Best Audiobooks of 2020


Celebrate the best audiobooks of 2020 with these award winners from the Audie Awards. This list includes all of the finalists including the Audiobook of the Year: The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett Graff!



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The Institute

Stephen King

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.” In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

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Devil’s Daughter

Lisa Kleypas

Although beautiful young widow Phoebe, Lady Clare, has never met West Ravenel, she knows one thing for certain: he’s a mean, rotten bully. Back in boarding school, he made her late husband’s life a misery, and she’ll never forgive him for it. But when Phoebe attends a family wedding, she encounters a dashing and impossibly charming stranger who sends a fire-and-ice jolt of attraction through her. And then he introduces himself...as none other than West Ravenel. West is a man with a tarnished past. No apologies, no excuses. However, from the moment he meets Phoebe, West is consumed by irresistible desire...not to mention the bitter awareness that a woman like her is far out of his reach. What West doesn’t bargain on is that Phoebe is no straitlaced aristocratic lady. She’s the daughter of a strong-willed wallflower who long ago eloped with Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent—the most devilishly wicked rake in England. Before long, Phoebe sets out to seduce the man who has awakened her fiery nature and shown her unimaginable pleasure. Will their overwhelming passion be enough to overcome the obstacles of the past? Only the devil’s daughter knows…

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With the Fire on High

Elizabeth Acevedo

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

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The Chestnut Man

Soren Sveistrup

A Best Book of the Year: Kirkus, Library Journal, New York Times Book Review A Book of the Month Club selection | An Indie Next Pick FROM THE CREATOR OF THE HIT TELEVISION SHOW THE KILLING, THE MOST ANTICIPATED THRILLER OF THE SEASON—SOON TO BE A NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES. IF YOU FIND ONE, HE’S ALREADY FOUND YOU A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen. His calling card is a “chestnut man”—a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts—which he leaves at each bloody crime scene. Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery—a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago. A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted? To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues. Because it’s clear that the madman is on a mission that is far from over. And no one is safe.

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(Audiobook Format)

The Water Dancer

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known. So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures. This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.

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American Moonshot

Douglas Brinkley

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”—President John F. Kennedy On May 25, 1961, JFK made an astonishing announcement: his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In this engrossing, fast-paced epic, Douglas Brinkley returns to the 1960s to recreate one of the most exciting and ambitious achievements in the history of humankind. American Moonshot brings together the extraordinary political, cultural, and scientific factors that fueled the birth and development of NASA and the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects, which shot the United States to victory in the space race against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Drawing on new primary source material and major interviews with many of the surviving figures who were key to America’s success, Brinkley brings this fascinating history to life as never before. American Moonshot is a portrait of the brilliant men and women who made this giant leap possible, the technology that enabled us to propel men beyond earth’s orbit to the moon and return them safely, and the geopolitical tensions that spurred Kennedy to commit himself fully to this audacious dream. Brinkley’s ensemble cast of New Frontier characters include rocketeer Wernher von Braun, astronaut John Glenn and space booster Lyndon Johnson. A vivid and enthralling chronicle of one of the most thrilling, hopeful, and turbulent eras in the nation’s history, American Moonshot is an homage to scientific ingenuity, human curiosity, and the boundless American spirit.

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(Audiobook Format)

City of Girls

Elizabeth Gilbert

Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York City in the summer of 1940 with nothing but a sewing machine and a heretofore unindulged taste for adventure. Finding employment as seamstress at the Lily Playhouse, a charmingly down-at-heel Manhattan revue, Vivian quickly becomes the toast of the showgirls, transforming the tat only fit for the cheap seats into creations for goddesses. Adventure and opportunity blossom on every corner of this strange wartime city of girls, and Vivian and her girlfriends mean to down New York to its last drop. But there are hard lessons to be learned, and bitterly regrettable mistakes to be made. Vivian learns that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new.

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The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Alix E. Harrow

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut. In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own. Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow's spellbinding debut--step inside and discover its magic.

