The Best Black Audiobook Narrators to Listen to Right Now

From veteran narrators to celebrity performers, here are just a few of today’s outstanding Black voice artists with a gift for bringing life to the audiobooks they narrate.

A skilled performer has the ability to take the written word to new heights, infusing an author’s work with empathy, warmth, and excitement. And representation matters just as much for audio as it does for any visual medium: listeners should feel and hear themselves in art driven by powerful performers and authentic deliveries. In this list, we’ve gathered a few of the best Black audiobook narrators in the business—along with their can't-miss performances to have on your radar.

 

Chiwetel Ejiofor

British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor may have narrated just three audiobooks to date, but in this case, it’s quality over quantity. While you might know him best from film (12 Years a Slave, The Martian, The Lion King), his audio profile is on the rise. As the titular general in Othello and the voice of beloved children’s novel The Supernaturalist, Ejiofor had already voiced two audio gems—but it was his performance of Susannah Clarke’s 2020 fantasy Piranesi that really knocked our socks off. You haven’t lived until you’ve been mesmerized by Ejiofor’s exquisite tone, inflection, and interpretation of this spellbinding work, which won the Audie Award for Best Audiobook of the Year in 2020.

Piranesi

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell transported countless listeners into its mysterious world. It became an instant classic and has been hailed as one of the finest works of fiction of the 21st century. Fifteen years later, it is finally time to enter the House and meet Piranesi....

 

Bahni Turpin

Bahni Turpin is an all-star Hall of Fame narrator, having lent her voice to some of the most talked-about books in recent memory, like Colson Whitehead's brilliant The Underground Railroad and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Along with being a narrator, Turpin is an experienced television and film actress whose dramatic training lends an additional layer of depth to her work. Known for her rich, fully-realized renditions of a range of characters, Turpin's talents especially shine when she is working on a work with a lot of heart, like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Telling the story of a young girl caught between two racialized worlds, Turpin expertly embodies Starr's conflicted, moving inner thoughts.

The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club)

From prize-winning, best-selling author Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom....

 

Prentice Onayemi

Prentice Onayemi's acting career is extensive and varied—he’s done it all, from voicing English language learning programs to performing in various theatrical works, including roles on Broadway. To put it mildly, Onayemi—who is also a member of the prestigious Narrator Hall of Fame—definitely knows what he's doing, and it shows in each and every narration. Among his many stellar performances: his reading of Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers. Telling a triumphant tale of immigrants in America, Onayemi expertly switches between accents, dialects, and voices, crafting a listen that feels like a full-cast production.

Behold the Dreamers (Oprah's Book Club)

Prentice Onayemi's voice acting career is extensive and varied—he’s done it all, from voicing English language learning programs to performing in various theatrical works, including roles on Broadway. To put it mildly, Onayemi—who is also a member of the prestigious Narrator Hall of Fame—definitely knows what he's doing and it shows in each and every narration. Among his most stellar performances is his reading of Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers. Telling a triumphant tale of immigrants in America, Onayemi expertly switches between accents, dialects, and voices, crafting a listen that feels like a full-cast production.

 

Adenrele Ojo

Adenrele Ojo is an Audie Award-winning narrator who reads with great compassion. Based in Los Angeles and with a theater background, she’s known for giving each performance the understanding and care it deserves. From literary fiction (The Mothers) to self-development (More Than Enough), from romance (Let Me Hold You) to blockbuster nonfiction (The Premonition), Ojo understands that every story deserves a narrator who delivers the material to listeners with nuance and depth. Thriller fans should not miss one of her standout performances of 2021: Stacey Abrams’s complex courtroom thriller, While Justice Sleeps.

While Justice Sleeps

From celebrated national leader and best-selling author Stacey Abrams, While Justice Sleeps is a gripping, complexly plotted thriller set within the halls of the US Supreme Court....

 

Joe Morton

Tony Award nominee Joe Morton’s narrative style stands out because he has a voice you won’t forget. It’s thick and soft, yet a little rough around the edges. While you might know him from TV and film (Scandal, Terminator 2), his work as a narrator is equally esteemed, and he’s voiced such towering literary works as Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer. Morton’s voice conveys strength and vulnerability all at once, which makes him the perfect narrator for many different types of stories. His latest performance, Cornelius Eady’s Brutal Imagination, is based on the author’s National Book Award-nominated poetry book and stars Morton alongside Sally Murphy.

Invisible Man

Unnerving, how this classic seems especially relevant today — also incredibly significant because Audible’s founder, Don Katz, was mentored and inspired by Mr. Ellison:

“What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?”

