How to Find a Good Audiobook: The Audies

Audie AwardsEven though I love books, it’s hard to make time to read.  Notice I said “make” time, not find it.  Important things like reading and exercise don’t just happen, people.  We’ve gotta schedule time and ferociously defend it.

Sometimes making time to read means planning it in the calendar. (30 minutes for reading about the writing craft- I can do it!)  I also add reading to my day by listening to audiobooks while I drive (hours and hours) to my kids’ activities.

Audiobooks help me keep up with middle grade fiction – My kids and I enjoy books together without danger of inappropriate content. Also, I prefer non-fiction in the audio format.  At bedtime, I want to read a story, not a chapter on how ten thousand hours of practice leads to success.  But non-fiction while cleaning- that keeps my brain stimulated while I scrub toilets.

AudibleHere’s the problem with audiobooks: a bad narrative performance can ruin a book. When my kids went gaga for James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series (MG/YA fantasy in which children are genetically altered to be able to fly), I listened to the first book. Ugh!  The reader’s style totally sabotaged the story for me.

I’ve had better luck lately.  Here’s why:

Three Hints for Choosing Good Audiobooks

The first two seem obvious, but the last one is a gem I recently discovered.

  1. Get recommendations.  Follow the suggestions of trusted friends, book bloggers, and podcasters.  Most episodes of Books On the Nightstand feature an audiobook pick.
  2. Listen to the sample.  Just a few minutes will tell you what you need to know about the narrator .  If I hear a high pitched, whiny voice, so I pass on the audiobook.
  3. Check out the Audie Awards.  Thanks to the magnificent Mignon Fogarty of Grammar Girl, I learned about “The Audies”.  The Audio Publishers Association gives two awards every year.  One Audiobook of the Year to honor an audiobook for its quality, innovation and marketing, and influence on the industry.  Another Distinguished Achievement in Production, which honors excellence in all areas of production.  There are also winners and finalists in over 31 categories like fiction, sci-fi, history, and kid lit. .

Now I know what to look for when I peruse

A Sampling of 2014 Audie Award Winners

Still Foolin EmThe Book of the Year for 2014 was Still Foolin’ ‘Em, written and read by Billy Crystal.

The Production Award went to The Storm King, written and read by Pete Seeger.  It’s about the history of civil protest and its connection to folk music in America. (Never heard of it.  Have you?)

Other 2014 winners:

  • Classic literature: The Complete Sherlock Holmes, read by Simon Vance
  • YA/Teen: Viva Jacquelina! Bloody Jack, Book 10, written by L.A. Meyer, read by Katherine Kellgren
  • Kids up to 8: Hooray for Anna Hibiscus, written by Atinuke, read by Mutiyat Ade-Salu
  • Kids 8-12: Matilda, written by Roald Dahl, read by Kate Winslet
  • Literary Fiction: The Goldfinch, written by Donna Tartt, read by David Pittu
  • Fiction:  Doctor Sleep, written by Stephen King, read by Will Patton (It’s the sequel to The Shining – I’ll never listen to this, award or not!)

Note:  Eleanor and Park was a finalist in the teen category; I listened to the audiobook and loved it!  Here’s my review of E & P.

Visit the APA site for the complete listing of 2014 Audie winners and finalists.

Do you listen to audiobooks?  How do you find good ones?  What are some of your favorites?

I highly recommend the Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter series, especially if you like fantasy.

Thanks for sharing!


Julia Tomiak
I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and


  1. I haven’t listened to an audiobook in years, but I’m thinking I might try again when getting my treadmill time in. I love to listen to music but because I am also a band nerd in addition to being a word nerd, I can’t help but march in time. This is not always the best speed for me! 😀 I thought a good audio book would help pass the time and keep me from killing myself!

  2. I just finished my first audiobook – Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please. It was great! I’m not sure what to listen to next, so your advice was very helpful, Julia. I’m not sure if I can stay focused enough to listen to a novel, but I do know that the narrator is crucial.

  3. This gets me very excited! I’m driving kids around so much and we all love books – we could have a ball with audibles. Thanks for the recommendations; I’m definitely following up with this. Over Christmas we listened to Skipping Christmas by John Grisham – we loved getting in the car!

    1. Since we live out in the boonies, like you, we spend a lot of time in the car. Most of my kids like hearing a good story when we’re traveling. I bet Skipping Christmas was fun on audio. Great idea. I might do that next year.

  4. Awesome info, thanks! We’ve got a road trip to Grandma’s house coming up that will have us in the car for 20+ hours, so I’m hoping to pick up a few good audiobooks 🙂

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