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Find more Top 10 First Novels on Audio
A standout complement of 21 narrators—some in their debut audiobook roles—voice our Top 10 First Novels on Audio this year, collected from starred reviews published in Booklist from October 15, 2019 to November 1, 2020.
The Gimmicks. By Chris McCormick. Read by a full cast. 2020. 11.5hr. HarperAudio, DD, $26.99 (9780062989444).
Following the odyssey of an ill-fated trio from Soviet Armenia, three narrators use accents and pacing to create an evocative performance ideal for those who relish deeply human stories framed by political circumstances.
Girl with the Louding Voice. By Abi Daré. Read by Adjoa Andoh. 2020. 12hr. Books on Tape, DD, $95 (9780593168738).
British narrator Andoh melts into Adunni’s perspective and Daré’s patois-rich language, imbuing Adunni with yearning, singing her songs, sobbing her grief, then shifting to growls for dangerous men and drawls for society women.
How Much of These Hills Is Gold. By C. Pam Zhang. Read by Catherine Ho and Joel de la Fuente. 2020. 9.5hr. Books on Tape, DD, $76 (9780593166956).
Ho narrates Lucy’s story with great range, emphasizing Zhang’s sensuous language by pausing, stretching out syllables, and hushing her tone. De la Fuente briefly appears as a ghost whose weary tone reflects history’s toll.
How We Disappeared. By Jing-Jing Lee. Read by Angela Lin and Ryun Yu. 2019. 12hr. Harlequin, CD, $39.99 (9781982645687).
Lin facilely manifests the many decades of Wang Di’s life. Interwoven with Lin’s narration, Yu voices Wang-Di’s 12-year-old grandson, Kevin, from bullied timidity to confident kindness.
Luster. By Raven Leilani. Read by Ariel Blake. 2020. 7hr. Macmillan, DD, $19.99 (9781250752864).
An extraordinary portrait-of-an-artist-as-a-struggling-young-Black-woman. First-time narrator Blake moves through youthful earnestness, seen-too-much wariness, and anxious unpredictability for odd couple Edie and Eric.
My Mother’s House. By Francesca Momplaisir. Read by a full cast. 2020. 10.5hr. Books on Tape, DD, $85.50 (9780593169605).
Mellifluous Dion Graham enthralls as the titular, torture-filled house. As Lucien, Karen Chilton gives voice to the countless women he tormented, and Janina Edwards is haunting as the sole prisoner allowed narrative agency.
Remembrance. By Rita Woods. Read by Ella Turenne. 2020. 15hr. Macmillan, CD, $57.99 (9781250263162).
Debut narrator Turenne agilely ciphers the unique voices of four women who share one remarkable legacy, keeping listeners engaged across centuries.
Saving Ruby King. By Catherine Adel West. Read by a full cast. 2020. 10.5hr. Harper, DD, $26.99 (9781488208751).
Veteran narrators share the stage with newcomers in this debut notable for a richness of characters that each of the six skilled narrators (including Ron Butler as Calvary Church itself) taps into.
The Vanished Birds. By Simon Jimenez. Read by Shayna Small. 2020. 13.5hr. Books on Tape, DD, $95 (9780593167854).
A remarkably fresh, electrifying story. While ethnicities remain refreshingly unspecified, Small bestows accents, personalities, even unique tics to each character, creating an adventure that is out of this world.
The Water Dancer. By Ta-Nehisi Coates. Read by Joe Morton. 2019. 15hr. Books on Tape, CD, $45 (9780525494843).
Morton’s mesmerizing performance of Coates’ fiction debut is diligent and precise, his lone voice effortlessly expressing a vast cast of characters while bestowing protagonist Hiram with a full spectrum of resonating emotions.
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