Reading List: My Favorite Audiobooks of 2016

Posted on December 3, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos, Paul with 20 Comments

Reading List: My Favorite Audiobooks of 2016

I spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks, and this was another great year. Here are some of my favorites from 2016.

Note: To be clear, these are audiobooks I purchased and completely listened to in 2016, so they were not all necessarily released this year. (Though some were.)

Note: Be sure to check out last year’s list too.

Best of 2016: The French Chef in America: Julia Child’s Second Act

Written by: Alex Prud’homme

Narrated by: Alex Prud’homme

Description: Julia Child is synonymous with French cooking, but her legacy runs much deeper. Now, her great-nephew and My Life in France coauthor vividly recounts the myriad ways in which she profoundly shaped how we eat today. He shows us Child in the aftermath of the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, suddenly finding herself America’s first lady of French food and under considerable pressure to embrace her new mantle. We see her dealing with difficult colleagues and the challenges of fame, ultimately using her newfound celebrity to create what would become a totally new type of food television. Every bit as entertaining, inspiring, and delectable as My Life in France, The French Chef in America uncovers Julia Child beyond her French chef persona and reveals her second act to have been as groundbreaking and adventurous as her first.

My take: My infatuation with Julia Child may be confusing to some, but she is a role model and hero, and were she coming of age today, her scientific methods for cracking the code on French cooking would have made her a celebrated technologist. Her story holds real clues to anyone who wishes to master a topic and find a true calling in life. I’m fascinated by Julia Child and cannot recommend this book, and its predecessor, enough. And the reading, by author Alex Prud’homme, is excellent.

Best industry book: Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation

Written by: Blake J. Harris

Narrated by: Fred Berman

Description: A mesmerizing, behind-the-scenes business thriller that chronicles how Sega, a small, scrappy gaming company led by an unlikely visionary and a team of rebels, took on the juggernaut Nintendo and revolutionized the video-game industry. Based on more than 200 interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, Console Wars is the tale of how Tom Kalinske miraculously turned an industry punch line into a market leader. Blake J. Harris brings into focus the warriors, the strategies, and the battles and explores how they transformed popular culture forever. Ultimately, Console Wars is the story of how a humble family man, with an extraordinary imagination and a gift for turning problems into competitive advantages, inspired a team of underdogs to slay a giant and, as a result, give birth to a $60 billion industry.

My take: This is the best tech industry book I’ve read in a long time, and anyone interested in personal technology in general or video games specifically should drop whatever they’re doing to dive right in. Be sure to get the audiobook version, though, as the reading by Fred Berman is among the best I’ve ever experienced, so much so that I’m now seeking out other titles he’s involved with. Regardless, there are incredible parallels between the story of Sega, Nintendo and Sony, and future battles in the video game and technology industries.

Best sci-fi/fantasy: Two-way tie between Fear the Sky and Ready Player One

Fear the Sky: The Fear Saga, Book 1

Written by: Stephen Moss

Narrated by: R.C. Bray

Description: In eleven years’ time, a million members of an alien race will arrive at Earth. Years before they enter orbit, their approach will be announced by the flare of a thousand flames in the sky, their ships’ huge engines burning hard to slow them from the vast speeds needed to cross interstellar space. These foreboding lights will shine in our night sky like new stars, getting ever brighter until they outshine even the sun, casting ominous shadows and banishing the night until they suddenly blink out. Their technology is vastly superior to ours, and they know they cannot possibly lose the coming conflict. But they, like us, have found no answer to the destructive force of the atom, and they have no intention of facing the onslaught of our primitive nuclear arsenal or the devastation it would wreak on the planet they crave. So they have flung out an advance party in front of them, hidden within one of the countless asteroids randomly roaming the void. They do not want us, they want our planet. Their Agents are arriving.

My take: This one had been on my short list for a while because it’s read by R.C. Bray, one of my favorite audiobook narrators. And it doesn’t disappoint, though I’m not sure if I have the stamina to get through the whole series of books. That said, I’ve started the second one, called Fear the Survivors.

Ready Player One

Written by: Ernest Cline

Narrated by: Wil Wheaton

Description: At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia,Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut – part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

My take: Superb combination of a great story and the right narrator, Ready Player One belongs in your library as it’s also full of delightful 80’s personal tech and video game references. Like many, I’m eager for a sequel.

Best Stephen King: End of Watch

Written by: Stephen King

Narrated by: Will Patton

Description: The spectacular finale to the New York Times best-selling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers. In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

My take: This is a very satisfying conclusion to the Bill Hodges trilogy, and a more direct sequel to Mr. Mercedes than the previous books. This one is special on a number of levels: Here, I think, King has created his most beloved characters since perhaps The Stand, and as with that book, I never wanted the story to end. Better still, Will Patton is another of my absolute favorite audiobook narrators. It’s a win-win. Be sure to listen to the entire series.

Best short story collection: Skeleton Crew

Written by: Stephen King

Narrated by: Stephen King, Matthew Broderick, Michael C. Hall, Paul Giamatti, Will Patton, Norbert Leo Butz, Lois Smith, Dylan Baker

Description: The master at his scarifying best! From heart-pounding terror to the eeriest of whimsy – tales from the outer limits of one of the greatest imaginations of our time!

My take: Stephen King’s amazing Skeleton Crew is really brought to life by a diverse group of usually-excellent narrators, including favorites Michael C. Hall, Paul Giamatti, and Will Patton. As with any collection of short stories, there are hits and misses, but this one is mostly hits. And there are some truly classic King stories in here: The Raft, The Mist, Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut, and many more.


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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Reading List: My Favorite Audiobooks of 2016”

  1. 2512

    Enjoyed Ready Player One immensely, thank you for bringing it to the table.

