Award-worthy fiction in audio?
December 26, 2016 10:53 AM   Subscribe

I have occasionally enjoyed audiobooks, but it's been hit and miss. My attention isn't 100% with audio, so books that are relatively simple to follow seem best, right? And of course a great reader is crucial. I usually read recent books classified as "literary fiction," and I have a huge to-read list. Which ones should I pick for audio and which should I save for paper?

These are the kinds of authors I enjoy on paper:

Jonathan Franzen
Margaret Atwood
Alice Munro
Caitlin Moran
Emma Donoghue
Francine Prose
Barbara Kingsolver
Ian McKewen
Richard Russo
David Lodge

I don't really care for mysteries, horror, fantasy, or sci-fi (though speculative fiction is okay).

What recent audio fiction (or memoir) should I read next?

Bonus points if you can recommend a great winner or nominee of the Gillers, Man Bookers, National Book Awards, etc.

posted by Frenchy67 to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed the audio version of Lindy West's book/memoir Shrill, which she reads herself. It feels like she's doing a radio piece rather than just reading her book aloud.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:59 AM on December 26, 2016

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Many consider him to be our best living author. The book is very violent, but probably the most well written novel I've ever read and listened to. The person who reads it is AMAZING!!!!! My Brother and I both agree that it is the best audiobook we've ever listened to
posted by kbbbo at 11:14 AM on December 26, 2016

My top three audiobooks based on how well they are read are:

Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
posted by janey47 at 12:11 PM on December 26, 2016

C.S. Lewis' 'The Screwtape Letters' as narrated by John Cleese, ia an excellent audiobook.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 12:43 PM on December 26, 2016

The Goldfinch was excellent on audiobook. Dickens is also great, as are a lot of the Victorians- try Jane Eyre read by Lucy Scott, or Martin Jarvis' wonderfully gothic reading of Great Expectations.

Memoirs-wise, Life on Air by David Attenborough, read by himself, is perfection. Stephen King's On Writing. Julia Child's My Life in France, read really well by Kimberly Farr.

If you want to try a literary fantasy, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was superbly read.
posted by Erasmouse at 1:39 PM on December 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

How about really, really great actors (way too classy to usually be reading audiobooks) reading Hemingway Classics?

Simon & Schuster did this to celebrate the author's anniversary, and it's awesome. Links are to iTunes, but Amazon and Audible offer these, too:

William Hurt (!) reading "The Sun Also Rises"

The Short Stories read by Stacy Keach (!)
Vol 1,volume 2, and volume 3

The Old Man & The Sea, read by Donald Sutherland (!)

A Farewell To Arms, read by John Slattery

There are more in the series (titled "The Ernest Hemingway Audiobook Library"), and you can sometimes score the whole CD set on eBay for <$100.
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:55 PM on December 26, 2016

Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad is really well read and worked great in the audio format for me. Devastating, but brilliant.
posted by carbide at 1:52 AM on December 27, 2016

I really enjoyed the audiobook of Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union.
posted by neushoorn at 6:58 AM on December 27, 2016

Carly Simon's autobiography 'Boys in the Trees" is stellar in audiobook format (listened to the whole thing on a cross-country drive). I couldn't imagine it being better on paper without the singing and music thrown in occasionally.
posted by sexyrobot at 7:01 AM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Simon Prebble is such a fantastic narrator - he read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (as well as The Ladies of Grace Adieu by the same author, Susanna Clarke) and I fell in love with his voice. I've found several audiobooks that I really like just by searching for stuff that he has narrated. One of my favorites is The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan which is really excellent and I think fits many of your criteria (even if you've read the book on paper, I think the audiobook is great, I've listened to it many times.)

Also I really enjoyed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn narrated by Kate Burton.
And The Kite Runner narrated by Khaled Hosseini.

(I have so many more things I want to recommend to you but I'm afraid they might fall under the "fantasy" or "sci-fi" umbrella! I hope you like these couple of things though.)
posted by capnsue at 10:58 PM on December 27, 2016

I just listened to Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, and it was fantastic. The reader is very good, and the novel--thanks to its structure and narrative tone--seemed especially suited to the format. It was shortlisted for the Booker.
posted by dizziest at 3:42 PM on December 30, 2016

Thanks everyone! Sadly my library has exactly two(!) of the audio books listed in my "best answers." (I'm really only interested in recent fiction/memoirs at the moment, but I bet others will appreciate the classics recommended). I may just bite the bullet and sign up for Audible, unless it's a crappy low-content Canadian version.

I love the idea of discovering new titles by following a great reader. If anyone has a favourite, please recommend below regardless of genre. (Is this cheating? Did I just mess up my own question?)

I just finished listening to Shrill, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Funny, well-read, and thought-provoking. Thanks "needs more cowbell."
posted by Frenchy67 at 3:44 PM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Juliet Stevenson. Boom. Done. I will listen to anything she reads whether it's a book I'm interested in or not, with only two exceptions - - Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, because I hate both of them so much. Start with Apple Tree Yard, by Louise Doughty. I had never heard of it, have now listened to it twice, and honestly think it's better as an audiobook than it would be in book form.
posted by janey47 at 11:50 AM on January 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

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