Fall conjures pumpkin spice, spooky season, and some of the best audiobook listening of the year. Treats for every ear this season include a terrifying Stephen King novel, much-anticipated memoirs from Kerry Washington and Meg Kissinger, and Lauren Groff’s historical page-turner, plus a short story collection, crime fiction, and more. Diverse narrators are audiobook award winners, iconic baritones, and beloved authors reading their own words—these powerful performances will stay with listeners long after the final word. Grab your headphones and press play—our listening list is perfect for leaf-peeping drives, apple-picking adventures, or latte-sipping strolls.
The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff, read by January LaVoy [7 hrs.]
LaVoy gives a breathtaking narration of an astonishing historical novel. Listeners meet a servant girl in the winter of 1609 as she escapes certain death by fleeing into the unknown dangers of the forest. What follows is a beautifully wrought story of survival, narrated with precision, emotion, and a keen sense of the drama that unfolds. The girl’s past is slowly revealed, recalling her work in England, the thrill of her journey across the ocean, and the utter devastation amid the failing Jamestown colony. LaVoy puts care into every word, making this a propulsive and unforgettable listen.
The Fraud by Zadie Smith, read by the author [12.5 hrs.]
Smith expertly performs her historical novel inspired by true events. It’s 1873, and Mrs. Eliza Touchet, a Scottish housekeeper, is watching the trial of a working-class Australian man claiming to be the true inheritor of a great estate and title. Mrs. Touchet begins thinking about her cousin, a formerly great novelist who she suspects never actually wrote any of his novels himself. Is her cousin a fraud, too? Smith’s performance possesses considerable emotional depth, and she delivers lines with her characteristic searing wit. Smith’s ear for accents turns into perfectly performed dialogue for characters from every corner of London.
While You Were Out: An Intimate Family Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence by Meg Kissinger, read by the author [11 hrs.]
Journalist Kissinger gives a stellar narration of her extraordinarily affecting memoir about growing up in the 1960s in a close-knit Irish-Catholic family of eight children, many of whom were afflicted with mental illness. Kissinger sensitively takes listeners into the climate of those times, when mental disorders were a taboo subject and those afflicted often suffered in silence and with great shame. Her memoir, especially as it moves to the present day, is filled with moments of compassion and emotional support among family members.
Holly by Stephen King, read by Justine Lupe and the author [15.5 hrs.]
Lupe brings a beloved King character, Holly Gibney, vividly to life with her narration. When a distraught mother with a missing daughter calls Holly’s investigative agency for help, quirky, brilliant Holly takes the case. She soon finds connections to other missing people and is drawn into a world of pure evil. Listeners will feel like they are part of a true-crime podcast as Lupe transports them to this relentless nightmare. King delivers his author’s note, adding to this amazing listening experience.
Thicker Than Water: A Memoir by Kerry Washington, read by the author [9 hrs.]
This heartfelt memoir takes listeners from Washington’s childhood in the Bronx through her award-winning career thus far. The Emmy and SAG winner and Golden Globe nominee recounts her extraordinary life as a Black woman actor and activist who aims to break down barriers, as well as a devoted daughter, mentor, director, and producer. Narrating with grace and style, Washington shares candid moments of joy and anguish with listeners.
Normal Rules Don’t Apply: Stories by Kate Atkinson, read by Paterson Joseph [5.5 hrs.]
Joseph’s remarkable performance of Atkinson’s newest book transmutes the whimsical, witty, and absurdist stories from adroit to splendid. The acclaimed British actor’s light, engaging baritone and exquisite delivery offer pleasure and comfort in equal measure as he guides us through narratives that truly do not follow normal rules. They include talking animals, the end of the world, and—an Atkinson leitmotif—characters who reappear in different guises. Joseph’s warm embrace of a voice and sensitive pacing highlight the clever writing while ushering us safely through the dangerous shoals of Atkinson’s rule-free world.
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, read by Dominic Hoffman [12.5 hrs.]
Hoffman fully inhabits the characters in McBride’s fresh, vital, beautifully written historical novel, resulting in a deeply immersive listening experience. The story is set largely in the 1930s in Chicken Hill, a predominantly Black and Jewish neighborhood in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Hoffman varies his accent and intonation and delivers many different languages for the large cast of characters who impact each other’s lives. With his mesmerizing performance, Hoffman makes it clear that this interconnectedness is the point.
Brooklyn Crime Novel by Jonathan Lethem, read by Geoffrey Cantor [13 hrs.]
Hold onto your earphones as narrator Cantor skillfully zooms into and out of the lives of Brooklynites from the 1970s to the 1990s. Cantor adeptly voices an Italian gang’s toughness and a Jamaican mother’s wisdom. Cantor adopts a confidential tone when he voices the author, who directs listeners’ focus to important details and occasionally comments on the writing. This dizzying listening experience illuminates the challenges of life in the city—where external and internal barriers test the mettle of its diverse inhabitants.
The Last Devil to Dieby Richard Osman, read by Fiona Shaw [11 hrs.]
Shaw returns to the Thursday Murder Club series with a tour-de-force performance befitting Osman’s rich character development and cleverly connected crimes. Shaw’s subtle variations in tone, cadence, and accent distinguish the familiar residents of Cooper’s Chase. Osman expertly weaves an intricate tale of heroin smuggling, online elder scamming, and the sometimes-crooked antiques business with the vicissitudes of aging and its ensuing pain, all warmly realized by Shaw’s stellar narration. A fascinating discussion between author and narrator ends the audiobook.
How to Say Babylon: A Memoir by Safiya Sinclair, read by the author [16.75 hrs.]
Author/narrator Sinclair emphasizes the poetry of her words as she narrates her memoir. Her soft Jamaican accent sounds like gentle waves. Her father, a musician, became a strict Rastafarian who expected women to obey the men in their lives. Early chapters describe growing up in her close-knit Jamaican family. When Sinclair reaches puberty, her rageful father turns on her and rains down abuse. The memoir’s throughlines are Sinclair’s depictions of her mother’s gentle love, her siblings’ tenderness, her own determination, and the poetry that grew within her.
Produced in partnership with Audiofile Magazine.