    I just finished listening to We Are Legion (We are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor and it has a similar style and wit about it.  Very enjoyable.

    Thanks to all who post recommendations in this forum, all of them are going to get a good look and hopefully purchase.  I'm a prolific Audible user since 2004 and ALWAYS on the lookout for a new author!

  2. 1003

    Fear the sky is fine, but it goes downhill from there and becomes rather a chore to finish (I read the kindle books, not audio).

  3. 514

    I don't travel around as much as you -- so listening to books is not my thing these days.  When I worked for Microsoft, they used to hand out audio CD's on a variety of topics that I did listen to while travelling around in my car -- very helpful.

    These days, I'm not much into non-fiction -- although I recently finished an 8 volume biography of Winston Churchill -- what an interesting man -- they don't make them like that anymore.

    I read about 4-5 books per week -- mostly sci-fi and mystery/thrillers.  I won't bore you with my list of bests.  As to your list only Ready Player One is on my kindle wish list (along with about 200 other titles).  Right now my "To Be Read" collection on my kindle Oasis contains 11 titles.  I tend to read serially -- so I don't know when I'll get to Ready Player One. I'm not a Stephen King fan (although I did live near him for 12 years :grin).


  4. 442

    I wish audio books didn't put me to sleep.  I guess it's due to my parents reading me to sleep each night as a kid.  Sorry, but I prefer the text versions of books.

  5. 691

    I started an audible subscription in 2014 using the Windows Weekly promotional code. It has really enhanced my daily commute. I started with some of the earlier recommendations from you and Leo such as The Martian and all of the excellent Daniel Suarez books. Ready Player One was also excellent.

    Some books I haven't heard you mention that you might like are "We Are Legion (We Are Bob): Bobiverse Book 1" (narrated by Ray Porter) and "Off the be the Wizard" (narrated by Luke Daniels). The description of these may seem a little silly but I found them to be very good and funny.

  6. 1139

    Sweet, I love when you do this. Apparently there's always going to be one I get and listen to. Fear the sky added to my list!

    Thanks, Paul.

  7. 8840

    Talk about coincidence. I just started another Audible subscription and checked for an old Thurrott article for suggestions. This post wasn't even an hour old.

    So, I'm set to start Stephen King's Bill Hodges trilogy. Thanks!

  8. 5516

    Have you listened to 1924: The Year That Made Hitler? It's about Hitler's trial after the Beer Hall Putsch and his year in prison. Knowing how you like history, I think this is one you would enjoy. I found it very interesting.

  9. 1561

    I'm eager for someone to address the question of why Amazon have basically a monopoly on the eBooks market. You just don't see the diversity of stores offering content that we have in music and movies. I suppose that might have made sense when a Kindle was basically the only way to consume an eBook, but these days a reader app and content store would seem to be pretty easy to cobble together. I continue to wonder why Microsoft doesn't get into this market.

    I realize that's not exactly the point of this article, but it's just something that's been on my mind a lot lately.

    Regarding audio book picks, I read SW: Aftermath, which wasn't great, and Ahsoka, which so far has been much better. My son and I also listened to/read Chains for one of his school assignments, and I found it to be really engaging. I'm thinking of trying to pick up the audio book for Catalyst, which is the Rogue One prequel, before seeing that movie later this month.

    • 442

      In reply to gregsedwards:

      This is so simple.  Amazon does it quicker, easier and cheaper.

    • 514

      In reply to gregsedwards:

      It's not just ebooks.  Amazon is also the predominant distributor of printed books, and they own Audible, the primary audio book source.

      Amazon has over 4 million titles in its eBook store -- no one else even comes close.  Then you have to factor in search costs in a multi-store environment.  As Narg says it's just more convenient to one stop shop at Amazon -- after all they're most likely to have whatever you want.  In all of eCommerce, selection/assortment is king.

      These days with the advent of agency pricing, price is not the benefit it once was. The traditional big 5 publishers have never really adapted to an eBooked world.  They've been consistently raising their prices to cover their over manned costs.

      The barrier to entry for a competitive eBook distributor given Amazon's advantages are immense.  You would have to negotiate distribution agreements with all the major publishers -- they are a hide bound bunch -- not easy to deal with.

  10. 1687

    I have two audible recommendations... both SCI FI:

    "The Fold", The ending was no good, but it doesn't matter because I couldn't stop listening to the book up until the end.  Sort of a Sci fi mystery.  The narrator is one of my favorites too.

    "Endeavour", engaging story, cool tech, and interesting look at time skipping due to interstellar travel.  It is part of a series, but book two was not nearly as engaging.

  11. 5496

    I hate when people say they read audiobooks. 

    You cannot read audio.

  12. 8835

    I agree with R.C. Bray, but The Fear Saga fell flat for me. I had to refund the books after getting halfway thru the second one, as it felt like a labor of love to listen to it. I wanted to like it, I just couldn't.  The Red Rising Trilogy is a pretty great sci-fi/fantasy series as well.  My next great read, A Gentleman in Moscow, is already on my wish list.  It has come highly recommended and I am really looking forward to it.

  13. 5108

    "Junkyard Dogs" by Craig Johnson, narrated by George Guidall. The one drawback is that it is several books into a series, but stands alone pretty well. The Good: The first chapter where you meet some of the crazy cast of characters.

    Technically it isn't an audiobook from 2016, just the best I've listened to this year. My criteria is different I know.

  14. 349

    Thanks, Paul!  I was hoping you would post this for 2016.  I have found that we have similar tastes in audio books, and I have never a bad listen to any of your suggestions on WW.

  15. mortarm

    >Ready Player One... I’m eager for a sequel.

    Ready Player Two?