I love few things more than settling in for a long drive or a night in with an audiobook. I’ve smiled to myself as Brandi Carlile sings to me through my headphones in Broken Horses and sobbed at the end of The Amber Spyglass as I mopped the floor in an empty room. At their best, audiobooks give stories an added layer of intimacy and emotion to a book that creates a beautiful listening experience.
2022 has brought out an excellent assembly of titles, combining books and audiobook narrators to create something new and unique. From poetry to memoir, there’s something out there for lovers of all genres. Sometimes, an audiobook narrator will carry an entire book, like Natalie Naudus in Fiona and Jane. Perhaps, a full cast will create an epic feel to an audiobook, like The Candy House by Jennifer Egan. Or maybe it’s a memoir writer performing their own story, like Viola Davis in Finding Me. Whatever the case, this year has produced some brilliant audiobooks.
So here are 25 of some of the best audiobooks 2022 has to offer, so far. Whatever you decide to pick up, get ready for a one-of-kind listening experience.
Finding Me by Viola Davis | Narrated by the Author
In this stunning memoir, Viola Davis describes her childhood growing up as a poor Black girl in Rhode Island where she discovered a love of acting. When she started acting professionally, Davis faced the intense colorism of the theater and film industries. Her narration is a master class in performance as she uses her voice to communicate the intense feelings of recalling some of the best and worst moments of her life.
Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir Situation by Hannah Gasby | Narrated by the Author
Hannah Gadsby brings every bit of her on-stage performance to her narration of her memoir. Starting with her early years growing up as the youngest child of a Tasmanian family, Gadsby describes how being autistic and queer impacted her life from an early age. With her signature humor and wit, Gadsby takes us through the key moments that made her into the successful comedian she is today.
Left on Tenth by Delia Ephron | Narrated by the Author
After her husband dies, Delia Ephron feels adrift, an older woman now having to live on her own. She re-enters the dating world for the first time in decades. Ephron reads her memoir, clearly expending effort to keep herself together as she reads through deeply personal moments, and you can hear where her resolve breaks, pure emotion seeping through her performance. The audiobook experience is incredibly moving and intimate.
Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey by Florence Williams | Narrated by the Author and a Full Cast
Florence Williams is shocked when her husband asks her for a divorce. But after they separate, she begins realizing that they might have been headed this direction all along. Williams decides to take us along as she searches out experts to talk to about her heartbreak and what that might look like for different people. In this innovative audio edition, she includes audio clips from her therapy sessions, dates, and interviews with scientists studying heartbreak in its many forms.
The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde | Narrated by Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins
While the print edition The Cancer Journals came out decades ago, the audiobook edition just came out this year. Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins performs Lorde’s essays with attention to detail, knowing when to add more emotion or assume clinical tones in her narration. Lorde’s essays about the treatment of breast cancer survivors marked a pivotal moment when women began to push back against the idea that losing one or both breasts made them less of a woman. Lorde’s intersectional approach to the topic pointed out the added difficulties for queer and Black women.
South to America: A Journey Below the Mason Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation by Imani Perry | Narrated by the Author
In this stunning work of nonfiction, Imani Perry explores American perceptions of the South, organizing the text by place. Perry’s prose style reflects a Southern way of speaking, which is even more apparent in her narration. Originally from Alabama, Perry asks listeners to examine their assumptions about the South in a more nuanced way. She encourages listeners to celebrate the contributions of Black Southerners to American culture while also confronting the long history of racism in the region.
Mystery and Suspense
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley | Narrated by Clare Corbett, Daphne Kouma, Julia Winwood, Sope Dirisu, Sofia Zervudachi, and Charlie Anson
When Jess arrives at her brother’s Paris apartment, he isn’t there. As she talks with his neighbors and friends, they don’t seem to know where he is either. Listeners hear the story from the viewpoints of several residents of the building, each with their own narrator. With each new perspective we get another piece of the puzzle. Listeners will be on the edge of their seat until the very end.
The Maid by Nita Prose | Narrated by Lauren Ambrose
After her gran dies, Molly Gray takes a job at a fancy hotel. While she’s keeping her head down, just trying to make it through the day, her world is suddenly turned upside down when a rich man, Mr. Black, goes missing. As the last person to see him before he disappeared, Molly is a prime suspect. Now Molly must solve the crime to save herself. Lauren Ambrose performs the audiobook with a deft way of getting inside of Molly’s head, voicing every uncomfortable and suspenseful moment perfectly.
