Announcing the winners of the 2020 Audie Awards

Erin Kodicek on March 06, 2020
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Recognizing excellence in audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment, the American Audio Publishers Association announced its annual Audie Awards this week. The overall winner is Garrett M. Graff's The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 (it also took the prize for best multi-voiced performance). Narrated by a 45-person cast, the judges said: "The Only Plane in the Sky is an extraordinary achievement that takes a gut-wrenching and almost unimaginable text and re-injects its humanness. Graff has created a historical document with the deftness of a poet and this production only builds on it, adding a narrative propulsion that never seems exploitative and an emotional depth that's never overwrought."

A handful of books that received Audie awards also happened to be best of the month selections. Learn more about them below, and see all of the Audie Award winners right here.


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Audible Audiobook

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Nothing to See Here is a lot of fun to read—and despite its improbable premise (children who spontaneously burst into flames) it is an incredibly moving and surprisingly authentic portrait of parenthood. There is a lightness and joy that permeates every page, even as Kevin Wilson tackles moments that are sure to tug at your heartstrings, if not your tear ducts. When Lillian’s childhood friend calls her out of the blue with a job offer and a promise of reconnection, Lillian takes it—leaving behind her attic room in her mother’s house and a job she hates. There’s a mansion, a paycheck, and a rekindled friendship with her former best friend. But the offer is not as simple as it sounds. (They never are.) It turns out her friend’s husband, who is also in the running for Secretary of State, has twins from a former marriage that have a few issues: They’ve lost their mom, their dad is absent and obsessed with politics, and, oh yeah, they burst into flames when they are mad, sad, anxious, upset—you name it. Suffice to say, Lillian has her hands full. But with time, the kids and Lillian begin to figure out how to care for one another—and might just find love, support, and purpose in the process. Nothing to See Here is an incredibly rewarding and entertaining novel about how we control ourselves, how we learn to protect the ones we love, and how to have fun in the process. —Al Woodworth


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Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel) by Louise Penny

Thrillers are mostly populated with damaged crusaders, loose cannons, or lone wolves fighting crime single-handedly. Like literary Jenga, Louise Penny removes most of these testosterone-drenched tropes without sacrificing the high stakes that propel a thriller forward. In Kingdom of the Blind Chief Inspector Gamache is on the ropes professionally as a shipment of opioids that escaped him in an earlier book makes its way to the streets of Montreal. Heads will roll, and Gamache’s is top of the list, with pressure being applied to his son-in-law and second-in-command Jean-Guy to work the guillotine. Meanwhile back in Three Pines, Gamache, Myrna, and a neighboring man are informed that they’ve been named executors to the estate of a woman who had given herself the delusionary title of Baroness. It’s quizzical until it turns deadly and a beneficiary is found dead in the woman’s decrepit house. Reading Penny’s deceptively loose plots, the reader gets distracted by the priest-like Gamache marshaling his flock, personal and professional, attuned to any strays he may need to take under his protective wing. It isn’t until Penny pulls the final string that the plot goes taut, the smoke and mirrors fall away, Gamache’s true gameplan is revealed, and the evil that was hiding in the blind spots is exposed in this dark, slow-burning, and masterful thriller. --Vannessa Cronin


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The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Often it’s not the ingredients that make the difference in the final product but the storyteller who wields them. Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January includes book ingredients we’ve seen many times before: a girl discovering her true identity, a faithful animal companion, a missing parent, a Very Evil Person, and a book of power. But Harrow takes this basic recipe for a coming-of-age adventure and bakes in an emotional and heroic resonance that thrums deep in the reader’s belly. January Scaller is left with her father’s patron on an expansive Vermont estate, while her father travels the world searching for interesting relics in the early 1900s. One such relic is a book titled The Ten Thousand Doors, which tells of Doors between worlds. January knows the book must be true, because she once saw such a Door. When her father goes missing, January decides to leave her cosseted existence to discover his fate. Rejecting comfort in order to grow into one’s strengths is a theme that echoes throughout the novel. “I didn’t want to be safe, I suppose. I wanted to be dangerous, to find my own power and write it on the world,” one character explains to January. As she travels to new countries through new Doors, January learns how to be audacious, to write her power on the world, and to live the wild, exuberant life that her sheltered upbringing had denied her. Those who keep Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy or Katherine Arden’s Winternight novels on their keep shelf might want to add The Ten Thousand Doors of January in its own spot right beside them—a mighty reminder that heroism, done properly, should be dangerous indeed. —Adrian Liang


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Audible Audiobook

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s 1940 and good-time gal Vivian Morris has just been expelled from Vassar, but she doesn’t much mind. Her parents, on the other hand, are less than thrilled, so they dispatch their dawdling daughter to New York to live with her aunt Peg—the charismatic proprietor of a past-its-prime theater that is home to a quirky, cobbled-together family of thespians and showgirls (whom you will genuinely miss when the last page is turned). Here, Vivian sets out to become someone interesting, and in short order commits a colossal youthful indiscretion that makes her interesting for all the wrong reasons. Elizabeth Gilbert has said that she wants City of Girls to go down like a gin fizz. (Mission accomplished!) But she slyly imparts some hard-won wisdom into this bawdy but bighearted novel, written as an antidote to the grief Gilbert was experiencing after the loss of her partner, Rayya Elias: “Life is dangerous and fleeting. And thus there is no point in denying yourself pleasure or adventure while you are here.” To that end, don’t deny yourself the pleasure of reading City of Girls. —Erin Kodicek


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Audible Audiobook

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of one of the most important nonfiction books of this decade, Between the World and Me, which means that his fiction debut arrives with a great amount of anticipation. Would the urgency of his nonfiction writing come through in a novel? Would he be as nimble in a made-up world? Would it be good? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes. Coates’s novel is the story of Hiram Walker, who was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation that is owned by his white father and experiencing a slow decline. Although Hiram is gifted with a photographic memory, his mother—who was sold away when he was young—is the one thing he cannot remember. Indeed, many of the women in his life are taken away from him too early—a fact that will guide his actions later in the novel. The story blends the brutality of history with more imaginative elements: for example, white people are called the Quality, black people are called the Tasked; and Hiram possesses powers that fall into the spectrum of magical realism. As the novel moves north to Philadelphia, where Hiram grows into his own and begins working for the Underground, and eventually turns back to his southern birthplace, the fantastical elements only give greater power to the story. The Water Dancer is a stirring debut, and Coates is the novelist we were hoping he would be. --Chris Schluep

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