 

Robin Miles

One might think there's no way for N. K. Jemisin's award-winning The Fifth Season to become any more immersive, but with narrator Robin Miles at the helm, the story is elevated to new, outstanding heights. The Fifth Season is a work that changed the game for many Black authors in science fiction and fantasy, and Miles only adds to the power behind it with her skillful voice acting, bringing the characters off the page. And her magical performance of Jemisin’s novel is only the tip of the iceberg. A member of the Narrator Hall of Fame who has performed works including Barracoon and The Warmth of Other Suns, Miles has demonstrated her inimitable talents time and time again.

The Fifth Season

This is the way the world ends. For the last time. A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great, red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash....

 

Adjoa Andoh

Like many on our list, Adjoa Andoh is not only an audiobook narrator but also a film, television, and stage actress. Her crystal-clear, lilting English is the heart behind a variety of audio hits, including the much-adored Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This novel chronicles the adventures of confident and witty Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who moves to America to escape instability. Andoh captures Ifemelu's conflicted, fiery nature along with the many voices and accents of her fellow characters. It’s a superb performance that underscores Andoh's deft grasp of rhythm and tone as well as her ability to bring new meanings and depth to the written word.

Americanah

Adichie says that the title of this book is a Nigerian word for people who travel to the U.S. and return to Nigeria with American habits and behaviors. The lovers in this story meet in Nigeria, and the two of them end up traveling different paths when one goes to the U.S. and the other to London. Race adds another layer of complexity to this story, as the characters learn about what it means to be black in Nigeria vs. being black in other parts of the world.

 

Kevin R. Free

In addition to working as an audiobook narrator, Kevin R. Free is an actor, playwright, director, and producer. He’s beloved by listeners for his performance of Martha Wells's Murderbot Diaries series—a work that fully demonstrates his excellent capabilities. Free brings Murderbot, a snarky, sentient robot that hacked itself in order to think and act freely, to life with a heartfelt yet robotic inner monologue. Beyond crafting tangible characters in tongue-in-cheek sci-fi, Free demonstrates his range in other performances, including his gorgeous rendition of Anthony Ray Hinton’s extraordinary memoir, The Sun Does Shine.

The Sun Does Shine

The Sun Does Shine is an arresting audiobook memoir of hope, love, justice, and the power of reading, written by a man who spent 30 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit....

 

January LaVoy

Winner of the 2020 Audie Fantasy Award for her work on Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, January LaVoy has expertly narrated a large variety of audiobooks, from thrillers to nonfiction to sci-fi. With deft skill, she embodies each unique character, switching between different accents and personalities in the span of a breath. Her modulated voice stays steady and calming throughout her performance, evidence of her experience in television, film, and the stage. Her chilling work on Brian Freeman’s The Deep, Deep Snow and John Grisham’s Camino Island are among our favorite performances, but we would be remiss not to mention her fantastic work on a number of Star Wars titles, including Phasma and Bloodline.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Winner of the 2020 Audie Fantasy Award for her work on Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January, January LaVoy has expertly narrated a large variety of books, from thrillers to nonfiction to sci-fi. With deft skill, she embodies each different character, deftly switching between different accents and personalities in each breath. Her modulated voice stays steady and calming throughout her performance, evidence of her experience in television, film, and the stage. A few of our favorite performances include her chilling work on Brian Freeman’s The Deep, Deep Snow and John Grisham’s Camino Island, but we would be remiss not to mention her fantastic work on a number of Star Wars titles, including Phasma and Bloodline.

 

Dion Graham

An actor who has appeared in films including Malcolm X and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Dion Graham brings substance, skill, and depth to every audiobook he narrates. His smooth, mesmerizing voice flows through works ranging from children’s classics like Charlotte’s Web to the latest Walter Mosley mystery, alternating between voices so distinct they sound as if they’re performed by different narrators. Named an AudioFile Golden Voice and a member of the Narrator Hall of Fame, Graham is an undeniable talent. If you’re looking for a brilliant title to start listening to his work, try Marlon James’s fantasy epic, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, a stunning 24-hour-long performance of life and vibrancy.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Marlon James made literary waves with his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. He followed that book's brutality and pathos up with Black Leopard, Red Wolf, the first in a fantasy series that exudes the same level of frenetic detail and catharsis as the author's previous work. This first audiobook follows Tracker, a mercenary with a talent for tracking scents, as he is hired to find a missing child. The future installments will depict the same events through different characters' points of view. Brought to audio by the studious narration of Dion Graham, whose voice excellently captures the rage and coolness of main character Tracker, this is definitely a trilogy to watch for anyone looking to follow an exciting, ongoing fantasy series.

 

Gabrielle Union

A-list actor Gabrielle Union has racked up some incredible accomplishments since she began gracing our screens in classic comedies like Bring It On and She’s All That. In addition to her pioneering work in activism, she’s written and narrated a best-selling memoir, We’re Going to Need More Wine, and two kids’ books, Welcome to the Party and Shady Baby, the latter of which she coauthored with her husband, NBA superstar Dwayne Wade. She also lends her recognizable voice to Tayari Jones’s audio-exclusive novella Dispossession, a provocative family drama that explores a relationship between a Black mother and her son.

