Book of the Year: Audiobook

Introduction

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.

The Shortlist

  • Grown Ups written & narrated by Marian Keys
    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 Ejiofo
    Bloomsbury
    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
    Canongate
    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
    Headline
    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
    HarperCollins Publishers
    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
    Audible
    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.