2022 Listen List Revealed


CHICAGO—The Listen List Council of the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has announced the 2022 selections of the Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration. This year’s committee evaluated 284 titles with a total listening time of more than 3,118 hours.  The final deliberation produced a list of 12 winners. This award highlights extraordinary narrators and listening experiences that merit special attention by a general adult audience and the librarians who advise them. 

Adhering to established criteria, these benchmarks of excellence are available for purchase by libraries. Committee members matched the twelve titles on the list with three listen-alikes each which match in some way the tone, theme or style of the title on the list.  None of these titles have appeared on any previous Listen Lists. Titles are named to the list because the narration creates a new experience with an outstanding performance in terms of voice, accents, pitch, tone, inflection, rhythm and pace, offering listeners something they could not create by their own visual reading. This juried list, designed for both avid listeners and those new to the pleasures of stories read aloud, includes fiction and nonfiction and features voices that enthrall, delight, and inspire. 

The 2022 selections are:

“Black Water Sister” by Zen Cho. Narrated by Catherine Ho. Recorded Books.

When Jessamyn leaves the United States for a new life in Malaysia, possession by the ghost of her grandmother – who has a secret and violent agenda of her own – is only the beginning of her problems. Catherine Ho immerses the listener in the culture and beauty of Malaysia and guides us through the loving exasperation of extended family before making the magic and danger of the book feel utterly real. 


“Cackle” by Rachel Harrison. Narrated by Dylan Moore. Books on Tape. 

“The Chosen and the Beautiful” by Nghi Vo. Narrated by Natalie Naudus. Macmillan Audio. 

“Gods of Jade and Shadow” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Narrated by Yetta Gottesman. Books o Tape. 

“Broken Horses” by Brandi Carlile. Narrated by Brandi Carlile. Books on Tape.

Award-winning musician Carlile’s memoir has the feel of an acoustic jam session followed by an intimate chat about family, faith, and the unexpected places dreams take us. Her wholehearted, joyful narration, combined with the audiobook-exclusive accompanying tracks, provide an glimpse into her life.


“Dolly Parton, Storyteller: My Life in Lyrics” by Dolly Parton. Narrated by Dolly Parton. Recorded Books. 

“Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl” by Carrie Brownstein. Narrated by Carrie Brownstein. Books on Tape. 

“More Myself” by Alicia Keys. Narrated by Alicia Keys, America Ferrera, Bono, Clive Davis, Craig Cook, DJ Walton, Jay-Z, Krucial, Leigh Blake, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Swizz Beats and Terri Augelo. Macmillan Audio. 

“The Final Revival of Opal and Nev” by Dawnie Walton. Narrated by Janina Edwards, Bahni Turpin, James Langton, André De Shields, Dennis Boutsikaris, Steve West, Gabra Zackman & a full cast. Simon & Schuster Audio.

This oral history of musicians Opal Jewel and Nev Charles brings the 1970s music scene to life via interviews conducted by a journalist “who uncovers a dark allegation with the potential to tarnish the band’s legacy. The full-cast performance will have listeners seeking out the recordings of these legendary (yet fictional) artists.


“The Anatomy of Desire: A Novel” by L.R. Dorn. Narrated by Santino Fontana, Shelby Young, Marin Ireland, JD Jackson, Dan Bittner, Vikas Adam, Gabra Zackman, Fred Berman, Darrell Dennis, Oliver Wyman, Jonathan Davis, Hillary Huber, Lisa Flanagan, and Sharahn LaRue. HarperAudio. 

“Eartha and Kitt: A Daughter’s Love Story in Black & White” by Kitt Shapiro. Narrated by Karen Chilton and Patricia Weiss Levy. Dreamscape Media.

“Utopia Avenue” by David Mitchell. Narrated by Ralph Lister. Books on Tape.

“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America” edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain. Narrated by a full cast. Books on Tape.

Four centuries of African American history are presented through historical essays, personal reflections, and poetry by ninety different writers in this one-of-a-kind collection. Each chapter is read by a different narrator, creating a chorus of voices encompassing the beauty and the struggle of the Black experience in America.