Fantasy and Myth Retellings
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake | Narrated by James Cronin, Siho Ellsmore, Munirih Grace, Andy Ingalls, Caitlin Kelly, Damian Lynch, David Monteith, and Steve West
From indie hit to international sensation, The Atlas Six has taken the bookish internet by storm. When six 20-somethings are chosen for a prestigious magical school, they know they are all competing for just five spots — one of them won’t make it. Each of the six characters is voiced by a different narrator, making every perspective unique. The story is suspenseful, with relentless twists and turns, and you never know who to trust.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel | Narrated by Soneela Nankani
In this retelling of the Indian epic Ramayana, we meet Kaikeyi, the only princess of Kekaya. Desperate for more independence, Kaikeyi turns to knowledge, studying everything she can get her hands on to help find the life she wants. But when cosmic forces come into play, Kaikeyi must find a way to escape the life for which the gods have destined her. All-star narrator Soneela Nankani performs this incredible debut beautifully, bringing to it emotional depth and nail-biting suspense.
Pandora’s Jar: Women in Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes | Narrated by the Author
Following up her critically acclaimed novel A Thousand Ships, Natalie Haynes returns to Greek mythology to give us tales of women who are often overlooked. Each story in this collection features a different woman, retelling her story to encourage listeners to rethink assumptions they may have held before. Haynes narrates Pandora’s Jar, making the collection feel intimate, like she’s sitting beside you as she tells this incredible story.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry | Narrated by Julia Whelan
When literary agent Nora Stephens runs into her arch nemesis, editor Charlie Lastra, in a small town far from their New York City neighborhood, she can’t believe her luck. As events would have it, they end up working together on a manuscript, arguing every step of the way. But of course this is a romance, and I love a good “grump meets grump” trope. Julia Whelan does an INCREDIBLE job narrating the audiobook, performing their witty banter with perfection.
By the Book by Jasmine Guillory | Narrated by Sarah Hollis
Jasmine Guillory set her latest romance novel, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, in a contemporary setting. Isabelle, desperate to move up in her publishing job, is determined to get a long-awaited manuscript from her publishing house’s most cantankerous writer, Beau Towers. Sarah Hollis captures this enemies-to-lovers romance with all of the humor and wit needed for all of the lovers’ intense chemistry.
Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho | Narrated by Natalie Naudus
Fiona and Jane took me by surprise. From the very first story in this collection, I wanted to know more about Fiona and Jane’s relationship. The stories are interlinked, putting the pieces of their lives together in this fascinating nonlinear way. Natalie Naudus performs both Fiona’s and Jane’s perspectives in such a way, that even when they aren’t named, I know who’s speaking.
Probably Ruby by Lisa Bird-Wilson | Narrated by Dakota Ray Hebert
I’m always on the lookout for debut and new-to-me audiobook narrators — lucky for me that Dakota Ray Hebert is both! In Probably Ruby, Hebert captures the titular character’s narrative voice perfectly, down to the smallest hesitations and expressions. Ruby is a Métis woman who was adopted into a white family, and as an adult, she goes on a reconnection journey to learn more about her people and culture.
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan | Narrated by a Full Cast
Jennifer Egan is known for her innovative novel structures and playful uses of form. In this follow up to A Visit from the Goon Squad, Egan returns to this familiar world. The Candy House feels like a collection of interlinked short stories, each chapter filling in a little more information on a world where people can now upload their consciousnesses to the cloud. The novel includes things like a spy’s guide and emails, but the audiobook rose to the challenge with this incredible host of narrators. While I had the print text nearby, I rarely had to reference it. I was simply just engrossed in the story.
Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang | Narrated by Catherine Ho
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Joan is an ICU doctor in New York City. After Joan and her brother Fang reach adulthood, her parents return home to live in China, But when her father suddenly dies, Joan’s mother returns to America to be with her children. Now Joan is faced with everything she and her mother have never said. Catherine Ho captures Joan’s narrative voice seamlessly, making me feel like I was sitting across from Joan as she was telling me her story.
Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang | Narrated by Katharine Chin and the Author
Catherine Chin voices Daiyu, a Chinese woman kidnapped and taken to San Francisco in the mid 1800s. Forced to work in a brothel, Daiyu must learn to survive in a land hostile to her presence but with men all too willing to pay for her body. This intense and sweeping historical novel speaks to the resilience of the Chinese community before, during, and after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Catherine Chin is there every step of the way and author Jenny Tinghui Zhang reads her afterward, describing how she came to write Four Treasures of the Sky.
Young Adult and Middle Grade
Omar Rising by Aisha Saeed | Narrated by Vikas Adam
When Omar receives a scholarship to attend one of the best schools in Pakistan, he can’t believe his luck. But when he arrives, he learns that he and the other scholarship boys aren’t allowed to participate in extracurricular activities, must work a certain number of hours a week, and must keep an A average. Vikas Adam’s narration captures Omar’s despair and disappointment when his dream-come-true turns into a nightmare. But we also hear the resilience when Omar and his friends decide to push for changes in the system itself.
Gallant by V.E. Schwab | Narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt
In perfect creepy fairy tale fashion, Gallant tells the story of Olivia Prior, an orphan told she has a long lost uncle who has written to claim her. Olivia gathers her belongings and heads to the estate, where she meets a very disgruntled cousin who informs her that her uncle has been dead for awhile, so he couldn’t have possibly written that letter. An otherworldly ghost story spirals out from there, expertly narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt. Every jump scare and unsettling moment are perfectly captured by Rhind-Tutt’s skillful performance.
Breathe and Count Back from Ten by Natalia Sylvester | Narrated by Frankie Corzo
Verónica moved with her family from Peru when she was just a baby, and her parents hoped that America would have better care for Verónica’s hip dysplasia. When she’s 17, Verónica dreams of having a summer job as a mermaid at the local live mermaid show, but her parents won’t hear of it. Frankie Corzo performs Verónica’s story with so much heart, perfectly depicting Verónica’s resilience and determination to just live her life with the same fullness as anyone else.
All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir | Narrated by Deepti Gupta, Kamran R. Khan, and Kausar Mohammed
Misbah and her husband, Toufiq, immigrate from Pakistan to America to start a new life in California, owning and operating the Clouds’ Rest Inn Motel. Decades later, Salahudin works at the family hotel, trying to keep it afloat as his mom struggles with her health. After a fight with his best friend, Noor, Sal feels like everything is going wrong. Deepti Gupta, Kamran R. Khan, and Kausar Mohammed voice Misbah, Noor, and Sal, giving them each their own unique spin. They bring these characters alive in a way that only happens when the right narrator comes across the perfect character.
Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong | Narrated by the Author
There are few things better than a poet performing their own work, and Ocean Vuong’s Time Is a Mother is no exception. In his second full-length poetry collection, Vuong examines his relationship with his mother, who passed away after his last book came out. Vuong also discusses the love between gay men in his poems featuring his partner. He reads each poem as if he and his listeners are in a quiet, intimate setting. The whole effect is incredibly moving.
All the Flowers Kneeling by Paul Tran | Narrated by the Author
In their first full-length poetry collection, Vietnamese American poet Paul Tran writes about horrors of American colonialism and the deep, long-lasting ramifications of sexual violence. They perform their poetry with a direct approach, ensuring that each poem stands out on its own. This isn’t an audiobook to rush through; it demands the time and space it deserves.
Breath Better Spent: Living Black Girlhood by DaMaris B. Hill | Narrated by the Author
Kentucky poet and writer DaMaris B. Hill performs Breath Better Spent, beginning her collection with a preface acknowledging the history of Black women writers from Kentucky, now adding her own work to that list. Between poems, she often adds essays that read like prose poems. All of her work celebrates Black girlhood while also acknowledging the systemic racism and sexism that Black girls and women face in America. Between her incredible writing and perfect performance, the audiobook edition of Breath Better Spent is an incredible piece of work.
What an incredible year for audiobooks (so far)! I can’t wait to see what the second half of the year has in store. For even more recommendations, check out all of our audiobooks coverage or sign up for our audiobooks newsletter!