Audiobooks are our passion. We listen to them, obsess over them, and produce thousands of them, including many award winners. So, with an ever-growing and diverse catalog of listens from beloved authors and top-line narrators, picking our favorite productions from our very own studios was no easy task. But here they are. From Austen and Twain to Murakami and Yanagihara, Cranston and Pike to Kellgren and Wyman; the stories and voices that moved us, sparked our imaginations, and left us in awe of the power of listening.
These are the ones we keep coming back to, and are most proud of creating: Audible Studios Essentials.
Pride and Prejudice is one of those classic novels that has influenced countless books, movies, and TV shows, and continues to make its way into the public consciousness. How many revamped or modernized Mr. Darcy’s have there been? But experiencing the original, as performed by Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) – who also starred as Jane Bennet in the big screen version of Austen’s beloved classic – is a bucket-list-level essential for all listeners. It’s the ideal coming-together of novel and narrator. From her caustic rendition of Mrs. Bennet, to the stern Mr. Darcy, and flighty Lydia, Pike brings all of Austen’s tremendous characters to life, proving that she was born to perform this book.
Winner of Audible’s 2014 Audiobook of the Year, this striking re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic was written specifically for audio by authors A. J. Hartley and David Hewson. Their creative talents and respect for the Bard add fresh depth and perspective to his centuries-old classic, incorporating newly-imagined scenes and unexpected plot twists to revitalize the original story. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the exquisite performance of Richard “Ear Candy” Armitage (as he’s now known around the office). Drawing on his experience with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Armitage (The Hobbit films, Robin Hood, North & South) fully inhabits Shakespeare’s characters, imbuing every line with unparalleled enthusiasm.
A deeply-moving, emotionally-draining, yet occasionally uplifting saga of friendship and love spanning 50 years, A Little Life has quickly become one of our favorite books. Yanagihara’s skill as a writer is undeniable, deftly exploring some of fiction’s darkest terrain, while also providing moments deeply human and affecting. Oliver Wyman’s impeccable narration added an entire new element to this already layered novel – his ability to convey the nuance of each character will leave you completely in awe of his strength as a performer. This is a listen that will stay with you long after the story ends.
For a novel that so beautifully captures ideas of fate and purpose, the story behind A Prayer for Owen Meaney’s journey into audio could not be more perfect. Initially, Irving was reluctant to bring his book into audio, believing his ambitious novel – a narrative spanning over three decades, interweaving the past and present of two characters, one of whom is characterized as having a damaged larynx that causes him to speak in a high-pitched shout – could not be adequately produced in audio. Then, as fate would have it, he met Joe Barrett and hand-picked the narrator to read. The result is extraordinary. To hear Barrett shift from his deep, sandpaper voice as the book’s primary narrator to Meaney’s shrill, yet, delicate timbre, is truly mesmerizing.
Jon Ronson is the master of what we tend to think of as "along-for-the-ride investigative journalism", and unlike some of his contemporaries in this field, he seems to be getting better and more fascinating with every book. In So You've Been Publicly Shamed, he untangles the modern phenomenon of online shaming, bringing the listener along for the ride as he tracks down victims of internet mob-justice. He narrates himself which adds a new level of awesomeness to this subgenre that is already perfectly suited to audio. There's a unique quality of urgency and anxiety underlying Ronson's Welsh accent which communicates his extreme concern for his subject, and really humanizes his reporting.
There's nothing else like Locke & Key in audio. Created in a style more akin to moviemaking than audiobook recording, this daring production is a vivid and inventive re-imagining of the graphic novel series that served as its source material. We love its menacing atmosphere, the rich soundscape that makes Keyhouse feel like a real, live place, and the original musical score that punctuates each storyline (and that you'll be humming for months after you've finished). Listen closely, not just for the phenomenal performances by Haley Joel Osment, Kate Mulgrew, and others in Locke & Key's expansive cast, but also for some fun cameos by a few familiar voices.
Our Cozy Mystery Obsession
Her Royal Spyness is an absolute gem! In this lighthearted mystery series, Rhys Bowen delivers a charming combination of intrigue and romance blended with a touch of humor. She has created an interesting cast of characters and those personalities (a royal down on her luck, a lovable cockney grandfather, a devilish but endearing Irish gent) come alive through Katherine Kellgren's flawless narration. This is a series that begs to be listened to. But, fair warning, once you start, you won't be able to stop!
An Edge-of-Your-Seat Thriller
In his debut novel, Mark Greaney delivers a knock-out thrill-ride, perfect for fans of Child, Flynn, Ludlum, and Eisler. But it’s Jay Snyder’s rich baritone, the aural equivalent of confidence and self-assuredness, that makes this a must-listen adventure. He perfectly captures the former CIA operative and hired gun turned enemy of the state, Court Gentry. And his dynamic pacing and no-nonsense delivery provides just the right amount of urgency as Gentry becomes the pursued in a life-or-death race against time.
Sanderson’s action-packed Reckoners series begins with a bang: a mysterious explosion gives rise to a brutal new breed of superhuman – known as Epics – who have placed the city of Newcago under increasingly oppressive rule. When a young boy witnesses his father's murder at the hands of Steelheart, the most powerful superhuman, he vows to get revenge, joining the ranks of a rebel group, dubbed the Reckoners, hell-bent on overthrowing the Epics. If this sounds as badass and fun as a summer blockbuster, you must hear listener favorite MacLeod Andrews bring his vocal strut to its cast of characters. Not only does he bring a youthful swagger to our heroes, but he gives a delightfully distinct edginess to our supervillain tyrants.
In Lock In, John Scalzi’s sci-fi thriller set in a post-contagion world, 1% of the population is left “locked in” their own bodies – using surrogates and mechanical bodies to move around the world. Scalzi chooses not to assign a gender to his main character, Chris, a prominent victim of the disease. To complement this theme, Audible Studios recorded two versions of the audio – one with male narration, one with female. The concept itself would be exciting enough on its own – but the chosen narrators both happen to be completely awesome actors in the sci-fi & fantasy community – Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame and... (scroll →)
A fantasy saga first written exclusively for Audible, the fact that Jack Campbell’s The Pillars of Reality series quickly became a listener favorite came as no surprise. Elaborate world-building, in which two young members from long-standing rival guilds, Mechanics and Mages, must unite to overcome a greater evil? Check. Super powers, including the control of technology and altering of reality? Check. MacLeod Andrews delivering spot-on performances for the two main protagonists, deftly switching from Alain, the emotionless Mage, to Mari’s spirited Mechanic? Check. And with five more books in the series, it’s perfect for those who prefer to binge-listen.
The Molly Harper/Amanda Ronconi pairing has become the stuff of Audible legend, and it all started with this book. If you ever feel like the vampire romance genre has all gotten a little bit too serious and swooning for its own good, this is the perfect antidote. The kick-off to the delightfully quirky and laugh-out-loud funny Nice Girls... series, this book has been a non-stop hit with our listeners. Ronconi provides just the right amount of snark for this endearingly unconventional romance, in which nice girl Jane Jameson goes on a bender and awakes with a decidedly unladylike thirst for blood.
A Bedtime Story for Grown-Ups
If you are at all familiar with the behavior of small children, you know that it is often torture to try to get them to sleep at night. Samuel L. Jackson names our pain with a parental performance that is as relatable and funny as it is profane. Against the backdrop of a subtle, tinkly lullaby tune, Jackson evolves from soothing to exasperated to defeated, all in a span of 6 hilarious minutes.