“Black Futures” by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham. Narrated by Kimberly Drew, Kevin R. Free, Dominic Hoffman, Robin Miles, Adenrele Ojo, Bahni Turpin, and Jenna Wortham. Books on Tape. 

“Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way” by Caseen Gaines. Narrated by Caseen Gaines. Blackstone Publishing.

“The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois” by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Narrated by Adenrele Ojo, Karen Chilton, and Prentice Onayemi.

“Gold Diggers” by Sanjena Sathian. Narrated by Rama Vallury. Books on Tape.

Underachieving Neil struggles to meet the expectations of his immigrant parents. However, everything changes when he discovers his neighbor has developed an alchemical potion that harnesses the power of gold. He soon becomes addicted to this seemingly easy path to success. Rama Vallury brings dialog to life and authentically captures the rich and varied voices in this coming-of-age story tinged with magical realism. 


“If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi” by Neel Patel. Narrated by Neel Patel. Macmillan Audio. 

“The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina” by Zoraida Córdova. Narrated by Frankie Corzo. Simon & Schuster Audio. 

“The Thirty Names of Night” by Zeyn Joukhadar. Narrated by Samy Figaredo and Lameece Issaq. Simon & Schuster Audio. 

“Made in China” by Amelia Pang. Narrated by Nancy Wu. Workman Publishing.

An Oregon mother finds a note from a Chinese labor camp prisoner begging for help tucked in her unopened package of Halloween decorations, spurring an investigation of the forced labor that creates America’s cheap products. Nancy Wu delicately reports the facts without over-dramatizing, maintaining emotional tension and urgency throughout this compelling and powerful narrative.


“The Chief Witness: Escape from China’s Modern-Day Concentration Camps” by Sayragul Sauytbay and Alexandra Cavelius, translated by Caroline Waight. Narrated by Xifeng Brooks. Dreamscape Media.

“Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick. Narrated by Karen White. Tantor Media. 

“The Undocumented Americans” by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. Narrated by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. Books on Tape.

“The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories” by Danielle Evans. Narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Nicole Lewis, Brittany Pressley, Shayna Small, January LaVoy, Adenrele Ojo, and Janina Edwards. Books on Tape.

An all-star cast of narrators performs Danielle Evans’s insightful short stories, which tackle a variety of subjects, including grief, racism, forgiveness, and belonging.The narrators and the stories are perfectly matched, creating a listening experience that is as entertaining as it is challenging and thought-provoking. 


“The Kindest Lie” by Nancy Johnson. Narrated by Shayna Small. HarperAudio. 

“My Monticello” by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson. Narrated by Aja Naomi King, January LaVoy, Landon Woodson, LeVar Burton, Ngozi Anyanwu, & Tomiwa Edun. Macmillan Audio.

“The Rock Eaters: Stories” by Brenda Peynado. Narrated by Frankie Corzo, Ines del Castillo, Sunil Molhatra, Alejandra Reynoso, Jane Santos. Books on Tape. 

“Razorblade Tears” by S.A. Cosby. Narrated by Adam Lazarre-White. Books on Tape.

Ike and Buddy Lee stayed out of prison and did their best to fly under the radar for years, until their sons were brutally murdered. The killers think they are taking on two middle-aged men, but they haven’t met these two yet. Adam Lazarre-White’s narration gives these characters distinctive voices, which lends a sense of humanity to this propulsive tale of vengeance by two grieving fathers. 


“Heaven, My Home” by Attica Locke. Narrated by JD Jackson. Hachette Audio.

“The Sweetness of Water” by Nathan Harris. Narrated by William DeMeritt. Hachette Audio. 

“Your House Will Pay” by Steph Cha. Narrated by Greta Jung and Glenn Davis. HarperAudio. 

“Remote Control” by Nnedi Okorafor. Narrated by Adjoa Andoh. Macmillan Audio.

