Book of the Year: Audiobook


Audiobooks saw a rise in popularity last year, with audiences seeking out the best titles to listen to on their one hour of permitted daily exercise. This shortlist sees Penguin Random House Audio secure two spots, but ultimately the list was varied, with the remaining seven spots going to different publishers. A-list actors and Hollywood stars narrate the titles across the board, with publishers often adding exclusive audio content to draw listeners to the format.


Think Like a Monk

Jay Shetty


In a difficult year, Think Like a Monk drew on Jay Shetty’s time spent as a monk in the Vedic tradition to show readers how to clear roadblocks to unlock their potential and power. Our judges found Shetty’s narration “personal and powerful” and were also impressed by the audio-exclusive content, which included a bonus Q&A with the author and new meditations.

While Shetty had a built-in online following and a popular podcast, “On Purpose”, the HarperCollins NonFiction team aimed to move the author into a more mainstream market. It began early with an extensive pre-order campaign, co-ordinated digital assets around the globe, and worked closely with Shetty on the social media strategy to bring cohesion to the international launch. Their tactics worked and the publisher achieved its highest audio pre-order numbers of all time.

When the pandemic hit, the global tour for the title was cancelled and the April publication was swiftly moved to the autumn to give the team time to construct a new marketing and publicity plan. As a result, they secured spots across radio, TV and podcasts. “Their pivoted thinking needs to be admired,” was the verdict of one judge.

The Shortlist

  • Grown Ups written & narrated by Marian Keyes
    W F Howes
    Marian Keyes’ 14th title follows the three Casey brothers and their wives, Jessie, Cara and Nell. For the first time in her career, the author narrated her own audiobook, bringing her characters and personality closer to audiences than ever before. W F Howes targeted Keyes’ legion of loyal fans and garnered spots on several audiobook round-ups highlighting excellence.
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor
    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004) author Susanna Clarke made an unexpected return last year with the more compact Piranesi, the story of a man uncovering a mystery in a flooded house. To honour the half-Ghanaian protagonist in the novel, Bloomsbury wanted a Black British narrator for the audiobook: they landed Oscar-nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor for the role.
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, narrated by Carey Mulligan
    Launched simultaneously with the hardback, Matt Haig’s latest was narrated by actress Carey Mulligan, who recorded the audiobook from her home studio in lockdown. Canongate capitalised on Haig’s previous success to make this a noisy publication: it was selected by the Sunday Times as a “perfect audiobook for lockdown” and was one of Audible’s five top sellers for four weeks running.
  • Greenlights written & narrated by Matthew McConaughey
    On acquisition of Matthew McConaughey’s autobiography, Headline agreed with the actor that he should narrate the audiobook. The print edition featured pictures, footnotes and affirmations which needed to be adapted for audio and McConaughey unabashedly ad libbed asides during the recording. According to Headline, Greenlights’ audio edition is its top-selling format.
  • Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith, narrated by Robert Glenister
    Hachette Audio
    th’s latest Cormoran Strike novel saw fan favourite Robert Glenister return to narrate the audiobook for the fifth time in the series. The popularity of the books has only grown since the publication of The Cuckoo’s Calling in 2014, and book five was no exception: it was Hachette UK’s biggest ever audio pre-order for a single title, up 76.9% on book four.
  • The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, narrated by Lesley Manville
    Penguin Random House Audio
    Richard Osman worked closely with PRH Audio to find the prefect narrator for his début, and his first choice, Lesley Manville, came aboard for the series. Understanding Osman’s popularity and core fans, the publisher brought his voice into the audiobook edition with an exclusive Q&A with Marian Keyes, a fellow shortlisted author on this list.
  • A Promised Land written & narrated by Barack Obama
    Penguin Random House Audio
    Barack Obama’s memoir saw Penguin Random House’s biggest campaign for a single audiobook. The team used an influencer-driven word-of-mouth campaign to target “entertainment seekers”; those who don’t often buy books but would listen to the former president. Obama is no novice narrator, either: his previous two audiobooks are Grammy Award-winning.
  • Think Like a Monk written & narrated by Jay Shetty
    In a tough year, Jay Shetty showed readers how to clear roadblocks to power, drawing on his time as a monk in the Vedic tradition. Shetty narrates the audiobook himself and HarperCollins added audio-exclusive content, from meditations to an author Q&A. The result satisfied the author’s podcast listeners and significant online following, as well as drawing in new fans.
  • The Sandman by Neil Gaiman & Dirk Maggs, narrated by Riz Ahmed, Michael Sheen et al
    Dirk Maggs adapted this Audible Original from Neil Gaiman’s classic comics series, The Sandman. Maggs directed an all-star 68-person cast which included Gaiman alongside Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, James McAvoy, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and Michael Sheen. An original score from Bafta-winning composer James Hannigan was also commissioned.