Top 10 Audiobooks of 2021

The top 10 audiobooks represent the best of November 2020 to October 2021 releases, with selections for all age groups and interests. Realistic fiction, speculative fiction, poetry, and more are represented, and exceptional narration enhances the fascinating stories.

The top 10 audiobooks represent the best of November 2020 to October 2021 releases, with selections for all age groups and interests. Realistic fiction, speculative fiction, poetry, and more are represented, and exceptional narration enhances the fascinating stories.

Ali, S.K. Misfit in Love. S. & S. Audio. ISBN 9781797123561. Narrated by Priya Ayyar.
Gr 9 Up–As Janna’s brother Muhammad’s nikah, or marriage, draws nearer, a startling conversation with her dad about racism strains their relationship. Whether it will be resolved depends on how much Janna is willing to push back using an antiracist perspective. The roadblocks she faces along the way are compelling and often parallel to readers’ own lives, making Janna an relatable main character. Priya Ayyar brings Janna to life for listeners interested in a realistic story of faith, family, and friendships.

Boulley, Angeline. Firekeeper’s Daughter. Macmillan Audio. ISBN 9781250779526. Narrated by Isabella Star LaBlanc.
Gr 9 Up–For all of her life, Daunis Fontaine has straddled two worlds, that of her white mother’s family and that of her Objibwe father’s. After suffering an injury that ends her college and Olympic hockey dreams, Daunis is preparing to begin classes at the local college until she witnesses her best friend Lily’s murder. Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, deftly weaves tribal information into multiple mysteries providing background knowledge that explains not only justice and jurisdiction but also cultural traditions relating to daily life, celebrations, and grief. Expert narration from Isabella Star LeBlanc, a Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota, brings authenticity to Daunis’s joy, anger, fear, and grief.

Gorman, Amanda. Change Sings. Listening Library. ISBN 9780593455234. Narrated by Amanda Gorman.
PreS-Gr 3–Young listeners, whether they watched Gorman on stage at President Biden’s inauguration or not, will be moved by the poet’s call to be the change they want to see in the world: “I can hear change humming/ In its loudest, proudest song./ I don’t fear change coming,/ And so I sing along.” Gorman performs her own work as no one else could: with power, with pride, and with hope.

Lim, Elizabeth. Six Crimson Cranes. Listening Library. ISBN 9780593398883. Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller.
Gr 7 Up–Princess Shiori is the youngest child and only daughter of the Emperor of Kiata, and she has a forbidden magical power. When her stepmother discovers Shiori’s secret, she casts a spell that blocks the girl’s power, turns her mute, and transforms her brothers into cranes. The seven siblings are banished but vow to return, undo the curse, and take their rightful places by the throne. Emily Woo Zeller narrates this fantasy beautifully, creating an immersive world that is a treat for the listener. She expressively voices Shiori in the first person, giving her a feisty personality, and differentiates the other characters distinctly.

Lukoff, Kyle. Too Bright to See. Listening Library. ISBN 9780593346310. Narrated by Jax Jackson.
Gr 5-8–The summer before Bug starts middle school, things are rough. Bug’s beloved Uncle Roderick passed away from a difficult illness and the family business is in trouble. Bug’s longtime best friend is excited about makeup and boys, but these things don’t resonate with Bug, and a rift begins to form between the friends. With all this change and grief comes a much different problem: Bug is being haunted. Jax Jackson sensitively narrates Bug’s journey of identity and discovery with grace, welcoming listeners in so they can learn along with Bug in real time.

Park, Linda Sue. The One Thing You’d Save. Listening Library. ISBN 9780593458662. Narrated by Nancy Wu, Maxwell Glick, Elizabeth Pan, and Full Cast.
Gr 3-7–At just 23 minutes, Park’s delightful latest beckons to even the most reluctant readers. Teacher Ms. Chang challenges her class to name their Most Important Things. Park uses a 14th-century Korean poetic form, sijo, to share the students’ choices, which reveal just as much about themselves. A full cast, led by Nancy Wu as Ms. Chang, energetically embody the diverse young voices whose things to save range from practical (phone, wallet), to self-reliant (saved-up-to-purchase sneakers à la Jeremy Lin), to sentimental (Gran’s hand-knit cardigan made from Dad’s unraveled sweater), and inspiringly altruistic (Mom’s insulin).

Shabazz, Ilyasah with Tiffany D. Jackson. The Awakening of Malcolm X. Macmillan Young Listeners. ISBN 9781250619105. Narrated by Landon Woodson.
Gr 7 Up–How did Malcolm Little, the son of a Lansing, MI, Baptist minister, become the renowned Malcolm X? Shabazz, his daughter, tackles that question in this novel. As a teen, Malcolm is arrested for robbery and sentenced to eight to 10 years in prison, where the conditions are beyond wretched. He stews in anger during the first part of his incarceration while his family begins to follow the principles of the Nation of Islam, but he also becomes an avid reader. Landon Woodson captures the vast range of the characters’ emotions, performing this captivating novel to perfection.

Thomas, Angie. Concrete Rose. HarperAudio. ISBN 978006 3043817. Narrated by Dion Graham.
Gr 9 Up–This prequel to The Hate U Give features Maverick “Lil Don” Carter, a 17-year-old King Lord growing up in the Garden Heights district steeped in gang culture. Maverick’s cousin Dre and his friend Shawn try to keep Maverick from falling too deep into the game, but Maverick’s best friend King keeps finding new ways to convince him to deepen his involvement. The unexpected joys and pains of fatherhood, the death of one of his best friends, and another unexpected pregnancy threaten to break him. Dion Graham’s narration straddles the line between beauty and pain, bringing Maverick to life for listeners.

Walker, Angharad. The Ash House. Scholastic Audiobooks. ISBN 9781338701951. Narrated by Simon Vance.
Gr 3-7–An orphaned boy, taken from a hospital, is dropped at the gates of Ash House where he is renamed Solitude (Sol). The headmaster has been gone for three years. The strain is showing on the children who are surviving on their own in decrepit conditions while they live in fear of visits from the enigmatic Doctor. Twists and turns abound as Sol tries to understand what is happening, to find relief from his debilitating mysterious physical pain, and figure out how to help his new community. Simon Vance beautifully voices this exploration of memory, reality, truth, found family, and survival.

Warga, Jasmine. The Shape of Thunder. HarperAudio ISBN 9780063087040. Narrated by Reena Dutt and Jennifer Jill Araya.
Gr 4-8–Twelve-year-old Cora’s older sister was killed in a school shooting; her best friend Quinn’s older brother was the shooter. The book chronicles Cora and Quinn’s desperate attempt to undo the event that shattered their friendship by unlocking the secret of time travel. The novel confronts the listener with devastating questions about school shootings, access to firearms, Islamophobia, and the radicalization of white teenage boys via web forums. Reena Dutt and Jennifer Jill Araya read Cora and Quinn’s alternating perspectives, voicing the taut pacing, nuanced characters, and compassionate depiction of grief and trauma.

Stephanie Klose is Library Journal’s media editor.

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