While we may never again experience the perfection of “The Martian” audiobook from 2014, this year was still a banner year for audiobooks. Here are my 10 favorite audiobooks from 2015.
Note: To be clear, these are audiobooks I purchased and listened to in 2015, so they were not all necessarily released this year. (Though many were.) Note, too, that my audiobook listening habits are what they are.
Best of 2015: Mountain Man series
Written by: Keith C. Blackmore
Narrated by: R. C. Bray
Description: “Mountain Man” Augustus Berry is a survivor in undead suburbia. He scavenges what he can from what’s left over. He is very careful in what he does and where he goes, taking no chances, no unnecessary risks, and weighing every choice…until he decides to visit the hospital at the edge of town, and experiences terror the likes he’s never encountered before.
My take: Blown away by R. C. Bray’s reading of The Martian last year, I sought out more from this wonderful narrator. And I stumbled upon The Hospital, a free short story about a post-apocalyptic world. I didn’t think I’d even like it, but I fell for it immediately and spent much of 2015 listening to the four full books in the series, now complete. All told, this is over 46 hours of listening. And it was time well spent.
Runner-up: Stephen King’s latest collection of short stories
Written by: Stephen King
Narrated by: Stephen King, Dylan Baker, Brooke Bloom, Hope Davis, Kathleen Chalfant, Santino Fontana, Peter Friedman, Cotter Smith, Will Patton, Edward Herrmann, Holter Graham, Frederick Weller, Mare Winningham, Craig Wasson, Thomas Sadoski, and Tim Sample
Description: Since his first collection, Nightshift, published 35 years ago, Stephen King has dazzled listeners with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it. There are thrilling connections between stories, including themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, and what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers he has supernatural powers: the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits”; the old judge in “The Dune”, who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw written in the sand the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality”, King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win. Magnificent, eerie, utterly compelling, these stories comprise one of King’s finest gifts to his constant fan. “I made them especially for you,” says King. “Feel free to examine them, but please be careful. The best of them have teeth.”
My take: This is my kind of audiobook, as it’s a collection of well-written and mostly short stories, so they’re easily digestible during walks and other short periods of down time. But for me, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is even better, a perfect storm of form—short stories—my favorite author and, best of all, some of my favorite narrators, in particular Will Patton, Craig Wasson, and Mare Winningham. I actually seek out the combination of Mr. King and these narrators, and having a single big book with all of them in it is fantastic. Plus, I remember a few of these stories—“Mile 81,” “The Dune,” “Ur”—from reading them traditionally in the past. Nearly perfect.
The rest of the best
In no particular order…
Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster and narrated by Marc Thompson
No spoilers here, but this is a great story with great characters and drama, and is very much in the vein of the original Star Wars, whose novelization was also (ghost) written by Mr. Foster. The reading and presentation is excellent, and if you simply want “more” than just the movie, this is the way to go.
The Man with the Golden Typewriter by Ian Fleming and Fergus Fleming, and narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt
I am fascinated by behind-the-scenes looks at how writers write—Stephen King’s On Writing is another good one—and this collection of letters to and from James Bond creator Ian Flemming does not disappoint. In some ways, Ian Flemming’s creation of Bond is more interesting than the Bond stories themselves (which certain suffer from the passage of time).
Finders Keepers: A Novel by Stephen King and narrated by Will Patton
This is the second book in a planned trilogy (the first being Mr. Mercedes, also excellent) and it’s about the long-term impact of a literary theft and murder. Great book, and one of my favorite King narrators.
Just After Sunset: Stories by Stephen King and narrated by Stephen King, Jill Eikenberry, Holter Graham, George Guidall, Ron McLarty, Denis O’Hare, Ben Shenkman, Skipp Sudduth, Mare Winningham, and Karen Ziemba
Yes, another collection of Stephen King short stories, but then I already explained why I am drawn to such things. This is a great one, too, with some King classics that date back decades.
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick and narrated by Jeff Cummings
Now a TV series on Amazon Video (and just renewed for season 2), this falls into a favorite realm of mine: Alternate history. In this case, the Nazis and Japanese have won World War II and have split up North American between them. The book and TV series differ in one important way, but I won’t ruin that here. Both are pretty excellent.
Jurassic Park: A Novel by Michael Crichton and narrated by Scott Brick
One of my favorite books of all time, written by one of my favorite authors of all time, and with an outstanding narration. This one is obviously a classic, and when I first read it over 20 years ago, I recall handing the book to a friend, demanding that he read it, and feeling bad that there was no way they’d ever be able to make a movie version. It’s nice to be wrong sometimes.
Don’t forget to check out my previous audiobook (and e-book) articleReading List: Industry E-Books and Audiobooks, which includes my 2015 recommendations on recent books about the personal computing industry.