Dispossession

Motherhood isn’t easy, especially when you’re a mother of a Black son. Ten years ago, Cheryl jumped at the chance to send her son, Javonte, to an exclusive boarding school in New England - far away from Atlanta and the violence of the city streets....

 

J.D. Jackson

J.D. Jackson is an audiobook narrator and a professor, so he infuses each performance with both a skilled voice and a strong command of the material. In the works he chooses, which often directly explore the Black lived experience, he gracefully wades through the text with a measured tone and a smooth baritone. Take, for example, his work on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic Why We Can’t Wait. Jackson voices one of the most important speakers, thinkers, and activists in American history with authority, melody, and heart, providing this seminal work the treatment it so rightly deserves.

Why We Can't Wait

J.D. Jackson is both an audiobook narrator and a professor, so he infuses each performance with both a skilled voice and a strong command of the material. In the works he chooses, which often directly explore the Black lived experience, he gracefully wades through the text with a measured tone and a smooth baritone. Take, for example, his work on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic Why We Can’t Wait. Not only does Jackson voice one of the most important speakers, thinkers, and activists in American history, but he also does so with melody and heart, providing such a seminal text the treatment it so rightly deserves.

 

Dominic Hoffman

You may know Dominic Hoffman from his role as Dr. Jeff Russell on Grey’s Anatomy, but this TV star is also a prolific and talented audiobook narrator. One of his most powerful performances is his rendition of Audie Award-winning Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, the epic saga of two half-sisters and their descendants across time and continents. Hoffman’s fluid and lively narration guides listeners through centuries of story, keeping the narrative threads connected and their attention focused. It’s a skillset he’s shown time and time again in other works as well, including The Book of Lost Friends, Deacon King Kong, and Higher Is Waiting.

Homegoing

Winner: Fiction

Homegoing, simply put, is incredible. The plot, the prose, the characters, the writing … there’s not one aspect of this book that "carries" the rest. Each is, well, incredible. Author Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel is none other than a feat — an engrossing family epic spanning multiple centuries and multiple continents. The stories of two half-sisters born in 18th century Ghana, in different villages, begin this memorable novel of triumph, heartbreak and resilience. One is married off to a well-educated and wealthy Englishman. The other is shipped off to America and sold into slavery. These sisters’ stories, their children’s stories, and their children’s children’s children’s stories will stay with you long after the book ends.

See all finalists in Fiction

 

Shvorne Marks

It’d be an oversight not to shed some light on a remarkable up-and-coming talent in the world of audio. Shvorne Marks’s debut arrived when she voiced the runaway hit Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, infusing the snarky yet lovable Queenie with an audible, charming personality. As Queenie navigates gender, race, sexuality, mental health, and more, Marks allows the listener right inside her head, embodying her inner thoughts with immense skill.  We can’t wait to see where Marks goes from here—but we’re positive that, whatever it may be, it’s going to be a title well worth listening to.

Queenie

It’d be an oversight not to shed some light on a remarkable up-and-coming talent in the world of audio. Shvorne Marks’s debut arrived when she voiced the runaway hit Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, infusing the snarky yet lovable Queenie with an audible, charming personality. As Queenie navigates gender, race, sexuality, mental health, and more, Marks allows the listener right inside her head, embodying her inner thoughts with immense skill. We can’t wait to see where Marks goes from here—but we’re positive that, whatever it may be, it’s going to be a title well worth listening to.

 

Karen Chilton

Listening to an audiobook read by Karen Chilton is like snuggling up to a good story under a blanket next to the fireplace. While Chilton can change her voice to fit the mood of the text, one thing remains the same throughout all of her narrations: her warmth. The books Chilton narrates are often nonfiction about the Black American experience—her performance of the criminal justice reform classic The New Jim Crow is required listening. She also gravitates towards novels written by Black authors. For a dazzling example of her work in fiction, listen to Robert Jones Jr.’s The Prophets, in which Chilton leans into a gentle southern accent that grounds the story to its specific setting and era.

The Prophets

A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence....

 

LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton—icon of Reading Rainbow, Roots, and Star Trek: The Next Generation—recently made waves as the most requested guest-host in Jeopardy! history (the people got their way). But Burton’s long association with reading and learning extends to his output in audio as well; his warm and familiar voice can be heard narrating Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Fred Rogers's bio The Good Neighbor, the music history Jazz, and The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., among other favorites. His debut novel, Aftermath, an alternate history sci-fi that imagines a war-torn US after the assassination of a Black president-elect, releases this summer. Burton will narrate, of course.

Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry

Neil deGrasse Tyson's number-one New York Times best-selling guide to the cosmos, adapted for young listeners....

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