Since 2007, audiobooks have been a big part of my life. They ease my commute and keep me company when cleaning the house, working out, and cooking. I’m thrilled the audiobook market is booming, because that means there are more books than ever available in the format.
I must confess one thing: sometimes I’m interested in an audiobook as much for the narrator as I am for the book itself. Other times I get an audiobook because I want the book and am downright delighted to realize one of my favorite narrators is reading it.
A great narrator makes all the difference when it comes to getting lost in the book. They can make an okay book better. But the real magic happens when you have an amazing narrator reading an incredible book. Here are, in my opinion, some of the best narrators in the business. Most of the books I listen to are Young Adult or nonfiction, so my list skews heavily toward those.
Kim Mai Guest is a voice actress who also speaks fluent French and Italian. According to Wikipedia, she is “best known” as Mei Ling from Metal Gear, but almost anyone who listens to YA audiobooks will recognize her voice. Seeing her name as the narrator on an audiobook turns a “maybe” into a “heck yes” for me.
In addition to narrating audiobooks, Jorjeana Marie is also an author, animation writer, playwright, actress, and comedian. Her first book, Improv for Writers, comes out in August.
Emily Woo Zeller is a dancer, singer, actor, and voice over artist. She’s done quite a bit of dubbing work for both TV and film in Southeast Asia. Sometimes when I’m searching for my next audiobook, I search for her name instead of looking for a specific book.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
According to his website, Michael Crouch has recorded audiobooks for every major book publisher in the U.S., specializing in literary fiction, young adult, and middle grade. He’s won several awards for his audiobook narration, but also works in video games, cartoons, and commercials.
Come Find Me by Megan Miranda
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (also featuring Bahni Turpin)
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Rocks Fall Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar
Nancy Wu has one of the most distinctive voices in audiobooks. She has a Master’s Degree in Human rights and has also worked in film, TV, and theater.
Mention Bahni Turpin in the Book Riot backstage and you’ll get an avalanche of heart-eye emojis, with good reason. She’s an inductee of Audible’s Narrator Hall of Fame and a prolific actress.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Also a photographer, dancer, and actress, Adenrele Ojo has narrated audiobooks over a wide spectrum of genres.
Priya Ayyar is a writer and actress with an MFA from NYU. Her background is in comedy and improv. Her narration of Roshani Chokshi’s books is sheer perfection. These are all 100% facts.
Extra Credit: Authors Reading Their Own Books
The best narration performances I’ve ever heard were recorded by two actors who haven’t read other/many audiobooks.
Anika Noni Rose’s reading of Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper is a flawless work of art. I pretty much did nothing for a year but shout at people about this audiobook. I understand the Tony Award-winning actress and singer is probably very busy, but I would love to hear more books from her!
Do you have a favorite audiobook narrator?