2023 Listen List Revealed

NEW ORLEANS- The Listen List Council of the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has announced the 2023 selections of the Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration. This year’s committee evaluated 293 titles with a total listening time of more than 2,838 hours.  The final deliberation produced a list of 13 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 thirteen 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 2023 selections are:

The Angel of Rome: And Other Stories by Jess Walter. Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini and Julia Whelan. HarperAudio.

Walter’s memorable stories in his latest collection range from poignant to slyly funny. The common elements are vivid characters and shrewd dialog, allowing Edoardo Ballerini and Julia Whelan to showcase their exemplary narrating skill. Voicing different genders, ages, and accents, these two powerhouse narrators provide depth and honesty to the stories and prove they can do it all.


Antarctica by Claire Keegan. Narrated by Sheena May, Aoife McMahon, Aidan Quinn, and Sophie Roberts. HighBridge.

Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes. Narrated by Justin Avoth. Recorded Books.

The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land by Omer Friedlander. Narrated by Assaf Cohen and Gilli Messer. Books on Tape.

The Bangalore Detectives Club by Harini Nagendra. Narrated by Soneela Nankani. Blackstone Publishing.

Newly married Kaveri uses her connections, natural curiosity, and love of science to see if she can solve a murder.  The listener is immediately immersed in 1920s southern India by Soneela Nankani’s able expression of  a wide range of characters’ speech; she particularly shines with the soft, lilting intonation of the novel’s heroine.


The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey. Narrated by Sneha Mathan. Recorded Books.

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari. Read by Jodie Harris. Dreamscape Media.

Secrets of the Nile by Tasha Alexander. Narrated by Bianca Amato. Macmillan Audio.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry. Narrated by Julia Whelan. Books on Tape.

When sisters from New York take a vacation to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, literary agent Nora gets to experience her own small-town romance after a history of being dumped for rural rivals–just like the trope. Julia Whelan delivers spot-on characterizations and a slow burn steamy enough to entice the most jaded of genre savvy listeners.


The Book Haters’ Book Club by Gretchen Anthony. Narrated by Tanya Eby. Harlequin Audio.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston. Narrated by Eileen Stevens. Books on Tape. 

Meant to Be by Emily Giffin. Narrated by Caroline Hewitt. Books on Tape.

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn. Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld. HarperAudio.

Based on the true story of Mila Pavlichenko, aka Lady Death, a bookish student turns feared sniper in World War II. Mila will do whatever it takes to survive the war, make her country proud, and return home to her young son. Saskia Maarleveld lends a strong sense of place with her masterful accents. She captures the emotional nuances of Quinn’s varied characters in realizing this incredible story. The author’s note provides fascinating historical details.  


The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict. Narrated by Mozhan Marno. Books on Tape.

The Rebel and the Kingdom: The True Story of the Secret Mission to Overthrow the North Korean Regime by Bradley Hope. Narrated by Lee Osorio. Books on Tape.

The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters. Narrated by Emma Gregory. Blackstone Publishing.

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong. Narrated by Ed Yong. Books on Tape.

An Immense World explores life as perceived by animals on land, sea, and air, from mantis shrimp to elephants. The author’s passion for the topic shines through in his writing, illuminating the conundrum of attempting to understand (and coexist with) species whose sensory experience is very different from ours. Informative, with a touch of humor, Ed Yong’s engaging narration will appeal to a wide audience.


The Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps by Seirian Sumner. Narrated by Seirian Sumner. HarperAudio.

The Hawk’s Way: Encounters with Fierce Beauty by Sy Montgomery. Narrated Sy Montgomery.  Simon & Schuster Audio.

Venomous Lumpsucker by Ned Beauman. Narrated by John Hastings. HighBridge.

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley. Narrated by Clare Corbett. Books on Tape.

Iona has been an advice columnist for years but feels adrift in her own life. She and her fellow passengers don’t engage until a medical emergency on the train brings their lives colliding together. Clare Corbett gives this audiobook a full cast feel with her clever differentiation of characters, highlighting the novel’s quirkiness and charm. 


Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner. Read by Juliet Stevenson. MacMillan Audio.

The Lost Ticket by Freya Sampson. Read by Katharine Lee McEwan and Helen Lloyd. Books on Tape.

The Sign for Home by Blair Fell. Narrated by Blair Fell. Simon & Schuster Audio.

A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin. Narrated by Eleanor Tomlinson. Books on Tape.

Kitty Talbot takes part in the London season with the goal of marrying a husband whose fortune will save her family from ruin. However, Lord Radcliffe, elder brother of her first target, threatens to upend her plans. Eleanor Tomlinson’s dexterous narration adds to the characters’ dimensionality and a lively recreation of nineteenth-century ambiance.


Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne. Narrated by Moira Quirk. HarperAudio.

A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera Narrated by Nneka Okoye. Harlequin Audio.

A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore. Narrated by Elizabeth Jasicki. Books on Tape.

The Patron Saint of Second Chances by Christine Simon.  Narrated by Tim Francis.  Simon & Schuster Audio.

To keep the water from being shut off in a tiny Italian village, the mayor finds a way to save his community. He starts a rumor that a famous movie star is coming to town to film a major motion picture, leaving locals clamoring for roles. Tim Francis’ precise comic timing and theatricality perfectly add to the story’s enjoyable mayhem.


The Boys by Katie Hafner. Narrated by BJ Harrison.Spiegel & Grau by OrangeSky Audio.

The Matchmaker’s Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman. Narrated by Eva Kaminsky and Gabra Zackman. Macmillan Audio.

Mr. Wilder & Me by Jonathan Coe. Narrated by Kristen Atherton. HighBridge.

Playing with Myself by Randy Rainbow. Narrated by Randy Rainbow. Macmillan Audio.

Randy Rainbow was born to be an entertainer, but the journey hasn’t always been easy. From childhood theatrics in Florida through years of finding his voice and making it in New York City, he forges his way and brightens up the world for his audience. Telling his own story with candor and the audio equivalent of jazz hands to zhuzh things up, this memoir will leave listeners hoping for an encore


Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon. Narrated by Molly Shannon. HarperAudio.

How Y’all Doing? by Leslie Jordan. Narrated by Leslie Jordan. HarperAudio.

My Life as a Goddess: A Memoir Through (Un)popular Culture by Guy Branum and Mindy Kaling. Narrated by Guy Branum and Mindy Kaling. Simon & Schuster Audio.

River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile by Candice Millard. Narrated by Paul Michael. Books on Tape.

In the 1850s, British frenemies John Hanning Speke and Richard Burton risk their lives competing to locate the source of the Nile. Their guide, Sidi Mubarak Bombay, a previously uncredited star of the expeditions, is instrumental in their survival and success. Paul Michael’s pacing builds tension and heightens the adventure while incorporating individual voices for each historical figure, making this nonfiction sound like a novel.


Born to be Hanged: The Epic Story of the Gentlemen Pirates Who Raided the South Seas, Rescued a Princess, and Stole a Fortune by Keith Thomson. Narrated by Feodor Chin. Hachette Audio.

The Last Slave Ship, The: The True Story of How Clotilda Was Found, Her Descendants, and an Extraordinary Reckoning by Ben Raines, Narrated by Kevin R.Free.  Simon & Schuster Audio.

Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night by Julian Sancton. Narrated by Vikas Adam. Books on Tape.

Stories from the Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana. Narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Nile Bullock, Sidik Fofana, Dominic Hoffman, DePre Owens, André Santana, Bahni Turpin, and Jade Wheeler. Simon & Schuster Audio.

In this debut collection, eight low-income residents of Banneker Terrace, a high-rise in Harlem, tell their intersecting stories. With gentrification looming around the corner, threatening eviction, the tenants struggle to cling to their homes. A full cast expresses the rhythm of Fofana’s dialog and embodies the characters’ joys and frustrations.


Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. Narrated by Dion Graham. Books on Tape.

Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe. Narrated by Shayna Small. HarperAudio.

Mecca by Susan Straight. Narrated by Frankie Corzo, Patricia R. Floyd, Shaun Taylor-Corbett. Recorded Books.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Narrated by Lauren J. Daggett. Books on Tape.

Civil, an idealistic young Black nurse in 1970s Alabama, is tasked with giving birth control shots to two sisters, just eleven and thirteen years old. Then, horrified by the forced sterilization of poor women of color, she sues her former federal employer. Narrating with heart and empathy, Lauren J. Daggett brings out the raw emotion of this story inspired by true events.


The Making of Her by Bernadette Jiwa. Narrated by Aoife McMahon. Books on Tape.

My Government Means to Kill Me by Rasheed Newson. Narrated by Jelani Alladin. MacMillan Audio.

Memphis by Tara M.Stringfellow. Narrated by Karen Murray, Adenrele Ojo, and Tara M. Stringfellow. Books on Tape.

Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett. Narrated by Mark Bramhall and Kirby Heyborne. Books on Tape.

A chorus of ghosts observe their New Hampshire town with fond lamentation for life unlived. Born healer Emma Starling returns home as her father’s illness advances but can no more cure him than she can her brother’s opioid addiction. Narrating ghosts, town, and the fractured Starling family, Mark Bramhall performs distinct, authentic characters and Kirby Heyborne convincingly narrates the journals of real naturalist (and meddlesome spirit) Ernest Harold Baynes in this darkly whimsical tale.


Joan is Ok by Weike Wang. Narrated by Catherine Ho. Books on Tape.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. Narrated by Marin Ireland and Michael Urie. HarperCollins.

The Shore by Katie Runde. Narrated by Andi Arndt, Priya Ayyar, Dan Bittner, and Inés del Castillo. Simon & Schuster Audio.

The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration Council includes:  Janice Derr (Chair), Alicia Kathryn Ahlvers, Katherine E. Benedict, Justine Fafara, Stacey J. Hayman, Lauren Kage, and Eve A. Nyren.

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