2016 has proven to be a year of BIG books. From sweeping family sagas to profoundly moving memoirs, superbly funny sci-fi, and beyond, this year’s best-of list was hard to nail down for the wealth of great choices. At the top of the list is
The Nix, a debut novel by Nathan Hill that we found to be — simply put — a transcendent listening experience. Bold and brilliant but also totally accessible, The Nix takes the listener to WWII-era Norway, the 1968 Chicago riots, the Iraq war, and even into the worlds of online gaming and classical music, all while remaining character-driven and addictively listenable. Narrator Ari Fliakos elevates this ambitious novel with the kind of performance that makes each and every character feel fully and uniquely formed — an amazing feat for a solo narrator. If you haven’t listened to The Nix yet, we highly recommend it — our Audiobook of the Year — plus all of the other standouts of 2016. - The Audible Editors
Winner: Best Audiobook
The Nix is one of those books where you, 1. Can’t put down and 2. Won’t stop talking about it. There are so many different elements and layers to this incredible story that no summary or review really does it justice. At its heart, The Nix is about Samuel Andresen-Anderson reuniting with his estranged mom in order to clear her of a bizarre and harmless crime — a crime blown out of proportion by both the media and the internet. To exonerate her, Samuel decides to dig deep into her past and find out everything he can about this woman who abandoned him when he was just a boy. The Nix takes you from the 1960s Chicago riots to the present and back again. It is an absolute stunner of a debut, and narrator Ari Fliakos is the perfect match for this witty and smart novel. 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....
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
End of Watch
Goodreads Choice Awards Winner for Mystery/Thriller 2016 Born a Crime
Winner: Celebrity Memoir
The host of
The Daily Show steps away from the headlines to tell his own incredible coming-of-age story, set during the final years and aftermath of apartheid-era South Africa. It's a story that begins with Noah's mother throwing him from a moving car to avoid a potentially fatal dispute with gangsters and follows the comedian's path to self-discovery amidst episodes both bittersweet and comical. Attuned to the power of language at a young age — as a means of acceptance and influence in a country divided, then subdivided into groups at odds with one another — Noah's raw, personal journey becomes something extraordinary in audio. His chameleon-like ability to mimic accents and dialects, to shift effortlessly between languages including English, Xhosa, and Zulu, and to embody characters throughout his past are all on display. The result is a stunning memoir, filled with humor and heart.
See all finalists in Celebrity Memoir When Breath Becomes Air
Goodreads Choice Awards Winner for Memoir & Autobiography 2016
When Breath Becomes Air, those of us who never met Paul Kalanithi will both mourn his death and benefit from his life. This is one of a handful of books I consider to be a universal donor — I would recommend it to anyone, everyone." –Ann Patchett
See all finalists in Memoir/Biography We Are Legion (We Are Bob)
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) was the surprise sci-fi hit of 2016 for our editors and listeners alike. Reviewers have compared its mix of high-stakes action and genre humor to such hits as The Martian and Ready Player One. Moreover, it’s one of those books that seems positively made for audio: Who else but Ray Porter ( 14, The Fold) could evoke geeky irony during a suspenseful battle scene, all while assigning unique voices and personalities to a pack of otherwise-identical clones?
See all finalists in Sci-Fi The Sun Is Also a Star
Winner: Young Adult
Not only is Nicola Yoon answering the call for more diversity in YA literature, she is also creating compelling, honest, and memorable characters in her fiction.
The Sun Is Also a Star, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, is told from the alternating perspectives of two teenagers — one a Korean-American boy who is on the "doctor track" despite his proclivity for poetry; the other a Jamaican girl who is desperately trying to save her family from their imminent deportation. Over a single day we watch how fate weaves its way into their lives. The stellar performances by Bahni Turpin, Raymond Lee, and Dominic Hoffman ensure that Yoon’s work will soon become essential listening.
See all finalists in Young Adult Royally Screwed
Most Romance listeners are already hooked on Andi Arndt, but take note: Shane East, her partner on
Royally Screwed, is your new narrator crush. Their performance of Emma Chase’s latest novel, the first in a new series, will have you hitting the play button as soon as you’ve finished, to enjoy the story all over again. Nicholas is the crown prince of Wessco. Olivia manages her family’s coffee shop in Manhattan. While it sounds like they’re destined for a classic Cinderella story, Chase has managed to keep the plot and characters fresh with humor, great banter, and plenty of sizzling chemistry.
See all finalists in Romance Smarter Faster Better
2016 brought us Charles Duhigg’s
Smarter Faster Better, the highly anticipated follow-up to his mega hit The Power of Habit. In Smarter, Duhigg gets straight to the heart of the matter with scrupulous research-based productivity hacks and narrative finesse. His anecdotal approach is fitting as well, as much of what Duhigg highlights involves changing the way we see and influence our personal narrative, and how that affects our motivation and the way we execute tasks. I found this book effective and fascinating, and believe it or not, it’s an excellent choice to listen to while multitasking. Not just because of Mike Chamberlain’s deliberate and clear performance, but because you can put Duhigg’s advice immediately to action and see immediate results.
See all finalists in Business