This year I listened to more books than I read for the first time ever! I got the opportunity to listen to some outstanding performances and here are my selections of the 12 best narrations. These are audiobooks I listened to in 2018 though the titles may have been released in earlier years.
1. Narrator: David Chandler
Chandler has become synonymous with the Cork O’Connor series. I love everything about his performances. He’s not only Cork but the storyteller for each book. I get mesmerized listening to him, completely transplanted to this Minnesota region.
2. Narrator: January LaVoy
LaVoy is one of my most favorite narrators who often influences my decisions to add an audiobook to my shelf when I see she’s associated with the title. Her performance here was particularly challenging given the number of points of view, characters and time spans. She just seems to handle it with ease.
3. Narrators: Sam O’Mahoney, Roy McMillan, Kevin Heley, Tracy Keating, Stephen Hogan, Kathy O’Brien, Steven Laverty
One of the smartest decisions made by the author and publisher (Simon & Schuster Audio) was to use multiple narrators for the audiobook. It’s a great story told cleverly from the points of view of six characters so why not use different narrators? Believe me, it’s not always done and it can be tricky to pull off. This cast just delivered the best performance and elevated the book into the stratosphere. This was by far my best surprise this year.
4. Narrator: Nicol Zanzarella
I’d never heard of this narrator before and was completely unprepared for such a great performance. Zanzarella got into the skin of the main character and just became Jane Doe. She was that good.
5. Narrators: Caoilfhionn Dunn, David McFetridge, Lesley McGuire
This writer and her publisher teamed up again to use multiple narrators to coincide with the story structure and nailed the performance. It was so, so good and worth whatever the extra investment.
6. Narrator: Nicol Zanzarella
With this book, Zanzarella became one of my favorites. The story has a large number of characters, which she handled expertly but, more importantly, kept our focus on the main narrator/storyteller and made a mysterious tale creepier.
7. Narrator: Kathleen Early
I’ve loved Early’s narration of both connected series (Grant County & Will Trent) from the start. At first, I found her performance a bit dispassionate until I realized her understated approach fit the author’s style. If you’re familiar with either of these series, you understand. Early just doesn’t get in the way of the writing and that’s so important. She turns it up where it matters but otherwise keeps it real. I switched to audio after the first book and can never go back. She owns these characters and stories and is the only one I’ll listen to for these books.
8. Narrator: Titus Welliver
I’ve only listened to the series from the very beginning and was a huge fan of the original narrator, Dick Hill. He was my Harry Bosch and when a change was made after the fifth book, I got a little cranky with all the narrators used until they settled into Len Cariou. When the TV series was launched, the actor portraying Harry took over the book narration and I’m wild about his performance. Welliver wears Harry like a glove and is such a skilled actor. He’s perfect with the books.
9. Narrator: Hillary Huber
Even though this series uses different narrators throughout, Huber is one of the regulars and one of my favorites. Her smooth delivery, mastery of the story and superb character definition makes this mega books (most of them are 550+ pages) glide by in record time. I always hate when the books end.
10. Narrator: Jim Frangione
The dialogue in this series is often campy and outrageous. Frangione’s straight delivery is the perfect complement to that writing style and I love it. And, he knows when to add the right inflections. Handling all those unique vampires consistently takes real skill and I don’t take that for granted.
11. Narrators: Emily Rankin & Catherine Tabor
This is a tough story and one the narrators had to manage a character from childhood through old age. Her performance as the child almost wrecked me and it was difficult to distinguish that an adult was doing the delivery. I’m forever grateful that I chose to listen to this book as I know the reading experience was elevated.
12. Narrators: Shannon McManus, Cassandra Campbell, Sharon Larkin
By now you know I’m a fan of audiobooks using multiple narrators and that’s because they just seem to make stories with multiple points of view a better listening experience. These three delivered powerful performances, slowing down the pace to create a strong sense of place that couldn’t be captured as well in other formats. McManus and Campbell were already favorites and Larkin just joined the list.