I spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks. Here are some of my favorites from 2017.
These are audiobooks I purchased and listened to in 2017. They were not all necessarily released this year. (Though some were.)
Best of 2017: Origin: A Novel
Written by: Dan Brown
Narrated by: Paul Michael
Description: Where do we come from? Where are we going? The stunningly inventive new novel from the world’s most popular thriller writer. Origin is Dan Brown’s most brilliant and entertaining novel to date.
My take: Dan Brown is controversial among book lovers for some reason but I feel like his books are perfect for the audiobook format because the narration is excellent (Paul Michael has narrated all but one of the Robert Langdon novels), they’re well-researched, and the stories are interesting. I really enjoyed this one and feel that it is the best Langdon book since The Davinci Code. And there are some nice tie-ins with technology too, so it will be interesting to readers of this site.
Best non-fiction: The Man from the Train
Written by: Bill James, with Rachel McCarthy James
Narrated by: John Bedford Lloyd
Description: Using unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century-old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history. Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa, murders, received national attention. But few people believed the crimes were related.
My take: This won’t be for everyone, I guess, but it was only narrowly not my favorite book overall from 2017. This is an amazing investigation, backed by incredible research, and told with great wit. The narration, too, is excellent, and while this book is over 17 hours long and took me quite a while to get through, I found myself inventing situations where listening further was possible. This was the audiobook version of “couldn’t put it down.” Amazing stuff.
Best Stephen King: ‘Salems Lot
Written by: Stephen King
Narrated by: Ron McLarty
Description: Ben Mears has returned to Jerusalem’s Lot in the hopes that living in an old mansion, long the subject of town lore, will help him cast out his own devils and provide inspiration for his new book. But when two young boys venture into the woods and only one comes out alive, Mears begins to realize that there may be something sinister at work and that his hometown is under siege by forces of darkness far beyond his control.
My take: ‘Salems Lot isn’t just one of Stephen King’s best books, it’s an excellent example of why he is one of our generation’s best authors. I listened to this one while reading It on Kindle, and they are similar in that King creates a believable town full of real people in both books. But ‘Salem’s Lotis, I think, the better of the two: It’s tighter, and shorter, and doesn’t feel overly-big for the topic. And like The Man from the Train, it’s hard to put down. So to speak.
More Stephen King
I am a big fan of Stephen King, so I usually have at least a handful of King books to read or listen to each year. Here are a few others I really enjoyed in 2017.
The Dead Zone. This one is well-read by James Franco, who also starred in the TV version of 11/22.63.
Gwendy’s Button Box. This is basically just two short stories, both of which are very enjoyable. Plus a nice conversation with the co-author of the title story.
Note: I partially listened to Sleeping Beauties, a new King book from this year, and The Gunslinger in 2017, too. But I couldn’t get into either one of them. (I liked the latter book quite a bit 30 years ago.)
Best of the rest
A few more notable listens from 2017…
The Russia House by John le Carré is one of my favorite books of all time, and I rewatch the movie version regularly. The audiobook version is good, but it has the sound quality of something that was recorded long ago, though it was fairly recent.
I was really looking forward to the next Andy Weir book since The Martian is arguably the single-best audiobook ever recorded. But Artemis is only good, so far—I’m only partially through it as a I write this—and doesn’t appear to rise to the same level. Part of the reason is the narration: Rosario Dawson handles these duties on Artemis and it’s fine. But R.C. Bray’s narration is what put The Martian over the top. He’s amazing.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson wins for the title, but its an enjoyable, funny, and modern take on the self-help thing.