Adjoa Andoh transports the listener to a futuristic Ghana in this technofable. Though the story is brief, listeners are fully immersed in Sankofa’s journey through a lonely and confusing world that does not understand her gifts. With death comes change, and when people fear both, what could be more frightening than a little girl? 


“Beasts Made of Night” by Tochi Onyebuchi. Narrated by Prentice Onayemi. Listening Library. 

“The City We Became” by N.K. Jemisin. Narrated by Robin Miles. Hachette Audio.

“Parable of the Sower” by Octavia E. Butler. Narrated by Lynne Thigpen. Recorded Books. 

“The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” by Deesha Philyaw. Narrated by Janina Edwards. Tantor Media.

Janina Edwards breathes life and energy into this stunning collection of stories about Black women confronting loneliness, sexual longing, self-confidence, and power as they are torn between religion and desire. Her realistic and graceful narration makes the reader feel as though they are eavesdropping on the innermost secrets of the characters. 


“Milk Blood Heat: Stories” by Dantiel W. Moniz. Narrated by Machelle Williams. HighBridge Audio.

“Revival Season: A Novel” by Monica West. Narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt. Simon & Schuster Audio. 

“Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories” by Kathleen Collins. Narrated by Nina Lorez Collins, Cherise Boothe, Adenrele Ojo, Paula J. Parker, Desean Terry, and Dan Woren. HarperAudio. 

“Seven Days in June” by Tia Williams. Narrated by Mela Lee. Hachette Audio.

As teens, Eva and Shane spent seven intense days together, only to part under tragic circumstances. Twenty years later, they have successful literary careers and full lives, though Eva still struggles with chronic pain and Shane works to come to terms with his troubled past. Mela Lee embodies the humor and heartache of seven magical days in June, voicing characters of all ages with nuance and depth.


“American Love Story” by Adriana Herrera. Narrated by Sean Crisden. Harlequin Audio. 

“Queen Move” by Kennedy Ryan. Narrated by Eboni Flowers and Jakobi Diem. Blackstone Publishing. 

“Scandalous Secrets” by Synithia Williams. Narrated by: Adenrele Ojo. Harlequin Audio. 

“This is Ear Hustle” by Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods. Narrated by Nigel Poor, Earlonne Woods, Lt. Sam Robinson, Chayne Hampton, Andrew Eiden, Gary Tiedemann, Landon Woodson, Cary Hite, Debi Tinsley, Joniece Abbot Pratt, Curt Bonnem, Teri Clark Linden, and Pierce Cravens. Books on Tape. 

The popular podcast Ear Hustle explores the lives and experiences of incarcerated people. Two of the founders, Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods, chronicle the podcast’s genesis and development alongside their own personal connections with the American prison system and the stories of individuals affected by incarceration. Narrated with candor and honesty, this full-cast production is challenging, enlightening, and entertaining. 


“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander. Narrated by Karen Chilton. Recorded Books.

“The Queen” by Josh Levin. Narrated by January LaVoy. Hachette Audio.

“Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” by Emmanuel Acho. Narrated by Emmanuel Acho. Macmillan Audio.

“When Women Invented Television” by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. Narrated by Nan McNamara. HarperAudio.

This tribute to the influential women at the forefront of television’s early years features familiar figures alongside pioneers whose stories have been overlooked for decades. McNamara’s narration exudes the fascination and joy Armstrong holds for the subject matter, keeping the tone conversational without downplaying the darker, more frustrating sections of history.


“Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood” by Jill Watts. Narrated by Banhi Turpin. Oasis Audio. 

“The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Millicent Patrick” by Mallory O’Meara. Narrated by Mallory O’Meara. Harlequin Audio. 

“The Queens of Animation: The Untold History of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History” by Nathalia Holt. Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld. Hachette Audio.

The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration Council includes Nanette Wargo Donohue (Chair), Janice Derr, Alicia Kathryn Ahlvers, Ron Block, Matthew Galloway, Jessica Gilson .

The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more about the association at www.rusaupdate.org

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