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So You Want to Start a Podcast

Kristen Meinzer

An inspiring, comprehensive, step-by-step guide to creating a hit show, So You Want to Start a Podcast covers everything from hosting and guest booking to editing and marketing - while offering plenty of encouragement and insider stories along the way. Though they are the fastest-growing form of media, podcasts can actually be tricky to create—and even harder to sustain. Few know the secrets of successfully creating a knockout podcast better than Kristen Meinzer. An award-winning commentator, producer, and former director of nonfiction programming for Slate’s sister company, Panoply, Meinzer has also hosted three successful podcasts, reaching more than ten million listeners. Now, she shares her expertise, providing aspiring podcasters with crucial information and guidance to work smarter, not harder as they start their own audio forum. Meinzer believes that we each have a unique voice that deserves to be heard. But many of us may need some help transforming our ideas into reality. So You Want to Start a Podcast asks the tough but important questions to help budding podcasters define and achieve their goals, including: Why do you want to start a podcast? Think about specifically why you want to start a podcast versus a blog, zine, YouTube channel, Instagram feed, or other media outlet. Find out if a podcast is really the best way to tell your story—and what you really need (and don’t need!) in order to get started. What is your show about? For any advertiser, corporate partner, or press outlet, you need a snappy pitch. How would you describe what you want to do in two to three sentences? Who is your podcast for? Who are you trying to reach? How will your content and tone appeal to those listeners? How is your show going to be structured? Create a step-by-step map planning the show out. Think about length, segments, interviews, advice, news reads, and other aspects of successful podcasts you can adapt for your own. With this motivational how-to guide—the only one on the subject available—you’ll find the smart, bottom-line advice and inspiration you need to produce an entertaining and informative podcast and promote it to an audience that will love it. So You Want to Start a Podcast gives you the tools you need to start a podcast—and the insight to keep it thriving!

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(Audiobook Format)

Nothing to See Here

Kevin Wilson

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help. Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth. Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for? With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.

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Becoming

Michelle Obama

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

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(Audiobook Format)

Angels in America

Tony Kushner

America in the mid-1980s. In the midst of the AIDS crisis and a conservative Reagan administration, New Yorkers grapple with life and death, love and sex, heaven and hell. This edition, published alongside the major revival at the National Theatre in 2017, contains both plays, Part One: Millennium Approaches, and Part Two: Perestroika.

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The Only Plane in the Sky

Garrett M. Graff

The first comprehensive oral history of September 11, 2001—a panoramic narrative woven from the voices of Americans on the front lines of an unprecedented national trauma. Over the past eighteen years, monumental literature has been published about 9/11, from Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, which traced the rise of al-Qaeda, to The 9/11 Commission Report, the government’s definitive factual retrospective of the attacks. But one perspective has been missing up to this point—a 360-degree account of the day told through the voices of the people who experienced it. Now, in The Only Plane in the Sky, award-winning journalist and bestselling historian Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, Graff paints the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet. Beginning in the predawn hours of airports in the Northeast, we meet the ticket agents who unknowingly usher terrorists onto their flights, and the flight attendants inside the hijacked planes. In New York City, first responders confront a scene of unimaginable horror at the Twin Towers. From a secret bunker underneath the White House, officials watch for incoming planes on radar. Aboard the small number of unarmed fighter jets in the air, pilots make a pact to fly into a hijacked airliner if necessary to bring it down. In the skies above Pennsylvania, civilians aboard United Flight 93 make the ultimate sacrifice in their place. Then, as the day moves forward and flights are grounded nationwide, Air Force One circles the country alone, its passengers isolated and afraid. More than simply a collection of eyewitness testimonies, The Only Plane in the Sky is the historic narrative of how ordinary people grappled with extraordinary events in real time: the father and son working in the North Tower, caught on different ends of the impact zone; the firefighter searching for his wife who works at the World Trade Center; the operator of in-flight telephone calls who promises to share a passenger’s last words with his family; the beloved FDNY chaplain who bravely performs last rites for the dying, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; and the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from rushing into the burning building to try to rescue their colleagues. At once a powerful tribute to the courage of everyday Americans and an essential addition to the literature of 9/11, The Only Plane in the Sky weaves together the unforgettable personal experiences of the men and women who found themselves caught at the center of an unprecedented human drama. The result is a unique, profound, and searing exploration of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives.

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