It often feels like an article about the rise in AI narration for audiobooks comes out every couple of weeks. But for me, audiobook narration will always be an art. I love completely losing myself in an audiobook narrator’s performance, listening to their voice time and time again as I work through their backlist of titles.
In recent years, I’ve come to love JD Jackson. From Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird to Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book, the most recent National Book Award winner, Jackson possesses an incredible range. In particular, he captures a depth of emotion for his masculine protagonists, drawing the reader into their complex storylines. He always works well in an ensemble, quickly capturing the listener’s attention for whatever amount of time he happens to have in any given story.
If you’re wondering where to start with JD Jackson’s titles, look no further! Here are ten titles that are sure to suck you in from the first few minutes.
Hell of a Book by Jason Mott
A Black author heads out on book tour to promote his novel. But when a young Black boy named Soot shows up at an event, the author has no idea if the boy is real or imaginary. Hell of a Book received an incredible number of awards and accolades in 2021, including winning the National Book Award!
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
In the 1960s, Elwood Curtis is forced to attend a reformatory for Black boys. There he faces horrific violence, and his only solace is his friendship with Turner, a fellow “delinquent.” Based on a real school that ran for over 100 years, The Nickel Boys is an incredible work of historical fiction, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2020.
How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
The residents of a small village in an unnamed country in Africa are horrified when their children slowly become sick and die. Determined to hold the industrial complex accountable for poisoning their water, the village decides to take a course of action that changes its future forever.
Northwind by Gary Paulsen
The author of The Hatchet is back with another story of survival. Leif flees his small fishing camp after it’s overwhelmed by illness. He escapes up the river in his canoe, trying to find a place of safety.
Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib
Little Devil in America won the Gordon Burn Prize and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for its in-depth examination of Black performance and how it’s an integral part of American culture. From Michael Jackson to Dave Chapelle, Abdurraqib examines Black performers and their art across the decades.
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
Darren Matthews, a Black Texas Ranger, is sent to investigate the murder of a travelling Black man and local white woman. Already on thin ice with his department, Matthews tries to solve the crime and keep the local politics from creating a PR disaster for his department.
If I Had Two Wings by Randall Kenan
A gem of Southern Literature, Randall Kenan put out his last short story collection in 2020. If I Had Two Wings features stories set in a fictional town in North Carolina, examining the characters’ lives and how they become intertwined.
Lot by Bryan Washington
With his incredible short story collection, Lot, Bryan Washington broke onto the literary scene. Each story gives listeners an intimate look at the characters’ lives as they each find themselves faced with life-changing decisions.
The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
Raised in Redhook, Brooklyn, James McBride grew up with a mother who would not admit she was white. Along with McBride’s father, a Black minister, his mother raised her twelve children in a Black neighborhood of New York after fleeing her home in Virginia. McBride takes a hard look at his mother’s life and his own childhood.
The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott
In this short story collection, Rion Amilcar Scott plays with genre as he examines themes around faith, violence, and love. Over the decades that the stories take place, listeners meet a wide range of characters who are each faced with their own crisis.