enjoy the books themselves (unpopular opinion, I know): Tom Hanks for The Dutch House and Bahni Turpin for On the Come Up. I also loved listening to audiobooks in the car with my daughter introducing her to my old favorites and discovering some new ones. For those, I particularly loved, in addition to the Neil Gaiman books, The Little House on the Prairie series, Holes, The Witches (read by Lynn Redgrave–she is one terrifying Grand High Witch), and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

  20. Jon B Guut says:

    Listen to WWZ, Evil has name, Call me god, How to hide an empire, Beaten down worked up, A Kim jong Ill production, A Warning by Anonymous. These are all fine listens and full of information and hours of entertainment.

  21. Tory says:

    I was disappointed to see To Night Owl From Dogfish on your non-audio list the other day – you really missed out on an audio gem! A fabulous listen I highly recommend to everyone.

  22. So far, I am not a big fan of audiobooks (as opposed to actually reading them). I’m beginning to think that the key might be that certain stories are best heard and others need to come alive on the written page. With this list in hand, I might give audiobooks another try in 2020.

  23. My favorite part of this list is that it included TWO books with characters named Diana! I rarely see my name, outside of Princess Di, Wonder Woman Diana, and Diana Berry. In 36 years I’ve even only met one other Diana in person. So it just delights me to see characters that share my name!

  24. Susie Highley says:

    It’s YA, but my favorite audiobook of 2019 is With the Fire on High, written and narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo. I agree that the narration of Nothing to sSee Here was great; just found the story lacking.

  25. Carol says:

    My two favorite audiobooks for the year were The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, and the sequel to it, The War I Finally Won. They may be my favorite audiobooks ever, even surpassing all of Louise Penny’s books.

  26. Sheryl says:

    I agree with the recommendations of Daisy Jones and the Six, and Becoming by Michelle Obama. Both fabulous on audio. A couple great audiobooks I don’t see are from this year are The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton and the super quirky book Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton told by a domesticated Crow.

  27. Claire Long says:

    Absolutely the best book I’ve listened to all year (out of 70+) is “The Binding” by Bridget Collins. This book has gone straight to the top of my favourite books ever list… I was so invested in the story and I feel changed by reading it. Kudos to both the author and the amazing narrator, Carl Prekoff.

  28. Tracey Mitchell says:

    One way I think of audiobook favourites is books I loved that I don’t think I would have enjoyed as much in print. Two of those for me were: One Night in Georgia by Celeste Norfleet and Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness. The narration of both was delightful and I just don’t think they would have translated quite as well on to the page.

    There are also a few that I read in both formats depending where I was (Audio on the bus, book in my bed). One of those was Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s enormous and I don’t think I would have got through it without doing some on audio. Worth reading for sure!

  29. Bookertalk says:

    It would be hard to beat Becoming which I put as my favourite audio of the year. I also enjoyed This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay – memoirs of a junior doctor in the UK which alternates between the hilarious and the serious

  30. Betsy Kachmar says:

    Favorite audiobook narrator Jay Snyder, especially Grey Man series by Mark Greaney! Disclaimer, slightly biased as he is my brother😊

  31. Ciara Anderson says:

    Just picked up The Ten Thousand Doors of January with by Audible credit! Seems like the perfect pick for the new year.

  32. Peggy says:

    I listened to The Huntress also and you’re review is spot on, I couldn’t get enough! The narrarater was superb, her accents were great and I’m pretty sure I held my breath multiple times.

  33. Christie in MT says:

    If you are a kid of the 80’s (I was born in 1971) and you loved music and the roller-skating generation like me – you must listen to Beastie Boys Book, written by the 2 remaining members Michael Diamond and Adam Horowitz. It is narrated by not only the authors, but by a huge all-star cast. To name a few – Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Snoop Dogg, Rosie Perez, Bette Midler, John C. Reilly, Jon Stewart, Ben Stiller and numerous others! Super fun read!

  34. ellen says:

    Hi! I recognize that this is a list from 2019…
    A recurring question is what books do you pick to be audio books?
    It finally dawned on me, after the fact, that listening to Becoming in M. Obama’s own voice would have been so much more powerful and intimate than reading it in book form. So, I listened to it and yes, it made all the difference in the world.

    So my question: How do you know what book would be a good audio “read” as opposed to a book version?
    I’m stumped!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *