The Best Audiobooks Read by the Author
An audiobook is always better when narrated by the one who knows it best: the author! These renditions give listeners an unrivaled, intimate experience that cannot be missed.
May 3, 2021
There’s an undeniable authenticity in an audiobook that’s narrated by the very person who penned it. From iconic memoirs to far-out fantasies, these immersive audio performances are uniquely genuine, all performed in the author’s own voice. If you want to experience how special it can be to listen to a narrative exactly the way it was intended, check out our list of the best audiobooks read by their author.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
In his Audie Award-winning memoir, Noah shares his past with listeners through a series of anecdotes and punchlines. Growing up biracial in South Africa during the last decade of Apartheid, Noah, whose very existence was considered criminal, has no shortage of mind-boggling experiences to share about his family and the society in which he was raised. Noah’s engaging, warm tone and measured cadence pair well as the story alternates between the much-expected jokes and more touching moments, such as when The Daily Show host discusses his mother and the hope, determination, and resilience she passed on to him. Noah’s poignant reflections interwoven with hilarious asides will remind you how he became the successful writer-comedian he is today.
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
Whether or not you consider yourself a foodie, Anthony Bourdain’s story of his journey to becoming an award-winning chef will captivate you. As you become immersed in his stories of unthinkable experiences in kitchens around the world, you’ll realize: this is one of those audiobooks that simply must be narrated by the author. Listening to Bourdain’s unfiltered account of his path to culinary fame feels like hearing a friend reflect on life over a beer in your living room. In his signature laid-back, genial style, the late chef shares charming anecdotes, advice for future chefs, and a handful of revolting stories (like disturbing behind-the-scenes accounts of some top-rated restaurants). There is no doubt that Kitchen Confidential is the cornerstone of Bourdain’s literary legacy, and it is a genuine pleasure to hear it told by the legend himself.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
From the same inventive mind that brought us The Sandman, American Gods, and Coraline, the mysterious underworld of Neverwhere is equal parts entrancing and terrifying. Gaiman’s protagonist, Richard is an ordinary man who becomes entangled in a dystopian alternate reality known as London Below. As a listener, it’s easy to get lost in the vivid descriptions of a beautiful yet nightmarish version of London, where Richard is forced to become a hero. Gaiman perfectly adjusts his narration to describe the setting, the action-packed scenes, and the tender moments of the story. His hypnotic delivery of this inventive, intricate, and dark fantasy will make you crave listening to more of his many audio performances.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Who better than Toni Morrison to narrate her Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of escaping a tragic past during the Reconstruction era of the late 19th century? Morrison’s performance of Beloved will keep you attentive and immersed in the world of the protagonist, Sethe. In both her prose and performance, Morrison compels listeners to feel profound sympathy for Sethe and what she felt she must do to spare her daughter from a tortured life. The consequences of her decision and the dark, guilt-ridden memories of her enslavement are heart-wrenching. Even the most seasoned voice actor couldn’t do justice to the beautifully haunting evolution of this story and its characters.
Calypso by David Sedaris
David Sedaris’s compilation of personal essays, Calypso features bitingly honest midlife musings on family relationships, the politics of our time, and the uncertainty of the future. These essays interweave relatable, hilarious observations on everyday life with personal, poignant reflections on the author’s unique experiences, like the untimely death of one of his sisters. Sedaris has mastered the art of audio performance with his signature narrative style, punctuated with the deadpan delivery of some surprising revelations. The audiobook flows so naturally that it listens more like a diary read aloud than a carefully curated selection of stories.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
SNL alum Tina Fey’s memoir is a refreshing mix of vignettes spanning her childhood and career that are deeply personal and entertaining. Her signature slightly self-deprecating sense of humor paired with her warm, familiar voice make it difficult not to listen to this audiobook in one sitting. Fey candidly shares her experiences, from her early improv days to the difficulties of juggling multiple projects while raising two young kids and maintaining a marriage. At turns moving and laugh-out-loud funny, Bossypants is a must-listen for any fan of Fey’s work.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes, the genius behind hit series like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, challenges listeners to say yes to the opportunities life presents them—even when it seems uncomfortable or inconvenient. Her memoir chronicles her full year of consciously fighting her introverted nature by saying yes every chance she could, challenging herself at every opportunity. Rhimes has a naturally enjoyable voice to listen to, and her conversational reading style makes it seem like she’s sitting across from you, chatting over a cup of coffee. Entertaining, relatable anecdotes shed light on the fact that even those people we consider smart, talented, and wildly successful have to actively work to overcome fear, doubt, and insecurity.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
From award-winning author Rachel Kushner comes this gut-wrenching novel of a young mother serving two life sentences for killing her stalker. Backed by extensive research, Kushner expertly brings to life the dark tone of the story and the bleak reality her protagonist, Romy, faces as she fights to survive one day at a time under unthinkable circumstances. In spite of the fact that Romy is doomed to the dire existence of a prisoner, there are glimmers of hope fueled by love for her child. Listeners are left with food for thought on the broken American criminal justice system and the millions of forgotten incarcerated people trapped within.
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
In The Last Black Unicorn, Haddish narrates her life story with brazen honesty. Her journey from a struggling foster kid in South-Central LA to thriving as one of the most sought-after comedians of our time is a truly awe-inducing tale. Hearing her glimmering, unmistakable voice as she recounts some of her life’s most difficult moments—like her mother’s debilitating car accident—is heartbreaking and powerful. Since Haddish is usually making us belly laugh with her outrageous personality, these rare glimpses of her vulnerable side feel incredibly special. Above all, Haddish proves she still has a down-to-earth, relatable perspective on life in spite of the perks her fame grants her nowadays.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In his New York Times best-selling memoir, written in the form of a letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the complicated subject of race in America with unapologetic starkness. Coates describes the evolution of his identity as a Black man through various settings—from growing up in Baltimore to attending Howard University to traveling the world. His narrative style instantly draws listeners in as he examines what it means to be Black in the United States, a nation with deep roots of racism and injustice. In Between the World and Me, Coates also passionately challenges every listener to confront the truth about racial issues of the past and present. The anguish, fear, and frustration in his voice is palpable throughout the audiobook, crafting an audio experience that will stay with you long after the final word.
Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
In Postcards from the Edge, legendary actress, writer, and comedian Carrie Fisher brings us a riveting tale of a young, drug-addicted starlet trying to survive Hollywood in the 1980s. Inspired by Fisher’s time in the limelight and her own struggles with substance abuse, this semi-autobiographical tale is a brilliant mix of incisive humor and profound commentary on the human condition. Fisher’s narrative style highlights her signature sarcasm and wit, her warm, expressive voice navigating each of the story’s punchlines and plot points with ease. Irreverent and unflinching, she paints a portrait of stardom, addiction, and romance in Hollywood with unforgiving honesty in a performance that’s utterly pitch-perfect.
Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming
Alan Cumming invites listeners to step into his troubled past and share in the formative experiences that propelled him into the world of acting. In his signature silky, Scottish-accented lilt, Cumming unearths a tale of heart-wrenching resilience and triumph over trauma and abuse. He describes how the psychological manipulation and physical violence that dominated his boyhood shaped him into the man he has become. An Audie Award-winning, Hall of Fame narrator, Cumming speaks his truth in Not My Father's Son with strength, wisdom, and a formidable amount of skill.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver’s seventh masterpiece, Flight Behavior tells the tale of a woman who discovers that butterfly migration patterns have drastically changed—a revelation that lands her in the crossfire of a heated conflict between religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, and politicians. It seems their disrupted flight patterns are emblematic of a much larger problem: global warming. Kingsolver’s narration is simply magical. Her voice is warm and lyrical, and the story unfolds organically with plenty of suspense. Thought-provoking and brilliantly performed, Flight Behavior illuminates an inconvenient truth in a creative way.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
In her award-winning first memoir, Patti Smith reflects on her coming of age as a young, aspiring artist in the gritty yet oddly ethereal setting of New York City in the 1970s. The queen of rock and roll tells her own story, chronicling her challenges with personal relationships and finding her voice on the way to making a name for herself as a renaissance woman with a lot of talent to offer. At the core of Just Kids is Smith's close yet complicated romance-turned-friendship with late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, a tale that is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. Listeners will find a kind of raw authenticity in Smith’s dreamy yet haunting voice that evokes a sense of being alongside her through the highs and lows.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Xiomara Batista will not be silenced, even if her mother, who wants her to be a good, demure, church-going girl, and the world (both her boisterous Harlem neighborhood and society at large) are trying to drown her out. In The Poet X, listeners encounter Xiomara’s private journal of poems, where she can record how she really feels about everything from her daily life as a young Afro-Latina woman in the world to a boy who’s caught her eye in class. This is a powerful author-narrated story about expression and voice, created in verse and narrated by award-winning slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo. The rhythmic, relentlessly energetic story unfolds in a hypnotic three-hour experience that is truly unique.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
More than 40 years after the initial release of The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty’s rendition of his most famous masterpiece continues to terrify listeners around the world. What makes this audiobook particularly enthralling is the expert way that Blatty transitions between the distinct voices of each character, from the struggling, soft voice of Father Damien to the bone-chilling rasp of the demon possessing young Regan MacNeil. The success of a horror audiobook with such dark, ominous undertones is largely reliant on the quality of the narration. And when read by the truly superb William Peter Blatty, this classic tale of dread and faith never fails to leave listeners terrified.
Bag of Bones by Stephen King
As one of the most prolific storytellers of our time, Stephen King has mastered the art of the psychological, supernatural thriller—a fact he proves again in Bag of Bones. Fans of horror will relish this meticulously crafted narrative with complex characters and vivid descriptions of hair-rising encounters with the occult. This listen follows writer Mike Noonan, still grieving from the sudden death of his wife and unborn child, as he tries to piece his life back together by returning to the summer home where the tragedy occurred. Soon, he’s wrapped up in a series of morbid and mysterious events that force him to confront his past, while coping with vivid nightmares, ghostly visits, and looming curses. King reading his own words will draw listeners in and hold their attention with an iron grip. Suspenseful yet down-to-earth, King’s narration will have you teetering on the edge of your seat.
LaRose by Louise Erdrich
In LaRose, Louise Erdrich narrates her emotionally charged tale of tragedy, atonement, and the healing power of love. Taking place in the woods of North Dakota, two Native American families must come to terms with the death of a five-year-old boy in a devastating hunting accident. Erdrich's narrative tone is both gentle and fiercely emphatic as she brings characters to life who are grappling with immense pain. In both her prose and her performance, she explores the moral complexities of ancestral tradition and the lasting effects that a traumatic event can have on a community.
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
When he published Angela's Ashes at the age of 66, Frank McCourt immediately secured his legacy among the greatest memoirists of all time. In recounting a childhood marred by alcoholism and poverty without losing an ounce of humor or straying from the conversational, McCourt crafted something groundbreaking. Audio only enhances his storytelling prowess: the natural lilt of his brogue pairs strikingly with a genial delivery and whip-smart timing.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
In this award-winning, revealing memoir, Michelle Obama shares moments from her life with incredible candor. In the same way her impassioned speeches captivated crowds as the First Lady, Obama’s gift for storytelling will pull in listeners in Becoming. No stranger to the unforgiving voices of the media, she vividly details honest accounts of her struggles and triumphs with wit and wisdom. From her childhood in Chicago to her resiliency as one of the most visible public figures in the world, her strength throughout challenges while in the limelight is inspiring. Obama's unforgettable retelling of her life—both the personal aspects and the political—creates a listen that’s easy to get lost in, regardless of party lines.